Teenage Teddy’s Chelsea promise dashed by injury at Brighton

TEDDY MAYBANK signed for the Seagulls for what at the time was a club record transfer in November 1977 and went on to score Brighton’s first ever top division goal.

But the new signing came in for some flak from the terraces and, over two years, never really delivered a significant return on the investment.

Maybank himself reckons the club forced him to play on with an injured knee when he shouldn’t have, which led to irreparable damage and ultimately a premature end to his career.

The former Chelsea centre-forward was signed to replace Ian Mellor, Peter Ward’s prolific strike partner in the 3rd Division, after Brighton had won promotion to the second tier.

“We let Ian Mellor go because we felt that he had reached a certain age and had probably peaked,” Alan Mullery told Matthew Horner, in his Peter Ward biography, He Shot, He Scored. “When Teddy Maybank became available, we thought that he was probably a better option.”

Born in Lambeth on 11 October 1956, Maybank lived the first 15 years of his life in Brixton and went to Christchurch Primary School, close to his home, where one of his playground footballing mates was Ray Lewington — now loyal deputy to Roy Hodgson — who, together with Maybank, went on to play for Chelsea and Fulham.

At the age of 11, Maybank moved to Stockwell Manor Secondary School and played various age group levels for South London Boys. One of the representative matches he played in took place at the Goldstone Ground on 25 September 1971, against Brighton Boys.

The Maybank family moved to Mitcham, close to the Chelsea training ground, and, when Teddy was 15, he joined them straight from school.

Maybank and Lewington progressed through Chelsea’s youth ranks at a time when the club’s focus was on bringing through home-grown talent. “It was a good time at Chelsea,” he said. “We had such a good youth side and I loved playing under Ken Shellito.”

That team, which won the South-East Counties Championship four years in a row, included Ray and Graham Wilkins, Lewington and John Sparrow.

Maybank’s first-team debut came in a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur in April 1975 aged just 18, and he scored in only his second game, a 1-1 home draw against Sheffield United, but Chelsea were relegated from the top division that year.

The following campaign saw Maybank, still a teenager, become a first-team regular under Eddie McCreadie, grabbing five goals in 26 appearances between August and February.

After falling out of favour, he went out on loan to Fulham just before Christmas 1976 and then signed permanently for a £65,000 fee later that season.

Back in the ‘70s, Chelsea were a long way from the force they are now and Maybank admitted: “I wouldn’t say I ever played that well at Chelsea. I didn’t find it easy to score goals there.”

It was a different story at Craven Cottage. After scoring more than a goal every other game – 17 times in 31 games – Maybank was sold to Brighton for £237,000, which gave Fulham a swift £172,000 profit that they used to pay off money owed on their recently-built Eric Miller Stand (now, the Riverside Stand).

                     Blond locks flying, Maybank comes up against QPR’s Dave Clement in a 1978   pre-season friendly. (Above right) This overhead kick against Sunderland at The Goldstone scraped the bar … otherwise would have been a Goal of the Season candidate!

Maybank made a good enough start for the Seagulls, scoring after just six minutes on his debut in a 2-2 home draw with Blackburn Rovers, played on a bitterly cold day in front of a crowd of 26,467. Tony Towner scored the Albion’s other goal and another debutant in that game was tough-tackling midfield player, Paul Clark.

Maybank was on the scoresheet again in the very next game as Albion recorded their first ever win, 1-0, at Blackpool.

It was in a game against Orient a week before Christmas that Maybank got a kick on his knee from defender Dennis Rofe (who later played for Leicester and Southampton) which caused an injury which he maintains wasn’t properly managed by the club.

He told fulhamfc.com in 2013: “They kept giving me injections, taking all the fluid out every Sunday after the game.

“I was barely training. I could run in a straight line but any time I put weight on my leg I would fall over. I wouldn’t feel any pain because of the injections, but I just fell over.”

The Brighton fans thought they had bought Bambi and were soon on his back, leading to a “pretty terrible time” that Maybank never really recovered from.

“The club should never ever have allowed me to play in that situation,” he said. “A surgeon saw me outside of the club, opened me up and said: ‘if you ever play football again, you’ll be the luckiest bloke in the world’.

“Brighton had told me, basically, that I couldn’t do any more damage. They wouldn’t do it now, but because I was the highest transfer fee they ever paid, they didn’t really take my welfare into consideration at all. In the end, it ruined my career.”

                      Shoot! article and (above right) Maybank goes full length to head the second of  his three goals against Cardiff on Boxing Day 1978.

In an article in Shoot! magazine at the time, Maybank talked about how he hadn’t had the best of starts with his new club. He said: “I wasn’t playing well. I knew that. My early form was a disappointment to the fans. They expected me to come in and start scoring regularly and doing incredible things.

“It’s always hard when you change clubs and you need a while to settle in. I have to adjust to my new team-mates but they’ve also had to change and adapt to playing with me.”

Mansfield were trounced 5-1 at the Goldstone on 21 January 1978 when Peter Ward shone with a hat-trick. Maybank also got one, but it was his last of the season. He made only six more appearances between January and the end of the season and new signing Malcolm Poskett seized his chance alongside Ward.

Albion narrowly missed out on promotion (by goal difference) and during the close season Maybank went under the knife for a cartilage operation.

Fit for the new season, Maybank was among the goals as Albion beat Millwall 4-1 at The Den on 2 September. He got a brace that day but in the same month was in trouble with the manager who’d had an anonymous tip-off that the star striker and Welsh international winger Peter Sayer had been seen in a nightclub on the eve of what turned out to be a 4-1 defeat by Leicester City.

