A bright, optimistic article from the Shoot! magazine archive in the summer of 1986:
Dean Saunders is the odd man out in the Welsh forward line.
lan Rush cost Juventus £3.2 million… Mark Hughes has gone to Barcelona for £2.5 million… Saunders joined Brighton on a free transfer!
Yet although the 22-year-old Saunders doesn’t match his illustrious Welsh team-mates in monetary terms, national manager Mike England believes he can be just as valuable to his country’s uropean Championship hopes.
“He was the star of our recent tour of Canada,” says England.
And with Hughes suspended for the opening two European Championship matches against Finland next season, he looks set to name a Rush-Saunders spearhead.
Saunders took both man of the match awards as he won his first two full caps on the Canada tour.
In the second game, he scored two of the three Welsh goals.
He recalls. “Swansea just gave me away – despite the fact that I was top scorer in a team coming apart. Cardiff City gave me a few games but always seemed to have reasons for not playing me consistently when I was on loan there.
“So I had every incentive to make the break from Welsh football and I joined Brighton.” “Brighton can go places. I was disappointed that we didn’t make the First Division first time around.
But all the lads are convinced that we will get there next season. I’ve been given a three-year contract so there are tremendous incentives to do better.”
Saunders was hardly a slouch last season. 19 first team goals and a breakthrough into the Wales team. “Now I’m looking for at least 20 goals in the League alone; a regular place in the Wales squad and at least a couple more caps before Mark Hughes is available again,” he stresses.
Mike England is convinced that this son of former Liverpool midfielder Roy Saunders cannot go wrong. “He goes past defenders with his tremendous pace and his finishing against Canada was a revelation,” says the Wales manager.
“The experience he gained at Brighton has done him the world of good. To finish top scorer in his first full season of Second Division football tells its own story.”
Dean adds: “The past 12 months have taught me so much about positioning and tactics.
“I had both cartilages out of my left knee at 18 and had both Swansea and Cardiff turn me down. I’ve had my share of the downs. From the moment I joined Brighton, my career has turned for the better.”
Just when everything looked like it was coming together, along came the storm clouds to obliterate supporters’ optimism…
Fifth in Division Two in mid-October 1985, promotion hopefuls Brighton endured a miserable spell in the four weeks that followed. After crashing 5-3 at the Goldstone to Charlton Athletic, Chris Cattlin’s injury-hit side were hammered 4-0 at Oldham and then by the same score at Liverpool in the Milk Cup. Suddenly, the season was falling apart. Although hard-won point at the Goldstone against a spritely Norwich kept the Seagulls in eighth position, a sign of poor form was confirmed when second-from-bottom Shrewsbury defeated Brighton 2-1 at Gay Meadow.
Suddenly, the home fixture against Huddersfield Town took on a great level of importance. Town were managed by Mick Buxton, who had guided the side from the Fourth to Second Division following his appointment in October 1978. While Albion’s displays had been dire prior to the match, so it was with the Terriers who had also lost four of their previous five matches and stood in 16th position. Here’s how the Argus described Albion’s 4-3 victory, watched by a gate of 7,952:
According to Cattlin, they [Albion] would not have been flattered if nine had been converted. That’s an understandable exaggeration made after the tumult of a seven-goal thriller, two sendings-off and five bookings, but he has a point.
When Albion had the ball they pushed up constantly, and got more numbers in the opposing box than ever before this term. It was a different story when Huddersfield gained possession, then Albion gave it away rather too easily.
The result was sometimes pandemonium, especially in the closing minutes as Huddersfield strove for a point.
It must have been exciting for the crowd, but managers do not like being put in fear of a cardiac arrest.
Not until the final whistle could you bank on the result, and from Albion’s point of view it was a good one.
Dale Tempest had got the Terriers’ goal in Albion’s 2-1 victory the previous season at Leeds Road. Within three minutes of the kick-off, he was on the scoresheet again, latching onto a long ball to steal between Eric Young and Steve Jacobs. With keeper Moseley coming out, the former Fulham striker finished to put the Yorkshire side ahead.
Goal No.1: Mick Ferguson
However, the Seagulls stormed back. The maligned Mick Ferguson smashed in Terry Connor’s cross on 20 minutes, before Dean Saunders was fouled in the box by Hudderfield’s Malcolm Brown fourteen minutes later.
Goal No.2: Alan Biley
Alan Biley confidently stuck home the penalty and so it was Brighton who held the lead at half-time.
When the second-half kicked-off, once more it was the Terriers who were quickest out of the block and striker David Cowling watched his 52nd minute shot take a deflection off Chris Hutchings to give Graham Moseley an unwanted 32nd birthday present.
