Andy Petterson – the loan ranger

Despite it not being a particularly long list of names, Andy Petterson is probably not the first Australian who played for the Albion that supporters would think of. Partly because he was part of a run of defeats which most fans would to choose to forget.

He first arrived from Australia in 1988 as a teenager to join Luton Town but played just 19 games for the Hatters in five years. During that time he was loaned to Ipswich Town in 1993 after they had an injury to their first choice ‘keeper Craig Forrest. A spell that saw Petterson make his Premier League debut on the last day of the season in a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest.

Having not played for the club in his spell there yet, he only found out 45 minutes before the game that he was due to make his debut. And far from being an end of season dead rubber, this was a game which Ipswich needed to win to avoid relegation.

Petterson admitted “I’m driving to the game and I’m late… I dash into the dressing room and before I could even put my bag down, I was told number two keeper Clive Baker was out sick. And I’m starting… So I run out and obviously I’m very nervous to start.”

A year later he made a move to Charlton where he initially continued his life as back up, with his first 2 seasons involving four separate loan spells, including another loan spell at Ipswich.

But on New Year’s Day 1997 he was brought into the side, kept his place and went onto impress so much that he won the club’s player of the season award as they finished a disappointing 15th in the First Division.

As a result, for the first time in his career he began the following 1997/98 season as his club’s number one goalkeeper. All seemed well as the team pushed for promotion to the topflight. But he soon lost his place in the team in February of that season and had to watch from the bench as Charlton won that iconic playoff final on penalties against Sunderland after the game ended 4-4 after extra time.

He would later admit: “although we got promotion, that day at Wembley wasn’t quite as special for me as if I had played in the game. At the time when Sasa saved the penalty we had just won at Wembley in such dramatic fashion and it was fantastic for me. But a few days later it sort of sank in that I missed another opportunity to play at Wembley, like when I was at Luton and we got to an FA Cup semi-final that was played at Wembley.”

After featuring just twice for Charlton in the topflight, both of which games they won, he was soon demoted to third choice keeper and loaned to First Division Portsmouth. But injuries to Sasa Ilic and Simon Royce saw him return for another run in the team. However, at the end of the 1998/99 season he was let go and returned to Portsmouth who offered him a permanent deal.

Despite not being a regular under him, Petterson has mostly good things to say about his Charlton manager, the former Albion player Alan Curbishley. “He was a really good coach and a really good guy who treated players really well and he wasn’t like other managers who come across as being a bit of a bully sort of thing.”

Despite his issues there, the five seasons he spent at Charlton would end up being his most successful spell in football. At Portsmouth he started as first choice but by November he’d lost his place in the team and admitted later: “The loan spell [at Portsmouth] went well. The permanent move didn’t, unfortunately. It was the beginning of the end when I went back to Pompey. My career never really recovered.”

Petterson had lost his place in the Portsmouth team, in part after a row with assistant coach Kevin Bond. And after loan spells at Torquay and Wolves, he left for West Brom on a free transfer, where once again, he was surplus to requirements.

However, he would make a comeback by signing for Brighton in August 2002 on another free transfer when Albion’s number one keeper Michel Kuipers suffered his first of a number of injuries that season.

But it was another false dawn for the Australian, as he played only nine times for the Seagulls. Which included playing in six of the club’s run of record equalling 12 consecutive defeats. And things began as they meant to go on for Petterson, when on his debut he was at fault for Walsall’s first goal as the team lost 2-0.

He was not initially perturbed and still seemed to be relishing his opportunity with the Albion, with the next game seeing him face his old club Portsmouth. By then he was an old hand in the English game and with his new team struggling with the step up to the second tier, he felt he could make a difference in that area, telling the Argus before the match: “I would like to think I could help some of the younger lads build in confidence.”.

However, he let in a further four against the league leaders as Albion lost an entertaining game 4-2, and conceded a total of 15 goals in his 7 league appearances for the club, with all bar one ending in defeat.

That included another 4-2 defeat, this time at home to Gillingham. With the game still in the balance at 3-2 and Albion pressing for an equaliser, a quick Gillingham counter saw Petterson experience probably the nadir of his spell at Albion. As the Australian fell over his own leg whilst rushing back to his goal, it left Gillingham’s Kevin James to put the ball into an empty net.

Further defeats to Stoke and Rotherham followed before Michel Kuipers returned from injury to save Petterson the ignominy of any involvement in Albion’s further five defeats, which included a 5-0 defeat away to rivals Palace.

He did have one final involvement as a late substitute in Albion’s record avoiding win away to Bradford, after Michel Kuipers had been sent off. But his first job was to pick the ball out of the net after Andy Gray had blasted in the resultant spot-kick to set up a tense finale. Thankfully, Brighton held on for a long awaited win.

Petterson made two more appearance as an unused substitute at Albion before he was let go to continue his nomadic career in the lower reaches of the English Football League.

He next signed a short-term contract with Bournemouth, before spells with Rushden and Diamonds, Southend, Walsall and Notts County, during which time he made only a smattering of appearances.

Petterson admitted after retiring that “[I] maybe mentally didn’t have the belief in myself enough. I’m a bit of a laid-back, casual sort of guy. Sometimes you have to be that pushy arrogant sort of person for the coach to take notice of you a bit more. I tried to do it, as a footballer you have to be a bit of an actor, but it just wasn’t in my nature.”

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.

Second Season Syndrome – Fact or Fiction?

