Charlie Oatway took off with Bluebirds and soared with Seagulls

CHARLIE Oatway had not long earned his break in professional football with Cardiff City before he found himself behind bars in Pentonville Prison.

Up on a charge of GBH for his part in a fight, when an Afro-Caribbean friend was racially abused, Oatway didn’t expect to get incarcerated but ended up serving two months of a four-month sentence.

Before he headed off to court in London on a Monday morning, he had told Cardiff’s general manager, the former Leeds and Wales international Terry Yorath (broadcaster Gabby Logan’s dad), to expect him for training on the Tuesday morning!

The story is explained in detail in Tackling Life, the book Oatway published about how he turned his life round to become captain of Brighton and part of three promotion-winning sides.

The tale reveals how imprisonment was just one of the hurdles Oatway had to overcome in a life that’s taken many colourful twists and turns.

It was sadly ironic that his career as a player with Brighton was cut short in a Boxing Day clash against Queens Park Rangers, the team he followed home and away from an early age.

The family lived a stone’s throw from Loftus Road and Charlie – a nickname given to him by an aunt – was named by his Rs-daft dad after the whole of the promotion-winning 1973 QPR team: Anthony, Phillip, David, Terry, Frank, Donald, Stanley, Gerry, Gordon, Steven, James.

Albion reaching the Division 2 play-off final in Cardiff in 2004 was the highlight of Oatway’s career – but a feature in the match programme was angled on the disappointment he had suffered the year before, when he had gone as a spectator with all his family to see QPR lose to Cardiff.

“Everything about the day was perfect apart from the result,” Oatway told reporter Alex Crook. “Being a QPR fan at heart, I felt the pain of the defeat just as much as the other 35,000 fans. But this time I am going up there as a player and not as a fan and I am determined our supporters will not go through what I did last season.”

The youngest of five kids, Oatway grew up in Shepherd’s Bush and even though he started to struggle in school from an early age, he displayed quite a talent for football.

“I knew by the time I was eight that I was as good as any of the eleven-year-olds I was playing with,” he recalls in Tackling Life. He had trials for the West London District schools team and played for Harrow Boys Club and Bedfont Eagles.

Oatway reveals how it was Wally Downes, the former Wimbledon player and later loyal assistant manager to Steve Coppell, who helped to get him noticed, along with his cousin, Terry Oatway.

The young Oatway joined up with Wimbledon in the year they won the FA Cup – 1988 – and played for the youth team, but he was let go at the end of the 1989-90 season and joined non-league Yeading on semi-professional terms. Off the field, life was by no means straightforward. “By the age of 19, I had two children with two different mothers,” he said.

After helping to get Yeading promoted in 1993-94, Oatway found a pathway back into the professional game when a community worker (Ritchie Jacobs) on the estate where he lived organised a trial at Cardiff City for him and two pals.

He was the only one of the three invited back and he said: “When Cardiff asked me back for another month, I knew it was the chance I’d been waiting for, and I was going to grab it with both hands.”

Not surprisingly, the two months he spent in Pentonville didn’t greatly help his cause but remarkably he was welcomed back to the club and accepted by the fans. However, in his absence there was a change in team management and ownership and, before long, new team manager Kenny Hibbitt was instructed to send Oatway out on loan to Coleraine in Northern Ireland.

On his return to Cardiff the following season, they had by then been relegated to the Fourth Division. Still he was unable to get back in the first team and he happened to play a reserve team game against Torquay United, who were managed by his old Cardiff boss, Eddie May. May asked if he fancied a move for first team football and, although he only joined just before Christmas in 1995, by the end of the season he had been voted Player of the Year.

When May moved on to become manager of Brentford, he put in a bid for the combative midfielder and took him back to west London to play in the Bees’ third tier side.

In 1998, Oatway had a brief loan spell with Lincoln City but on his return to Griffin Park he came under the managership of Micky Adams for the first time.

Adams had taken over the manager’s chair at Griffin Park but he was sacked when owner Ron Noades thought he could make a better job of running the team.

Adams then took the reins at Brighton and, as the Albion began life back in Brighton & Hove after the two-year exile in Gillingham, Oatway and Bees teammate Paul Watson joined the Seagulls for a combined fee of £30,000.

Adams wanted the pair to join a nucleus of players who’d all played under him previously at Brentford and Fulham.

In an Albion matchday programme profile of Oatway to coincide with the visit of his former club, Torquay, on 2 September 2000, it noted: “Despite getting sent off rather stupidly in one of his earliest games for the Seagulls – he bit a Darlington player’s face – he soon became a great favourite with the Brighton crowd, who hadn’t seen a midfield scrapper like him since Jimmy Case retired.”

oatway prog cover

He went on to be a vital midfield cog in the back-to-back league title winning sides of 2001 and 2002. Although he was in the team that was relegated from the second tier in 2003, he was full of praise for the effort made to avoid the drop. “Steve Coppell was one of the best managers I’ve ever played under because of his attention to detail,” he said. “Steve’s team talks on the day before a game were brilliant.”

When the departed Coppell was replaced by Mark McGhee, Oatway remained a cornerstone of the Albion line-up and described that 2004 play-off final at the Millennium Stadium as “the best day of my career”.

But at one point it was touch and go whether he was going to be able to carry on. In October 2003, he underwent major back surgery to repair a slipped disc and trapped nerve.

He was out for nearly three months and he admitted in an Argus interview: “There was a good chance I wouldn’t play again.”

When the Albion cashed in on captain Danny Cullip in December 2004, selling him to Sheffield United, Oatway took over the skipper’s armband full-time, a role he had previously embraced as a stand-in.

The following season’s Boxing Day clash with QPR at Withdean was only two minutes old when Marcus Bean tackled Oatway from behind and escaped without even a booking.

