Gary Lineker’s former strike partner at Leicester City had a good goals to appearances ratio for Brighton & Hove Albion.
Sadly, Scotsman Alan Young only managed 26 appearances in his one season (1983-84) with the Albion, although his 12 goals meant he finished second top goalscorer behind Terry Connor.
His brief Brighton career got off to a great start with a memorable debut goal, an overhead kick to net against Chelsea at the Goldstone. Young twice scored braces for the Seagulls but his season was injury-hit and, with manager Chris Cattlin bringing in his old pal Frank Worthington for the 1984-85 season, Young was sold to Notts County.
In more recent times, Young courted controversy as a radio pundit sharing his opinions about Leicester, and in 2014 BBC Radio Leicester dropped him from his role supporting commentator Ian Stringer.
Back in September 2013, Young was berated online for his criticism of winger Anthony Knockaert. Foxello, on ja606.co.uk, wrote: “If there’s one thing that annoys me more than just about anything else at this football club, it is that grumpy, nasty egotist Alan Young and his never-ending agenda against certain members of the football club.”
The correspondent bemoaned: “Knocky is now the butt of every joke, and the object of every jibe Young throws out…. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want us to have skilful players who occasionally misplace a pass due to their advanced vision, and just have hoofers and cloggers like in his day.”
So let’s take a look back at ‘his day’. Born in Kirkcaldy on 26 October 1955, Young was football-daft and showed sufficient promise to earn Scottish schoolboy international honours.
His boyhood favourite team was Raith Rovers, whose star player at the time was Ian Porterfield, who famously scored the winning goal when Second Division Sunderland beat Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup Final.
Surprisingly overlooked by Scottish professional clubs, Young was playing as an unattached player for Scotland Schoolboys against England at Old Trafford when Oldham Athletic scout Colin McDonald, a former Burnley and England international goalkeeper, noted his promise and persuaded the young forward to head south of the border to begin his professional career.
In five years at Boundary Park he scored 30 goals in 122 games, and, to a large extent, learned his trade from old pro Andy Lochhead, a prolific goalscorer in his day for Burnley, Leicester and Aston Villa.
In the 1978-79 season, Young netted a hat-trick against Leicester which caught the eye of fellow Scot and former Rangers boss, Jock Wallace, who had taken over at Filbert Street and was building a team with his fellow countrymen at its core.
When Young joined Leicester, and played alongside his boyhood pal Martin Henderson, it began a love affair with Leicester that endures to this day.
In three years at Leicester, Young scored 26 times in 104 games, eventually forming a partnership with the emerging Gary Lineker. TV’s favourite football frontman was generous enough to pen the foreword to Young’s 2013 autobiography, Youn9y, and said of him: “He was an old-fashioned, aggressive centre forward. He possessed, though, a delicate touch and finesse that belied his big target man status – the perfect partner for a nippy little goalhanger trying to make a name for himself.”
Young scored on his full debut for City in a league cup game v Rotherham and followed it up with two on his league debut at home to Watford.
The only time Young was sent off while playing for Leicester was, ironically, at the Goldstone Ground in 1981, at Easter, which was the second of four games at the end of the season that Albion won to stay in the top division.
Young was dismissed for two bookable offences, the first for clattering into goalkeeper Graham Moseley and the other a clash with Steve Foster, although, in his autobiography, he says Foster play-acted a knee injury, which the referee bought. Foster even teased him about it when he joined the Seagulls two years later. In that Easter 1981 fixture, Young’s teammate Kevin McDonald was also sent off, Brighton won 2-1 – and Leicester ended up being relegated together with Norwich and bottom-placed Crystal Palace.
Back in the old Second Division, Young did his cartilage in a game on QPR’s plastic pitch which he says was the beginning of the end of his career, because his knee was never the same afterwards (years later he had a knee replacement).
He also had the disappointment of losing to Spurs in the 1982 FA Cup semi final, although he maintains if a certain Chris Hughton had been sent off for two fouls on Lineker, it might all have been a different story.
