Tag Archives: pat saward

Kit Napier gets back among the scorers


Kit Napier is rightly considered an Albion legend. He was a ball-playing attacker, skilful with both feet, and with tremendous talent for goalscoring. At the Goldstone, Napier’s class and quick-witted play endeared him to the crowds. After being top scorer for the Albion in four of the previous five campaigns, Napier again was having a prolific season in 1971/72 as the Albion flew high in the Third Division.

From Goal magazine on 18th March 1972:

While Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Notts County have been stealing the promotion headlines this season, Brighton, strugglers for part of last term, have slid quietly into a threatening position and are poised for a takeover bid that could shoot them into the Second Division.

Much of the credit for the Hove team’s confident aspirations must go to manager Pat Saward, the former Coventry coach. Saward worked himself to a standstill last season to make the players believe in themselves.

Now his determination and drive have brought their own reward. His players have responded to his inspiring example and are playing the best football the team has produced since Albion were promoted from the Fourth Division in 1965.

One player to benefit from Saward’s hard work is 27-year-old striker Kit Napier. The player who has played over 200 first team games and scored more than 70 goals is once again among the club’s leading scorers.

His goals could be instrumental in bringing Second Division soccer to the Goldstone Ground for the first time in 10 years. Kit has spent only five of those years with the club, but he believes that the club is now ready to leap into Division Two and stay there.

Says Kit: “There isn’t a better team than us in the Third Division and I really fancy our chances of going up. Once we get there I don’t think we’ll have trouble staying up.

“The standard of football we are playing this season is so high that if we were in the Second Division now we would probably be pushing for promotion.

“We would not have any trouble with the financial burden of playing in a higher division either. Brighton has a a tremendous crowd potential as was proved by that 30,000 crowd we had at Christmas against Bournemouth. If we were in the First Division I’m sure we could get gates of 40,000 regularly.

“Possibly the only trouble with our fans is that they are a bit fickle. We have a few bad results and they start to stay away. But they come round in the end. Ad for myself, they’ve always treated me fairly.”

That is why northerner Napier, who was previously with Blackpool, Preston, Workington and Newcastle is so happy down south.

“Brighton are the best club I’ve been with,” says Kit. “My wife and I are happy. We never had any bother settling down here. It is such a nice town. I much prefer it to living up north.

“The only regret of my career is that I never had more of a chance in the First Division when I was at Newcastle. I only played nine games for them.

Having played for five clubs Kit has a vast experience of the wide differences and he believes that the third Division is the hardest to play in.

“In the First Division you have time to play the ball,” explains Kit. “but in the Third Division you don’t have that time.

“But the quality of the football is definitely improving.

“You’ve got good teams like Aston Villa coming down or Bournemouth coming up. And of course the referees clampdown has helped things as well. It has certainly helped me my play. Now he is determined to achieve his ambition – to win something. “All the clubs I’ve been with before Brighton have never done well,” says Kit, “So I’d be happy and satisfied just to win promotion with them.”

The way he and his team-mates are playing, Napier could be in the Second Division next season.

By the end of the 1971/72 season, Kit Napier was top scorer once more with sixteen League goals, although this feat was equalled by Willie Irvine. Albion won promotion, as runner-up after a phenomenal season of attacking play.

In the Second Division Division the following season, Napier’s optimism was dashed as Brighton’s campaign was unhinged by lack of funds and his falling out with manager Pat Saward. Made just three appearances before being sold to Blackburn Rovers for £15,000 in August 1972.


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European Sky Blues – the future Albion stars that beat Bayern Munich

The proof-readers must have been on holiday, because the matchday programme for Brighton’s recent pre-season friendly with Norwich City carried this juicy blunder:

Norwich are the only English side to have beaten Bayern Munich in European competition.

Well, apart from Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham, of course. Three of those were in the final of the European Cup (or Champions League), so it was a sizeable gaffe that deserves to be squelched. And, in an act that might inspire some Jimmy Hill chin-stroking style incredulity, Coventry City have also defeated Bayern Munich. Yes, that’s right. And it was in the decade when Bayern were crowned champions of Europe three times. What is more, the Sky Blues did it with a quite a few players who went on to ply their trade with Brighton & Hove Albion several years later.


