Tag Archives: eric steele

Eric goes back to school


From Shoot! magazine in 1979:

The morning training session is over. Eric Steele, Watford’s £100,000 goalkeeper sits back in a comfortable chair and enjoys a refreshing cup of tea. But you won’t find him idle for long!

He’s too busy settling in at his new club, getting his own career back into top gear, and planning how best to continue the schoolboy coaching he built up so successfully in Brighton.

But there is time to look back on the move that took him back into the Second Division, in October.

“I didn’t want to leave Brighton,” he says. “That’s the first and most important point. It wasn’t my decision, it was Alan Mullery’s. I think he was wrong and I’ll be proved right in time. Once he’d made up his mind, I had to resolve myself to leaving.

“But it hurt. It took me a long time to get to the First Division and I think that in the ten games I played, I proved I was good enough to keep my place at that level. But once I knew I was on the move, I wanted to get away as quickly as I could.

“I went on the list on a Thursday and Watford came straight in for me the next day. I’d signed for them within a week. I was very happy to join such a progressive club. I would never have come here if I didn’t believe we would be a First Division side in a couple of years.

“Since I arrived at Vicarage Road, I’ve been impressed with the whole set-up. I like the way people look at the game. I’m sure I’ve made the right move. Some people may wonder why I went to a Second Division club. My answer is, I’ve taken one step back to take two forward. I’ll return to Division One, with Watford.”

At Brighton, Eric filled much of his free time by coaching schoolboys and helping handicapped people. He intends to carry on the good work in Watford as well as keeping an interest on the South Coast.

“I’ve been interested in coaching ever since I left school,” he explains. “I was going to train as a teacher, but then I got the chance to join Newcastle United and I took it. But I never lost my interest in coaching.

“The main idea I want to get across to the lads is that they should enjoy their football. Professional players have to live with pressure, but while you’re at school it’s fun. If any of the kids think they’re good enough to earn their living from the game, they should work hard on their skills. But they should try to get some qualifications behind them first.

“If they’re good enough to make the grade at 16, they’ll still be at 18. Football is a very insecure business. You’ve got to have something to fall back on.”

Eric has seen the cruellest face in football. Young apprentices of 17 or 18 who have failed to live up to their early potential. They’re on the list, with nowhere to go. They feel washed up, before their young lives have really begun.

“That’s why I tell the lads to work hard at their school work, as well as their football.”

Eric did just that, when he was a lad, up on Tyneside. He left school with three ‘A’ levels, but still found plenty of time to play football.

“I played three games, every weekend,” he smiles. “I’d finish my school match on Saturday morning, then dash off to play for Wallsend Boys Club. A lot of good players, like Ray Hankin and Chris Waddle, came from there. On Sunday mornings I had another match and every Sunday afternoon… I died!”


Eric’s enthusiasm for the game always comes across when he coached schoolboys. But would he like to see more stars taking the time to give something back to the game, at grassroots level?

“A lot of people say players are too selfish to give up their free time, but I don’t think that’s the reason so few do it. SHOOT readers might be surprised to hear me say this, but a lot of professional players lack self-confidence. The thought of standing up and talking to a crowd of youngsters brings them out in a cold sweat.

“Every player has his own personality. Some are good at talking to people, some aren’t. But the ones who are shy often enjoy coaching, once they’ve got over the first ten or 20 minutes. I noticed that when Brighton had a sponsored scheme last year. Every week, two players would go out to a local school and talk about the game.

“Some of the players weren’t too keen, but they all relaxed and enjoyed themselves in the end. Now, at Watford, people at the club seem to think along the same lines as me. People are encouraged to work and get involved with the local community. I think that’s the way it should be.”

Watford’s soccer stars of the future will be getting plenty of sound advice from Eric in the months to come. Talented youngsters need help. And who better to give that help than the local soccer stars?

“Professionals do have a fair amount of free time on their hands. I think it should be used to put something back into the game. Coaching can be hard work, but when you see your idea getting across to the players, it’s very satisfying too.”

