Tag Archives: eddie spearritt

A shock for Villa in the crunch game

Albion's new skipper, Brian Bromley

Albion’s new skipper is the influential midfield man Brian Bromley

Having suffered defeats to Oldham and Bradford in the run up to the clash with Division Three leaders Aston Villa on 25th March 1972, Brighton boss Pat Saward made some brave changes. Out went Stewart Henderson and captain John Napier, and in came Bert Murray and Ian Goodwin. Brian Bromley was installed as the new skipper.

The changes paid dividends, and the promotion push was back up and running thanks to a famous 2-1 victory. Here is how the Sunday Mirror reported it:

Brighton manager Pat Saward bounced to the edge of the pitch at the end of this ding-dong Third Division promotion battle.

And he ordered his Albion troops: “Get back into the middle and take a bow. You deserve it.”

Saward’s tribute to his swashbuckling side was deserved. They fully earned a victory which takes them one step closer to Second Division soccer next season and which dented ambitious Aston Villa’s own title chances.

It was the long, frizzylocks of Kit Napler which nodded bubbling Brighton to victory six minutes from time,

Villa ‘keeper Jim Cumbes should have cut out a left-wing centre from Peter O’Sullivan.

But he missed it, Napier didn’t, and Villa were beaten for only the second time in their last twenty-one League outings.

Villa boss Vic Crowe took defeat with a philosophical shrug of his shoulders. “They plaved out of their skins,” he sald.

“Yet we might well have got a point. Jim Cumbes says the sun got in his eyes when they grabbed that late winner.

“Still, I think we can go top and I don’t care who goes up with us.

“Brighton play Bournemouth next-Saturday, and as far as I’m concerned they can both lose.”

Villa were dodgy at the back. And stodgy up front.

Brighton looked the likelier Championship bet all through.

Said Saward: “Tremendous, tremendous. We tore them apart in the first quarter of an hour of the second-half.”

He was not exaggerating.

In that spell. Villa’s £275,000 centre half Chris Nicholl twice had to scoop what looked like certain scoring-chances off his own goal-line.

The first was from Ken Beamish and that was followed by another from Napier.

But Brighton began tearing Villa apart as early as the sixth minute when Willie Irvine shot them into the lead with as good a goal as anyone will see this Season,

Beamish launched it. John Templeman drove, a magnificent pass with surgical precision diagonally through a floundering Villa defence.

And Irvine finished it off with a searing shot from the edge of the penalty box.

Villa looked like salvaging a point when skipper Bruce Rioch rifled a fifty-fifth minute equaliser which was every bit as good as Brighton’s opener.

Willie Anderson. who looked such a weary Willie until that moment, sent Charlie Aitken sprinting along the left.

The full back’s cross was played back into the middle by Ray Graydon and Rioch met it on the volley to almost burst the Brighton net.

Rioch’s joy was shortlived. He was booked in the the seventy-seventh minute after a clash with rival skipper Brian Bromley.

Referee Norman Burdenshaw had no alternative but to take Rioch’s name.

Others were more fortunate, avoiding a similar fate in this beefy promotion battle.

The Midlands’ moneybags have now taken only one point fronx their last three outings, and the promotion boat is beginning to rock.

But Brighton look if their Second Division intentions are honourable, Seldom has any side have run Villa so ragged.

The Sports Mirror editorial also spotlighted the crucial match:


Hands all those who deserve an ice lolly! Brighton’s team will probably get the freedom of the town’s ice cream parlours after licking Aston Villa 2-1. This happy threesome are Peter O’sullivan, Willie Irvine and Kit Napier after Irvine had fired Br!ghton’s first goal in the sixth minute at sunny Hove. And by the look of him he wouldn’t swap that moment for all the pebbles on the Brighton beach.

Cut open any Aston Villa player this morning and it wiil probably say “Brighton” all the way through.

Villa, with tradition a mile high and just as long on optimism about playing in the Second Division next season, found it was too hot by the seaside yesterday.

Brighton and Hove Albion, to name just one side, have never hit the heights. And apart from one stay in the Second Division, have never reached for them.