Autumn 1970. Ex-Eire international midfielder Pat Saward had recently left the coaching staff at Coventry City, where he had nurtured the youngsters of Highfield Road to the FA Youth Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. However, now a much bigger challenge loomed, as the prospect of relegation threatened to engulf his first campaign as Brighton manager. Having finished fifth in the previous campaign under Freddie Goodwin, Albion had started 1970/71 with a measly two wins in ten matches. So Saward went back to old club to replenish his side in the face of an injury crisis. He emerged with the reserves’ tough centre-half Ian Goodwin on loan. As John Vinicombe wrote of Saward in the Evening Argus:

He well remembered Goodwin, a 6ft central defender, who at 20 was still learning his trade. Goodwin, all 13st of him, had lost his first team place after four appearances when City splashed £100,000 on Wednesday’s Wilf Smith.

The transfer struck a chord with Saward, who during his career at City had tried to sign Goodwin’s younger brother. Ian only turned up at Highfield Road as a driver for the 15-year-old kid. Saward recalled: “We happened to be short of a player and asked Ian to show us what he could do and he turned in such a good performance that he had a month’s trial and stayed.”

Two years later Goodwin answered Saward’s SOS and breezed into the office, declaring: “Have no fear, Goodwin is here.” That self introduction was typical of Goodwin, who became a breath of fresh air to Albion’s dressing room.

“You can relax,” he beamed. “From now on it’s going to be wins all the way.” Now Saward was no mean motivator himself, but with Goodwin having joined the ranks, initially on a short-term arrangement, spirits began to soar.

Goodwin’s boast proved empty as Albion continued to fall, from 17th place in early November to as low as 23rd in late March 1971 before rallying to finish a respectable 14th position.

As for Coventry, the Sky Blues had much, much bigger fish to fry. The Midlanders had finished sixth in the First Division in 1969/70, which opened the way to the first and only European campaign in their history, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Once they progressed past the first round, having beaten Trakia Plovdiv 4-1 in Bulgaria before a 2-0 win at Highfield Road, Coventry then drew mighty Bayern Munich.

The Sky Blues line-up at the Olympic Stadium in Munich was:
McManus, Coop, Cattlin, Machin, Blockley, Strong, Hunt, Carr, Martin, O’Rourke, Clements.

cov-chriscattlin2So that’s three players there that went on to join Brighton. Left-back on the night was the ever-dependable Chris Cattlin. He had a distinguished career at Highfield Road after signing from Huddersfield for a record fee for a full-back, £80,000, in March 1968. On the Sent From Coventry blog he said recently: “I was a long, lanky lump and I wouldn’t dive in. I’d trap the attackers in the corner then wallop them. I had a great relationship with the fans at Coventry. They knew what they were going to get from me.” He was transferred to Brighton for no fee in summer 1976 as Peter Taylor’s last signing for the Albion, and his stiffening of the defence (when ousting Ken Tiler from right-back mid-way through the season) made such a huge contribution to Brighton clinching promotion to Division One in 1978/79.

cov-machinMidfielder Ernie Machin also played in Germany on that evening. This energetic and skilful player eventually came to the Goldstone Ground via Plymouth in summer 1974. Although he was appointed captain, he never settled on the south coast, and still lived in Coventry and trained in the Midlands. Released at his own request in 1976, he eventually returned to Coventry briefly as youth team coach.

cov_neilmartinCoventry’s lanky striker Neil Martin also didn’t last very long as an Albion player. Signed by Taylor in summer 1975 as a freebie from Nottingham Forest, he left for arch rivals Crystal Palace in March 1976 after losing his place.

In the first leg, Coventry went down 6-1 to Bayern.

