Brian Clough’s first match in charge of Brighton, against York City in a 0-0 draw at the Goldstone, on 3rd November 1973, has already been well documented on this blog.
Amazingly, footage of this match has been uncovered. Well, 18 seconds of it:
Hot on the heels of the 4-0 collapse against Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup, Brighton faced Don Megson’s high-flying Bristol Rovers at the Goldstone. It was an encounter that happened exactly forty years today, on 1st December 1973.
Here, I’ve put together a YouTube video of ten minutes of ‘highlights’ that featured on The Big Match the following day:
Enjoy once more Norman Gall’s rather blatant fouling on the first goal, while still getting nowhere near Alan Warboys. Or that hopeless ‘defensive’ wall on the free-kick. Or the amazing 55 yard back-pass at the start of the second half!
Much has been written about this memorable match in the years since. What is often forgotten is that Alan Warboys almost hit number nine for Bristol Rovers:
Strangely, all the goals in this game were scored by players in Albion shirts. This was because Bristol Rovers’ red and white away kit was deemed by ITV’s producers to be too similar to Brighton’s blue and white shirts, for those watching in black and white.
Dissecting the televised humiliation, John Vinicombe was at his eloquent best in the Evening Argus on the Monday morning that followed:
The danger at the Goldstone is that the cure prescribed by Dr Clough might kill the patient…
That Albion were ailing before Clough took over is beyond doubt. But has the latest emetic proved too much of a purgative? It would appear so.
The stomachs are too weak for the Clough medicine, which wasn’t exactly sweetened after the 8-2 thrashing by Bristol Rovers – the heaviest home defeat in the history of the club.
This is the only tangible explanation I can offer after this second astonishing collapse in the space of four days.
Albion are clearly the sick men of the Third Division – a disturbing state of affairs in a town famous for its health-giving ozone. Doctor Clough may have arrived too late to prevent Burke and Hare carrying off the body.
The Walton and Rovers defeats, which must be bracketed together, are frightening to portend. Albion are back to square one – not for the first time – and the consequences of failure by a club so heavily in the red do not bear thinking about.
Clough can never have thought his Brighton venture would turn out like this. When he emerged from speaking to his players the anger was concealed by the controlled pitch of his voice. He did his best not to sound too much like the man engaged on mission impossible.
To rebuild is his task, and in view of the massive structural weaknesses, he has to demolish the very foundations of the side and begin afresh. In the process Albion will lose more matches, but never, let it be hoped, surrender as they did against Rovers.
It doesn’t matter very much what Clough says, although his shattered players hang on every word: it is the remedies he applies that count. But he makes it clear he will not be rushed into quick signings. “I was ashamed for the town and the club that 11 players could play like that. I feel sick. We were pathetic. This side hasn’t got enough heart to fill a thimble. There are no magic wands,” he said.
On Saturday, at Tranmere, Clough will send his players out in the hope of getting a result. They know full well how he feels about them. Here is an other example: “It was the most humiliating 90 minutes of my career. We have plans to sign players. But nobody will be signed for the sake of signing. I will play before we do that, or my bairn will…”
And he even showed contempt for his players by saying: “You couldn’t have got their centre-forward off if you had shot him. And he got his stitches by heading one of our defenders.”
Clough has, in his fashion, leaned over backwards to speak up for his players. But what happened between Wednesday and going out against Rovers did not provide the necessary stiffening for a match with the Third Division leaders. In these two matches Albion were unrecognisable.
The haircuts follow Clough’s own severe tonsorial style. Now the players look like a mission from the Hare Krishna temple. Shorn of their locks, they must don the hair shirt and do penance.
To some it must all seem a bad dream, but Clough isn’t going to disappear like a big, big genie. “…I’ll be here for a long, long time. They had better get used to it.”
Clough’s shock treatment pushes players through and beyond the pain barrier. This was done with Ken Beamish in the Chesterfield match when he returned to the field with an ankle injury. Bert Parker, the physiotherapist, who has assisted the club for some time, protested and no longer attends matches.
The players know that to go down now is not to take a breather, although to be fair to Beamish on this occasion he was out for the next two matches. But it illustrates my point that Clough is turning the Goldstone upside down in the firm belief that this is the only way to put the club on its feet.
Paradoxically, Clough is right. The process will continue to be painful but there must not be so much destruction as to take the club into the Fourth Division.
The hangover from this chastening by a fine Rovers side is bad enough. To Rovers goes the credit for a club record League win and a new Third Division mark of 19 straight games without a defeat.
To Colin Dobson, freed by Albion when a broken ankle looked like ending his career, the accolade for a thinking player. He masterminded the operation in unbelievably generous space. Bruce Bannister knifed through for the early, killing goals, and Alan Warboys, superbly balanced and fast on the slightly frozen pitch, looked the perfect striker, taking his four goals so cleanly.
The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth goals were from Warboys, Bannister the first, third and fourth. He knows the eight-goal feeling well enough… ask Bournemouth. Three years ago he helped Bradford City beat them 8-1, but at least on Valley Parade.
What happened at the Goldstone was the worst home defeat in the Football League since Wolves scuppered Cardiff 9-1 at Ninian Park in a First Division match in 1955-56.
It is a day that will only be recalled by Albion fans with infinite pain. Already rival supporters must be working out what rhymes with EIGHT. Perhaps they can set the words to the Dead March…
Five minutes: Dobson set it up. Warboys streaked down the left wing, beat Gall near the bye-line, and BANNISTER timed his run splendidly to fire the first goal, 0-1.
Twelve mintes: Dobson again seeing situations light years before Albion. He took Warboys’ pass, and laid on a pinpointed centre for FEARNLEY’s header.
