‘Save of the season’ one of few bouquets for goalkeeping florist Alan Blayney

GOALKEEPER Alan Blayney only played 15 games on loan to Brighton from Southampton but if finances had been better at the time he could have signed permanently and his career may have taken a different turn.

Blayney is still playing, nifootballleague.com reporting only in December 2017 a move to Ballyclare Comrades from Warrenpoint Town. He also runs a florist business with his wife Laura in Newtownabbey.

Only a month earlier he opened his heart to the belfasttelegraph.co.uk and talked about the demons he’s had to face during a career that rarely hit the heights in England but has seen him represent his country and enjoy success in his native Northern Ireland.

Born in Belfast on 9 October 1981, Blayney was picked up by the city’s Irish league side Glentoran at 16 before moving to the UK aged 19 to join Premier League Southampton.

Blayney was initially loaned out to Stockport County, but his time there was cut short by a broken finger.

He also had a couple of games along the coast at Bournemouth when he suffered one of his most embarrassing goalkeeping moments. In a Q and A for the Albion programme, Blayney told interviewer Dan Tester: “I’d rolled the ball outside the 18-yard box in readiness to kick it up field. The Rochdale striker, my former Northern Ireland under 21 teammate Lee McEvilly, was running away and it hit him on the head and flew over mine into the back of the net.”

Back at Southampton, the young ‘keeper finally got a first team chance in May 2004, a couple of months after Paul Sturrock had replaced Gordon Strachan as manager.

It was some debut because the game against Newcastle United finished 3-3 and a save Blayney made from an Alan Shearer header won him the accolade of Sky Sports save of the season.

The young Irishman kept his place for the following game, a 2-1 defeat at Charlton and he played twice more the following season, in a 2-2 league draw against West Bromwich Albion and a 5-2 League Cup defeat to Watford.

With future Albion goalkeeping coach Antti Niemi and Paul Smith ahead of him in the pecking order, Blayney went on loan to Rushden & Diamonds, where he played four games, before securing the first loan to Brighton in early 2005.

Albion’s regular ‘keeper Michel Kuipers had sustained a horrific shoulder injury in a home game against Nottingham Forest and the no.2 at the time, Chris May, had no experience so manager Mark McGhee needed emergency reinforcements.

Initially he obtained David Yeldell from Blackburn Rovers and also brought in Rami Shabaan from Arsenal, but Blayney, no doubt recommended by McGhee’s old pal Strachan, became the preferred option and played seven games at the end of the season.

Amongst several impressive displays was a game I went to with my son, Rhys, at Burnley, on 16 April 2005.

Against the odds, it finished 1-1 but the media was keener to focus on the post-match news that striker Mark McCammon had been ordered off the team bus by McGhee for his reaction to being substituted at half time.

Reporter Peter Gardner, on telegraph.co.uk, said: “The incident overshadowed a rousing second-half comeback to a game Brighton might ultimately have won, not least through the contribution of Jake Robinson, McCammon’s half-time replacement.

“However, McGhee’s men were equally fortunate not to have been overwhelmed by the home side in the opening 45 minutes when only splendid saves by Alan Blayney from Graham Branch (twice) and Mo Camara, plus Burnley’s own profligacy, prevented an avalanche of goals.”

Blayney was also between the sticks for the nail-biting final game of the season when a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town kept the Seagulls in the Championship by the skin of their teeth.

Such had been Blayney’s contribution that McGhee was keen to sign him permanently, the manager telling skysports.com: “Alan did absolutely brilliantly here for us. We have to see how realistic an option that is, and whether they’re even prepared to consider letting him go, and what the conditions would be.”

The answer was that Brighton couldn’t afford the fee Southampton wanted so at the start of the following season Wayne Henderson was brought in instead on a three-month loan from Aston Villa.

When Henderson returned to Villa, McGhee was keen to buy him outright but in the meantime brought Blayney back for an eight-game stint.

Blayney told BBC Southern Counties Radio: “If I don’t perform they’ll end up going for Wayne instead of me. I have to come in and show I’m as good as Wayne, if not better. This first game at Stoke is really important.”

Unfortunately, the game at Stoke ended in a 3-0 defeat and a 3-2 reverse at home to Crystal Palace followed.

