Tag Archives: alan mullery

Brighton’s baptism of fire


In Part 60 of Marshall Cavendish’s ‘Football Handbook’ in the late 1970s, there is a superb account of Brighton’s First Division debut against Arsenal on the opening day of the 1979/80 season:

From the Fourth Division to the First in 14 years – that’s the Brighton & Hove Albion success story. Handbook went behind the scenes for Brighton’s baptism of fire against FA Cup holders Arsenal, and discovered how nerves and lack of experience played a big part in the Seagulls’ day-one disaster…

August 18, 1979 should have been the greatest day in Brighton & Hove Albion’s history–their first match ever in Division One. Unfortunately, Arsenal were to spoil the celebrations…

Before the match the team meets in the usual hotel. The old brigade who clinched promotion for Brighton chat noisily, while the new boys – like John Gregory, bought in the summer from Villa – smile nervously on the edge of it all.

Peter Ward sits alone and bleary-eyed. He has been up all night while his wife gave birth to their second daughter.

There’s a studied air of calm about the Brighton squad, but the prospect of making their First Division debuts has several of them inwardly buckling with nerves.

This, and the fact that FA Cup holders Arsenal are the visitors, has given everyone the flutters. All the Gunners’ players are familiar to the Brighton lads. Arsenal receive enough press exposure and TV coverage for a team-talk to be almost unnecessary. Alan Mullery concentrates on morale.

‘They’ve only got two feet, same as you. They might pass the ball better than Second Division sides, but they also let teams play which Second Division teams don’t do. We’re not going to respect anyone in this League – we’re going to chase, fight and tackle.’

Mullery to Maybank: ‘Ted, I want you back in our area for corners. I don’t care how tired you are, you’ve got to get back to knock that ball away with your head.’

Before they board the coach that will take them to the Goldstone Ground, Mullery tries one last piece of basic psychology. ‘Now listen. We know them, but I’ve just been talking to their physio, Fred Street, and they haven’t a clue what to expect from us.

‘You beat Arsenal today and you’ll believe in yourselves for the rest of the season.’

As the coach nears the ground, the jitters begin to surface again. Maybank senses the mood and tries to defuse it with a joke. ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic,’ comes his Corporal Jones impersonation from the back of the bus.

"Hello, hello, grannie aggro'? The arrival of First Division football in the Sussex town captures the imagination of everyone - young and old

“Hello, hello, grannie aggro’? The arrival of First Division football in the Sussex town captures the imagination of everyone – young and old

Inside the ground, the atmosphere is electric: a pipe and drum band march past the brand new stand, and then the Albion players emerge in their ‘civvies’ to walk around the pitch and acknowledge the fans’ tumultuous applause.

Striking up the band... Alan Mullery salutes the Goldstone crowd before the match. Despite their vociferous support, Albion failed to deliver any points on their big day.

Striking up the band… Alan Mullery salutes the Goldstone crowd before the match. Despite their vociferous support, Albion failed to deliver any points on their big day.

Ten minutes later they re-emerge. This time it’s for real – and within minutes Brighton’s First Division career has begun. After 60 seconds Talbot and Horton tangle and the free-kick to Albion bobbles tantalisingly around the Arsenal box. Ryan latches on to it, wriggles through and swivels to send in a left-footer which the shovel-sized hands of Jennings tip away at full stretch.

Three minutes later it’s Ryan again. This time the toe-end of Willie Young’s despairing lunge relieves the pressure. The Brighton crowd scream their support. Although Ryan yet again comes close, Arsenal are starting to settle. Their offside trap is beginning to frustrate Mullery’s men and, ominously, the Rix-Brady shuttle service is starting to roll down the left.

Malcolm Poskett, who came on for the injured Teddy Maybank, finds out what it's like to trail a world-class player - Liam Brady. It's all afar cry from Brighton' s Second and Third Division days...

Malcolm Poskett, who came on for the injured Teddy Maybank, finds out what it’s like to trail a world-class player – Liam Brady. It’s all afar cry from Brighton’ s Second and Third Division days…

Brian Horton clatters into Teddy Maybank

Brian Horton clatters into Teddy Maybank

Then, inside the space often bewildering minutes, Brighton’s dreams come crashing down around them. First Stapleton receives from Sunderland to crash a 20-yarder past Eric Steele; before Brighton have time to reflect on the seeming injustice of it all, Arsenal make it two – from Brady’s freekick, Young’s header drops to Sunderland, who nods in from a yard out.

Albion skipper Brian Horton goes into the book after a clash with Talbot, who was also involved in several incidents.

Albion skipper Brian Horton goes into the book after a clash with Talbot, who was also involved in several incidents.

Mark Lawrdnson has just fouled Liam Brady... and nervous Brighton form the inevitable wall.

Mark Lawrdnson has just fouled Liam Brady… and nervous Brighton form the inevitable wall.

By half-time Brighton are dead. Rix lofts a pass through the middle. Sunderland delays his run and then sprints past Rollings and scoops the ball over Steele. The keeper gets a palm to it but the ball still drops into the net; 0-3.

