Tag Archives: graham cross

The Mullery effect

You may remember that Football 78 was Panini’s first sticker album covering all the First Division clubs. Strangely, in the coverage of Division Two, Brighton’s team sticker featured the Third Division squad for 1976/77:


In a piece for Shoot! magazine, Alan Mullery gave some insight into how he re-shaped the Albion in his first season at the Goldstone:

I wasn’t in charge at Brighton when they just missed going up last season. But I could still tell everyone was mighty disappointed from the long faces when I took over.

With eight games left – and I was watching Brighton closely last year without, of course, dreaming I’d be their manager within months – Brighton were second and looked certainties to go up. But then they suddenly lost their form at the vital time and won just one of their last eight games. That decided it and they finished fourth, missing promotion by just three points.

The main thing I wanted to know when I took over was how a side could be so good at home and so terrible away. Three of the teams relegated from Division Three last season had better away records so something was wrong somewhere. Brighton’s home record was the best in the Division so we obviously needed some character instilled into the side.

I suppose I changed six positions.

Peter Ward had only played six games last season but he was a regular right from the start this season.

Ian Mellor only played nine League games while Tony Towner was moved farther forward: Steve Piper moved to midfield from the back and I brought in Graham Cross and Chris Cattlin, two highly experienced professionals, to give us some know-how at the back [both were Taylor signings].

I think it has worked well. We are now averaging about a point a game away which is very acceptable. I’m still looking to make the side a better one – just because we’ve been in the top three all season doesn’t mean we’re world-beaters.

We’re not sitting back and saying everything is fine. And there’s no doubt the best time to bring in new players is when you’re at the top of the table, not struggling at the bottom. I want to improve us all-around as a side but I think we’re well on the way to overcoming some of the problems which cost the club promotion last year.

Players like Cattlin, Cross and Brian Horton have the character and fighting instinct to keep working when things are going against them away from home. That’s what I wanted to get into the side and we have benefited from that. Whether we go up is up to us – no one else. One thing is sure – I feel we have more character and a better set up in those crucial away matches this season. And it’s invariably your away results that decide whether you taste success or disappointment.

Brighton had picked up a meagre 14 points away from home in 1975/76 (W4 D6 L13), but turned things around slightly the following campaign with 20 points (W6 D8 L9). It was still not much to shout about. However, allied to the Albion’s astonishing home record where they attained 41 points (W19 D3 L1), and it was enough to seal promotion. No wonder Mullery (below) was so happy:


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Mullery in V-sign storm

Image as featured in the excellent Not Worth That blog at https://notworththat.wordpress.com

Image as featured in the excellent Not Worth That blog at https://notworththat.wordpress.com

In a ‘friendly’ match in August 1973, Albion beat Crystal Palace 2-1, with goals from Ken Beamish and John Templeman. Regrettably, there was crowd trouble at the Goldstone. Even so, cooling the potential for antagonism, the two clubs didn’t get to play each other in the League that season and, in any case, the respective managers Brian Clough (once Pat Saward got the boot) and Malcolm Allison were good friends.

By the time the 1974/75 season kicked off, though, Crystal Palace were slumming it in Division Three with Brighton. In an encounter on the opening day, there was an intensity to the game that hadn’t been seen before in a clash between the two clubs. Again, there was crowd trouble. Argus reports in 1975/76 certainly talked of a rivalry between the two sides. Reporting on Palace’s 1-0 home defeat to Brighton from Sept 1975, John Vinicombe explained that:

‘The exchanges were conducted in a cup-tie atmosphere, and the cut-and-thrust carried through with the zest of deadly rivals.’

However, it was the infamous FA Cup 1st Round second replay at Stamford Bridge on 6th December 1976 that turned the flickers of ill-feeling into a fire. Here is how it was reported in the Daily Express:

Brighton crashed out of the FA Cup last night… and manager Alan Mullery made it an undignified exit.

Mullery had to be restrained by police after striding on to the Stamford Bridge pitch for a face-to-face confrontation with referee Ron Challis, who had disallowed two second-half Brighton goals.

And as Palace fans jeered from their seats near the tunnel, Mullery waved two extravagant double-handed V-signs at them.

According to Palace Echo, ‘He flung down about a fiver’s worth of notes change into a puddle and screamed “You’re not worth that, Palace” whilst flicking the viccies.’

The Express continues:

Mullery was unrepentant afterwards. He explained: “I asked him [Challis] why he had disallowed the penalty which Brian Horton had scored for us.

“He said to me, ‘I can’t talk to you on the pitch.’ I said that I was only asking him a question. I wanted to know how he could turn an advantage he had awarded to us for the foul on Chris Cattlin and then make it a disadvantage because a Palace player had stepped into the penalty area.

“The referee waved me away. He said: ‘I’ve told you you can’t talk to me on the pitch. Get off.”

Challis, who needed a police escort to get him safely past a group of angry Brighton supporters, did not caution Mullery for his protest. And he refused to comment on the incident. But it seems certain Mullery will now face disciplinary action.

He raged: “How can you get beaten like that? There was only one team in it. We were in a different class and if it was a fight it would have been stopped in the second round.

The controversy began in the 73rd minute when Ian Mellor’s header from a corner went past Palace goalkeeper Paul Hammond – but Brighton’s celebrations came to an abrupt halt when referee Challis awarded Palace a free-kick for handball against Peter Ward.

Mullery said: “The ref was the only one out of 14,000 people who saw Ward handle. I’ve got better eyes than him – and I wear glasses.”

But the real drama unfolded 13 minutes from the end when Mr Challis pointed to the penalty spot after Cattlin had been fouled by Barry Silkman.