Oatway was stretchered off and McGhee later told the mirror.co.uk: “Charlie has been a tremendous leader and captain and this is a huge blow. I’m very upset about it.”

Oatway had four different operations to try to fix the ankle injury, but he never recovered sufficiently to return to the required level to play league football.

“I tried to get back to playing again but by the pre-season of 2007 I had to call it a day,” he said.

However, even when he was out injured, Oatway was always a strong influence on the dressing room.

Stand-in skipper Dean Hammond said in an Argus interview in November 2006: “Charlie has been out injured but he has been fantastic for everyone. He comes in, he gets everyone up for it, he’s always laughing and joking. He’s got the enthusiasm and he is still determined, even though he is not playing.

“His personality is fantastic for everyone and I think he deserves a massive pat on the back.”

He also used the time productively, studying how the coaches worked with the youth team players and starting to take his coaching badges. When it was clear he wouldn’t be able to return to play full-time professional football again, he got involved with the Albion in the Community scheme as a community liaison manager.

Rather than give up the game completely, Oatway took the opportunity to become player-coach at Havant and Waterlooville and, in January 2008, he found himself in the national media spotlight when the Blue Square South minnows played away to Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Oatway wasn’t fit to start the game but he got on as a substitute in the 74th minute and later recounted how his former teammate Bobby Zamora fixed it for him to swap shirts with Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun, who scored a hat-trick in the Reds’ 5-2 win that day.

Then, in 2009-10, Oatway began helping Brighton manager Russell Slade to coach the first team and, after Slade’s departure, continued in the role under Gus Poyet.

When Poyet left the Seagulls to join Sunderland, Oatway went with him and he was also in the dug-out alongside Poyet and his assistant Mauricio Tarrico at Chinese Super League team Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, AEK Athens and Seville-based Real Betis.

However, he didn’t follow him to French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux and in spring this year was helping out his former mentor at Albion in the Community, Dr Alan Sanders, now director of education, sport and health for Charlton Athletic Community Trust, delivering football courses for the community scheme, and sharing his experiences with schoolchildren in south east London.

 

 

Pictures: matchday programme; The Argus; Tackling Life (Quick Reads, 2011).

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Mis-firing Mick Ferguson couldn’t repeat goalscoring prowess for Everton or Brighton

MICK FERGUSON was a prolific goalscorer for Coventry City but the goals dried up in spells with Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Ferguson’s arrival at the Goldstone in the early autumn of 1984 was certainly not amid a great fanfare. The Albion, under new chairman Bryan Bedson, were wrestling with debt and, to bring in some much-needed funds, sold striker Alan Young to Notts County for £50,000 and full-back Mark Jones to Birmingham for £30,000.

Needing a cut-price replacement for Young, and with Ferguson unwanted at Birmingham having been responsible for getting them relegated (see below), he came to the Goldstone as part of the deal that took Jones to St Andrews.

In modern-day football, loan players don’t generally play against their parent clubs but, amazingly, at the end of the previous season, Ferguson was allowed to play against Birmingham while on loan at his old club Coventry, and ended up scoring a goal that kept the Sky Blues in the top division but sent Birmingham down.

It was such an unusual saga that as recently as May 2017, the Guardian revisited the tale, catching up with Ferguson to explain the circumstances.

As the article explains, shortly before the player’s 30th birthday, manager Ron Saunders offloaded him to Brighton, where the manager was Ferguson’s former Coventry teammate, Chris Cattlin. Just to prolong Saunders’ agony, Ferguson made his Seagulls debut in a 2-0 home win… over Birmingham! This time he didn’t score. And, for Brighton, that state of affairs existed for several months.

I remember his second game quite vividly. It was a midweek league cup tie away to Fourth Division Aldershot and I went to the game with my pal Colin Snowball, who at that time was living in nearby Bagshot. There wasn’t anything subtle about Albion’s tactics that night. Goalkeeper Graham Moseley would kick the ball long for Ferguson to get on the end of it.

But, as the striker tried to lay it off, all he succeeded in doing was heading it into touch – repeatedly. The new signing did not impress! Despite their superior status in the league, Albion succumbed 3-0 in what was a pretty humiliating exit. Ferguson was remarkably selected for the following Saturday’s game, an away defeat to Oxford, after which he was omitted for four games. Cattlin gave him another chance with a four-game spell but still the dismal form continued and he didn’t get another look-in for four months.

The history books (many thanks to Tim Carder and Roger Harris) recall him as the goalscorer in a 1-1 draw away to Portsmouth on 6 April 1986 but, having been to that game too, I seem to recall it was a rather desperate claim for what looked more like an own goal by Noel Blake.

The start of the following season saw the arrival of former £1m striker Justin Fashanu from Notts County and Dean Saunders, a free transfer from Swansea City, so Ferguson’s prospects of a starting place looked bleak.

However, the 1985-86 season was not very old before Cattlin had a striker crisis on his hands. Gerry Ryan was out long-term with the horrific leg break from which he never recovered, Terry Connor and summer signing Fashanu were all also sidelined with injury and a big man was needed to play alongside Alan Biley.

Cattlin had little choice but to bring back the previously mis-firing Ferguson, and to everyone’s surprise and delight his goal touch returned, albeit briefly.

“I was virtually forced into the team through injury,” Ferguson admitted in a matchday programme interview. “But, fortunately, things turned out quite well. It was nice to get a goal against Blackburn in my first match back. That seemed to pave the way.”

The programme article had tried to give some perspective to the dismal form when he had first arrived. It said: “Mick’s confidence was affected by his loss of form, but he never lost an inner belief that he would pull himself out of the bad patch. And what a difference the goals make. He has shown great character this season and did a marvellous job for the team while Justin Fashanu was out with injury.”