As Albion troop in disconsolately at the break, Mullery tells them, ‘You’ve lost the game. Now get out there and start again with a clean slate…’

But it’s all gone flat. Only the jigging of the Arsenal contingent breaks the silence as they mimic the ‘Sea-gulls’ chant with one of ‘Three goals, three goals’. And then a Brady penalty makes it four in the second half to really rub Brighton’s noses in it.

As Brighton file sadly into the dressing-room at the end, their big day ruined, Terry Neill comments, ‘We posed them a few more problems than they’re used to. But I’m sure Alan Mullery is not the type of individual to get discouraged.’

Though bitterly disappointed, Mullery still finds time to praise Arsenal and pinpoint the difference between the sides. ‘They taught us a lesson in cold, clinical finishing,’ he says.

‘It was like a Clint Eastwood movie. Out came the guns, and bang bang – we were dead…’

Under the title ‘Frank’s zapper’, Football Handbook then turned its attention to Frank Stapleton’s goal:



The most meaningful lessons are usually the most painful to learn – in life, in football.

For Brighton and Hove Albion the moment of truth came on the opening day of the season, their first-ever First Division contest.

FA Cup winners Arsenal were the visitors.., and the teachers.

All the exuberance that took Brighton to promotion hardly dented the composure of silky Arsenal, to whom First Division pressure was nothing new.

Manager Mullery’s ‘treat it like a cup tie’ approach – ‘we’re going to chase, fight and tackle’ – lost all significance once Arsenal took the lead approaching half-time.

Brighton had had most of the play and, like an underdog boxer, must have fancied their chances of an upset.

And, like many a ‘softener’ for the knock-out blows to follow, the goal that put them firmly in their place had an almost dream-like essence to it.

Inertia ruled among the Brighton players as Sammy Nelson played the ball down the left to Alan Sunderland.

He was given space to cross where he liked and almost certainly aimed deep for Brian Talbot, who had made a typical run behind the home defence.

His mishit went straight to Stapleton instead. Stapleton stumbled. The crowd laughed. Stapleton recovered but his shot from 20 yards was hardly a hammer blow.

Nevertheless, it went in, the ball looping over the despairing Eric Steele.

If that was a dream-like moment, it soon became a nightmare as Arsenal added two more quick goals before half-time.

In the end it was a humiliating 0-4 scoreline, a result that Mullery rightly saw as a lesson in cold, clinical finishing.


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‘I want to bring that old excitement back’, says Mullery

An interview with Kevin Brennan in ‘Football Monthly magazine’ in August 1986:

A familiar face will be back on the managerial scene when the season opens later this month.

Alan Mullery is once again in the hot-seat at Brighton, almost ten years to the day after he first took over at the south coast club following a distinguished playing career.

During those ten years, Mullery has also had spells at Charlton, Crystal Palace and Queen’s Park Rangers.

His time at Loftus Road in charge of Rangers was a short one, lasting only six months. But during that time, the experience had a dramatic effect on the personality of Mullery.

“I changed completely as a person,” admits Mullery now. “I became an introvert. I was frightened to talk to people and I didn’t want to make decisions, all of which is very unlike me.” Mullery went to Rangers two years ago, following the departure of Terry Venables to Spanish side Barcelona. He knew it would be a hard act to follow, but had no real idea of just how difficult it would prove to be.

Mullery says now: “My job at Rangers was basically that of a coach.

And that wasn’t really the way I like to operate at a football club.

“I had the title of manager over my door but it didn’t really mean that. I couldn’t get involved in any of the other decisions concerning the club which I think a manager should know about.

“It’s sad to have to say it, really, but it’s probably the only club that I’ve been to where I didn’t manage to get close to the players I was in charge of.

“Terry Venables had built a tremendous system of play within the club, from the youth team right up to the first team players, and that made it very difficult for me to try and change anything.

“The players really only wanted to play the way they always had done. Now, I’m not knocking that, or Terry Venables for schooling them into a set pattern, but I do think it was a shame that I was given only six months in the job.”

Mullery was told that he was sacked by the Rangers chairman, Jim Gregory, just before Christmas, 1984. Not surprisingly, he remembers it as a miserable experience but one that also brought a degree of relief.

“‘In some ways, I was pleased when I got booted out,” he says now. “1 hadn’t been happy there and when a job starts to change you in the way that one was changing me, you have to wonder if it’s all worth it.”

It took Mullery three or four months before he started to watch football matches again. But once he did, the sport that had been so much a part of his life for so long started to take a grip once more.

“Football is like a drug for me,” says Mullery. “I was very fed-up with the game when I left Loftus Road. But when I did start watching matches again, I knew that, deep down, I wanted to get back if I could.'”

Mullery took a job outside of the game an¢ acted in a public relations capacity for some printing companies.

But he admits that he missed the everyday involvement that football had always brought him.

He says: “I enjoyed the time out of the game and I think it was good for me after what had happened. But ultimately, I missed things like the decision-making that I had always been used to.

“The good thing was that I became a “punter’ and I was able to see the game as an outsider for the first time since I became a professional.

“I went to matches as a fan and was able to see the game from a fan’s point of view. That was a great experience for me.