Brighton captain Brian Horton pushed the penalty out of Hammond’s reach and into the left hand corner of the net. But the referee ordered him to retake it after he had spotted players encroaching illegally inside the area.

The penalty that started the row... the ball's in the net but the ref says 'no goal'

The penalty that started the row… the ball’s in the net but the ref says ‘no goal’

The retaken penalty... this time Hammond blocks Brian Horton's spot-kick

The retaken penalty… this time Hammond blocks Brian Horton’s spot-kick

Horton elected to try for the opposite corner. Hammond guessed that he would and dived to his left to palm the ball to safety.

Brighton’s experienced defender Graham Cross complained: “The referee made Brian take it again because Palace’s Ian Evans had pushed me inside the box as he took the first penalty. It was a disgraceful decision.”

Hammond explained the secret of his successful guess when he said, “I almost reached the first penlty, and I thought he would try to hit the second one the other way. I ‘sussed’ him out, although the second shot was not the best penalty the lad’s taken.”

The one goal which did stand came from Palace’s diminutive midfield player Phil Holder in the 19th minute.

Holder, given a free transfer by Palace in the summer, showed great composure as he drove David Swindlehurst’s centre into the net to wipe out the memory of Palace’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against Southampton on this ground eight months ago.

Palace now have prospects of another healthy Cup run, beginning with a second round tie at home to Enfield on Saturday.

For his troubles, Alan Mullery was ordered by the Football Association to answer charges of bringing the game into disrepute:


He was fined £75 in 1977.

Referee Ron Challis was dubbed ‘Challis of the Palace’ by Brighton fans, becoming something of a hate figure. Was it really just a season before when Brighton’s matchday programme devoted a whole page to his photo?! Suffice to say, his image was now dartboard material:

Centre-spread of the Brighton v Palace programme from February 1976.

Centre-spread of the Brighton v Palace programme from February 1976.

As for Brighton, who were without a win in seven matches following the FA Cup exit, the team responded with eight wins in the next twelve matches to regain momentum, as well as leadership in the Third Division.

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Getting to Division One: Alan Mullery’s budget


The wheeling and dealing side of being a football manager was something that certainly appealed a lot to Alan Mullery. Luckily for him, he had far more cash to play with than, say, Pat Saward, at the start of the 1970s. It’s often commented that Mullery had a massive transfer budget. Trying to get beyond the opinion, I wanted to see to what extent this was true and have (to the best of my ability) tried to collate all the incomings and outcomings from 1976/77 to the end of 1978/79:

Steele £19,000
Lawrenson £112,000
Ruggiero £30,000
Potts £14,000
Williams swop
Clark £30,000
Maybank £238,000
Poskett £60,000
Sayer £100,000
Ryan £80,000
Chivers £15,000

Total: £700,000

Beal free
Kinnear free
Morgan £15,000
Cross Swop
Wilson Swop
Binney Free
Towner £65,000
Ruggiero Free
Potts £37,000
Mellor £30,000
Fell Swop

Total 147,000

To my eyes, despite the over-inflated price for Teddy Maybank, a deficit of £553,000 at late 1970s prices seems a reasonable price to pay for a club going from the Third Division into the top flight. Still, it wasn’t me writing the cheques! Undoubtedly, the Albion boss’ best capture of the time was Preston defender Mark Lawrenson. In this article from Shoot! magazine, the Brighton manager explains how he tried to balance the budget in the summer of 1977 after a big outlay:

Brighton caused a bit of a stir in the close-season when they splashed out a club record £112,000 to buy unknown defender Mark Lawrenson from Preston. It was a bold move from a progressive club who are determined to make a big success of life now they have been promoted to the Second Division.

And manager Alan Mullery is the first to admit they had no intention of spending that sort of cash when they first decided to go into the market. Mullery – who capped his first season as a manager by steering Brighton to the Third Division top two – explains:

“At first all we were going was a standby for Graham Cross – someone to play in the reserves and come into the first team when necessary. “But clubs were asking a ridiculous amount for this type of player. They were demanding £40,000 or £50,000 – and there was no way we were going to pay that for reserves. So then we decided to change our tactics and go in and spend big on a player who could come straight into the first team. I called all the staff together to discuss names of likely prospects. And they all came up with the same one – Mark Lawrenson.

“My chairman, Mike Bamber, and my coaching staff had all seen the lad play and were all impressed. And I thought he was tremendous on the three occasions I had seen him last season – twice against us, once at Crystal Palace. With so many people raving about him, it was obvious he was the man we wanted – so we moved in and did the deal. I know a lot of people have not heard to much about him yet. But they all will – believe me, they will.

“He is only 20, is big and strong and will make his mark in a big way. he settled down as soon as he joined us for pre-season training and seemed to be enjoying life on the South Coast. The thought of spending that sort of money on an unknown does not frighten me. A football manager has got to be prepared to back his judgement and I’m sure Mark will turn out to be a huge success.”

Mullery’s only regret is the enforced change of deal brought Cross’s time at the Goldstone Ground to an end. Soon after Lawrenson arrived, Cross and full-back Harry Wilson moved to Preston as part of a deal that brought another defender, Gary Williams, to Brighton from Deepdale. “Graham had an absolutely tremendous 1976-77 season for us and I can’t speak too highly of him,” said Mullery. “When I started planning for the new term I reckoned on having him in the side for our step up into the Second Division. Then events overtook us as I have explained, and things worked out differently. I wish him well at Preston and can assure their supporters they are getting one of the most honest lads in the game in Graham.”

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