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That’s entertainment!


With the 1980/81 season still full of promise, Brighton travelled to White Hart Lane and secured a televised 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. Here’s how Football Weekly News reported the match on 23rd August 1980, with Albion’s Scottish signing Gordon Smith in fine form:

But for the intervention of Brighton – and their £400,000 cheque – Gordon Smith might well have been parading his considerable talents at Parkhead in the thick of Saturday’s €Celtic-Rangers confrontation.

Instead he was making a virtually unheralded first league appearance in London. And while his old mates in Glasgow were performing quite well without him, there was a sizeable proportion of the 40,000 crowd at White Hart Lane who must have wished him at least as far as Scotland! “Cheap at half the price,” was Alan Mullery’s overworked, and paradoxial, evaluation of his summer signing. Certainly the slim and elegant Scot’s arrival on the south coast has caused little morn than a ripple of interest beyond Brighton’s seafront.

Perhaps £400,000 is something like £1 million short of headline news in these zany days. And Brighton, too, are yet to be considered seriously as First Division competitors – an opinion to which Mullery makes it clear he does not subscribe.

He has never been short of cockney confidence – but after Saturday’s creditable and merited draw at Tottenham it positively oozed from his now more rounded frame.

It was the form of Smith, more than anything, that had given him so much pleasure. “We could have won it in the end,” he beamed. “Gordon scored twice, hit a post and could easily have had a couple more. At the start of the season I said I was expecting 12 goals from him this season. He’s got three in three games now so I think I’ll increase that target to 15.”


Certainly on a day, ! suspect, when most had come to eye the Spurs donble-act of Garth Crooks and Steve Archibald it was Smith who rather stole their thunder – despite another goal from Crooks.


And though Spurs ended the second Saturday of the season on top of the First Division they were very nearly upstaged by a Brighton side who will be nobody’s pushover this season.

Tottenham admittedly made it hard for themselves by not capitalising on a splendid first-half display in which Brighton appeared to be only making up the number.

“‘We were dreadful in the first-half, Played like a load of fairies,” was the rather acid interpretation of Mullery.


Keith Burkinshaw, offering the Spurs view, was almost as emphatic but in praise: “In the first-half we played as well as in any of the three matches so far.”

But he accurately qualified that statement by adding: “We had a lot of pressure but didn’t get in enough shots.”

And that was the trouble and eventually the intricate and often unneccesary patterns carved out were sucked into the defensive trap laid by the magnificent Mark Lawrenson and his able cohorts.

Burkinshaw overstated the severity of a point dropped or perhaps it was a hint to his true frustration, when he said: “It’s always disappointing to lose to a side like that who come to contain.”

Not an assessment which would have found too much favour with Mullery who had already opined: “I told my players at half-time that if you go at their back four you will score goals. We’ve got to believe in ourselves.”

There was no denying that Brighton did push players forward to a greater extent in the second-half and probably the gift of Smith’s goal on the stroke of half-time when Ardiles played him onside was the tonic they needed. They also had the character to recover from a disastrous second goal when Graham Moseley saw Glenn Hoddle’s shot slide through his hands. “My nipper could have saved it,” was Mullery’s verdict.

Tottenham’s commitment to attack will win them many friends this season and indeed with so many artists in their side attack has to be their policy. But manager Birkinshaw, though not wishing to stifle such entertainment, hopes that it might be tempered with just a little more caution.

“Their second equaliser started because we wanted to get forward too quickly. Then a pass from Ardiles to Archibald was intercepted and we were left open,” he said. Open, that is to a final thrust from Smith who scored superbly.

Spurs first three games have produced 13 goals (eight for, five against), which is to say the least well above the national average. At the end of the day, unfortunately, such attacking enthusiasm is seldom rewarded.

As Burkinshaw says: “We get into positions where we tear teams apart, get a goal or two ahead and then get over confident or something. It happened today and it happened at Crystal Palace, where we just held on. We have got to keep it going for 90 minutes.”

For football’s sake let us hope that Tottenham continue to rely on their attacking philosophies and improve on them in the manner prescribed by Burkinshaw… that’s entertainment.


