CAN anyone really believe it was 10 years ago when the few thousand of us who watched the Albion at Withdean were marvelling at the goalscoring prowess of Bas Savage?
A quick check at the yellowing newsprint from 2007 reveals a clutch of Argus headlines extolling the virtues of a forward who, let’s face it, few could fathom.
After scoring twice in an away game at Northampton to take his tally to six in 11 games, Argus reporter Andy Naylor reminded us: “The gentle giant scored only twice in 66 appearances for Reading, Wycombe Wanderers, Bury, Bristol City and Gillingham before joining the Seagulls on a free transfer from the Gills at the beginning of February.”
Savage attributed his sudden burst of goalscoring on the coaching methods of manager Dean Wilkins, telling Naylor: “He is first out on the training pitch setting up sessions, and that enthusiasm rubs off on the squad.
“He may be young but tactically some of the sessions he has put on I have never seen before from experienced coaches, so I would say he has a good future ahead of him.
“He has worked on my movement as a striker, which has helped me in games, and being a bit more dangerous around the box.”
A prerequisite for a striker, though, you would have thought!
The movement most remember Savage for was his moonwalk goal celebration which was certainly a lot more entertaining than the ungainly style he displayed in pursuit of goals.
So good was his popping, sliding and gliding across the grass a la Michael Jackson that the Soccer AM programme on Sky Sports had him on to perform, a display which can still be found on YouTube.
There can be little doubt Savage’s goalscoring helped lift the Albion clear of the threat of relegation in the spring of 2007 and Wilkins told the Argus: “Bas has played a big part. We are very pleased with his ratio of chances and goals per game.
“We just felt that from what we had seen of him he would add to the squad and create different kind of problems to what we had in the side at that time.”
Naylor pondered whether the Seagulls might finally have found a talismanic striker in the mould of Bobby Zamora and Leon Knight. Savage replied: “I will definitely give it my best shot. I haven’t got the best record out there but I try in every game to score a goal.”
Savage scored the first goal of his professional career for Bristol City against Scunthorpe United in 2005 (his only goal in 23 appearances) but City fans were very divided in their opinion of his performances under current manager Lee Johnson’s dad Gary.
One of the more supportive comments, on otib.co.uk, came from RedTop, who said: “Yes he’s unorthodox, and no he doesn’t do everything right but this is third tier football and he causes havoc.”
Curiously, Scunthorpe were also the opponents when he scored his first home goal for the Albion in March 2007.
When Nicky Forster arrived at Brighton from Hull, there was the opportunity to resurrect what had been a very brief partnership at Reading but, at the Albion too, the partnership had a limited number of games.
A brief highlight in the autumn of 2007 saw a Savage-inspired 2-0 win away to Bournemouth. After Savage made one and scored one, Naylor began his assessment of the game: “Bas Savage may be unorthodox, even clumsy at times, but life is rarely dull with Albion’s moonwalking front man in the side.”
After scoring a total of nine in 36 games for Brighton, Savage moved on to Millwall, Tranmere, Dagenham and Redbridge and Northampton Town before ending up playing in Thailand.
In fact Savage was part of the Dagenham and Redbridge squad that caused a scare at Withdean when Albion were going for promotion from League One in 2011.
The Daily Mail reported how “the striker attempted to inspire them for their clash against league leaders Brighton with a Spiderman design sprayed on his head.
“But the man capable of performing the best moonwalk in the game and no stranger to dodgy barnets (having already had a red and blue pattern, a tiger skin style and many others… all this season) failed to come off the bench and John Still’s struggling side duly lost 4-3 at the Withdean.”
Albion twice had to come from behind but eventually ground out the win to secure their return to the second tier after a five-year absence.
Savage had started out with Walton & Hersham and got his league break with Reading in 2002 before a career-threatening injury kept him out of the game for over a year.
By the time he returned to action, Steve Coppell had arrived from Brighton and gave Savage few chances, resulting in his going out on loan to Bury and Wycombe. He spent 2005-06 at Ashton Gate and the earlier part of 2006-07 at Priestfield.
- Bas Savage pictures and articles from the Argus in 2007.