Tag Archives: george curtis

Roy Jennings: The Sole Survivor in 1961

Brighton’s first ever match in Division Two was a disaster. It was at Middlesbrough in August 1958 and the Albion were thumped 9-0 with future Brighton manager Brian Clough grabbing five of the goals. The return game at the Goldstone Ground in December saw the Sussex side treated to a 4-6 home defeat. By 1961, the Brighton line-up was much changed, but the club was still competing in the Second Division.


Roy Jennings was the tough-tackling stalwart of the side. In Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in December 1961, he looked back at the previous few years:

It doesn’t seem three years since Brighton won the old Third Division South championship and promotion to the Second Division. Yet we are now in our fourth season as a Second Division club – and I am the only survivor of the side which won a championship medal in 1958.

True, Steve Burtenshaw, our regular left-half, was a colleague at that time, but Steve played only occasionally in the League side and did not qualify for a medal.

I made the bare 14 appearances needed to earn a medal. I was mainly a full-back in those days and Brighton were well off in that department. All the other stalwarts of our Third Division days have moved on… Jim Langley, Eric Gill, Glen Wilson, Denis Gordon, Peter Harburn, Frankie Howard and co.

There have been other changes in my time at Goldstone Road. A new stand to replace the rickety old construction which did duty as the main building for too many years; new dressing rooms; floodlighting.

Mr Billy Lane, who steered us to promotion and whose powers of persuasion had so much to do with my joining Brighton, has also gone. The place doesn’t seem the same without him although I feel sure that his successor, George Curtis, from Sunderland, is going to do a great job for us.

When we won promotion some people said we would be out of our depth in the Second Division. When we took two early beatings from Middlesbrough it seemed as though the critics were right.

But we recovered and more than held our place in the higher grade.

The Second Division is the toughest one from which to gain promotion. Each season there seem to be about four top-class sides challenging, with the rest cutting each other’s throats week by week.

For the last three years I have been the regular centre-half and now I am club skipper. At school, in my native Swindon, I was a full-back and won England Youth and Wiltshire county honours at the same time as John Atyeo, of Bristol City.

I had no ambition to become a professional footballer. I was keen on accountancy and studied it. I was working as a clerk in a garage when Ted Nash, a local scout, recommended me to Southampton manager George Roughton.

I signed amateur forms for Southampton and played a few games in their reserves before going into the RAF. Then I had a firm offer from Brighton and, in 1952, I signed for them as a full-time professional – and forgot about a career as an accountant.

I was switched to first team centre-half soon after those Middlesbrough defeats I have mentioned. A good game against Tottenham reserves (I managed to blot out Dave Dunmore) earned me promotion and since then I have held my place. Only twice have I missed a match through injury.

One of my most memorable games in our first season in the Second Division was a Boxing Day meeting with the then League leaders, Fulham, in 1958. Their visit drew a record Goldstone Road crowd of 36,747, with receipts of £4,376.

We beat them 3-0, Johnny Haynes and all, and I shut out centre-forward Maurice Cook out of the game.

A quick thumb through the record books show that on Boxing Day, 1958, Brighton actually lost 3-1 at Craven Cottage. Here is some very ropey footage from the match:

Brighton’s magnificent 3-0 victory over Fulham came on the following day, and was aided by the return of Jimmy Langley. Two Tommy Dixon goals and one by Adrian Thorne beat the eventual Division Two runners-up.

Sadly, after a four-year stay in the Second Division, Brighton finished bottom at the end of 1961/62, the season of this feature in Football Monthly. Albion were relegated, with Jennings’ faith in the managerial ability of George Curtis proving misplaced. Here’s the team photo from the same edition:


In the following season, such was his popularity, that when Jennings was dropped for three games in favour of youngster Norman Gall, Curtis’ decision prompted ‘We Want Jennings’ chants from the Brighton supporters. Roy was then restored.

He was eventually given a free transfer at the end of 1963/64 and joined Crawley Town, where he eventually became player-manager. He had made 297 appearances for Brighton, scoring 22 times (13 of which were from the spot).

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When the year ends in ‘3’

It was often said by football folk that it’s a good year for Tottenham Hotspur when the year ends in ‘1.’ They’ve won the FA Cup in 1901, 1921, 1961, 1981 and 1991 and the League Championship in 1951 and 1961. For Brighton & Hove Albion, I’m not aware of any particularly ‘lucky’ years. However, it’s true that the club has a truly appalling League record when the year ends in ‘3’. Let’s have a flick through post-war history…

It was not so bad in 1952/53, with Brighton finishing 7th in Division Three (South). Fast forward ten years later to 1962/63 and the club suffered relegation from Division Three, finishing 22nd out of 24 clubs. The manager was George Curtis (not the same one who managed Coventry in the 1980s) who had a disastrous spell in charge at the Goldstone, having seen the club relegated from the Second Division the previous campaign.

Here’s the team photo for the inglorious season:

1962-63 brighton

The season was memorable for the heavy snow in the New Year. Here’s some shots from the Halifax match in January 1963. The pitch looks like an ice rink:



And from the Crystal Palace match in the same month:


The younger players were dubbed ‘Curtis’ Cubs’ as he put his faith in youth. New signings included teenagers John Dillon (Sunderland), Bobby Walker (Gateshead), and David James and Ken Franks (Blantyre Victoria). A day before his twentieth birthday, defender Norman Gall, made his debut at Watford in September 1962, replacing popular captain Roy Jennings, before being dropped after a mere three matches, all lost. This was in the middle of a twelve match run without a win. Not surprisingly, Curtis left the club by mutual consent in February 1963, with Archie Macaulay being appointed in April after a caretaker managerial spell by Joe Wilson.

Ten years later, in 1972/73, goalkeeper Brian Powney and defender Norman Gall were the only survivors in the Brighton side that finished bottom of the Second Division under Pat Saward. Another long winless run put the kybosh on the season. This one ran for sixteen matches with the last thirteen all ending in defeat! A decade on, Brighton & Hove Albion again finished bottom, in Division One, but at least they had an FA Cup Final to look forward to. In 1992/93, Brighton finished ninth in the third tier (Division Two) before another relegation in 2002/03 (Division One – second tier), when twelve successive League matches were lost from mid-August 2002.

With Brighton & Hove Albion in the Championship play-offs in 2013, this League season is probably the best one ending in ’3′ in the club’s history. Time to lay the ghosts of 1963, 1973, 1983 and 2003 to rest.