When the fixtures were published for 1980/81, this vivid and confident fixture card design must have seemed apt:
Entering their second season in the First Division, Brighton had spent big on Rangers’ scheming attacker Gordon Smith and Manchester City’s hard-working Michael Robinson, both £400,000 purchases. The expectation was that a top half finish really was on the cards, with a rise in attendances to follow helping to pay for Mike Bamber’s spending bonanza.
Little did the club know, but the novelty of the top flight fixtures had worn off after one season. Made worse by the recession, fears of hooliganism and high ticket prices, this caused a financial meltdown of sorts, as Goldstone gate receipts in 1980/81 fell dramatically:
The season started as it would end, with victory at the Goldstone, but 1980/81 was to prove a traumatic struggle for the Seagulls, as form dipped and another relegation battle ensued.
This week, the story playing out is of Oscar Garcia’s resignation as head coach. Back in the summer of 1981, the man quitting the Seagulls was manager Alan Mullery. Both very different men, with very different personalities and strengths, but both felt moved to quit the Albion. Here is how Steve Curry and Philip Osborn from the Daily Express reported things on 13th June 1981:
Brighton manager Alan Mullery walked out on the club yesterday over a point of principle.
The former Spurs, Fulham and England player severed his five-year relationship with Brighton after a stormy disagreement with his board of directors about the future running of the club.
And Mullery, who flies off to Malta today for a two-week holiday with his family, described his feelings about leaving the side he led from the Third Division to the First.
He said: “At the end it was a matter of principle regarding certain things at the club. The directors wanted something to happen that I was not prepared to accept.
“It was nothing to do with the terms of a new contract or anything financial. I don’t really believe there would be any purpose going into details about why we have split. I am not one for mind-slinging.
“I didn’t think it would come to this because I had five very happy years there. We have had some great times, memorable days that I shall remember for the rest of my career.
“I shan’t forget it was Brighton who gave me my chance in management when I decided to pack in as a player at Fulham. I think I have been good for them and they have been good for me. But maybe the time has come to move on.”
Bamber, who offered Mullery a new three-year contract five weeks ago, flew out for a golfing holiday in Spain after the meeting, unaware of his manager’s decision.
He said from Spain last night: “I am shocked and absolutely amazed to learn of this but I will not stand him his way if that is what he wants. I can only presume he had something on his mind. Perhaps someone has tapped him for another job, but I don’t know that.”
Mullery, whose sometimes abrasive manner does not hide a talent for management, is unlikely to be out of work for long. He would appear to be a natural successor at West Brom to the extrovert Ron Atkinson, who moved to Manchester United.
In his autobiography from 2006, Mullery described proposed changes to his backroom staff as a bone of contention with Bamber:
“At the end of the season, he called me in and told me to sack all my backroom staff, including Ken Craggs and George Aitken who had worked so hard for the club. He even wanted to get rid of the kitman Glen Wilson who had been at Brighton for years. The club meant the world to him. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d fired these people. Bamber knew that; he was doing all he could to undermine me.”
There was also a disagreement over the sale of Mark Lawrenson. Although he accepted the need for a sale to raise money, Mullery had cut a deal with Ron Atkinson at Manchester United involving a player coming to Brighton from Old Trafford, whereas Bamber had done a cash-only deal with Liverpool.
With Mullery’s departure, it was a very sad and uncertain time for Seagulls’ fans.
Just like it is with Oscar Garcia in 2014, Alan Mullery felt that budget cuts at the club were undermining his ability to do his job in 1981. He also disliked how he was not able to get his voice heard and acted upon in the buying and selling of players. However, the Lawrenson deal apart, the axe in 1981 seemed to be falling more on the coaching staff rather than the players, although that may have been Bamber participating in mind games.
In their respective resignations, there are also parallels between Mullery’s thanking of the club for giving him his first opportunity in management and Garcia’s appreciation to Tony Bloom for his first chance in England. Lastly, it’s pure coincidence that upon leaving, both were tipped by some for the vacant position at West Bromwich Albion.
The fallout from Garcia’s resignation is still playing out. Now as the club ambassador, and as someone who has been through it all, I wonder what Alan Mullery makes of the situation today.
