Here are some memorable star badges from the Billy Lane era. Many of your 1950s Albion heroes are here from Roy Jennings, Adrian Thorne, Eric Gill, Bill Curry to Mike Tiddy…
Sadly, some points of the Glen Wilson and Johnny Dixon stars have broken.
Did you know that Eric Gill, Brighton’s goalkeeper from 1952 to 1960, is still alive?
Joining the club from Charlton for a £400 fee, he is best remembered as the first choice keeper in Albion’s 1958 promotion side. He also made 247 consecutive appearances for the team, equalling the achievement of fellow shot-stopper Ted Ditchburn of Tottenham, missing the opportunity to beat the record through illness.
In Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, he talks of his life as a footballer and a businessman:
Football is not only my business, it’s my pleasure. I enjoyed kicking a bah around when I was a kid, and I still get that same thrill now as a paid player.
The game has given me a good standard of living, enabled me to travel, and made me many friends. And it has also taught me many lessons in life.
One is to make provision for the future. I have seen some players (among them top-class men) who have left footbail with nothing. They were too busy enjoying life to give a thought to the day when their legs would no longer carry them around a football pitch.
And I have also seen players who did look ahead and make provision for their wife and family. I began to think of doing the same myself – when I was in the middle of a run of 247 successive matches for Brighton and life looked very secure.
You see, I had no other trade. I started on the Charlton Athletic ground staff at 17, and football is the only profession I know. Fortunately, I have always been the sort of chap who likes to put a bit of money away for a rainy day, and that has proved a sound habit, as things have turned out.
My wife Ida and I decided a short time ago to go into business, and we took the Perrimay Hotel, in Charlotte Street, on Brighton’s famous front. Here is both a home and a business for us and the two boys – Stephen, who is 7, and little Malcolm, who has not yet celebrated his first birthday.
Now I feel as though all doubts about the future have gone. This is the sort of venture I always wanted, and I received every encouragement from my club. They like to see a player settled and happy.
But please don’t think I am about to retire from football because of this plunge into business. Nothing is further from my mind. I hope to play for many seasons yet, and Soccer remains my chief interest. I shall gradually be learning the hotel business, and part of my close-season activities were spent in redecorating the rooms.
Last season – Brighton’s first-ever in the Second Division – provided me with a great experience. It was wonderful to go round the great Second Division grounds, meeting famous players and taking part in a higher standard of play.
For once Brighton were not under a promotion strain. You may remember that in the Third Division they were invariably chasing promotion. Everyone in Sussex expected Brighton to win the League, and there was one narrow miss after another until the job was finally pulled off. All that imposes a great mental as well as physical strain on players.
I’m always being asked what it was like playing week after week, setting up a Brighton record as an ever-preeent. It wasn’t until I was approaching the hundredth appearance that I realised I was near a club record. After that hurdle, I forgot all about the run until No. 2oo loomed up. Next thing I knew was that they were talking of my passing Ted Ditchburn’s record of 247.
Popular Ted kindly sent a telegram addressed to me at Coventry on the day that his record was to have been broken.
But I was at home – ill in bed! So Ditchburn and Gill both fell at the same fence.
My biggest-ever thrill, however, came last season when Brighton made me captain at the Valley when we visited Charlton, my old club. It was the first time I had been on the ground since I signed for Brighton. We gained a fine victory to make it a memorable day for me.
Well, the close season is over and, like all players, I’m already peeping ahead to the new season and more thrills. There’s something about football that really gets you!
An injury sustained in training during 1958/59 hampered Eric’s play, enabling Dave Hollins to have time to shine as first team keeper. He eventually transferred to Guildford City in June 1960, amassing 225 appearances in six years.
As for the hotel industry, after running Perrimay, Eric later moved to run Simpson’s Hotel (now Drake’s) on Marine Parade. He sold the business many years ago and then retired.
