Local media and the Albion

Recently one of the Albion’s most ardent supporters, The Brighton Argus, has experienced a fair amount of criticism for its reporting on the club. In particular, after a news story they ran about Brighton captain Lewis Dunk being “set to sign” for Chelsea. Upon reading the story, it was clear they’d simply republished a rumour from The Sun newspaper, that has since unsurprisingly turned out to be completely false.

Not a good look for the local newspaper and the fact that it’s in part filling our thirst for Albion stories with their “Content Managers” recycling unreliable stories from other news sources is unfortunately, simply a sign of the times.

The Brighton Argus has certainly seen better days. Decreasing newspaper circulation was already a huge industry-wide concern prior to the crisis many industries now find themselves in as a result of COVID-19. Additionally a recent spate of redundancies including some of the paper’s most senior and experienced journalists has left the paper with a much smaller and on the whole less experienced group of journalists to fill their pages and in particular that thirst for Albion content.

In fact the industry in the UK as a whole is struggling, with an average yearly decrease of its entire market revenue over the last 5 years being reported as 4.4% by IBIS Worldwide recently. And with revenue from print advertising continuing to fall at a faster rate than digital advertising revenue continues to grow, things are only getting harder for the industry.

So it should come as no surprise that the sports pages have turned to such tactics. The Argus is a business after all and needs to make a profit to succeed, combine that with the fact that sport sells or that I doubt many of us have recently bought a physical copy of the Argus, let alone remember the last time we did, makes this type of journalism a somewhat inevitable outcome. It’s hardly a surprise they like many others in the print industry have turned to focusing on website clicks above all else.

The circulation and rehashing of stories in local newspapers like the Argus has been going on for a while. The Brighton Argus itself is owned by the national organisation Newsquest who own a large amount of local publications across the UK and like other such organisations are known to regularly recycle stories across its local papers in order to fill pages. Something that the stand up comedian Dave Gorman’s routine about a group of local newspapers all reporting on dogging in their local area hilariously demonstrated.

This sort of thing hasn’t been common place in the sports sections of the Brighton Argus though, whose reporting has been the go to place for Albion news for many a year, which appears to be thanks to the dedication of its hardworking sports journalists as opposed to the support they get from their employers at Newsquest. In particular during the club’s time of need in the mid-to-late nineties (prior to Newsquest’s ownership of the newspaper), the paper was a huge catalyst for the supporters fight to oust the existing owners of the club. So much so for a period the paper and it’s journalists were even banned from the Goldstone Ground.

As a result we can be confident that this type of story will be despite of the efforts of longstanding Argus Sports reporter Brian Owen, who is no doubt working hard to keep up the paper’s usual high standards of reporting, amongst these increasingly difficult circumstances.

But this particular story (which was published whilst Brian Owen was away on holiday), certainly didn’t match up to those high standards and seemingly caught the eye of the club. The club’s Head of Media Paul Camlin admitted in a recent interview on the Albion’s Roar podcast that as a result of the story he’d personally called Brian Owen to make a point of it.

The signs of local print media’s demise have been there for a while and the recent rise of online sports publication like “The Athletic” (who’ve recruited the former Argus Sports Editor Andy Naylor) is possibly a sign of where the future of “local” sports reporting lies.

But, in contrast to the Argus who have always had a vested interest in Brighton existing and succeeding to aid their own success, organisations like The Athletic don’t and would be far less interested in club’s like Brighton if and when they once again fall on harder times.

Similar local media organisations who’ve also had a vested interest in the club’s success are also experiencing difficulties. The BBC’s seemingly continuous funding cuts have led in turn to local radio and tv budgets being cut and even being rumoured as at risk of closure altogether. Couple this with the demise of many commercial local radio stations like the recently closed long time supporter of the club Juice FM, it all means local voices in the media supporting the club are becoming more limited.

It wasn’t long ago these organisations were virtually the only media interested in the club. Regularly club press conferences would be attended mostly by a small huddle of local media representatives. While supporters of the club would largely rely on the Argus’s reporting during the week and the BBC local radio’s matchday reporting to get their Albion fix. Something many of the 92 football league clubs, as well as many others further down the English football pyramid, will be well accustomed to. But it’s something that is easy to forget in these times of global media interest in the Albion as a result of being a part of the Premier League.

But if local news organisations in general continue down the route of this “clickbait” type journalism rather than the informed journalism that we turn to then for, the power and variety of other media outputs available make it likely that newspapers like the Argus will only get left behind. And I can only see that being a bad thing for supporters of their local football teams all across the UK.

If publications like the Argus and other local media aren’t around to cover the club’s bad times when they inevitably arrive, carefully managed content released directly by the club may be the only output that us fans have to rely on.

Whilst our club has an owner such as Tony Bloom as well as a host of hardworking employees whom we can trust to do the right thing on its behalf, this isn’t an issue. In recent months the club has shown itself to be at the forefront of transparency and communication with supporters.

But many supporters of other club’s around the country aren’t so lucky. And as our club’s history shows, good times don’t last forever and in many cases it’s been the local media with their ear to the ground who’ve held club’s to account when it’s been required.

In his speech after winning the SJA’s 2018 award for best regional journalist, Neil Allen of Portsmouth’s “The News” dedicated his award to all the local sports journalists, saying: “we’re there for the good times, we’re there for the god damn awful times, we’ll always be there”.

And I for one hope they’re still around to do the same if such circumstances unfortunately arise in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

1995/96 – Protests and anger as relegation to the Football League’s basement is the least of Brighton’s worries

A club in turmoil

After the club was relegated down to the third tier in 1991/92, Albion manager Barry Lloyd began losing the faith of the Albion supporters. This was despite leading the club to a respectable 9th place finish the following season, when at one point it even looked like the club may finish higher and make the playoffs. However, a winding up order on the club from HMRC due to an unpaid tax bill somewhat halted the team’s momentum.

In fact this winding up order was a close call. After four adjournments, the club was given until 21st April to find the money to pay the debt and only managed it in the end at the eleventh hour when Barry Lloyd’s wheeling and dealing saw goalkeeper Mark Beeney sold to Leeds United for £350,000 and raise the necessary cash. So close some fans who attended the game at home to Blackpool the Saturday before Beeney’s sale, feared that it might be one of the club’s last.

Unfortunately things would get worse before they got better, in part down to the club’s ongoing fight to build a new stadium. Lloyd himself tried to solve this issue by spending a lot of time away from the training field working on a proposal for a new ground being built at Beeding Cement Works, but the plan was rejected by director Bill Archer, who preferred another site at Waterhall to the North of Brighton.

Later that year there was another winding up order from HMRC and this led to a restructuring of the club’s shareholdings and board of directors. Bill Archer would become chairman of the club by securing a 56% stake in a joint bid with Greg Stanley who bought the remaining 44% and took up the post of club president, in a deal publicised as helping to save the club’s finances with some new investment. In reality rather than a new dawn for the club this was the beginning of a further downward spiral for the club. With the pair invested nothing more in the club as equity than the nominal £100 to purchase the share capital and instead loaning the club hundreds of thousands at high levels of interest in the form of bank loans secured against the club’s only valuable asset, the Goldstone Ground, they simply delayed the problem from being dealt with by significantly increasing the club’s debt.