Mullery made an example of the pair and they were both ‘persuaded’ to donate a fortnight’s wages to the local Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

On the pitch, the goals dried up for Maybank until Boxing Day when he netted a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Cardiff City. In total, he scored 10 times as Albion won promotion, and he was leading the line in the famous promotion-clinching 3-1 win at Newcastle on 5 May 1979.

In that season’s Rediffusion Player of the Year competition, Maybank finished third behind winner Mark Lawrenson and runner-up Brian Horton.

In much the same way Pascal Gross was feted for scoring Brighton’s first-ever goal in the Premiership, so Maybank scored the Albion’s very first goal in the top division.

After being hammered 4-0 by Arsenal in the opening fixture at the Goldstone, the Seagulls were away to Aston Villa in the second game.

                      Arms aloft, Maybank celebrates Albion’s first ever top division goal with skipper Brian Horton and Peter O’Sullivan. (Above right) Maybank battles with Arsenal’s David O’Leary watched by John Hollins and O’Sullivan.

Latching on to a John Gregory through pass and, with the very last kick of the first half, Maybank buried a shot past ‘keeper Jimmy Rimmer.

Albion lost the game 2-1 but the national newspapers were full of praise for the newcomers to the division.

Frank Clough in The Sun wrote: “Teddy Maybank and Peter Ward tore great holes in Villa’s jittery defence and were only stopped by inadequate finishing and fine goalkeeping by Rimmer.”

It was the first of three Maybank goals at the top level, but, according to Ward, the striker had a big falling out with Mullery. The manager brought in Ray Clarke as his first choice centre-forward and, in December 1979, Maybank was sold back to Fulham for £150,000.

He had scored a total of 16 goals in 64 appearances for the Seagulls, less than half the ratio he’d been scoring when bought.

After just 19 games for Fulham, Maybank joined Dutch side PSV Eindhoven for £230,000 in August 1980 (Fulham making another tidy profit on the player).

His debut for the Dutch giants came in front of a packed house at the Nou Camp, where Barcelona were staging a four-team tournament with Vasco da Gama and River Plate.

However, only a few games later his knee flared up again.

“They opened me up and saw what a state my knee was in,” Maybank explained in that 2013 interview with fulhamfc.co.uk. “I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t retire I would be playing with the youth team or reserves. I think they thought they’d been taken for a ride.”

Maybank was left with no choice. At the age of 24, he retired from the game.


Pictures from my scrapbook sourced from Shoot! magazine and the matchday programme.




Ex-Burnley left back Harry Wilson “something of a fire-eater” for Albion

BRIGHTON boss Brian Clough turned up at Burnley to capture the signings of two of their fringe first team players – and ended up having pie and chips with the groundsman!

When Clough arrived at Turf Moor, he found manager Jimmy Adamson, chairman Bob Lord and secretary Albert Maddox were nowhere in sight, it being lunchtime.

In their absence, as recounted to respected writer Dave Thomas, groundsman Roy Oldfield made the famous visitor a cup of tea, popped to a nearby chippy to get them both pie and chips and chatted all things football until the office re-opened after lunch.

Although Clough hadn’t got quite what he expected on arrival, his journey did bear fruit. In exchange for £70,000, he secured the services of left-back Harry Wilson, a 20-year-old who had made 12 appearances for the Clarets, and midfielder Ronnie Welch, 21, who had played one game.

At the time, Clough was desperately trying to bring in new recruits to a beleaguered Brighton side that he and sidekick Peter Taylor had taken on in October 1973, a period covered in detail in a recent book, Bloody Southerners, by author and journalist Spencer Vignes.

The man who only the season before had led unfashionable Derby County to the First Division Championship, couldn’t quite believe what he had inherited at Third Division Albion.

The players seemed bewildered by what the new celebrity boss expected of them.

Heavy defeats – 4-0 to non-league Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup; 8-2 at home to Bristol Rovers and 4-1 away to Tranmere Rovers in the league – reflected the disarray.

Clough and Taylor weren’t slow in pointing the finger. Their only solution was to find replacements – and quickly.

Former Manchester United reserve Ken Goodeve was first to arrive, from Luton Town, although he failed to impress and made only a handful of appearances before joining Watford at the end of the season.

Goalkeeper Brian Powney was axed in favour of former England under 23 international, Peter Grummitt, initially on loan from Sheffield Wednesday.

Experienced left-back George Ley never played for the Albion again after the defeat at Tranmere, while utility man and former captain, Eddie Spearritt, also lost his place (although he eventually forced his way back into the side briefly).

Wilson in his Burnley days and pictured alongside Ronnie Welch before their debut v Aldershot

Wilson and Welch made their debuts against Aldershot in a home game on Boxing Day when a crowd of 14,769 saw Albion slump to their fifth successive defeat, although at least the deficit this time was only 1-0.

A win finally came in the next game, a 1-0 success at home to Plymouth Argyle – Ken Beamish scoring the solitary goal.

In the Evening Argus, reporter John Vinicombe purred about the impact of the new recruits from Burnley, saying Wilson “is looking something of a fire-eater. He has a rare zest for the game and relishes the close, physical contact that is synonymous with his position.

“He knows how to destroy and create, and does both in a manner befitting a five-year background at the academy of fine footballing arts (editor’s note: at the time, Burnley had a reputation for producing highly-talented young players).

“His colleague from Turf Moor, Ronnie Welch, is not so completely extrovert, but is no less involved in midfield, and has a fine turn of speed. He made one mistake through trying to play the ball instead of hoofing it away, but this can only be described as a ‘good’ fault.”

