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:
About a year before joining the Seagulls, Leicester striker Alan Young did much to help Brighton to safety by getting sent-off in the fixture on this day in 1981. Here’s how Nigel Clarke reported it for the Daily Mirror:
Brighton climbed out of the bottom three with this win, edging above Coventry on goal difference.
But Leicester, who had two men sent off in this desperate relegation battle, look to be heading straight back to the Second Division.
They finished with nine men after having Alan Young and scorer Kevin MacDonald dismissed.
Young went in the 40th minute for a foul on Steve Foster after being earlier booked for clattering into goalkeeper Graham Moseley standing for the concussed Perry Dlgweed.
MacDonald, also booked earlier, got his marching orders in the 75th minute for deliberate handball.
But Leicester manager Jock Wallace said defiantly: “There’s no surrender. We’re not dead yet. We’re breathing, walking and talking. The second sending off was the killer. We were doing all right with ten men and Brighton looked very tired.”
Brighton boss Alan Mullery said: “It’s going to be difficult for Leicester now. I just wish the season had ended today.But the pressure la still on us. We needed four points over Easter to give ourselves a chance, but it’s nice to be out of the bottom three. It wasn’t much of a match in terms of quality. but it was always tense and very exciting.”
Against all the odds Leicester took the lead four minutes after Young’s dismissal. MacDonald flicked a back header past Moseley from Steve Lynex’s cross.
But Brighton suddenly produced an inspired spell between the 51st and 57th minute.
It was enough to win the game and earn the kind of support that Mullery had demanded.
First Andy Ritchie checked, turned then lifted a left-foot cross that Michael Robinson took hungrily in the air for his 21st goal of the season.
Four minutes later Albion took the lead with a goal that was good eoough to grace Wembley.
John Gregory began it with a clever back-heel that set free Brian Horton. He picked out Robinson who turned the ball back to-Gary Williams.
He crossed quickly and there was Gregory, who scored two at Crystal Palace on Saturday, on target again with a magnificent header.
Robinson nearly made it three two minutes later as Albion took control of Leicester’s depleted forces and ran the game as they liked.
This crucial put the Seagulls just above the drop zone with 31 points from 40 matches. One place below, Coventry also had 31 points but one match in hand. The Sky Blues made full use of this, winning against Middlesbrough and Southampton before a draw at Nottingham Forest took them well clear of the relegation zone into 15th spot. Leicester’s response to their defeat by the Seagulls were two wins in two, against Birmingham and fellow relegation-strugglers Norwich, but it was not enough to save them and they finished second from bottom.
As for Brighton, Alan Mullery’s side built on those two wins with a last-gasp victory at Sunderland to set up a grand finish with with Leeds United at the Goldstone. Suddenly, after a campaign of struggle, everything was going right.
By Easter 1980/81, Brighton were in serious trouble at the foot of the First Division. A dreadful 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough took the Seagulls to 20th position on 11th April. Albion had won just two of their previous 13 League matches. The remaining fixtures were Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Sunderland and Leeds United. However, even four victories in the last four games did not guaranteed survival.
On the eve of the game at relegated Crystal Palace, Albion boss Alan Mullery blasted his side:
“I know I can get the sack if we are relegated. I have been let down by the players, and if I go I won’t be the only one to leave. A lack of basic commitment is the main reason for our current plight. This situation was totally avoidable. I have done all I can this season, but in the end results depend on players. The players of Brighton have just not produced the goods.”
One of the few positives was that their arch rivals from South London were in an even bigger state of disarray than the Seagulls. Nevertheless, Mullery struck a note of caution:
“Palace will raise their game, because they want to take us down with them. There is a great rivalry between the two clubs, and that situation will never change. A draw will not be enough for us, and if the players don’t battle we have no chance.”
An Albion team meeting before the match had Alan Mullery threatening to run the players over if he saw them in the street if they had the club relegated! That, and sticking John Gregory in midfield seemed to do the trick as the Seagulls lorded it at Selhurst Park in an emphatic 3-0 victory:
In the Daily Express it said:
“Brighton, with Mark Lawrenson, Brian Horton and two-goal John Gregory, made Palace look a Sunday parks team.”