Twenty minutes: A deceptive shot by O’SULLIVAN that swerved and kept low gave Albion a brief hope of checking Rovers, 1-2.
Twenty-nine minutes: A strong overlap by Jacobs spelled danger when Ley missed his tackle and from the cross BANNISTER’s head did the rest, 1-3.
Thirty-two minutes: Powney failed to hold a hard, low free-kick from Warboys, and BANNISTER tapped the rebound into the net, 1-4.
Thirty-nine minutes: Another Dobson centre, and WARBOYS started his own personal rampage, 1-5.
Fifty-five minutes: Bannister the goalscorer turned goal maker by laying this one on for WARBOYS, 1-6.
Sixty-three minutes: WARBOYS went through on a pass from Parsons like a thoroughbred. Out came Powney, but he had no chance, 1-7.
Seventy minutes: Albion appealed for offside against WARBOYS but he went on strongly, 1-8.
Eighty-seven minutes: A floating Towner centre, and RONNIE HOWELL banged in a well-taken goal, 2-8.
Albion: Powney; Templeman, Ley, Spearritt, Gall, Howell (R), Towner, Beamish, Hilton, Robertson, O’Sullivan. Sub: Howell (G) for Ley (withdrawn), 45 minutes.
Bristol Rovers: Eadie, Jacobs, Parsons, Green, Taylor, Prince, Fearnley, Stanton, Warboys, Bannister, Dobson. Sub: John.
Referee: Mr T.W. Dawes (Suffolk)
On ‘The Big Match’, Brian Clough braved the TV cameras, having verbally demolished his players at the press conference the evening before:
Although the match was a disaster for the Albion, son Nigel Clough was more upbeat, saying Brighton did ‘all right’ despite getting hit for eight…
With his acceptance of such dire football, it’s probably good enough reason for Nigel not to be allowed anywhere near the Brighton manager’s position!
A week after the match, Albion were thrashed 4-1 at Tranmere before succumbing to single goal defeats against Watford and Aldershot. Brighton slipped to 20th position in Division Three, one place above the drop zone. As for Bristol Rovers, their fine form continued. Unsurprisingly, they were promoted with a game to spare. Rovers finished the season with the return fixture against Brighton. Rovers fans expected another humbling of Brighton but it never materialised. Albion’s Lamie Robertson opened the scoring after a neat one-two with Ken Beamish on 19 minutes. It took Bruce Bannister’s late penalty to level the score.
Here are their promotion celebrations after the unexpectedly close match:
Here is the team photo of amateurs Walton and Hersham, with ex-Albion players Colin Woffinden and Dave Sargent, plus future football manager Dave Bassett in the back row. And, in the front row, if Brighton supporters were not familiar with Clive Foskett at the start of the FA Cup 1st Round replay at the Goldstone, his name would be on everyone’s lips by the end.
Forty years today, the Argus carried its match report of one of the most shameful displays in the club’s history. Having got lucky in scraping a 0-0 draw in Walton, Brian Clough’s Brighton & Hove Albion contrived to lose 4-0 at home to the Isthmian League side who had won the FA Amateur Cup in 1972/73. The match was played at 1.45pm on Wednesday afternoon as the country’s power crisis meant floodlight use could not be guaranteed.
In a piece titled ‘Albion’s worst in 75 years of cup history’, John Vinicombe described the nightmare performance. Read it and weep!
Albion’s total humiliation by amateurs Walton and Hersham was the worst defeat suffered by the club since they entered the FA Cup as Brighton United in season 1898-99 [sic].
The manner in which they were swept aside and plunged to a 4-0 First Round replay defeat stunned the 9.857 Goldstone crowd. For Walton’s jubilant fans, who had come prepared for the worst, it turned into a storybook occasion.
There was always a feeling of anxiety about this momentous second meeting that began at the unusual hour of 1.45. Albion’s supporters were strangely muted from the start, and the sparsely populated North Stand, without its youthful choir, hardly made themselves heard.
A sense of foreboding gripped the fans when schoolmaster Russell Perkins stooped to conquer after 20 minutes, and the tie turned into nightmarish proportions for Albion when Clive Foskett, a 28 year-old joiner who works at the British Natural History Museum, hammered a hat-trick in the last eight minutes.
The result gives Walton a place in the record-books as sensation makers of the first order. But where does that leave Albion?
The club have entered into an exciting new era with one of the best managers in the game. Yesterday’s display was too bad to be true. Some players gave everything; others did not.
Afterwards Clough betrayed no emotion. He is too well disciplined for that. When he spoke of his ‘poor lads’ it was his way of expressing the deep-felt understanding he has for the position of the professional who is always expected to win such confrontations.
What he says privately to his players can only be imagined; the point is that with such a small staff there is not a lot he can do right now.
Until Clough and assistant Peter Taylor move permanently to Brighton, the full impact of their presence will not be felt by the players. The side have yet to score at home under Clough. When Albion were without a manager for a short time, they hammered Southport 4-0. That was just over a month ago.
Is there some sort of moral here? Has the arrival of a man so steeped in success, and possessing such a reputation, suddenly caused the players to seize up?
A goal blight of 270 minutes at the Goldstone is a curious state of affairs, and in the context of this debacle pinpoint the structural weaknesses of the side.
Albion lost to Walton primarily because the midfield was wanting, while up front only Tony Towner, the substitute, provided the sort of service that wins matches.
Pat Hilton did all that could reasonably be expected of him, but elsewhere were performances that must have brought an angry blush to Clough’s cheeks.
The dramatic Foskett hat-trick came at a time when Albion were pushing numbers up in a frantic attempt to equalise. They had more of the game territorially than Walton, but failed to use the ball as well.
In midfield they were outsmarted. Only in terms of fitness were Albion superior, and they relied too much on running Walton off their feet.