Further signings followed and the ship was steadied. Wilson kept the no.3 shirt through to the end of the season. But Welch made only 36 appearances for Albion before Taylor, by then under his own steam, traded in him and fellow midfielder Billy McEwan as a makeweight in the transfer that brought full-back Ken Tiler to the Goldstone from Chesterfield. No doubt the appeal to Welch was that it presented an opportunity to play for his hometown club, but he made only 24 appearances in three years with the Spireites.

Wilson, meanwhile, became a mainstay in Albion’s left-back spot for three years, including being ever-present in the 1975-76 season.

5 HW action v MillwallEver-present Wilson in action against Millwall at The Den

Born in Hetton-le-Hole, near Durham, on 29 November 1953, Wilson was an apprentice at Burnley before signing professional forms in December 1970.

He made his first-team debut at home to Chelsea on 26 April 1971 and the last of his 12 appearances for the Clarets was on 3 April 1972: away to Sunderland.

He was part of Alan Mullery’s Third Division promotion-winning squad in 1976-77, although he was restricted to 22 appearances. The arrival of the experienced Chris Cattlin meant he was no longer first choice left-back, although in several games they both played – the versatile Cattlin being equally at home as right-back.


6 HW promotion

A bare-chested Wilson was pictured (above) in the Albion dressing room alongside Mullery enjoying the celebratory champagne after promotion was clinched courtesy of a 3-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday on 3 May 1977. But that game was his Goldstone swansong.

He’d made a total of 146 appearances for the Albion – as well as chipping in with four goals – but when Mullery signed Mark Lawrenson and Gary Williams from Preston that summer, Wilson went in the opposite direction along with Graham Cross.

Wilson spent three years at Preston, playing 42 games. He then moved on to Darlington for whom he played 85 matches in three years.

He stayed in the north east in 1983, switching to Hartlepool for a season, but only played 16 times for them before dropping out of the league to play for Crook Town.

According to The Football League Paper, Wilson stayed in the game as manager of Seaham Red Star and, in 1988-89, Whitby Town.

He then worked as a community officer for Sunderland before joining the coaching staff at Burnley in the 1990s.

When Chris Waddle took over as manager, Wilson was sacked but he took the club to an industrial tribunal, which found in his favour.

He later worked for his long-term friend, Stan Ternent, at Bury, and the Football League.

Wilson was in the news in 2007 when Ternent appeared at Lancaster Crown Court accused of assaulting Wilson’s son, Greg, on the steps of Burnley Cricket Club (a venue familiar to visiting supporters as a popular watering hole before games at the neighbouring football ground).

Greg Wilson required hospital treatment for a deep cut above his left eyebrow and needed nine stitches in his forehead.

Ternent said he had accidentally clashed heads, denied causing actually bodily harm, and was cleared by a jury.

4 HW colour laugh w WardWilson in an Albion line-up alongside Peter Ward



Litherland lad Gary Williams knew where the goal was – even from left back

A CARTILAGE operation when he was just 17 changed Gary Williams’ career, but, after success at Brighton, it eventually brought his playing days to a premature end at Crystal Palace.

Originally a winger, the operation, when he was an emerging player at Preston North End, took the edge of his pace and led to him converting into an overlapping left back.

Thankfully, as Brighton fans would witness, his ability to score important goals never left him.

Born in Litherland, Liverpool, on 8 March 1954, Gary Peter Williams started his career with non-league Marine before joining Preston in April 1972.

Williams made his Preston debut in the final game of the 1971-72 season as Preston drew 2-2 at home to Swindon.

He then played in the opening match of the following season, against Aston Villa, but had to wait until the end of March at Brighton for his next appearance.

After his cartilage op, and just when he thought he was set to be released aged 18, Preston’s reserve team left-back got injured, Williams filled in, did a good job, and it was the platform he needed to launch his career.

“Because I used to be a winger, I knew which way to shepherd them to make it difficult to cut inside,” he told the journalist and author Spencer Vignes in his 2005 book, A Few Good Men.

It was the legendary Bobby Charlton, briefly trying out management at North End, who gave Williams his big break into first team football, selecting him at left back for the final eight games of the 1974-75 season.

GWms + N Stiles

Young Gary Williams with former England World Cup winner, Nobby Stiles, at Preston.

Former Everton boss Harry Catterick then took over from Charlton and made Williams the first choice left back in 1975-76. The following season his outstanding performances earned him the Player of the Season award and on 22 March 1977, he made his 100th league appearance in a 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park.

By then, Williams was catching the eye of clubs higher up the league and his final game for Preston was the season-ending fixture at Shrewsbury on 14 May, which North End won 2-1.

In July 1977, Preston accepted a £45,000 fee from Brighton to sign Williams at the same time as his teammate Mark Lawrenson joined for £100,000. Albion’s Graham Cross and Harry Wilson moved in the opposite direction to fill the positions they’d vacated.

Williams told Vignes how he’d always enjoyed playing against Brighton because of the size of the crowds they got.

“To run out in Division 3 at the Goldstone in front of a full house was amazing. You knew you were in for a hard time but the atmosphere was just infectious,” he said.

Manager Alan Mullery had called him and asked him to get himself down to Brighton and the club booked a room in the Metropole Hotel, the sea view helping to make up his mind about the move.

“I wanted to better myself and get into the First Division but football is such an up and down game that it’s not too wise to look too far ahead,” Williams told Football Weekly News magazine in 1980.

The start to his Albion career was somewhat inauspicious. Although he came on as a substitute in the opening game, a league cup tie away to Cambridge United which finished 0-0, injury then prevented him making his league debut for two months.

It finally came in a 2-0 win away to Sunderland on 1 October 1977 and he then missed only one game through to the end of the season, appearing a total of 34 times as the Seagulls finished fourth, missing promotion on goal difference to Tottenham.