In part drawn out of the lack of funds available, Lloyd had taken on the responsibility of managing director as well as first team manager and it seemed the additional responsibilities were turning his attention away from on-field duties. After the club only secured two wins in the first sixteen league games of the 93/94 season, he was sacked.

Ultimately Lloyd’s loyalty to the club was seemingly partly his undoing, the chaos off the field had well and truly taken over and Lloyd did his best job of fire-fighting until he had finally lost control. After that point it was probably only a matter of time before things hit rock bottom.

Finances had been so tight for a while and meant that any good players were required to be sold. But now things had got so bad that money couldn’t even stretch to replace them with genuine senior professionals. So instead they were being replaced by youngsters like Nicky Rust, Stuart Tuck and Ross Johnson who were promoted ahead of schedule from the club’s youth system.

The arrival of Liam Brady as manager settled things for a while. He led the club to an unlikely looking and ultimately comfortable survival in 93/94. Then to another mid table league finish the following season, but the stability on the field was just masking the ever growing problems off it. The job of spinning the boards line and masking the problems was the former Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne David Bellotti who Archer and Stanley had appointed as Chief Executive. Who as such would become synonymous with the ineptitude of the club’s leadership that was to follow in the coming years.

Much of this stability was instead down to Brady in spite of the board, as he took on full responsibility for the sinking ship that the club had become. Having ended a prestigious playing career that featured trophy winning spells in both England and Italy, Brady had a fairly underwhelming two-year spell managing Celtic before taking the Albion job. Whilst he wasn’t a proven manager, he was a big name and was described by Bellotti as “head and shoulders” above the other applicants.

Whilst Brady was working with a squad full of youngsters, there was some experience in this squad. As alongside Club veteran Dean Wilkins was former Irish international John Byrne and former England international Steve Foster. But these were all players coming to the end of their careers, and they could no longer be expected to carry the team.

The precursor to the new season was a friendly with QPR for Dean Wilkins’ testimonial. A game particularly special for Dean because as well as being against QPR, the team he started out for as a professional, they were also then managed by his brother Ray. This game would turn out to be a rare moment of sentimentality amongst the gloom that was to come in the season ahead.

The 95/96 season begins

After two years of consolidation, there were hopes from some that the club could mount a promotion push. But, hopes were quickly diminished after a defeat to Peterborough began a run of no wins in the first 6 matches, which included a 5-0 aggregate defeat to Third Division Fulham in the League Cup.

But, the on field matters were the least of everyone’s worries when reports arose that the club had sold the Goldstone Ground to property developers Chartwell, who were planning on building a retail park on the site. A company it later came to light had connections to the Kingfisher Group, with which club Chairman Bill Archer was also involved. Whilst the club initially denied the sale, they later confirmed it and the clubs plans to ground share with Portsmouth next season ahead of the clubs first home game of the season against Bradford, which was drawn 0-0.

One of the leaders of the resentment against the club’s ownership was the now defunct Brighton fanzine Gulls Eye. A fanzine that had been running for a number of years up to that point and would play a huge part in shining a light on the owner’s wrongdoing at the club. After a tip off from a Portsmouth employee over the summer break, the fanzines co-editor Ian Hart took the story to The Argus who ran it on the front page ahead of the 95/96 season.

They had been no stranger to run ins with the club before, having been sued by the board in 1990 for libel over an article in the fanzine, after which its editors Ian Hart and Peter Kennard agreed an out of court settlement to pay the legal costs of the Brighton directors. Not that this experience had fazed them.

The summer had seen further revelations of the owners mismanagement of the club too. As it was revealed that after buying the club, Stanley and Archer had removed the clause from the club’s constitution designed to prevent shareholders from profiting if the club was wound up. After an investigation by supporter Paul Samrah and the Argus’s investigating journalist Paul Bracchi into the ownership of the club, it came to light two years later and the club was forced by the FA to change it back. Bellotti claimed it was simply an admin error, albeit an incredibly convenient one from which the owners could personally financially benefit from after the more recent sale of the Goldstone Ground. Following the correction, Paul Samrah continued to hold the owners to account and played a huge part in eventually ousting them, later becoming involved in the club’s fight for planning permission for a new stadium at Falmer.

As the season went on matters both off and on the field were becoming a considerable mess. A 2-1 defeat to Wycombe followed and the fact it featured two goals from former Albion schoolboy Miguel De Souza, only rubbed salt in the wounds of the Albion faithful. A sign that if you cut back a clubs infrastructure to its bare bones, even if you’re going to give youngsters a chance, some will be missed.

There were chinks of light when the club secured its first win of the season at home to Notts County, poignantly just four years after the club’s had met in the playoff final for a place in the topflight. But fittingly for such a season, even this was overshadowed by protests from supporters. A group invaded the pitch and sat in the centre circle interrupting the game to protest about the running of the club and the sale of the Goldstone Ground.

Liam Brady came onto the pitch and managed to convince the fans they’d made their point and that they should leave so the match can be finished, which they did. Unfortunately, this warning was not acted on by the club’s board and this protest was only the beginning of many that were to come.

An escalation in tensions

Following the victory over Notts County, another win followed away to Bristol City which momentarily lifted the club out of the relegation zone. But two subsequent defeats destroyed any good feeling created ahead of a trip to Bournemouth for a game being shown live on ITV in the South East as part of Meridian TVs “Meridian Match” series. Regionally broadcaster live matches were all part of ITV’s broadcast deal with the football league, which came to an end that season and would move to Sky.

It was the first time the club had been on live TV in eleven years and was only the fourth live TV match in its history. With the only previous times being the original and replay of the 1983 FA Cup final, and then a fourth round FA cup tie against the then mighty Liverpool in 1984. Whilst this occasion was just a lower league game on ITV regional TV, it still gave the supporters a chance to once again show their discontent towards the board in front of the watching media.

Protests were inevitable. Initially it was done with Brighton fans in the away end holding up red cards and banners stating “Sack the Board” and “We’ll never go to Pompey”, as well as singing songs about Archer, Stanley and Bellotti. But with the Albion falling 3-1 behind, some fans ran onto the pitch to halt the game and cause further disruption to events to raise attention for the cause. The fans were fairly peacefully dispersed but as time went on and the board stood firm, frustrations would grow and that would change.

A win in the Auto Windscreen Shield did nothing to halt the downwards momentum of the club, as a draw and three further defeats extended the clubs winless run to seven. It left Albion second bottom of the league and with just 9 points from its first 13 games. Ultimately the position the club would finish, but this season had plenty left to run and plenty of anger was to be vented.

In that run the club lost 3-1 to top of league Swindon. Whose Player-manager was Steve McMahon, returning to the Goldstone for the first time since scoring the winner for Liverpool in an epic 1991 FA cup fourth round replay between the club’s four years previous. A relatively small matter of time and yet a world away from the goings on at the Goldstone at that time.

There were light moments amongst the pain and anger. Possibly none more so than George Parris’ goal in a 2-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers. After the Rovers goalkeeper had rolled the ball to his feet, unbeknownst to him sneaking in behind him out of sight was George Parris, who tussled the ball off him and scored a memorable goal.