Walton absorbed the pressure like a sponge, had men of heart and character, and not a few players who showed a greater desire for the ball when it was obvious somebody was going to be hurt…
The turning point came early in the second half when Barry Bridges just failed to divert a loose ball past the heroic Gary Bloom. Albion never went so close to scoring again, despite a stream of flag kicks.
Yet only minutes before hand Foskett had missed an open goal. He blamed himself afterwards and seemed more concerned about that mistake than basking in the glory of a hat-trick.
Foskett has not enjoyed much of Walton’s limelight. He was on the substitute’s bench at Wembley at the end of a strange season that saw him score 23 goals before Christmas and then lose his edge completely.
Foskett said: “This is the highlight of my career, although nothing can make up for not playing in a final at Wembley. I was left so much space at the back by Brighton, and I had all the time to think about all three goals.”
His goals, demonstrated perfect versatility, two with the right foot, the last one from the left foot.
Albion were hit by a thigh injury to Stephen Piper ten minutes from the interval. There is little doubt Towner would have come on anyway, but Piper’s loss weakened the defence.
Eddie Spearritt switched to partner Norman Gall, Peter O’Sullivan moved to the left-wing, and Bridges slotted into the midfield.
Walton prospered as a result, and seldom can such an experienced international player like Bridges have cause to be so dissatisfied with his contribution to a game. In my book it was nil…
The grim message for Albion is that Clough has a monumental task ahead. Realist as he is, there can be no illusions on yesterday’s score. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.
There is time to prevent the rot spreading further. But I’ll wager Clough never expected it to be like this…
Twenty minutes: Smith’s corner was flicked on by Lambert. Powney failed to make contact and Gall was the wrong side of Perkins who got down like an old man with lumbago to head the simplest of goals. 0-1.
Eighty-two minutes: A long ball out of defence caught Albion upfield. Walton had Foskett and Perkins haring through the middle, and with Powney unprotected, Foskett scored from a precise Perkins pass. 0-2.
Eighty-four minutes: The same long ball caught Albion napping again, this time it was Smith who put Foskett away to crack a beauty. 0-3.
Eighty-nine minutes: Just to show it was no fluke, Foskett broke away again. The long ball came from Morris, and away went Foskett to drill in his best goal. 0-4.
Albion: Powney; Templeman, Ley, Spearritt, Gall, Piper, Bridges, Howell (R), Hilton, Robertson, O’Sullivan. Sub: Towner for Piper (injured) 35 minutes.
Walton and Hersham: G Bloom, D Sargent, C Lambert, D Donalson, W Edwards, D Bassett, C Woffinden, W Smith, R Perkins, C Foskett, D Morris. Sub R Wingate.
Referee: Mr GC Kew (Amersham).
Bookings: Ley (foul).
Years later, in Brian Clough’s ‘Autobiography’ (1994), he recalled comedian Eric Sykes’ lucky escape after the match:
‘I was involved in a first round FA Cup tie against mighty Walton and Hersham! A bunch of bloody amateurs, and they beat us 4-0. I’ve had some bad days in football but that must have been one of the worst. He won’t know it until he reads this, or until a pal reads it and tells him, but comedian Eric Sykes had never been in greater danger of a smack in the mouth than he was that day. I think he was president of the Walton club, or at least held some position there. Anyway, he was perfectly entitled to feel chuffed, having seen the little team of nobodies produce possibly the greatest result in their history and one of the big Cup upsets of the day.
As I walked through a passage after the match I could hear his raised voice as he stood with a phone in his hand, obviously giving me some right stick. I heard him gloating about something about ‘Cloughie… ha, ha, ha.’ I had never met him in my life but I’d laughed my socks off whenever I saw him on TV – and still do when they play the old clips. But that afternoon I would have taken great delight in punching him. If only I had shown similar self-control, years later, on that infamous night when supporters invaded the pitch at Nottingham Forest!’
Oh, and have I mentioned that video footage of this cup replay does exist? It clearly should be banned, though! It’s only sixteen seconds and there is no sound. I’ll leave you to decide whether to be regretful or thankful that it doesn’t feature any of the goals:
Amazing to recall that Brian Clough’s previous away Cup tie, as Derby boss, was in the European Cup Semi-Final against Juventus. From Turin to Walton-on-Thames in the space of a few months. Here is John Vinicombe’s match report of the first match of the notorious cup tie with Walton and Hersham, from 24th November 1973, 40 years today:
Albion are indeed fortunate to be meeting Walton and Hersham a second time in the FA Cup. The Amateur Cup holders very nearly succeeded at the first time of asking in knocking them out, but Albion should decide the issue in Wednesday’s Goldstone replay.
However, one says ‘should’ in the assumption that they will not fail again to master elementary facets of the game. It is a familiar, but no less valid theme of manager Brian Clough that sides which do not get shots on target do not win matches.
Saturday’s shot-shy display played right into the hands of Walton, who harried and chased with commendable spirit until referee Gordon Kew’s whistle called a temporary halt to the proceedings in semi-darkness when neither side had scored.
Albion had given Gary Bloom remarkably little to do and Brian Powney was by far the busiest goalkeeper. He was the man who kept Albion in the Cup. Yet, after only seven seconds Powney lay flat on his face, watching in dismay as the ball snuggled into the back of the net.
It was the almost classic, storybook start for the underdogs. Straight from the kick-off the ball was knocked back to Dave Bassett and he struck it firm and high towards Albion’s goal. Russell Perkins jerked his heavy limbs into a gallop and down came the ball, bounced and, in cricketing parlance, “did a bit off the seam.”
Powney was on the edge of the six-yard box when it bounced over his head, and Perkins went by joyously to find the net and salute an unbelieving crowd.
