History may have judged Barry Lloyd’s reign as Brighton manager unfairly: while bleak times cloud the memory, the former Fulham captain did chalk up some successes.
For instance, it’s worth remembering he put together two of the most entertaining strike partnerships in Albion’s history.
However, when managers start getting involved in the boardroom, it’s probably not going to end well and that certainly proved to be the case after Lloyd was handed the role of managing director.
Frankly, there is probably not enough space in one blog post to cover the various off-the-field shenanigans that were an ugly backdrop to the Lloyd era.
From an outsider’s perspective, it appeared he was the unfortunate public figure put up to deal with a huge amount of flak generated by others wielding power in the background.
Inheriting the hotseat at a time of financial turmoil, from a distance it could be said he did well to win promotion as well as coming mighty close to restoring the elite status lost in 1983.
But fans who had seen huge success under high profile bosses were not best pleased to see their club’s fortunes put in the hands of someone who had previously only managed outside of the league.
Let’s look first at Lloyd’s playing career because, from early on, he was obviously a shrewd observer who made contacts he would be able to call on in later years.
Barry was part of Chelsea’s 1964-65 youth team which included former Albion right back Stewart Henderson in defence and future England international and Chelsea legend Peter Osgood up front.
Four years ago Lloyd gave an extended interview to Fulham’s club historian, Dennis Turner, in which he recalled: “I chose Chelsea because under Tommy Docherty’s management they were an exciting team, with the likes of Peter Osgood, Charlie Cooke and Bobby Tambling.”
Former Albion player Dave Sexton was the reserve-team manager – “a really nice man and terrific coach” – and Lloyd says in his four years at Stamford Bridge he learned a lot.
He made his debut in the top flight in April 1967 aged just 18, but competition for places was tough and, after only 10 first team appearances, in January 1969 he moved to neighbours Fulham with their centre half John Dempsey moving in the opposite direction.
Fulham were struggling for survival in the old Second Division having been relegated from the top flight and the man who signed him, Bill Dodgin, was their fourth manager in a year.
As part of his rebuilding, Dodgin made Lloyd captain in succession to the legendary Johnny Haynes, who was coming to the end of his career.
Promotion in 1970-71 saw Fulham regain their top division status and the following season they flirted dangerously near the bottom of the league but managed to stay up.
Manager Dodgin, though, was sent packing and Alec Stock took over, famously bringing in a number of top name players nearing the end of their careers – notably one Alan Mullery, along with Bobby Moore.
Lloyd remained part of the set-up but when Fulham surprised everyone by reaching the FA Cup Final against West Ham in 1975, he had to be content with what in those days was the single substitute’s berth on the bench, and didn’t get on.
Nonetheless, he chalked up 290 games for Fulham, before having brief spells at Hereford and Brentford and ending his playing days with Houston Hurricanes in the United States.
During his brief time at Hereford, Lloyd had an eye to the future and took his full coaching badge at Lilleshall, which wasn’t far away. It was his old Fulham boss Dodgin who took him back to London, to Griffin Park.
After his time in America came to an end, he got his first managerial experience with Yeovil Town (then a non-league club) and then headed to Sussex where he took Worthing from the Second Division of the old Isthmian League to runners-up in the Premier Division.
It was in 1986 when he got the call to become part of the team assembled by Mullery in his brief, unsuccessful second spell as manager. Bill Dodgin was also on the staff.
In January 1987, Mullery was unceremoniously dumped and Lloyd came out of the shadows to take charge – and it was 15 games before the side managed to register a win under him!
Needless to say, Albion were relegated and some of the mainstays of the side, like Danny Wilson, Eric Young and Terry Connor were sold. Fortunately, Lloyd was able to re-invest part of the proceeds from those sales in some buys who gelled together to form a promotion-winning team.
He returned to former club Chelsea to secure the signing of centre back Doug Rougvie who was made captain and he paired left winger Garry Nelson, a £72,500 signing from Plymouth, with tenacious Scot Kevin Bremner, from Reading, to lead the line.
Nelson in particular was a revelation, scoring 32 goals and voted player of the season.
The following two seasons saw Albion maintain their status with lower half finishes but, with the Goldstone Ground crumbling and debts mounting, there was little investment in the team and Lloyd had to use all his contacts to try to find some gems.
One was former England international winger Mark Barham, another was a former Soviet international, Sergei Gotsmanov, a real crowd-pleaser obviously capable of playing at a higher level (as was proved when he opted to join Southampton the following season).
Then, in 1990-91, he rescued two forwards languishing with also-ran clubs in Europe and together John Byrne and Mike Small were superb in attack as Brighton made it to the play-off final at Wembley only to lose 3-1 to Neil Warnock’s Notts County.
No-one had been expecting Brighton to get a tilt at promotion, particularly as the season had once again begun with big money departures of players like Keith Dublin and John Keeley.
But with Byrne and Small on fire and former Fulham and Chelsea winger Clive Walker added to the squad they clawed their way into contention and famously clinched the play-off spot on the last game of the season, courtesy of Dean Wilkins’ curling free kick past Ipswich Town’s Phil Parkes.
Another crucial signing that season was thanks to one of Lloyd’s old Chelsea teammates, George Graham. The Arsenal boss loaned cultured central defender Colin Pates to the Seagulls and he proved a mainstay in the final third of the season. Pates would later sign permanently.
Even though they were clearly beaten by the better side on the day, looking back now, I don’t think anyone could have realised what bad news it was for Albion not to win the final against County.
Starved of the funds promotion would have delivered, Lloyd was forced to sell star performers Small and Byrne and, 11 months after appearing at Wembley, Albion were relegated back to the third tier.
Lloyd had tried to repeat his previous successful scouting mission with two other former league players who’d gone to play in Europe, but the hapless Mark Farrington turned out to be one of the worst buys ever, managing to score one solitary goal while former Arsenal youngster Raphael Meade fared slightly better but only just got into double figures.
Mark Gall, a £45,000 signing from Maidstone, arrived towards the end of October and ended up top goalscorer and was player of the season, but his 14 goals were still not enough to spare the team from the drop.
In the following season, the very survival of the club was under serious threat with the taxman chasing an unpaid bill. Lloyd rescued the club at the 11th hour by managing to secure a £350,000 fee for goalkeeper Mark Beeney (bought two years earlier from Maidstone for £25,000), former Albion winger Howard Wilkinson buying him for League Champions Leeds United.
With the financial issues continuing in the background, a run of only two wins in 18 league games in the first half of the 1993-94 season eventually brought the Lloyd era to an end – the axe wielded by chief executive David Bellotti, who had arrived only a month earlier.
Fans who were euphoric to see Lloyd go might well have felt differently if they’d known what would eventually transpire, but that’s a story for another day.
The record books show Lloyd made a total profit of £1.2m in his seven years at the helm and he certainly knew his way around the transfer market, particularly in Europe, when it was a lot less fashionable than it is today.
Another of his discoveries was Dean Wilkins, playing for FC Zwolle in Holland, and in 2007 – 14 years after he had left the Albion – Lloyd returned as chief scout during Wilkins’ reign as first team manager.
Also part of the set-up then was director of football Martin Hinshelwood, who had been Lloyd’s assistant during his time in the dugout. Lloyd has continued to be involved in the recruitment department since the switch to the Amex.