Ferguson himself said: “It took us quite a while to settle down. We were in a flat at first and I was having a lot of problems, one way and the other, so it wasn’t an easy time.”

Eventually Ferguson, his wife and two daughters settled into a house in Hove, and the striker admitted: “When you’re having a bad time there is a tendency to bring your problems home. It’s unfair on your family. I didn’t notice at the time, but, looking back, I think I probably was a little snappy with my wife and children.

“I think you can reach the stage where you really start to wonder, but I always knew I could score goals for Brighton. I’ve scored goals everywhere else I’ve played. It was just a question of time and waiting for the right break.”

Indeed, Ferguson scored in three successive matches in September 1985, prompting Cattlin to give him a special mention in his programme notes for the league cup game at home to Bradford City. “The form of Mick Ferguson is bound to improve even more with the confidence he is gaining through his three goals in three games,” wrote the manager. “His header against Wimbledon was a true indication of his ability; it was of the highest class.”

The renewed confidence saw him add another consecutive pair the following month – before on-loan Martin Keown took over the no.9 shirt and demonstrated he could score goals as well as defend!

Sadly, the revival in Ferguson’s fortunes were not to last. When Fashanu was fit again, Ferguson was dropped and only stepped in a couple more times. His goal in a 4-3 home win over Huddersfield on 16 November was the last he scored for the club.

Apart from a lone outing in January, in a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, Ferguson was on the outside looking in until, to everyone’s astonishment, after a five-week absence from first team action, he was selected by Cattlin to lead the line in a FA Cup Sixth Round tie against First Division Southampton on 8 March 1986.

Ferg action Shilts Bond CaseFerguson, sandwiched between Kevin Bond and Jimmy Case, is foiled by Southampton goalkeeper Peter Shilton in what turned out to be the striker’s final Brighton game.

A crowd of 25,069 packed into the Goldstone – when the average attendance at the time often dipped below 10,000 – but it ended in a disappointing 2-0 defeat and the manager admitted he had made a mistake with his selection. It turned out to be Ferguson’s last game for the club.

Just over three weeks later, he moved to fourth-tier Colchester United – whose manager Cyril Lea was promptly sacked!

United’s reserve team manager, Mike Walker (who would later manage Everton) took over the first team as caretaker and, as the team went on an unbeaten run of eight games, Ferguson scored seven times, the first of which came in a 4-0 win over Leyton Orient on 8 April.

The following season he played 19 games and scored four times before leaving on 7 November 1986 to join non-league Wealdstone.

It was quite a fall from the heady days of the early Seventies.

Born in Newcastle on 3 October 1954, Ferguson was picked up by Coventry City’s youth scheme in 1970 and, although he made his debut in 1975, shortly after the sale of Scotland international Colin Stein, it wasn’t until the start of the 1976-77 season that he became a Highfield Road regular.

In tandem with Ian Wallace (who was later a strike partner of Peter Ward’s at Nottingham Forest), he really started to attract attention, as the Coventry Telegraph recounted when describing him as a “truly great goalscorer”.

The article reckoned he was strongly tipped for international honours at one point but injury and loss of form affected him over the next two seasons. Forest, Villa and Ipswich were all supposedly keen to sign him, with Brian Clough agreeing a £500,000 deal, then pulling out.

However, in the summer of 1981, he finally left City having scored 57 goals in 141 games (plus eight sub appearances) all in the top flight when Everton paid £280,000 for him. Ferguson scored six times in his first eight games – but the goals dried up after that and he was gone within less than a year having made only made 10 appearances (plus two as a sub).

In 2007, David Prentice, in the Liverpool Echo, sought out Ferguson for an explanation of his less than happy time on Merseyside.

Manager Howard Kendall initially loaned him to Birmingham City, before making the deal permanent, but injury disrupted his chances at St Andrews, hence the loan move back to Coventry.

After retiring from playing in 1987, Ferguson stayed in the game working in community development roles for Sunderland, Newcastle United and Leeds United, where he was head of Football in the Community.

 

Pictures from Albion matchday programes and, via YouTube, from Coventry City’s Sky Blues TV.

Wolves legend Mike Bailey took the Seagulls to their highest-ever finish

ONE OF the all-time greats of Wolverhampton Wanderers led Brighton & Hove Albion to their highest-ever finish in football.

Midfield general Mike Bailey played for Wolves for 11 seasons between 1965 and 1976, leading the team to promotion from the Second Division in 1966-67, helping them to top-flight positions of fourth and fifth in 1971 and 1973, getting to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1972, and lifting the League Cup at Wembley in 1974.

MB WWFCLgeCupMike Bailey holds aloft the League Cup after Wolves beat Manchester City 2-1 at Wembley.

It was perhaps a hard act to follow Alan Mullery as manager of Brighton, particularly as the former Spurs and Fulham captain had led the club from Third Division obscurity to the pinnacle of English football within three years.

But Bailey had just got Charlton Athletic promoted from the Third Division and in the 1981-82 season led Albion to a 13th place finish, a record which was only threatened in 2017-18 by Chris Hughton’s side, who eventually ended up 15th.

Unfortunately, even though Bailey’s team was relatively successful, the style of play he adopted to achieve that position was a turn-off to the fans who deserted the Albion in their hundreds and thousands.

Eventually, chairman Mike Bamber felt he had to address the slump in support by sacking Bailey in December 1982. “He’s a smashing bloke, I’m sorry to see him go, but it had to be done,” said Bamber. There are plenty – in particular Bailey! – who feel he acted a little too hastily.

Bailey shared his feelings in an interview he gave to the News of the World’s Reg Drury in the run-up to the 1983 FA Cup Final.

Mike Bailey talks to the News of the World; his often frank programme notes; his assistant, John Collins, a former Luton Town player.

“It seems that my team has been relegated from the First Division while Jimmy Melia’s team has reached the Cup Final,” he began.