Goal No.3: Eric Young
Ten minutes later, Eric restored the Albion lead with an impressive header from Steve Penney’s corner. As John Vinicombe in the Evening Argus commented:
It was his first of the season, and must have felt as sweet as a nut coming off that black headband.
The popular accolade was indeed music to the ears of a man whom Cattlin says – indeed we are all of one accord – is going through a bad patch.
Nobody likes to see a player struggle, and it is a tribute to the sporting nature of the Goldstone crowd that they have not honed their barbs towards Young.
Then the match took another interesting turn when the Seagulls’ Mick Ferguson and the Terriers’ Paul Jones were both sent off for a minor dust-up on 67 minutes.
Goal No.4: Dean Saunders
With Brighton 3-2 up, star striker Dean Saunders seemed to seal the three points for the Albion on 73 minutes. He capitalised after the otherwise outstanding keeper Brian Cox found Dennis Mortimer’s shot too hot to handle. However, four minutes later, the game was thrown wide open again, as Huddersfield’s David Cowling got his second deflected goal of the day, as his free-kick clipped off the Brighton defensive wall past a stranded Graham Moseley.
After the match, Chris Cattlin wanted Saunders back on afternoons after training for some shooting practice, as he felt the Welsh striker should have got four in this heart-stopping match. Perhaps, he should have looked at the defence as a matter of urgency first!
Here’s Chris Cattlin’s formidable Albion squad ahead of the 1984/85 season. Having beaten Liverpool the season before, the Seagulls had cup pedigree and feared no-one in a knockout competition.
When Brighton drew Hull City in the FA Cup in both 1984/85 and 1985/86, they achieved satisfying victories in both encounters. However, it could not paper over the fact that the Tigers, led by player-boss Brian Horton, were set to surpass the Albion in the League.
As Chris Cattlin wrote in his programme notes before the third round clash of 1984/85:
“I would like to welcome Brian Horton and his team. He and I have many happy memories of our days together with the Albion both on and off the field. I know he will be particularly keen to do well against his old club, but he will certainly remember his happy days at the Goldstone.
I am sure he shares my memories and will want his team to win but I hope I don’t see anything of that bristling beard until around 5 o’clock… then I am sure we’ll have a drink together and the years will go rolling back.”
In the match, played in front of 11,681 in the January frost, ex-Albion striker Michael Ring was also re-united with the Goldstone, playing up front for Hull City:
However, it was the Seagulls’ Chris Hutchings who scored the only goal in a second half counter-attack:
By the end of the season, while Albion narrowly missed out on returning to the top flight, Hull City had succeeded in clinching promotion from the Third Division.
When the sides met in the Second Division in 1985/86, goals from Connor, Wilson and Fashanu firmly put the new boys in their place, as Hull crashed 3-1 at the Goldstone in November 1985.
In the FA Cup, in January, in the Fourth Round at Boothferry Park, Albion prevailed again. A Cup Indian sign, perhaps? Or maybe a home jinx, seeing as Hull have not beaten Albion away to this day since 1965. On 25th January 1986, Dean Saunders and Terry Connor (2) scored the goals to take Albion through in a 3-2 victory. The rapidly improving Hull City did get revenge in the League, however, beating Albion on the last day of the season, and pushing up to sixth position, five places above the fading Seagulls, now managed on a temporary basis by assistant George Petchey (below), after Cattlin had been given the sack days before.
Over recent seasons, many Brighton fans have admired Swansea City’s exciting brand of football as an enhanced, more incisive version of their own team’s possession game. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, skilful play apart, the key parallel was that both relatively small, modest clubs were enjoying their halcyon years. With the illustrious John Toshack and Alan Mullery as the respective managers, both the Swans and Seagulls had enjoyed meteoric rises to get to the top flight. By 1981/82, both clubs finished in their highest ever placing in the Football League. The sky was the limit, or so it seemed.
On Tuesday 9th May 1979, Brighton played Swansea in Mick Conway’s testimonial match with the Albion players still on cloud nine. It was three days after the Seagulls had completed the two-year journey from Division Three to Division One. Ex-Albion winger Conway was known for his dangerous crosses and speedy runs. Aged just 17 years and 45 days, he had made his Brighton league debut against Nottingham Forest in May 1973 just as Albion were sliding back to Division Three after one inauspicious season. In the number seven shirt, he marked the occasion with the equalising goal as Brighton came back from 0-2 down.
