Promotion captain Brian Bromley returned to his Lancastrian roots with Wigan Athletic

Bromleycolour

BRIAN Bromley was one of the key players in Brighton’s 1972 promotion-winning team.

Having played the majority of his career in the second tier, he brought a touch of guile and class to the midfield – and some important goals – as the team gained promotion from the old Division Three.

Bromley initially joined on loan from Portsmouth in November 1971 and made his debut as sub for Dave Turner away to Chesterfield. He started the next game and kept his place until the end of the season.

The loan was turned into a permanent deal in exchange for a £14,000 fee. At the end of the promotion season, John Vinicombe wrote in the Argus: “His transfer was a giveaway and to this day Portsmouth fans still bemoan his departure.”

Bromley’s first goal was the decider in a 1-0 win away to Mansfield Town but it was the opener in a 2-0 home win over Tranmere Rovers that lived long in the memory.

Manager Pat Saward said: “I think all followers will agree that Brian Bromley’s goal was one they will remember for a long, long time.

“It came early in the game, at just the right time for us, and I have to search way back in my memory to recall such an exciting goal, with Brian starting his run in his own half, after a neat bit of tackling, and finishing with a brilliant shot from the left which left even that experienced campaigner Tommy Lawrence (former Liverpool no. 1) flatfooted.”

Saward positively purred about Bromley’s capture. He told the Football League Review in 1972 that signing Bromley was “the best move I’ve made” adding: “He’s an exceptional player, one who instils and builds confidence in those around him. He can do anything I ask for because he has both ability and character.”

Bromley took over the captaincy when John Napier was dropped for the oft talked-about televised home game with Aston Villa.

As the excitement grew towards the promotion goal, one of the best performances I recall from that run-in was a night game when Blackburn Rovers were beaten 3-0. Bromley scored the third goal and it was described thus by Vinicombe in the Argus:

“Eighty-nine minutes: After Irvine was fouled just outside the box, Napier executed a brilliant free-kick and Bromley read it expertly. Jones was slow off his line as Bromley raced in to head home, 3-0.”

A Goal magazine article after promotion was won revealed how special it was to Bromley. It said when he had been transferred from Portsmouth earlier in mid-season there was talk that injury might end his career.

“I was heartbroken at the time,” Bromley said. “I really felt my career might be finished. But now I’ve led a side back into the Second Division and everything is just great.”

At the start of the 1972-73 season, Bromley was installed as the new club captain and, as a player with eight years’ experience of Second Division football, in an August matchday programme he wrote: “Although the majority of my footballing career has been spent in the second division, my debut came in the First Division with Bolton Wanderers when I was only 16 years old.

“And one of my greatest ambitions now is to play in the First Division again – with Brighton and Hove Albion.”

Bromley was born in Burnley on 20 March 1946, and, having represented Lancashire Schools, he began his career at Bolton.

After making that debut in March 1963 against Sheffield United, he went on to play 184 games for the Trotters, chipping in with 26 goals, and played many games alongside PFA chairman Gordon Taylor.

Bromley looked back on those Bolton days and said: “It was storybook stuff for me in the First Division, as you can imagine, playing alongside such great performers as Francis Lee, Wyn Davies and Freddie Hill in Bolton’s forward line. We were all disappointed when we got relegated.

“I spent five years in the 2nd Division with Bolton before moving on to Portsmouth where I had three and a half seasons at Fratton Park.”

Pompey paid a £25,000 fee for him in 1968 and he went on to make 95 appearances for the Fratton Park outfit, scoring three times.

“When I joined Brighton last season, first as a loan player and then permanently, I was impressed with the standard of Albion’s play and the attacking football that was adopted,” he said.

“I always thought promotion was on for us. The four clubs at the top and maybe Rotherham as well had too much class for the rest. And this was exactly how it turned out.”

In an only-to-be-expected rallying cry, he continued: “I believe now that the Albion have the ability to do well in the Second Division. Everyone here thinks like a big club and we are ambitious.

“The biggest difference I think you will see between the Second and Third Divisions is that there are better professionals in the Second. They are better drilled and they think and read the game more cleverly than in the lower divisions.

“An early look through the teams doesn’t appear to throw up any exceptional outfits. Blackpool impressed me very much last season. They’re a good side and it will be interesting to see how Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield go.

“But in my opinion, Albion have nothing to fear. We could be a surprise side but are unlikely to win by four and five goals away like we did in the Third Division.”

Sadly as history records, it was to be a disastrous season which ended in an automatic return to the Third Division, however the season was only a couple of months old when Bromley was reunited with his former Pompey teammate George Ley.

Interviewed several years later, Ley recalled: “One of my best mates, Brian Bromley, had gone to Brighton and they had just won promotion.

“He used to play just in front of me in midfield when I was at full back, that was one of the reasons why I left – to go and play with Brom again in that position.”

I discovered a nice little anecdote about the pair’s friendship which happened during an FA Cup fourth round replay in 1971 in which Arsenal narrowly got the better of Pompey by 3-2.

With only two minutes of the game to go, Ley hit Gunners full back Pat Rice and Bromley tried to intervene to hold his pal back – and was promptly sent off by the ref. Arsenal went on to win the cup that year.

Bromley played less than half of Albion’s games in Division 2 but was back in the team as they returned to Division 3 at the start of 1973-74.

Saward was struggling to get the side to gel, though, and after only three games, a 2-0 defeat at home to Bournemouth was Bromley’s last in the stripes and he moved to Reading in September 1973. He had played 52 games for the Albion in total, plus three as a sub, but he made his mark when it mattered.

He spent the 1974-75 season with Reading but only made 14 appearances for Charlie Hurley’s side and was sent out on loan to Darlington.

The following season he moved on to Wigan Athletic, who at that time were in the Northern Premier League, and in a season with the Latics played 23 times.

In 1976-77, he linked up with his former Pompey teammate David Munks at Southern League Waterlooville.

After he’d finished playing, he did what many players of that generation did and moved into the licensed trade.

At one time he was the landlord of the Black Dog in Arundel Street, Portsmouth, and also the White Hart pub in Portchester.

He was working at a social club in Portchester in 2012 and a Portsmouth fan – pompeyblue1980 – takes up the story:

“He looked very ill and was advised by a friend of mine to go home. He was back in the club on Wednesday and looked even worse. He was taken to the QA (Queen Alexandra Hospital) on Wednesday and transferred to Southampton General Hospital on Thursday. He passed away on Friday in the hospital.”
He was 11 days short of his 66th birthday.

  • Top picture shows Bromley captured in Shoot magazine; in the montage, pictures show Bromley’s portrait in Goal magazine, depicted on a Pompey football card collection, signing for the Albion, from the Argus scoring THAT goal against Tranmere (beating the legendary Ron Yeats), and, a matchday programme action shot.
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