Juan Carlos Oblitas and Percy Rojas were not the only World Cup stars that Brighton & Hove Albion tried to sign in their glory years. According to Wikipedia, Prohaska was a deep-lying playmaker who is considered one of the best Austrian footballers of all time.
In January 1980, the Daily Express carried reports that the Seagulls were swooping for Prohaska’s services:
Brighton are set to make a spectacular swoop for Austrian World Cup star Herbert Prohaska (writes Ray Bradshaw).
The 24-year-old KF Austria (Vienna) midfield ace flies over for talks with Brighton chairman Mike Bamber on Tuesday after Albion moved in quickly to beat off a challenge from Leeds.
Brighton secretary Ken Calver confirmed last night that negotiations for Prohaska’s transfer have been concluded and they hope to clinch the deal next week.
Said Calver: “We have been given permission by his club to speak to him and we are confident we can persuade him to join us.”
Prohaska, who has won 35 caps for his country, is expected to sign a £250,000 deal if terms are satisfactory.
Brighton have collected £500,000 in transfer sales in the last two months and will still have cash in hand for another big signing if they land Prohaska.
Sadly, it was Inter Milan that proved to be Prohaska’s destination in 1980. He joined Roma in 1982 before returning to Austria Vienna year later. For his country, he earned 83 caps and played in both the 1978 and 1982 World Cups.
Years before the Argus followed, West Sussex Gazette had the foresight to use colour in its coverage of the Albion in the 1970s and 1980s. Here is its coverage of Brighton’s promotion parade in May 1979:
Brighton have made it. They gained promotion to Division 1 for the first time in their history with a 3-1 win at Newcastle on Saturday and after an emotional week-end manager Alan Mullery sounded out a warning to the big-guns Albion will be facing next season, writes Alan Thatcher.
“We are not going into Division 1 just to survive,” he said. “We want to make an impact and I know we have the players to do it.”
Above is the picture that sums up the players’ triumph – an open-topped bus journey through the streets of Brighton and Hove on Sunday morning. More than 100,000 delighted fans packed the roadside to cheer their heroes.
In just three years, Mullery has taken Brighton from Division III to a place amongst the country’s soccer elite – and now he is looking forward to meeting clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal next season. “Some of our players have never played in Division I before – but I know that men like Brian Horton and Mark Lawrenson will do well. Our Division I is the best in the world and that’s where players like these belong.”
Saturday’s champagne party in the North-East was followed by a delirious welcome home by crowds of Albion followers on Sunday. After the open-topped bus journey it was on to Hove Town Hall, where the Sussex stars waved from the balcony to thousands of supporters before a special reception from the mayors of the two boroughs.
Albion’s promotion was a just reward after missing out so narrowly last year, when they were pipped by Tottenham – Mullery’s old club – on goal difference. This season, Albion made an indifferent start – but a tremendous revival got under way in December to send them rocketing into the promotion stakes. The position at the top of Division II was so tense, with five clubs fighting tooth and nail for the three promotion places, that Brighton’s destiny was not resolved until their last match – at St James’s Park.
“We had to be positive,” said Mullery. “Before the game I told the players to outplay Newcastle, to attack and score goals. And that’s exactly what they did.”
Brighton chairman Mike Bamber was full of praise for Mullery and his almost magical touch. “I believe he is the best manager in the game,” he said. “Alan has the greatest thing in football – the will to win. Alan came to us three years ago without experience, but he has done a tremendous job.”
Looking ahead to next season, Mr. Bamber is hoping for massive support at the Goldstone – despite the club’s plans to look for a new ground on the outskirts of town. “I am sure we will get big gates. The towns of Brighton and Hove are waiting for it, just as the whole of Sussex is waiting for it. With big crowds and our fund-raising schemes due to bring in half a million pounds in the next year I am sure we can survive.”
But Mr. Bamber added: “I know we have got the worst ground in Division II, and it’s worse than many in Division III. But our talks with the local councils are at an advanced stage and before long we hope to move to a new home.
This will take care of all our problems and I hope it will cut down on vandalism as well.”