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!
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!
John Gregory is back as an employee in Sussex, as the new manager of Crawley Town. I doubt any Brighton & Hove Albion fans will have anything positive to say about his exploits as a manager, following the bitter saga over the signing of Gareth Barry.
Nevertheless, Gregory served the Albion with distinction as a player in defence and, occasionally, in midfield. In Match Weekly (18 July 1981), he expressed warmth for the side he was leaving:
QPR’s new £300,000 signing John Gregory told this week of his pain at leaving First Division Brighton.
“It was a wrench – I found it difficult to turn my back on the lads at Brighton,” admitted the former Aston Villa and Northampton defender.
“I enjoyed two years at the Goldstone Ground and made many friends, but the prospect of a new challenge with Rangers appealed to me.”
And as John prepared to pack his bags for London he tipped his former team-mates for a bright First Division future.
“The team has yet to reach their full potential but when they do Brighton will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Lest we forget, before he left Brighton, he plundered a couple of goals for the Seagulls in the famous 3-0 thrashing of relegated Crystal Palace in April 1981, which helped enormously in the club retaining its top flight status:
The article in Match continues:
Moving from Brighton was a shock for John. “I know Alan Mullery turned down a bid – but a couple of days after he resigned chairman Mike Bamber accepted OPR’s offer.
“I hadn’t asked for a move so the news that I was to be allowed to go was quite a surprise,” he added.
In joining Rangers John is meeting up with one of his boyhood heroes – former Spurs player Terry Venables.
“I used to watch from the terraces at White Hart Lane and my favourite players were Terry and Alan Mullery – it’s ironic that I should end up playing for both of them. Terry’s an ambitious manager and he’s determined to get QPR beck where they belong – in the First Division. The fact he’s spent so much money on now players shows how determined he is – I’m very excited about the prospect of playing for them.
“I don’t know much about the Second Division although I see that I’ll be visiting a few old haunts. When I played for Northampton I went to such places as Rotherham and Grimsby – and I’ll be back again next season.”
John isn’t so concerned about taking a drop from the First Division to the Second. “Rangers are a First Division set up and I’m sure we’ll be back soon.”
He’ll also be re-united with his former Aston Villa team-mate, goalkeeper John Burridge.
“We’ve been on the phone to each other a couple of times since the move and I’m really looking forward to seeing him again,” said John, who made 59 full League appearances for Villa.
This season is an experimental one for the Loftus Road club because they become the first team in the Football League to play their home games on artificial turf.
“I’m told it’s very similar to playing on grass but come February or March I’m sure it’ll give us an advantage because it won’t suffer the effects of the weather.
“Another plus is that we’ll be able to train on all season and that’s got to be a bonus,” said John.
By the end of Gregory’s first season at QPR, 1981/82, the side reached the FA Cup Final against Spurs, and the utility man hit the woodwork at Wembley. It took until the following season before the Loftus Road side clinched promotion to Division One. The prospect of playing against his old side at Brighton did not materialise as the Seagulls were relegated. However, Gregory was re-united briefly with Alan Mullery who was QPR boss for a traumatic six months in 1984. There was even talk of trying to bring Gregory back to the Albion during the Chris Cattlin era in the mid-1980s, but the club could not afford him.
Gregory then became a hot topic of conversation for Seagulls fans when he became Aston Villa manager. Although Gareth Barry was signed by previous boss Brian Little, he made his League debut under Gregory. Gregory incensed followers of the Albion when he said that Dick Knight ‘wouldn’t know Gareth Barry if he stood on Brighton beach in a blue and white striped shirt, a ball under his arm and a seagull on his head.’ He later added:
“We got absolutely robbed at the time by Brighton. He was substitute for Brighton youth team once. Suddenly Bryan Jones, the youth development officer at Villa, took him from there and he came to us. We tried to agree compensation and we couldn’t. When I put him in the first team his valuation went through the roof. Brighton were very shrewd and they knew the longer they left it the more they’d make because Barry was doing so well.