After a point was gained away at Cardiff City, Blayney saved a penalty from Inigo Idiakez in a 0-0 draw with Derby at Withdean on 26 November 2005, and the following week he helped earn another point, repeating the feat against Watford’s Marlon King.

The Watford Observer reported: “King passed up a glorious chance to fire Watford ahead on 58 minutes when he saw his penalty saved. King’s tame penalty was parried by Blayney, who dived low to his left, and the keeper then gathered the rebound.”

After a 5-1 hammering away to Reading, Blayney returned to Southampton in mid-December and within a matter of weeks Southampton’s technical support director, Sir Clive Woodward, informed him he had been sold to Doncaster Rovers for £50,000.

Blayney told the Belfast Telegraph in November 2017: “My response was, ‘Do I not have any say in this?’ He said the deal was done but I didn’t want to live in Doncaster. I loved it in Southampton. I didn’t settle in Doncaster, they gave me an apartment, but it was a tip. If I was getting those wages now I would bite your arm off but then it felt I wasn’t getting much and it was a terrible time.”

Although he started out as no.1, and made 24 appearances for Rovers, following an ankle injury he slipped to third choice behind Ben Smith and Jan Budtz, and came to an agreement to terminate his two and a half year contract early.

Blayney admitted in his Belfast Telegraph interview: “I do regret going out and drinking in my later career in England when I was at Doncaster. I was getting injuries and was a bit disillusioned with the game. I regret it because people had opinions of me at that club which is not the real me. They only saw me behave like that for a few months.”

He wasn’t quite done with England, though, and in February 2007 joined League One Oldham Athletic until the end of the season, after impressing in a reserve team match. However, he only played one first team game, in a 1-2 home defeat against Bournemouth.

There had been the possibility of a return to Brighton to replace Henderson, who had been sold to Preston, but the Argus reported on 2 February 2007: “Albion are not re-signing goalkeeper Alan Blayney after all. They have not been able to agree a length of contract with the former loan signing.”

On his return to Northern Ireland, he initially managed just three games as an understudy at Bohemians, but then he played 32 times for Ballymena United in 2008-09 as a prelude to what would turn out to be the most successful period of his career.

In five seasons with NIFL premiership side Linfield, he played 164 games and, in 2010-11, when Linfield won the league and cup double, he was named Ulster Footballer of the Year.

His form for Linfield also earned him a recall to the Northern Ireland squad. He had initially made his debut in 2006 under Lawrie Sanchez on a summer tour of the United States.

An appearance from the bench in a drawn friendly against Morocco in November 2010 saw Blayney concede an embarrassing goal as his clearance rebounded off Marouane Chamakh, then of Arsenal, to give the Africans the lead.

Manager Nigel Worthington put the incident into context after the game, telling the media Blayney had travelled to the ground just hours after his partner had given birth to a son.

“I was disappointed for Alan but it has been a terrific day for him and we have come out of the game unbeaten,” said Worthington. “He’s fine and I have given him every encouragement. It is one of those you learn from. You cannot take a split second to delay.”

Blayney said it was the worst moment of his career. He told the Belfast Telegraph: “I came on at half-time for Jonny Tuffey but took a terrible touch and Chamakh came in to challenge me. I kicked the ball off him and it went into the net.

“Everybody had welcomed me onto the pitch and you don’t forget moments like that. You aren’t used to playing against players who are as quick as that. I looked up and he was there. I wanted the ground to swallow me up but earlier that same day Phoenix was born. It was a bittersweet day.”

In May 2011 Blayney shared goalkeeping duties with Tuffey as an inexperienced Northern Ireland team endured an embarrassing Carling Nations Cup defeat to the Republic of Ireland. Although left exposed by a threadbare defence, Blayney was culpable in at least two of the goals in a 5-0 hammering, one of which was scored by debut-making Stephen Ward, a future left back loanee for the Seagulls. bbc.co.uk reported: “Blayney was badly at fault six minutes later as he spilled a tame Treacy cross which allowed Ward to poke home from close range.”

With Linfield, Blayney continued to rack up honours until they signed Tuffey in 2013, and he was no longer first choice. In January 2014, he joined Ards on loan but couldn’t help them avoid relegation.