“Now I have a much better appreciation of what the fans want. I now understand why so many of them have started to move away from going to see matches in the way they used to.” Mullery’s chance to return to the game, and to the club which provided his happiest memories, came following a telephone call from a TV reporter in the Brighton area.

“He phoned one night out of the blue.” remembers Mullery. “He told me that he had just been to a press conference and heard that Chris Cattlin was leaving the club.

“He told me that if I wanted to apply for the job, I should write straight away.

“That was exactly what I did. And I can tell you that when I came for my interview and was then appointed, there couldn’t have been a happier man in the country.

“I know that it sounds a bit corny, but Brighton has always been the club that I wanted to manage ever since I first came here ten years ago.

“Stepping in the door again was like coming home for me. I know every manager says it after he has been appointed to a new job, but this was the one job that I would have run back to. I have very good memories of the club and I see no reason why I shouldn’t be happy here.”

Mullery left the club five years ago, when his relationship with the then chairman, Mike Bamber, began to deteriorate But he says that for the greater part of his stay at the Goldstone Ground, he has nothing but good memories.

“It was my first job as a manager and we had a ot of success, which was obviously a big help. We went from the Third Division to the First and it was the first time that the club had ever reached Division One.

“The people in the area responded to the team and I think we all enjoyed the expenence. In fact, the fans are one of the main reasons why I’ve always enjoyed being at Brighton.

“I don’t think the situation here at the club has changed too much since I first took over. I think I’ve got a good job to do, and I’m going to enjoy doing it.

“The chairman, Brian Bedson, has been great and he has told me that they want the club rebuilt from the bottom to the top. That sort of challenge suits me fine!”

Mullery brought a brand of exciting football to Brighton that gained success and provided entertainment for the fans of the seaside club.

It is something that he aims to bring back to a club that will be among many people’s tip for one of the promotion places in the Second Division next season.

“I want to bring those days back to Brighton again,” says Mullery with conviction. “I know the Seagulls’ public will respond if we give them the right product – and that must be entertainment.

“‘Of course, the public will want us to get promotion and I’d be delighted if we achieved that in my first season back in the job.

“But there’s no way I’m going to predict that we will get promoted. I’d love it to happen, of course, and I’ll do all I can to ensure that we get into the First Division at the end of the season.

But the main job for me at the club is a long-term one.

“The directors have said to me that their first priority is to get promotion. But the main priority is really to build the club for the future.”

After the bad experience at Queen’s Park Rangers, it is nice to see Mullery back in his old confident mood and eager to get on with the job he loves best – being in control of a football club.


Division One – the only place to be for the Seagulls

On the eve of Brighton’s baptism in the top flight in August 1979, Graham Nickless of ‘Football Weekly News’ interviewed Alan Mullery:


The First Division welcomed back Alan Mullery on Saturday in Brighton’s historic meeting with Arsenal at the Goldstone Ground.

Muilery, a battling midfieid player for England, Spurs and Fulham, returns to the top flight as one of this country’s most exciting young managers.

And Sussex club Brighton and Hove Albion can count themselves extremely lucky that Muilery’s rise to fame in the managerial world started with them.

For Brighton have experienced phenomenal success under the cigar-smoking manager, who has achieved more for the Seagulls than any other manager – including Brian Clough.

Saturday’s clash with FA Cup winners Arsenal was a significant milestone in the club’s 79-year-old history, for it was Brighton’s first match in the First Division.

“The potential has always been here at Brighton but there has been no one to tap it until now,” says Muliery, who was awarded the MBE for services rendered to soccer three years ago.

“Brian Clough and Peter Taylor tried but failed,” he adds with a smile.

The unknown
The Seagulls, promoted from the Third to the First Division in three seasons are riding on the crest of a wave but are now treading unfamiliar territory.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge but it’s like going into the unknown,” the manager continued.

“We don’t know what to really expect even though we know so much about the clubs we shall meet this season.

“I’ve only got three players with First Division experience — but I’m not frightened by it. There’s only one division to play in, I’ve told my players it’s the only place to be for a player and a manager.” Mullery’s personal dream has certainly come true, and he more than anyone else connected with the ambitious seaside club, is looking forward to the challenge of playing in the hardest league in the world.

“I’m delighted to be back,” he said.

“Nothing has hindered me here at Brighton.

The directors are first class, they’ve been absolutely marvellous.

At the top
“I’m sure that success starts at the top and works down.”

The stocky boss nearly took Brighton up into the First Division in his first season at the club but saw his old club, Spurs cruelly rob his team of promotion by goal-difference on the last day of the 1977-78 season.

Now, just over a year later, Brighton are where they belong and ready to do battle for more honours to keep their incredibly loyal fans satisfied.

In preparation for the club’s biggest task to date the one-time England star, who once marked the famous Peie out of a World Cup match, has signed three new players – John Gregory (from Aston Villa), Steve Foster (Portsmouth) and Tony Knight (Dover).

“I have 17 to 18 players chasing 11 places and that suits me,” Mullery states confidently. “One more player could make it better, hut that will come in time.” And one player of whom the First Division may get a glimpse, and who Mullery rates as a brilliant young prospect, is defender Gary Stevens, 16.