If more thought like Eric Steele, the future would look brighter for British soccer. And after the controversy and disappointments of recent months, Eric’s future looks rosy again, with Watford.

“The club’s only going one way,” he says, finally, “and that’s up.”



Delightful player badges and discs

Thanks to Nick Spiller for lending me these marvellous items.

A pair of badges from the late 1970s:


…some discs from 1979/80:


…and yet more discs, this time from 1980/81:


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When you’re young

Brighton supporter Gary Cook sent me a tremendous photo of himself with Albion players John Ruggiero and Eric Steele:


He says:

The raffle prize was at the Sussex Mini Minor League Awards 1978 I think. We came runners-up in the Cup if I am right, which may well be wrong. The Cup final was also played at Withdean, lost 3-1 to Coombe Rovers. Won the Cinzano, remember selling it to my willing Mum for a much appreciated fiver!

And Gary Williams and Mark Lawrenson also did their bit to encourage young players:


The Withdean photo was approximately 1979. As I recall a late summer 5-a-side tournie where Holiingbury Hawks (my team) came runners-up and got our medals from the players.

Thanks, Gary! If you have any vintage snaps of yourself with Albion players of the past, feel free to let me know in the comments section.

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Watching Forest at the Town Hall

From Football Handbook (part 25):


In a scintillating League Cup Quarter-Final, Alan Mullery’s men put on a great performance against the reigning English League champions and League Cup holders on 13th December 1978. The Seagulls succumbed to a 3-1 defeat against Clough’s side that retained the trophy and then also lifted the European Cup that season.

An estimated 5,000 Albion supporters cheered the Seagulls on at the City Ground. However, the support would have been even more if two of the three charter trains had not broken down en route.

In the Brighton v Stoke programme from 1978/79, there is a nice piece on how the club in January that season made it up to the supporters who missed this exciting cup tie:

With all the recent bad weather there has been a lot of work for the Promotions Office with re-arranging trains, etc. But one event that we had to work particularly hard on was the film showing of the Notts Forest Albion League Cup quarter-final. It was, of course, staged for the benefit of our unlucky supporters who were stranded on the two special trains which didn’t reach the City Ground.

Just under 1,000 people attended Hove Town Hall for the evening last Tuesday and several of the players came along to the delight of the supporters. The row shown in the picture shows the lads really enjoying some of their glory moments.

Some of the comments from the players made commentator Hugh Johns’ sound almost an amateur. Naturally everyone hopes we would never again have a similar situation but we hope supporters will agree that we’ve done our very best to make up for the disappointment.


Each one of the audience at Hove Town Hall was even issued with a black and white copy of the matchday programme:


Update 26/12/15: Two of the goals (from John McGovern and John Robertson) made it into the recent ‘I Believe in Miracles’ film:

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Panini Football 80 – Brighton’s first double spread


I originally bought this second hand at the Sunday market outside Brighton train station in the early 1990s. I thanked my lucky stars that all the Albion stickers were there. This was years before eBay, so finding someone with a spare Peter Sayer sticker lying around would have been tricky, whereas now it would only take a few seconds…

Looking at the Arsenal pages now, it’s striking that out of the 14 Gunners on display, five would eventually join Brighton (Steve Gatting, Willie Young, Sammy Nelson, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton). Neil McNab lined up as a Bolton player sticker for the last time, while future Seagull favourite Michael Robinson smiled for his Manchester City photo shoot with a joviality that was not reflected in his unhappy year at Maine Road.

However, it’s the Albion double-spread that really catches the eye!



In these head and shoulder shots, we get to see the bubble perms of Sayer and Ward, but even these are outnumbered by the popularity of moustaches within the Brighton first team, through Lawrenson, Horton, Clark, O’Sullivan, Poskett and Ryan. Curiously, our players here are wearing flared collars with a triangular panel at the bottom, whereas during the season (I’m addressing fellow shirt anoraks, here!) it was open flared collars that were on display, at least for the home kit.