Albion were goggle-eyed as Mr Kew pointed towards the centre-spot. In the Press accommodation and overspill, with reporters still trying to find seats, 50 pairs of eyes glued to 50 watches and the timings ranged from seven to 30 seconds. Down went eyes to books, and pens moved swiftly to record the event.
But, alas for Walton, it was not a goal. Mr Kew’s right arm indicated a foul. He explained afterwards: ‘I did not allow a goal because the centre-forward jumped at the goalkeeper.’
Mr Kew is a stickler for detail and Albion can thank their lucky stars he is. Perkins could only reach the bounching ball by jumping and it looked a good goal to most of the 6,500 crowd.
When it was clear that Walton had not scored the crowd felt cheated. They turned on Clough and screamed abuse at him for coaching from the line.
The rest of the game was rent with most ungenteel tones from a district where there are more stockbrokers to the acre than you can shake a stick at.
Afterwards the disappointment showed in the faces. The lugubrious countenance of Eric Sykes reflected Walton’s feelings. He played the straight man’s role on cue and said Walton should have won. And for once Clough devilled judgment without causing a furore.
He said: ‘I am very pleased to be still in the Cup. Walton had enough football to keep us occupied. They did a very good job. Brian Powney earned his cash today.’ Then he asked for Scotch and water and retired to the dressing room.
So the big match has come and gone from Walton-on-Thames. It will not be remembered although Walton summoned all their resources and Perkins went close to winning it four minutes into the restart with a half-volley that flew narrowly past the post.
While Albion were fighting for their reputations at Walton, the marchers were parading in Derby – 1,000 still bent on restoring Clough to the throne he abdicated a month ago.
As the skies darkened over this trim council-owned ground with such a beautiful playing surface, Clough must have felt the pulses surge briefly again. George Ley outstripped a host of red shirts to rifle an ankle-high 20 harder only a foot wide. Then Walton stood stock still, accusers and accused pointing to what might have been.
There was precious little they had to fear from the recognised strikers, and Peter O’Sullivan the most skilful player afield, wasted his midfield talents to a distressing degree. Overlaps from John Templeman and Ley were what really worried Walton who alone possessed the traditional cup-tie spirit on the day.
Walton and Hersham: G Bloom, D Sargent, C Lambert, W Edwards, D Bassett, C Woffinden, W Smith, R Perkins, C Foskett, D Morris. Sub: R Wingate.
Albion: Powney, Templeman, Ley, Spearritt, Gall, Piper, Bridges, Howell (R), Hilton, Robertson, O’Sullivan. Sub: Howell (G)
And, for the first time on YouTube, I can now show you some super-rare footage from this match. There’s not much of it, there’s no sound, and it doesn’t include the disallowed goal:
Nevertheless, please don’t have nightmares!
After Clough and Taylor took over at Brighton in 1973/74, the club received an unprecedented number of column inches for a Third Division side fighting a relegation battle. Here’s an article entitled ‘Clough miracle wanted… but it will take time’:
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor are not expected to work an overnight miracle on Brighton. But the immediate effect they had on the Third Division club was little short of unbelievable.
Not only did three times the normal gate see Brighton’s first match under the new regime but the players admitted the mere arrival of the two had given them a new lease of life.
More than 16,000 saw Brighton draw 0-0 with York and they cheered virtually every good move made by their team. With that kind of support, Brighton must be on the right road to success.
If that was a triumph for Clough, then so was Brighton’s performance. The man himself was fairly satisfied. He said: “The lads played remarkably well considering it wasn’t an easy match for them. We were all a bit tense. I was delighted with their enthusiasm and courage and this performance has certainly given us something to work on.”
The effect that Clough had in the dressing room was described as “incredible” by Barry Bridges. “I did more running about in this game than I had in the previous 10 matches,” admitted Bridges. “I’m 32 now, but with this chap geeing me up I reckon I can go on playing for several more years. We were a bit on edge before the game and the first thing he told us was to relax. Afterwards he told us he was pleased with the effort we showed and we can work from here and go places.
“Though I was sorry to see Pat Saward go – he was a great coach – I think Brian’s got what it takes to make us a good side. He’s just what the club have been waiting for.”
Brighton chairman Mike Bamber, who talked Clough and Taylor into joining, says Brighton have acquired: “the best football parmership in the world.” And Bamber added: “We’re hoping for the very best, but we are not expecting them to perform miracles overnight.” But it seems already that small miracles are about to happen in this South coast holiday resort.
Such an assertion was given weight in the next match against Huddersfield, on 10th November 1973, at Leeds Road, when Brighton stormed back from 2-0 down. Minus the skills of Frank Worthington, the Terriers had slid down two divisions in two seasons, been relegated alongside Albion in a mutually cataclysmic 1972/73 campaign. However, against Brighton, Huddersfield seemed to be running away with it, when Terry Dolan scored on 38 minutes and then Phil Summerhill doubled the margin ten minutes after half-time.
However, the lead was not to last, due to some hitherto unseen Albion resilience. Ken Beamish headed Albion back into the game 25 minutes from the end and Bridges earned the point with a searing shot from the right wing following a pass from the impressive George Ley.
Three days later, Brighton travelled to Walsall for a Tuesday evening match, achieving a morale-boosting victory at Fellows Park in the pouring rain. As John Vinicombe reported:
Albion gave manager Brian Clough his first Division III win at Walsall last night when Pat Hilton headed the only goal of a hard-fought match 12 minutes from time. Said Clough: “They fought very hard. I was delighted with them; they showed a bit of heart.”