Second Season Syndrome – Fact or Fiction? A blog looking at the effect of Second Season Syndrome in the Premier League #bhafc #htfc #nufc

So as Brighton approach another season in the Premier league a topic that will no doubt be discussed at length is the concept of “Second Season Syndrome”. For those who are unaware of this concept “Second season syndrome” is simply put: where a team fails to match the achievements of the first season after promotion in the season that follows, usually leading to relegation. The reasons for this occurring have been hypothesised as ranging from increased pressure resulting from heightened expectations to decreased motivation and complacency after achieving or exceeding a club’s expectations in its first season.

To be clear a “syndrome” can be defined as: a group of symptoms that are consistently occurring together. Suggesting Second Season Syndrome would equate to a regularly occurring trend for teams in their second season. Therefore, in this blog I will analyse the historic data to see if this syndrome exists, specifically within the Premier League.

According to anecdote the examples of this theory appear to be numerous but for me there are two that stick out. First Ipswich town who finished 5th in their first season in the top flight in the 2000/01 season and qualified for Europe, only to finish 13 places lower and be relegated the following season. Furthermore, Reading finished 8th in their first ever top flight season back in 2006/07 but dropped ten places to finish 18th the following season to be relegated back to the Championship.

However, there are of course examples of teams who have by contrast drastically improved on their first season performance in their second season. Leicester City famously won the league in their second season after promotion, whilst last season Burnley finished 7th and qualified for European competition. Both improving significantly on their first season league position.

But are either or both of these examples of anomalies or a rather sign of a greater trend?

Findings and analysis

I have looked at the performance of teams in their second season in the top flight following promotion to see if we can prove or disprove this theory, basing a team’s overall performance on their end of season league position. I looked at this using two fairly definitive measurements of second season syndrome. The proportion of team that were relegated in their second season, and the movement in position of a team from its first to its second season.

To do this I looked at the Premier League from 95/96 to date. The reason I did this was because for this period the top level contained 20 teams and 3 were promoted and 3 were relegated. I appreciate football began before this period but it would be an unfair year-on-year comparison as a result.

Furthermore, much has changed since the start of the premier league, particularly with the factor of ever increasing Sky tv revenue, which makes comparing the current day performances to performances before the advent of the Premier League difficult.

My analysis shows:

  • Since 95/96 – 13% of teams relegated were in their 2nd season (compared to 42% in first season).
  • In the last 10 years – 13% of teams relegated were in their 2nd season (compared to 33% in first season)
  • Since 95/96 – teams on average finish 1 place lower than they did in their first season (0.86) with a median movement of a one place drop.
  • In the last 10 years – teams on average finish 1 place higher than they did in their first season (1.22)
  • Standard deviation is a statistical measure which shows the spread of data within a dataset, the higher the deviation the higher the number. The standard deviation of the change in second season performance compared to the first season is just above 5 (5.4).

Findings

Whilst the examples of teams performing significantly worse in their second season are apparent, there is no clear evidence of a trend. Furthermore, there are as many examples of successful second seasons as there are unsuccessful.

The generally accepted hypothesis appears to be that a team’s second season is harder than the first, however the data here shows you are almost four times as likely to be relegated in your first season as your second.

Whilst a small decrease in average position of teams in the Premier league from first to second was found over the course of the period studied, there was no clear trend.

In fact, the standard deviations of the change in second season performance compared to the first of 5.4 shows there are large swings in 2nd season performance from one team to another. For instance during the period studied, whist Ipswich dropped 13 places year on year, Leicester went up 13 places year on year. As you can see from the final graph there are as many outliers on both sides of the deviations, which ensures this doesn’t skew the average significantly enough to affect the findings.

Conclusions

Ultimately Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle fans will be glad to see my analysis shows no definitive trend either way. The data shows a team’s 2nd season performance is ultimately more dependent on each club circumstances and the fact it’s their 2nd season doesn’t necessarily equate to a drop-in performance.

Ipswich for example had to contend with the additional strain on resources of extra games in the form of European competition in the season they were relegated. Leicester and Burnley however, went from a first season of relatively narrow survival to a second season of great success. Second seasons appear to only be a hinderance in certain circumstances.

These are of course outliers, the more common movement year on year was a fall of one place, with 50% of the year on year movement between a three-place fall and a one place rise in end of season league position. Whilst a small fall in average final league position suggests a second season may be on average marginally harder, a small movement such as this in a game of small margins such as football, hardly equates to a “syndrome” of such widespread notoriety.

In fact, in the last ten seasons the trend of second season performance has moved from a small decrease in year on year league position to a small increase, something that seems logical to me. As a team’s become more experienced and established in the top flight you’d expect their league position to rise. Furthermore, with the level of analysis that takes place at Premier league clubs now it’s not unexpected that the surprise factor of newly promoted teams may have been lost or at least diminished.

So, whilst some will refer to second season syndrome it appears to me to be a fictional concept designed in an attempt to try to create the narrative of a trend that doesn’t really exist. Many clubs in fact perform similarly or better to how they did in their first season and as already mentioned, where this isn’t the case there are often extenuating circumstances.

The clear trend is if you survive your first season you are between three and four times as likely to survive relegation in your second, many Premier League teams key goal. A trend that should fill Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton fans with confidence. Furthermore, the general trend is that every season you survive you’re then more likely to survive the following season.

My club Brighton appear to me to be a stable club that picked up points consistently over the course of the previous season and one that is more than capable of meeting and even improving on last season’s performance. Ultimately though the Premier league is a toughly fought division and time will tell where we end up come May and whether my hunch is correct.