After a spell with West Ham that saw him make over 300 First Team appearances in over ten years, George Parris had found himself at Brighton in the dying days of his career. And whilst the club were struggling off the field with their issues, so was he as a gambling addiction meant he was amassing debts, something he later discussed in his book “My Name is George…I am a Compulsive Gambler”. His problems would get worse and eventually lead to him contemplating suicide, but, like the club he later rebuilt his life, going on to build a career in Women and Girls football coaching that saw him briefly re-join the Albion in 2016.

That win was just another short lived moment of joy in an otherwise depressing season. A 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea followed three days later, a game that despite the recent victory saw the club’s lowest home attendance for 40 years, a sign of the level of disgruntlement of supporters. The ones who stayed away missed a game which featured a certain West Ham loanee Frank Lampard Jr scoring Swansea’s second.

Then came a match against Canvey Island away in the first round of the FA Cup. The Essex side had never got to that stage of the competition before and had never played football league opposition before either, so Albion’s visit was a momentous day in their history. Amongst Canvey’s ranks was the former Albion goalkeeper and future Albion goalkeeping coach John Keeley who after winning the club’s player of the season in 1989 was sold to Oldham in 1990.

After losing at that stage of the competition to non-league Kingstonian the season before, Brighton could be excused for fearing another upset. Nerves that were well placed as despite going ahead twice, Canvey came back to draw and take the tie to a replay at the Goldstone.

After this a 3-0 home defeat to Walsall followed, which left the team second bottom with only 12 points from 17 games in the league and Liam Brady resigned as manager. He’d shown incredible loyalty to the club by taking a pay cut to afford some new signings and would show further loyalty to the club in the future, but said he simply couldn’t serve as manager under the current leadership at the club anymore.

Brady’s out the bunch but Jimmy is now on the Case

In his place came Jimmy Case who was part of Brighton’s cup final team in 1983 and famously scored in every round in the lead up to the final. Case was also a key part of the club’s midfield for the first half of the eighties after originally joining the club from Liverpool as part of a deal which saw Mark Lawrenson go the other way. Having been at the club as reserve team manager, he now found himself promoted to managing the first team.

In his first game in charge of the club they comprehensively beat Canvey Island 4-1 in the replay of their FA Cup first round tie. But then lost away to York 3-1 in his first league game in charge.

There were also further revelations about the club’s owners when the club accounts were leaked and revealed Greg Stanley was due £400k interest on a £600k loan. In reaction to the revelations the Brighton Argus ran a headline in the front page telling the board to resign and the board subsequently banned the paper from being sold within the ground.

But on the pitch Case’s appointment was beginning to see an upturn in form as the club won 2-0 at home to Bournemouth. And despite this being followed by two defeats, the club then took 7 points from the next three games including beating Brentford 1-0 and Bradford 3-1.

However, that was the high point for Case as manager and nonetheless the club was still sat firmly within the relegation zone. So a run of no wins in the next eight left the club with an ever increasing gap to third tier survival. And as well as still sitting second bottom the club was still looking for certainty over somewhere to play the following season.

The board were insisting the plan for next season was the play at Portsmouth despite an offer of the property developers to rent the Goldstone back from them for one final season whilst they made longer term plans. Adding further concerns was that the football league were reporting they’d seen nothing from the club to permit them to actually play at Fratton Park next season and so many questions remained unanswered.

Despite an impressive 4-0 win at home to Bottom side Hull, that was followed up with 3 defeats and a draw that left the club ten points from safety and having played two games more than fifth bottom Burnley who were their next opponents at the Goldstone.

This was last chance saloon for the club, and a 1-0 win here kept the club there for a short period. The winner came from Zeke Rowe who was on loan from Chelsea, a player who scored three goals in a nine game loan spell which ended with a red card. But whilst this win gave the club some hope, in reality only the most optimistic weren’t planning for relegation to the fourth tier.

And despite the board still insisting they were going ahead with the ground share with Portsmouth, there was growing uncertainty over where the clubs home would be next season. And when a 2-1 defeat away to Swansea all but secured relegation it became all the more pertinent.

An ignominious end to the season

The off field issues were tearing the club apart, the fans were regularly chanting “Sack the Board”, most of the media coverage surrounding the club was all about the owners questionable leadership and Chief Executive David Bellotti’s interviews had become more and more absurd, as to little avail he tried to spin the Board’s line.

One person who’d had enough was Steve Foster, an Albion legend and a man who’d led the club out at Wembley in the 1983 cup final replay, who with games still to play retired blaming the club’s bad owners for his decision.

The situation came to a head when the club played Carlisle at home next. And despite winning 1-0 in a fiery game that saw future Albion player and current BBC Sussex co-commentator Warren Aspinall sent off for Carlisle along with Albion’s Jeff Minton for fighting, things would take an even fiercer turn at the end of the game.

Upon the final whistle fans demonstrated their anger by invading the pitch and attempting to get into the board room to approach the board, causing damage to the boardroom and ripping up seats. The board had fled but stayed strong to their plans and public statements. However their hand was being forced by the football league giving the club 31 days to get its plans for where they were playing next season finalised or risk being kicked out the league altogether.

Five years on from the clubs meeting in the playoff final for a place in the topflight, Brighton faced Notts Country and a 2-1 defeat meant relegation to the Football League’s bottom tier was officially confirmed. Having spent all bar two of its 76-year spell to that point as a third tier club or higher, this was confirmation of a real low for the club and coming just a few years after being so near to a return to the topflight.

After which club faced a home match with York that as it stood would be its last game at the Goldstone. But the game would descend into riot and was abandoned.

It’s clear there were some who were there to make trouble and take advantage of the anger of the supporters towards the board. A number of spectators were injured, including Eleanor Ellison who was hospitalised after being headbutted when she was trying to protect her daughter, whilst another was seen being stretchered off after being hit by a missile.

With the country preparing to host Euro ’96 starting in six week’s time, some media outlets jumped on the scenes coupling it with the country’s Hooliganism problem that was a big topic for discussion in the build-up to the tournament. Made all the worse when the now infamously trouble-causing travelling England fans caused a friendly match with Ireland to be abandoned earlier that season.

The News of the World described the Brighton-York abandonment as “sickening scenes that shamed soccer.” However, others were more understanding of the circumstances that had led to these incidents, but the timing had highlighted the violence and somewhat masked the cause of the genuine protests. With the FA director of communications David Davies saying: “whatever the reason. It is obviously unhelpful that this happened so near to Euro ’96.”

After losing to Walsall in what was meant to be the last match of the season, the match with York was eventually replayed. But not as many expected behind closed doors, instead on the morning of Thursday 9th May as an all-ticket match with tickets only available to purchase the day before. In such circumstances a respectable gate of 2,106 saw Albion lose 3-1 as York secured their third tier status for another season at the expense of Carlisle.

Brighton also incurred a suspended three point deduction for the riot, two of which were docked after another pitch invasion, on Tuesday 1st October 1996, in a match against Lincoln.