A deserved victory saw Hilton with most cause to celebrate… it was his first-ever League goal in 12 appearances (three last season). His header from Lammie Robertson’s free-kick was beautifully placed and crowned a lot of hard work. An unobstrusive player, Hilton ran hard on a number of decoy runs to pull out defenders. Albion’s approach was altogether more skilful than Walsall’s but in terms of effort both teams gave everything.
The goal from man-of-the-match Hilton was enough to move Albion two places higher, to seventeenth in Division Three. With another bumper crowd at the Goldstone expected on the Saturday against Chesterfield, and an easy FA Cup draw against the amateurs Walton & Hersham just announced, things were definitely looking up.
This is an extract from ‘With Clough By Taylor’, Peter Taylor’s autobiography. It’s his chapter on his time at Brighton, both with and without Brian. Interesting to hear Taylor so clear about what he thought his own weaknesses as a manager were:
Only the man on the end of the phone attracted me to Brighton.
He was Mike Bamber, a property developer and the club chairman. He was persuasive, progressive and brave enough to make his move while the charge of bringing football into disrepute hung over Brian.
The F.A. disciplinary commission were to hear the case in a fortnight. At best, a long suspension was forecast and one First Division manager assured the ITV producer Bob Gardam, ‘Those two will never get another club.’ Bob. a good friend, was upset but I said, ‘We’ve done no wrong. So go back and tell the fellow we’ll have his job if he’s not careful.’ I could understand directors being wary and I could understand some of the Derby board stirring things up, but I objected to fellow managers putting in the boot while we were out of work. A couple of years later, that manager was sacked himself. We shed no tears for him.
I have a lot of time for Mike Bamber. He had heard the rumours but believed what I told him, ‘We have done nothing to prevent us taking any job in football. The gossip is rubbish.’ We met late on Saturday night at the Waldorf Hotel in London.
Brian and I had been in the ITV studios watching Derby draw against West Ham. while Mr. Bamber had been in Hereford seeing his team lose 4-0 and hearing more abuse from Brighton supporters. He arrived with the vice-chairman Harry Bloom; they meant business and we were impressed.
Brian, though, was set on a long break but I pushed him into accepting the offer. He agreed but his heart wasn’t in it – as events were to show. Yet he summoned up the old bounce on our first day at Brighton’s Goldstone Ground this was Brian at his most quotable: ‘It’s tougher here than at Hartlepools where they didn’t expect anything. Now we have a reputation, but there are no fairies at the bottom of Brighton pier.
‘There are only sixteen professionals here. Only one goalkeeper, one trainer, one secretary, one groundsman: in fact, one of everything. That puts Peter and me in the majority, for they have two managers.’
The fans could also produce bright remarks and I heard them saying, ‘Fetching Clough and Taylor to Brighton is like engaging McAlpines to decorate a roadside cafe.’ I saw what they meant when I met the team at a hotel in Lewes. They were casual, almost amateurish, joking about their plight instead of being concerned. Brian thrust his chin at them, challenging, ‘Go on, punch it! Show me you’re capable of positive action.’ I wanted to wade in, too, but decided that the best course was wholesale replacement.
Our outstanding result in November 1973 was at the disciplinary hearing. I attended with Brian and the Commission cleared him. We were free to work and I’ve rarely worked harder. I was away scouting while Brian’s hands were full trying to explain away some awful defeats. We lost 4-0 in an F.A. Cup replay to an amateur club, Walton and Hersham. We lost 8-2 at home in the League to Bristol Rovers. It wasn’t our team but that was no consolation. Brian tried to draw the blame on himself by saying, ‘The players seem petrified of me.
They put on a shirt, look at me and wonder if they’re doing it right. It’s got to change or we°ll go down.’
Brian. although his heart and home remained in Derby, wanted to win for Brighton. He yearned for success, as he always does. There’s a delightful story about that from John Vinicombe, who covers all Brighton matches for the Evening Argus. He inadvertently opened the dressing-room door at Walsall after the first away victory under our management and found Brian on his knees, untying the players’ boots.
Meanwhile, the cauldron still bubbled at Derby. The players signed another letter demanding our re-instatement, while threatening not to report for a match against Leeds United. I was too busy travelling to take much interest: one night I was standing in the crowd at Chester, the next night I was more than 200 miles away watching Norwich reserves. My job is: observation, decision, replacement. It wasn’t difficult at Brighton to see who to replace.
My first signing was the veteran goalkeeper Peter Grummitt from Sheffield Wednesday for only £7,000. Next, John Bond of Norwich City agreed a package deal of £65.000 for three of his reserves: Andy Rollings, Ian Mellor and Steve Govier. Rollings was still in the side when Brighton won promotion to the First Division in 1979. He was a defender, so was Govier. I paid Luton Town £20,000 for Ken Goodeve, another defender. We got it right at the back, so we stayed up in 1973-4 – and I was glad because I had fallen for Brighton. I loved the club, the people and the place, but Brian never took to the South Coast. We weren’t a unit at Brighton. His mind was elsewhere: he hankered after Derby for a long time. He had tasted championship football and couldn’t adjust to the Third Division.
Brighton, still fighting relegation in the New Year, went off to Cambridge for a match, while Brian flew to New York for the world heavyweight fight between Muhammad All and Joe Frazier. He met Ali who taunted, ‘Hey, you a football player in England? You wouldn’t last two minutes over here. You’re too small’ – which only goes to show that the champ had never heard of soccer. He thought the only kind of football was gridiron which, of course, is played by giants.