After spending 2014-15 with Glenavon, he returned to Ballymena where he had two successful seasons, before losing his place. In January 2017, he dropped down to the Premier Intermediate League with Dundela. At the start of this season, he returned to the higher division with Warrenpoint Town but, in December, moved to be closer to home, with semi-professional Ballyclare.

 

 

 

 

Further reading

https://www.not606.com/threads/whatever-happened-to-alan-blayney-part-5-of-many.126334/

 

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/football/irish-league/footballers-lives-with-alan-blayney-why-ive-been-gripped-by-selfdoubt-and-how-i-almost-died-after-training-36284956.html

 

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/b/brighton/4102810.stm

 

http://nifootball.blogspot.co.uk/2006/08/alan-blayney.html

 

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Injury-plagued ‘keeper Ben part of ‘Boro Cup folklore before Brighton promotion

BEN ROBERTS might only have played a handful of games for Middlesbrough in seven years on their books but one of them will never be forgotten.

He was between the sticks for ‘Boro when Chelsea’s Roberto di Matteo scored one of the quickest ever FA Cup Final goals.

However, Brighton fans prefer to remember him as the ‘keeper who helped the Seagulls to promotion from the third tier via the play-offs in 2004.

“That season at Brighton remains one of my best experiences in football,” Roberts told beatsandrhymesfc.com’s Christian Brookes, in a 2011 interview.

“Apart from enjoying living in the city, I remained relatively injury-free and played the most games of my career. So for a full season’s work to come down to one day in the Millennium Stadium with a full house in attendance was a very special memory.”

No-one knew at the time, of course, but it was also Roberts’ last game in goal for the Albion because a back injury forced him to retire from the game prematurely in 2005, aged just 29.

In an extended interview with Dominic Shaw for gazettelive.co.uk in December 2017, Roberts looked back on his time at ‘Boro and a playing career that was beset with injury.

Born in Bishop Auckland, the young Roberts was spotted playing for South Durham Boys by Dennis Cooper, father of ‘Boro legend Colin Cooper, and the club took up his recommendation. Roberts would set off by bus from his home in Crook at 6am each day to get to training on time in Middlesbrough, nearly 30 miles away.

At one point, it looked like he wouldn’t get the chance to continue his career because he was deemed too short, but he fed his face throughout the summer, shot up the required inches, and was rewarded with a two-year scholarship.

In fact, he was still a YTS scholar when he got his first involvement with the first team, being named on the bench for two of Boro’s first three games in the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93).

However, it was another two seasons before he actually got into first-team action, making his debut in an Anglo-Italian Cup game against Ancona, with Bryan Robson by then in the managerial hotseat.

In the 1994-95 season, Roberts got league experience under his belt during loan spells with Hartlepool and Wycombe Wanderers and the following season he went on loan to Bradford City before returning to Middlesbrough to help out a goalkeeping crisis.

Injury to Gary Walsh presented Roberts with his chance, and, aged 21, he made his ‘Boro league debut on 18 January 1997 in a 4-2 win at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

Although Mark Schwarzer arrived at the club, he was also hit by injury – and was cup-tied in the FA Cup – leaving Roberts, 21 at the time, as the stand-in No.1.

On 1 April that year, he also earned his one and only international cap, coming on as a sub for Chris Day as England under 21s drew 0-0 with Switzerland at Swindon’s County Ground. Also in the team for that friendly were Rio Ferdinand, Jamie Carragher, Darren Huckerby and Lee Bowyer.

Two of Roberts’ 17 appearances for ‘Boro that season were in cup finals: in the replay of the League Cup Final against Leicester City, and then the FA Cup Final against Chelsea at Wembley.

Roberts started the following season as first choice because Schwarzer was still out injured, but his final appearance of the season – at home to Birmingham in the September – was his final appearance for the club.

Several treatments for a back injury were unsuccessful and at one stage, still only 24, he feared he’d be forced to retire, until he underwent surgery in London. As well as operating on problematic discs, the surgeon found a blood clot in his back.

In between back operations, Roberts went out on loan again and in 1999 played 14 games for Division Two side Millwall, including another Wembley appearance, this time against Wigan in the Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy. The Latics won 1-0 with the winning goal scored by future Albion captain, Paul Rogers.