Yesterday afternoon Brighton took Villa apart. They won 2-1 with goals by Willie Irvine and Kit Napier, Napier leaving the fans biting their fingers until six minutes from the end when he popped in the winner.

It was a shock to Vllta’s sophisticated system.

Irvine cheekily nosed Brighton in front after six minutes. And it was another fifty minutes before Bruce Rioch put the leaders level.

Villa still head the table but they are now only one point ahead of second-placed Bournemouth who dropped a point at Rochdale.

BournemouttL who have played two more games than Villa or third-placed Brighton, had a lucky escape when Gowan missed a penalty for Rochdale,

Our forecast of next week’s hottest soccer spot must be Bournemouth, Brtght0n are the visitors and they want to cut two more points off that four-point gap between them and Villa.

Eddie Spearritt challenges for the ball with Villa's Ray Graydon

Eddie Spearritt challenges for the ball with Villa’s Ray Graydon

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With Wolves visiting, Cup fever grips Brighton

The League Cup captured the imagination of Sussex in the autumn 1969. In August, Freddie Goodwin’s side put one over south coast rivals Portsmouth, with Alex Dawson getting the only goal, Then the Albion toppled First Division side Birmingham City, 2-0, in front of 24,232 supporters to set up a mouth-watering third round tie with mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers on 24th September.

With Brighton going well in Division Three, the level of interest in the floodlit match was such that the Evening Argus produced a four page A3 colour supplement as a preview to the game:

Back row: Mike Yaxley (coach), Terry Stanley, George Dalton, Barrie Wright, Bobby Smith, Mike Everitt, Dave Armstrong, Ken Blackburn, Joe Wilson (trainer); Middle row: Tom E. Whiting (chairman), Brian Powney, Andy marchant, Stewart Henderson, Dave Turner, John Napier, Norman, Gall, John Templeman, Paul Flood, Geoff Sidebottom, Harold Paris (vice-chairman); Front row: Howard Wilkinson, Alex Dawson, Kit Napier, Eddie Spearritt, Freddie Goodwin (manager), Nobby Lawton, Willie Bell, Allan Gilliver, Brian Tawse. Sitting: Martin Tew, Keith Watkins, Michael Stanley, Garry Parsons.

Back row: Mike Yaxley (coach), Terry Stanley, George Dalton, Barrie Wright, Bobby Smith, Mike Everitt, Dave Armstrong, Ken Blackburn, Joe Wilson (trainer);
Middle row: Tom E. Whiting (chairman), Brian Powney, Andy marchant, Stewart Henderson, Dave Turner, John Napier, Norman, Gall, John Templeman, Paul Flood, Geoff Sidebottom, Harold Paris (vice-chairman);
Front row: Howard Wilkinson, Alex Dawson, Kit Napier, Eddie Spearritt, Freddie Goodwin (manager), Nobby Lawton, Willie Bell, Allan Gilliver, Brian Tawse.
Sitting: Martin Tew, Keith Watkins, Michael Stanley, Garry Parsons.

Rather generously, the back page was mainly devoted to a colour photo of the visitors:


As you can see, Wolves’ skipper was Mike Bailey, who would go on to lift the League Cup trophy four and half years later, in an entertaining 2-1 victory over Manchester City in 1974. Unfortunately, injury kept him out of this match. Had he travelled to the Goldstone, he would have seen a huge crowd of 32,539 supporters. What a contrast to the falling gates when he took over as Brighton boss in 1981.

In John Vinicombe’s match report, the Argus writer declared:

Albion should have beaten Wolves out of sight at the Goldstone last night. For close on 70 minutes they were Wolves’ masters and thoroughly deserved a 2-1 lead with Hugh Curran, the player Albion tried hardest to subdue, won the game with a two-goals-in-eight-minutes burst. So Wolves entered the fourth round of the Football League Cup when it looked for so long like a major upset before a 34,000 crowd that set up a floodlit ground record.

The 3-2 skin-of-the-teeth success was highly flattering to a side standing fourth in the First Division. But in the final analysis they displayed their class by twice coming back to steal a place in the last 16. They owed it all to Curran whose stealth stamped him as a superb turner of half-chances into goals.