Brian returned from America only to start planning a cricket trip to the West Indies in February. Then he flew to Tehran in March to discuss an offer from the Shah of £20,000 a year tax-free for us as joint managers of the Iranian national team. He also left the team to canvass in the Midlands during the 1974 General Election. And he never discouraged the offers that poured in: from Ajax of Amsterdam, from Aston Villa, from Queens Park Rangers. I didn’t want to work in Iran or Holland or anywhere except Brighton because Mike Bamber, realizing the club’s potential, was prepared to back his judgement with cash. He wanted the best, he was ready to pay, and he was determined to enforce his five year contract with Brian – but I knew that a split was inevitable.
Brian’s absences began to draw adverse comments. He accused the team of selling the club short and received this tart reply from some of the players. ‘How does he know? We never see him’. One disillusioned fan described him as, ‘A publicity hunter who dashes from the TV studios to the dressing-room just in time to gee up the players.’
The break came through a sensational sacking. The F.A. fired Sir Alf Ramsey, England’s manager when they won the 1966 World Cup, They were hammered by the critics and public and, needing a famous replacement to quieten the storm, turned to Brian’s old adversary, Don Revie of Leeds United.
Then Manny Cussins, the Leeds chairman, decided (against the advice of Revie and the misgivings of some directors), on Brian as a replacement. Four of us, Brian, myself, Bamber and Cussins – met at Hove in July 1974 to thrash it out. Brian wanted to go; Bamber wanted £75,000 compensation; I leaned towards staying and reminded Brian. ‘Don’t forget that Brighton came for us when we were out of work and while everyone else was hedging. And that they have backed us all the way.’
Nothing had been pre-arranged between myself and the Brighton Board, as Brian believed, but I felt the job was only half done and that we owed loyalty to Bamber for signing us under the shadow of a disciplinary commission. Not only that, but he had kept his promises: cash for transfers, no interference, accommodation in the best hotels, a new Mercedes coach for team travel. Brighton treated us wonderfully and I wasn’t prepared to discard them even for the champions of England, but I could read Brian’s ambitious mind. He saw himself jumping straight from the Third Division into the management of a European Cup side; he saw himself leading out Leeds United at Wembley in the following month’s Charity Shield match against Liverpool.
He was bitter when I said, ‘Count me out.’ After nine years, the partnership was over. I stayed at Brighton, signing busily so many players it’s hard to remember all of them. There was Peter Ward. a striker, for £4,000 from Burton Albion. He progressed right through to Brighton’s First Division team, won a place in an England squad, and was valued at more than one hundred times his original fee. There was Brian Horton from Port Vale, a natural captain who skippered Brighton from the Third to the First Division. He cost only £27,000 – anyone could have bought him and his wages were rock-bottom. Football had given him a hard time. West Bromwich had cast him off as a kid: he had played non-League football for Hednesford in the Midlands: and yet, because of his determination and influence on other players, he ought to have been playing at the top level from the start.
I bought some good footballers for Brighton and Hove Albion but, as a manager on my own, I just failed them. In July 1976, two years after we split, I resigned and joined Brian at Nottingham Forest. I had stayed with Brighton for the right reasons and, in my opinion, I left them for the right reasons. A change is required at times, and I think both of us needed one.
Mike Bamber had been wonderful to me. I could have anything a new car. money for players, a salary increase. I took a long holiday in Majorca. then returned to resign. After keeping them clear of relegation in 1974-5 I had missed promotion in 1975-6 by losing an Easter match at Millwall; from that day, my doubts grew I told Bamber, ‘I’m going; I’m a failure.’ and he said. ‘If you call this failure, then I want more of it’ which was a nice note to leave on. Time has proved me right; Brighton, under my successor Alan Mullery, reached the First Division, while I, re-united with Brian. went on to greater triumphs: the League Championship, two League Cups, the European Cup.
The split showed us how we were both up against it without each other. Our strengths were divided. I dislike dealing with directors and sitting through long board meetings discussing plans for new stands: Brian does it like shelling peas. He is a genius on press relations, but he hasn’t my knack for assessing, buying and selling players. As it happened, though, he missed me more than I missed him during those ill-fated forty-four days at Elland Road.
Here’s Taylor’s side that came so close to promotion from Division Three in 1975/76. They won just once in their last eight matches despite Peter Ward hitting six goals in that spell:
Unsurprisingly, there was a massive media whirlwind around the sensational news that Brian Clough had taken over as the manager of Third Division Brighton. As a result, the story dominated the front page as well as the back page of the Evening Argus over the next few days. From Friday 2nd November 1973:
Albion fans will be at the Goldstone in their thousands tomorrow to give new manager Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor a rousing welcome.
The gate could well be around the 20,000 mark to greet Brighton’s greatest-ever capture. Nothing is being left to chance by a club whose crowds have bordered on an all-time low of 5,000.
The Goldstone office will remain open until 8pm today to deal with late season ticket applications. The first were made less than 20 minutes after the news broke yesterday afternoon that Messrs Clough and Taylor had agreed to join Albion on resigning from Derby County.
It was a coup that astonished the soccer world and a clearcut triumph for the Albion board led by chief negotiator, chairman Mike Bamber. After six days of talks it was the ebullient Clough who admitted: “It was a difficult decision to come. But I had an offer I couldn’t turn down. They were very persuasive, and I decided it was the best thing to do.”
As Clough returned to Derby by train, the rush started – by 4.30pm, 12 season tickets at £17.60 had been sold, and a brace of new members for the Vice-President’s Club at £50 a time applied to join.
Applications for season tickets and match tickets jammed the Goldstone lines today. There were so many calls that vice-chairman Harry Bloom gave the over-worked staff a hand dealing with inquiries.
But hardly surprising when an internationally famous manager and TV personality like Clough takes over.
Later today Mr Clough was due back at the Goldstone to introduce himself to the players. They will be taken to a hotel and remain overnight in preparation for the match against York City.
This is Mr Clough’s first rule, and it will be the form in the future.