ITV cameras were there to record Smith at the top of his game, with the unheralded Ray McHale getting an assist:

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All hail Ray McHale

After the success of Peter Suddaby the previous season, for 1980/81 Alan Mullery thought he could pluck another solid, unspectacular player from the lower reaches of the Football League and turn him into a successful top flight player. Step forward Ray McHale, who hadn’t even played Second Division football in his career:


From the Brighton v Aston Villa match programme in December 1980:

The first Albion signing during the close season was a name well known around the lower divisions of the League but previously unknown in the First Division.

One of four nominations for the ‘Third Division Player of the Year’, named in the Players’ Division Three ‘All Star Team’ and captain of the Swindon side beaten in the League Cup semi-final, the 1979-80 season had been highly successful for the son of a Sheffield steelworker.

A move to the top division had hardly been further from Ray’s thoughts when Alan Mullery decided to sign him back in May in the deal that took Andy Rollings to Swindon. However when the chance came he decided to take his opportunity.

McHale signed as a pro for Chesterfield at the age of 21 in September 1971. After a spell with Halifax, he joined Swindon Town in 1976 where he established a reputation as a highly influential midfielder. Indeed, Albion fans may recall the match of New Year’s Day 1977 when McHale ran the midfield, helping Swindon to a 4-0 lead before referee Alan Robinson abandoned the match after 67 minutes due to an unplayable pitch. In the rescheduled game, played in May 1977, McHale’s two goals for Swindon helped to defeat Brighton 2-1, costing the Sussex club the Third Division Championship. At the Wilshire club, McHale even reaching the League Cup semi-final in 1979/80, where McHale converted a penalty at Molineux in a narrow 4-3 aggregate defeat to Wolves.

He hadn’t really been looking for a move but money was tight at Swindon so the club had decided that they could perhaps recoup some cash by selling him. He faced a choice of going to Luton or coming to the Goldstone and plumped for the opportunity to play for the first time in Division One.

However in the Swindon side he played at the central part of midfield while the superb form of Brian Horton in that position has meant little opportunity for Ray to fill that role at the Goldstone.

Says Ray, ‘I have played wide but I don’t really think I have the pace to play there at First Division level•. I found it very difficult to try and adapt.’

Naturally he still has hopes of earning a regular spot in the first team but any forecast of his immediate future must be only conjecture.

Here is McHale making his Seagulls’ debut on the opening day of the season, against Wolves in a 2-0 victory:


Making up for his lack of pace, you can also see him here pulling the shirt of West Brom’s winger Peter Barnes:


McHale played the first seven matches before being dropped by Mullery. While struggling to find his feet on the pitch in Division One, he did seem to quickly settle to life in Sussex:

One of the Albion’s family men, Ray, and his wife Jacqueline have two children, 13-year-old Nadia who goes to the Tideway School in Newhaven and Andrew, aged nine, who attends the local Hodden Primary School in Peacehaven; Andrew, incidentally is a budding full-back with Saltdean Tigers.

The family pet dog Sandy, occupies much of Ray’s leisure time and he gets a real ‘kick’ out of walking with Sandy over the Downs at the back of his home.


While football is his profession Ray is tops at the Albion among the squash players and is a regular member of the Corals’ club team at the Nevill Boad courts. In fact he reckons that wife Jacqueline must be a realsquash ‘widow’ as he plays almost every evening• Apart from playing highly competitively at squash he occupies a fair amount of time coaching in football. He is a full FA badge holder and has recently been helping with coaching at Sussex University• He looks to a future career in the game when his playing days are over and he feels that coaching is more than just a job. He thoroughly enjoys it and works hard with the youngsters he teaches.

There are many professional footballers who spend much of their time in the lower divisions, some even who play professionally in non-League football for years. Most would give their right arm to play in the First Division•.

Ray McHale is one player who has adorned the lower divisions with some grace and has then had the opportunity, at least, to try the First Division. Whether or not his future lies at the top level remains to be seen, what is certain is that Ray McHale will always have his heart in football and, talking with him, one gets the impression he will always be able to earn a living from the game he loves•.

In the end, the transition from Third Division to First Division proved too much. After just 13 appearances for Brighton, Barnsley snapped McHale up for £60,000 in March 1981. He helped the Tykes put the Seagulls out of the League Cup in 1981/82 in a 4-1 pummelling before moving again, this time to Sheffield United at the end of that season.