As the season unfolded, keeper Eric Steele gave way to Graham Moseley. Gary Stevens and Steve Foster also played much stronger roles in defence than either Chris Cattlin or Andy Rollings. Sayer, Maybank and Clark would be further casualties as Mullery moved his Panini stickers around his imaginary album to try to find a winning formula. Then, from nowhere (OK, Blackpool in the Third Division) Peter Suddaby took Lawrenson’s spot in defence while the Republic of Ireland international was pushed further forward. He would have taken one of the midfielder stickers, while Neil McNab and Ray Clarke would have been the new arrivals bringing high quality passing and forward play to the Goldstone. Good swopping, Mullers!

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Happy New Year …with Albion Calendar 1980!

Short of Peter O’Sullivan, Teddy Maybank and Gary Williams turning up at your door tipsily singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, what finer retro Albion way to see in the New Year than an invitation for you to feast your eyes on a Brighton football calendar from 1980?

In 1979/80, a company called Print For Sport Ltd launched some lavish A2-sized Soccer Action Calendars for each First Division club, some ‘top’ Second Division clubs (West Ham, Leicester, Sunderland, Newcastle and Burnley, Luton and QPR) and the England team. For just £2.49 each, you received one for your favourite team with twelve colour action shots of first-team players.

The item, advertised heavily in the likes of Shoot! Magazine and Match Weekly, also included red ‘You-Fix’ stickers allowing fans to mark match dates and opponents on the calendar itself. I suppose they could have pre-printed the fixtures directly onto the relevant dates themselves but this was what counted as ‘fun’ and ‘interactive’ in those days!

Here is the Brighton & Hove Albion calendar, lovingly scanned by yours truly:


In a clever, eye-catching design, Malcolm Poskett, Chris Cattlin and Peter Ward are the cover stars.


Then into January is… ermm, Brian Horton with a full head of hair in the perm? Well, it’s definitely Nobby’s signature on the bottom right but, as Alan Wares (Albion Roar) from North Stand Chat has identified, it’s Andy Rollings blocking the shot from Orient’s Alan Whittle in a memorable 3-3 draw. Peter O’Sullivan and Mark Lawrenson are in the background, along with Clark’s hair!


Next up is Malcolm Poskett, also in action against Orient, out to prove Alan Mullery was right to prefer him to Wardy in the number eight shirt for this match.


When Peter Ward does show up in March, it’s on a bad hair day.


Steve Foster had signed for the Seagulls in pre-season in the summer of 1979. Without a genuine match appearance for Brighton to his name yet, he strikes a pose for the camera instead.


In the same Blackburn game where he scored a goal in the midst of a smoke bomb going off, here’s Teddy Maybank challenging for the ball.


Eric Steele shows a safe pair of hands for the camera.


‘Viking’ Paul Clark on the ball, possibly against Luton in April 1979.


New signing John Gregory juggles the ball.


Veteran Chris Cattlin is star of the month for September 1980 even though his Albion playing were over by then.


Gary Williams carries the ball out against Blackburn.


Proving his acting skills are no better than his punditry skills, Mark Lawrenson fakes celebrating a goal!


And finally, Gerry Ryan goes for a dribble.

As you can see, 1st January 1980 fell on a Tuesday, whereas 1st January 2014 is a Wednesday, so you’ll be disappointed if you were hoping to print this out and use it, unamended, as your calendar for the New Year. Significantly, 1980 was also a leap year so you’ll have to wait all the way until 2036 before this calendar fits the bill again. Never mind! I hope that you are patient. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

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The Brighton mystery of Murphy’s Mob

murphysmobWhile reading the Brighton v Watford matchday programme in December 2012, I was intrigued to read Spencer Vignes’ nostalgic article ‘Married to the Mob’ which celebrated Central TV’s youth drama Murphy’s Mob which ran for four series from 1982 to 1986.

Depending on your age, you may have enjoyed it. As a kid, I do remember it on Children’s ITV at the time. However I was slightly too young to appreciate it and instead gave my love to the supposedly much inferior Jossy’s Giants (1986-87) instead. Sorry!