The following season, Roberts had another loan spell, this time at Lennie Lawrence’s Luton Town and in the summer of 2000 he finally left ‘Boro and joined Charlton Athletic. However, he played only once for the Addicks, coming on as a sub in the final game of the 2002-03 season after regular no.1 Dean Kiely had been sent off.

Prior to that, Roberts had been out on loan again, initially at Reading and then returning to Luton. His first association with Brighton also came in that season, as Steve Coppell’s Seagulls were battling hard to avoid relegation from the second tier.

He played three times and I remember one of those games was one I went to away at Bradford City (a 1-0 win) on 15 February 2003, when he pulled off some terrific stops on a rock-hard pitch.

Unluckily for him, he then picked up a dose of ‘flu and veteran Dave Beasant took over and kept the shirt until the end of the season.

However, Coppell saw enough to persuade him to sign Roberts permanently and, as referred to earlier, the 2003-04 season was to be the one time when he finally made his mark, culminating in the 1-0 win over Bristol City at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

When his back injury problems returned and ruled him out of the whole of the 2004-05 season, he quit the game and went travelling to Brazil, Asia and India before returning to the UK and going to Roehampton University to take a sports science and coaching degree.

Not only did he achieve first class honours, his dissertation on biomechanics (which applies the laws of mechanics and physics to human performance) earned him a ‘Pursuit of Excellence’ award from Adidas.

Although he intended to stay in the world of academia, his old Brighton teammate, Nathan Jones, persuaded him to join the coaching staff at Yeovil Town.

“I was at a stage where I missed the banter, the day-to-day interaction and being outside,” he said. “I went down and loved it and that turned into my career. ”

While at Yeovil, he worked with Alex McCarthy, who is now at Southampton, and the much-travelled Stephen Henderson, who is currently at Nottingham Forest.

Roberts himself had the briefest of returns to league action when in October 2010 he appeared as a substitute in a 3-3 draw against Swindon, replacing the injured Henderson at half-time and conceding two late goals.

At the end of that year, he followed Jones to Charlton Athletic and in four and a half years at The Valley worked with Rob Elliot (now Newcastle), Ben Hamer (now Leicester), David Button (now Fulham) and Nick Pope (now Burnley).

When, in the summer of 2015, the goalkeeping coach role at Brighton was vacated by Antti Niemi, who returned to Finland for family reasons, Roberts jumped at the chance to link up once more with coach Jones, then part of Chris Hughton’s management team.

Skysports.com quoted Roberts at the time, saying: “I’m ecstatic to be back at Brighton. I’ve made no secret that my happiest years as a professional footballer were spent down here, as I had a special affinity with the fans at Withdean.”

While that role continues it would be remiss not to mention THAT ‘Boro v Brighton Championship clash at the Riverside in May 2016. He told gazettelive.co.uk: “Obviously you want to win and it was so, so tight. My best mate and best man, Adam Reed, is a physio at ‘Boro and seeing him in the tunnel afterwards so happy with his kids, that levelled out the disappointment a little bit for me.

“It was still so hard to take, though. Adam said he felt a bit awkward as well and didn’t want to celebrate too much, but we were on holiday together a couple of weeks later and I was philosophical about it.”

Today, of course, Roberts remains Albion’s goalkeeping coach, putting Maty Ryan, Tim Krul and Niki Mäenpää through their paces.

Further reading

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/ben-roberts-losing-fa-cup-13983022

http://beatsandrhymesfc.com/ben-roberts-interview-samba-beat-still-plays-on-for-cup-final-boro-keeper/

Brighton pictures from Bennett Dean / Pitch Publishing’s We Are Brighton / Play Off Special;  from online, celebrating ‘Boro promotion with Bryan Robson and Nigel Pearson; flying the flag for Reading.

 

 

Former Chelsea captain Colin Pates added class to Brighton’s defence

1 Pates profile.jpgFORMER Chelsea captain Colin Pates added a touch of class when he joined Albion, initially on loan (1990-91) from Arsenal and then permanently (1993-95).

He was a key figure in the team which reached the 1991 Division Two play-off final against Notts County, playing in the same side as his former Chelsea teammate Clive Walker.

Young Irish centre back Paul McCarthy had been at the centre of Albion’s defence (alongside Gary Chivers) for the opening part of the season but when injury ruled him out, manager Barry Lloyd pulled off something of a coup to persuade his old Chelsea teammate, George Graham, then manager of Arsenal, to loan Pates to the Seagulls for three months.

