Tag Archives: willie irvine

The great stitch-up of 1972?

In May 1972, Brighton needed just one point against Rochdale to return to the Second Division. Those who complain that Southampton and Spurs stitched up the Albion in 1978 perhaps need to examine the final game of the 1971/72 campaign more closely!

Before a Goldstone crowd of 34,766, Pat Saward’s men got off to a great start against the Dale after four minutes when John Templeman got the opener. As the Daily Mirror reported it at the time:

Ken Beamish, standing on the edge of the Rochdale penalty area, got the ball from skipper Brian Bromley and pushed it back to the unmarked John Templeman. From about twenty-five yards, Templeman unleashed a drive without leaving the ground – and sent the crowd into ecstasies.

Rochdale were under constant pressure but they handed the Goldstone a shock on 59 minutes when Peter Gowans gathered a cross from Malcolm Darling and lashed in a 25 yard special that gave Albion keeper Brian Powney no chance.

And then the drama suddenly petered out. As Ken Beamish recalled in ‘Match of My Life: Brighton & Hove Albion’:


With about 20 minutes to go, the game suddenly died a death. As things stood we had the point we needed and they were safe from relegation. With hand on heart I can say it was never in our plans just to play the game out; it just materialised. Neither side had a shot on goal in those final minutes; nor did either team look to penetrate each other’s defence. It probably wouldn’t happen nowadays because the final matches of the season are all played on the same day, but back then we were playing after the end of the season and so both knew what we had to do.

A similar tale is told by his striking partner Willie Irvine in his autobiography ‘Together Again’:


We’d played this game at 100 miles an hour until the score became 1-1. At this point I’d noticed Saward and the Rochdale manager talking on the touchline. Somehow the game seemed to slow down dramatically except for me putting in an almighty challenge on their centre-half and almost scoring. “Bloody hell”, he said, “don’t you know we’re playing for t’draw now?” No I didn’t, nobody had bloody told me.

Tagged , ,

A shock for Villa in the crunch game

Albion's new skipper, Brian Bromley

Albion’s new skipper is the influential midfield man Brian Bromley

Having suffered defeats to Oldham and Bradford in the run up to the clash with Division Three leaders Aston Villa on 25th March 1972, Brighton boss Pat Saward made some brave changes. Out went Stewart Henderson and captain John Napier, and in came Bert Murray and Ian Goodwin. Brian Bromley was installed as the new skipper.

The changes paid dividends, and the promotion push was back up and running thanks to a famous 2-1 victory. Here is how the Sunday Mirror reported it:

Brighton manager Pat Saward bounced to the edge of the pitch at the end of this ding-dong Third Division promotion battle.

And he ordered his Albion troops: “Get back into the middle and take a bow. You deserve it.”

Saward’s tribute to his swashbuckling side was deserved. They fully earned a victory which takes them one step closer to Second Division soccer next season and which dented ambitious Aston Villa’s own title chances.

It was the long, frizzylocks of Kit Napler which nodded bubbling Brighton to victory six minutes from time,

Villa ‘keeper Jim Cumbes should have cut out a left-wing centre from Peter O’Sullivan.

But he missed it, Napier didn’t, and Villa were beaten for only the second time in their last twenty-one League outings.

Villa boss Vic Crowe took defeat with a philosophical shrug of his shoulders. “They plaved out of their skins,” he sald.

“Yet we might well have got a point. Jim Cumbes says the sun got in his eyes when they grabbed that late winner.

“Still, I think we can go top and I don’t care who goes up with us.

“Brighton play Bournemouth next-Saturday, and as far as I’m concerned they can both lose.”

Villa were dodgy at the back. And stodgy up front.

Brighton looked the likelier Championship bet all through.

Said Saward: “Tremendous, tremendous. We tore them apart in the first quarter of an hour of the second-half.”

He was not exaggerating.

In that spell. Villa’s £275,000 centre half Chris Nicholl twice had to scoop what looked like certain scoring-chances off his own goal-line.

The first was from Ken Beamish and that was followed by another from Napier.

But Brighton began tearing Villa apart as early as the sixth minute when Willie Irvine shot them into the lead with as good a goal as anyone will see this Season,

Beamish launched it. John Templeman drove, a magnificent pass with surgical precision diagonally through a floundering Villa defence.

And Irvine finished it off with a searing shot from the edge of the penalty box.

Villa looked like salvaging a point when skipper Bruce Rioch rifled a fifty-fifth minute equaliser which was every bit as good as Brighton’s opener.

Willie Anderson. who looked such a weary Willie until that moment, sent Charlie Aitken sprinting along the left.

The full back’s cross was played back into the middle by Ray Graydon and Rioch met it on the volley to almost burst the Brighton net.

Rioch’s joy was shortlived. He was booked in the the seventy-seventh minute after a clash with rival skipper Brian Bromley.

Referee Norman Burdenshaw had no alternative but to take Rioch’s name.