Nevertheless, as Spencer explains:

‘Directed by former ‘Hey Hey We’re The Monkees’ drummer Mickey Dolenz, Murphy’s Mob charted the lives of a group of teenagers who followed an English lower league outfit called Dunmore United, in particular their efforts to set up and run a junior supporters’ club. You name it, Murphy’s Mob had it – school classroom angst, punch-ups, football rivalries, snogging (plenty of that) plus a catchy theme tune sung by the late Gary Holton who would find fame playing Wayne in the TV show Auf Widersehen Pet.

The show was originally filmed in Hertfordshire and even used clips from matches of Watford, then the new upstarts in the First Division and, by all accounts, finding life at the top a doodle. Ambitiously, Murphy’s Mob even combined real footage with sequences involving actors, as this video gem demonstrates:

Note the first clip is from Highbury, before it switches to Vicarage Road (or is it Stamford Bridge?) when the keeper catches the ball!

In November 1982, BBC’s ‘Match of the Day’ cameras arrived to see Graham Taylor’s high-flying Watford side blitz the Seagulls with the visitors playing about as well as that blundering keeper above. By the final whistle, the score was 4-1 with goals from Luthur Blissett (2 pens), John Barnes and Les Taylor, before substitute Gerry Ryan replied late on for the Albion. As Spencer laments:

A couple of weeks later Central TV went in search of footage from a Watford match to incorporate into Murphy’s Mob. They needed a game in which the Hornets, playing the part of Dunmore, had dominated and scored plenty of goals. Needless to say one particular fixture caught their eye.

Throughout 1983 and 1984 I, along with Albion supporting 11 to 16 year olds everywhere, had to endure countless school yard jibes every time footage of Watford’s (or should I say Dunmore’s?) rampant win over us appeared in Murphy’s Mob, which was regularly.

When I read those words, I was amazed. Could it really be that Brighton & Hove Albion had a significant, albeit a stooge-like, part to play in at least one of the episodes of this children’s TV series? Unfortunately, there wasn’t much footage unloaded to YouTube or indeed on other sources on the internet. However, after some detective work, I eventually did track down all 54 episodes, and scrolled through each one (sad, I know!) to find the episode where Dunmore gave Brighton a trouncing.

And do you know what? It’s still a mystery which edition it was because the only footage I could find with Brighton in it was this:

Perhaps some cuts had to be made to a re-running of the series, seeing as the BBC had the TV rights to the match:

By the end of the 1982/83 season, Watford were runners-up in Division One and Brighton had finished bottom. Both clubs enjoyed a run to Wembley in the FA Cup around that time before the unthinkable happened. In 1985, Central TV began using Derby County as the focus for its football footage, with Dunmore colours changing to blue and white. From Vicarage Road to the Baseball Ground, I wonder if Eric Steele remembers being a Dunmore player at either location.


The Brighton goalkeeper shirt of the late 1970s

Once I found a green Bukta jersey with black logo on eBay, there was no stopping me! I won the auction for a tenner in late July and then hatched plans to get the classic round Seagulls badge added – and hey presto! – I now have a replica of the goalkeeper top worn during the late 1970s. And yes, I appreciate the number of people for whom this has any sartorial interest is probably rather limited.


As far as minor variations, the tight-fitting top was worn by goalkeeping rivals Graham Moseley and Eric Steele from the 1977/78 to 1979/80, sometimes with the Bukta lettering, and sometimes with the Buk symbol…


Sometimes, it featured both the Buk and logotype, as Graham Moseley ably demonstrates…


There was even a red version, for the times when Brighton played a team with green on their kit, such as Norwich City. The Old Football Shirts website includes the red goalkeeper’s top here.

Green or red, it would be a stretch to describe the goalkeeper’s shirt as a design classic. However, it’s undoubtedly associated with the good times at the Goldstone, so much so that there was even an Eric Steele poster in the centrefold in the Derby v Brighton programme of October 1986, with him proudly wearing his Albion clobber seven years on together while showing off John Vinicombe’s ‘Up, Up and Away’ book celebrating Brighton’s rise to Division One in 1979. You read it right – a Brighton poster in a Derby County programme!


(Although those shorts look rather like the blue Bukta ones, they’re actually Derby’s of 1986/87).