Best header
“He’s a gem,” says Mullery. “He has a real big future in the game. Gary’s a good reader of the game, has lots of ability and can tackle hard. He is also the best header of the ball in the club.”

But will Gary break into the first team this season? “There is a possibility but I shall not rush things.”

Mullery, despite a daily round trip to Brighton from his Epsom home, has a deep sense of pride for his club who have never known life so good.

“Last season,” he reflects, “was the first time that Brighton had managed to keep their place in a higher division for more than one season. [not actually true. Also achieved after the 1957/58 promotion season]

“They were notoriously susceptible to going straight back down again a year after gaining promotion – now we’ve set a precedent at the club I intend to keep it that way,” added the man who certainly means business for Brighton and Hove Albion this season.


Here we go round the Mullery bush

Alan Mullery with his wife June and children Samantha (left) and Neal in the garden of their home at Cheam, Surrey,

Alan Mullery with his wife June and children Samantha (left) and Neal in the garden of their home at Cheam, Surrey,

As the 1976/77 season approached, new Brighton boss Alan Mullery spoke to Malcolm Folley of the Daily Express (10th August 1976):

In the three weeks Alan Mullery has been manager of Brighton he has salt with a procession of players wishing to air their grievances.

He could hardly have increased the demand for personal interviews had he promised trading stamps to anyone visiting his office.

Most of the callers wanted to tell their new manager that they felt they warranted first-team football. They were welcomed by Mullery, for he accurately deduced that there is nothing unhealthy about a club with ambitious players.

Yet he discovered one or two players had translated his arrival as a trial of strength to be resolved by unarmed combat.

Such as the player who went to him recently to ask for a rise. Not the most original reason for seeking an audience, granted but rather special in its own way.

There wasn’t a race of a smile on the man’s face as he presented his case. He needed an increase in pay he said, because he and his wife were thinking of increasing their family.

Somehow, Mullery controlled the urge to laugh aloud, “You’re thinking of increasing your family?” he asked in a fashion that did not require an answer.

“I can tell you what, you can come back when you actually have.”

“The lad left my office realising I wasn’t as gullible as he might have thought. He was just trying it on – but what he’d forgotten was that until a few months ago I’d have stood where he had.

“I had 10 players knock on my door last week to tell me they thought they should be in the first team. That was fine by me. I told them to go out and prove themselves.

“I won’t miss playing one bit,” he told me. “As manager, I’m now playing in 11 positions instead of one. I’m sure I shall use more energy watching Brighton than I used when I was out on the park myself.

But that does not mean that Mullery will allow himself to be submerged by demands which over the years have left a trail of broken spirits in the profession he has just joined.

“I’m lucky because when five o’clock comes I can get in my car, drive home, and leave all my worries behind me. The problem will still be there in the morning, so who’s the use in losing any sleep over them?”

Mullery has plenty going for him. He works for a board which cares, really cares, about the welfare and success of Brighton.

Chariman Mike Bamber and three directors travelled with the team to Torquay last weekend to watch a friendly. They are the team’s most loyal supporters.


Great Albion Kits: 1980/81 to 1983/84 Away

Strangely, when Adidas took over the contract to supply the Brighton kit from the 1980/81 season onwards, they did not sell replicas of the yellow away kit.

It took until the 21st century for the club to issue a remake of this polyester wonder for the club shop, but understandably it came without the trefoil on the breast and the classic adidas stripes down the sleeves. However, this was addressed in a Thailand factory somewhere as this effort did the rounds on eBay a few years ago:


Although the collar was not as flared as the original, it was a pretty faithful rendition. The most glaring error is that it was ‘British Caledonian Airways’ for the change shirt, not just ‘British Caledonian’. If you want to be extra picky, the type of the sponsors’ logo was also not in bold, which is how it was in the Thai version. A good effort, nevertheless.

The kit was usually combined with yellow shorts and yellow socks, and very smart it looked too, especially on a sunny day. Sometimes, though, blue shorts and socks were worn instead:


At the time of the launch of the kit, Football League clubs were not allowed to wear shirt sponsors on televised matches apart from local news. This led an incident where ITV could not show highlights of Aston Villa’s match with Brighton in October 1980, as the Seagulls sought to protect their sponsorship interests. As the Brighton v Middlesbrough programme said:

There was controversy before the match when ATV, the Midlands ITV company, wanted to film the game, to show highlights the following evening in a two-minute news sequence. The Albion were however clad in the yellow ‘British Caledonian’ shirts and after a ‘phone call between Alan Mullery and Gary Newbon, the TV presenter, it was clear that the game could to be shown. Albion were well within their rights to refuse to change, other than for a featured game and ATV felt that the regulations would not allow the showing.

Minus a shirt sponsor, the all-yellow kit combination made the cover of Rothmans Football League Players Records 1946-1981:


However, it got its best exposure at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday. It even outlasted the home version, as it was worn for a few matches in the 1983/84 when the new white away kit did not provide enough contrast at the likes of Bristol Rovers and Blackburn.