Despite this, this promising wide player only made one substitute appearance for the Albion first-team thereafter and joined Swansea for £3,000 in December 1975. He helped the Welsh side to win promotion from Division Four in 1977/78 under manager Harry Griffiths before injuries suffered in a car crash in April 1978, and subsequently against Barnsley in an attempted comeback, eventually forced Conway to retire.
Even without Conway’s services, Swansea were promoted from Division Three at the first time of asking in 1978/79 under new player-boss John Toshack. With players of the quality of Jeremy Charles, Robbie James and Leighton James, the Swans played attacking football that won over many neutrals. Just as Albion had secured a place to the top flight with that famous 3-1 victory at Newcastle in 1979, it was a televised win with the same scoreline at Preston in 1981 that took the Welsh club to the top flight for the very first time.
When 1981/82 kicked off, Albion were supposedly the more senior club, beginning their third season in Division One. However, aided and abetted by new signings such as the very experienced Alan Curtis and Bob Latchford, the Welsh newcomers picked their pockets on 1st September 1981, coming away from the Goldstone with a 2-1 victory:
As Steve Curry in the Daily Express reported:
Swansea lifted Welsh hearts and broke a few in Brighton as their First Division charge gathered momentum last night.
John Toshack’s heroes came from the valleys to the seaside on a tide of determination.
And if their victory at the Goldstone Ground did not have the carnival atmosphere of Saturday’s five-goal romp against Leeds, it was in its own way, just as distinguished.
They provided an early and impressive encore to Saturday’s show-stopping performance with two goals in the first 15 minutes. And when Brighton ruffled the Swans’ feathers they hit back heaving and hissing to survive second-half pressure.
Andy Ritchie scored in the 34th minute, after Steve Foster had headed down Gerry Ryan’s free-kick, but an equaliser proved beyond the home side.
And so the Swans’ honeymoon period continued. When the return fixture was played at Vetch Field in November, Mike Bailey’s ultra-defensive Seagulls had tightened up at the back, securing a 0-0 draw. The high-flying Welsh side were in third place, although they held first position on six different occasions during this famous 1981/82 season. Playing rather more cautious football than Swansea, Brighton were also getting giddy, standing in 10th place and pushing for a UEFA Cup position.
By the end of the season, Swansea City landed in 6th position and Brighton 13th place in Division One, both clubs’ highest ever finish.
After that, it was downhill from there. Swansea were beset by an injury crisis the following season. They were also hampered by a transfer ban imposed by the Football League for defaulting on their payment instalments to Everton in the signing of Bob Latchford and Garry Stanley for £275,000. Perhaps this was not surprising. Both clubs suffered tremendously from the general fall in football attendances while trying to pay First Division wages. Partly as a result, the form of both Swansea and Brighton fell away in 1982/83. They played out a 1-1 stalemate at the Goldstone in October 1982. As you can see, Robinson apart, there was a distinct lack of the kind of penetrating attacking play and flair that had propelled both sides into the top flight:
When Jimmy Melia’s Brighton turned the tables on the Swans with a 2-1 win at Vetch Field in March 1983, with Robinson and Case scoring, it was the Sussex side’s first League victory since December, and their only away win in Division One that season. On a downward spiral, the Albion stood in 20th place and the Welsh side were only one place above, going through a similar run of dismal form. Unsurprisingly, both clubs were relegated at the end of the season, with the Seagulls bottom.
The following season in Division Two, while Brighton stopped the rot under new boss Chris Cattlin, Swansea crashed and burned. Toshack gave a Swans debut to 23 year-old ex-Chelsea defender Gary Chivers (who would later play with distinction for the Albion) in the 3-1 home defeat by Brighton in September 1983. Alan Young and Terry Connor (2) got the Seagulls’ goals. A month later, Toshack resigned. The two clubs met again in the FA Cup, at the Goldstone in January 1984, with Terry Connor scoring a stupendous volley:
Relegated from Division Two, the Swans were in free fall. Despite bringing in ex-Brighton misfit Ray McHale to strengthen the side in 1984/85 with his experience, new boss John Bond could not stop the decline. Interestingly, he released Dean Saunders at the end of the season, something that would prove great news for Albion boss Chris Cattlin, who snapped him up.
When 1986/87 kicked off, Swansea, victims of three relegations in four seasons, had fallen down to the Fourth Division, back to where it all began. A season later, Brighton were back down to Division Three. By 1996/97, both Brighton and Swansea were in the basement league, fighting to survive near the bottom. Should the Seagulls get promotion to the top flight this season, their renaissance will be complete, just as it has been for the Swans in recent years. I’m sure Mick Conway, a popular player with both sides, would drink to that.