Wanting to put the record straight having been hurt by some of the media coverage he’d seen since his departure, he explained: “I found the previous manager Alan Mullery had left me with a good squad, but, naturally I built on it and imposed my own style of play.”

Bailey resented accusations that his style had been dull and boring football, pointing out: “Nobody said that midway through last season when we were sixth and there was talk of Europe.

“We were organised and disciplined and getting results. John Collins, a great coach, was on the same wavelength as me. We wanted to lay the foundations of lasting success, just like Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley did at Liverpool.

“The only problem was that winning 1-0 and 2-0 didn’t satisfy everybody. I tried to change things too soon – that was a mistake.

“When I left, we were 18th with more than a point a game. I’ve never known a team go down when fifth from bottom.”

It was clear from the outset of Bailey’s reign that he didn’t suffer fools gladly and there were numerous clashes with players, notably Steve Foster, Michael Robinson and Neil McNab, the displaced Gordon Smith and Mickey Thomas, a Bailey signing who repeatedly went missing because his wife didn’t like it in the south.

Bailey would vent his feelings quite overtly in his matchday programme notes; he was not afraid to hit out at referees, the football authorities and the media, as well as trying to explain his decisions to supporters, urging them to get behind the team rather than criticise.

Happier times as Mike Bailey becomes Albion manager and signs Tony Grealish to replace outgoing stalwart midfielder and skipper, Brian Horton.

Attempting to shine a light on the comings and goings associated with his arrival, he explained: “The moves we have been making are designed to provide Brighton with a better football team and one that can consolidate its position in the First Division, rather than struggle, such as in the last two seasons.”

By Christmas, the team were comfortably in the top half of the table and in an interview with the Argus, Bailey said: “I must admit that as a player and captain of Wolves I was a bit of a bastard, slagging others off, and that sort of thing. But being a manager, one sees everything in a different light. I am still trying to learn as a manager, especially now that I am with a First Division club.”

Three months later, shortly after he had appeared at a fans forum at the Brighton Centre, he very pointedly said: “It is my job to select the team and to try to win matches.

“People are quite entitled to their opinion, but I am paid to get results for Brighton and that is my first priority.

“Building a successful team is a long-term business and I have recently spoken to many top people in the professional game who admire what we are doing here at Brighton and just how far we have come in a short space of time.

“We know we still have a long way to go, but we are all working towards a successful future.”

As he assessed his first season, he said: “Many good things have come out of our season. Our early results were encouraging and we quickly became an organised and efficient side. The lads got into their rhythm quickly and it was a nice ‘plus’ to get into a high league position so early on.”

He had special words of praise for Gary Stevens and said: “Although the youngest member of our first team squad, Gary is a perfect example to his fellow professionals. Whatever we ask of him he will always do his best, he is completely dedicated and sets a fine example to his fellow players.”

Meanwhile, in his own end of season summary, Argus Albion reporter John Vinicombe maintained: “It is Bailey’s chief regret that he changed his playing policy in response to public, and possibly private, pressure with the result that Albion finished the latter part of the season in most disappointing fashion.

“Accusations that Albion were the principal bores of the First Division at home were heaped on Bailey’s head, and, while he is a man not given to altering his mind for no good reason, certain instructions were issued to placate the rising tide of criticisms.”

Vinicombe recorded that the average home gate for 1981-82 was 18,241, fully 6,500 fewer than had supported the side during their first season amongst the elite.

“The Goldstone regulars, who are not typical of First Division crowds (but neither is the ground) grew restless at a series of frustrating home draws, and finally turned on their own players,” he said.

At the beginning of the following season, off-field matters brought disruption to the playing side. Arsenal’s former FA Cup winner Charlie George had trained with the Seagulls during pre-season and senior players Foster, Robinson and McNab publicly voiced their disappointment that the money wasn’t found to bring such a player on board permanently.

McNab in particular accused the club of lacking ambition and efforts were made to send him out on loan. Similarly, Robinson was lined up for a swap deal with Sunderland’s Stan Cummins, but it fell through.

Meanwhile, Albion couldn’t buy a win away from home and suffered two 5-0 defeats (against Luton and West Brom) and a 4-0 spanking at Nottingham Forest – all in September. Then, four defeats on the spin in November, going into December, finally cost Bailey his job. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when, in his final programme contribution, he blamed the run of poor results on bad luck and admitted: “I feel we are somehow in a rut.”

It would be fair to say Bailey the player enjoyed more success than Bailey the manager. So, where did it all begin?

Born on 27 February 1942 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, he went to the same school in Gorleston, Norfolk, as the former Arsenal centre back Peter Simpson. His career began with non-league Gorleston before Charlton Athletic snapped him up in 1958 and he spent eight years at The Valley.

During his time there, he was capped twice by England as manager Alf Ramsey explored options for his 1966 World Cup squad. Just a week after making his fifth appearance for England under 23s, Bailey, aged 22, was called up to make his full debut in a friendly against the USA on 27 May 1964.

He had broken into the under 23s only three months earlier, making his debut in a 3-2 win over Scotland at St James’ Park, Newcastle, on 5 February 1964.He retained his place against France, Hungary, Israel and Turkey, games in which his teammates included Graham Cross, Mullery and Martin Chivers.

England ran out 10-0 winners in New York with Roger Hunt scoring four, Fred Pickering three, Terry Paine two, and Bobby Charlton the other.

Eight of that England side made it to the 1966 World Cup squad two years later but a broken leg put paid to Bailey’s chances of joining them, even though he got one more chance to impress Ramsey.

Six months after the win in New York, he was in the England team who beat Wales 2-1 at Wembley in the Home Championship. Frank Wignall, who would later spend a season with Bailey at Wolves, scored both England’s goals. Many years later, Wignall was playing for Burton Albion when a certain Peter Ward began to shine!

