AS GOALSCORING partnerships go, the pairing of Kevin Bremner and Garry Nelson was something of a masterstroke by Albion manager Barry Lloyd.
Having to readjust to life back in Division 3 after relegation in 1987 meant cashing in on some of the better players – the sale of Terry Connor, Danny Wilson and Eric Young raised over £400,000 – and replacing them with bargain buys.
At £65,000 for Bremner and £72,500 for Nelson, Lloyd showed how shrewd an operator he could be in the transfer market. When Nelson was injured and sidelined for a while, £80,000 was paid to bring in Paul Wood to play alongside Bremner.
Bremner was born on 7 October 1957 in Banff in the Scottish Highlands and worked as an auctioneer in the cattle market in his home town as well as playing Highland League football.
He didn’t make his start in the English league until the relatively late age of 23. That was with Colchester United and he made his debut in a 2-2 home draw with Barnsley in Division 3 on 11 October 1980.
He went on to make 93 consecutive appearances for Colchester in the third and fourth divisions and scored 35 goals while Bobby Roberts was in charge.
When Roberts was replaced by former Ipswich and Northern Ireland centre half Allan Hunter, Bremner’s face didn’t fit and he was sent on loan to three clubs in the first part of the 1982-83 season — Division 1 Birmingham and Division 3 Wrexham and Plymouth, scoring a goal for each — before making a permanent move to Millwall in December 1982.
At a cost of £25,000, he was one of eight new signings made by manager George Graham as Millwall were floundering at the bottom of Division 3 at the time. In a remarkable turn-round, they picked up 27 points in 12 games to escape relegation.
He was then part of the Millwall side who won promotion from Division 3 in 1984-85. In total, Bremner scored 33 goals in 87 games for the Lions.
Next stop was Reading for a £35,000 fee where he spent two seasons and enjoyed a successful partnership with lofty Trevor Senior which helped the Royals to promotion as champions from Division 3 in 1986.
I can remember going to watch Albion play Reading in November 1986 and Bremner scored twice in a 2-1 win for the Royals at Elm Park. He finished the season with 15. Albion signed him from Reading for £65,000 in July 1987.
After a flying start with Brighton, in which he scored 11 goals, the league goals dried up for Bremner but strike partner Nelson couldn’t stop scoring as Albion powered their way to automatic promotion.
Second spot behind Sunderland was clinched via a 2-1 Goldstone win over Bristol Rovers on 7 May, Bremner finally ending his goal drought with a diving header, and Nelson, inevitably, getting the winner – his 32nd goal of the season.
What was all the more remarkable about the pairing was that it was the first season Nelson had played as an out-and-out striker.
Back in the second tier in 1988-89, Albion struggled to make an impression against better quality opponents although Bremner did score 15 goals, including a hattrick in a New Year’s Eve 4-0 mauling of Birmingham City.
In a matchday programme interview, Bremner said: ”I’m probably enjoying the game more than at any time before. I regret not coming into the professional game earlier but I’m delighted at the way things have turned out.
“We always thought we could do well at the Goldstone and after two years of hard work I’d like to think that we can put the club back on the map and, besides, I’d like another try in the First Division.”
The programme notes declared: “It’s his consistent scoring record that has opposing defenders on tenterhooks. His total commitment invariably creates an opportunist goal and he is a popular player with the fans.”
Bremner scored 12 in the 1989-90 season, five of them coming in the space of a week at the start of the season! He was virtually ever-present but Albion struggled in the lower half of the table for most of the season. His goal in a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn in the final game of that campaign was his last for the club. In 134 games (plus three as sub), he’d scored 36 goals.
He moved on to Peterborough United in the close season as manager Lloyd had a new strike partnership up his sleeve in the shape of John Byrne and Mike Small.
After a year at Peterborough, Bremner moved back to Scotland to play for Dundee but in the spring of 1992 had a month’s loan spell at Shrewsbury Town.
Back in the far north of Scotland he had spells as player-manager with Brora Rangers and his old club Deveronvale then in 1995 he became youth team manager at Gillingham and stayed for eight years, and was then academy coach at Millwall for three years. He subsequently coached youngsters in Kent, at an academy and at an independent school.
- Pictures show the front page of the Evening Argus following Albion’s promotion from Division 3 in 1988 with Bremner diving to score; a shot of Bremner in action against West Ham that appeared on the front of a matchday programme, and a portrait from a matchday programme at the beginning of the 1989-90 season.