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Mullery quits after bust-up


This week, the story playing out is of Oscar Garcia’s resignation as head coach. Back in the summer of 1981, the man quitting the Seagulls was manager Alan Mullery. Both very different men, with very different personalities and strengths, but both felt moved to quit the Albion. Here is how Steve Curry and Philip Osborn from the Daily Express reported things on 13th June 1981:

Brighton manager Alan Mullery walked out on the club yesterday over a point of principle.

The former Spurs, Fulham and England player severed his five-year relationship with Brighton after a stormy disagreement with his board of directors about the future running of the club.

And Mullery, who flies off to Malta today for a two-week holiday with his family, described his feelings about leaving the side he led from the Third Division to the First.

He said: “At the end it was a matter of principle regarding certain things at the club. The directors wanted something to happen that I was not prepared to accept.

“It was nothing to do with the terms of a new contract or anything financial. I don’t really believe there would be any purpose going into details about why we have split. I am not one for mind-slinging.

“I didn’t think it would come to this because I had five very happy years there. We have had some great times, memorable days that I shall remember for the rest of my career.

“I shan’t forget it was Brighton who gave me my chance in management when I decided to pack in as a player at Fulham. I think I have been good for them and they have been good for me. But maybe the time has come to move on.”

Bamber, who offered Mullery a new three-year contract five weeks ago, flew out for a golfing holiday in Spain after the meeting, unaware of his manager’s decision.

He said from Spain last night: “I am shocked and absolutely amazed to learn of this but I will not stand him his way if that is what he wants. I can only presume he had something on his mind. Perhaps someone has tapped him for another job, but I don’t know that.”

Mullery, whose sometimes abrasive manner does not hide a talent for management, is unlikely to be out of work for long. He would appear to be a natural successor at West Brom to the extrovert Ron Atkinson, who moved to Manchester United.

In his autobiography from 2006, Mullery described proposed changes to his backroom staff as a bone of contention with Bamber:

“At the end of the season, he called me in and told me to sack all my backroom staff, including Ken Craggs and George Aitken who had worked so hard for the club. He even wanted to get rid of the kitman Glen Wilson who had been at Brighton for years. The club meant the world to him. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d fired these people. Bamber knew that; he was doing all he could to undermine me.”

There was also a disagreement over the sale of Mark Lawrenson. Although he accepted the need for a sale to raise money, Mullery had cut a deal with Ron Atkinson at Manchester United involving a player coming to Brighton from Old Trafford, whereas Bamber had done a cash-only deal with Liverpool.

With Mullery’s departure, it was a very sad and uncertain time for Seagulls’ fans.

Just like it is with Oscar Garcia in 2014, Alan Mullery felt that budget cuts at the club were undermining his ability to do his job in 1981. He also disliked how he was not able to get his voice heard and acted upon in the buying and selling of players. However, the Lawrenson deal apart, the axe in 1981 seemed to be falling more on the coaching staff rather than the players, although that may have been Bamber participating in mind games.

In their respective resignations, there are also parallels between Mullery’s thanking of the club for giving him his first opportunity in management and Garcia’s appreciation to Tony Bloom for his first chance in England. Lastly, it’s pure coincidence that upon leaving, both were tipped by some for the vacant position at West Bromwich Albion.

The fallout from Garcia’s resignation is still playing out. Now as the club ambassador, and as someone who has been through it all, I wonder what Alan Mullery makes of the situation today.

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Brighton on the top deck


Years before the Argus followed, West Sussex Gazette had the foresight to use colour in its coverage of the Albion in the 1970s and 1980s. Here is its coverage of Brighton’s promotion parade in May 1979:

Brighton have made it. They gained promotion to Division 1 for the first time in their history with a 3-1 win at Newcastle on Saturday and after an emotional week-end manager Alan Mullery sounded out a warning to the big-guns Albion will be facing next season, writes Alan Thatcher.

“We are not going into Division 1 just to survive,” he said. “We want to make an impact and I know we have the players to do it.”

Above is the picture that sums up the players’ triumph – an open-topped bus journey through the streets of Brighton and Hove on Sunday morning. More than 100,000 delighted fans packed the roadside to cheer their heroes.

In just three years, Mullery has taken Brighton from Division III to a place amongst the country’s soccer elite – and now he is looking forward to meeting clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal next season. “Some of our players have never played in Division I before – but I know that men like Brian Horton and Mark Lawrenson will do well. Our Division I is the best in the world and that’s where players like these belong.”

Saturday’s champagne party in the North-East was followed by a delirious welcome home by crowds of Albion followers on Sunday. After the open-topped bus journey it was on to Hove Town Hall, where the Sussex stars waved from the balcony to thousands of supporters before a special reception from the mayors of the two boroughs.

Albion’s promotion was a just reward after missing out so narrowly last year, when they were pipped by Tottenham – Mullery’s old club – on goal difference. This season, Albion made an indifferent start – but a tremendous revival got under way in December to send them rocketing into the promotion stakes. The position at the top of Division II was so tense, with five clubs fighting tooth and nail for the three promotion places, that Brighton’s destiny was not resolved until their last match – at St James’s Park.

