Portsmouth’s Steve Foster was the big summer signing in 1979
IF WE’RE to learn from history and marry it to what we as fans have been told to expect as Brighton once more rise to play amongst the elite, what squad strengthening might we see?
Back in 1979, the core of the team who won promotion from the second tier under Alan Mullery was largely kept together – but there were some crucial comings and goings nonetheless.
First to go was the goalkeeper, Eric Steele. If, as it appears, David Stockdale is on his way, who do Brighton have lined up as his successor? Too soon for Christian Walton? Finally a chance for Finnish international Niki Mäenpää? Or might we see the arrival of Wojciech Szczęsny – another Pole In Goal? Perhaps John Ruddy, freed from Norwich?
A player who went on to become synonymous with the history of Brighton & Hove Albion arrived at the club in the summer of 1979 and ended up playing for England at the World Cup. Steve Foster was an uncompromising defender who achieved legendary status, albeit at the expense of Andy Rollings, the centre half who had journeyed from Third Division to First with the Seagulls. So, a question: is Shane Duffy going to cut it in the Premier League? Or do we need someone with a bit more pace and finesse? There’s no doubting Duffy’s aerial ability; not so sure how he’ll fare against some of the craftsmen in the Premiership.
Lewis Dunk has in some quarters been compared to the great Mark Lawrenson although for me he has some way to go to reach that level. Dunk may possibly be good enough to break into the England squad if he continues to perform as he has in the Championship. It’s in his hands and only time will tell but I can see him taking on the captain’s armband and successfully stepping up to the next level. However, rather like Lawrenson, there’s every chance that eventually big money will lure him away.
In 1979, Mullery needed to replace an ageing right back and brought in John Gregory to take over from Chris Cattlin. The outstanding Bruno does not have age on his side and, fit though he is, will surely struggle to complete a full season in that right back berth. Liam Rosenior is an able deputy but arguably a more permanent fixture in that position is needed. Carl Jenkinson anyone?
Chris Hughton, a quality left back at the highest level during his playing career, has to decide whether to look beyond the out of contract Gaëtan Bong or West Brom’s Sébastien Pocognoli to fill a position that has had too many temporary incumbents since that memorable season when Wayne Bridge wowed us with his quality.
In 1979, Gary Williams continued to hold down the left back position although the young Gary Stevens was emerging as a defender who could play in any position across the back four, left back included. Williams was eventually ousted when Mullery’s successor Mike Bailey went for the experienced former Arsenal and Northern Ireland international Sammy Nelson.
Canny Mullery also recognised he needed to improve the quality in midfield and turned to Neil McNab, a former Tottenham midfielder, to bring a bit more craft to Brighton’s engine room. He also introduced a seasoned pro in Peter Suddaby to play alongside Foster at the back to free up Lawrenson to weave his magic in midfield.
Albion have done well to secure the services of Dale Stephens on a long term contract but I can see someone with a good deal of Premier League experience being brought in to play alongside him. Rather like Bruno, Steve Sidwell doesn’t have age on his side so the Seagulls probably need to look to someone in their late 20s or just turned 30. Lucas Leiva at Liverpool has already been touted in the football gossip columns.
Teddy Maybank may have spearheaded Brighton’s promotion from the second tier in 1979 but when he didn’t cut it at the higher level, Mullery was quick to move him on and bring in Ray Clarke, a former Tottenham teammate who had been scoring goals for fun in Holland.
Glenn Murray has publicly admitted he feels he has unfinished business in the top flight and briefly showed previously that he’s still capable of finding the net in the top division. As to how many games he’ll manage, and who might partner him in the process, I would say the jury is out.
Personally I don’t expect Tomer Hemed or Sam Baldock to feature much, even if they are retained. More likely I would expect to see the arrival of a fringe striker from one of the Premiership’s top six: Tammy Abraham would be a good shout.
And after his failure to secure the hoped-for ‘no.10’ at the beginning of the season just gone, I would imagine Chris Hughton will be keen to put that right in the summer, this time aiming higher in quality than Alex Pritchard. Has Richie Towell got it in his locker to play that role? He’s had very few chances at Championship level so there must be serious doubt about him coming through.
So, speculation will doubtless be rife throughout the next couple of months but my expectation is that Brighton will look to add six players to the squad.
As they say, watch this space.