In 1965, Bailey broke his leg in a FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough and that was at a time when such injuries could be career-threatening.

“I was worried that may have been it,” Bailey recalled in his autobiography, The Valley Wanderer: The Mike Bailey Story (published in November 2015). “In the end, I was out for six months. My leg got stronger and I never had problems with it again, so it was a blessing in disguise in that respect.

“Charlton had these (steep) terraces. I’d go up to them every day, I was getting fitter and fitter. But it was too late to get in the 1966 World Cup side – Alf Ramsey had got his team in place.”

 Bailey missed out on the 1966 England World Cup squad but he won Football League representative honours and enjoyed success as captain of Wolves.

During his time with the England under 23s, Bailey had become friends with Wolves’ Ernie Hunt (the striker who later played for Coventry City) and Hunt persuaded him to move to the Black Country club.

Thus began an association which saw him play a total of 436 games for Wolves over 11 seasons, leading a side with solid defenders like John McAlle, Francis Munro and Derek Parkin, combined with exciting players like forwards Derek Dougan and John Richards, plus winger Dave Wagstaffe.

However, when coach Sammy Chung stepped up to take over as manager, he selected Kenny Hibbitt ahead of Bailey so the former skipper chose to end his playing days in America, with the Minnesota Kicks, who were managed by the former Brighton boss Freddie Goodwin.

Nevertheless, Bailey’s contribution to the team famous for their old gold kit saw him inducted into the Wolves Hall of Fame in 2010.

On his return to the UK, Bailey became manager of Hereford United, then he returned to The Valley as manager of Charlton and, immediately after getting them promoted to the third tier, took over at Brighton in the summer of 1981.

A somewhat extraordinary stat I discovered about Bailey’s management career in England through managerstats.co.uk was that he managed each of those three clubs for just 65 games. At Hereford, his record was W 32, D 11, L 22; at Charlton W 21, D 17, L 27; at Brighton, W 20 D 17, L 28.

In 1984, he moved to Greece to manage OFI Crete, and he later worked as reserve team coach at Portsmouth. Later still, he did some scouting work for Wolves.

 

Pictures from various sources: Goal and Shoot! magazines; the Evening Argus, the News of the World, and the Albion matchday programme.

Fans took Alan Duffy to their hearts after a sensational debut goal

TWENTY-year-old Alan Duffy couldn’t have wished for a better start to his Brighton career than scoring a belter on his debut.

A £10,000 signing from Newcastle United, he was quickly off the mark on 17 January 1970 in a 2-1 Third Division win over Bradford City.

He appeared to be “the Third Division answer to George Best by beating two Bradford players and smashing a ferocious shot in off the crossbar” according to Seagulls TV, which recounted he was a “stocky striker with a robust style”.

Fan Mo Gosfield, posting on North Stand Chat in January 2011, described the goal as “one of my top 10 Albion moments, because it took your breath away”.

Mo added: “He had all the makings of a cult figure at Brighton. The swagger, the shock of hair, the slight beer belly. I loved him, but he never quite lived up to that sensational start.”

The fans in the old North Stand adapted the Hare Krishna chant to incorporate his name and, after that promising debut, the young striker kept his place in the starting line-up through to the end of the season.

He repaid manager Freddie Goodwin’s faith in him with five more goals. Particularly memorable were Duffy’s two goals in Albion’s 2-1 win over Reading on Good Friday when a huge crowd of 32,036 packed into the Goldstone.

2 AD action BW.jpg

Brighton were top of the league going into the game and looking a good bet for promotion.

Former goalkeeper Brian Powney discussed that game – and Duffy – when he was interviewed by Brian Owen for an article in the Argus on 20 February 2017.

There were question marks over both Duffy’s goals – a suspicion of handball for one, the other possibly offside – but, while both stood, a seemingly good goal from the youngster was ruled out later on.

Looking back on the game was a painful reminder for Powney, who dislocated a finger which physio Mike Yaxley had to put back while out on the pitch, it being the era long before substitute goalkeepers were available.

Unfortunately, too, Albion blew their promotion chances by losing four of the last five games after that Easter win over the Royals.

The only other points collected came in the penultimate game, a 2-1 home win over Rotherham, when Duffy again scored twice – one a penalty.

Asked about Duffy in that 2017 interview, Powney said: “Alan was hit and miss, a bit madcap.

“He had a lot of talent and, had he applied himself, he would have had a longer career. He was a good player but not such a good pro.”

Like many a player before and since, a change of manager in that World Cup summer of 1970 didn’t help Duffy’s progress at Brighton although, according to Seagulls TV: “Weight issues and injury woes, starting with a thigh problem on the opening day, marred his 1970-71 campaign.”

Duffy began in the no.8 shirt for the opening two games of that season under Goodwin’s replacement, Pat Saward, but he was left out for the third game and, by the season’s end, had made just 15 starts, and was subbed off on five occasions. There were seven appearances off the bench, plus three occasions when he was a non-playing sub.

Duffy was out of the side from mid-October to February and, on his return to the starting line-up, was involved in one of the most curious incidents I ever saw at the Goldstone.

On 27 February 1971, against Preston North End, Albion won a penalty at the south stand end of the pitch.

Centre forward Kit Napier shaped to take the spot-kick, but, as he did, Duffy stepped forward, pushed his teammate out of the way and took the penalty himself – and missed! The game finished in a disappointing 0-0 draw.

“The manager went mad at him afterwards,” Powney recalled, and Saward promptly dropped Duffy to the bench for the next two matches.

In the meantime, the manager brought in the experienced Bert Murray and Willie Irvine on loan to add some nous and quality. Although Duffy did get back in the side for six games, the rest of the time he was on the bench.

