Tag Archives: john phillips

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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The Brighton goalkeeper shirt of the late 1970s

Once I found a green Bukta jersey with black logo on eBay, there was no stopping me! I won the auction for a tenner in late July and then hatched plans to get the classic round Seagulls badge added – and hey presto! – I now have a replica of the goalkeeper top worn during the late 1970s. And yes, I appreciate the number of people for whom this has any sartorial interest is probably rather limited.


As far as minor variations, the tight-fitting top was worn by goalkeeping rivals Graham Moseley and Eric Steele from the 1977/78 to 1979/80, sometimes with the Bukta lettering, and sometimes with the Buk symbol…


Sometimes, it featured both the Buk and logotype, as Graham Moseley ably demonstrates…


There was even a red version, for the times when Brighton played a team with green on their kit, such as Norwich City. The Old Football Shirts website includes the red goalkeeper’s top here.

Green or red, it would be a stretch to describe the goalkeeper’s shirt as a design classic. However, it’s undoubtedly associated with the good times at the Goldstone, so much so that there was even an Eric Steele poster in the centrefold in the Derby v Brighton programme of October 1986, with him proudly wearing his Albion clobber seven years on together while showing off John Vinicombe’s ‘Up, Up and Away’ book celebrating Brighton’s rise to Division One in 1979. You read it right – a Brighton poster in a Derby County programme!


(Although those shorts look rather like the blue Bukta ones, they’re actually Derby’s of 1986/87).

Talking to Harry Brown, Steele is optimistic about Derby’s chances that season:

“Things are on the move here,” Eric says confidently. “It reminds me of my very happy stay at Brighton. I was part of the Seagulls set up from February 1976 till October 1979, when I moved on to Watford. In that time we moved from the Third to the First Division in three seasons, and I have very happy memories of the Goldstone and its fans. We packed them in up to 25,000 in fact, and I can see it all stirring again just like that here at the Baseball Ground.

Eric believes, as most of his team mates do, that Derby County can equal Brighton’s feat, and maybe even improve on it, by going from Third to First in two seasons. “I want to taste yet another Third to First Divsion success, and I believe it is ‘on.’ That’s why I stayed here to battle it out with Mark (Wallington).

Last May’s promotion here was the fifth in which Eric has been involved during his career – the two with Brighton; from the Fourth to the Third with Peterborough; and from the Second to the First with Watford. He reckons he will contribute to the sixth right here at the Baseball Ground.

He sees the same sort of individual flair emerging here as it did at the Goldstone when he was a Brighton player. “Then we had Mark Lawrenson, who has gone on to great things at Liverpool, Derby-born Peter Ward who was getting us goals galore, Welsh international Peter O’Sullivan, and Brian Horton, now the player-manager at Hull.”

Steele made it promotion number six when with Derby County who won the Second Division championship in 1986/87. He left for Southend at the end of that campaign. When he was loaned to Mansfield in March 1988, he made one last appearance at the Goldstone.

As for the Seagulls’ Bukta goalkeeper shirt, it officially gave way when Brighton switched to Adidas from the start of 1980/81. However, in the pre-season photo shoot for that campaign, the green Adidas shirt was clearly not yet ready and so an extra Albion badge had to be sewn on to conceal the Bukta logo, to create a rather bizarre look. That’s one retro Albion goalkeeper’s top I won’t be emulating!

Tony Knight, Graham Moseley and John Phillips

Tony Knight, Graham Moseley and John Phillips with a seagull on each nipple

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