On August 23rd 1958, Albion captain Glen Wilson led the side out at Ayresome Park as Brighton made their Second Division debut:
Unfortunately, the newly promoted side were pulverised 9-0 with future Albion manager Brian helping himself to five goals on the day. Here he is celebrating after netting his fifth:
At the receiving end of these nine goals was Brighton keeper Dave Hollins, the older brother to John who eventually became a renowned midfield player with Chelsea, Arsenal, QPR and England. After being an understudy to the long-serving Eric Gill, the Bangor-born Dave Hollins was making his fifth appearance for the Albion. In Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, he told his story:
Soccer has been getting a lot of knocks from critics in the past few years, but I know there is a lot of sentiment in the game, and plenty of sportsmen ready to give a youngster a helping hand.
When I joined Brighton from Merrow, a little club near Guildford, the first-team goalkeeping job was held by Eric Gill. He carried on to play a record number of 247 consecutive matches.
He always had a word of encouragement for me. And, when his long run was ended because of injury and I went into the League side. Eric was always ready with friendly advice or congratulation.
Why, he even invited me to stay at the Brighton hotel he had taken over. There, I had every comfort and our friendship grew even closer when I eventually took over his job in the Brighton goal.
He never resented it.
Eric Gill is just one of the many fine sportsmen I have met in professional football.
When Brighton played their first match in the Second Division I was in goal, The result is one no Brighton follower will forget. We were trounced 9–0 by Middlesbrough! I felt like hiding …. would have welcomed an underground tunnel to escape from Ayresome Park. And, when I got back to Sussex, 1 was half inclined to wear dark glasses! But Gill steadied me. “You have a long way to go in this game, Dave,” he said. “This sort of thing can happen to anyone, Fight back!”
Near the end of that Middlesbrough match I had heard a shout which didn’t amuse me at the time, but which seems funny now. A chap with powerful lungs yelled: “‘Don’t worry, Brighton. If Boro get ten they’ll declare!” At Brighton I was also lucky to have the backing of our manager, Mr. Billy Lane. He had faith in me, and that means a lot to a youngster i was only 17 when I joined the club.
I think my good run of luck in football started on the day 1 was born, My father. Bill Hollins, was a Wolves goalkeeper, and he always helped me with my game.
My early memories are of him showing me the way to keep goal. and then standing behind my net, offering advice and criticism.
Dad always emphasised my bad points and was a little sparing with his praise. Looking back, I can see just how right he was to be like that.
“Concentrate always concentrate.” he would say. “Keep your eye on the ball. always keep your eye on the ball.” I was glad dad wasn’t at that Middlesbrough match!
One of dad’s clubs was Bangor City and when he was with them I was born a Welshman.
A few months later the family moved on and I admit here that for many years it meant nothing to me to have been born in Wales.
I didn’t even appreciate that I was a Welshman until the day – the most exciting day of my life when I was picked to play for the Welsh Under-23 team against Scotland at Wrexham.
I don’t speak a word of Welsh and I was scared that my team-mates might start shouting instructions in that language.
But all was well, and I will never forget the way in which Jimmy Murphy, our team manager, inspired as in the dressing room in English! “You are playing for Wales now,” he said and his pre-match talk was terrific.
Now I understand why little Wales has so many great performances to her credit. And I learned something more of the Welsh fervour when we lined up in the pouring rain while the crowd sang “Land of my Fathers.” If I had not felt like a Welshman before then I do now and am proud of it.
Perhaps I am too young to give advice. but I feel that boys must be really keen on the game to succeed. And they require plenty of determination to fight against the bad times when they come.
Luck can play a big part, too. I have had my share even to catching a manager’s eye when I was only 12.
Mr. Lane was signing my big brother, Roy, for Brighton when I said: ‘What about me?'”
He replied: “Play hard and maybe I’ll be back for you as well.” The day came when he sent for me.
Yes, there’s plenty to be said in favour of the game. Take it from me – Soccer’s all right!