Talking to Harry Brown, Steele is optimistic about Derby’s chances that season:

“Things are on the move here,” Eric says confidently. “It reminds me of my very happy stay at Brighton. I was part of the Seagulls set up from February 1976 till October 1979, when I moved on to Watford. In that time we moved from the Third to the First Division in three seasons, and I have very happy memories of the Goldstone and its fans. We packed them in up to 25,000 in fact, and I can see it all stirring again just like that here at the Baseball Ground.

Eric believes, as most of his team mates do, that Derby County can equal Brighton’s feat, and maybe even improve on it, by going from Third to First in two seasons. “I want to taste yet another Third to First Divsion success, and I believe it is ‘on.’ That’s why I stayed here to battle it out with Mark (Wallington).

Last May’s promotion here was the fifth in which Eric has been involved during his career – the two with Brighton; from the Fourth to the Third with Peterborough; and from the Second to the First with Watford. He reckons he will contribute to the sixth right here at the Baseball Ground.

He sees the same sort of individual flair emerging here as it did at the Goldstone when he was a Brighton player. “Then we had Mark Lawrenson, who has gone on to great things at Liverpool, Derby-born Peter Ward who was getting us goals galore, Welsh international Peter O’Sullivan, and Brian Horton, now the player-manager at Hull.”

Steele made it promotion number six when with Derby County who won the Second Division championship in 1986/87. He left for Southend at the end of that campaign. When he was loaned to Mansfield in March 1988, he made one last appearance at the Goldstone.

As for the Seagulls’ Bukta goalkeeper shirt, it officially gave way when Brighton switched to Adidas from the start of 1980/81. However, in the pre-season photo shoot for that campaign, the green Adidas shirt was clearly not yet ready and so an extra Albion badge had to be sewn on to conceal the Bukta logo, to create a rather bizarre look. That’s one retro Albion goalkeeper’s top I won’t be emulating!

Tony Knight, Graham Moseley and John Phillips

Tony Knight, Graham Moseley and John Phillips with a seagull on each nipple

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Eric Steele, the ‘executive’ fashion king!

As Eric Steele made his way to Watford in October 1979, within weeks of his clash with team-mate Gary Williams at Old Trafford, Albion fans were given something to chuckle over when they saw this piece in the women’s page of the Evening Argus:


Eric Steele models an executive suit in pure wool, with a sophisticated blue-grey hairline stripe.

The goalie’s a proper gent! By Irene Morden

Footballers these days have to be businessmen as well, dealing with six-figure transfers and the world of commerce away from the pitch.

Eric Steele, Albion’s much-discussed goalkeeper now transferred to Watford for £100,000 is one of the new breed of executive players – and he dresses the part.

He has a teaching degree and would like to run a hospital for handicapped children. He has a leisure management diploma and has just completed a business studies course.

It’s this other world of promotions which dictates the business clothes he picks – well-cut, well-groomed classics like the two-piece Jaeger suit he wears here.


Leisure wear with style: Eric chose one of Jaeger’s new blouson jackets in a brown Donegal tweed (£69), with toning tweed trousers and a plain creamy coloured shirt in a soft mixture of cotton and wool. The car he’s trying for size is the new Rover V8S.

Eric is a Jaegar man and has other suits of theirs, at £125 a go following the same theme: slim-fitting and conventional, straight but not tight-fitting.

‘They’re clothes that are going to last a long time but always look good,’ he says.

Eric selected his suit at Jaeger’s shop in East Street, Brighton, last week, when they showed their autumn collection to regular customers, along with a glass of wine, a film show – and the latest Rover V8S which mysteriously turned up in the ground floor men’s wear department.

How did it get through those glass plated front doors? The doors were taken off and the car squeezed through with an inch to spare either side.


The article even got a mention in the 1979/80 match programme v Arsenal (League Cup). It said: “There is no truth in the rumour circulating that Eric Steele departed from the Goldstone solely to avoid the snide remarks of his team-mates following his appearance last week as the subject matter of the Women’s page in The Evening Argus.”

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