Ahead of the game with Leicester I wanted to write about the biggest link between the two clubs from my perspective, the one, the only, Micky Adams.
Wednesday 10th October 2001- I still remember the instant crushing feeling in my chest now when my mum woke me for school that day and then told me that the local news were reporting that Micky Adams was leaving the Albion. (and taking the currently vacant assistant manager job at Leicester as understudy to Dave Bassett with a view to taking over as manager the following season)
I had fallen in love with the Albion since their move back to Brighton and the Withdean Stadium. For the period from the move back to Brighton until then it had appeared to me as an almost continuous period of progress. Gone were the days of Brighton being in danger of losing its league status come May and now they were pushing for promotion into the 2nd tier of the football league.
The club was now gaining appreciation from outside of its loyal but modest local fan base. Led off the pitch by the lovably enthusiastic and media savvy Chairman and club saviour Dick Knight, and being fired through the divisions on the pitch by the goals of Bobby Zamora (who was by then quickly becoming a club legend) people were taking note. Having won the Division 3 championship the previous season by ten points after Chesterfield were deducted 9 points, the Albion found themselves taking to Division 2 in a similarly imperious manor, sitting 4th they were well set for another title challenge.
Captaining the ship was the captivating Micky Adams. A man who had been manager for just under 3 years and during that period it had been constant steps forward. Taking over in April 1999 with the club in Division 3 he steered the club to safety and then in its first season at the Withdean he led the club to a top half finish, remaining unbeaten in the final 13 games of the season.
Despite a poor start to the following season Brighton eventually got going and with Bobby’s goals and Micky’s charm, built up momentum and were confirmed champions by beating nearest challengers Chesterfield 1-0 with a headed goal from Danny Cullip.
For me as a young fan who was relatively new to the club at the time, I was not weighed down by it’s recent struggles and was simply enjoying the glory. That said there was plenty to admire, but whilst there were many significant figures within the club at the time, in my eyes Micky was definitely the talisman for the team during his tenure. The man who ensured everyone would “keep the faith” when things weren’t going our way and the man who built the team that would go on to win back to back promotions and titles.
Micky set about putting his impression on the club. He was young, enthusiastic and had plenty of character. He brought in his friend and long time colleague Alan Cork as assistant, as well as players he’d managed at former clubs such as new club captain Paul Rogers and Danny Cullip.
Micky has revealed subsequently that whist succeeding at the time on the pitch with the Albion, he was dealing with heartbreak and personal issues off the pitch. These revelations only go to further increase Micky’s achievements at Brighton the manor in which he went about his job in the glare of the (albeit mostly local) media spotlight.
The success continued into Division 2. The season started with gusto, 4 wins in the first 7 including a 2-1 win over QPR and a 4-0 win over Blackpool. Brighton were proving to be promotion contenders once again. October came around and so did Brighton’s first and only home league defeat of the season 2-1 to Brentford. Sadly for the Albion fans this was how they unknowingly got to say goodbye to the man who galvanised the upturn in prospects for a club almost heading for the scrapheap only a few years earlier.
So Micky moved to Leicester, and whilst there relegation from the top flight and his promotion from assistant manager to manager inevitably followed. But the following season he once again he set about putting his impression on the club creating a team of winners, which went on to win promotion back to the top flight.
After Micky left and in a wonderful move of symmetry, Brighton appointed the man just sacked as Leicester manager Peter Taylor (who quickly left come the end of the season). Under his leadership the Albion went on to win Division 2, which set up a return for Micky with his new club to the Withdean Stadium. However, that game turned out to be a fairly forgettable 1-0 win for Leicester. Forgettable mostly as my view was masked by a thick cloud of fog. For all I was aware it could have been 5-0 to the Albion!
Micky’s time with Brighton and Leicester reached its peak by the end of that season. Relegation and resignation followed at Leicester, as quickly as the harsh world of football management can prop you up, it can push you out.
In 2008, following the Leicester job and some other unsuccessful spells in management, Dick Knight appointed Micky for his 2nd spell in charge of the Albion (then back in league one – previously division 2), telling the then manager Dean Wilkins to step aside and take a role in the youth set up. After the immediate excitement and splurge of new signings, it was soon clear things weren’t working out and personally I think I speak for most Albion fans to say that I was devastated. We were terrible and produced some of the worst performances I’ve seen from an Albion team. Losing at home to 9 man Walsall and 4-0 at home to Crewe were some of the lowlights. Micky left by mutual consent in February and the Albion stayed up by the skin of their teeth.
Despite this period I will always remember falling in love with the Albion and Micky during his first spell in charge, and the feeling of devastation I felt when he left the 1st time and when it didn’t work out 2nd time around just go to demonstrate how wonderful those 2 and a half years were to be an Albion fan.