As well as dealing with the aftermath of the York game, and on top of the host of issues the club had off the field, there was still the issue of where Albion were going to be playing next season and the deadline for the offer of a one year extension of their spell at the Goldstone Ground from the new owners Chartwell was close approaching.

In a further twist, former manager Liam Brady announced he was the lead figure in a consortium attempting to buy the club from its current owners, which involved the offer of him personally paying the deposit to ensure the club stayed at the Goldstone the following season.

Greg Stanley, who has taken a step back from day to day affairs had returned to try to help resolve the situation. After all he still held the role as club president and in that role stated publicly that Archer may sell his shares within the week, another promise from the club which was not carried out.

The club ultimately reached a last minute deal with Chartwell to stay at the Goldstone, with Archer and Stanley remaining in place. This would just be a stay of execution for them at the club. This was until the consortiums new figurehead Dick Knight (who’d been brought on board by Liam Brady, we have a lot to thank that man for!) managed to oust Archer and Stanley and take over as Chairman at the end of the following season. With the club just about avoided falling out of the football league altogether through that final day draw at Hereford.

After seeing out a two year spell ground sharing at Gillingham of all places, one of Bill Archer’s final gifts to the club, Dick Knight led the club to its new temporary home at Withdean Athletic Stadium where a new era in the club’s history would begin.

Jimmy Case didn’t last that much longer as manager however. He was sacked with the club bottom of the whole football league the following season and left new incumbent Steve Gritt to save the club from its seemingly inevitable doom.

Whilst the story of the 95/96 season is one of anger and resentment at the greed and deception of the board, the lasting legacy is of the many tales of personal sacrifice and generosity. In later times the likes of Dick Knight and Tony Bloom would overshadow others, but it’s clear that without people like Liam Brady, Ian Hart, Paul Samrah and Barry Lloyd, there would not have been a club to save at all.

1990/91 – A tale of what if?

Following the club’s relegation from the topflight in 1983, and after the years of overspending that preceded it in the aim of achieving that topflight status, the club had continuous struggles with its finances and its ever mounting debt.

At first the team persevered. In 1985 Chris Cattlin was close to leading the club back into the First Division and the season after took the club to the last eight of the FA Cup for only to the second occasion in its history. But despite subsequent protests from supporters, Cattlin was sacked later that season with the club out of the promotion picture and after allegations from the club of Gross Misconduct.

In his place came the return of Alan Mullery, but with the financial problems now dominating affairs the club’s performances on the pitch continued to diminish and he was sacked a matter of months after his return, being replaced by Barry Lloyd. The man initially brought in by Mullery to manage the reserves and youth team.

Lloyd’s task was tough and was one of remaining competitive in the second division amongst the increased cutting of costs and multiple played sales. So drastic was the cost cutting The Argus featured a front page story saying that all the club’s first team professionals were for sale.

So somewhat inevitably, amongst such turmoil the club couldn’t avoid relegation back to the third tier after ten years away. However given the circumstances he was working under and after sacking two high profile managers in just over a year, it’s little surprise that the club stuck with Lloyd.

There, despite the club’s financial limitations Lloyd began building an exciting, attacking side, focused on a passing style. Managing it despite having to sell high profile players like Terry Connor and Dean Saunders for a profit and replace them with cheaper options like Garry Nelson who signed from Plymouth and was that seasons club top scorer with 32 goals, along with Dean Wilkins, who returned to the club after playing in the Dutch topflight with Zwolle for three years. As a result of his good work in the transfer market the team secured promotion back to the second tier at the first time of asking against many’s predictions.

For the first two years back in the second tier, the club spent the majority of the time near the bottom of the division but avoided relegation as the club continued to wheel and deal. As a result of this transfer policy there were very few long serving players remaining at the club, with goalkeeper Perry Digweed, one exception.

Having joined the club in 1981 when it was in the topflight, Digweed was more commonly the number one in his time with the club. But had more recently spent a significant period out of the team after being on the wrong end of a dangerous lunged challenge from West Brom’s John Paskin which saw him tear his Urethra (ouch) and lose a significant amount of blood. From which he’d only returned in March 1990 after at one point some wondering if he’d ever return to playing at all.

Lloyd continued to bring in players as best as he could under the restrictions the financial position of the club dictated, whilst still having to sell some of his bigger names to make ends meet.

Ahead of the 1990/91 season the club signed striker Mike Small from PAOK in Greece, former Chelsea and Sunderland winger Clive Walker from Fulham and shortly after the start of the season, John Byrne made the move across the English Channel from Le Havre. All of which brought little fanfare but would be key figures in Albion’s season.

After a couple of years of struggle Albion understandably started the season as one of the favourites for relegation. So when an opening day defeat away to Barnsley was followed up by going out of the League Cup in the first round at the hands of Fourth Division Northampton, many were getting worried that those predictions would ring true.

However, after a draw at home to Wolves had gained the club its first league point of the season, things were to starting looking up as the club then won four of their next five in the league, a run that saw the club rise to 8th in the table. This run included two consecutive 3-2 wins first over Charlton and then Portsmouth with Mike Small, Dean Wilkins and Robert Codner all getting one each of Albion’s goals in both games.

Codner, who is now the agent of current Albion player Solly March, was much like his client as a player in that he greatly divided opinion amongst fans. But Codner was arguably very representative of Lloyd’s Albion era, often exciting and entertaining, but frustratingly inconsistent and unreliable.

The club’s good run was to abruptly come to a halt with a 4-0 hammering received in a home match with Ron Atkinson’s Sheffield Wednesday. Whilst it was a bad day for Albion, this was a talented Wednesday side that would go onto much better things.

It was a side which included future England international Carlton Palmer in midfield playing alongside the likes of Sweden international Roland Nilsson, club top scorer David Hirst and goalkeeper Kevin Pressman. So talented, that this team would go onto win that season’s League Cup despite being a Second Division club, and after achieving promotion that season, finished 3rd in the topflight the following season, qualifying for Europe. Subsequently going on to finish as runners up in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals to Arsenal the season after that.

But that defeat was a sign of things to come in the short term for Albion as they won just one of their next six matches. After which a 3-1 win away to Ipswich helped lift the club above their opponents and into 9th ahead of a 3-2 home win over Plymouth Argyle that further boosted the teams promotion prospects.

The match programme from that day featured a notice of the intention from the club to build a new home, which included the prospective design for the stadium, but ominously a location had yet to be decided upon. This is of course a tale that would continue to overshadow much of the history of the club for the next two decades until it moved into a permanent home in Falmer in 2011.

We were now over a year on from the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and the fallout was well underway. The Taylor report from the enquiry into the disaster had been published in January of that year and club’s were beginning to plan for its recommendations that all major stadiums in the UK should be all-seater and like many, Brighton had long realised that its ground was in no longer fit for purpose.

The Hillsborough disaster meant terrace capacities were reduced across the UK, and on top of that with parts of the Goldstone already closed due to a lack of funds for redevelopment leaving them in a state of disrepair, the capacity of the club’s ground was significantly reduced. So despite success on the pitch attendances were falling, with that seasons average home gate 8,386.