For the return leg, Neil Martin kept his place and scored the winner in a famous 2-1 victory. Cattlin and Machin dropped out, and Wilf Smith and Dennis Mortimer were promoted to the side:
Glazier, Coop, Smith, Mortimer, Blockley, Hill, Hunt (Joicey sub), Carr, Martin, O’Rourke, Clements.

cov-Wilf-SmithWilf Smith had been born as Wilfred Schmidt in Neumünster, Germany before his parents decided to Anglicise his name. He had joined Coventry from Sheffield Wednesday for £100,000, a record fee for a full-back, in summer 1970. It was this move that led to unsettled Goodwin joining Pat Saward’s Albion. The classy Smith also came to Albion on loan from Coventry in October 1974, but Albion could not afford the fee to make the deal permanent.

cov-mortimerFinally in this exodus-of-sorts to the Goldstone, Dennis Mortimer. At the time of the Bayern clashes, he was just eighteen years old, eventually playing 193 Division One games for the Sky Blues before a successful move to Aston Villa. He joined Albion much later in 1985, signed by Chris Cattlin, now Brighton manager, on a free transfer. By that time, Mortimer was reaching the end of his career and yet his powerful performances with Brighton made him a firm favourite at the Goldstone Ground. The influential midfielder had already notched up another victory over Bayern Munich, in the 1982 European Cup Final as Villa skipper.

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Book of Football: Part 69 (Brighton)

As covered in a previous post about the life and times of Norman Gall, the Book of Football was a weekly partwork from the early 1970s, building up to an authoritative encyclopaedia of the game over the course of 75 weeks. I bet, if you around then and had collected every issue over a year and half, you’d quite rightly have been very satisfied with yourself. And wouldn’t think anything of it as you proceeded to bring all six volumes down the pub and proceeded to bore your friends with your newly acquired knowledge on football tactics, club histories and goalscoring feats…!

Nearing the end of the completion of Marshall Cavendish’s series, came Part 69 which featured Peter O’Sullivan, Willie Irvine (face partially concealed) and Kit Napier, three happy men in their running shorts, celebrating an astonishing team-goal in March 1972.


As the inside cover says:

One of the highlights of the 1971-72 season for Brighton. Kit Napier congratulates Willie Irvine after his goal which gave Brighton the lead in the vital promotion match against Aston Villa. Brighton won 2-1 and Irvine’s fine goal was featured on Match of the Day.

And what a diamond of a goal it was!

Inside we are treated to another colour photo (of Kit Napier, number 8, and Ken Beamish, on the floor) plus a potted history of Brighton & Hove Albion. Written very concisely, it charts a local Brighton college’s acceptance of the Rules of Association Football in 1872 (yes, the dark ages before Brighton & Hove Albion were formed), through to the creation of the club, the Southern League days, Brighton winning the Charity Shield (also against Villa), through to victory in Division Three (South) in 1958, to Pat Saward’s then current struggles as his charges flopped in the early months of Second Division football in 1972/73.


There are also some excellent illustrations of the coat of arms the club used in the 1960s and early 1970s, as well as some mostly accurate drawings of the home and away kit (persnickety alert: the only omissions were the red lettering on the home shirt and some white hoops from the away socks). Together with Brighton’s season-by-season record in the League and FA Cup, it all makes for a splendid portrayal of what the Albion was like back then and its relative stature to other club within the football world. And if you want more, there’s all the other 74 parts you can read too!


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Why Pat Saward had to go – by Mike Bamber


From the Evening Argus, 23 October 1973, by John Vinicombe:

The dismissal of Albion manager Pat Saward was confirmed today at the Goldstone Ground by chairman Mike Bamber.

Mr Bamber met Mr Saward and after a meeting with the players, he said: “Pat Saward has been sacked. The decision was made after the game with Shrewsbury on Saturday evening. The parting has been on the cards for some weeks but there is no ill-feeling between us,” said Mr Bamber.

“I have seen Pat Saward. He is very upset and very sick. I would also feel very sick. But we have had six home defeats and are down to crowds of 5,000 wonderful people. No club can live on such gates.

“The running of the team is the manager’s responsibility. I feel sorry for managers in a way but if they want to be managers it is up to them.

“Naturally, some of the players are upset at him going. But I have just had a meeting with the players and morale is high.

“We will come to an agreement with Mr Saward over his contract. We have not approached anybody and will be advertising the job and hope to get a really top manager.

“Money will be available for players. It is not easy to get them and we have been after half a dozen this year without success.”

Club captain Eddie Spearritt told me that Mr Saward was backed by the players and they did not want him to leave.