Said Eddie Spearritt, the club captain: “I welcome his appointment. It is a tremendous thing for the club. I am only disappointed that I shall not be playing tomorrow, but I hope to be fit in a week.”
Tomorrow’s team has been selected by trainer Glen Wilson. There is every indication that his position will remain unchanged at the club.
Yesterday, he and Mr Clough had a preliminary talk about the playing strength. Mr Clough believes that between 16 and 17 players is too small. He said that directors had told him that money is available to buy players.
He hoped he would be able to motivate the present staff: “I have got to get it out of them. We are now in the bottom six of the Third Division. It will take a lot of hard work to get into the Second. Before anyone starts talking about the First, let’s get into the Second. I think I would settle for staying in the Third for a few months…”
Come Saturday, 16,017 packed into the Goldstone to watch the curious affair of Clough’s debut match as Brighton boss, almost 10,000 more than the previous gate against Southport. From Vinicombe’s report, it seems as if Albion had the lion’s share of the possession:
[Lammie] Robertson celebrated his recall to the side after being suspended by previous manager Pat Saward with a vigorous performance and on two occasions was unlucky not to score. At the back George Ley turned in an immaculate performance. York, now unbeaten for 14 matches, were contained for so long that they did not manage a corner until the 54th minute by which time Albion had no fewer than nine.
The constant bombardment on City’s goal continued until the pulsating finish. Albion have found their heart again. Support for Albion was tremendous. Every time a player in blue and white touched the ball the crowd went wild.
The 0-0 draw left Brighton in 19th position, barely above water in the fight against relegation. Clearly, there was a lot of work to do by the new men in charge with players who Taylor later described as ‘a bunch of amateurs and layabouts.’
Here is the Evening Argus front page from exactly forty years ago, on 1st November 1973:
Penning by far the biggest story of his journalist career, John Vinicombe wrote:
Brian Clough is the new manager of Brighton and Hove Albion.
This astonishing soccer coup was pulled off last night in a Derby hotel and this afternoon 37-year-old Clough, former manager of Derby County, signed a contract at the Goldstone.
So ended six days of non-stop negotiations between Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor and Albion chairman Mike Bamber and vice-chairman Harry Bloom.
Yesterday Messrs Bamber and Bloom visited Derby for talks with Clough – the sixth day negotiations have been going on.
Albion, seeking an early replacement for Pat Saward, who was sacked last week, first contacted Clough on Friday. The two parties met on Saturday night and there has been an exchange of telephone calls since then.
Clough has said he would not object to joining a club outside the First Division provided that the set-up was right. Albion have already said that they would not object to Clough continuing his television and newspaper activities – the main reason behind his resignation from Derby.
Albion could face opposition from Nottingham Forest, whose manager, Dave Mackay, left towards the end of the week to take over the Derby post.
Meanwhile, Bamber was kept busy this morning with his other main interest – a property development company which was today moving from London to new offices in the main Goldstone stand.
As far as retro football magazines go, The Footballer was the forerunner to Backpass magazine, running from July 1989 to May/June 1996. While it was much drier in tone and page layout than its modern day retro equivalent, many of the respectfully penned articles and interviews of players from yesteryear deserve another airing.
This one by Charlie Bamforth, from the March / April 1996 edition, features the spring-heeled Brian Powney, who kept goal for the Albion from 1962 to 1974:
Brian Powney ushered his Staffordshire Bull Terrier out of the room (for which I was thankful) and gestured to the walking stick propped up against his easy chair: “That stick is the legacy of a knee injury I picked up on my debut for Brighton when I was 16!”
Gammy knee or not, Powney went on to play almost 400 games for the Seagulls. The stresses and strains are now telling, as they do from so many ex-professionals. (“The fans don’t see this side of things”). A major operation failed to sort the Powney leg out, so Brian can “look forward” to two more years of surgery. When he is laid up, he’ll doubtless be looking back on a worthy career as one of the lower divisions’ more durable and loyal goalkeepers.
Brian Powney was born on 7th October 1944 in Seaford, the seaside town in which he resides to this day. A seven-a-side tournament in Hailsham served to set his sights on a custodial career.
“It was the usual story. Our goalie was having a torrid time, so I took over. I got into the school first team by the time I was thirteen and I made the East Sussex Under-15’s.”
“I was recommended to Eastbourne United. Those days they were in the Metropolitan League, playing against the likes of Arsenal “A” and Gravesend and Northfleet.
Eastbourne were run very much on professional lines, with a full-time manager in Jack Mansell, an F.A. Staff Coach. I never got into the first team, where the goalkeeping slot was held by Reggie Pope. He was stocky, very much like myself.”
“I had trials with Arsenal and Southampton. They both wanted to put me onto the groundstaff, but that would have meant living in a hostel. So I was pleased when my local club, Brighton, came in with an offer. I reckoned that there would be more opportunities with a smaller club.” At sixteen, Brian Powney joined the Goldstone groundstaff, signing pro forms for manager George Curtis on his seventeenth birthday.
“Charlie Baker was first choice keeper at the time – and very good he was too. But he was a part-timer, so I could never work with him in training. There was not really much goalkecping coaching in those days, but I did go up to the FA youth courses at Lilleshall, where we were coached by the likes of Billy Wright and Phil Woosnam.”
Young Powney was given an early blooding in Seagulls’ senior side on the last day of the 1961-62 season at Derby County. Albion were already relegated, so they took the opportunity to give their raw young goalkeeper a taste of Second Division football in front of 6,739 spectators.
Although the Rams won 2-0 through goals by Barry Hutchinson and John Bowers, Powney had a fine game, even allowing for the injury which has dogged him ever since.
The man in the other goal that day at the Baseball Ground was veteran England international Reg Matthews, who must have been impressed with the capabilities of Brighton’s new netminder.