The following season saw Williams play every game, scoring twice, as Brighton were runners-up to Palace gaining promotion to Division One for the first time.

In Albion’s first season amongst the elite, Williams was again ever present – indeed, he remarkably played 146 consecutive games during his time at the club.

The Everton-supporting full-back got the chance to play against his boyhood side in December 1979 and three months later he scored the first of two cracking, memorable Brighton goals in the top division as the Seagulls finished in 16th position.

On 29 March 1980, at the Goldstone, he lashed a shot from 30 yards that flew past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to earn Albion the double over European Cup holders Nottingham Forest.

Williams beats Nottingham Forest full back Viv Anderson at the Goldstone and, together with Gary Stevens, tries to thwart Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish.

Williams admits he was about to pass it until skipper Brian Horton urged him to ‘hit the ****ing thing!’

“When you hit the ball that sweetly, you don’t even really feel a thing,” he recounted to Vignes, in that 2005 interview. “By the time I looked up, it was heading for the top corner.”

Although Forest boss Brian Clough declared it a fluke in a post-match interview, because the game took place in front of the TV cameras, it was selected as one of the goals of the season.

Thirteen months after that goal, Williams struck another beauty, this time to silence the Sunderland faithful at Roker Park.

It clinched Albion a 2-1 win and was part of a late flurry of good results which saw the Seagulls escape the clutches of relegation.

Describing it to Vignes, he said: “It was our last attack of the game. Gordon Smith knocks a good ball into the penalty area and I’ve just taken a gamble and gone up from the halfway line. I say so myself but it was a really good volley.

“It fell to me around 10 yards out and you hear the net ripple because the crowd went silent.”

While it contributed to Albion staying up, that summer saw the departure of Mullery, Lawrenson and Horton and the arrival of Mike Bailey into the manager’s chair. It was to signal the end of Williams’ Brighton career.

Bailey favoured a far more defensive approach to his predecessor and brought in the experienced Northern Ireland international Sammy Nelson, who had been displaced at Arsenal by the arrival of Kenny Sansom.

Williams only learned about the signing through The Argus and, when he confronted the manager about it, was told Nelson was only going to be a squad player.

“I’m thinking ‘bollocks’ but he didn’t play him straightaway,” Williams recounted. “He couldn’t drop me because I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Ironically, however, he lost his place after bombing forward and scoring in a 4-1 win over Manchester City. Astonishingly, Bailey was annoyed that he had been too adventurous!

With Nelson keen to carry on playing and earn a place in Northern Ireland’s 1982 World Cup squad, it meant Williams was left to languish in the reserves.

By the end of the season, though, Mullery, by now manager of Crystal Palace, came to Willams’ rescue and gave him a chance to resume first team football.

In a swap deal that saw winger Neil Smillie arrive at the Goldstone, Williams moved to Selhurst.

But after only 10 games he was forced to have an operation on his troublesome knee. Expert advice steered him towards a painful decision but he took it and retired from the game aged just 29.

Williams told the Argus: “The trouble with my knee is really wear and tear. I had a cartilage out at 17, and I was told after the operation last October a lot of harm might be caused if I went on playing.”

In A Few Good Men, Vignes gained a great insight into a northern lad who fell in love with the Albion and remains a fan to this day.

“I was very lucky in that I played right at the beginning of the era of overlapping full-backs,” Williams told him. “It was beginning to creep in when I first came onto the scene, and I had an advantage as I’d started my career as a left-winger. I knew all about coming forward.”

gwms quit cutting

Brighton goalscorer Craig Maskell among Huddersfield’s top 100 crowd favourites

CRAIG MASKELL had a decent near 1 in 3 goalscoring record for Brighton & Hove Albion but he’s possibly best remembered for a shot that didn’t go in.

When Maskell’s curling effort in the relegation decider at Hereford United on 3 May 1997 struck the post rather than going in, fortunately Robbie Reinelt was on hand to slot home the rebound to earn Albion the draw that ensured they stayed in the league.

Born Craig Dell Maskell on 10 April 1968 in Aldershot, perhaps it was his destiny to play for Southampton! (for younger readers, The Dell used to be Southampton’s home ground).

Indeed, Maskell started his professional career at Southampton, signing pro forms just after his 18th birthday. But he appeared in only six league games for the Saints before joining Huddersfield Town in May 1988 for a £20,000 fee.

His new teammates included former Seagulls Chris Hutchings and Kieran O’Regan and the goals really flowed for him in the 1988-89 season when he scored 28 times in 46 games.

Arguably his most memorable match came in the 1989-90 season when he scored four in a 5-1 win at Cardiff City, thus becoming only the third player in Huddersfield’s history to score four in an away match.

By the end of that season, he’d scored an impressive 43 goals in 87 games for Town and, at the time of Huddersfield’s centennial in 2006, Maskell’s prolific goalscoring for them led to his inclusion in The Fans’ Favourites, a book listing their top 100 Town players.

That prolific scoring record earned him a £250,000 move to Third Division Reading. He scored in a season-opening 3-1 win at Exeter City and had 10 goals by the season’s end as the Royals completed a mid-table finish under player-manager Mark McGhee, who later became Brighton boss.

With John Madejski settling in as the new owner, and McGhee finding his feet in the managerial chair, the 1991-92 season saw Reading finish 12th. Maskell ended up top scorer with 16 goals in 35 appearances (plus five as sub), three of them coming in a 4-2 win away to Darlington.

In the summer of 1992, player-manager Glenn Hoddle paid £250,000 to take Maskell to second tier Swindon Town (where he had previously spent a month on loan in 1987).