Goalscorers in the historic display at Newcastle were Brian Horton, Peter Ward and Gerry Ryan – all in the first half. Newcastle scored in the second half, but there was no stopping Albion’s march towards the big time.
Robert Covington’s photo from his flat in Sackville Road:
I fondly remember getting this book from Brighton’s Children’s Library on Church Street in the mid-1980s:
It was an incredible find! A real children’s book with our own local footballer, Peter O’Sullivan, as its subject!
Needless to say, I was fascinated at the time to find out all about the lifestyles of professional footballers. Little did I know that pros gave each other piggy backs to stay fit:
…had to put on ties for when seeing the club physio:
…and had All-Bran for breakfast as part of their carefully chosen diet:
After a visit to St Peter’s School in Cowfold, our hero was interviewed by Radio Brighton. Then, the climax of the book centred around the Brighton v Leicester City match in February 1979, a match which Albion won 3-1. Now, records show that Sully didn’t score that day. However, artistic licence from the authors Allan and Christine Haddrell ensured that Peter is credited for getting the clinching goal directly from a free-kick.
In November last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter O’Sullivan for Viva Brighton magazine (p.57). Towards the end, as well as giving him a spare copy, we got at the truth behind this beautiful book. He said: “Leave me alone! The book’s pretty frightening. I’ve tried to delete it from my memory. If you see here, I never did any warming up and stretching. The authors set me up with that one!
“And look at that – I didn’t score!”
Well, frankly, it doesn’t even look like Sully’s taking a free-kick, does it?.
At the end of the book, the players went on a plane to Jersey for a short holiday, which is well-documented in the Peter Ward biography as a disaster with Graham Moseley putting his hand through a glass window and the Albion players getting royally drunk. Good timing that this children’s book ended as the players got onto the British Caledonian plane!
Peter comments: “That was the worst weekend in history,” before correcting himself: “It was a good week. Sunday lunch – we had ten bottles of red wine, and they were gone in no time at all!”
But how the blazes did he get involved in a children’s book in the first place? Peter reveals all: “The chairman Mike Bamber asked me to do it. He said some guy is doing a children’s book. Will you do it? I said, all right. I don’t mind. He introduces me to this guy. Over a month or two we meet him once a week, sometimes at the ground and he’d take some photos. The players gave me some right stick: ‘Here’s that geezer again!’ It was a tough one! I thought I’d deleted all traces of the book from history, but many people have still got it. Classic! All I can say is the person behind it was a very good story teller, especially as I am still waiting for my money for that book! They truly stitched me up.”
If you wish to read the book in its entirety, you can see it from a desktop computer (with Adobe Flash installed) here, preserved online forever. Sorry, Peter!
Other books in the series include ‘A day with a stable girl’ 😛
It was boss Mike Bailey out, Jimmy Melia and George Aitken in, come December 1982. Having previously served as chief scout and chief coach, Brighton’s temporary managers helped to lift the gloom over the Goldstone Ground, caused by poor results, falling crowds and growing disharmony within the side:
Brighton are fighting for First Division survival after the departure of manager Mike Bailey. What hope for the club that brought football glory to Sussex by climbing from the Third Division to the First in three years but have since fought desperately to avoid relegation. SHOOT investigates Brighton’s catalogue of problems and turns the spotlight on Mike Bamber, the chairman who wants to be manager as well.
When Brighton were promoted to the First Division three seasons ago it seemed like a Iicence for the club to print money.
They had been magnificently supported, but the crowds melted away as two gritty battles against relegation were fought by Alan Mullery.
Then, last season under Mike Bailey, Brighton appeared to have turned the corner in finishing a respectable 13th, the highest position in their history.
Now, following Bailey’s departure early last month, Brighton, amid falling gates, are fighting all over again to establish themselves.
Alarmingly, there are cracks appearing in the Goldstone structure, and some disgruntled fans have even said they’d be better off in the Third Division.
It is a fact that Brighton have never attracted 30,000 crowd since they went up, yet there is well-heeled catchment area that hasn’t been visibly hit by the recession.