Yet Wolves were given a tremendous fright by an inspired Albion, and were unable to find their bearings without Mike Bailey supplying the drive and Derek Dougan his own brand of inspiration.

Napier (left) and Gilliver rise to head...

Napier (left) and Gilliver rise to head…

Dawson holds his hands aloft as Gilliver tumbles between the defenders, with ball in the net

Dawson holds his hands aloft as Gilliver tumbles between the defenders, with ball in the net

On nineteen minutes, Albion took the lead when Kit Napier’s inswinging corner was missed by Wolves keeper Parker, who seemed more worried by big Alex Dawson. He seemed to push Dawson, which may have warranted a penalty, but Allan Gilliver showed his goal touch to squeeze the ball home at the far post.

However, Wolves hit back twelve minutes later when Wagstaffe intercepted Nobby Lawton’s pass. The Wolves player ran on and on, and it became one on one with Geoff Sidebottom once John Napier slipped. He then fed Woodfield who slotted home the equaliser.

Eddie Spearritt plants his head onto the ball...

Eddie Spearritt plants his head onto the ball…

...which disappears in a mountain of toilet roll in the back of the net.

…which disappears in a mountain of toilet roll in the back of the net.

On the stroke of half-time, though, Brighton delighted the home crowd by retaking the lead. Kit Napier’s free-kick found Eddie Spearritt who guided a header just under the crossbar.

With Albion dominant, an upset was on the cards. But Wolves were not finished, and Hugh Curran raced on to a huge defence-spliting goal kick from Parkes to equalise with twenty minutes to spare. Curran then broke Albion hearts on 78 minutes, making the most of a mix-up at the far post. Sidebottom and Turner had left it for each other to deal with Wagstaffe’s harmless looking cross, allowing Curran to nip in.

Even so, Albion played stoutly during the evening, none more so than Stewart Henderson who had a storming match.


Henderson, a small and classy right-back, would go on to be voted by supporters as their Player of the Season.

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Eddie Spearritt v Stan Brown – before they became team mates

Here’s a nice action shot from Goal Magazine in the summer of 1970, in the edition just after England have been knocked out of the World Cup, judging from the letters page on the other side of the sheet. Never mind all that, because Eddie Spearritt has Fulham’s Stan Brown for company in this match during Albion’s 4-1 defeat at Craven Cottage in March that year. (And yes, I can see them almost holding hands). Little did they know that they would one day be team mates.


Spearritt was a versatile, cultured wing-back who could score goals and had a great eye for a pass. He had six months with Arsenal before becoming an Ipswich apprentice in February 1965. Mainly as a winger, he scored thirteen goals in 72 League appearances for the Suffolk club before he joined Albion in January 1969. At the Goldstone, boss Freddie Goodwin used Spearritt on the left-side of midfield. He also had another important job in the side, as he discussed in December 1972:

“I used to be the club’s penalty taker. But after I missed an important one at Mansfield in 1970 I lost the job. Penalty taking is all about confidence. After I missed that one which cost us a point the players lost confidence in me and the job went to John Napier and was then taken over by Bert Murray.”

All of this was probably old news for Stan Brown. This equally adaptable utility player made 397 League and cup appearances for the Craven Cottage side in a fifteen year spell. Despite his diminutive size, Brown was commanding in the air as well as showing fine ability with his passing and tackling.

As a youngster Brown had played for East Sussex schoolboys and captained Sussex Schools. When he joined Albion on loan in October 1972, with the side struggling in Division Two, he said in the Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday programme:

“It was as if I had been playing for Albion all my life. You see, I live at Lewes, the training ground is only four miles from my house and I have known Bert Murray and Barry Bridges for a long time. As for the rest of the lads I felt I knew them too from reading about them in the Evening Argus every night. So when it actually came to turn out for Albion at Huddersfield I knew all the players by their first names.”

Slotting in effortlessly in midfield, he enjoyed helping the Albion to a 2-0 win at the Terriers, but did not experience another victory in his other eight games with his loan side before returning to Craven Cottage. Brown’s last five games saw Brighton lose all five without scoring a single goal.