It was to prove a memorable season for the Robins as they won promotion to the top tier for the first time in their history, via a 4-3 play-off victory over Leicester City. Maskell was leading scorer with 23 goals in a side captained by central defender Colin Calderwood, later Chris Hughton’s assistant manager at Brighton.

Maskell made his Robins debut on the opening day of the 1992-93 season, in a 1-0 win over Sunderland, and scored his first goal in a 2-2 draw at Wolves in late August. He went on to net eight times in the opening ten games of the season before suffering a mini goal drought between December and April.

Nevertheless, Maskell bagged two in a 6-4 win at Birmingham before scoring in both legs of the play-off semi-final against Tranmere Rovers. He then scored Town’s second at Wembley, thumping a left-footed drive off the post and into the net.

Although he started the first two matches amongst the elite, he then struggled to get game time in the Premier League, often warming the bench as Jan Age Fjortoft,  Andy Mutch and Keith Scott started ahead of him.

He scored twice in a 3-3 draw at Sheffield Wednesday on 29 December 1993, but he left the club in February 1994, returning to former club Southampton for a £250,000 fee.

However, Saints already had a fair bit of striking talent in their ranks and once again he found his opportunities limited, this time by the likes of Matt Le Tissier, Neil Shipperley and Gordon Watson. As a result, he only managed 17 Premier League starts.

He had a five-game loan spell at Bristol City but then joined Brighton on 1 March 1996, making his debut the following day against Brentford. He didn’t have to wait long for his first Albion goal, scoring against Oxford United on 12 March and then hit two four days later at home to Hull City.

The off-field shenanigans at Brighton were a big distraction at the time but on the pitch Maskell managed to score a total of 20 goals in 69 games, crucially netting 14 of them in 37 games during that make-or-break 1996-97 season.

After 17 games the following season, he had a brief spell playing for Happy Valley in Hong Kong before linking up with Leyton Orient for 18 months.

It is recorded in a number of places that Maskell decided to quit the professional game while walking off the turf at Wembley having played as a substitute in the Orient team beaten by Scunthorpe United in the Nationwide League third division play-off final.

“I turned to one of my team-mates and said: ‘That’s enough’,” Maskell said. “I’d spent too much time away from my family and too little time on the pitch at Orient.”

He had scored just twice in 23 games for the O’s, however, he continued playing at non-league level for several years, turning out for Hampton & Richmond Borough, Aylesbury United and Staines Town, as well as being coach and assistant manager to Steve Cordery.

In an article in The Times on 16 November 2000, just prior to a FA Cup first round tie between Hampton & Richmond Borough and Barnet, Maskell talked about what he had learned from the various managers he’d played under.

“I look to Glenn Hoddle for his ability to create flair in attack and Lawrie McMenemy because he was so good at man-management.

“Most of my ideas on defensive organisation I learnt from Dave Merrington, who was youth-team coach at Southampton. He was fantastic. You just have to look at the players he found for the club, not just myself but Matt Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, the Wallaces and another dozen or so less well-known players who had good careers.”


Pacy Paul Brooker an in-and-out talent on the wing

PAUL BROOKER, a winger at one time mentioned in the same breath as Ryan Giggs, played more games for Brighton – 147 – than any of his other clubs but only managed a Premier League cameo with Leicester City.

Brooker certainly had the capacity to excite fans but there could be frustration in equal measure and, although he won back-to-back promotions with the Albion, his career didn’t come close to the achievements of the great Manchester United winger.

The national football fanzine, When Saturday Comes, ran a superb piece about Brooker in April 2002, in which Adam Powley talked about his “conspicuous talent” and maintained: “Brook­er was in­deed very good, blessed with real pace and an ability to keep con­trol while run­ning at full pelt.”

Born in Hammersmith on 25 November 1976, Brooker was with Chelsea as a schoolboy but it was Fulham who picked him up and gave him his professional opening.

Ian Branfoot handed him his first team debut –  in a 0-0 draw away to Bury on 14 October 1995 – and he was part of Micky Adams’ promotion-winning Fulham side of 1997.

Amazingly, he made just 18 starts for Fulham, but came off the bench 54 times. Across those 72 appearances, he scored six goals. He was eventually frozen out in the Kevin Keegan era, playing his last first team game in September 1998, and then spent time on loan at Stevenage, where he played eight games.

In 2000, he joined his former Fulham boss, Adams, on loan at Brighton and, after a 15-game spell, he joined Albion permanently for a £25,000 fee.

As Albion won promotion in the 2000-01 season, Brooker was a regular on the wing, making a total of 41 appearances. And he remained a key member of Albion’s third tier promotion-winning squad in 2001-02, Argus reporter Andy Naylor summing up his contribution thus: “Most wingers have an inconsistent streak and ‘Bozzy’ is no exception, but he is a matchwinner on his day.

“Quick and an elusive runner with the ball, he hit scoring form as well towards the end of the campaign with three goals in eight games. The First Division should suit his style.”

Brooker also featured in Steve Coppell’s 2002-03 side – I remember seeing him score in a 2-1 away win at the Madjeski Stadium – but as Brighton exited the second tier at the wrong end in 2003, so Brooker ended his association with the club, and once again moved to link up with Adams.

His free transfer move to Leicester City finally gave Brooker a Premier League platform to display his talent but his chances were limited and he ended up starting just two League Cup games as well as getting on as a substitute in three League games and a FA Cup match.

With his top tier opportunities limited, he elected to play under Coppell again and joined Championship side Reading on loan. He made 11 appearances in 2004 before joining the Royals permanently in July 2004.

After just one season at Reading, when he played 34 games, Martin Allen signed him on a free transfer for Brentford.

