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:
In Part 60 of Marshall Cavendish’s ‘Football Handbook’ in the late 1970s, there is a superb account of Brighton’s First Division debut against Arsenal on the opening day of the 1979/80 season:
From the Fourth Division to the First in 14 years – that’s the Brighton & Hove Albion success story. Handbook went behind the scenes for Brighton’s baptism of fire against FA Cup holders Arsenal, and discovered how nerves and lack of experience played a big part in the Seagulls’ day-one disaster…
August 18, 1979 should have been the greatest day in Brighton & Hove Albion’s history–their first match ever in Division One. Unfortunately, Arsenal were to spoil the celebrations…
Before the match the team meets in the usual hotel. The old brigade who clinched promotion for Brighton chat noisily, while the new boys – like John Gregory, bought in the summer from Villa – smile nervously on the edge of it all.
Peter Ward sits alone and bleary-eyed. He has been up all night while his wife gave birth to their second daughter.
There’s a studied air of calm about the Brighton squad, but the prospect of making their First Division debuts has several of them inwardly buckling with nerves.
This, and the fact that FA Cup holders Arsenal are the visitors, has given everyone the flutters. All the Gunners’ players are familiar to the Brighton lads. Arsenal receive enough press exposure and TV coverage for a team-talk to be almost unnecessary. Alan Mullery concentrates on morale.
‘They’ve only got two feet, same as you. They might pass the ball better than Second Division sides, but they also let teams play which Second Division teams don’t do. We’re not going to respect anyone in this League – we’re going to chase, fight and tackle.’
Mullery to Maybank: ‘Ted, I want you back in our area for corners. I don’t care how tired you are, you’ve got to get back to knock that ball away with your head.’
Before they board the coach that will take them to the Goldstone Ground, Mullery tries one last piece of basic psychology. ‘Now listen. We know them, but I’ve just been talking to their physio, Fred Street, and they haven’t a clue what to expect from us.
‘You beat Arsenal today and you’ll believe in yourselves for the rest of the season.’
As the coach nears the ground, the jitters begin to surface again. Maybank senses the mood and tries to defuse it with a joke. ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic,’ comes his Corporal Jones impersonation from the back of the bus.
Inside the ground, the atmosphere is electric: a pipe and drum band march past the brand new stand, and then the Albion players emerge in their ‘civvies’ to walk around the pitch and acknowledge the fans’ tumultuous applause.
Ten minutes later they re-emerge. This time it’s for real – and within minutes Brighton’s First Division career has begun. After 60 seconds Talbot and Horton tangle and the free-kick to Albion bobbles tantalisingly around the Arsenal box. Ryan latches on to it, wriggles through and swivels to send in a left-footer which the shovel-sized hands of Jennings tip away at full stretch.
Three minutes later it’s Ryan again. This time the toe-end of Willie Young’s despairing lunge relieves the pressure. The Brighton crowd scream their support. Although Ryan yet again comes close, Arsenal are starting to settle. Their offside trap is beginning to frustrate Mullery’s men and, ominously, the Rix-Brady shuttle service is starting to roll down the left.
Then, inside the space often bewildering minutes, Brighton’s dreams come crashing down around them. First Stapleton receives from Sunderland to crash a 20-yarder past Eric Steele; before Brighton have time to reflect on the seeming injustice of it all, Arsenal make it two – from Brady’s freekick, Young’s header drops to Sunderland, who nods in from a yard out.
By half-time Brighton are dead. Rix lofts a pass through the middle. Sunderland delays his run and then sprints past Rollings and scoops the ball over Steele. The keeper gets a palm to it but the ball still drops into the net; 0-3.
As Albion troop in disconsolately at the break, Mullery tells them, ‘You’ve lost the game. Now get out there and start again with a clean slate…’
But it’s all gone flat. Only the jigging of the Arsenal contingent breaks the silence as they mimic the ‘Sea-gulls’ chant with one of ‘Three goals, three goals’. And then a Brady penalty makes it four in the second half to really rub Brighton’s noses in it.
As Brighton file sadly into the dressing-room at the end, their big day ruined, Terry Neill comments, ‘We posed them a few more problems than they’re used to. But I’m sure Alan Mullery is not the type of individual to get discouraged.’
Though bitterly disappointed, Mullery still finds time to praise Arsenal and pinpoint the difference between the sides. ‘They taught us a lesson in cold, clinical finishing,’ he says.
‘It was like a Clint Eastwood movie. Out came the guns, and bang bang – we were dead…’
Under the title ‘Frank’s zapper’, Football Handbook then turned its attention to Frank Stapleton’s goal:
The most meaningful lessons are usually the most painful to learn – in life, in football.
For Brighton and Hove Albion the moment of truth came on the opening day of the season, their first-ever First Division contest.
FA Cup winners Arsenal were the visitors.., and the teachers.
All the exuberance that took Brighton to promotion hardly dented the composure of silky Arsenal, to whom First Division pressure was nothing new.
Manager Mullery’s ‘treat it like a cup tie’ approach – ‘we’re going to chase, fight and tackle’ – lost all significance once Arsenal took the lead approaching half-time.
Brighton had had most of the play and, like an underdog boxer, must have fancied their chances of an upset.
And, like many a ‘softener’ for the knock-out blows to follow, the goal that put them firmly in their place had an almost dream-like essence to it.
Inertia ruled among the Brighton players as Sammy Nelson played the ball down the left to Alan Sunderland.
He was given space to cross where he liked and almost certainly aimed deep for Brian Talbot, who had made a typical run behind the home defence.
His mishit went straight to Stapleton instead. Stapleton stumbled. The crowd laughed. Stapleton recovered but his shot from 20 yards was hardly a hammer blow.
Nevertheless, it went in, the ball looping over the despairing Eric Steele.
If that was a dream-like moment, it soon became a nightmare as Arsenal added two more quick goals before half-time.
In the end it was a humiliating 0-4 scoreline, a result that Mullery rightly saw as a lesson in cold, clinical finishing.
In 1979, Brighton & Hove Albion achieved their dream of reaching the top flight. Unsurprisingly, the Evening Argus marked the achievement with a 40 paged ‘Division One – Here We Come’ supplement.
This included a seven-part review of the season, an Alan Mullery eulogy by John Vinicombe, a discussion of the club’s prospects in the First Division plus pen pictures of the squad. All in black and white newsprint… which is where this foray into colour comes in: on the final page, it says:
To obtain a free full-colour folder celebrating Albion’s promotion, fans can collect vouchers from six different days’ issues of the Evening Argus, starting on Monday. Each voucher carries the name of a different Albion player. The folder, printed on art paper, includes a team picture in full colour. You can use it as a cover for this souvenir supplement or alternatively as a wall poster – or both if you collect two sets of vouchers.
All you had to do was bring your vouchers to any Evening Argus office on or after Wednesday 23rd May or send it off to the Argus promotions department.
Here is the front cover, with Brian Horton apparently jumping for joy in front of a delirious home crowd. On closer inspection, you can see his body has been cut out and crudely superimposed on the background. All done without Photoshop:
As for the centre spread, there is a marvellous team photo. I’m sure that would have made the wall of many supporters at the time:
Finally, the back page features action shots of key players Mark Lawrenson, Peter O’Sullivan, Teddy Maybank and Peter Ward:
A retro piece from ‘Seagull News’ from its Autumn Edition 1991 gave the rundown on what Peter O’Sullivan was up to after hanging up his boots:
A former Albion star who thrilled thousands with his displays of attacking football is now providing cover in his role as an insurance consultant.
Peter O’Sullivan, known affectionately as Sully, was the Seagulls’ longest serving post-war player with over 400 League games to his credit.
The former Welsh international – he played three matches, two against Scotland and one against Malta scored over 40 goals while with the Albion in his position as a raiding left-winger.
Now living with his wife in Shoreham, Sully reflects happily on his years with the Albion, when he served under five managers who included Freddie Goodwin, Pat Saward, Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and Alan Mullery.
“Often when fans see me they recount the times I appeared to them to tear along the line with the ball in pursuit of a goal,” he says, adding modestly: “I always have a quiet smile at their memory of the events. The truth is I never had any real pace at all.”
He had his debut with the Albion in August 1970 with a Division 3 home match against Torquay and scored his first goal for the club two months later against Rochdale.
Sully, who was on Manchester United’s books before joining Brighton, was part of the team which won promotion from the Third to the Second Division while with the Albion.
After leaving Brighton he had spells at Fulham, and San Diego, where he played against such players as Becenbauer, Cruyff and George Best.
Looking trim and spritely for his 40 years, Sully returned to the game last year when he provided valuable support in helping County Leaguers Newhaven get promotion.
He played with the team because of his friendship with Andy Rollins, a former Albion team-mate. “I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was good to help a friend, but I haven’t any future ambitions in that direction. Not at the moment, anyway,” added Sully.
The only patch of green grass he currently plays on can be found on a golf course. Always a keen golfer, he now plays off a single-figure handicap.
On 13th April 1979, Brighton beat relegation-threatened Charlton Athletic 2-0 to cement their place at the top of the Second Division. Five months later, an action shot of Martin Chivers and Peter O’Sullivan even made it onto the cover of Roy of the Rovers magazine:
Here’s the match report from Jack Steggles of the Daily Express:
The South Coast took on a carnival atmosphere yesterday a Brighton kept bang on course for promotion from the Second Division.
The glorious weather brought a crowd of 30,859 – the second biggest of the season – to see the league leaders.
Brighton added a refreshingly different touch by adding the Ray Shields Big Band at the cost of £600.
They welcomed the Seagulls onto the pitch with ‘In The Mood’ – which is what Brighton were in a blistering opening spell.
They tore Charlton to pieces with superb football and should have been two up before the impressive Paul Clark – ‘The Tank’ to Brighton fans – achieved the breakthrough with a magnificent 11th minute goal.
A free-kick from Peter O’Sullivan was headed away by Peter Shaw to Clark, who brought it down with his right foot and struck a left foot volley of unbelievable power from 25 yards.
The goal seemed to be the first of many for Brighton, bristling with ideas and aggression, were in absolute control.
But they failed to build on that lead.
They could have brought the band back at the interval to play ‘The Carnival is Over.’
But Brighton did finally manage a second in the 76th minute when the unfortunate Shaw turned an O’Sullivan cross into his own goal.
You could see the tension lift from them.
A trip to the home of Nick from Fishergate led me to scanning these rather lovely 65mm x 65mm badges from the late 1970s:
Apparently, according to Nick, there were shops along Sackville Road, Hove, that used to sell badges such as these on Saturdays, to make a bit of money as supporters made their way to the Goldstone Ground on Old Shoreham Road.
I was actually given a set of these when I was about five or six in the mid-1980s, as I decided that making badges was a very fine hobby. So, yes, I took off the head and shoulder images of the various Brighton players and replaced them with my own designs. Silly me.
Suffice to say that I won’t be doing that with these!
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’ 😛
From Shoot! magazine in 1976:
Brighton just failed to win promotion from Division Three last season, and that sad fact plunged almost everyone at The Goldstone Ground and in the South Coast resort into black depression.
The exception was … none other than Albion’s midfield star Peter O’Sullivan!
Not that Peter is in the least disloyal, or he didn’t desperately want the club to go up. It is just he doesn’t believe in letting ANYTHING get him down too much.
In fact, Peter is so philosophical that he was probably using “Que Sera, Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be” as a theme song long before the Manchester United fans!
Peter has never allowed himself to worry too much in a career which has seen its fair share of soccer’s ups and downs…
Like being given a free transfer by Manchester United… or being consistently on the fringe of the Welsh international side … or going up into Division Two with Brighton four years ago, only to be relegated the following season.
Don’t worry – nothing is worth getting miserable about. That’s Peter’s philosophy – and he’s proud of it.
“I’m an easy-going sort of bloke and always have been,” he says. “Life is far too short for worrying – and you are a long time dead, after all.
In fact, I think too many players today worry about their game too much. They should relax more and just enjoy their football and take things as they come.”
But Peter, now 25, does have a regret – that he ever left Wrexham to join United when he was 15. Ha could have gone to Liverpool or Leeds instead but like so many youngsters before and since, he chose the glamour of Old Trafford.
“1 have no criticism of United, but I really wish I hadn’t gone them now,” says Peter. “I was just one of the conveyor belt of youngsters they had and didn’t catch anyone’s eye.”
Peter moved to Brighton six years ago and is now the only remaining playor from the side which won promotion in 1971-72 under former manager Pat Saward. And he is established as one of the Brighton crowd’s favourite players – and among the star midfield men in the Division.
“I must admit it was a blow to win promotion only to come straight down again as we did,” he says.
The real trouble was money just wasn’t avaiiable for Mr Saward to buy the players he wanted to strengthen the side – and, also, we became acclimatised to the higher level too late in the season.”
Now, despite last season’s failure, Peter believes there are good times ahead for the club.
He says: “The potential down hare is tremendous and we can attract vast support. And we have some great players now, like Joe Kinnear, Andy Rollings and Sammy Morgan, whose experience will be invaluable to us.
Just missing promotion was s disappointment for everyone, but it is not the end of the world and we must make sure we don’t slip up next season.
“That means we have just got to improve away from home. We slaughtered sides at The Goldstone all last season, but we just could not put our game together on our travels and it cost us very dearly in the end.”
O’Sullivan went on to have an excellent season in the 1976/77 campaign, playing all but one League match and creating numerous chances for Ward and Mellor to turn into goals. When promotion was clinched, the stage was set for O’Sullivan to dazzle the Second Division crowds just like before. Unlike in 1972/73, though, Mullery’s side were suitably equipped with a strong enough squad to not only survive in the upper echelons of the Football League, but to prosper. Suddenly, Old Trafford didn’t seem so far away…
Here is Peter O’Sullivan in a rare Bukta-branded shirt from the end of the 1976/77 season. This blog featured this shirt in a previous post a few months ago.
Sporting a Rivelino-moustache, he truly looked the part on the cover of his testimonial programme at the end of the 1979/80 season:
Inside, an advert for the Seagull Line wished him well:
The editorial was by Tony Millard who paid tribute to Sully:
These days very few footballers spend ten years at one club and when Peter O’Sullivan recently completed 400 League games in Albion colours it was certainly quite an achievement.
When, on April 20, 1970 the youngster with the ‘Beatle’ style haircut came to the Goldstone from Manchester United not many would have thought that 10 years hence he would still be turning out and still wearing the number ’11’ shirt.
In fact, when Peter made that 400th appearance he had never been chosen as substitute but since then he has worn ’12’, for the first time, at Derby 10 days ago.
When he first came to the Goldstone the little Welshman with the Lancashire accent was an orthodox winger. As the game has changed and patterns of play have altered he has become a midfield player and he has been chosen once for Wales as a full cap, that against Scotland in May 1976 while he has also twice come on as a substitute in a full international, against Scotland in 1973 and against Malta just under a year ago.
Peter has played for the Albion in Three Divisions of the Football League. When he came to the club the side was in the Third Division and Peter was in the promoted side in 1972. Unfortunately, after just one season it was down again to Division Three and there they remained until the current ‘Alan Mullery era’.
Promotion from Three to Two in May 1977 was followed by disappointment a year later when the team just failed to gain promotion to One on goal difference. Ironically it was the failure of tonight’s opponents Southampton to beat Tottenham Hotspur at the Dell that meant that ‘Sully” and his colleagues were destined to have another season in the Second Division.
However Peter’s ambitions, and those of many more were finally fulfilled just under twelve months ago on that marvellous day at Newcastle. Ambitions that seemed to have been ended with his release from Manchester United were, nearly 10 years on, finally to be realised.
On October 9 last year Peter ran out at Old Trafford in front of 52,000 fans and he knew that he’d finally made it. Although, at that time, Albion were struggling in the League; Peter has now played quite a part, hopefully in ensuring the Club’s future.
As the programme continued:
During the year a number of benefit functions have been organised for Peter and the Committee of ‘Friends of Sussex Football’, the benefit organisers, have worked hard to make it a successful year.
One of the functions held recently was a businessman’s lunch at the ‘Sussex Pad’ in Lancing where landlord, Wally Pack and friends provided a marvellous spread. Our picture shows Sully helping Wally and his staff with the carving.
At the Grand Charity dinner in March 1980, with guest speakers Dickie Davies, Peter Brackley and Alan Mullery, the dinner guests enjoyed the delights of asparagus mousse with smoked turkey as a starter.
This was followed by grilled trout with almonds, and then roast contra fillet of beef, sauce madeira, garden peas with bacon and parmentine potatoes.
Desert was pineapple cheesecake with fruit salad, and then petit fours and coffee.
As for the benefit match itself, a month later, Lawrie McMenemy’s Southampton won 3-1. Albion fans had the curious experience of seeing manager Alan Mullery score the Seagulls’ consolation from the penalty spot:
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!