Director Ray Bloom (uncle of current owner Tony Bloom) said in the club’s announcement of its plans that: “It is not feasible to convert the Goldstone Ground.” But after years of broken promises over the redevelopment of the Goldstone Ground, there was no doubt much scepticism amongst fans about the new proposal, and as it would turn out this was just the continuation of the club’s mounting issues off the pitch.

However, on it things were going well, but a run of tough matches was ahead. Firstly a trip to second placed West Ham where despite taking a first half lead through another goal from Mike Small, the game ended in a 2-1 defeat. As Barry Lloyd said after the game, “our open style of play won plenty of praise and confirmed our ability to keep scoring. But in the second half we showed the other half of our nature and conceded two goals.”

So despite failing to win, the sides next game at home to Millwall seeing a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw would have pleased Lloyd. But what followed put all that good work out the window as Albion travelled to the eventual champions Oldham and were handed a heavy 6-1 defeat. Much like against Wednesday, it’s worth pointing out that this was a very good Oldham side who at the time under the management of Joe Royle had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and the final of the League Cup the season before. And whilst not quite achieving the same success as Wednesday following promotion that season, they would get to another FA cup semi-final in 1994.

Nonetheless, losing 6-1 was maybe the kick up the backside that this Albion side required as five wins in its next seven matches saw the club rise into the playoff spots and up to 6th in the table.

This run of form saw the short lived Albion career of one time Soviet Union international and future Belarus international Igor Gurinovich, who signed for the club from Dinamo Minsk. As a youngster he was part of the Soviet team that had won the 1978 U17 European Championships and then finished runners up at the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championships. Whilst his senior international football was limited to one cap, he went onto win the 1982 Soviet league championship with Dinamo Minsk. But somehow found himself at the Albion a little under a decade later.

After making his debut in the Zenith Data Systems cup at home to Charlton, he played the next four matches scoring two including once in Albion’s third round FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe. But that was his last start for the club before returning to Dinamo Minsk in the January of that season.

This wasn’t the first Soviet player Barry Lloyd had brought to the club as its empire began to crumble. More prominently Sergey Gotsmanov had signed for the club the season before and in his 16 games became a cult hero before joining First Division Southampton the summer of 1990.

That run of games also saw another new arrival at the club, with the soon to be infamous Albion Chairman Bill Archer joining the board initially as one of the then nine directors. He was spoken about in the matchday programme in glowing terms in regards to his commercial and advertising expertise, with his experience of securing a shirt sponsorship deal with Liverpool whilst working for Crown Paints specifically referenced. He was quoted as saying “Brighton have a terrific potential and I am here to develop a greater sponsorship input for the future.” Unfortunately for all involved, his legacy at the club would be very far removed from his stated objectives.

But all that was for future seasons, for now Brighton were flying. In the run up to their fourth round FA Cup tie with Liverpool the team won four in a row, scoring twelve and conceding seven. This exemplified Lloyd’s Albion team, attacking and exciting, but always having issues with conceding too many goals, even in this season of such relative success. In fact only two other teams outside the bottom five in the Second Division that season conceded more than them and they finished the season with a -6 goal difference despite their high league finish.

So with that record, Brighton would have been worried ahead of their trip to Anfield but after a quiet first half Brighton held off the hosts. But it soon looked that things would turn as were initially feared when John Barnes found Ian Rush who gave Liverpool the lead, before Rush then doubled his personal tally and Liverpool’s lead. But after Small pulled one back from the spot, he then set up Byrne to equalise from close range which set up a midweek replay at the Goldstone and gained Albion some welcome national media attention.

The replay continued in that vein as Small again equalised for Albion after this time McMahon had given Liverpool the lead. Albion were threatening their visitors goal throughout and as the game went into extra time Byrne got on the end of a Small knock down to score his second goal of the tie and give Albion the lead for the first time. But it didn’t last long as Rush finished off a brilliant Liverpool team move to level the tie again before some tired defending from Albion let McMahon in for his second to win this magnificent cup tie for Liverpool.

The excitement of the cup gave the club a short term boost as they won their next two matches over Charlton and Leicester. However the teams inconsistency remained as a shock a 2-0 defeat to struggling Plymouth followed. Then sandwiched in between creditable away draws to Newcastle and Wednesday were two defeats, the first 2-1 at home to Oldham and the second 3-0 away to Millwall.

However, by sitting 8th in the table and just one place outside the playoff places Albion were still in the mix for promotion ahead of the run in. But manager Lloyd wasn’t getting carried away saying in his programme notes ahead of the club’s next match at home to Blackburn saying that: “the season is far from over and that the task which lies ahead places heavy demand on the resources at the club.” Going onto say “see me at the end of April and I’ll let you know.”

Indeed, there was still a fair way to go with four matches still remaining in March before their hectic April schedule of eight matches in 24 days. And Lloyd’s restrained approach did seem to help initially as Albion won consecutive home games 1-0 over Blackburn and 2-0 over West Brom, before consecutive 3-1 wins away in the West Country over Swindon and then Bristol Rovers.

This left Albion 4th going into April and suddenly just five points off Wednesday who occupied the third and final automatic promotion place. But two straight defeats to Port Vale and Leicester put pay to any automatic promotion hopes and whilst a win at home to West Ham and a draw away to Notts County appeared to stabilise things, four defeats in the next five meant even the club’s playoff hopes were floundering.

If it weren’t for that sole victory during those previous five games, which came against bottom placed Hull, they would have dropped out of the playoff places altogether. But as it stood a win at home to an Ipswich team with nothing to play for on the final day of the season would secure a place in the playoffs and give the club a chance to earn an unlikely return to the topflight. Fail to win and there was the likely threat of both Barnsley and Bristol City waiting to take advantage.

Albion had reason to be confident too having beaten their opponents 3-1 earlier in the season at Portman Road. And it started well when Mike Small converted a spot kick to give Albion the lead but after Chris Kiwomya equalised for Ipswich things began to unravel for the Seagulls. Perry Digweed, who was also named player of the season that day saved Albion from the spot, but time was running out for the Seagulls to get the win they required.

This was until a foul on the edge of the box earned Albion a free kick with just a few minutes left. Up stepped future Albion manager and then captain Dean Wilkins who scored in the dying moments of the game to give Albion the win they needed to qualify for play offs. Wilkins free kick goals were one of his trademarks but his lack of defensive grit at times left supporters frustrated, but that day he could be forgiven for such limitations.

In the Playoff semi-final Brighton were drawn to play Millwall, a team they’d finished just one place and three points behind in the table. Their talisman was striker Teddy Sheringham who’d scored 38 goals that season for the Lions and won the club’s player of the season, in a season where he’d captured the attention of many bigger clubs and would move to big spending First Division Nottingham Forest that summer for £2m.

Brighton had a recently strengthened their squad by signing Stefan Iovan, a former Romanian international bought from Steaua Bucharest. Iovan captained Steaua to their 1986 European Cup win and played for them in the 1989 final which they lost 4-0 to Arrigo Sacchi’s great AC Milan side. After initially being in reserve for Albion, injuries meant he found himself playing in Albion’s biggest games of the season.