His only goals of the season came in the same match – against Bradford City, in a 3-2 win at Valley Parade on Easter Monday. Duffy struck twice in the second half as Albion came back from being 2-1 down at half-time.

In 1971-72, he made just one start – in a league cup match – and was only ever a substitute in the league, coming on 12 times and not being used on 10 other occasions.

A Brighton & Hove Gazette special publication noted that shortly after coming on as a substitute in a second round FA Cup game at home to Walsall in December 1971, he was booked for fighting with the Saddlers’ goalkeeper, Bob Wesson.

His final appearance saw him come on for Murray in a 4-2 win away to Oldham Athletic in mid-January 1972.

He then had to serve a six-week suspension, and, with Brighton pushing for promotion, Saward clearly didn’t see Duffy as a long-term part of his plans.

When he plunged into the transfer market on deadline day in March, he brought Wolves’ Irish international Bertie Lutton back to the club following a loan spell earlier in the season, and headed to the north west to clinch a deal for Tranmere Rovers striker Ken Beamish.

In addition to a fee of £25,000, Duffy was used as a makeweight in the deal for Beamish.

In two years at Prenton Park, Duffy made 33 appearances and scored just twice, before heading back to the north east in 1973 to join Darlington.

In the 1973-74 season, he played 24 games for Darlington without getting on the scoresheet and the following season drifted into non-league football, playing for Consett.

It was quite some fall from that glorious day on 21 September 1968 when he had made his Newcastle first team debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 3-1 defeat.

Born on 20 December 1949 in Stanley, Co Durham, Duffy joined Newcastle in 1966 and won an England Youth international cap in 1968.

After that debut at Old Trafford, he didn’t play for the first team again until 9 August 1969, coming on as a sub in a 1-0 defeat v West Ham.

His next chance came on 20 September 1969 when he came on as a sub in a 1-1 draw with Southampton.

A week later, he got a start in another 1-1 draw, this time against Wolverhampton Wanderers. But Toon1892.com recounted: “In his time at Newcastle he was always considered to be Pop Robson’s deputy rather than a first team choice.”

 

 

Pictures from my scrapbook either originated in the matchday programme or were published in the Evening Argus. Also featured, a special publication produced by the Brighton & Hove Gazette.

Magpie Kit Napier Brighton’s top scorer in five out of six seasons

While we await ex-Workington striker Glenn Murray’s 100th goal for Brighton, here’s another who chalked up 99 for the Albion.

In parallel lines

FORMER Newcastle United centre forward Kit Napier, who moved from the Magpies to Brighton in 1966, was playing up front alongside Alex Dawson when I first started watching the Albion (in 1969).

          Kit Napier at full stretch to score against Bournemouth on Boxing Day 1971

Born in Dunblane on 26 September 1943, Kit’s promise as a schoolboy prompted his headmaster to put his name around as a future footballing talent and he left Scotland to join Blackpool (then playing in the top tier) as a junior before turning professional in 1960. But he only played twice for the Tangerines before moving on to Second Division Preston North End in 1963-64. Things didn’t work out there either, though, and he dropped down a further division to Workington, where it all started to click.

Workington were newly-promoted to the Third Division and Napier was on the scoresheet during what has been…

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The cheek of Parris in the autumn briefly lightened Brighton’s gloom

LIGHTER moments were few and far between as an Albion follower in 1995. A despised regime seemingly intent on taking the club into oblivion had spread such disillusionment among fans that gates were badly hit.

It meant only 5,659 were at the Goldstone Ground on 28 October 1995 to see an amusing incident that can still be seen on YouTube.

Step forward George Parris, a star at West Ham United a decade previously, who had joined the Seagulls to help out his old Hammers teammate Liam Brady, by then trying to manage a club in turmoil.

Bristol Rovers humiliated Brighton & Hove Albion 8-2 at the Goldstone Ground in 1973, shortly after ‘Old Big ‘ead’ Clough had taken charge, but, 22 years later, it was the Rovers goalkeeper who was left with the red face.

That was all down to quick-thinking Parris. The experienced defender-midfielder found himself on the blind side of the Rovers goalkeeper and, as the ‘keeper rolled the ball forward to clear it, Parris nipped in, got a toe in to win the ball, swivelled and buried it into the empty net.

These days he would almost certainly have been penalised for a foul as he appeared to use his shoulder to nudge the no.1 off balance, but, back in 1995, the goal stood.

He talked about the incident, and his career, in an interview with the Argus in November 2001.

George Michael Ronald Parris was born in Ilford on 11 September 1964. His talent for football saw him chosen to play for England Schoolboys and he joined West Ham United from school.

He signed professional for the Hammers in 1982 and made his league debut at Upton Park in a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool in May 1985.

Also making their debut that day, for what would be their one and only first team appearance for the Hammers, was central defender Keith McPherson, who played 35 games for the Albion in the 1999-2000 season.

Parris meanwhile became the regular left-back in the 1985-86 season when West Ham finished third in the top flight. He was comfortable in either full-back position, but could also fill in as a defensive midfielder.

He was part of the West Ham side who were Littlewoods Cup semi-finalists in consecutive seasons and FA Cup semi-finalists in 1990-91.

In 12 years at Upton Park, ‘Smokey’, as he was known, made 290 league and cup appearances, chipping in with 17 goals too.

But it was an era when he had to endure some dreadful racism, which he talked about in a 2014 interview with Sam Wallace in the Independent.

Former Hammers skipper, Alvin Martin, said of Parris: “What we remember most about George was his friendly disposition and true honesty which was reflected best when he was on the field. George is one of the most reliable professionals anyone could wish to play alongside.”

Sadly, when West Ham decided to honour Parris’ 11 years’ service at the Boleyn Ground with a testimonial match at the end of the 1994-95 season, there was a dismally low turn-out as reported on website theyflysohigh.co.uk.