Of Swans and Seagulls

Over recent seasons, many Brighton fans have admired Swansea City’s exciting brand of football as an enhanced, more incisive version of their own team’s possession game. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, skilful play apart, the key parallel was that both relatively small, modest clubs were enjoying their halcyon years. With the illustrious John Toshack and Alan Mullery as the respective managers, both the Swans and Seagulls had enjoyed meteoric rises to get to the top flight. By 1981/82, both clubs finished in their highest ever placing in the Football League. The sky was the limit, or so it seemed.

On Tuesday 9th May 1979, Brighton played Swansea in Mick Conway’s testimonial match with the Albion players still on cloud nine. It was three days after the Seagulls had completed the two-year journey from Division Three to Division One. Ex-Albion winger Conway was known for his dangerous crosses and speedy runs. Aged just 17 years and 45 days, he had made his Brighton league debut against Nottingham Forest in May 1973 just as Albion were sliding back to Division Three after one inauspicious season. In the number seven shirt, he marked the occasion with the equalising goal as Brighton came back from 0-2 down.



Despite this, this promising wide player only made one substitute appearance for the Albion first-team thereafter and joined Swansea for £3,000 in December 1975. He helped the Welsh side to win promotion from Division Four in 1977/78 under manager Harry Griffiths before injuries suffered in a car crash in April 1978, and subsequently against Barnsley in an attempted comeback, eventually forced Conway to retire.

Even without Conway’s services, Swansea were promoted from Division Three at the first time of asking in 1978/79 under new player-boss John Toshack. With players of the quality of Jeremy Charles, Robbie James and Leighton James, the Swans played attacking football that won over many neutrals. Just as Albion had secured a place to the top flight with that famous 3-1 victory at Newcastle in 1979, it was a televised win with the same scoreline at Preston in 1981 that took the Welsh club to the top flight for the very first time.

When 1981/82 kicked off, Albion were supposedly the more senior club, beginning their third season in Division One. However, aided and abetted by new signings such as the very experienced Alan Curtis and Bob Latchford, the Welsh newcomers picked their pockets on 1st September 1981, coming away from the Goldstone with a 2-1 victory:

As Steve Curry in the Daily Express reported:

Swansea lifted Welsh hearts and broke a few in Brighton as their First Division charge gathered momentum last night.

John Toshack’s heroes came from the valleys to the seaside on a tide of determination.

And if their victory at the Goldstone Ground did not have the carnival atmosphere of Saturday’s five-goal romp against Leeds, it was in its own way, just as distinguished.

They provided an early and impressive encore to Saturday’s show-stopping performance with two goals in the first 15 minutes. And when Brighton ruffled the Swans’ feathers they hit back heaving and hissing to survive second-half pressure.

Andy Ritchie scored in the 34th minute, after Steve Foster had headed down Gerry Ryan’s free-kick, but an equaliser proved beyond the home side.

And so the Swans’ honeymoon period continued. When the return fixture was played at Vetch Field in November, Mike Bailey’s ultra-defensive Seagulls had tightened up at the back, securing a 0-0 draw. The high-flying Welsh side were in third place, although they held first position on six different occasions during this famous 1981/82 season. Playing rather more cautious football than Swansea, Brighton were also getting giddy, standing in 10th place and pushing for a UEFA Cup position.

By the end of the season, Swansea City landed in 6th position and Brighton 13th place in Division One, both clubs’ highest ever finish.

After that, it was downhill from there. Swansea were beset by an injury crisis the following season. They were also hampered by a transfer ban imposed by the Football League for defaulting on their payment instalments to Everton in the signing of Bob Latchford and Garry Stanley for £275,000. Perhaps this was not surprising. Both clubs suffered tremendously from the general fall in football attendances while trying to pay First Division wages. Partly as a result, the form of both Swansea and Brighton fell away in 1982/83. They played out a 1-1 stalemate at the Goldstone in October 1982. As you can see, Robinson apart, there was a distinct lack of the kind of penetrating attacking play and flair that had propelled both sides into the top flight:

When Jimmy Melia’s Brighton turned the tables on the Swans with a 2-1 win at Vetch Field in March 1983, with Robinson and Case scoring, it was the Sussex side’s first League victory since December, and their only away win in Division One that season. On a downward spiral, the Albion stood in 20th place and the Welsh side were only one place above, going through a similar run of dismal form. Unsurprisingly, both clubs were relegated at the end of the season, with the Seagulls bottom.

