For a lad who only made 23 appearances for the Seagulls, Hans Kraay seems to have made an indelible mark in the memory of many Brighton supporters during the mid-1980s:
With young supporters brought up and influence by punk, he gained instant cult status for his off-putting goal-line ‘pogo’ dance. It was designed to cause chaos at corners as he stood in front of the opposition keeper, and copied by many in the North Stand.
He arrived for a trial in November 1983 having had spells with AZ ’67 Alkmaar and Exclesior Rotterdam in the Netherlands, as well as San Jose Earthquakes and Edmonton Drillers in the USA. Then, while with NAC Breda, he pushed a referee over at the end of a game and received a lengthy ban.
Brighton boss Chris Cattlin was not put off by Kraay’s misdemeanour. Instead, he was impressed by wholehearted play. As a result, the Dutchman made his debut at home to Fulham on 27th December 1983. After a handful of substitute appearances, he made a second starting appearance in the convincing 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough in May 1984.
The hallmarks of the Dutchman’s play were enthusiasm and commitment, as well a recklessness that meant he was never far away from being cautioned by the referee.
The following season was marred by an amazing incident when Kraay played for Brighton’s reserves against their Portsmouth counterparts in October 1984. He injured future Seagull John Crumplin in a tackle for which he was sent-off. Then, as the 17-year-old was receiving treatment, Kraay kicked him as he walked off the pitch!
Even so, it was not enough to curtail his Albion career just yet. He made his first appearance of the 1984/85 season against Grimsby two months later. He also flung his shirt to the ground on being substituted against Cardiff in February that season. From March onwards, he became a fixture in the side as Brighton nearly gained promotion back to Division One. They were helped by Kraay’s three goals in the last six matches, including the winner at Notts County in April when he crashed home Frank Worthington’s corner after Alan Biley had set him up in the goalmouth scramble. After the goal, he ran the length of the pitch to try to jump in amongst all the Brighton supporters! In May, Kraay also got the team’s opener as Albion stormed from 2-0 down at Grimsby to triumph 4-2.
All this was not enough to save Kraay’s career at the Goldstone and disciplinary problems eventually had a factor in him being released in September 1985. He subsequently played for Molenbeek, RKC Wallwijk, De Graafschap and Telstar in the Dutch league. However, memories of the ‘Hans is evil, Hans is evil’ chant at the Goldstone live on.