FORMER England international Martin Chivers rose majestically to head home a goal in a 3-3 draw between Leyton Orient and Brighton & Hove Albion.
It was textbook Chivers – a replica of so many similar goals he’d scored for Spurs and England during his glory days – and it put Albion 2-1 up. It turned out to be his one and only goal for the Albion.
It came in one of just five games he played for the Seagulls as his illustrious playing career drew to a close. In Teddy Maybank’s absence through suspension just as Brighton inched closer to promotion to the elite for the first time ever, Chivers – once one of this country’s top centre forwards – was an ideal stand-in.
The game at Brisbane Road on 7 April 1979 saw former Spurs League Cup winning teammates Chivers and Ralph Coates on opposing sides and, a 3-3 thriller was a cracking match for ITV’s The Big Match to have chosen for showing the following Sunday afternoon.
A month later Albion would travel to St James’s Park, Newcastle and clinch that dream promotion.
John Vinicombe, faithful chronicler of Albion’s fortunes for the Evening Argus, declared: “Make no mistake, Albion are First Division bound after that tremendous match at Orient.”
Mike Calvin in the Sunday Mirror, said: “Chivers’ bullet like header became an instant candidate for ITV’s goal of the season.”
While Ian Jarrett in The Sun said: “Martin Chivers’ 32nd minute goal came straight out of the former England striker’s scrapbook. ‘It was a dream goal. I’d like to have it on tape so that I could watch it being played back again and again,’ Chivers told him.
In the days when strikers invariably hunted in pairs, Chivers had previously starred for Tottenham Hotspur alongside the late Scot, Alan Gilzean, as Spurs put silverware in the White Hart Lane trophy cabinet in three successive seasons.
The team captain during that successful period was Alan Mullery and after the midfielder had hung up his boots and taken charge of the Seagulls, he turned to his old teammate in his hour of need.
With regular striker Maybank facing a two-match suspension, Mullery bought the 34-year-old Chivers for £15,000 from Norwich City just before transfer deadline day in March 1979 and he made his debut in a home 0-0 draw against Notts County on 31 March.
Even a crocked Chivers (by his own admission, a troublesome Achilles tendon restricted his fitness) could do a job for the Albion in an emergency, the young manager believed. Chivers explained exactly how it came about in his autobiography, Big Chiv – My Goals in Life, which he discussed in an interview with the Argus in 2009.
Maybank returned to the side for the successful promotion run-in and, during the summer, Chivers had an operation on his Achilles. The new season, amongst the elite for the first time, was 13 games old before Chivers saw action for the Seagulls.
He appeared as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat away to Coventry City on 20 October, and the national media singled him out for mention.
“When Chivers came on for Ward 11 minutes after the break, the game at last came to life. From then on, Brighton were more decisive in attack and played with more confidence,” said the Daily Telegraph.
Sunday Express reporter William Pierce added: “Martin Chivers went on as a substitute for the out-of-touch Peter Ward and the ex-England striker twice might have scored.”
That contribution earned Chivers a starting place at Maybank’s expense in the next game, a 4-2 home defeat to his old club Norwich, and he stayed up top, this time partnering Maybank, in a 0-0 home draw with Arsenal in the fourth round of the League Cup.
But that was the last time he appeared in the first team. Mullery turned instead to another former Spur, Ray Clarke, and he and Ward were the preferred front pairing for the rest of the season.
Chivers remained with the club, appearing regularly in the Reserves through to the end of the season, but his top-flight career was finally over.
But let’s take a look back at what had gone before. It was an impressive rise to fame.
Born in Southampton on 27 April 1945, Chivers was a pupil at the city’s Taunton’s Grammar School and wrote to his local club asking for a trial. His prowess as a goalscorer grew rapidly.
After playing regularly for Southampton’s youth side, his breakthrough came in September 1962 when just 17. He made his first-team debut against Charlton Athletic and signed as a full-time professional in the same week. He became a first-team regular the following season.