Others were more fortunate, avoiding a similar fate in this beefy promotion battle.

The Midlands’ moneybags have now taken only one point fronx their last three outings, and the promotion boat is beginning to rock.

But Brighton look if their Second Division intentions are honourable, Seldom has any side have run Villa so ragged.

The Sports Mirror editorial also spotlighted the crucial match:


Hands all those who deserve an ice lolly! Brighton’s team will probably get the freedom of the town’s ice cream parlours after licking Aston Villa 2-1. This happy threesome are Peter O’sullivan, Willie Irvine and Kit Napier after Irvine had fired Br!ghton’s first goal in the sixth minute at sunny Hove. And by the look of him he wouldn’t swap that moment for all the pebbles on the Brighton beach.

Cut open any Aston Villa player this morning and it wiil probably say “Brighton” all the way through.

Villa, with tradition a mile high and just as long on optimism about playing in the Second Division next season, found it was too hot by the seaside yesterday.

Brighton and Hove Albion, to name just one side, have never hit the heights. And apart from one stay in the Second Division, have never reached for them.

Yesterday afternoon Brighton took Villa apart. They won 2-1 with goals by Willie Irvine and Kit Napier, Napier leaving the fans biting their fingers until six minutes from the end when he popped in the winner.

It was a shock to Vllta’s sophisticated system.

Irvine cheekily nosed Brighton in front after six minutes. And it was another fifty minutes before Bruce Rioch put the leaders level.

Villa still head the table but they are now only one point ahead of second-placed Bournemouth who dropped a point at Rochdale.

BournemouttL who have played two more games than Villa or third-placed Brighton, had a lucky escape when Gowan missed a penalty for Rochdale,

Our forecast of next week’s hottest soccer spot must be Bournemouth, Brtght0n are the visitors and they want to cut two more points off that four-point gap between them and Villa.

Eddie Spearritt challenges for the ball with Villa's Ray Graydon

Eddie Spearritt challenges for the ball with Villa’s Ray Graydon

Tagged , , ,

Autographs – Brighton & Hove Albion 1970s

Very occasionally on The Goldstone Wrap, I will reblog articles from other blogs that help to celebrate the history of the club. In Jackie Dinnis’ lovely nostalgic blog, she recalls collecting autographs of Brighton players in the Pat Saward era. A very wonderful colour photo of the 1971/72 promotion side is here too. Please click the link above.

Meeting my family

After collecting signatures from my friends at school in the late 1960s I progressed to the next level – famous sporting stars.  I managed to get some when we were on our family holidays, as visiting sports stars made appearances once a week.  Then I began collecting some from my local football team – Brighton & Hove Albion.  I first went along there in 1972, and I think these autographs came from around that time.  I have very little recollection of obtaining these signatures, it was during the time the players would be ‘warming up’ before the game, when they could be persuaded to come over to the side of the pitch and scribble their name on a programme or in a book.  I managed to get several signatures, but I’m sure this was mainly due to Dad pushing my book in front of the players for me.  I also had a team photograph…

View original post 11 more words

Tagged ,

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!


Tagged , , , , ,

Meet the Girl Behind the Man: Rita Irvine

Northern Ireland centre-forward Willie Irvine was one of Brighton’s star strikers in the 1970s. He joined on loan from Preston in March 1971 and his six goals in fourteen League games helped to rescue the Albion from a Third Division relegation battle that season.

From Goal! Magazine:


Looking after her husband, Brighton Irish (sic) international Willie, and sons Darren (5) and Stephen (2) keeps Rita Irvine busy. But she still finds time for dressmaking, attending evening classes for flower arrangements and watching Brighton play.

A less rosy, but eventually happy, picture is painted in Willie Irvine’s autobiography, ”Together Again’:

The offer of a three-month loan to Brighton was made and Rita and I looked at each other. Against it was the fact that a move from Preston to Brighton would be 200 miles or thereabouts further than a move from Burnley to Preston. It seemed a huge distance for Burnley girl Rita, who would be leaving the closeness of family and relatives. The four of us – by now we’d had our second son – would be well and truly on our own. There’d be no bus rides home for the day like she could do from Preston to Burnley.

The club had promised to organise a rented property for us, a lovely flat in Shoreham-By-Sea. We kept the house in Preston for when we went back. The problems of being a football wife hit Rita hard. Strange place, strange flat, me away frequently. In the first week one of the boys took very ill while I was away for three days. All Rita could do, young, panic-stricken and frightened, was knock on the flat below and ask for help. She knew no one but the woman she begged for help, a total stranger, turned out to be a real saviour and called her own doctor who came every day for the next week. They became the best of friends and bit by bit we got to know other players and their wives. Only a footballer knows what the wife goes through at times like this. They are a special breed. Some are strong and can handle it. Others don’t. Rita might have had floods of tears on several occasions and suffered from my moods, but she coped, stuck it out and adapted every time we moved.


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:

Tagged , ,