Tag Archives: john keeley

Memory fades, but the passion still burns in Alan Mullery


I hope you’ve had a chance to hear Alan Mullery, club ambassador, speak so eloquently at the North West Sussex Seagulls (NWSS) meeting last Thursday:

He is, for many supporters including me, by far the greatest manager Brighton have ever had. Certainly the most successful. When he speaks, it is full of passion and candour. For someone known for his fiery temper, he seems to have significantly mellowed. Watching the video is a lovely experience, probably a bit like having Alan Mullery for tea in your living room, so intimate and warm was the atmosphere. Even so, as well as fascinating, I also found it slightly maddening, as some of his account of his career was clearly not factually accurate.

Is it too pedantic to point out that the Fulham v Brighton game from 1972/73 that he mentions ended 5-1 rather than 3-1 to the London club? OK, everyone gets a score wrong every now and then. Crazily, though, he talks about getting angry with team mate Jimmy Dunne for leaving Fred Binney unmarked. Suffice to say, Fred Binney was not a Brighton player at the time. As for the Albion player he meant, both Mullery’s autobiographies name the centre-forward as Ken Beamish. At least that’s clear.

(As for another Ken, it was Ken Gutteridge that was the member of Peter Taylor’s back room staff, which Mullery mentioned later on when his mind went blank).

Other clangers include Mullers saying Peter Ward was signed from Borrowash United. As we probably all know, it was actually Burton Albion. Politeness and respect probably stopped anyone calling this out! Mullery also suggested that Fred Binney was sold a week later from the now famous pre-season training session. In fact, Binney played a few matches at the start of the 1976/77 season and eventually departed a year later, to Plymouth after a summer with St Louis (Exeter was the team that Binney joined Albion from). Furthermore, in the thrashing that followed Maybank and Sayer being seen in a nightclub, Leicester also did not beat Brighton 5-1, but 4-1 in September 1978.

Should we cut Mullery some slack on the events of 30 or 40 years ago? Certainly, yes. Personally, I know I don’t remember the details of everything that long ago. It’s probably the case that when you’re a participant in an event, like players and managers are, living in the moment, your recording of events in your brain works differently from that of supporters, who may be more likely to look up records of past seasons and players of their favourite club, and have accurate facts and figures reinforced that way. A participant is much more likely to record the flavour of their emotions around an experience, though. Indeed, the effortless way Mullery is able to evoke the glory years, so you can almost feel it and see it, is part of what makes events in which he speaks so enthralling.

Nevertheless, I thought Mullery’s account of Ray Clarke, that he ‘never lived up to his reputation’ at Brighton, seemed rather harsh. As well as scoring himself, Clarke’s intelligent play provided such good service for Peter Ward’s only successful season in the top flight, 1979/80. A comparison of Albion’s fortunes in that debut campaign in Division One before and after the ex-Ajax striker was bought demonstrates how significant a contribution he made. To put the record straight, Clarke was sold to Newcastle for £175,000, the same figure he had cost the club from Bruges.

Mullery also got quite angry about his second spell at the club, repeatedly speaking about how he was reduced to picking a reserve goalkeeper, John Phillips, as the substitute for his final match against Grimsby in January 1987 before being sacked. This did not actually happen, as Kieran O’Regan was the sub. Phillips had left Brighton in June 1981. The player Mullery was referring to was probably John Keeley, but he was in goal during the Grimsby match.

In the current Backpass Magazine, a letter talks of Steve Daley:

“I believe Steve Daley is a successful and humorous after-dinner speaker. I suspect, like most speakers, he has embellished a few anecdotes over the years and has eventually believed them to be true.”

Perhaps the same is true of Mullery.

At the risk of being seen as overly picky, I do hope it’s OK to give notice of these errors, just in case some people are learning about the club’s history and may take it all as gospel.

That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact Mullery is a wonderful, passionate speaker who does a great job in capturing people’s imaginations and, occasionally, bringing a tear to the eye. I found it such a moving moment when he remarked:

The best five years I had in football was not for me, it was for people like yourselves, when I was manager at Brighton and Hove Albion. They were the best five years I ever had, and I played in World Cups, played in cup finals, I played all those games and everything else. But that was the best time I ever had.

Factual errors or not, the Albion is so very lucky to be able to call upon Alan Mullery as its club ambassador. Just like 30 or so years ago, he is a doing a wonderful job in the service of the club and its supporters.

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Seagull Lloyd chirps again

In 1988/89, Shoot! magazine told the remarkable story of Brighton’s surprising renaissance under manager Barry Lloyd, a man who took over three months to record his first win as Seagulls boss:


Brighton manager Barry Lloyd currently has the chirpy air of someone who has cheated the gallows – and well he might, for a year ago he was on soccer’s Death Row.

Having taken over an already ailing club in January 1987, Lloyd had to wait 15 matches before The Seagulls finally gave him his first victory in charge – a run which left them firmly anchored at the bottom of Division Two.

By the end of the season, crowds had slumped to less than 6,000 and most of those who bothered to turn up did so only to call for Lloyd’s head as The Seagulls took a swallow-dive into the Third Division.

Yet, 12 months later, the condemned man was a local hero, with nearly 20,000 fans filling the Goldstone Ground as Albion won their last game of the season to claim promotion following a late run.