In February 1964, Chivers and future teammate Mullery were called up (along with future Albion goalkeeper Peter Grummitt) by Alf Ramsey as Reserves for the England under 23 side for a 3-2 win over Scotland, played in front of 34,932 fans at St James’s Park, Newcastle.
Two months later, at Stade Robert Diochon in Rouen, shortly before his 19th birthday, Chivers made a goalscoring debut for the Under 23s when coming on as a substitute for Geoff Hurst as England drew 2-2 with France.
It was the start of a record-breaking Under 23 career; in four years he appeared 17 times.
Southampton skipper Terry Paine, who was part of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad, played alongside Chivers as he developed. “The potential was always there, especially when he made the Southampton first team. But the one thing he may have lacked was determination,” he told Goal magazine.
On Saints’ promotion to the top division in 1966, Bates supplemented his attacking options with the addition of established international Ron Davies from Norwich.
Davies and Chivers proved a twin threat to opponents but Chivers was somewhat overshadowed by the Welshman, and Paine said: “They just weren’t compatible. It didn’t work having two big blokes up there together. Chivers was playing second fiddle. He was no match for Ron in the air, there was never any doubt about that.”
It eventually led to Chivers putting in a transfer request in December 1967 and, a month later, having scored 106 goals in 190 appearances for Southampton, he was transferred to Tottenham for £80,000 with winger Frank Saul, an FA Cup winner with Spurs in 1967, a £45,000 makeweight going in the opposite direction.
Saints fans had a new hero in the emerging Mike Channon and inevitably comparisons were drawn between the two. “Martin had more finesse on the ball when he was Mike’s age, without punching his weight,” said Southampton boss Ted Bates. “Mike, however, has more drive and desire, a ruthless approach which Martin never had.”
Indeed, even in the early days at Spurs, fans failed to see why Spurs had shelled out what at the time was the biggest ever transfer fee in the country for the striker, with the legendary Jimmy Greaves and Scot Alan Gilzean the preferred front pairing.
It didn’t help matters when he was sidelined for months by a serious knee injury, although Bates felt the spell out actually proved to be a turning point in his career.
“During that long spell out of action I think he must have taken a good, long look at the game and examined himself thoroughly,” said Bates. “The result is that he now uses the full range of his talents.”
Bates believed he lacked belief in his own power and seemed reluctant to use his size to his advantage. “We were always trying to get Martin to use his physique properly,” said Bates. “He knew he had to be more aggressive, but in those days a big, strong centre-half could swallow him.”
It looked as though Chivers was going to be an expensive flop and, in an interview with Ray Bradley for Goal magazine, he admitted he’d been through a crisis at Spurs and his career had been at a crossroads.
“It was a hell of a frustrating time for me,” he said. “No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t strike form. I suppose I was really battling to regain confidence again after injury.
“The fans, disgruntled with the form we had been showing, were gunning for me and finally they got their way when I was dropped.
“Things looked black for me but I was determined to fight my way back into the side. The turning point for me, I think, came in a reserve game against Northampton at the end of the season.”
Reserve team manager, Eddie Baily, took him aside and had a private chat, telling him the only way he’d get back his confidence was to fight for it on the pitch.
“He instilled in me that I must be more aggressive, that I must put myself about more if I was to win back my first team place,” said Chivers. “That little pep talk seemed to do the trick. It was a wet pitch and I really gave it all I had and ended up by scoring five goals.
“His words of encouragement after the match made me realise that it was up to myself if I wanted to succeed.”
With Greaves having departed the club for West Ham, once Chivers was back in the first team he did well up against Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter of Leeds, and he began to recapture his form. A good start to the 1970-71 season saw everything start to slot into place.
“I’ve always liked scoring goals,” he said. “Ever since I was a boy I liked to see the ball hit the back of the net.”
After scoring twice to help Spurs beat Aston Villa in the 1971 League Cup Final, Chivers said: “I feel fabulous. That’s the only way to describe how I feel after scoring two goals in my first-ever appearance at Wembley.
“Spurs are back on the glory trail and those two goals have really sealed my comeback this season.”