The following season in Division Two, while Brighton stopped the rot under new boss Chris Cattlin, Swansea crashed and burned. Toshack gave a Swans debut to 23 year-old ex-Chelsea defender Gary Chivers (who would later play with distinction for the Albion) in the 3-1 home defeat by Brighton in September 1983. Alan Young and Terry Connor (2) got the Seagulls’ goals. A month later, Toshack resigned. The two clubs met again in the FA Cup, at the Goldstone in January 1984, with Terry Connor scoring a stupendous volley:

Relegated from Division Two, the Swans were in free fall. Despite bringing in ex-Brighton misfit Ray McHale to strengthen the side in 1984/85 with his experience, new boss John Bond could not stop the decline. Interestingly, he released Dean Saunders at the end of the season, something that would prove great news for Albion boss Chris Cattlin, who snapped him up.

When 1986/87 kicked off, Swansea, victims of three relegations in four seasons, had fallen down to the Fourth Division, back to where it all began. A season later, Brighton were back down to Division Three. By 1996/97, both Brighton and Swansea were in the basement league, fighting to survive near the bottom. Should the Seagulls get promotion to the top flight this season, their renaissance will be complete, just as it has been for the Swans in recent years. I’m sure Mick Conway, a popular player with both sides, would drink to that.

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New arrivals hold the key in 1980/81


The 1980/81 Albion squad was probably the strongest in the club’s history. At least on paper. With their first season of top flight football behind them, Brighton looked to build on their experience, and were bolstered by Michael Robinson and Gordon Smith, two £400,000 captures. The Robinson-Ward striking partnership appeared to promise an avalanche of goals while Mark Lawrenson and Steve Foster seemed likely to keep things solid at the back.

It certainly didn’t pan out that way, which is perhaps testament to the outstanding contributions that Ray Clarke and Peter Suddaby made to the Brighton side. They both had a profound effect on Albion’s season when they joined mid-way in 1979/80. Their departures certainly coincided with a downturn in Albion fortunes, despite the opening day success, a comfortable 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the sunshine at the Goldstone in August 1980.

An outstanding article by Dave Spurdens dissects the functioning of the Brighton team at the time:

Last season the First Division induced in Brighton the sort of timorous insecurity common to squatters awaiting removal from their borrowed abode.

No mean appraiser of life’s realities in the big league, Alan Mullery saw clearly that reinforcements would have to be moved up if Brighton was to grow from a rather crotchety tenant to an established mortgagee.

The departures of Ray Clarke, Peter Suddaby and Andy Rollings to pastures new heralded the expected re-jig and after a series of wrangles Mullery forked out a million pounds and came up with Gordon Smith, signed from Rangers, Ray McHale, the generator behind Swindon’s surge, Moshe Gariani, spotted in Israel during a club trip and finally, after much ado, Michael Robinson (below, middle), the Manchester City reject, unloaded by Malcolm Allison in a cut price deal.


Robinson went to the Goldstone Ground hopefully to prove that Allison had been right to buy him in the first place, but hopefully remiss in sending him packing after one short season.

Apart from those four it’s the same Brighton and at the end of the day success will depend on these players being better than those they have replaced, coupled with the experience of more prolonged First Division status.

Mullery’s prognostications that Brighton will cause a few surprises started off with a bang when Wolves, the team many tip to challenge the leaders, were reminded that the supposed no-hopers from the south would certainly not help them in their aspirations and were duly beaten by them 2-0.

The blend looked good. Smith, everybody in Brighton averred, was another Trevor Brooking. McHale’s industry was commendable and Robinson, if nothing else, confirmed that he was unlikely in the next few years to halve his value again. Robinson, whom nobody apart from Malcolm Allison thought a near million-pound player, now has to prove that he is a near half-million player.

The next game was not so auspicious but nevertheless, despite defeat, demonstrated Brighton’s senior status against another of this year’s tips for the great ‘Nick the title off Liverpool’ campaign, Ipswich.

Taken all round in victory and defeat, this new-look Brighton is a tight outfit with a very solid back four, a midfield that is directed by skipper Brian Horton and a front line that once gets to know itself could produce problems for even the best.


