TWENTY-year-old Alan Duffy couldn’t have wished for a better start to his Brighton career than scoring a belter on his debut.
A £10,000 signing from Newcastle United, he was quickly off the mark on 17 January 1970 in a 2-1 Third Division win over Bradford City.
He appeared to be “the Third Division answer to George Best by beating two Bradford players and smashing a ferocious shot in off the crossbar” according to Seagulls TV, which recounted he was a “stocky striker with a robust style”.
Fan Mo Gosfield, posting on North Stand Chat in January 2011, described the goal as “one of my top 10 Albion moments, because it took your breath away”.
Mo added: “He had all the makings of a cult figure at Brighton. The swagger, the shock of hair, the slight beer belly. I loved him, but he never quite lived up to that sensational start.”
The fans in the old North Stand adapted the Hare Krishna chant to incorporate his name and, after that promising debut, the young striker kept his place in the starting line-up through to the end of the season.
He repaid manager Freddie Goodwin’s faith in him with five more goals. Particularly memorable were Duffy’s two goals in Albion’s 2-1 win over Reading on Good Friday when a huge crowd of 32,036 packed into the Goldstone.
Brighton were top of the league going into the game and looking a good bet for promotion.
Former goalkeeper Brian Powney discussed that game – and Duffy – when he was interviewed by Brian Owen for an article in the Argus on 20 February 2017.
There were question marks over both Duffy’s goals – a suspicion of handball for one, the other possibly offside – but, while both stood, a seemingly good goal from the youngster was ruled out later on.
Looking back on the game was a painful reminder for Powney, who dislocated a finger which physio Mike Yaxley had to put back while out on the pitch, it being the era long before substitute goalkeepers were available.
Unfortunately, too, Albion blew their promotion chances by losing four of the last five games after that Easter win over the Royals.
The only other points collected came in the penultimate game, a 2-1 home win over Rotherham, when Duffy again scored twice – one a penalty.
Asked about Duffy in that 2017 interview, Powney said: “Alan was hit and miss, a bit madcap.
“He had a lot of talent and, had he applied himself, he would have had a longer career. He was a good player but not such a good pro.”
Like many a player before and since, a change of manager in that World Cup summer of 1970 didn’t help Duffy’s progress at Brighton although, according to Seagulls TV: “Weight issues and injury woes, starting with a thigh problem on the opening day, marred his 1970-71 campaign.”
Duffy began in the no.8 shirt for the opening two games of that season under Goodwin’s replacement, Pat Saward, but he was left out for the third game and, by the season’s end, had made just 15 starts, and was subbed off on five occasions. There were seven appearances off the bench, plus three occasions when he was a non-playing sub.
Duffy was out of the side from mid-October to February and, on his return to the starting line-up, was involved in one of the most curious incidents I ever saw at the Goldstone.
On 27 February 1971, against Preston North End, Albion won a penalty at the south stand end of the pitch.
Centre forward Kit Napier shaped to take the spot-kick, but, as he did, Duffy stepped forward, pushed his teammate out of the way and took the penalty himself – and missed! The game finished in a disappointing 0-0 draw.
“The manager went mad at him afterwards,” Powney recalled, and Saward promptly dropped Duffy to the bench for the next two matches.
In the meantime, the manager brought in the experienced Bert Murray and Willie Irvine on loan to add some nous and quality. Although Duffy did get back in the side for six games, the rest of the time he was on the bench.
His only goals of the season came in the same match – against Bradford City, in a 3-2 win at Valley Parade on Easter Monday. Duffy struck twice in the second half as Albion came back from being 2-1 down at half-time.
In 1971-72, he made just one start – in a league cup match – and was only ever a substitute in the league, coming on 12 times and not being used on 10 other occasions.
A Brighton & Hove Gazette special publication noted that shortly after coming on as a substitute in a second round FA Cup game at home to Walsall in December 1971, he was booked for fighting with the Saddlers’ goalkeeper, Bob Wesson.
His final appearance saw him come on for Murray in a 4-2 win away to Oldham Athletic in mid-January 1972.
He then had to serve a six-week suspension, and, with Brighton pushing for promotion, Saward clearly didn’t see Duffy as a long-term part of his plans.
When he plunged into the transfer market on deadline day in March, he brought Wolves’ Irish international Bertie Lutton back to the club following a loan spell earlier in the season, and headed to the north west to clinch a deal for Tranmere Rovers striker Ken Beamish.
In addition to a fee of £25,000, Duffy was used as a makeweight in the deal for Beamish.
In two years at Prenton Park, Duffy made 33 appearances and scored just twice, before heading back to the north east in 1973 to join Darlington.
In the 1973-74 season, he played 24 games for Darlington without getting on the scoresheet and the following season drifted into non-league football, playing for Consett.
It was quite some fall from that glorious day on 21 September 1968 when he had made his Newcastle first team debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 3-1 defeat.
Born on 20 December 1949 in Stanley, Co Durham, Duffy joined Newcastle in 1966 and won an England Youth international cap in 1968.
After that debut at Old Trafford, he didn’t play for the first team again until 9 August 1969, coming on as a sub in a 1-0 defeat v West Ham.
His next chance came on 20 September 1969 when he came on as a sub in a 1-1 draw with Southampton.
A week later, he got a start in another 1-1 draw, this time against Wolverhampton Wanderers. But Toon1892.com recounted: “In his time at Newcastle he was always considered to be Pop Robson’s deputy rather than a first team choice.”
Pictures from my scrapbook either originated in the matchday programme or were published in the Evening Argus. Also featured, a special publication produced by the Brighton & Hove Gazette.