Spearritt himself communicated the same message weeks ago at the same time that joint chairman Len Stringer resigned from the Board.

It was then felt that Mr Saward was in a position of receiving full support from the directors and indeed this was the message conveyed when Mr Bamber took over as head of the club executive.

Mr Saward has three and a half years of his contract to run and today he visited the ground for the last time and told me he wanted to think about his position and whether or not he would comment on his departure.

Confessed Saward: “I still cannot believe it has happened. But I will say nothing to knock the club, nothing at all. Of what happened yesterday, I can remember very little. The reason I have been sacked is that they say I can no longer motivate the players. What I need now is a holiday to get away from it all.”

In the meantime Glen Wilson, the trainer, is responsible for running the playing side of the club, assisted by Ray Crawford, who is now youth coach.

Tomorrow night, Albion are at home to Southport and today the players were training very much down in the dumps.

The atmosphere in the dressing room was solemn, although Spearritt admitted that two players were not unanimous in their support of Mr Saward.

Saward’s departure was on the agenda as Brighton had suffered six successive home defeats at the start of the 1973/74 campaign.

It was a rude re-awakening to Third Division football, after the club had played such pulsating football to finish runners-up in 1971/72. This promotion had led to a calamitous season in Division Two, when the Albion finished bottom of the table. Now back in Division Three, the side’s slump continued. It was relegation, not promotion, that was on the horizon and this ultimately cost Saward his job.

Other bad news was to follow that day when Saward’s club car received a parking ticket outside the Goldstone.


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Think big! Pat Saward wields his baseball bat


Here’s manager Pat Saward showing off a momento from an American trip that went a long way towards changing his football thinking. As he said in Football League Review in 1972:

“I asked a lot of questions from people in the know. They told me you have to think big to get anywhere. We think big. We may be a Third Division team but we all think in terms of being a First Division outfit. If you don’t think big in football you’ll never win anything.”

Saward was a highly respected player with Millwall, Aston Villa, Huddersfield Town and Coventry City before hanging up his boots at the age of 33 to break into management as assistant to Noel Cantwell at Coventry. There his re-education in the game began. On a close-season tour to the United States, he realised the extent to which English football has to catch up on the public relations side. “I learned a hell of a lot out there. They get into a frenzy about the game in America because they’re so involved. This is how I want everyone at Brighton to be now.”

“My big mistake when I came here was still thinking in terms of the First Division. I had a First Division outlook and did not adapt at first to the differing problems of the Third Division. But it was a natural mistake to make. We’ve had no money to speak of for rebuilding. Everyone is looking for the best, aiming for Mount Everest, but you have to adjust your sights. Even so, not every player will do for me. I want players with character, the Maurice Setters type.

“We loaned Brian Bromley from Portsmouth before eventually signing him permanently and it was the best move I’ve made. You know, I look on players in two ways. There are some I feel uneasy about when they get the ball, others I sit back and watch quite relaxed. Brian is one of the latter. He’s an exceptional player, one who instils and builds confidence in those around him. He can do anything I ask for because he has both ability …and character.”


“I realise now how teachers feel when they see all their thoughts and ideas, all their long hours of patient work bearing fruit. Management is a vocation. You get wonderful satisfaction out of moulding players to your ideals. When you see young kids coming through and developing you get a fantastic feeling of satisfaction. It’s great.”

Saward’s positive approach spurred Brighton to winning promotion to the Second Division in 1972, after a season of all-out attacking play that yielded 43 away goals in the League.

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Willie Irvine: How Promotion Was Won in ’72


In ‘Together Again,’ the autobiography of former Burnley, Preston, Brighton and Halifax hotshot Willie Irvine, he recounts the story of how Albion’s scintillating all-out attacking play achieved promotion from Division Three in 1971/72. Alongside the equally prolific Kit Napier, his sixteen League goals made him the club’s joint top scorer. Irvine’s strikes against Torquay, Halifax, Walsall (FA Cup) and Bristol Rovers were all in the dying minutes, earning him the nickname ‘Late Goal Willie.’ He also scored this incredible goal against Aston Villa:

More on that later!