The first leg was at home and it was a tie which Millwall started the better by taking a 1-0 lead but Brighton equalised shortly after with the game tied going into half time. Then came an incredible second half performance from Albion which turned the tie in their favour. Albion caught their opponents out with three goals in seven minutes, eventually winning the first leg 4-1.

Millwall’s top scorer Sheringham later admitted: “we were so confident that we thought we must prevail. We finished fifth in the League, but we reckoned we got the best of the lot in Brighton. If we were guilty of anything it was perhaps being a bit overconfident. We thought we would walk it. We were wrong.”

This result had left Millwall with too much to do in the second leg, and despite getting one back and giving themselves some hope, Albion again came back from behind in the second leg to prevail on the day winning 2-1 and 6-2 on aggregate to secure a place in the final.

That win earned Brighton a trip to Wembley for the Play off final to play Notts County who’d beaten Middlesbrough in their semi final. Giving Brighton a return to the national stadium just eight years after that FA Cup final appearance there. And giving the club a chance of an unlikely return to the topflight just eight years after relegation from that level.

This was also Brighton’s first playoff campaign and was before the Football League playoffs had become the global sensation that they are today, being just four years after their introduction. Many were still coming around to the idea, but the fact this Brighton side were here showed just the opportunity they could give to clubs otherwise out of the picture much earlier in the season.

After missing the semi final through injury John Bryne returned to the team in place of Garry Nelson who despite his goalscoring record for the club in previous seasons had been in and out of the starting eleven all season following the arrival of Byrne and Small who both reached a double figure goal tally that season.

However, when it came to the big day Brighton were ultimately outclassed by Neil Warnock’s Notts County side, who took the lead when Tommy Johnson headed home at the near post after a short corner routine just before the half hour mark. Albion were admittedly giving it their best go at the other end and after Clive Walker hit the post with a header, Dean Wilkins hit the bar with a free kick.

But that was the closest they came before Tommy Johnson got his second. Then County took an unassailable 3-0 through a goal from Johnson’s strike-partner Dave Regis. Ultimately a late Dean Wilkins goal was only a consolation in another heavy Wembley defeat for the Seagulls.

Who knows what could have happened had the club managed to win that day. Despite the club’s mounting financial problems, promotion may have meant the sale of its star players, like top scorer Mike Small who instead moved to promoted West Ham that summer, would have been delayed and possibly even provided the club with more power in its search for a new stadium.

This is by no means certain. The breakaway of the Premier League from the Football League was still one season away, so promotion to the topflight wasn’t the land of milk and honey it’s become more today.

The reality is it’s likely that this Albion side wouldn’t have made much impact in the topflight despite its evident talents. The heavy defeats received that season from the likes of Oldham and Wednesday showed that they were some way off the standard required and finances would have no doubt dictated that little investment in improving the squad would have been available for the step up in class. Yes they matched Liverpool in two cup games, but doing that throughout an entire season is another thing entirely.

Furthermore, the financial and infrastructure issues would have overpowered the on field success at some point. After losing the playoff final this Albion team were dismantled. Despite having offers from other clubs Lloyd stayed loyal to Albion but couldn’t repeat this season’s success as Albion were relegated to its spiritual home the following season, the third tier of English football. There, it’s off field issues would continue to mount and overshadow it’s on field woes.

Brighton were ill-equipped for the topflight in so many ways. Whilst other clubs were beginning significant infrastructure investment that would take the English game into a new era of global success and growth, in contrast Brighton were entering a period of great uncertainty and regression that would ultimately lead to a civil war between the board and its supporters and one where the club nearly lost its Football League status and even its existence.

Some say this season is a story of what if, but in reality, in his time at the club Barry Lloyd did a remarkable job. Just in getting the club back to the second tier on a shoestring and keeping it there for four years despite the financial issues. Let alone nearly getting the club to the topflight, Barry Lloyd delayed the inevitable fall from grace that would later occur at the Albion.

1976/77 – Albion are finally worth promotion!

After winning the Fourth division in 1965, Brighton spent ten of the next eleven seasons in the Third Division and went into the 1976/77 season having a bit of a reputation as a perennial third tier club.

In fact of the 56 seasons since joining the Football League, they’d spent 49 of those at that level and even the arrival of the great Brian Clough in the Autumn of 1973 couldn’t change the club’s fortunes.

Clough’s eight month spell at Brighton is best chronicled in Spencer Vignes book “Bloody Southerners”. After which his assistant Peter Taylor stayed on to try to finish the job, failed and resigned in the summer of 1976 to join Clough in the Second Division at Nottingham Forest, a club that they would lead to become National and European champions.

In Taylor’s place Albion chairman Mike Bamber appointed the former Tottenham captain and England international Alan Mullery to take on the task of freeing Brighton from its self-induced Third Division detention.

Unlike Bamber’s previous appointments, Mullery was a complete novice in football management having only recently ended his distinguished playing career which included 35 England caps. However, thankfully for Mullery he didn’t have the usual squad upheaval task that most new managers had as Peter Taylor’s legacy was the impressive squad that he’d built and left behind. Many of whom would go onto thrive under Mullery’s leadership.

This squad of players included experienced full back and future Albion manager Chris Cattlin, who was one of Taylor’s final signings on a free transfer from Coventry.

After starting out at Second Division Huddersfield, Cattlin moved to Coventry where he spent eight seasons playing for for the Sky Blues in the topflight before moving to Brighton. After retiring at the Albion in 1979, he remained at the club on the coaching staff before going onto manage the club himself for three years after its relegation from the topflight in 1983.

Another of Taylor’s recruits was the young striker Peter Ward, who’s been signed from non-league Burton Albion the previous summer and had made his mark on his debut towards the end of that season by scoring in a 1-1 draw away to Hereford in front of the Match of the Day cameras and the BBC commentator that day John Motson. Under Mullery, Ward would go onto have a breakout season at Brighton and played a huge part in him becoming one of the most iconic figure in the club’s history, but more on that later.

The season started with a 3-2 two legged League Cup win over Fourth Division Southend United ahead of the start of the League campaign. And it was a good omen, as the club started their league campaign as it meant to go on, remaining unbeaten in its first four matches, recording three wins ahead of the visit of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town at the Goldstone for their Second Round League Cup tie.

The club’s had already drawn the original tie 0-0 at Portman Road. And it was a night to savour as a crowd of 26.8k saw the club record a historic 2-1 win over the First Division side. An attendance that was the highest of the season so far, but one that would be topped as the big matches continued.

This was club’s first win over a First Division club since 1933, and it was a notable scalp. This was an Ipswich team that would go on to win the FA Cup the following season and the UEFA cup in the 1980/81 season, as well as being a regular feature at the top-end of the First Division for an extended period. They finished 3rd this season and within the top-6 in nine out of the ten seasons between the 1972/73 and 1981/82 seasons, after which Bobby Robson left the club to take the England job, and the Club’s fortunes soon diminished.

One of Albion’s goalscorers that day was Fred Binney, who started the season on fire, scoring four in his first eight appearances, including two in the clubs 3-2 win over Oxford and one in a 3-1 win over Rotherham. But this was to be his last goal of the season as he lost his place in the team due to the success of the partnership between Ian Mellor and Peter Ward.