Parris had left the Hammers in March 1993, a £100,000 fee taking him to Birmingham City, and his infectious enthusiasm soon made him a fans’ favourite at St Andrews. Unfortunately, when Barry Fry took over as manager, he made it plain Parris didn’t fit into his plans.

Brady brought him to the Seagulls on a three-month loan and he also had loan spells with Brentford and Bristol City before spending a summer in Sweden with IFK Norrköping.

Brady invited him back to the Goldstone in September 1995 to play on a month-by-month contract basis, and he stayed until 1997, taking on the captaincy when Paul McCarthy was injured.

Parris scored five times in 74 games for the Seagulls before briefly joining Southend United in August 1997.

Sadly, there was a hidden side to Parris’s life: he was a compulsive gambler and he later told the whole harrowing story in a four-hour long DVD.

He also spoke to the dailymail.co.uk about how he considered suicide after his addiction and mounting debts spiralled out of control in the late 90s.

It came after another large bet on the horses lost, he walked out of a bookies and seriously considered ending it all. He revealed: “I drove up to Newhaven. I can remember looking out over the bridge there and thinking ‘What do I do?’

“I couldn’t see how I was going to get myself out of the big hole I was in. I’d begged and borrowed from everyone I knew and, yes, I did give serious thought to killing myself.

“I owed money to my closest friends and family and had nowhere else to go. But, thankfully, I pulled myself together and went home and confessed to my then wife that I’d lost every penny I had gambling.”

Gradually Parris pieced his life back together and obtained coaching qualifications, such as the UEFA A licence, and became a Football Association-approved level-two coach educator.

Parris stayed on the south coast, living in Rottingdean, and had spells as player-manager of non-league Shoreham and St Leonards, but also ran youth football and cricket schools.

In 2016, Parris took interim charge of Albion’s women’s team and guided them to promotion to Women’s Super League Two. When Hope Powell took over the women’s team in August 2017, Parris reverted to the role of regional talent club technical director.
In November 2017, Parris was honoured alongside Albion manager Chris Hughton (another former playing colleague) at the Football Black List Awards in London for their contributions to coaching and management.

 

 

 

The miss that never goes away for Cup Final scorer Gordon Smith

3 and smith must score“NEVER in my wildest dreams – or should that be nightmares? – did I think that, more than 20 years later, that miss in front of goal would still be getting replayed on television and mentioned in the media wherever I go.”

The words could only have been said by one man and they appear in the autobiography…And Smith Did Score (Black and White Publishing, 2005).

Gordon Smith’s football career included being a treble trophy winner with Glasgow giants Rangers, top scorer of the season for Manchester City, and becoming chief executive of the Scottish FA.

But it is what happened in the final seconds of extra time in the 1983 FA Cup Final that he is most remembered for.

Gordon Duffield Smith was born in Kilwinning (20 miles south of Glasgow) on 29 December 1954 and followed in his grandfather Mattha’s footsteps in becoming a pro footballer.

He was at Kilmarnock for five years, scoring 36 goals in 161 appearances, during which time he earned international honours with Scotland’s under-23 side, twice starting and three times coming on as a substitute.

In 1977, having joined Rangers for a fee of £65,000, he also collected an under-21 cap as an overage player, in a 1-0 defeat to Wales, but he was never selected for the full international side.

In his first season at Rangers, they won the domestic treble and he scored 27 goals from midfield. To cap it off he scored the winning goal in the 1978 Scottish League Cup Final against Celtic.

Alan Mullery paid £400,000 to take him to Brighton in 1980, and talked about the deal in his autobiography. “Sadly, Gordon Smith is remembered as the man who missed the last-minute chance to win the FA Cup in 1983,” said Mullers. “That’s a shame because he was one of the best players I ever worked with. He reminded me of Trevor Brooking. A midfield player with silky skills who could read the game perfectly.”

Smith played 38 games in his first season at Brighton and scored 10 goals. “I couldn’t ask for more than that,” said Mullery. But when Mullery quit the club in the summer of 1981, the rest of Smith’s time at the Goldstone could at best be described as turbulent.

He didn’t get on with Mullery’s replacement, Mike Bailey, or his assistant John Collins, mainly because of their more defensive style of play. In March 1982, the Argus reported Smith was pondering his future having been left out of the side, with Gerry Ryan and Giles Stille being selected ahead of him.

“I am just wondering what is happening now that I’m not even travelling with the team. I don’t know what my standing is at all,” he told reporter John Vinicombe.

Bailey accused some players of lacking commitment following a 4-1 reverse at Notts County, and Smith was dropped for the following game.

Smith voiced his displeasure at being made a scapegoat and told the Argus: “It seems that every time we lose, I get dropped. Then I read the manager’s remarks about lack of commitment. What other inference can I draw?

“He asked me to play defensively at Notts and I don’t think I let him or the team down. Throughout my career, I have never shown any lack of effort.”

In the 1981-82 season, Smith played 27 matches plus four as sub. He started 15 of the first 16 games of the 1982-83 season but, as Bailey and Collins tried to find the right formula, he lost his place to summer signing Neil Smillie and decided to take the opportunity to return to Rangers on loan.

He only played three matches, but one of them happened to be a League Cup Final defeat against Celtic at Hampden Park!

Almost as soon as Bailey and Collins had left, on Smith’s return to the south coast Jimmy Melia restored him to the first team, hence his subsequent involvement in the 1983 FA Cup Final.

“I had said I would never kick another ball for Brighton, but that was because I had been told there was no place for me as a regular first team player,” Smith said in the run-up to the big game.

“The change of manager altered that and obviously now I am looking forward to playing at Wembley within six months of taking part at Hampden Park. I just hope the result is different.”