Unusually, but effectively, the classy Northern Ireland international reminisces about the famous season through the context of a booklet from those times:

Among my few bits and pieces of memorabilia is a torn, battered, moth-eaten copy of a little programme-sized souvenir booklet produced by Chris Bale, who was sports editor of the Brighton and Hove Gazette. It’s a story in pictures of that memorable season, one of the happiest and most rewarding I spent.


I look at it now and all the best memories come back as if the 30 years and that have passed by since that year have melted away. It says on the blurb it was the most exciting season since Albion had won promotion from the Third Division 14 years earlier.

I flick through the pages and am reminded of the chairman Tom Whiting, Pat Saward’s right-hand man Mike Yaxley, Ray Crawford the coach, and a bloke called Joe Wilson who had been at the club in one capacity or other since Noah’s Ark first hit the waves.

The pages of the booklet aren’t even numbered but there I am on the first page that hits you, scoring against Bradford City, soaring like an eagle, eyes on the ball, shirt flapping, hair flying. Bang, back of the net, bloody magic.


Next page, scoring the winning goal on our home ground, seizing on a faulty back pass and going round their keeper to make sure it goes in. “Willie’s coolness in these situations shows his international class”. Chris Bales’ words, not mine.


Next page: two pictures of me, one back to the camera, slim, muscular, striped shirt, number 9 big and bold on the back, Bertie Lutton slamming the ball home. Under that one is me talking a pot shot, great picture, almost horizontal above the ground; damn, missed.


Next page, after 7 games, seventh in the table, five points behind Bournemouth at the top, Albion’s most unusual goal comes next and I’m responsible for it; a goalmouth scramble, me in the middle of it, the Chesterfield goalkeeper thinks I have fouled him and stops playing and puts the ball down for a free kick. He walks back a couple of yards to take the free kick and everyone bar just one player walks back to take up new positions. But that’s just one problem. The referee hasn’t blown for any foul so Kit Napier, cool as you like, puts the ball into the back of the net. Mayhem, stunned Chesterfield players. Stunned Brighton players for that matter; Albion 2 Chesterfield 1. Who gets the other? Me.


Nearly half-way through the booklet: 22 games played, Brighton fifth, five points behind Notts County, Brian Bromley scores; me, arms raised in joy, and a dejected Mansfield number 5.


The middle pages of the souvenir have us all smiling and holding champagne glasses. I’ve wangled myself a position in the centre of the picture, hair all over my face. Pat Saward, just to my left, looking cool and calm as if this kind of thing happens every day, but as a former male model this could be his photograph face. Good-looking fella.


Page whatever it is – it’s a bugger they’re not numbered – and we go second: Albion 3 Wrexham 2, one from me.


And then the big one, the promotion crunch game, at home to Villa. It was a win that really made us think and believe we could do it: win promotion and get our names into Brighton history books. There were a few drinks that night. The BBC cameras were there for that game and there, next to the Villa page, there’s a picture of me scoring and the goal was voted by BBC viewers into Goal of the Season runners-up.


Next page, Ken Beamish is pictured with a flying header. He was a £35,000 bargain and demonstrated that the saying “the early bird catches the worm” is absolutely true. Pat Saward left Brighton at 5am one morning to sign him. I’ve half an idea he signed him from Tranmere, who we played the next day.


Albion 3 Blackburn 0 and I scored. I always seemed to score against Blackburn so when I see their old centre half Derek Fazakerley, I always say, “You won’t recognise me now, will you?” He always asks why. “Because all you ever saw was my back and you could never keep up,” I reply.


Now here’s the back end of the booklet. Did we by some quirk play Rochdale twice in the final two games?


The final table reads: Aston Villa top with 70 points and then us in second place with 65 points, just three ahead of Bournemouth. Absolute jubilation.


It’s a priceless memento – in spite of my ridiculous Mexican bandit moustache, plus the obligatory ’70s hairstyle. Eat your heart out, Omar Sharif. We all had those big hairstyles then. I just wish I had some left today and didn’t look quite so old.”


Such was Willie Irvine’s tremendous form in 1971/72 for the Albion that he fought his way back into the Northern Ireland team in the summer of 1972. Here, he gets an assist for Terry Neill’s winner against England at Wembley in the Home Internationals:

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