Binney had top scored for the club in the past two season, scoring 13 in 74/75 and then 27 in 75/76 (with 23 of those in the league) as Albion finished 4th, just one place outside the promotion places. After starting this season in the same vein, Binney made only two more appearances before he moved to the US to play in the NASL for St Louis Stars, where he competed alongside the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Pele, Gordon Banks and George Best.

However, the notable victory over Ipswich was followed up by a shock 2-0 defeat away to Grimsby, who recorded their first win of the season. But fortunately for Mullery’s men this was followed by the visit of second bottom York City to the Goldstone. The Minstermen were lambs to the slaughter as Brighton recorded a 7-2 win with Ward and Mellor both getting two goals.

This was Ian Mellor’s first start of the season, and what a way to make his mark! From that point onwards this became the regular strike partnership for the remainder of the season. With target man Mellor providing the perfect foil for Ward’s goalscoring exploits, whilst adding a fair few himself.

Another of Albion’s goalscorers that day was Peter O’Sullivan, the skilful winger was a veteran of the club by that time having signed for the club in 1970 on a free transfer from Manchester United. He was one of very few players to outlast Brian Clough and Peter Taylor at the club, when at times some joked that they needed to install a rotating door at the entrance of the first team dressing room, such was the number of ins and out at the club at that time. His longevity at the club of eleven years show just how good a player he truly was.

This win was also the perfect tonic ahead of a trip to another First Division club, West Bromwich Albion for the third round of the League Cup. In this Third Round tie, the club recorded a 2-0 victory and in doing so repeated that long awaited feat of beating First Division opposition twice in the same season, through two goals from Peter Ward.

That game was followed up with another league win, this time 3-1 over Tranmere that left the club top of the league going into a big match at the Goldstone Ground. Big because is saw the visit of promotion rivals Crystal Palace and was fittingly featured as the main match on ITVs The Big Match. The game ended in a respectable 1-1 draw and Managers Terry Venables and Alan Mullery sat very chummily side by side as they were interviewed by Brian Moore in the TV studio the next day.

All that would change, but we’ll come to that shortly. First Albion followed up that draw with another seven goal haul, this time winning 7-0 at home to Walsall. A match that incredibly saw Ian Mellor score four and his strike partner Peter Ward score three.

This was a night remembered almost as much for the atrocious playing conditions as the fact that all seven of Albion’s goals came in an extraordinary second half. Results like this were seeing the good work that Alan Mullery had already done with this Albion side in such a short space of time recognised far and wide, and he was nominated for the September Football League manager of the month award.

The results didn’t lie and Mullery wasn’t just getting the national plaudits. He’d very quickly won around the Albion faithful, a fact underlined by a quote from Centre Back Andy Rollings who in a recent interview for the club’s website said: “the moment we found out that Alan Mullery was taking over was light at the end of the tunnel. He was a man who had played for England, won almost everything and was such a great motivator. I loved playing under him”.

The club continued to get national recognition by featuring again on ITV’s The Big Match for their trip to Bury the following weekend, a game which saw Albion looking splendid in their all red away kit. But, they were nonetheless well and truly brought down to earth with a 3-0 defeat. Admittedly Bury were one of the better team in the division, but it was a not untypical result of the season. Brighton were heavily reliant on their home form for wins in a time where two points for a win gave draws more significance. In total that season their 19 home wins were matched with just six away from home.

So they would have been pleased that this defeat was followed by a home match with Peterborough. A match where the team showed their mental strength by earning an important 1-0 win. A result followed with an equally important draw away to fellow promotion chasers Mansfield.

This was a season where the high profile games continued to come for the club as the Seagulls next continued their impressive run in the League Cup with a game in the fourth round at home to Derby County, the First Division Champions from two years previous.

Despite the lofty opposition, some were starting to dream of a first Wembley appearance for the club and so it was a game which saw tickets in great demand. So much so that when tickets for the cup match were put on sale at the club’s reserve match with Charlton, that game attracted a crowd of 17.5k, whereas at the time reserve matches would usually attract crowds of less than 1k.

The match with Derby at the Goldstone started well for Brighton when that man again Peter Ward put Albion ahead after only 37 seconds. But Derby’s Welsh international winger Leighton James equalised for the visitors and that’s how it remained, so a replay at Derby’s Baseball Ground was to take place in two weeks’ time.

In the run up to the return match, Brighton won their next three games, the third of which a 4-0 win at home over Swindon. But despite this good form the team failed to repeat their previous heroics when they were beaten 2-1 in a replay despite a goal from Ian Mellor.

Derby were beaten in the next round by Bolton, but their star winger James would go onto feature at Wembley that summer for his country Wales where he scored the winner in a 1-0 win over England in the Home Internationals.

For Albion, their exploits in the cup that season continued with what has become one of the most famous cup ties in the club’s history, when Albion met Crystal Palace in the first round of that season’s FA Cup.

It’s a match that has helped to spawn what has become a vicious and persistent rivalry between the club’s. There had already been animosity between them, notably when on the club’s met on the opening day of the 74/75 season and there was significant crowd trouble between rival fans. Whilst former rival managers Peter Taylor and Malcolm Allison both publicly criticised the other teams style of play after recent matches between the sides. And in the 75/76 season Brighton adopted the nickname the Seagulls after the Brighton fans began signing “Seagulls!” in reaction to the Crystal Palace fans chants of their newly adopted nickname “Eagles!”

But this season would cement the rivalry when the club’s battled for promotion to the Second tier along with a trilogy cup ties, a combination which lead to rival managers Venables and Mullery upping the ante when it came to publicly criticising the opposition in what became a vicious personal duel of words.

The FA cup tie saw the clubs meet in an infamous second replay at the neutral venue Stamford Bridge, after the previous games held first at the Goldstone Ground and then Selhurst Park both ended 1-1. The tie concluded when Crystal Palace scraped a 1-0 win in the second replay, but in controversial circumstances after Albion’s midfielder Brian Horton was ordered to retake a penalty he’d originally scored.

When Horton unfortunately missed the retaken spot kick Brighton’s manager Mullery lost his temper and made a two fingered salute to the Palace fans, for which he was later fined. One Palace fan is then said to have thrown a hot cup of Coffee over Mullery who responded by throwing some loose change on the floor and exclaiming, “You’re not worth that!” Palace won and the teams have hated each other ever since.

But let’s be frank, this story has become so legendary its masks the main reason why the rivalry has persisted beyond this period of fierce competitive and personal rivalry. Hooliganism. Yes, the competitive rivalry at the time fed it too, but most games between the clubs were, and remain to this day, marred by crowd trouble. For example, the original first round cup tie between the sides that season was halted three times by smoke bombs being thrown onto the pitch.

Crowd trouble was becoming common place in English Football at this time and would persist throughout the 1980s. The following summer saw one of the most notable example of over-exuberant football fans causing havoc, when Scotland met England at Wembley Stadium in what was that years Home Internationals decider.

After beating England 2-1 to win the trophy, Scotland’s fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate. One group of supporters snapping the crossbar of the Wembley goal, others tore up the Wembley pitch and many caused further damage to the stadium and throughout London later that night. And it was scenes like these that in part led to the tournament ultimately being removed from the football calendar in 1984.