The goal-shy spell ended in the very next match, when Eddie Spearritt returned to penalty-taking duties. He said:

“Bert Murray would have taken the penalty at Carlisle. He has already scored two penalties this season. But he had gone into goal after Brian Powney had been carried off with a broken nose. And it was decided that it was too risky to fetch Bert out of goal to take the penalty. Nobody else seemed to want to take it so I just picked the ball up and put it on the spot. We were 5-0 down by then. But I thought just from a morale point of view that it was extremely important that I scored. You can understand my relief when I saw the ball hit the back of the net.”

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Why Pat Saward had to go – by Mike Bamber


From the Evening Argus, 23 October 1973, by John Vinicombe:

The dismissal of Albion manager Pat Saward was confirmed today at the Goldstone Ground by chairman Mike Bamber.

Mr Bamber met Mr Saward and after a meeting with the players, he said: “Pat Saward has been sacked. The decision was made after the game with Shrewsbury on Saturday evening. The parting has been on the cards for some weeks but there is no ill-feeling between us,” said Mr Bamber.

“I have seen Pat Saward. He is very upset and very sick. I would also feel very sick. But we have had six home defeats and are down to crowds of 5,000 wonderful people. No club can live on such gates.

“The running of the team is the manager’s responsibility. I feel sorry for managers in a way but if they want to be managers it is up to them.

“Naturally, some of the players are upset at him going. But I have just had a meeting with the players and morale is high.

“We will come to an agreement with Mr Saward over his contract. We have not approached anybody and will be advertising the job and hope to get a really top manager.

“Money will be available for players. It is not easy to get them and we have been after half a dozen this year without success.”

Club captain Eddie Spearritt told me that Mr Saward was backed by the players and they did not want him to leave.

Spearritt himself communicated the same message weeks ago at the same time that joint chairman Len Stringer resigned from the Board.

It was then felt that Mr Saward was in a position of receiving full support from the directors and indeed this was the message conveyed when Mr Bamber took over as head of the club executive.

Mr Saward has three and a half years of his contract to run and today he visited the ground for the last time and told me he wanted to think about his position and whether or not he would comment on his departure.

Confessed Saward: “I still cannot believe it has happened. But I will say nothing to knock the club, nothing at all. Of what happened yesterday, I can remember very little. The reason I have been sacked is that they say I can no longer motivate the players. What I need now is a holiday to get away from it all.”

In the meantime Glen Wilson, the trainer, is responsible for running the playing side of the club, assisted by Ray Crawford, who is now youth coach.

Tomorrow night, Albion are at home to Southport and today the players were training very much down in the dumps.

The atmosphere in the dressing room was solemn, although Spearritt admitted that two players were not unanimous in their support of Mr Saward.

Saward’s departure was on the agenda as Brighton had suffered six successive home defeats at the start of the 1973/74 campaign.

It was a rude re-awakening to Third Division football, after the club had played such pulsating football to finish runners-up in 1971/72. This promotion had led to a calamitous season in Division Two, when the Albion finished bottom of the table. Now back in Division Three, the side’s slump continued. It was relegation, not promotion, that was on the horizon and this ultimately cost Saward his job.

Other bad news was to follow that day when Saward’s club car received a parking ticket outside the Goldstone.


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Longest throw competitions

While Brighton slid down the Football League in 1995/96, young central defender Ross Johnson could still be proud of his calm performances, showing good aerial ability and growing in confidence.


The Brighton-born lad, who turned 20 in February 1996, even got a bit of national media coverage in Shoot! Magazine, with his long throw-in, which served the team well in matches as effectively as a corner:


A throw of 33.6m propelled Johnson onto the Leaderboard in fifth place. Sadly, I have no record of Eddie Spearritt’s effort for Grandstand in 1970/71, in the BBC’s sport show’s Longest Throw competition, presented by Frank Bough, who also presented on Nationwide in the 1970s and then Breakfast Time in the early 1980s.


Sporting some lovely curly blonde hair, Spearritt was an impressive utility player for the Albion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He could play in defence and midfield, and even deputised in goal when required. He’s also the uncle of Hannah Spearritt, ex-member of S Club 7. Here, his long throw is beaten by Cardiff’s Bobby Woodruff:

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