In a special Argus supplement Go for it Seagulls! previewing the play-off final, Albion reporter John Vinicombe described it as a “masterstroke” and added: “It is doubtful if Albion would have made it without him.”

In the same publication, Lloyd’s faithful no. 2, Martin Hinshelwood said Pates had got better and better since joining. “He has steadied us a little bit. He talks to players, he is a great trainer and he has brought a lot to our back four.”

In an extended interview with the Argus in October 2001, Pates recalled: “It was a good time. The result in the play-off final didn’t go our way but it was a fantastic experience for the team to play at Wembley, the side was so close to the Premiership, or First Division as it was called then.

“I’d been lucky to have played there before but to others it was the pinnacle of their careers.”

After the disappointment of the loss to Neil Warnock’s County, Pates returned to Arsenal.

With Tony Adams and Steve Bould the first choice centre backs, and David O’Leary and Andy Linighan in reserve, first team games were few and far between, but he did play 13 times (plus two as sub) in 1991-92 then twice (plus five as sub) in 1992-93, before being released in the summer of 1993.

Lloyd’s time in the Albion manager’s chair was nearing its end but he picked up Pates on a free transfer and the defender played 61 games before a bad knee injury brought his professional career to an end in January 1995.

Towards the end of his time at the Albion, he’d moved out of the centre to play left back.

In that Argus interview in 2001, he explained how he had been grateful to accept the advice of Lloyd’s successor as manager, Liam Brady. “Liam told me that I should think of my health before my playing career and that I would be a fool to myself if I carried on playing.

“My knee had fallen apart and it was the right advice. If I’d ignored it I could well have ended up not being able to walk. Footballers need to be told when it is the end. I’ll always be grateful to Liam for that.”

Born in Carshalton on 10 August 1961, Pates made his way through the youth teams at Chelsea and made his debut at Stamford Bridge in an astonishing game which saw Chelsea beat Orient 7-3!

“I just remember Geoff Hurst, who was our manager at the time, coming up to me on the Friday and telling me that we had a few injuries so I was playing,” Pates told the official Chelsea website. “He literally just said: ‘Tomorrow you play,’ and that was it. Micky Droy was injured but he was brilliant with me, he gave me loads of advice and came to the game to support me.

“It certainly wasn’t a good advertisement for defenders but as long as you come away with the win the fans are happy. It’s one of those days where you’re so fired up it just goes so quickly. You come off the pitch at the end and have no recollection of what happened really. I was up against some good, experienced pros and it was quite daunting, but I really enjoyed it.”

It seems remarkable now but Chelsea only narrowly avoided relegation to the old Third Division in 1983, and, as a result, manager John Neal had quite a clear-out of players but Pates’ performances and attitude earned him the captain’s armband just before his 22nd birthday.

“I think he wanted someone who had come through the ranks and knew the club,” Pates said. “I was fortunate enough to be one of the few players – along with the likes of John Bumstead – who he kept on from before.”

Pates added: “I loved John Neal, he was a man of few words but when he said something you listened because it was going to be something poignant or important. He was a good man-manager and would always take care of you if you had problems and be there for a chat. You wanted to play for him.”

The club’s fortunes changed after they brought in the likes of Kerry Dixon, David Speedie and Pat Nevin and they soon returned to the elite as Second Division champions in 1984.

Two years later, Pates was holding another trophy aloft – the Full Members’ Cup – after a dramatic 5-4 win over Manchester City at Wembley which, extraordinarily, was played the day after they’d played a league game in which they’d won 1-0 at Southampton. Pates made history by becoming the first-ever Chelsea player to lift a trophy at the iconic stadium (when Ron Harris lifted the FA Cup in 1970 it was at Old Trafford, where the replay had taken place after a 2-2 draw at Wembley).

“It’s great to play at Wembley with thousands of fans screaming their heads off, and once you’re on the pitch you don’t care what cup it is, you just want to win it,” said Pates.

After 346 league and cup appearances for Chelsea, he was surprisingly sold to Charlton Athletic for £430,000. When the Albion visited Chelsea for a Division 2 league game on 29 October 1988, the matchday programme carried an article headlined ‘Colin’s farewell’, detailing the circumstances.

