With Southampton going so tremendously well in the Premier League at the moment, you might be wondering how long until Brighton can join them.
Things were different in 1979/80, however, when fans were able to savour the first ever top flight match between the two clubs. When the fixtures for the season were published in the summer, Saturday 22nd September 1979 was announced as the date of the eagerly awaited south coast derby at the Goldstone Ground.
In the build up, there was this magazine discussion between the Seagulls skipper Brian Horton and Saints striker Phil Boyer.
“We’re still adjusting to life in the First Division” – Brian Horton
“Yes, but you are good enough to survive” – Phil Boyer
Don’t expect a fiery war of words between two rival players, though, as the conversation stays amiable, even matey, from start to finish:
BOYER: Your indifferent start to the season will mean nothing when we clash at your place on Saturday. We know you will make things hot for us.
HORTON: You can bank on that, Phil. We have not really done ourselves justice in the First Division yet and that’s something we are desperately anxious to put right. You can imagine how relieved everyone at the Goldstone Ground was when we achieved our first victory since promotion against Bolton at home at the beginning of the month.
BQYER: It’s always tough in new surroundings and that first win is very important. Now you’ve got a couple of points in the bag the pressure will be off and you’ll be on your way.
HORTON: That’s the way we feel about it. We have too many good players to really struggle and we showed what we are capable of with our display at Villa a couple of weeks ago. We got beaten 2-1 there, but played really well and deserved something from the game.
BOYER: It’s two years since we last met – in the Second Division. But you still have the nucleus of that side. It’s a good all round team certainly good enough to survive comfortably.
HORTON: What we have got to do is adjust to the requirements of First Division football. We are, of course, facing a better class of player and any errors are punished more readily.
BOYER: That’s right, Brian, and I just hope you make some on Saturday for me and the lads to cash in on.
HORTON: You must be joking pal! You are the last person in the world we can afford to be charitable to. I’ve been playing against you for many years when you were at Bournemouth and I was with Port Vale… so I know exactly what you are capable of. Our lads got chatting recently when Brighton and Southampton were on the same train back from the North and they all said what a good player you are and how they would have you in any team of theirs.
BOYER: You have not done so badly yourself as it happens. And there will be a lot of good players out on the park on Saturday. You have several in your side and one that impresses me tremendously is Peter O’Sullivan, who seldom gets the praise and publicity he deserves.
HORTON: Yes, he does a steady, if unspectacular, job and is a vital member of the team. And what about the players you can call on? Apart from yourself there’s Steve Williams, a brilliant prospect, Chris Nicholl, a tremendous pro – and now you have Charlie George back to full fitness. What a class player he is.
BOYER: Absolutely. He can be world class on his day and our boss, Lawrie McMenemy pulled off a real coup when he signed him.
HORTON: And we are not forgetting that Alan Ball will be back from America and leading you again for this match. He adds a bit to your game, doesn’t he?
BOYER: He certainly does. ‘Ballie’s a great influence on us and his return should help to give us a settled side. That’s something we could not get in the, opening games.
HORTON: Will he captain the side?
BOYER: Oh, yes, unless Lawrie McMenemy has a rush of blood. That’s unlikely, for you couldn’t get a cooler boss. David Peach has done a good job as skipper, but ‘Ballie’ is the obvious choice. He’s a natural leader, Brian, just like yourself.
HORTON: Thanks for the tribute. But it’s the toughest job in the world, especially when you have been promoted to the First Division for the first time in your life. Not only do I have to make the right decisions, but have to play well to justify my place in the team. This is the ‘big one’ as far as South Coast fans are concerned. It’s a local derby and creates a very special kind of atmosphere.
BOYER: Exactly. Past results mean absolutely nothing when this one comes around. There’s a friendly rivalry between the clubs and I hope the same feeling exists among both sets of supporters. Interest is certainly sky high when we clash. We had two great games in the Second Division two years ago – both drawn – and as you don’t give too much away at home we are prepared for a right old battle.
HORTON: We hope to have picked up some more points by the time you arrive. But we will still be looking for a couple more – that’s always our target in home games. And if they should come against you they will be all the more welcome. They will certainly help ease the pressure a little. Anyway, see you Saturday, Phil. Look forward to a great game.
All together now: Awwwwwww, how sweet!
The match itself ended 0-0 in front of a crowd of 26,918. Teddy Maybank headed the bar against the woodwork twice in the second half, but Southampton generally had the better of the tussle. The return fixture in February 1980 was a disaster, with Brighton losing 5-1 at the Dell.
It took until February 1981 for Albion to get the better of Southampton in the First Division, with a Gary Williams penalty and a Giles Stille header (below) securing the victory:
Sadly for Horton, he missed the match through suspension.