The season was only a few weeks old when two key international players, Steve Foster and Michael Robinson, asked for transfers. Then Nell McNab said the chairman’s involvement extended too far. McNab alleged that he picked the team.
Foster – staying for now
The fuss died down, and Foster and Robinson later said they were willing to stay. McNab, who is also on a lengthy contract, turned down a move sending him to Newcastle on loan, and has since joined Leeds United on a temporary transfer.
While the basis of Foster’s gripe was money he considered a rise was due after getting into England’s World Cup squad, Robinson’s quarrel, besides being financial, raised other questions.
He accused the club of lacking ambition, and this was triggered when Bamber refused to back Bailey up in giving Charlie George a month’s trial.
Robinson: Want-away striker
It was Robinson’s opinion that the chairman should also have given Bailey a contract. After putting his cards on the table, it looked as though Robinson would leave.
But he declined a berth at Sunderland, and was later wooed by Arsenal and QPR.
Foster’s dispute had been settled previously, and he did not identify with Robinson all the way. But McNab’s bluntness in challenging his chairman was a blockbuster.
Ward returns, replacing the Ward-replacement Andy Ritchie
Bamber brought about the return of Peter Ward, Brighton’s former record scorer, on loan from Nottingham Forest.
He saw him as not only a vital crowd-puller, but the man to link-up best with Robinson.
Brighton have only got him until the end of next month, but he did the business by scoring the winner against Manchester United on November 6 when the gate was a satisfying 18,398 – an increase of 8,000. The inclusion of Ward put Andy Ritchie’s nose temporarily out of joint, Brighton’s most expensive signing at £500,000 from Old Trafford stayed in the reserves for six weeks and only re-appeared when Bailey left.
And another big-money player, Gordon Smith, who cost £400,000 from Rangers, went back to Glasgow on a temporary transfer.
The principal reason was to help Rangers in the Scottish League Cup Final against Celtic. But all Smith got was a runners-up medal that was stolen the same night when his car was vandalised.
Smith, like most Brighton players, is also on a long engagement. But he’s in a whirl.
“When I get back to Brighton, I’ll have to introduce myself as a new signing.”
Perhaps Brighton’s biggest mistake was signing Mickey Thomas from Everton. Over £400,000 was involved, and the Wales international couldn’t put a foot right.
He gave domestic reasons for several acts of truancy that held Brighton up to ridicule. Fines and suspensions didn’t bring him into line. But once transferred to Stoke, Thomas showed his real worth.
Then he relaxed, and said: “Joining Brighton was the worst period of my life. Last season was just a horror story for me. I felt trapped there. They were in such a hurry to sign me, and soon everything got me down. And the system they played was so defensive that I got bored. I admit I was out of order in taking time off, but I should never have gone there in the first place.”
Brighton cannot afford another mistake like that, and it is very doubtful they will be able to recoup anything comparable to the fee paid for Smith.
Bamber disclaims responsibility, saying the down-turn in the market has put many clubs in trouble, and Brighton are no exception.
He is hoping that Jimmy Melia, in temporary charge, can lift the side…
The Melia era got off to a glorious start with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Norwich City on 11th December 1982, a win that suggested the side, now more attacking, had turned over a new leaf in the League. Here you can enjoy highlights from this match, Albion’s biggest victory in Division One that season:
Enjoy Jimmy Case’s rocket with his left foot, the close control and creative play of Peter Ward, and Andy Ritchie’s curling free-kick.
Unfortunately, it proved a false dawn. Albion failed to win their next ten League matches, a poor run that plunged the club from 18th to bottom of the division by the start of March. By then the media circus over the FA Cup run gripped the club and First Division survival became of secondary importance.
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.
Unsurprisingly, there was a massive media whirlwind around the sensational news that Brian Clough had taken over as the manager of Third Division Brighton. As a result, the story dominated the front page as well as the back page of the Evening Argus over the next few days. From Friday 2nd November 1973:
Albion fans will be at the Goldstone in their thousands tomorrow to give new manager Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor a rousing welcome.
The gate could well be around the 20,000 mark to greet Brighton’s greatest-ever capture. Nothing is being left to chance by a club whose crowds have bordered on an all-time low of 5,000.