This ‘Classic Headliner’ piece is from 90 Minutes magazine:
Born the son of a Swansea barber on June 21, 1964, Dean Saunders is fondly remembered locally as the man who they let go for nothing. It was John Bond’s fault, apparently. As manager of the Swans he said something about the area having no local talent, imported a squad of lower-League journeymen and off-loaded Deano to Brighton on a free transfer.
A striker of exceptional finishing and movement, Dean Saunders had a prolific first season at the Goldstone Ground in 1985/86. He powered in nineteen goals as well as scooping the ‘Player of the Season’ award. Here is the Brighton v Peterborough FA Cup Replay where Saunders gets the winner, and looks ever so pleased in the post-match interview:
However, he was a marked man the following season, played out of position on the right wing, and went sixteen matches without a goal. And in a similar vein to what happened at Swansea, new boss Barry Lloyd imported a squad of less than stellar players (inexperienced local lads and non-Leaguers) and off-loaded Deano to Oxford United for just £60,000 in March 1987. The 90 Minutes feature continues:
Saunders was made for better things. After spells at Brighton and Oxford, he joined Derby County in October 1988, scoring 42 goals in 106 League and cup games. His pace was a tremendous asset, as was his eagerness to have a dig from anywhere vaguely in the opposition half. But at Liverpool, Graeme Souness’s side lacked balance and consistency and, for the first time in his career, his goal ratio dipped to only one every four games. As if that wasn’t enough, he was dragged through the courts and mauled by the press over the tackle that ended the career of Chelsea’s Paul Elliot.
By this time, Villa had seen Big Ron and Deano come and go and the latest twist now has Saunders rejoining Graeme Souness at Galatasaray for £1.5million, scoring freely and considerably happier with his lot than Mike Marsh, for one. And a gratis Ford Escort is not the only bonus. Should his latest offspring choose to play the beautiful game, he or she could claim dual nationality and be saved the frustration of playing international football for Wales.
He eventually returned to the UK, to play for Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United, scoring one of the cheekiest goals ever seen:
After spells with Benfica and Bradford City, he embarked on a coaching and managerial career, being in charge at Wrexham, Doncaster and Wolves. His last game as boss was in Wanderers’ 5-1 defeat at the Amex to Gus Poyet’s side in 2012/13, a result that relegated Wolverhampton to the third tier for only the second time. And yes, the first occasion was in 1984/85 thanks to another 5-1 loss against… you’ve guessed it, Brighton at the Goldstone. As a fellow Welsh star Shirley Bassey sang, it was just a case of history repeating…
If you type ‘Dean Saunders’ and ‘willie’ together in a search engine nowadays, you are most likely to see references to the football manager’s dealings with agent Willie McKay. Had Google been around in summer 1986, you would have got a very different outcome!
I imagine that pre-season photo shoots are probably quite an enjoyable time for everyone involved. Unsullied yet by the taste of defeat, there is usually a buzz around and a sense of optimism in the air about the season ahead. Basking in the sunshine, players excitedly get to try on their new kit, pose with new team mates and have a natter with the local media. In the pre-season of 1986/87, while there was no big spending going on, Brighton did have a new boss as a returning Alan Mullery came to the club, along with Dale Jasper and Gerry Armstrong, two ex-First Division players. While the magnificent adidas kit design remained the same, the club did have a new shirt sponsor… yes, NOBO.
Perhaps getting rather too in the spirit of the new sponsor moniker emblazoned on his chest, star striker Dean Saunders made this a photoshoot to remember by not wearing any pants underneath his shorts and, as a consequence, left part of his genitalia showing for all to see…
Could he have argued that in going commando, he was let down by the short shorts of the 1980s? Or was it a deliberately cheeky act to gain cult hero status?
Whatever the (ahem) ins and outs, Deano’s dangling display made it into the centre-spread of the programme from Gerry Ryan’s testimonial match between Brighton and Spurs in August 1986. It also made it into the double page team group in Shoot! magazine before it was discovered.
I hope the club saw the funny side, although the existence of a censored version of the photo suggests not.
From the Brighton v Reading programme from 1986/87:
“I go into schools every couple of weeks through the season,” says Dean. “I usually do my coaching sessions with Steve Penney and we enjoy it. They are always very keen and they always try their best. We concentrate mainly on the more positive sides of the game. Passing, taking on players and shooting on goal. That sort of thing. Steve and I have got our routine worked out now. We always end the session with a game, which the kids enjoy. The only trouble is they are pretty quick into the tackle! Steve plays for one side and I play for the other. It’s a good laugh, but we’ve learnt not to do too much dribbling now. We just get it up to the front men and let them get on with it.‘
Will those be the Wolves tactics for the match at the Amex?!