He had two seasons with the Bees but his time at Griffin Park came to an end shortly after the start of the 2007-08 season.

“When Terry Butcher came in, I think he’d made his mind up about me before he’d even seen me play,” Brooker told fulhamfc.com. “We just didn’t see eye to eye about things, and that was the end of it for me there.”

A Brentford blog, the entertaining BFC Talk, spoke about Brooker in a July 2015 piece. “Paul Brooker was another who flattered to deceive and throughout his career never did justice to his vast ability,” it said.

“He scored a goal of sheer brilliance after running the length of the pitch at Swindon, but on other days he appeared to be lethargic, disinterested and peripheral to the action.

“He did not take criticism well, either from fans, or indeed, his manager, Terry Butcher, and reacted badly before having his contract cancelled.” Although Brooker started taking his coaching badges, he admitted to the Fulham website: “I’ve not really kicked a football since I left Brentford; I lost a lot of my passion and love for the game.

“I’ve set up a carpet cleaning business with a friend just for something to do and that’s going quite well. I’m enjoying doing something different from football.”

Brooker played non-league for Chertsey Town in 2008-09 although he did have a short spell back training at the Albion, during Adams’ brief return as manager.

He also turned out for Havant & Waterlooville and Dorking Wanderers.


Pictures from the matchday programme; Simon Dack in the Argus, and the Reading website.

Charlie Oatway took off with Bluebirds and soared with Seagulls

CHARLIE Oatway had not long earned his break in professional football with Cardiff City before he found himself behind bars in Pentonville Prison.

Up on a charge of GBH for his part in a fight, when an Afro-Caribbean friend was racially abused, Oatway didn’t expect to get incarcerated but ended up serving two months of a four-month sentence.

Before he headed off to court in London on a Monday morning, he had told Cardiff’s general manager, the former Leeds and Wales international Terry Yorath (broadcaster Gabby Logan’s dad), to expect him for training on the Tuesday morning!

The story is explained in detail in Tackling Life, the book Oatway published about how he turned his life round to become captain of Brighton and part of three promotion-winning sides.

The tale reveals how imprisonment was just one of the hurdles Oatway had to overcome in a life that’s taken many colourful twists and turns.

It was sadly ironic that his career as a player with Brighton was cut short in a Boxing Day clash against Queens Park Rangers, the team he followed home and away from an early age.

The family lived a stone’s throw from Loftus Road and Charlie – a nickname given to him by an aunt – was named by his Rs-daft dad after the whole of the promotion-winning 1973 QPR team: Anthony, Phillip, David, Terry, Frank, Donald, Stanley, Gerry, Gordon, Steven, James.

Albion reaching the Division 2 play-off final in Cardiff in 2004 was the highlight of Oatway’s career – but a feature in the match programme was angled on the disappointment he had suffered the year before, when he had gone as a spectator with all his family to see QPR lose to Cardiff.

“Everything about the day was perfect apart from the result,” Oatway told reporter Alex Crook. “Being a QPR fan at heart, I felt the pain of the defeat just as much as the other 35,000 fans. But this time I am going up there as a player and not as a fan and I am determined our supporters will not go through what I did last season.”

The youngest of five kids, Oatway grew up in Shepherd’s Bush and even though he started to struggle in school from an early age, he displayed quite a talent for football.

“I knew by the time I was eight that I was as good as any of the eleven-year-olds I was playing with,” he recalls in Tackling Life. He had trials for the West London District schools team and played for Harrow Boys Club and Bedfont Eagles.

Oatway reveals how it was Wally Downes, the former Wimbledon player and later loyal assistant manager to Steve Coppell, who helped to get him noticed, along with his cousin, Terry Oatway.

The young Oatway joined up with Wimbledon in the year they won the FA Cup – 1988 – and played for the youth team, but he was let go at the end of the 1989-90 season and joined non-league Yeading on semi-professional terms. Off the field, life was by no means straightforward. “By the age of 19, I had two children with two different mothers,” he said.

After helping to get Yeading promoted in 1993-94, Oatway found a pathway back into the professional game when a community worker (Ritchie Jacobs) on the estate where he lived organised a trial at Cardiff City for him and two pals.

He was the only one of the three invited back and he said: “When Cardiff asked me back for another month, I knew it was the chance I’d been waiting for, and I was going to grab it with both hands.”

Not surprisingly, the two months he spent in Pentonville didn’t greatly help his cause but remarkably he was welcomed back to the club and accepted by the fans. However, in his absence there was a change in team management and ownership and, before long, new team manager Kenny Hibbitt was instructed to send Oatway out on loan to Coleraine in Northern Ireland.

On his return to Cardiff the following season, they had by then been relegated to the Fourth Division. Still he was unable to get back in the first team and he happened to play a reserve team game against Torquay United, who were managed by his old Cardiff boss, Eddie May. May asked if he fancied a move for first team football and, although he only joined just before Christmas in 1995, by the end of the season he had been voted Player of the Year.

When May moved on to become manager of Brentford, he put in a bid for the combative midfielder and took him back to west London to play in the Bees’ third tier side.

In 1998, Oatway had a brief loan spell with Lincoln City but on his return to Griffin Park he came under the managership of Micky Adams for the first time.

Adams had taken over the manager’s chair at Griffin Park but he was sacked when owner Ron Noades thought he could make a better job of running the team.

Adams then took the reins at Brighton and, as the Albion began life back in Brighton & Hove after the two-year exile in Gillingham, Oatway and Bees teammate Paul Watson joined the Seagulls for a combined fee of £30,000.

Adams wanted the pair to join a nucleus of players who’d all played under him previously at Brentford and Fulham.