In a series of Goal articles about Chivers in November 1971, writer Warwick Jordan declared: “There have been few more exciting centre forwards to grace the game and there is little reason to dispute the claim that the Tottenham striker could become one of the best ever,”
A whole raft of top division players and managers were happy to put on record their admiration for the centre-forward. Everton boss Harry Catterick described him as “the new John Charles” and claimed: “Chivers has emerged this year as the most talented centre-forward in Britain.”
Leeds manager Don Revie was a big admirer, saying: “Chivers is a better player than Geoff Hurst. The comparison is appropriate as both men possess a high degree of skill not normally found in strikers of their heavy build.
“It’s hard to choose between them, but I consider Chivers has the slight edge as he does not rely so much on the men around him. He has the ability to take the ball through on his own and create chances out of nothing.”
Manchester City team boss Malcolm Allison said: “This boy is the best all-round centre-forward in Britain. He’s big, strong, skilful and exciting. A tremendous player who will always get goals.”
Stoke midfielder Mike Bernard told the magazine: “Chivers has got guts, skill, aggression, ball control and tremendous determination. You can’t fault the guy.”
Teak-tough centre back John McGrath, who once had a brief spell on loan to the Albion from Southampton, added: “That bad injury has helped to make him a much more determined player. When your career is in the balance it gives you a greater determination to succeed. Chivers has come back to the game a different player.
“He’s a much more physical player now. A more confident player than he was before. He’s developed more character.
“People don’t realise how fast he is. He’s got a sort of loping run, a bit ungainly. But it’s deceptive because he is gathering speed all the time.”
Despite gaining that record number of England under 23 caps, it wasn’t until early 1971 that he got his chance on the full international stage. His reinvigorated Spurs form led to him making his full England debut away to Malta on 3 February 1971, when England gained a 1-0 win under the captaincy of his Spurs teammate Mullery.
He scored his first goal for England two months later in a 3-0 win against Greece at Wembley.
It was said Chivers really arrived as an international star after a powerful two-goal performance in a 3-1 win over Scotland at Wembley on 22 May 1971.
“This has been the greatest day of my life,” said Chivers, after that win. “I didn’t know I was playing until lunchtime on the same day. I was determined to show I was worth my place.
“I know a lot depended on my display in that game. I know I could have jeopardised my international future if I had not grabbed the opportunity.”
Afterwards, though, he declared: “Now I feel I have established myself as an England player.”
Fellow England striker Francis Lee told Goal’s Jordan: “He’s a football manager’s dream. At his present rate of progress, he could become the greatest centre-forward this country has seen.
“His tremendous potential blossomed during that game in Switzerland (scored in a 3-2 win in Basle, 13 October 1971) where his performance made the difference between victory and possible defeat.
“But his finest game for England so far was the one against Scotland. Today he is the hottest soccer property in the game. He’s going to be a big winner for England.”
In total, he scored 13 times in 22 starts plus two appearances from the subs bench, but, in less than three years, Chivers’ England career was over.
He never played for his country again after being subbed off in the crucial game that meant England wouldn’t qualify for the 1974 World Cup – a 1-1 draw with Poland at Wembley in 1973.
In eight years at Spurs, Chivers scored 174 goals in 367 games, his greatest success coming between 1970 and 1973, when he scored more than 20 goals in successive seasons, and was a key part of the side that won the 1971 and 1973 League Cups, finished third in the league in 1971, and picked up the 1972 UEFA Cup.
He had two seasons in Switzerland, playing for Servette, before returning to the English game with Norwich in 1979-80, before the move to Brighton.
On leaving Brighton, he went initially to Dorchester Town, then a Norwegian side and finished playing with 10 games for Barnet in 1982-83.
It was a phenomenal scoring record to notch 255 goals in 546 appearances.
After he’d finished playing, Chivers became a hotelier in Hertfordshire (during which time I got to speak to him in a professional capacity, helping to promote my client’s involvement in his business) and for several years he has been a matchday host at White Hart Lane.
Pictures from a variety of sources, especially Goal and Shoot magazines and matchday programmes.