Twisting and turning like an eel, Peter Sayer cut through the backtracking Blackburn rearguard as a knife would slice through butter. Then, he floated a inviting ball for Teddy Maybank to head past a smokebomb to put the Seagulls 1-0 up.
This memorable goal from April 1979 is frequently shown on ITV4’s The Big Match Revisited and gives an inkling of how Sayer became a Goldstone favourite. The bubblepermed Welshman relied wholly on his blistering pace at first: “In the early days with Cardiff, I didn’t have a good footballing brain. The more I trained, the better my passing and crossing became.”
Aged 18, Peter became a pro with his home club in July 1973 and soon put the Bluebirds back on the football map. Playing as an emergency centre-forward, his long-range strike knocked Tottenham out of the FA Cup in January 1977. The newspapers’ comparisons with Kevin Keegan were numerous. Two months later, Sayer made his debut for Wales who defeated European champions Czechoslovakia 3-0.
He put in a sparkling display for Cardiff in their 4-0 thumping by Brighton in October 1977. In that match, the Bluebirds’ maverick Robin Friday was sent off for kicking Mark Lawrenson in the face. Legend has it that Friday then threw all the Cardiff players’ clothes in the team bath. Peter says: “I don’t remember it, but he was very much like that! Robin was such a gifted player, so unpredictable. It made him the player he was but as a character he was a potential timebomb.”
Another story that has done the rounds is that Friday also went into the Brighton dressing room and defecated in Mark Lawrenson’s sports bag. However, Peter sheds no light on what is probably a mere urban myth.
In February 1978, the midfield man returned to the Goldstone, this time as the Seagulls’ new £100,000 signing. It took until 1978/79 for Peter to really establish himself at Brighton, with 32 League appearances as Albion finished runners-up in Division Two. As Albion’s club ambassador, Mullery is fond of recalling a story of how in September 1978, Teddy Maybank and Peter were fined two weeks’ wages for being seen in a Worthing nightclub two days before an unexpected 4-1 defeat at Leicester. Does Peter recall this indiscretion? “I don’t remember it at all! Nevertheless, I have regrets about some of our behaviour, usually involving alcohol. While many players liked their booze, it was still taboo to go out and have a drink on certain nights of the week.”
Reaching Division One was the pinnacle of Peter’s time at the Albion. The Welsh international played the first 18 matches in the next campaign, before losing his place in Brighton’s top flight side. He was sold to Preston in August 1980, before spells with Cardiff (loan), Chorley, Morecambe and Northwich Victoria. Nowadays, Peter works as a bar manager at a golf club in Preston. Before leaving the Goldstone, Sayer ensured a bit of silverware came the Seagulls’ way: he hit the second goal as Brighton beat Israeli side Maccabi Nathanya 2-0 to lift the ever so prestigious Jewish Chronicle Cup in July 1980. Not many players can say they’ve helped the Albion win an international club competition!