After eight games in the 1962-63 campaign, Brian became first choice the following season. By the time he played his last game (in the Third Division) in 1973-74, the name Powney had been penciled in first in 342 Football League games.
There had been high spots – a Fourth Division championship in 1964-65, a promotion from the Third in 1971-72 and a place understudying Chelsea’s John Cowan in the England youth squad for the junior World Cup, a squad that included Tommy Smith, Lew Chatterley and John Sissons. But there had been lows, notably a relegation back to the Third Division in 1972-73.
Brian Powney played under five managers for Brighton & Hove Albion: Curtis, Archie Macauley, Fred Goodwin, Pat Saward and Brian Clough.
“I enjoyed playing for Pat Saward most. As a coach he was second to none. His knowledge was immense and he really motivated us by getting us to enjoy the game.”
“Brian Clough tried to motivate by fear. I didn’t like him at all. I am well aware that there are players at other clubs who would give you a different view, but I can only speak as I find. Clough joined us when our morale was at an all-time low. We had no confidence and it just got worse. The media following was mindboggling. But the things that were said, the slagging off of players, shattered our confidence. I just didn’t respect Brian Clough and eventually he brought Peter Grummitt in. I learned that I had been given a “free” by letter.”
“They were, indeed, miserable days for Brighton. Within the space of a few days they were humiliated 0-4 in the FA Cup by Walton & Hersham and went down 2-8 to Bristol Rovers. Even so Brian Powney knew just what it was-like to be at the preferred end on such occasions, for within a two week period in November 1965 his team had beaten Southend United 9-1 in a Division Three fixture and had whipped Wisbech 10-1 in the “I did feel sorry for Southend’s young keeper (Malcolm White) that day. And I found out exactly how he felt when we went down that time to Bristol Rovers!”
Brian Powney had plenty of competition for his place at the Goldstone, such that he never was an ever present in any of his thirteen seasons. Fred Goodwin brought in Geoff Sidebottom as his preferred last line (“I had a tough time when Geoff was there, but I learnt a lot about positional sense from him”).
The former Arsenal keeper Tony Burns was an earlier contender. Powney and Burns were great chums and Brian also recalls as pals Jim Oliver, John Templeman, Bobby Smith (“a very generous man”) and Alex Dawson (“a fabulous character was the ‘Black Prince’, and a good player”). His closest friend, though, was Norman Gall, and the two shared a pair of testimonials against Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Another colleague in Hove was Howard Wilkinson, now Leeds manager. Wilkinson is said to recall Brian Powney as being very quick and brave. Powney himself is clear about the qualities he possessed.
“I was a shot stopper, a line goalkeeper. Not being the tallest, I seldom came for crosses, but I had John Napier and Norman Gall to deal with those”.
On retiring, Powney became player-manager at Sussex Cotmty League side Southwick for two years, taking them to a title and an appointment with Bournemouth in the Cup.
“After that I played stand-off or centre for Seaford Rugby Club for a couple of years! They made me Player of the Season once! I’d probably have played rugby if I hadn’t turned pro for Brighton”.
These days Powney is regional managing director for an automatic beverage machine company and still follows football with interest, although he seldom visits the Goldstone Ground.
Here’s Peter O’Sullivan, brimming with confidence ahead of the 1972/73 season:
Note his professional ambition was to ‘win a full Welsh cap and play in Division One.’ The latter happened much later in his career but getting full international honours was to come his way much earlier, in March 1973, despite the Albion making a pig’s ear of competing in the Second Division.
Shoot! magazine revisited Sully the following season, 1973/74, after Brighton had landed back with a bump in the Third Division. By the time of the interview, Pat Saward had made his exit, Brian Clough had arrived, and the Welsh winger and midfielder was buzzing with optimism about the new appointment:
Towards the end of last season, Peter O’Sullivan was on the verge of asking Brighton for a move. In three seasons with the club he had tasted the headed heights of success.
There was promotion from the Third Division, five Welsh Under-23 caps plus a full international against Scotland. But just as quickly, a dream of further success faded as Brighton surrendered their Second Division status after just one season.
“I was bitterly disappointed at that,” said 22-year-old O’Sullivan.
“It seemed at last I was getting over the depression of being in the Manchester United reserves for four years when life began to turn sour again.”
O’Sullivan, who hails from Colwyn Bay in North Wales, thought hard about his future, and after Brighton’s dismal start to the current campaign, wanted away. In these days when forward talent is so precious there would have been no lack of bidders for the young winger’s talents.
Then Brian Clough arrived.
“Suddenly the whole atmosphere down at Goldstone Road changed,” explained Peter. “And I am sure that under Mr Clough and Peter Taylor, Brighton can really do well again.
“I’ve been impressed with their ideas, and they have completely overhauled the set up down here.
Now I am more than happy to stay – that is if Mr. Clough still wants me and help Brighton back into the big time.
“The potential down here is enormous and I am sure we will realise it under Mr. Clough.”
Peter can have few worries about whether Brian Clough will keep him.
Peter also points to the huge crowds Brighton can draw when they are getting results as a sign that the club have all the ingredients of a top flight side.
“Some of our home games have been watched by 30,000 fans.
That is a marvellous total for the Third Division. It just shows what we can do if we are successful.
“Once that confidence comes flowing back we will give them something to cheer about. I can’t promise goals, but I can promise 100 per cent effort to get them.”
O’Sullivan was ever-present in 1973/74, hitting four goals, including Albion’s first goal in the infamous 8-2 home defeat to Bristol Rovers. His excellent dribble and drive brought the score back to 2-1 to the visitors. Not for the first or last time, Sully’s creativity with giving hope to the Albion.