For the Albion, the cup run had helped to derail their season with that defeat to Palace the latest in a run of seven games without a win in all competitions that included four defeats and exits from both cups. As the match day programme said ahead of the club’s next match at home to Chesterfield: “it never rains, but it pours.”

But the club were still third in the league and only a point off top spot. So when a 2-1 win over Chesterfield meant the team moved up to top of the table ahead of a trip to Portsmouth a week later, the club looked to have turned a corner and got over that slump. But after a surprise defeat saw the club drop to third again, they were required once again to quickly bounce back, which they duly did with a 2-0 win over Northampton to regain top spot once again just after the turn of the year.

From then on, the team built up some much needed momentum and consistency for its promotion push as the season went on, winning five of the next nine in the lead up to a return to Selhurst Park to renew their battle with Crystal Palace.

But there good form counted for nothing as the fifth and final meeting between the sides that season saw a comprehensive 3-1 win for Palace, in which Terry Venables impressed the watching media by showing off the tactical competencies which saw him go on to manage at some of the games great global stages.

But whilst Palace won the club’s individual battle that season, Brighton were still winning the war and quickly regained the momentum of their promotion push by responding to that defeat with an emphatic 4-0 victory at home to Shrewsbury in mid-March and regained top spot in their next match with a 3-1 win at home to leaders Mansfield thanks to yet another Peter Ward brace. The first of four wins in eleven days and five wins throughout April, which put the club on the brink of promotion to the second tier.

Their next match could see Brighton clinch promotion at home to Sheffield Wednesday but they needed to win and hope other results went their way. As such this crunch match saw yet another crowd of over 30k at the Goldstone where a 3-2 win secured the club a long awaited promotion to the second tier after Rotherham lost at home to Reading. John Vinicombe of the Argus said he’d “never witnessed such scenes at the Goldstone before” as the crowd spilled onto the pitch to celebrate after what was a dramatic match.

It looked like it wouldn’t end that way early on when Brighton found themselves 1-0 down at half time, made all the worse by Peter Ward uncharacteristically missing a chance to score from the penalty spot. But Ward finally did equalise for the Albion after the break, who then took the lead through a penalty, this time taken and scored by Brian Horton, and eventually won the game 3-2.

Brian Horton who captained the team that season, was another of Peter Taylor’s astute signings who made over 250 appearance for the club in a five year spell and would be named that season’s Club player of the season despite Ward’s imperious goalscoring exploits. Horton did return breifly to manage the club in 1998 during its exile in Gillingham, but soon realising the task he had on his hands, left to take the Port Vale job later that season.

The season wasn’t over yet though as the title was still up for grabs, but despite Peter Ward scoring in both the club’s remaining two fixtures to set a club record by scoring 36 goals in the season, a defeat to Swindon and a draw to Chesterfield meant the club ended up settling for second behind Mansfield. But the consolation was that they still finished ahead of rivals Palace who sneaked into the third and last promotion place ahead of Wrexham.

As the seventies drew to their conclusion the club continued to reach new heights, achieving promotion to the topflight for the first time in 1979, and remaining there for four seasons before finally succumbing to relegation in 1983. A blow softened by it coinciding with the clubs only appearance in the FA Cup final, which was lost on a replay to Manchester United after the original tie was drawn 2-2.

But whilst there were seasons to come where this team would go onto bigger and better things, when it comes to iconicity, there are few in the club’s history that match 1976/77.

This Weeks Seagulls Reading List

I started this blog, in part, because I always found myself searching for Albion related content to read that wasn’t about Hereford in 97 or the cup final in 83. However, now Albion related reading has never been more frequent and interesting. So here, in the first of what I hope to make a regular feature, is my weeks worth of Albion reading.

*note, all articles mentioned are linked below, just click on the underlined words.

Mellow Monday

After Albion beat Watford 3-0 on Saturday to go third on the Premier League there were quite a few people getting rather carried away, including many Seagulls fans posting a Europa League themed Albion GIF, which being polite is a best premature.

So as well as reminding my readers of a similarly emphatic opening day victory away to Burnley in 2002 that’s was followed by 13 games without a win and subsequently relegation. I looked back at Saturday’s victory and reminded everyone that there’s plenty of football still to play.

Tudor Tuesday

This week I christened Tuesday, Tudor Tuesday in honour of Tudor Baluta, Brighton’s Romanian U21s international who has been given the number 28 shirt this season and is tipped by some pundits to have a breakthrough season in 2019/20.

Described by Dumitru Barbu (one of Baluta’s youth coaches) as a future replacement for Sergio Busquets at Barcelona, there are high hopes in Romania that Brighton manager Graham Potter can be the person to nurture Tudors talent. If you want to know more about Albion’s young prospect the this peice by Leftbackfootball in him is worth a read.

Webster Wednesday

It may have escaped some Seagulls fans that Albion fought off serious interest from Aston Villa to sign Adam Webster, a player repeatedly praised in the Birmingham Mail as ‘Gold Standard’ as well as ‘one of the Championship’s leading centre-backs’.

Here are a selection of articles from the Birmingham Mail that covered Villa’s chase for Albion’s new man.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

I think you get the point. But if you want to know more about Adam Webster than just what Villa thought of him, Andy Naylor’s peice in the Athletic is worth a read ‘Adam Webster has two great feet. It’s hard to tell which is his strongest’

Tactics Thursday

It’s not taken the Albion fans by surprise, but those with a less keener eye have been pleasantly surprised by the change in style at the Albion this summer, so much so it’s been the talk of the town. Naylor has a go in the Athletic saying it “felt very different”, JJ Bull had a go in the telegraph saying Potter’s appointment as manager “already looks like a great choice” and the the difference to last season is “enormous”. Leftbackfoot had a go to in another interesting take on Potter’s approach and everyone’s second favourite unofficial Albion twitter page Albion Analytics showed us some useful tactical illustrations.

But let’s not read too much into Potter’s Brighton after one game, as As Swansea Vital describes here, Swansea fans found out quickly that he is the sort of manager who tactically can keep you guessing.

Freestone Friday

Amongst all the flux of the summer you may have missed the signing of a young centre back who spent last season at Peterborough, Lewis Freestone. After signing his first professional contract for the Posh back in 2016, he only made a handful of appearances for the first team along with and a number of small loan spells with non league clubs and was released by the Posh this summer before he moved to the Albion.

A surprising signing you may think? Well the club need the numbers within its u23 squad after sending so many out on loan, and Freestone impressed U23 manager Simon Rusk whilst on trial earning a 1-year deal. But to be able to make it at the Albion he will have to fight off competition from a number of talented youngsters, as shown by the fact he didn’t even make the bench for this weeks 2-0 win for the U23s over Wolves.

Any other business: Who owns the Albion?

Brighton & Hove Albion Holdings Limited, the company that owns the football club released its confirmation statement this week including an updated list of shareholders. And it’s worth a quick glance if only to see some of the people who have minor shareholding’s in the club, which include, Dick Knight (who seemingly failed in his bid to shift them to fans), the Friday Ad, Pig City Incorporated (a company of which Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim is a director of), and twenty others.