“We had to be positive,” said Mullery. “Before the game I told the players to outplay Newcastle, to attack and score goals. And that’s exactly what they did.”

Brighton chairman Mike Bamber was full of praise for Mullery and his almost magical touch. “I believe he is the best manager in the game,” he said. “Alan has the greatest thing in football – the will to win. Alan came to us three years ago without experience, but he has done a tremendous job.”

Looking ahead to next season, Mr. Bamber is hoping for massive support at the Goldstone – despite the club’s plans to look for a new ground on the outskirts of town. “I am sure we will get big gates. The towns of Brighton and Hove are waiting for it, just as the whole of Sussex is waiting for it. With big crowds and our fund-raising schemes due to bring in half a million pounds in the next year I am sure we can survive.”

But Mr. Bamber added: “I know we have got the worst ground in Division II, and it’s worse than many in Division III. But our talks with the local councils are at an advanced stage and before long we hope to move to a new home.
This will take care of all our problems and I hope it will cut down on vandalism as well.”

Goalscorers in the historic display at Newcastle were Brian Horton, Peter Ward and Gerry Ryan – all in the first half. Newcastle scored in the second half, but there was no stopping Albion’s march towards the big time.


Robert Covington’s photo from his flat in Sackville Road:


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Almost there!


John Vinicombe’s report from the Evening Argus on Brighton’s 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers, in their last home match of the 1978/79 season:

The crock of gold that is the First Division is shimmering up there at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

It is there to be taken by Albion, who must not only win the battle on the pitch but prevail in a war of nerves that took a heavy toll of their rivals while they overcame Blackburn Rovers.

The last match at the Goldstone of this marvellously exhilarating campaign set Albion up to snatch the prize of prizes – a place among the coveted elite.

Brian Horton led his players in a lap of honour. Blackburn most sportingly clapped their conquerors from the pitch. These were memorable moments. Now Albion prepare for the final hurdle. At St James’ Park, they will be cheered by an army of admirers travelling by air, rail, and road. A win will take them into the First Division without any arguments: anything less must depend on other results.

In their present mood, Albion are perfectly capable of winning in the grand manner. The championship could be theirs by twenty-to-five on Saturday.

They have shrewdly taken matches one by one, and were well aware that beating Blackburn was absolutely vital.

This was the game that could have gone horribly wrong (shades of Blackburn’s recent wins at Stoke and Sunderland), but Albion never looked like losing although I wouldn’t care to relive the last ten minutes.

Great credit must go to Albion for keeping their heads after the Easter Saturday defeat at Cardiff City. Subsequently, Cardiff spoiled a few cards, culminating in the sensational win at Sunderland that dispelled City’s relegation fears.

Newcastle will not yield without a fight, and I cannot take seriously the story going the rounds that they might be a pushover because Sunderland in the First Division would affect their gates.

Of course, there is no love lost between the traditional rivals of the North – East but can you imagine a manager like Bill McGarry demanding anything less of his players than 100 per cent?


There has been stress on Albion, who have been in the top three since the 3-0 win at Charlton on December 23. Manager Alan Mullery has proved an inspirational motivator and Brian Horton quite the most outstanding captain the club has had, certainly since the war.

These redoubtable qualities were fully tested when Blackburn arrived no longer tortured over doubts of staying up. They came knowing full well that Division 3 is their scene next season. It ever a team stood to upset the favourites, it was Rovers.

Fears of a slip-up were partially justified as Albion were without Peter O’Sullivan, and had to re-jig with a new formation on the left. It didn’t quite come off, but in terms of chances created Albion outclassed Rovers.

Instead of being consumed by their own fears, Albion took early command, and the work rate of Teddy Maybank, who chased everything and won most of the balls in the air, typified the spirit. Tiring players found that extra half yard, and rovers were unable to stage a third sensation of the season.


The 18th minute opener by Maybank that bulleted through a cloud of smoke was grabbed with tigerish tenacity. Whoever hurled the canister from the South Stand may have distracted goalkeeper John Butcher but it would have taken a wonderful save to have prevented Maybank scoring.


From that point on, Rovers thrashed about in a fog of they own making. They hadn’t a clue about picking up Peter Ward, who had a splendid match, while their star man, Duncan McKenzie, seldom shook off the shackles imposed by Paul Clark.

Watching Andy Rollings it was difficult to believe that here was the player who needed assistance in boarding the train from Cardiff a fortnight ago. Then the head was temporarily down! Rollings feared a break, and in the next match Mark Lawrenson snapped an arm in two places.

The rapid return of Rollings to fitness has been an important factor. He not only read the game well but scored the all-important clincher early into the second half beyond Rover’s reach.

The foraging of John Bailey, one of the best left-backs we have seen at the Goldstone, and Noel Brotherstone’s fondness for varying the point of attack often spelled danger, but in all honesty the 2-1 scoreline let Rovers off rather lightly.

Quite early on, Ward was unlucky to hit the bar, and he might have scored at the half-hour, only Butcher blocked bravely. Malcolm Poskett on the left wing for the first time got into many good positions, but just couldn’t finish. But he never gave up, and on effort alone was worth his place.