In an Albion matchday programme profile of Oatway to coincide with the visit of his former club, Torquay, on 2 September 2000, it noted: “Despite getting sent off rather stupidly in one of his earliest games for the Seagulls – he bit a Darlington player’s face – he soon became a great favourite with the Brighton crowd, who hadn’t seen a midfield scrapper like him since Jimmy Case retired.”

oatway prog cover

He went on to be a vital midfield cog in the back-to-back league title winning sides of 2001 and 2002. Although he was in the team that was relegated from the second tier in 2003, he was full of praise for the effort made to avoid the drop. “Steve Coppell was one of the best managers I’ve ever played under because of his attention to detail,” he said. “Steve’s team talks on the day before a game were brilliant.”

When the departed Coppell was replaced by Mark McGhee, Oatway remained a cornerstone of the Albion line-up and described that 2004 play-off final at the Millennium Stadium as “the best day of my career”.

But at one point it was touch and go whether he was going to be able to carry on. In October 2003, he underwent major back surgery to repair a slipped disc and trapped nerve.

He was out for nearly three months and he admitted in an Argus interview: “There was a good chance I wouldn’t play again.”

When the Albion cashed in on captain Danny Cullip in December 2004, selling him to Sheffield United, Oatway took over the skipper’s armband full-time, a role he had previously embraced as a stand-in.

The following season’s Boxing Day clash with QPR at Withdean was only two minutes old when Marcus Bean tackled Oatway from behind and escaped without even a booking.

Oatway was stretchered off and McGhee later told the mirror.co.uk: “Charlie has been a tremendous leader and captain and this is a huge blow. I’m very upset about it.”

Oatway had four different operations to try to fix the ankle injury, but he never recovered sufficiently to return to the required level to play league football.

“I tried to get back to playing again but by the pre-season of 2007 I had to call it a day,” he said.

However, even when he was out injured, Oatway was always a strong influence on the dressing room.

Stand-in skipper Dean Hammond said in an Argus interview in November 2006: “Charlie has been out injured but he has been fantastic for everyone. He comes in, he gets everyone up for it, he’s always laughing and joking. He’s got the enthusiasm and he is still determined, even though he is not playing.

“His personality is fantastic for everyone and I think he deserves a massive pat on the back.”

He also used the time productively, studying how the coaches worked with the youth team players and starting to take his coaching badges. When it was clear he wouldn’t be able to return to play full-time professional football again, he got involved with the Albion in the Community scheme as a community liaison manager.

Rather than give up the game completely, Oatway took the opportunity to become player-coach at Havant and Waterlooville and, in January 2008, he found himself in the national media spotlight when the Blue Square South minnows played away to Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Oatway wasn’t fit to start the game but he got on as a substitute in the 74th minute and later recounted how his former teammate Bobby Zamora fixed it for him to swap shirts with Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun, who scored a hat-trick in the Reds’ 5-2 win that day.

Then, in 2009-10, Oatway began helping Brighton manager Russell Slade to coach the first team and, after Slade’s departure, continued in the role under Gus Poyet.

When Poyet left the Seagulls to join Sunderland, Oatway went with him and he was also in the dug-out alongside Poyet and his assistant Mauricio Tarrico at Chinese Super League team Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, AEK Athens and Seville-based Real Betis.

However, he didn’t follow him to French Ligue 1 side Bordeaux and in spring this year was helping out his former mentor at Albion in the Community, Dr Alan Sanders, now director of education, sport and health for Charlton Athletic Community Trust, delivering football courses for the community scheme, and sharing his experiences with schoolchildren in south east London.



Pictures: matchday programme; The Argus; Tackling Life (Quick Reads, 2011).

Mis-firing Mick Ferguson couldn’t repeat goalscoring prowess for Everton or Brighton

MICK FERGUSON was a prolific goalscorer for Coventry City but the goals dried up in spells with Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Ferguson’s arrival at the Goldstone in the early autumn of 1984 was certainly not amid a great fanfare. The Albion, under new chairman Bryan Bedson, were wrestling with debt and, to bring in some much-needed funds, sold striker Alan Young to Notts County for £50,000 and full-back Mark Jones to Birmingham for £30,000.

Needing a cut-price replacement for Young, and with Ferguson unwanted at Birmingham having been responsible for getting them relegated (see below), he came to the Goldstone as part of the deal that took Jones to St Andrews.

In modern-day football, loan players don’t generally play against their parent clubs but, amazingly, at the end of the previous season, Ferguson was allowed to play against Birmingham while on loan at his old club Coventry, and ended up scoring a goal that kept the Sky Blues in the top division but sent Birmingham down.

It was such an unusual saga that as recently as May 2017, the Guardian revisited the tale, catching up with Ferguson to explain the circumstances.

As the article explains, shortly before the player’s 30th birthday, manager Ron Saunders offloaded him to Brighton, where the manager was Ferguson’s former Coventry teammate, Chris Cattlin. Just to prolong Saunders’ agony, Ferguson made his Seagulls debut in a 2-0 home win… over Birmingham! This time he didn’t score. And, for Brighton, that state of affairs existed for several months.

I remember his second game quite vividly. It was a midweek league cup tie away to Fourth Division Aldershot and I went to the game with my pal Colin Snowball, who at that time was living in nearby Bagshot. There wasn’t anything subtle about Albion’s tactics that night. Goalkeeper Graham Moseley would kick the ball long for Ferguson to get on the end of it.

But, as the striker tried to lay it off, all he succeeded in doing was heading it into touch – repeatedly. The new signing did not impress! Despite their superior status in the league, Albion succumbed 3-0 in what was a pretty humiliating exit. Ferguson was remarkably selected for the following Saturday’s game, an away defeat to Oxford, after which he was omitted for four games. Cattlin gave him another chance with a four-game spell but still the dismal form continued and he didn’t get another look-in for four months.