Horton (above), a ubiquitous character, has an influence in the three lines slotting into the back whenever Mark Lawrenson takes off for advanced territory, running the midfield and going on occasional forays behind his front three whenever the opportunity presents itself.

In four seasons at Brighton, since he arrived from Port Vale, he has matured into an integrating force with a strong sense of how to exploit time and space. His influence gives Brighton a varied tempo and a less predictable pattern of advance.


Horton (above) plays a complete midfield role and his defensive work is tenacious and very professional.

Unlike his two midfield colleagues, who allow players to steal goalside oblivious of the pressure it puts on the back four players, Horton is an expert tracker and uses his experience to transfer marking responsibilities when he feels he is being pulled too far away from crucial zones.


McHale (above), though he operated well forward, is an industrious player busily looking for possession from the man with the ball, but he is not so aware of the damage those without the ball can do.

Neil McNab falls into the same trap of being less than attentive to those who ghost behind his area of concentration. On the ball, he has the look of threatening competence as he moves forward with control. The final pass is often less incisive than anticipated, and some of his forward probes are too easily read by those who should be troubled by them.

Brighton’s build-up when started by Horton or full-back John Gregory is patient and constructive, but tends to be a fifteen-yard game which is easily closed down by good defenders or by teams that fall off and vacate the midfield space.

With a build-up like this, one waits frustratingly for the breakthrough from the back or the run into space which has been created by the diagonal drift of their build up.

So often play develops from the right to left, dragging opposition players with it and leaving large spaces into which back or midfield players should be running in order to exploit opportunities on the blind side.

Even when they are developing their game around the midfield, and where the opposition is turned minimally, there is still a great need for play to be switched once the options have closed down on one flank or the other.

If there was a major reason, in their second game, why their opponents could sit reasonably comfortably it was this tendency to attack in straight lines.


It has been generally accepted by the Seasiders that (above) Lawrenson’s best role is at the centre of the back four.

Certainly with he and Steve Foster at the heart of the defence there is a solidarity that will stand them in good stead whenever they play.

Brighton’s resources probably dictate this policy, lacking the luxury of being able to use players in their perfect role.

I thought Lawrenson playing in front of the two centre-backs last season was more effective because of the strength of his forward runs, and he didn’t have the worry of leaving gaps at the back.


Foster (above) is playing better than ever alongside Lawrenson, with tireless courage and aggression.

There are those who feel him to be one of the best young centre-backs in the country. Against Ipswich, it was interesting to see him with the two favourite contenders for the spots currently held so securely by Thompson and Watson.

Under far greater pressure, Foster made several early errors – especially when it came to picking up high balls on the edge of the box. But once he settled down, he looked the equal to anybody aspiring to international status.


At full back, Gregory (above) turn in his usually immaculate performance both defensively and creatively when he plays the ball forward, but his energy in getting forward into good space seems seriously curtailed. Whether through disinclination or orders, only the player and his manager can know.


On the other flank, young Gary Williams (above) gives the impression that, unless he tightens up on his jockeying to players who run at him withthe ball, he could be in for a skinning before the season gets much older.

The rest of his game seems to be developing well and the way he linked up with the centre-back in the middle when his partner had been pulled out wide suggests he is learning his craft quickly.


Behind this promising back four Graham Moseley (above) looks quick and agile, enjoying the confidence of those in front of him.

There are times when he could be more positive in his communication but I suspect his diffidence may be prompted by the perpetual dialogue conducted by Foster just in front of him.

The 1980/81 season turned out to be another one of struggle as Brighton’s reshaped side blew hot and cold in the First Division. After the opening day victory over Wolves, it took another six games to record another League victory. Peter Ward left for Nottingham Forest in the middle of a ten match winless spell from late September that saw Brighton vacate the League Cup and marooned at the bottom of Division One by mid-November. Then, a surprise 1-0 win over League leaders Ipswich Town kick-started a brief run of good form. After another slump in the New Year, when Brighton won just twice in fifteen matches, the Seagulls saved themselves with a miraculous spell of four wins in four matches at the end of the season.

This late form showed what Mullery’s most accomplished looking side was capable of. However, it was not without its flaws, as journalist Dave Spurdens capably showed. Although Michael Robinson came good with 22 goals, this did not fully paper over the cracks. When Mike Bailey took over in the summer of 1981, another re-jig of the squad was in the pipeline.

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