“Also at the start of the season he got called up by Glenn Hoddle to train with the England squad and that put his valuation up even more. We’d already paid £100,000 at the time and we ended up paying £1 million for him. That sounds cheap now when you see what he’s achieved, but it should’ve been a lot less.”
With the current news of Nelson Mandela’s death ringing in people’s ears, many people are taking to social media to praise the way the former president of South Africa walked the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. Now that Brighton is a thriving club once more, safely into its new stadium, I wonder how many Brighton fans would be willing to seek reconciliation with John Gregory. Who could be open to forgive him for his comments about Aston Villa’s attempt to prise Gareth Barry from cash-strapped Albion without compensation all those years ago?
Over the years, Nick Szczepanik has established himself as a respected sports writer for The Guardian, The Times and Sunday Times. He now mainly contributes to The Independent. However in November 1980, before he had made his name as a journalist, this Brighton & Hove Albion supporter was out of work. It gave him time to write this passionate piece to Mike Bamber, the Albion chairman, about the sharp drop in attendances at the Goldstone during the 1980/81 campaign. The letter later appeared in the Brighton v Sunderland programme on 6th December:
Dear Mr Bamber,
The people of this area have been accused in the past of being negative – but now it seems to me that people are making ridiculous excuses to justify their own apathy and defeatism; thankfully, not everyone feels the same way, but having read today’s Evening Argus, I felt I had to let you know that SOME people remain, and intend to remain, loyal Albion supporters.
I have followed the club since the late 60s – even then, in my early teens and with the value of money as it was, if anyone had promised me Division One soccer at the Goldstone for £2.00 per match, I (and others no doubt) would have considered it cheap at the price – but how some people can forget how far we have come so soon baffles me as I’m sure it baffles you.
Although currently unemployed, I managed to afford a Terrace Season Ticket this year, and have no difficulties or worries about taking my eight-year-old godson along when he wants to come. Those people who are full of excuses about inflation, hooliganism and other largely mythical evils, are in my opinion, beneath the contempt of genuine supporters -and there are 12,000 of us at least. Obviously we’ll have a moan sometimes (unlike many of the team’s and manager’s stay-away critics, we’ll have earned the right with our £2.00) but we’ll BE THERE and probably as frustrated as you at all the people who aren’t.
While I am writing, perhaps you could convey the best wishes and appreciation of my friends and myself to John Gregory. His decision to stay with the Albion was a great thing for the club and we hope he will play for us for many seasons to come; unlike some so-called supporters on the SW Terraces we think we recognise a player of First Division class and quality when we see one! (And the next Captain, perhaps?) Keep up the good work.
The novelty of First Division football had appeared to wear off for many Albion supporters in 1980/81 as they faced up to the reality that Brighton were no longer almost invincible at home.
The drop in attendances at the Goldstone was sharp. For example, in 1979/80, when Brighton played Middlesbrough, Ipswich and Manchester United at home, the gates were 20,427, 23,608 and 29,670. When they played the same opponents in 1980/81, in November, home attendances fell to 12,112, 17,055 and 23,277 respectively.
As if to add credence to the issue, just 13,903 supporters watched Michael Robinson score the opener in Brighton’s 2-1 victory over Sunderland in early December:
With such a massive decline in gate receipts, it was no surprise that Albion could not hold on to players of the calibre of John Gregory for much longer. This was especially after the substantial outlay at the start of the season. The financial bubble was about to burst, and Albion would need all the loyal and resilient supporters it could get.
It’s been a while since this blog posted a Farah Slacks-related missive. So here’s another one:
Don’t they look the business? What do you mean – no? As described in the Brighton v Leicester programme of 1981:
Many supporters will know that our first team squad have been fitted out by Farahs, the Gatwick-based supplier of American manufactured clothing.
