THEY say goalkeepers are different and Perry Digweed certainly came into that category with his name alone!
With the current Brighton side featuring a former Fulham ‘keeper in the shape of David Stockdale, it’s timely to remember another who switched from Craven Cottage to play for the Seagulls.
Digweed was a £150,000 signing by former Fulham favourite Alan Mullery in January 1981 and it seems remarkable that he was still at the club – indeed earning the player of the season accolade – a decade later.
In fact his Albion career stretched to 12 years, by which time you’d have imagined he would have racked up around 400 appearances.
But Digweed actually played a total of just 182 games for the Albion because he was either out of favour courtesy of various managerial changes or sidelined through injury.
He began his career at Craven Cottage but only played 15 league games for Fulham, where he was understudy to Irish international Gerry Peyton.
Following one of Mullery’s public fits of pique with first choice Graham Moseley, he returned to his former club to sign Digweed on the recommendation of his assistant Ken Craggs, who’d signed the former Covent Garden salesman as a 16-year-old during his time at Fulham.
After only three games in the old First Division for Brighton, Digweed was called up to the England under 21 squad, although Leeds’ John Lukic and Blackpool’s Iain Hesford were chosen to play ahead of him.
A colourful insight into Digweed’s lifestyle came in Spencer Vignes’ excellent book A Few Good Men (Breedon Books Publishing, 2007) in the section about ‘rival’ Graham Moseley.
“Very much the boy about town with his dandy dress sense and coiffured hair, Perry looked more like one of Adam’s Ants than a goalkeeper,” wrote Vignes, who discovered Digweed and Moseley got on well in spite of the rivalry.
“Perry was a single boy who still lived in London and would tell you all about his conquests the night before,” Moseley told Vignes. “He was a great lad and a lot of fun to be with.”
In one of many matchday programme profiles, Digweed talked about his love of looking round the Kings Road, Chelsea, clothes shops on his way back home from training.
Remarkably at one point in his topsy turvy career with the Seagulls he was loaned to Chelsea and played three games for them in the 1987-88 season.
Digweed also liked his golf and told the matchday programme in August 1991: “I try and play as much as I can and get quite a few invitations to pro-am events along with other footballers and celebrities.”
Apart from Moseley, Digweed’s other competition for the number one spot during his time at the Goldstone came from the likes of Joe Corrigan, John Keeley and Mark Beeney.
Managers and goalkeepers came and went but Digweed remained on the Albion’s books and played in some memorable games – as well as missing out on plenty of others.
For instance, he had the green jersey in the famous 1983 FA Cup 5th round victory at Anfield, but Moseley returned for the later rounds.
And Digweed memorably saved a Chris Kiwomya penalty as Brighton beat Ipswich to reach the play-offs in 1991.
Any Albion fans at the Brighton v West Brom game at the Goldstone on 21 September 1988 will wince with the recollection of Digweed being injured in the most intimate of places.
Forward John Paskin lunged in attempting to score and his studs tore Digweed’s urethra. Not surprisingly the ‘keeper was forced off the pitch but I recall he went off under his own steam rather than on a stretcher which, when the extent of the injury was revealed later, seemed remarkable!
The injury sidelined him for months during which time John Keeley seized the opportunity to establish himself as a more than useful no.1, and Digweed didn’t reappear between the Albion sticks until March 1990.
In August 1990, through impeccable sources, I was able to break the story exclusively that Albion were transferring Keeley to Oldham Athletic for £238,000.
Barry Lloyd briefly flirted with erratic American Tony Meola in goal before restoring Digweed to the first team. He ended up playing 52 games over the course of a season extended by involvement in the play-off final against Notts County – his highest season’s tally in all his years with the Albion. And he was voted player of the season.
In an Argus supplement previewing the Wembley final, Digweed was interviewed by Mike Donovan and couldn’t hide his delight that instead of watching from the sidelines, as he did in 1983, he’d be out on the pitch.
“It’s the biggest match of my career,” he declared.
The only other season Digweed came close to what you might refer to as first choice was in Chris Cattlin’s 1985-86 squad when he played in 41 games, including a memorable FA Cup third round 2-0 win away to Newcastle when, according to the definitive Albion history book Seagulls! The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC (by Tim Carder and Roger Harris): “Perry Digweed was magnificent between the posts.”
By 1992-93, Mark Beeney had established himself as first choice and after Digweed had stepped in when Beeney served a one-game suspension, manager Barry Lloyd declared: “We believe we have on our books the best two ‘keepers in Division Two.”
Older readers will recall how later that season Beeney pulled off the biggest save in Albion’s history: the proceeds of his sale to Leeds United being used to pay off the Inland Revenue who were threatening to close the club down.
With Beeney transferred, Digweed came back in for the final three games of the season, the 3-2 home win over Chester turning out to be his last game for the club.
When finally released by the Albion in June 1993, he joined Wimbledon initially without getting a game but then had two years at Watford where he featured in 29 league games. Among his teammates there was former Albion defender Keith Dublin.
In one of those ‘where are they now’ type pieces in 2010 about Albion’s 1983 FA Cup Final squad, the Daily Mail reported that Digweed was into property and also ran executive chauffeur-driven cars for racehorse owners.
He also had an acting role alongside Vinnie Jones and the stand-up comic Omid Djalili in the 2001 film Mean Machine – a fact that earns him a mention on the goalkeepersaredifferent.com website!
On the same site, bearing in mind I like a parallel line, I was interested to note the aforementioned Meola had also appeared on the silver screen since giving up playing, with a cameo role as a card player in the 2001 Jason Priestly film Zigs.
- Pictures from my scrapbook show Digweed’s look of despair as Notts County score in the 1991 play-off final at Wembley; an inflatable shorts shot of him on a matchday programme front cover from the 1985-86 season; his portrait in the 1983 FA Cup Final programme.