“The transfer of Colin Pates to Charlton Athletic not only surprised many Blues fans but Colin himself,” it began.

“It came right out of the blue,” said Pates. “Bobby Campbell told me that a First Division club wanted to sign me. At first, I was taken aback. I have been at Stamford Bridge since I was a schoolkid. Chelsea has become a way of life.”

However, he agreed to talk to Charlton boss Lennie Lawrence and was delighted to have made the move.

“After 11 years at Stamford Bridge, this is a new lease of life for me,” Pates told the programme.

In January 1990, he joined Arsenal for £500,000, and in the following month he made his Gunners debut at left back in place of the injured Nigel Winterburn in a 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

On his release from Brighton, Pates had a spell as player-manager of Crawley, played a handful of games for non-league Romford, and has coached youngsters in various places including Mumbai in India, the Arsenal School of Excellence, and at the independent Whitgift School in South Croydon.

Pates is now back at Stamford Bridge on matchdays working in the hospitality lounges.

Further reading

http://www.theargus.co.uk/sport/6772423.Pates_is_on_a_mission_with_a_squad_of_1_400/

http://www.chelseafc.com/news/latest-news/2017/02/foot-in-both-camps–colin-pates.html

 

2 Pates in Chel prog

 

Controversial Chilean Gonzalo Jara Reyes won’t forget Brighton in a hurry

Jara BHA blue and white

Gonzalo Jara Reyes has never been far from the headlines for all the wrong reasons and his spell on loan to Brighton from West Bromwich Albion was no different.

The defender had two separate spells on loan with the Seagulls during the 2011-12 season but he hit the headlines for off-field matters.

He appeared before Brighton magistrates in January 2012 for driving his car in the city while already banned for drink driving.

He admitted driving an Audi Q7 sports car in Richmond Terrace, Brighton, while disqualified and driving without insurance and collected a £3,500 fine, having been banned for 17 months the previous July.

The Brighton bench handed him a further 12 month ban and ordered him to pay £100 costs.

Having joined Gus Poyet’s Brighton on loan in October 2011, he had only played four matches before missing that memorable December 2011 1-0 defeat against Burnley – when Ashley Barnes and Romain Vincelot were sent off in the first 12 minutes of the game.

It transpired he had been arrested by Sussex Police on the morning of the match, and was still in custody when the game kicked off.

It was an eventful few days for the Chile international because, two days after his arrest, West Brom recalled him early from the planned 13-game loan to the Seagulls as cover for the Baggies’ Christmas programme.

West Brom manager at the time, Roy Hodgson, was confident it wouldn’t affect his game, telling the Express & Star: “Most footballers have got something else going on in their lives that they have to deal with when they go onto the football field and they put it into another compartment.

“His is perhaps a bit more serious than others but he’ll have to learn to deal with it.”

On the final day of the transfer window in January 2012, Jara eventually returned to Brighton for the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t long before he was in trouble again.

On 17 March 2012, in a 3-1 defeat away to Blackpool, referee Simon Hooper showed Jara a red card in the 57th minute when he lunged in with a late challenge to take down Keith Southern. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen red at Bloomfield Road and it earned him a three-match ban. By the season’s end he’d played a total of just 14 games for Brighton.

Born in Hualpén on 29 August 1985, Jara grew up there, playing for Huachipato before winning three league titles in Chile with Colo-Colo.

He represented Chile in the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and he came to the attention of West Brom’s head of EU recruitment Tony Spearing while captaining the Chile Under-23 team in Toulon in 2008.

He had actually already played for the full international side, on a 2006 European tour, and has since played more than a hundred games for his country.

Known for his versatility, he can play in either full back positions, central defence or as a holding midfielder.

He was 24 when West Brom head coach Roberto Di Matteo signed him in August 2009 for £1.4m. Di Matteo told the club’s website: “Gonzalo is an exciting, quick, technical and aggressive player.

“He’s still young and has a strong desire to achieve. Gonzalo wants to go to that next level and prove himself in Europe.”

He was a regular in his first season at The Hawthorns before breaking a metatarsal. He played right back in the Baggies’ Premier League side but got himself sent off in a game away to Blackpool when the side were already down to 10 men. After that, he was in and out of the team and new manager Roy Hodgson preferred Steven Reid, although Hodgson reckoned the move to Brighton was simply about giving him game time.