The Goldstone office will remain open until 8pm today to deal with late season ticket applications. The first were made less than 20 minutes after the news broke yesterday afternoon that Messrs Clough and Taylor had agreed to join Albion on resigning from Derby County.
It was a coup that astonished the soccer world and a clearcut triumph for the Albion board led by chief negotiator, chairman Mike Bamber. After six days of talks it was the ebullient Clough who admitted: “It was a difficult decision to come. But I had an offer I couldn’t turn down. They were very persuasive, and I decided it was the best thing to do.”
As Clough returned to Derby by train, the rush started – by 4.30pm, 12 season tickets at £17.60 had been sold, and a brace of new members for the Vice-President’s Club at £50 a time applied to join.
Applications for season tickets and match tickets jammed the Goldstone lines today. There were so many calls that vice-chairman Harry Bloom gave the over-worked staff a hand dealing with inquiries.
But hardly surprising when an internationally famous manager and TV personality like Clough takes over.
Later today Mr Clough was due back at the Goldstone to introduce himself to the players. They will be taken to a hotel and remain overnight in preparation for the match against York City.
This is Mr Clough’s first rule, and it will be the form in the future.
Said Eddie Spearritt, the club captain: “I welcome his appointment. It is a tremendous thing for the club. I am only disappointed that I shall not be playing tomorrow, but I hope to be fit in a week.”
Tomorrow’s team has been selected by trainer Glen Wilson. There is every indication that his position will remain unchanged at the club.
Yesterday, he and Mr Clough had a preliminary talk about the playing strength. Mr Clough believes that between 16 and 17 players is too small. He said that directors had told him that money is available to buy players.
He hoped he would be able to motivate the present staff: “I have got to get it out of them. We are now in the bottom six of the Third Division. It will take a lot of hard work to get into the Second. Before anyone starts talking about the First, let’s get into the Second. I think I would settle for staying in the Third for a few months…”
Come Saturday, 16,017 packed into the Goldstone to watch the curious affair of Clough’s debut match as Brighton boss, almost 10,000 more than the previous gate against Southport. From Vinicombe’s report, it seems as if Albion had the lion’s share of the possession:
[Lammie] Robertson celebrated his recall to the side after being suspended by previous manager Pat Saward with a vigorous performance and on two occasions was unlucky not to score. At the back George Ley turned in an immaculate performance. York, now unbeaten for 14 matches, were contained for so long that they did not manage a corner until the 54th minute by which time Albion had no fewer than nine.
The constant bombardment on City’s goal continued until the pulsating finish. Albion have found their heart again. Support for Albion was tremendous. Every time a player in blue and white touched the ball the crowd went wild.
The 0-0 draw left Brighton in 19th position, barely above water in the fight against relegation. Clearly, there was a lot of work to do by the new men in charge with players who Taylor later described as ‘a bunch of amateurs and layabouts.’
Here is the Evening Argus front page from exactly forty years ago, on 1st November 1973:
Penning by far the biggest story of his journalist career, John Vinicombe wrote:
Brian Clough is the new manager of Brighton and Hove Albion.
This astonishing soccer coup was pulled off last night in a Derby hotel and this afternoon 37-year-old Clough, former manager of Derby County, signed a contract at the Goldstone.
So ended six days of non-stop negotiations between Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor and Albion chairman Mike Bamber and vice-chairman Harry Bloom.
Yesterday Messrs Bamber and Bloom visited Derby for talks with Clough – the sixth day negotiations have been going on.
Albion, seeking an early replacement for Pat Saward, who was sacked last week, first contacted Clough on Friday. The two parties met on Saturday night and there has been an exchange of telephone calls since then.
Clough has said he would not object to joining a club outside the First Division provided that the set-up was right. Albion have already said that they would not object to Clough continuing his television and newspaper activities – the main reason behind his resignation from Derby.
Albion could face opposition from Nottingham Forest, whose manager, Dave Mackay, left towards the end of the week to take over the Derby post.
Meanwhile, Bamber was kept busy this morning with his other main interest – a property development company which was today moving from London to new offices in the main Goldstone stand.