And for sheer brilliance of reflexes Eric Steele once again proved why he is first choice goalkeeper at the Goldstone. There had been one nail-biting moment when a pass back from Rollings bobbled just past the post. And another two-thirds of the way through when Mike Rathbone’s shot deflected off Horton and against the far post where Peter Sayer pounced to clear.

Steele’s moment of brilliance came at 78 minutes when Martin Fowler’s shot clipped off Maybank’s backside. In a split second he changed direction to turn it round.

He hadn’t much chance four minutes from time with John Aston’s beautifully curled free-kick.

For ITV’s footage of the match, watch this:


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View from The Dell


29th April 1978 is known to many Brighton supporters as the date of the Great Stitch Up. While Albion won 2-1 against Blackpool at a packed Goldstone in front of 33,431 supporters, to give themselves a chance of promotion to Division One, Southampton and Tottenham secured a mutually-beneficial 0-0 draw at the Dell to deny the Seagulls. Rather suspicious, eh?

Over the years, I’ve heard many anecdotes about the day, not all of them consistent with each other: such as how the two managers Keith Burkenshaw and Lawrie McMenemy walked out arm-in-arm out of the tunnel, how Alan Ball hit the bar and never received a pass from his team mates again, how the players spent the match passing the ball around to no great effect around the centre-circle, and how Southampton missed a few sitters via a chap born in Eastbourne.

Playing Devil’s Advocate, one immediate question is how Albion fans seem to have accumulated such detailed knowledge of what was happening at the Dell when chances are they were busy cheering on the Seagulls in Sussex. The answer is that the highlights to Southampton v Spurs were broadcast on Match of the Day that evening. However, with emotions running high, there is the obvious danger of angry Brighton fans amplifying a viewing of any cautious play or missed chances as proof of a cosy deal having been done rather than big match nerves. Due to the effects of what psychologists call confirmation bias, there was a likelihood that many Albion supporters had already decided what they wanted to think about the drawn match at the Dell by 4.45pm, and then watched MOTD to reinforce this perspective, filtering out any contrary information.

Another sticking point is: why would Southampton wish to play out a 0-0 draw? They were virtually up anyway and it would have taken a massive swing in goal difference to deny them promotion. Besides, with Phil Boyer and Ted MacDougall up front, that Saints team had hit 44 League goals at the Dell in 1977/78. It seems incredible that they would play for a 0-0 draw in front of their own fans. Furthermore, a victory would give them a fantastic chance of winning the Second Division championship. When a discussion took place on the ‘He Shot. He Scored. It Must Be Peter Ward’ Facebook page recently, Ian Hine of seagullsprogrammes.co.uk suggested that a draw benefited Southampton as it would keep Spurs fans sweet. Their fans had smashed up the Goldstone in a 3-1 defeat a few weeks before, after all. Even so, put yourself in Southampton’s players’ boots: would you really give up the chance of a champions’ medal because of what an opposition’s hooligan element might do? I know I wouldn’t.

Certainly it would be great to get hold of the Match of the Day footage after all these years to re-watch and decide once and for all. However, in the absence of this, I can bring you the Daily Express match report. Will it strengthen or weaken the case that Albion were the victims of an underhand deal? Over to you, James Mossop:

It was the day Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw “died a thousand deaths” – the day his team returned to the First Division with knees buckling, nerve ends smouldering like clawing Marathon men collapsing within sight of the tape. The Dell was alive with the electricity of the occasion as Spurs arrived in search of the vital point they needed.

Behind one goal thousands of Spurs’ fans kicked holes in the £6,000 steel fencing specially erected for the occasion.

The managers Burkinshaw and Lawrie McMenemy came out and shook hands. Alan Ball kissed his Player of the Year trophy, but nothing could quell the fury of the occasion.

When it was all over, after Spurs had survived a series of Southampton attacks, Burkinshaw was full of sighs.

Over the year he had seen his team establish a three-point lead at the head of the Second Division, falter dramatically and arrive with one match to go and the solitary point needed.

He said: “After last Saturday’s home defeat by Sunderland I began to wonder whether it was all worth it. But these players have shown great character and strength.”

Skipper Steve Perryman, a glass of champagne in his hand, said: “It could have been a real travesty if we had not made it. There was a lot of pressure on us. It’s amazing how we have given goals away late in the season. We used to call ourselves the Bank of England.

Bit high and mighty to invoke the word ‘travesty’ there! Had Brighton made it, they would have ended the season showing the quality and form befitting a side ready for the top flight, unlike Spurs who won just two of their final eight Second Division matches.

The report continues:

McMenemy was not so cheerful about his team’s role in the 0-0 draw. He said: “It was disappointing that we did not score. We will not do very well in the First Division if we play like that, although it was no occasion for judging anything.”

But the spotlight was on Spurs. They were the team on the rack. On the terraces hundreds of transistors brought bulletins from Brighton, the late challengers, and Bolton, the new champions, in the most thrilling promotion race for years.

Could Spurs survive as the pressure mounted? Peter Taylor tried to win a penalty with a spectacular dive when Glen Hoddle sent him into the box, but most of the action was at the other end, and Funnell twice lifted the ball over the bar from good positions.