The history books (many thanks to Tim Carder and Roger Harris) recall him as the goalscorer in a 1-1 draw away to Portsmouth on 6 April 1986 but, having been to that game too, I seem to recall it was a rather desperate claim for what looked more like an own goal by Noel Blake.

The start of the following season saw the arrival of former £1m striker Justin Fashanu from Notts County and Dean Saunders, a free transfer from Swansea City, so Ferguson’s prospects of a starting place looked bleak.

However, the 1985-86 season was not very old before Cattlin had a striker crisis on his hands. Gerry Ryan was out long-term with the horrific leg break from which he never recovered, Terry Connor and summer signing Fashanu were all also sidelined with injury and a big man was needed to play alongside Alan Biley.

Cattlin had little choice but to bring back the previously mis-firing Ferguson, and to everyone’s surprise and delight his goal touch returned, albeit briefly.

“I was virtually forced into the team through injury,” Ferguson admitted in a matchday programme interview. “But, fortunately, things turned out quite well. It was nice to get a goal against Blackburn in my first match back. That seemed to pave the way.”

The programme article had tried to give some perspective to the dismal form when he had first arrived. It said: “Mick’s confidence was affected by his loss of form, but he never lost an inner belief that he would pull himself out of the bad patch. And what a difference the goals make. He has shown great character this season and did a marvellous job for the team while Justin Fashanu was out with injury.”

Ferguson himself said: “It took us quite a while to settle down. We were in a flat at first and I was having a lot of problems, one way and the other, so it wasn’t an easy time.”

Eventually Ferguson, his wife and two daughters settled into a house in Hove, and the striker admitted: “When you’re having a bad time there is a tendency to bring your problems home. It’s unfair on your family. I didn’t notice at the time, but, looking back, I think I probably was a little snappy with my wife and children.

“I think you can reach the stage where you really start to wonder, but I always knew I could score goals for Brighton. I’ve scored goals everywhere else I’ve played. It was just a question of time and waiting for the right break.”

Indeed, Ferguson scored in three successive matches in September 1985, prompting Cattlin to give him a special mention in his programme notes for the league cup game at home to Bradford City. “The form of Mick Ferguson is bound to improve even more with the confidence he is gaining through his three goals in three games,” wrote the manager. “His header against Wimbledon was a true indication of his ability; it was of the highest class.”

The renewed confidence saw him add another consecutive pair the following month – before on-loan Martin Keown took over the no.9 shirt and demonstrated he could score goals as well as defend!

Sadly, the revival in Ferguson’s fortunes were not to last. When Fashanu was fit again, Ferguson was dropped and only stepped in a couple more times. His goal in a 4-3 home win over Huddersfield on 16 November was the last he scored for the club.

Apart from a lone outing in January, in a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, Ferguson was on the outside looking in until, to everyone’s astonishment, after a five-week absence from first team action, he was selected by Cattlin to lead the line in a FA Cup Sixth Round tie against First Division Southampton on 8 March 1986.

Ferg action Shilts Bond CaseFerguson, sandwiched between Kevin Bond and Jimmy Case, is foiled by Southampton goalkeeper Peter Shilton in what turned out to be the striker’s final Brighton game.

A crowd of 25,069 packed into the Goldstone – when the average attendance at the time often dipped below 10,000 – but it ended in a disappointing 2-0 defeat and the manager admitted he had made a mistake with his selection. It turned out to be Ferguson’s last game for the club.

Just over three weeks later, he moved to fourth-tier Colchester United – whose manager Cyril Lea was promptly sacked!

United’s reserve team manager, Mike Walker (who would later manage Everton) took over the first team as caretaker and, as the team went on an unbeaten run of eight games, Ferguson scored seven times, the first of which came in a 4-0 win over Leyton Orient on 8 April.

The following season he played 19 games and scored four times before leaving on 7 November 1986 to join non-league Wealdstone.

It was quite a fall from the heady days of the early Seventies.

Born in Newcastle on 3 October 1954, Ferguson was picked up by Coventry City’s youth scheme in 1970 and, although he made his debut in 1975, shortly after the sale of Scotland international Colin Stein, it wasn’t until the start of the 1976-77 season that he became a Highfield Road regular.

In tandem with Ian Wallace (who was later a strike partner of Peter Ward’s at Nottingham Forest), he really started to attract attention, as the Coventry Telegraph recounted when describing him as a “truly great goalscorer”.

The article reckoned he was strongly tipped for international honours at one point but injury and loss of form affected him over the next two seasons. Forest, Villa and Ipswich were all supposedly keen to sign him, with Brian Clough agreeing a £500,000 deal, then pulling out.

However, in the summer of 1981, he finally left City having scored 57 goals in 141 games (plus eight sub appearances) all in the top flight when Everton paid £280,000 for him. Ferguson scored six times in his first eight games – but the goals dried up after that and he was gone within less than a year having made only made 10 appearances (plus two as a sub).

In 2007, David Prentice, in the Liverpool Echo, sought out Ferguson for an explanation of his less than happy time on Merseyside.

Manager Howard Kendall initially loaned him to Birmingham City, before making the deal permanent, but injury disrupted his chances at St Andrews, hence the loan move back to Coventry.

After retiring from playing in 1987, Ferguson stayed in the game working in community development roles for Sunderland, Newcastle United and Leeds United, where he was head of Football in the Community.


Pictures from Albion matchday programes and, via YouTube, from Coventry City’s Sky Blues TV.