Before the next season kicked off, Jock Wallace, the manager he idolised, decided to move back to Scotland to manage Motherwell and his successor at Filbert Street, Gordon Milne, swiftly chose to pair the emerging Alan Smith up front with Lineker, signalling the exit for Young.
Managerial upheaval was to become a familiar cause of Young’s departures in the years that followed, too. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Ian Porterfield, his footballing hero from yesteryear, had taken over as manager at Fourth Division Sheffield United and, although he didn’t really want to drop down the leagues, the Blades were a big club so Young moved to Bramall Lane.
A year later, though, after Brighton’s relegation from the elite in 1983, striker Michael Robinson was sold to Liverpool so there was a centre forward vacancy – and manager Jimmy Melia chose Young to fill it.
The fee was either £140,000 or £150,000 depending on which account you believe, but Young was happy because he pocketed a £20,000 signing on fee (four times what he had received only a year earlier when moving to Sheffield).
His first involvement with the squad was on a close-season tour of the Balearic Islands, but he also picked up an injury that was to dog his season on the south coast.
While Young had a lot of time for Melia, when Cattlin took over it was a different story and, in his book, there are plenty of colourful expletives used to describe exactly what he thought! He also castigates physio Mike Yaxley – “the most useless physio I have ever worked with” – although he says the team spirit was very good…seemingly fuelled by long post-training ‘sessions’ in Woody’s wine bar.
He said: “The football was very enjoyable there and never more so than when Jimmy Case and I were playing together; I loved playing with Jimmy.”
For a short time in that 1983-84 season, Albion had three Youngs in their squad, none of whom were related. Along with Young the forward, there were centre backs Eric Young and on-loan Willie Young.
When Cattlin decided to bring in his old Huddersfield teammate Frank Worthington the following season, Young was on his way, this time to Notts County. The manager who signed him was the former Liverpool and Nottingham Forest defender Larry Lloyd, but his tenure in the managerial chair was very short so, once again, Young found himself playing for a manager who hadn’t chosen him.
In two years at Meadow Lane, Young scored 12 in 43 games for County. He moved on to Rochdale where the Leeds legend Eddie Gray was in charge, but injury took its toll and he only scored twice in 28 games in the 1986-87 season before retiring at 31. He had scored a career total of 89 goals in 349 appearances.
While there were a few non-league appearances, he eventually landed a job back at Notts County in the early days of community football schemes. He made a success of the job, obtained his coaching qualifications and eventually they combined the community scheme with the centre of excellence.
Brighton fans will be interested to know that among the young lads who emerged during Young’s time there were Will Hoskins and Leon Best. The star player, though, was Jermaine Pennant.
Young has fond memories of Neil Warnock’s time as County manager, because of his interest in the work being done at grassroots level. However, the mood changed when Sam Allardyce took over.
Allardyce initially cut Young’s salary and then showed him the door. “I can’t and I never will forgive Sam Allardyce,” he said.
Away from football, Young has had a tempestuous love life – read the book to gather the detail – and has three sons and a daughter. While he also had spells working for Chesterfield and Leeds, he dropped out of the game and then had a very dark period dominated by heavy drinking in isolation, including a time living alone in a caravan on the banks of Loch Lomond.
Eventually a return to England and his break into radio punditry brought him back from the brink.
In 2013, his autobiography Youn9y was published, the sleeve notes describing the story of “a talented, brave striker who played at the highest level of the domestic game but also experienced human misery at its lowest once his playing career was over”.
The notes add: “Youngy doesn’t just recount the good times of his playing career; he also offers valuable insight and moments of perception and understanding of some of the darkest days of his life.”
After four years as match summariser, in 2014 BBC Radio Leicester dispensed with his services and replaced him with another former Fox, Gerry Taggart.
However, Young still gives his opinions about Leicester on the community radio station Hermitage FM.
- Alan Young’s autobiography Youn9y, written in conjunction with Simon Kimber, is published by www.thehistorypress.co.uk.
- Twitter enthusiasts can follow Alan @alan9young
Pictures show a shot of Alan on Brighton seafront from an Albion matchday programme; the front cover of his autobiography; in the Hermitage FM radio studio from Twitter.