Our picture shows a recent group of Albion personalities wearing their off-pitch kit of zip-fronted blouson-type casual tops in Farasuede fabric teamed up with versatile, easy care slacks from Farah’s famous hopsack range.
The total Farah men’s and boyswear range now includes casual and more formal trousers, sports slacks, denim jeans, mens’ leisure tops, blazers and informal jackets.
Anyone up for a Farah Slacks revival? If you know where you can buy them in Brighton & Hove nowadays, please let me know…
He may have blotted his copybook with Brighton fans years later, when seeking to sign Gareth Barry as Aston Villa manager without compensation, but there is little doubt that John Gregory provided sterling service to the Seagulls in those first two seasons in the First Division. A strong tackler, Gregory added steel and good positional play, as well as the ability to go on overlapping runs. His high transfer fee, then a club record, was worth every penny.
The £2S0,000 Brighton paid for Aston Villa defender John Gregory was almost chicken feed compared to some of the close season deals.
Says Gregory: “Once Trevor Francis went for a million pounds, everybody else’s price shot up by £50,000 to £100,000.
“Even so, the money I cost was lot for Brighton, and you’ve got to put things into perspective. Costing that kind of money obviously causes a little bit of burden but I hope not too much of one for me.
‘It took me a long while to decide whether I would come here or not but that was nothing to do with the club or the terms they offered me. It’s just that my wife was brought up in the Midlands end had never travelled more then an hour away from there before. So her happiness, end that of our two children, had to be taken into account.
“They all like it down here though – and the kids love being by the sea. They’re treating it as a permanent holiday.”
Gregory knows, though, that it won’t be any holiday for his team in the First Division during this crucial season of 1979-80. They’ll have to fight for their right to play in the top sphere.
“From what i’ve seen so far, I think we’ll certainly hold our own. We haven’t got many players with First Division experience but having seen how the other half lives in the lower regions of the Second and Third Divisions, I think our won’t went to give up life in the First too easily.
“I’ve probably got the most experience of the First Division. But Gerry Ryen’s been there, too. And we have Chris Cattlin end Graham Moseley, who know what it’s like.”
Gregory hopes that hell finally find himself a settled position at Brighton.
“At Villa, they seemed to regard me as a player who could do a job anywhere. I played full-back, central defender – even centre-forward. Now I’d like to settle at right-back.”
In his first season at the Albion in 1979/80, Gregory made 33 League appearances, all in the number two shirt, just the way he wanted.
Just like FKS by the early 1980s, Topps was on the decline. The chewing gum firm’s garish bubblegum cards were a big part of many childhood memories from the 1970s, but its position was now under increasing threat. It was certainly slow get in on the sticker market that Panini was sewing up. In addition, perhaps Topps had also over-stretched itself trying to cover the whole of the Football League rather than focus on the more lucrative First Division. For instance, in 1978/79, it had rather delightfully issued eight playing card-sized ones for Brighton & Hove Albion, who were still a Second Division side. Although, for that, I will always retain a soft spot for Topps!
Fast-forward three seasons, and perhaps to counter the threat from Panini, Topps issued an actual album that you could glue on your cards. Here is the eye-catching cover:
As you can see, all cards were now shrunk to cigarette card size. If you were a supporter of Arsenal, champions Aston Villa, Ipswich, Liverpool or Manchester United, you were given a full page of eleven player cards of your favourite side to stick in.
Disappointingly, as Brighton who were one of the smaller fish in the top flight, the Seagulls were only allocated three cards, and had to share their page with the ‘other Albion’, West Brom:
But spare a thought for Norwich City, who were only issued with one card, of Justin Fashanu! (Actually, they were issued with another, on a 1980/81 top scorers page of all the top flight clubs. And yes, that was also Justin Fashanu!)
As for the actual cards, themselves, the cardboard quality was quite poor (think cereal box card) and the borders often uneven. Here are the Brighton ones. Gregory and Lawrenson both left the Albion before the season, but here they are along with Michael Robinson’s from the aforementioned 1980-81 top scorer page: