Brighton fans may have initially balked at getting a sticker album with Crystal Palace’s Gerry Francis on the cover, but I’m sure they got over it!
Besides, Palace’s season was a disaster. They even had four different managers during the course of the 1980/81 season, none that could arrest their slump. Even Ray Wilkins’ side, Manchester United, sacked theirs, ex-Albion player Dave Sexton, at the end of their own disappointing campaign.
And Brighton? It was a watershed season for us too. Potentially Albion’s strongest squad had flattered to deceive. Peter Suddaby had played a major role in 1979/80 but injury meant he never did play in the new all-blue Adidas kit. Mullery resigned at the end of the 1980/81 season, and the reliable John Gregory was another departure, to QPR. While he stayed, Graham Moseley was deeply unsettled, rocked by a loss of form, the signing of Perry Digweed as well, as Mullery’s stinging criticism of the erstwhile number one keeper at the Goldstone:
Interesting to see Mark Lawrenson listed here as a midfielder. He had performed that role admirably in the second half of 1979/80. Would Albion fortunes have been different had he stayed there in 1980/81? He, alongside Ward and Horton, also departed the Goldstone not long after the publication of this album. We are also treated to a rare shot of Peter Sayer in our new fangled Adidas kit. Sayer was an unused sub on the opening day match against Wolves before leaving for Preston North End.
Notable absences here are Perry Digweed, Gary Stevens and Andy Ritchie, all of whom made a significant number of appearances during the course of the season.
This album is notable for the first appearance of team groups being made up of two stickers rather than one. Looking through the album, there are some alignment issues with some team groups, but happily, the Brighton one looks fine.
Second Division clubs were also given the half and half treatment, and it’s possible to clearly see Ray Clarke at his new club, Newcastle United. Even Third Division clubs were covered by Panini at the time, albeit with a single sticker team photo. 15mm tall in Charlton’s team sticker was Mike Bailey. Little did Albion fans know it in 1980/81, he would be man to bring forth a new era to the Goldstone, and a whole lot of new player stickers to collect!
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.
They were heady at the Albion in December 1979. When the decade had started, the side was in the Third Division and now it had rocketed up to the giddy heights of the top flight. When the then current campaign had started, the Seagulls looked like relegation fodder. However, in the Christmas season, a resurgent Brighton played like nothing short of champions. Having trounced Wolves and Crystal Palace, two top-half sides, they proceeded to wipe the floor with Manchester City.
Here is a piece from the Daily Express that perfectly captures the delight in Sussex at the magnificent turnaround at the club:
As the decade draws to a close it is fitting to reflect on the fortunes of Sussex’s only League club whose First Division lifeline has grown progresslvely stronger over Christmas.
When the seventies were new Albion enjoyed a brief flirtation with the Second Division.
Once again they resumed an all too familiar Division Three tag, but as the influence of the incoming chairman, Mike Bamber, began to be felt a fresh picture took shape. The management team of Clough and Taylor halted a headlong plunge towards the Fourth Division and achieved vital breathing space with a crash programme and Taylor, alone, had a near miss in 1975-76.
The Alan Mullery touchstone brought unprecedented success with two promotion seasons out of three and then, inevitably, came the slump.
Anything less on merely a nodding acquaintance with the best company in the country would be expecting too much.
As Mullery said during the darkest moments: “Our mistake is in treating famous clubs on reputations, and not as 11 players.”
Albion are no longer overawed in their present suroundings. It has taken them half the season to acclimatise and pick up very much in the same fashion as last Christmas – maximum points from three games, and ten goals.
Last year the spurt sent them towards promotion; this time they have taken a further important step away from the rock bottom strugglers.
The yawning chasm of relegation has receded, but Mullery knows that the fight must continue, and any relaxation at this stage could be fatal.
Nevertheless, these last three games have seen Albion play more like a team better suited among championship contenders than down among the no-hopers.
In nine days they have demolished Wolves, Crystal Palace and now Manchester City, all clubs in the top half of the table.
Once might have been a fluke, but we have seen enough lately to measure Albion’s growing stature. On current form they are in a grossly false position, and while the prevailing mood is with them, they need fear no side.
In a splendid match, particutarly a memorable first half, Albion outclassed City who may yet feel the chill breath of relegation waft through the plush carpeted corridors of Maine Road.
For Mullery, at Albion’s helm, could well come the accolade of Manager of the Month.
He has motivated his players to work out their own salvation and instilled that priceless asset – self-confidence.
Even bearing in mind some of those high scoring Second and Third Division days, I cannot recall seeing Albion play so well as a team-as that opening 45 minutes against City.
Malcolm Allison, declined to grant interviews and preferred to keep his own counsel. Just as well.
There was nothing he could fairly say after his team succumbed to Albion’s fluency. In fact, they could have gone down by a good siX goals such was their lack of method and application.
The impetus of a goal inside half a minute leaves its mark and once Ray Clarke had profited by terribly slack marking to convert Mark Lawrenson’s centre, the crowd and team became as one.
For the first time this season the Goldstone really got behind Albion.
They had been wound-up by the Palace defeat, and suddenly here, was a killing thrust before many had time to settle.
City went to pieces after Clarke’s first goal. Eager to drive forward Sully missed from Brian Horton, and Joe Corrigan saved point blank from Peter Ward.
Then he got down well to the irrepressible Ward on two occasions. Next it was Gerry Ryan opening the way for Ward again, but his finishing let City off the hook.
A player with such a thirst Ward now has for goals eouldn’t keep missing, and at 27 minutes he scored his fifth in three straight outings.
The build-ups were coming from all points of the compass, especially a series of penetrating long passes and centres by John Gregory.
Just past the half hour, Clarke whipped in a third when Ryan, Ward and Sully were involved, and the North Stand chorussed: “You’re worse than Palace.”
There haven’t been many occasions when the fans have been able to rub it in, and they made the most of it this time.
They were momentarily silenced by Stuart Lee pulling one back for City, and just before the break, Graham Moseley made a daring save that prevented the lead being whittled to one.
A rare miscue by the normally composed Steve Foster let Gary Power in, and Moseley raced from his line to make a brave stop on the edge of the box.
Fears that Tommy Caton’s tackle on Lawrenson in the dying seconds of the half would prevent his reappearance were assuaged.
Early in the restart, Ward laid on delightful pass for Lawrenson to surge through the cloying mud and hit Corrigan’s bar.
There were still enough City heads still held high to make a game of it, but the result was put beyond doubt by the best goal of the match.
It was scored by Ryan who ran half the length of the pitch after gathering a throw from Moseley.
Had a Liverpool player scored it, I’ve no doubt it would be hailed as the goal of the century or some such exaggeration.
This was a masterly effort from a player who contributed much by strong running and intelligent passing.
He collected nine in 34 outings as a winger last term, but hasn’t had much luck so far.
When one player, in this case, Ward, starts to buzz, it rubs off.
The positions he reached prompted Sully to spray a series of fan-tailed passes from midfield, and Clarke, after nine games with Ward, now has settled to becoming an intuitive partner.
Ward kept turning the defence at will long after Ryan’s goal had passed Corrigan.
He was after another hat-trick, but I reckon he has done enough to prod England manager Ron Greenwood.
The Hortons of football, don’t gain international honours, but he’s as good a pro as you’ll find anywhere, and better than most.
I hope to get full highlights of this game soon. When I do, I’ll share here!
One accolade that came out of the glorious form was that Peter Ward ended up receiving the Evening Standard player award for December 1979. Here he is with chairman Mike Bamber and two bottles of bubbly:
Well done, Wardy!
In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year. Roll on the 1980s!
It’s strange that Ray Clarke seems almost a forgotten striker in Brighton’s history. Fans waxing lyrical about the late 1970s speak in high regard for the Peter Ward-Ian Mellor striking partnership that terrorised Third Division defences in 1976/77. They also talk glowingly of Michael Robinson’s swashbuckling centre-forward style and, of course, Gordon Smith’s famous chance in 1983.
But where is the praise for Ray Clarke, the striker that helped turn Peter Ward from a struggling top flight striker into a force in Division One?
Clarke’s 28 goals for Mansfield fired the Stags to the Fourth Division Championship in 1974/75 and his 24 goals the following campaign contributed immensely to keeping the side in the Third Division. This led to a remarkable £80,000 transfer to Sparta Rotterdam in Holland in July 1976, where he was top scorer (with 16 and 24 goals) in each of his two seasons there.
In Marshall Cavendish’s Football Handbook Part 59, there’s a fascinating piece about Ajax in the late 1970s under coach Cor Brom, as the new generation struggled to gain recognition while living in the shadow of the ‘Total Football’ side of Cruyff et al, plus this magnificent photo of Ray Clarke, looking for all the world like a ’70s fashion king in his Ajax get-up.
Londoner Ray Clarke, the player Brom had brought with him from Sparta of Rotterdam, was also the target of criticism inside the club. Clarke, once rejected by Spurs, is a strong and unselfish striker with an excellent scoring record. Last season he finished as Ajax’s top scorer with 38 goals – 26 in the league, six in the cup, six in the UEFA Cup – but during the summer they sold him to Bruges for £200,000.
Clarke spent only one season with Ajax… and early on he had problems adjusting. ‘One problem was that the quality here is so much higher than anything I’ve been used to before,’ he said. ‘Ajax have some fabulous players – Rudi Krol, for example… I don’t think it’s possible to appreciate just how good he is until you’ve played with him. It was only in the last three or four months that I started to play the way I know I can.’ Clarke’s 26 league goals put him second only to European Golden Boot winner Kees Kist of Alkmaar in the Dutch League.
Clarke’s spell in Belgium at Bruges was very brief as Alan Mullery snapped him up for Brighton in October 1979 for £175,000. As John Vinicombe wrote in ‘Super Seagulls’:
He spent only five months with Bruges and admitted that it had been a mistake not to go straight back to England. ‘It was quite an upset then for me to leave Ajax. I had heard a whisper they wanted to buy some new players and that they intended to raise the money by selling me. So I thought that if that was their attitude, I might as well accept the offer Bruges had made me.’
Before Clarke’s arrival at the Goldstone, Brighton & Hove Albion were finding life tough in the top flight, bottom after twelve matches, having recently shipped four goals at home to Norwich City. However, as Vinicombe continues:
The arrival of Clarke was a vital injection and his cheerfulness did much to cast off the blues. He was a fresh mind looking at Albion’s situation, and reminded despairing fans: ‘It is ridiculous for people to write Brighton off at this stage. I remember in my second season at Mansfield the team was bottom after 26 games with only 16 points, but in our last 20 games we won 15 and drew five and finished sixth (sic: 11th) from top.’ That was the sort of fighting talk people wanted to hear on the eve of a second meeting with Arsenal.
Ray Clarke made his Brighton debut in a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, but scored a consolation goal against League Champions Liverpool in the next match at the Goldstone in November 1979. Then came the match that was the turning point of the season. Albion travelled to City Ground to European Champions Nottingham Forest more in hope than expectation, and pulled off a sensational result, winning 1-0. See the picture on the right for Clarke having a shot under the watchful eye of Viv Anderson and Martin O’Neill. It was Forest’s first home defeat in Division One since they were promoted to the top flight in April 1977.
Clarke’s strength and selfless play had a profound effect on Peter Ward. Before partnering up with Clarke, Ward was finding it hard against First Division defences. He had only scored twice in twelve Division One matches. Supported by Clarke’s hold up play and service, Albion’s star player transformed into a striker that hit around one goal every two games in Division One, quite a useful asset to have to get Albion climbing up the table. By the end of the season, in the games playing alongside Clarke, Peter Ward scored fourteen times in only thirty First Division matches, an exceptional tally in a team in the lower half of the table. Clarke himself weighed in with eight League goals as Brighton finished in sixteenth position, comfortably safe from relegation. He even managed to score against his old club Mansfield in the FA Cup, something that he finds bittersweet.
In Matthew Horner’s ‘He Shot, He Scored, the biography of Peter Ward,’ Ward says:
‘Ray was a good player – not at all flash , just a sound, straightforward target man. I liked playing with him and after he joined and Teddy (Maybank) left, we played every game together. I hadn’t had a regular partner since Ian Mellor in the Third Division and it helped to have some consistency. When I played alongside Ray I probably played the best football of my Brighton career – it was a shame that he left so soon.’
Here’s an example of a chance Ray Clarke fashioned for Ward:
Clarke was sold to Newcastle United in July 1980, perhaps as an outcome of seeing a specialist. As an interview with Spencer Vignes in the Brighton v Preston programme from 2004/5 says: ‘The specialist told him it was his hips which, to cut a long story short, were disintegrating. He might have four years left, or just 12 months. It was hard to tell’ and to make things worse Clarke was uninsured so Brighton would not receive a penny if he broke down while with the club. Maybe that is why he was sold so quickly. Perhaps Mullery was determined to buy Michael Robinson anyway. What is clear, however, is that without Clarke as a striking partner, Peter Ward went back to a low scoring rate in the First Division. Partnered with Robinson, Ward got one goal in eleven League matches at the start of 1980/81 before being sold to Nottingham Forest where, again, he was far from prolific. Neither did he hit a rich scoring vein on his loan spell back at Brighton in 1982/83 when he scored just two goals in 16 Division One matches. As for Clarke, his spell at Newcastle was over when he broke down with injury after only fourteen matches in 1980/81. He was just 28 when his playing career ended.