Interestingly, the Express said: “The Wembley stage may just suit Smith’s style of game; he’s a studious player with a capacity to drift past people and quite capable of producing telling passes from the bye-line.”

It didn’t help Brighton’s striker options that Brian Clough had refused to allow Peter Ward’s loan from Nottingham Forest to continue until the end of the season, nor that Melia had organised a deal that saw striker Andy Ritchie swap places with Leeds United’s Terry Connor – who was already cup-tied, thus ineligible to play cup games for the Seagulls.

But, in an amazingly prescient pre-match comment, Melia said: “Gordon can be a matchwinner in his own right…he can play a very key part in this final.”

As the title of Smith’s autobiography reflects, the Scot silenced Manchester United followers the world over by opening the scoring for Brighton on that memorable May afternoon in 1983.

In only the 13th minute of the game, young midfield player Gary Howlett found Smith with a delightful chipped diagonal pass over United centre back Kevin Moran and Smith arched a header past Gary Bailey to put the Seagulls in dreamland.

After United had taken the lead, and Gary Stevens had equalised for Brighton, the game went into extra time and the stage was set for one of the most talked about moments in the club’s history.

Interestingly, United ‘keeper Bailey believes Smith has been given a raw deal over the years.

He told the Argus: “It was not the best save I ever made and not the greatest ever seen in English football, but it was a decent one because of my reaction after I’d blocked it.

“I managed to keep my eyes open to make sure I got to the loose ball before Gordon. Often in those 50-50 situations your eyes close and the forward just taps it in but I watched and reacted quickly that time. I want to take credit for it because it came at such a vital time.

“Gordon has taken a lot of stick for what happened, and it was a crucial moment in Brighton’s history, but he shouldn’t get the blame. It is not justified at all. He didn’t score, but he didn’t miss the target.”

On the 25th anniversary of the 1983 final, Argus reporter Andy Naylor interviewed Smith at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, and asked if he ever got sick and tired of being asked about the incident.

“Not really. In life, you have to be able to get over things and deal with them,” Smith explained. “If you become famous for something you don’t do, a lot of people throw it in your face and take the mickey out of you, so you have to show a bit of character and I think I’ve done that.

“I am able to handle it and talk about it and I have no problem at all in taking full responsibility.

“I should have scored. I would love to have scored. I am sorry for the fans, my teammates, the management, everybody who suffered as a result. I suffered greatly too because I’m a perfectionist and I always wanted to be at my best. Everybody else’s disappointment can’t match my own.

“You just have to live with it. There are two choices, either hide away or come out and deal with it. I have put it into perspective. I swapped shirts with Alan Davies after the game. He got a winner’s medal and I didn’t. He’s dead now. He committed suicide. So winning didn’t change his life for the better.”

And, with the benefit of hindsight, would he have done anything differently? “I would have delayed my shot,” said Smith. “I thought Gary would come to me to shut me down. That is why I took a touch and hit it early, hard and low to his side, which meant he would never have got down to it. I scored a few goals in my time like that.

“For some strange reason, I don’t know why, Gary decided to dive. He dived the wrong way and it stuck in his legs. If I had delayed my shot for another split second, he was going down and I would have just chipped it over him.”

To personalise the situation just for a few short moments: Smith’s parents were travelling back to Sussex on the same coach as me that day, and I’ll never forget what happened. We had all gradually drifted back to our seats on the coach and there was understandably an excited hubbub of chatter mixed with the disappointment of seeing Brighton come so close and yet so far from winning the fabled trophy. As Gordon’s parents boarded the coach, an almighty silence descended. You could hear a pin drop. No-one quite knew what to say.

Of course, no-one would have known it at the time, but less than a year later, Smith was no longer with the club.

The new season back in the second tier of English football was barely a couple of months old before manager Melia was on his way, succeeded by Chris Cattlin, the former player who had been drafted in as coach by the chairman, Mike Bamber.

Smith fell out with Cattlin and was ostracised for five months – ordered to train with the youth team and banned from anything to do with the first team and reserve team.

During that time, I can remember travelling by coach to Brighton’s FA Cup tie at Watford on 18 February 1984 and, as we were headed along the motorway, Smith was sitting in the front seat of a minibus of fans heading in the same direction.

Nine months earlier, he had scored – and missed – for the Seagulls at Wembley, and, here he was, reduced to a minibus passenger travelling to watch his pals because the club wouldn’t allow him to use any of their official transport.

His first team exile was suddenly lifted unexpectedly for just one more game, and he scored in a 3-0 away win at Derby County on 17 March 1984. But, within days, he was sold to then second-tier Manchester City for just £45,000.

A tad ironically for an ex-Rangers player, it was legendary Celtic captain Billy McNeill who took him to Maine Road. He made his debut in a home game against Cardiff City on 24 March 1984.

Thirty-eight of his 46 appearances for City came in the 1984-85 season, when he was top scorer with 14 goals.

Smith recalls the details of his spell at the club in the autobiography but, in short, he fell out with McNeill and made his last appearance for City on 4 November 1985, at home to Sunderland. He eventually joined up with nearby Oldham Athletic, where he played nine games.

In 1987, he had the chance to play for Austrian side Admira Wacker, where he featured in 38 games, and the following season he switched to FC Basel in Switzerland, playing 25 games.

Eventually, in 1988, he returned to Scotland and finished his playing career at Stirling Albion.

Smith subsequently became an agent, representing the likes of Paul Lambert and Kenny Miller, but relinquished that work when he was appointed the chief executive of the Scottish FA, a job he held for three years. He was later director of football at Rangers during the 2011-12 season.

In June 2018, the Daily Record reported Smith’s daughter Libby had given birth to a baby boy and she’d taken on board her dad’s suggestion to call him Edson Thunder after the legendary Pele!!