The future England manager said at the time: “I’m hoping he’ll get three good months down in Brighton which is better than three months here playing reserve team football because Jara is not a reserve team player.”

Di Matteo no doubt tipped off his old Chelsea pal Poyet about Jara’s capabilities, prompting his eventful time with the Seagulls.

He returned to West Brom at the end of the 2011-12 season, and the following season went out on loan again, this time to Nottingham Forest. On his release from West Brom in 2013, he joined Forest on a permanent deal but was one of seven players released a year later. It meant he went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil without a club.

It has been while on international duty that Jara has made even more of a name for himself – and not in a good way!

After Jara had left Forest and moved to Germany he was caught up in a most unsavoury incident while playing for his country.

In a Copa America quarter-final in Santiago, which the hosts won 1-0 with a late goal, television images appeared to show Jara anally fingering Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani before then falling to the ground holding his face after the Uruguayan responded by flicking his hand onto the Chilean’s chin.

Cavani was shown a second yellow card for his role in the incident, but Jara escaped unpunished by the referee.

The South American confederation investigated the incident, and Jara was subsequently fined £4,775 and banned for three matches.

Jara’s club side, Mainz, were singularly unimpressed. Sporting director Christian Heidel told Bild: “We do not tolerate that. What makes me more angry than the prod, however, is what happens after. There is nothing I hate more than theatrics.”

Jara had previous against Uruguay too. During a running battle with the then-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez during a 2013 World Cup qualifier between Chile and Uruguay, Jara grabbed Suarez by the testicles, with Suarez responding with a punch in the face.

In January 2016, Jara left Mainz to return to Chile “for personal reasons” after his contract was terminated prematurely.

He now plays for the Santiago-based Club Universidad de Chile, one of the top sides in the country.

Pictures from The Argus show the Chilean in both Brighton strips and in West Brom’s colours.

Palace and Brighton winger Neil Smillie was a Wembley winner eventually

Smillie action

AN UNSUNG hero of Brighton’s 1983 FA Cup Final side, winger Neil Smillie, later became a teammate of current boss Chris Hughton.

Smillie had the distinction of being the first ever apprentice the legendary Malcolm Allison signed for Crystal Palace.

Big Mal had enjoyed league and FA Cup success at Manchester City as Joe Mercer’s sidekick but he swept into Palace in the early 70s as a boss in his own right, courting publicity with his flamboyant fedora hat and giant cigar.

Smillie admitted: “I was going to West Ham but Allison persuaded me to take a look at Palace.

“The place was so alive and vibrant under him that I went there instead.”

Born in Barnsley on 19 July 1958, Neil followed in the footsteps of his dad, Ron, a former professional who played for Barnsley and Lincoln.

After joining Palace in 1974, Smillie turned professional a year later and was on Palace’s books for seven years, although he had three loan spells away from Selhurst.

In 1977, he went briefly to Brentford, who he ultimately would have a long association with later in his career.

The following two years, he went to play in America for Memphis Rogues where his teammates were players from the English game winding down their careers: the likes of former Albion players Tony Burns and Phil Beal, ex-Chelsea, Leicester and Palace striker Alan Birchenall and former Chelsea winger Charlie Cooke; the side being managed by former Chelsea defender Eddie McCreadie.

At the end of the 1981-82 season, Smillie was denied a pay rise by Palace so he decided to quit and wrote letters to clubs in the top two divisions in England asking for a job!

Brighton had managed to offload the troublesome Mickey Thomas to Stoke City so had a need for a left winger. They were the first to come up with an offer, and with full back Gary Williams surplus to requirements since the arrival of experienced defender Sammy Nelson, Brighton offered him in exchange for Smillie.

The bubble-haired winger gratefully accepted the switch to the Seagulls. While he made the starting line-up for the opening game of the new season, a heavy (5-0) defeat away at West Brom in the next game then saw him dropped and sidelined for months.

It was only once ultra-cautious manager Mike Bailey had left that Smillie got back in contention, and only then – in January 1983 – through someone else’s misfortune.

He said: “I was out in the cold and only got my break when Giles Stille was injured during the Cup game against Newcastle United.”

