“My best asset was speed,” says Dave Busby. “I had a lot of natural pace. I had some good skills but my speed gave me time.”
Aged 17 at the time, the Paddington-born striker made history on 20th October 1973, becoming the first black player to appear for the first team of Brighton & Hove Albion.
In the dying days of the Pat Saward era, struggling Brighton beat Shrewsbury 2-0 thanks to goals from Ron Howell and Ken Beamish, to move up to 19th in Division Three. Busby came on as a substitute for loanee John Boyle on 78 minutes: “It was so good to come on and hearing the crowd cheering my name.”
His manager Saward missed it, though. He was in Crewe watching a transfer target, goalkeeper Bryan Parker.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Busby got his chance with trainer Glen Wilson deputising. As Dave says: “Pat Saward was a good manager. As far as I was concerned, though, he just was not brave enough to put the youngsters in when we were hot. The first team should have been made up of both the young and the experienced and we would have been great.”
Having gone to school in Heathfield, Sussex, where Frank Bruno was a fellow pupil, Busby joined the Goldstone staff as an apprentice in 1973, having played as a junior for Heathfield United. When Brian Clough arrived at Brighton, Busby was one of the few to have encountered him before: “Not a lot of people know this. I played under Brian Clough at Derby County for three weeks as a trialist before I came to Brighton. He said to me then that I would stand a good chance in a lower league.”
Even so, following his debut, Dave did not see first team action under Clough, with Pat Hilton, Ken Beamish, Lammie Robertson and Barry Bridges higher up in the pecking order up front. This setback did not put him off from continuing to score regularly for the reserves. As a result, Busby eventually signed a contract as a professional in August 1974.
In the 1974/75 season, with Peter Taylor now a boss going solo, Busby was an unused substitute in the August matches against Reading (League Cup 1st Round Replay) and Chesterfield, before making his second appearance from the bench in the 3rd replay against Reading, with his side losing 3-2 at the Goldstone:
Busby gathers a pass near Reading’s goal as team mate Ernie Machin rushes to support
Dave ventures that Peter Taylor “was quite the opposite of Mr Clough. He did not shout as much. He was not as aggressive. He would talk to you a little more.”
In the match that followed the Reading cup marathon, on 7th September 1974, Dave got his big chance in making the starting line-up, against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. He almost scored as well. Ronnie Welch found Busby with a peach of a first time ball from defence, but the attacker was denied by a foul from the Rovers keeper Roger Jones.
Dave then came on as a substitute at home to Port Vale later in the month, but that was his final Albion first team appearance. He was given a free transfer in May 1975. He then worked at a greengrocer’s, became a car mechanic, before spells with Worthing, Blackpool, Barrow, Gravesend & Northfleet, Tooting & Mitcham United and Littlehampton.
Having hung up his boots, he is justifiably proud of his accolade as a trailblazer: “Being Brighton first black player is just great. I just wish they had given me more of a chance and I would have been fine.”
Dave Busby, in the front row of the 1974/75 team photo
This is a pimped-out version of the very ‘plain Jane’ Brighton home shirt from Peter Taylor’s first season in sole charge at the Goldstone in 1974/75. As you can see, not only did Albion fans have to put up with their manager Brian Clough defecting to Leeds, but our traditional and beloved blue and white stripes were ditched in favour of a design by Admiral that echoed the kit worn by the Elland Road side.
To add a bit of flourish, the shirts were originally worn with white shorts that had two blue stripes running down the side and with white socks featuring two blue rings.
While controversial, the move to all-white had a precedent at the Goldstone earlier in the decade. Before Brighton boss Freddie Goodwin had left for Birmingham City in the summer of 1970, he had instigated a change to the team’s colours to this aesthetic, perhaps in admiration of Leeds or maybe he thought it would help us play like Real Madrid. Or could it be that he just liked how milky-white kits shone under floodlights during night-time matches? Whatever the reason, that radical change lasted for a single season, however, in the first campaign of the Pat Saward era.
Just as under Pat Saward in 1970/71, Brighton’s season in 1974/75 was one of struggle in Division Three, with the threat of relegation being averted by the end. Under the watch of Peter Taylor, the all-white affair was worn by the likes of Ian Mellor when he scored on his League debut for Brighton in an opening day win against Crystal Palace in August 1974 and by fellow striker Dave Busby who became the first black player to play for the Albion when he came on as a substitute against Reading in the League Cup in September. Humiliatingly, the shirt was also worn with blue shorts for the 1-0 home defeat in the FA Cup by non-league side Leatherhead in January 1975, with Chris Kelly, ‘The Leatherhead Lip,’ here giving the Albion defenders the runaround:
At least the white shirt from the earlier season had the letters ‘B&HAFC.’ This one of 1974/75, with the identical blue round neck and shirt cuffs, had nothing that identified it as belonging to Brighton & Hove Albion. Stingily, it also offered none of the design innovations that Admiral became synonymous with during the decade, such as tramlines down the shirts and shorts …or even sock tags which featured mainly at Elland Road in kits manufactured by Admiral (If you’re going to copy Leeds, at least copy sock tags!) And yet, as if to rub your nose in it, Admiral did manage to get their own logo on.
Strangely, given the plentiful supply before, there’s a paucity of colour photography of Brighton & Hove Albion players during 1974/75, apart from this photo by Crystal Palace fan Paul Wright which understandably is from quite far out, so you can’t see the detail on the shirt. So, from black and white photos, I was unable to ascertain the colour of the Admiral logo until Phil Shelley from Old Football Shirts was helpfully able to confirm it as yellow with a blue outline, having chatted to a few ex-Brighton players at the Alan Mullery special celebration dinner event last year.
Powered with this knowledge, I ordered a blue round-necked white shirt from Toffs. Then I proceeded to get a yellow Admiral logo unstitched from another shirt and sewn on to it although, judging from photos, I think the originals had the logo as an ironed on transfer. I even got the Admiral neck label added on to make it look more authentic when it is anything but!
Although it could be easily mistaken for a white polo necked t-shirt with a badge ironed on, I do wonder how much an original Brighton home shirt from 1974/75 is worth. Not that there’s much chance of an original surviving the lifespan of being used in competitive matches, then in reserve matches, then as training kit, then probably discarded due to wear and tear. When I contacted Dave Busby, who made three appearances during that season, he said: “We were never allowed to keep kit. It all had to be accounted for.”
Unless any found their way out, what you are looking at could be the only 1974/75 Brighton home shirt in existence, albeit as a reproduction.
Back row: Brian Daykin (assistant manager), Andy Rollings, Ian Mellor, Peter Grummitt, Graham Winstanley, Jim Walker, Ken Gutteridge (coach)
Front row: Harry Wilson, Ernie Machin, Fred Binney, Peter Taylor (manager), Tommy Mason, Tony Towner, Peter O’Sullivan