Spurs sent on substitute Gerry Armstrong in place of John Duncan and he may have sent the confirmation that promotion seemed assured because the match became even more of a holding job than ever.

As referee Don Biddle sounded the last whistle of a long, arduous season, the tension finally evaporated. There was delight and celebration all round the ground. The Spurs players did cartwheels. It had all been worthwhile.

Saints’ supporters spilled on to the pitch and danced in front of the stands, waiting for their heroes to emerge and take a bow.

For a moment, as the Spurs fans broke through as well, it seemed there might be a bitter and ugly confrontation. But a line of police and stewards – some of the police with dogs – managed to keep them apart. Bottles flew between the factions and ugliness had taken over what should have been an occasion of mutual joy.


Meanwhile, at the Goldstone, Alan Mullery said: “I feel bitterly disappointed and shattered at getting 56 points only to be foiled at the last minute. But this is a very progressive club. Already we are making plans for next season and the realisation of our ambitions – First Division football.”

In the years that followed, Neil McNab, Gerry Armstrong and Peter Taylor in that Spurs team all joined Brighton & Hove Albion. It seems bit of a missed opportunity that none of them appear to have been asked about whether the sides did go easy on each other in that Dell game. If you ever encounter them, please ask!

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Mullery aims for a bigger boom

Alan Mullery (centre) has led the club through three years of success.

Alan Mullery (centre) has led the club through three years of success.

Improvements to the Goldstone Ground were on the agenda in 1979, as Brighton & Hove Albion sought to create a stadium that was more befitting the outstanding progress the team was making on the pitch. Shoot Magazine carried this interesting article outlining the growing ambitions:

Brighton will push on in the summer with improvements to their Goldstone Ground that will almost double the seating capacity.

They plan an extension of their main stand that will make it a double decker and extend it the complete length of the pitch. The South stand will have increased seating and the one open side of the ground will have a roof put over it, providing added comfort for the terrace patrons.

Some might claim these moves are long overdue – for Brighton have not exactly had the best facilities in the country. But the booming South Coast club make no apologies for not doing the work until now. Their priorities have lay in other directions – like putting a good team together.

“We feel we have put the horse before the cart – not the other way round,” claims Brighton boss Alan Mullery – who has led the club through three years of success. We did not see the point of having a magnificent stadium if you did not have a team worth watching. So all the efforts down here over the past few years – including the year or so before I arrived have been geared to signing good players and putting a real team together. Our results and performances prove we have done that. Now we can get on with the business of improving facilities for spectators. Once the work is done we’ll have around 9,000 seats – and they are badly needed here. For at the moment we have only 4,700. These are all taken by season-ticket holders and there is not a seat for sale on match days. Revenue from those seats is around £150,000. When we get the rest in that will shoot up to some £300,000 – and that’s a nice little nest egg to get in before a season starts.

“Things have gone well here in the past three or four years. They are getting better all the time and we intend to make sure things continue that way. No one is sitting back and congratulating themselves on a job well done. As far as everyone connected with the club is concerned the job is only just beginning. To sit back and be satisfied with the set-up is to invite trouble. We are constantly striving to make the club better and better.

“The Board – led by chairman Mike Bamber – are all progressive men and they won’t allow the club to stand still. Mike showed his intentions when he became chairman by getting Brian Clough and Peter Taylor down here to manage the club. Capturing names like these was a sensational coup for a club like Brighton – who, at the time, had never been associated with men of this calibre. The arrival of Clough and Taylor put Brighton firmly on the map. It aroused tremendous interest throughout the game and I always looked for their results from then on. It’s a far cry from the days when a previous manager, Pat Saward, had to practically beg for money to provide the funds to buy players. He was more or less reduced to carrying a bucket along the seafront and sweated blood to raise relatively modest sums to get fresh faces in. That could not happen now.

“I’ve spent half-a-million quid on reshaping the side to meet the challenge presented by a higher grade of football. And there will be more available if I need to spend again. At the moment I’m very happy with the squad I’ve got – and I’m offering new contracts to prove it. In fact two players – Peter Ward and Mark Lawrenson – have been offered contracts for TEN years and that will make them secure for the rest of their lives. But if I need to act to strengthen – to go for someone who can improve the staff even further – I will not hesitate to do it.

“I learned a long time ago that you cannot afford to stand still and Tottenham boss Bill Nicholson was my mentor. During my days as a player at White Hart Lane Spurs won trophies galore. But that never stopped Bill Nick from going out and buying big in his constant search for perfection.

“And Clough and Taylor emphasised the importance of that a few weeks ago, when they spent a staggering million pounds to add Trevor Francis to a squad who had already won the League Championship and seemed strong enough to dominate British football for along time to come. That’s the way you have got to think if you are to make an impression in the game.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making Brighton a club to be respected. We don’t intend to waste it all by sitting back complacently now.”

Mullery was always a winner in a distinguished playing career with Tottenham, Fulham and England.

He readily admits to being the world’s worst loser. Failure is not a thing he has ever been associated with… nor ever intends to be. And that can only be great news for Brighton fans – who seem set to enjoy an even bigger boom in the future.