Smillie seized his opportunity and remained in the side for the rest of the season, culminating in the two Wembley FA Cup Final matches against Manchester United.

Back in the second tier following Brighton’s relegation, Smillie played 28 games plus once as a sub but following new manager Chris Cattlin’s signing of Northern Irish winger Steve Penney, there was competition in the wide areas.

Throughout the 1984-85 campaign, Smillie was more often than not a substitute rather than a starter. He did manage a seven-game run of appearances in the late autumn and began the final three games of the season, but the last game, a 1-0 home win over Sheffield United, proved to be his farewell.

Several eyebrows were raised when Cattlin managed to secure a £100,000 fee from Watford for Smillie’s services in the summer of 1985. The winger joined Graham Taylor’s beaten FA Cup finalists but failed to establish himself in the side and made just 16 first team appearances in three years.

In 1988, he moved on to Reading where, five years after his disappointment with Brighton, Smillie was a winner at Wembley, scoring and setting up two goals as Reading beat Luton 4-1 in the Simod Cup Final.

The Hatters were led by former Albion captain Steve Foster and another of Smillie’s former teammates, Danny Wilson, was in their midfield.

Mick Harford scored the opening goal for Luton, but Smillie’s pass allowed Michael Gilkes to bundle home an equaliser.
Smillie then won a spot kick converted by Stuart Beavon, and, in the second half, Mick Tait swept home another Smillie assist. Smillie then rounded off a great afternoon by scoring himself.

It was hailed as one of the best days in Reading’s history, witnessed by over 45,000 loyal Royals fans.

Nevertheless, Smillie didn’t hang around and instead joined Brentford, where his former Palace teammate Phil Holder was assisting the manager at the time, Steve Perryman.

Nick Bruzon interviewed Smillie in depth for a Where are they now? feature on the Brentford FC website in July 2010.

“Representing Brentford over three different decades, initially on loan in 1977 and then for five years from 1988 to 1993, Neil Smillie combined raw pace with ceaseless energy to make him one of the most popular players to patrol the New Road touchline,” said Bruzon. “Whilst with Brentford he experienced promotion, relegation and play off heartbreak, scoring 18 goals in 185 games.”

Smillie said: “I’ve got to say, the five years I spent at Brentford (and I was 30 when I signed) I thoroughly enjoyed.

“I’d reached a point in my career where I felt comfortable in terms of what I could give on the pitch. I’d always been a hard worker and I got the feeling that the supporters appreciated someone who worked hard.”

In the 1992-93 season, he played alongside Hughton, who, like Smillie, was winding down his playing career.

“I loved taking people on and I loved getting crosses in for people to score so that just seemed to fit in nicely at the time with the team that we had,” he said. “I played my part as well as others who played theirs in getting the ball to me. We all did our bit and for me it was a great part of my career.”

On leaving Brentford, Smillie became a player-coach at Gillingham when Mike Flanagan was the manager. When Flanagan was sacked, Smillie took over the managerial reigns on a caretaker basis while the club tried to stabilise during financial troubles.

Smillie told Bruzon: “We were in a fairly precarious position and ended up in a decent position. So there was some enjoyment to it but the situation at a club without any money and struggling was difficult.”

Some names familiar to Brighton fans were at Gillingham at the time. Smillie played up front with Nicky Forster. Paul Watson was in defence and Richard Carpenter in midfield.

His three-month reign came to an end when Gillingham appointed Tony Pulis as the new manager and former Palace manager Alan Smith took Smillie to Wycombe Wanderers to look after their youth team.

When Smith left, Smillie was caretaker manager until former Albion full back John Gregory got the managerial post. Smillie then became Gregory’s successor in the hot seat for a year.

When the inevitable sack came, Smillie stepped outside of day to day running of football to become sports marketing manager for Nike in the UK. His role was to identify emerging talent for Nike to associate themselves with, and, as a result he stayed in touch with the game.

Among the players he signed to Nike were Theo Walcott, Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor, James Milner, Tom Huddlestone, Danny Wellbeck and Johnny Evans.

Pictures show (top) Smillie in action on the cover of the Albion programme; walking his dog; in Match magazine, on the cover of Shoot! being tackled by Liverpool’s Sammy Lee; a Simod Cup winner with Reading.