With hindsight, despite calls for Lloyd to be sacked, he probably had one of the safest jobs in the country in 1986/87. After Mullery was sacked, it appears that Barry Lloyd’s task to the end of the season was to decimate the side by replacing its high earners with reserve players and non-league signings, even if it meant relegation to Division Three, which it did. Hence the introduction of untried players such as Kevan Brown (Southampton), Robert Isaac (Chelsea), John Crumplin (Bognor Regis Town), Richard Tiltman (Maidstone) and Ian Chapman. Unsurprisingly, Albion finished bottom but having slashed the wage bill, Lloyd kept his job.

With Lloyd reflecting on Albion’s regaining of its Second Division status, the Shoot! article continues:

The former Fulham player says: “The Second Division is a tough League – but it should be an attractive one, with plenty of sides with recent First Division experience.”

Last term’s revival came after Lloyd had made major changes at Brighton and one of them proved to be an inspiration.

“Sometimes you get a little break, and Garry Nelson was one of them,” says Lloyd•.


Nelson, who cost £70,000 from Plymouth before the season started, scored 32 goals and proved a revelation as a striker after years as a left-sided midfielder.

Former Southend goalkeeper John Keeley, playing his first full season back in the game after dropping out to combine taxi driving with playing for non-League Chelmsford, was another star performer.


And although Brighton are struggling to reproduce last season’s form, Nelson, Keeley and the experience of Alan Curbishley, Kevin Bremner and Steve Getting – who has signed a new contract – could well have The Seagulls crowing again.

Lloyd had much to smile about come May. Seen by many as certs for relegation, Brighton finished a creditable 19th position in the Second Division in 1988/89, even after a dismal start. Next campaign, with expectations still low, the Seagulls finished one place higher, with Sergei Gotsmanov’s brief spell cementing Lloyd’s reputation as a man with an eye for a bargain. Nobody, not even the most optimist fan with blue-tinted specs, could have predicted that Albion would mount a promotion push the season after, in 1990/91, but they did. In the Play-Off Final in the sunshine at Wembley against Notts County in June 1991, the club stood one game away from Division One. It was at this point that the Barry Lloyd success story ended. The game was lost and within twelve months, after an exodus of key players, the Seagulls were back to third tier football.

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Many happy returns for Keeley


John Keeley is Blackburn Rovers’ current goalkeeping coach and will almost certainly be at the Amex today. Hopefully, he’ll receive a warm welcome from Brighton supporters. He’s already been at the stadium in Falmer before, having served in the same capacity for Portsmouth after stepping up from being Pompey’s academy goalkeeping coach in 2010. Before that, he had a stint as Albion goalkeeping coach in the Withdean years.

However, it’s as Brighton’s number one in the 1980s that he is most fondly remembered in Sussex. The 6ft shotstopper began his League career with Southend but quit in December 1984 after falling out with manager Bobby Moore. After becoming a taxi driver, Keeley impressed Albion scout Terry Gill while playing for Maldon Town and Chelmsford City.

Costing just £1,500 in 1986 (which was roughly the same price as a home computer with monitor at the time!) he won rave reviews at the Goldstone with his stunning reflexes and good handling. In 1987/88, he was a key player in the Brighton side that won promotion from Division Three. In an interview with Dave Beckett from the Albion match programme v Bradford in August 1988, he spoke openly about his unconventional journey as a professional footballer:

‘I suppose if I had the chance to start all over again I probably would do things a bit differently second time around – I certainly wouldn’t have given up football when I did although, of course, it’s easy to say that now!’

At twenty seven years old it seems that Albion goalkeeper John Keeley is at last getting something back from the game which in the past has been harsh on him.

Promotion to the Second Division was undoubtedly the highlight of his career so far, and a happy change in fortunes for a man who found League soccer with Southend so depressing that he quit the sport with no intention of ever coming back. Instead John took up taxi-driving in Canvey Island, a job he had little enthusiasm for but at the same time is glad to have experienced. ‘When you take a couple of years out and work like that you appreciate the sort of success Albion had last season all the more. Although I’d have stayed in soccer if I was doing it all over again that doesn’t mean I regret what’s happened to me. My view is that it might not have been fun sometimes, but at least it paid the bills and I was glad for that.

Maybe it’s because of that background that the fans adopted me quite quickly – I’ve never really thought about it like that before to be honest. I just don’t see that I’m any different from anyone on the terraces. I’d hate it if I ever thought that people were going to treat me differently from anyone else, I hope I’m really just as down-to-earth as I was back in Canvey Island.’

Of course, no matter how approachable a player is off the field (and Keeley ranks •highly in that department), there will be little sympathy if he does not produce the goods on the pitch. No problems there though either. Last season John was one of just two ever-presents in the side, turning out 57 times and letting in only 47 goals one of the best records in the division.

johnkeeley4The return to Division Two in 1988/89 proved to be bumpy as Albion got off to a disastrous start of eight successive defeats. Keeley’s record of 63 consecutive appearances was broken when he ruptured thumb ligaments and missed the 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion in September 1988 (the match where Digweed was also injured). The ex-taxi driver returned to complete 37 League appearances by the season’s end and was voted Player of the Season. He was sold to Oldham Athletic for £240,000 in 1990 but rarely got a sniff of first team action at Boundary Park. After spells at Colchester, Chelmsford, Stockport County, Peterborough United and Chelmsford (again), he was back as a taxi driver and ended up playing for Isthmian League side Canvey Island.

There, he was part of a great FA Cup fairytale when his non-league side forced a replay with Brighton in November 1995:

Keeley was able to make a return to the Goldstone Ground later that month, to a great reception, where his side was defeated 4-1 by the Seagulls thanks to goals from John Byrne (2), Junior McDougald and Peter Smith, in Jimmy Case’s first game in charge: