Goal machine Frank Stapleton ended his playing days in a Brighton shirt

stapleton stretch

FRANK STAPLETON hit the heights as a goalscorer for Arsenal and Manchester United but his prize-winning playing days came to an end in a Brighton & Hove Albion shirt.

Stapleton was the scorer of the first top flight goal at the Goldstone Ground – unfortunately, it was the opener in Arsenal’s 4-0 win in 1979! He was also one of the Manchester United scorers in the 1983 FA Cup Final against Brighton, having moved to Old Trafford two years earlier (above, however, he just fails to connect for Arsenal against Brighton with Steve Foster and Gary Williams looking on).

His two appearances for Brighton came in 1995 when his old pal Liam Brady brought him in to try to improve the front line of an ailing side.

Born in Dublin on 10 July 1956, the promising young Stapleton was rejected by United as a teenager but the Gunners reaped the benefit of that decision by snapping him up at the tender age of 15 on chief scout Gordon Clark’s recommendation.

Arsenal’s confidence in the prospects for the promising young Irish duo were reflected in a Goal magazine article of 7 October 1972 in which boss Bertie Mee talked about them as future first team players. At the time, they were still part of the club’s junior ranks, aged just 15 and 16.

goal cutting

Mee said: “Brady is almost established as a regular in the reserve side. He needs building up but has the potential to become a first-team player. Stapleton has made quite an impact in his first season and, providing he maintains a steady improvement, he could also follow the path of Brady.”

It was only Brady’s second season and Clark, the Arsenal chief scout who unearthed him, said, at first, he thought he would be better suited to becoming a jockey because he was so small and frail!

He quickly changed his mind when he saw his ability with a football. “He was like a little midget but he had so much confidence. He’s really shot up now and although he’s still not very tall, he’s strong enough to hold his own,” said Clark.

Stapleton, at 15, joined Arsenal in the summer of 1972 and quickly developed a reputation as a goalscorer, netting 11 goals in seven games.

“Frank is tall and very good in the air,” said Clark. “He seems to get up and hang for the ball. He is also very good on the floor and reads the game intelligently for a youngster.”

As expected, Stapleton progressed to the first team and made his debut in 1975 against Stoke City. He initially formed an impressive partnership with England striker Malcolm Macdonald and in three successive seasons was Arsenal’s leading goalscorer.

Such prowess brought him to the attention of the Republic of Ireland international selectors and player-manager Johnny Giles gave him his full debut aged just 20 in 1976 against Turkey in Ankara.

It was the first of a total of 71 caps for his country, during which time he became their captain and scorer of 20 goals. He led Eire when they famously beat England 1-0 at the Euro 1988 finals in Germany. Although he was part of the 1990 World Cup squad – alongside current Albion boss, Chris Hughton –  he was by then behind Niall Quinn, John Aldridge and Tony Cascarino in the pecking order.

Stapleton was part of Arsenal’s three successive FA Cup final teams (1978, 1979, 1980), scoring against United in Arsenal’s 3-2 win in 1979.

When the Gunners sold Brady to Juventus in 1980, Stapleton began to question the club’s ambition and, the following year, on expiry of his contract, decided he would move on himself.

He had scored 108 goals in 300 appearances for Arsenal – some strike rate! – and it wasn’t a popular move to join a major rival in the same division, but he wasn’t the first or last player to have done so.

In the Sixties, United had taken David Herd from the marble halls of Highbury to lead their line and, of course, in more recent times, United signed Alexis Sanchez.

stapleton utd

When Robin van Persie made the same transfer switch from Arsenal to Manchester United in 2012, the Daily Mail took Stapleton back 30 years to talk about the circumstances of his own move.

Stapleton was Ron Atkinson’s first major signing for United and in his first season was partnered up front with Garry Birtles. Stapleton was the leading scorer for United in that first season, with 13 goals in 41 league games.

Subsequently, his main strike partner was the Northern Ireland international, Norman Whiteside.

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Stapleton scored United’s first goal, a 55th minute equaliser, in the 2-2 Cup Final draw against Brighton: one of 19 he notched during the 1982-83 season in which he played in 59 of United’s 60 games.

By the end of the following season, Stapleton’s regular strike partner was Mark Hughes and he scored in the 1985 FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool to set up yet another Wembley appearance, this time collecting his third winners’ medal when Whiteside’s winner beat Everton.

Despite a good start to the following season, with Stapleton once again amongst the goals, poor league form eventually cost Atkinson his job and his successor, Alex Ferguson, began rebuilding the side.

After six years at United, Stapleton, by then 30, was amongst those to be let go, and he was sold to Ajax of Amsterdam, lured by the fact they were managed by Johan Cruyff. But the move failed to live up to expectations, as detailed by the42.ie, and he ended up having a spell on loan at Anderlecht.

It was the first of a series of moves which didn’t really work out for him, although in the 1988-89 season he found himself playing in France alongside fellow Irish international – and future Brighton striker – John Byrne for Le Havre.

stapleton 4 derby

Derby County offered him a platform back in the UK game and he featured 10 times for them in 1987-88 and, after his stint in France came to an end, he spent two seasons with Blackburn Rovers.

He played once for lowly Aldershot and five times for Huddersfield Town before landing a player-manager’s post with Bradford City. In three years at Valley Parade, he made 68 appearances before the axe fell, and he answered Brady’s call for help at the Goldstone Ground.

The brilliant The Goldstone Wrap detailed his brief involvement in a March 2015 post, explaining how he featured as a substitute in a 0-0 draw at home to Bournemouth and started in a 3-0 defeat away to Cardiff City.

It was a final swansong for his playing career, as he looked to get back into coaching or management. He had two stints working under his former United teammate Ray Wilkins: at QPR and, in 2014, with the Jordan national side.

Stapleton spent eight months in 1996 as the first head coach of American Major Soccer League side New England Revolution, of Massachusetts.

His last appointment in the English game was briefly as a specialist striker coach at Bolton Wanderers, appointed during Sam Allardyce’s reign, in 2003-04.

Nowadays, Stapleton is more likely to be found talking about his illustrious career, his availability for bookings listed by football-speakers.com.

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Liverpudlian Melia etched a never-to-be-forgotten place in Brighton’s history

IT WAS the stuff of dreams when Liverpool born and bred Jimmy Melia saw his underdog Seagulls side beat the mighty Merseyside giants en route to Brighton’s one and only FA Cup Final appearance.

In fact, it wasn’t the first time Melia had taken a side to Anfield to play in the competition. On 2 January 1971, as player-manager of lowly Aldershot, he returned to the ground where he’d been an inside forward under Bill Shankly and gave them a scare in the third round, the Fourth Division side only losing 1-0.

Even Liverpool’s wideman, Steve Heighway, admitted: “I suppose we were lucky to win. It was a frosty day and the ball was playing quite a few tricks. I don’t think we were in any danger of losing. But Aldershot were playing well that day. They could have sneaked a draw.”

How satisfying, then, to return in 1983 and pilot Albion’s unlikely 2-1 win, with a winning goal courtesy of that other former Anfield favourite, Jimmy Case.

In the run-up to the game, Melia, raised in Liverpool’s Scotland Road, told the Daily Mail: “I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters in the Liverpool area and they’ll all want to be there.”

He clearly didn’t fear the game, pointing out that Brighton had been the last team to win at Anfield, and telling the Argus: “It is a great tie for us. When I was manager at Aldershot we lost 1-0 to them and I think we will do better this time. Remember, the Cup is full of all sorts of upsets. It wouldn’t be the Cup otherwise.”

After the famous victory, Melia told Alex Montgomery of The Sun: “I’ve been involved in some great Liverpool victories but this is without doubt the greatest win.

“The great thing about it is that we didn’t just nick a win. We deserved what we got.

“A lot of people said that if we attacked them we would just set ourselves up for a hiding. That is not the way it worked out.”

It emerged after the game that John Manning, an old footballing friend of Melia’s, had been key to plotting the victory. Former Crewe, Bolton and Tranmere striker Manning, Albion’s scout in the north at the time, gave the players a pre-match rundown on what to expect.

“Best team talk we’ve ever had,” defender Gary Stevens told the Daily Mail. “Liverpool played exactly the way he said they would and he was even right about which side (Phil) Neal would send his penalty (which went wide of goalkeeper Perry Digweed’s post).”

Born in Liverpool on 1 November 1937, Melia was a talented schoolboy international footballer discovered as a 15-year-old by former Brighton manager Don Welsh, who took over as Liverpool boss in 1951.

Melia joined Liverpool straight from St Anthony’s School and signed as a pro on his 17th birthday in 1954 when manager-to-be Bob Paisley was in charge of the reserve team.

Between the 1955-56 and 1963-64 seasons, Melia played 287 games for the Reds, scoring 78 goals.

One of them came in a home game against Brighton on 10 October 1959. Phil Taylor’s Liverpool were 2-1 down to the Albion that Saturday afternoon and, in the 85th minute, Melia stepped up to take a penalty…and missed. Nevertheless, he atoned for the mistake by slotting home a last-gasp equaliser. A month later, Shankly took over as manager.

In a series of profiles of the leading Liverpool players of the era, journalist Ivan Ponting said: “Jimmy Melia was the principal midfield ideas man as Liverpool rose from the second tier in 1961-62 and he was capped twice in 1963 ahead of sparkling creatively in the opening half of the Reds’ first title campaign under Bill Shankly.”

In only the second game of Alf Ramsey’s reign as England manager, he selected Melia to play for the national side in a 2-1 defeat to Scotland at Wembley on 6 April 1963.

Then on 5 June 1963, in Basle, he was one of the goalscorers in the side that hammered Switzerland 8-1; Bobby Charlton scored a hat-trick but remarkably Jimmy Greaves didn’t get on the scoresheet.

Back at Liverpool the following season, when Melia was sidelined by a minor ankle injury, Shankly reshuffled his line-up, moved centre-forward Ian St John into a more deep lying role and put Alf Arrowsmith up top. The change worked so well that Melia never did regain his regular place in the team.

“It was a stunning blow and a surprise to the balding Merseysider whose flair, industry and intelligence had been so productive, with his through-passing an exquisite speciality, even if some fans disliked what they saw as over-elaboration on the ball,” Ponting wrote for Back Pass magazine.

Melia was sold to Wolves for a then record fee of £48,000 in March 1964, but because he had played a certain number of games for Liverpool earlier in the season, was awarded a medal when the Reds were crowned champions.

It was the legendary Stan Cullis who had taken him to Molineux and, Melia told Charlie Bamforth for wolvesheroes.com, it was with the intention of him subsequently moving into a coaching role. But, when Cullis was sacked before the end of the year, his replacement, Andy Beattie, swiftly dispensed with Melia’s services, offloading him to Southampton in December 1964 for £30,000.

At The Dell, Melia joined forces with the likes of Terry Paine and Martin Chivers and, in 1965, helped Ted Bates’ side to promotion to the top division.

He was an ever present in the side during their first top division campaign, notable as a provider of crosses for Ron Davies and Chivers.

Eventually, the emerging Mike Channon took his place and, in 1968, after making 152 Saints appearances, on the strength of a recommendation from his old boss Cullis (by then manager of Birmingham), Aldershot paid £9,000 for him to become player-coach. The following April he became player-manager.

When he was sacked in January 1972, having made 134 league appearances for the Shots, he moved back to the north west as player-manager of lowly Crewe Alexandra but finally hung up his boots in May that year to concentrate on the manager’s job.

As a lowly league manager, Melia seldom came to the wider public’s attention, but when the opportunity arose, he was quick to seize it. Before another FA Cup third round match, this time against Huddersfield, he told Goal magazine any success he’d had as a manager could be put down to the influence of Shankly and his managers at Wolves and Southampton, Cullis and Bates.

“I was lucky,” said Jimmy. “You can’t help but learn from men such as these and I consider myself very fortunate to have served under them.”

In his first season as manager of Crewe Alexandra, his inexperienced team finished bottom and had to seek re-election to the league (in those days relegation was not automatic).

“I believe some of the youngsters we have here are destined for great futures. But perhaps you need a little more than just skill and enthusiasm to be successful,” he told Goal in July 1973.

Melia was clearly scarred by his treatment at Crewe. He told Ian Jarrett of The Sun: “We finished in the bottom four and were in danger of getting kicked out of the league so I spent days ringing around all my mates to get the votes to save us at the annual (league) meeting.

“I succeeded and went away feeling pretty happy until a phone call from the chairman warned me that I had only narrowly survived a vote of confidence.

“The following September I was made manager of the month but the club called an extraordinary meeting, got rid of the chairman, and soon after that I was out on my ear.

“The experience taught me a lesson.”

In 1975, Melia had three months as manager of Southport, before ending the same year coaching in the Middle East.

He then moved to the USA and linked up with a former Wolves teammate, Laurie Calloway to become his assistant coach at NSL side Southern California Lazers. In 1979, Melia moved to Ohio to become coach of Cleveland Cobras.

A window back into the English game opened in April 1980 when Brighton boss Alan Mullery appointed him as the club’s chief scout.

Looking back now, it seems a tad ironic that Albion chairman Mike Bamber was all for sacking him and other members of Mullery’s backroom staff in the summer of 1981 to save money. Mullery refused – and subsequently left the club himself.

Melia retained his position under Mullery’s successor, Mike Bailey, who, despite taking the Albion to their highest ever finishing position (13th) in 1982, failed to win over fans with a style of football that saw them stay away in their thousands.

A concerned Bamber finally brought down the curtain on the Bailey era in December 1982, handing the first team managerial reins on a caretaker basis jointly to Melia and loyal backroom ‘boy’ George Aitken (himself a former manager who, like Melia, had been a player under Bill Shankly, during his time at Workington).

From the outset, it was Melia who put himself forward to handle interviews with the press, TV and radio, and, as the club progressed in the FA Cup, so the spotlight began to shine brighter on the Liverpudlian, especially with that tie at Anfield.

Inevitably, the question kept arising as to whether Melia would land the manager’s job on a permanent basis and, in one of many interviews, he somewhat tellingly said: “I’d love the job and, if we stay up, that will improve my chances. But I’m not going to attempt to survive by playing boring, safety-first football.”

In a comment that was something of an oxymoron, Melia told Paul Weaver of the News of the World: “I don’t want to say anything against my predecessor, Mike Bailey, but I wouldn’t have paid money to watch Brighton in the first half of the season.”

mullers + meia

Perhaps not surprising, then, that in a veterans’ charity match played at Selhurst Park just before the semi-final, Bailey refused a request to be photographed with Melia, albeit he was happy to pose alongside Mullery.

By then, Melia had indeed finally been given the manager’s role on a permanent basis (once Norwich had been defeated in the quarter final). On 16 March 1983, Bamber took him out to lunch at a Hove hotel to break the news.

In a front-page splash on the Argus, Melia said: “This is the happiest day of my life. It is a dream to be manager of a First Division club with also the possibility of taking them to Wembley.

“I am just pleased the chairman has given me the opportunity, and I hope to stay at the club for the next 20 years.” It would, of course, turn out to be closer to 20 weeks!

As excitement built in the run-up to the Cup Final, Bamber told Argus reporter Phil Mills: “Jimmy knows the game from A to Z but what I particularly like is that he’s always bubbling. He’s lively and looks on the positive side of things – even when we lose.

“The Jimmy Melia story is a fairy tale – three months ago he was our chief scout. Now he’s leading the Albion to Wembley for the FA Cup Final.

“You couldn’t get a better fairy tale than that.”

There’s no doubting Melia milked the moment, but who could blame him?

He told Ian Jarrett in The Sun: “I must make this situation count because I might never be involved in anything like it again.

“I have felt like the President of the United States in the past couple of weeks. Everyone has wanted to shake my hand and cars have beeped me in the street. It’s heaven to be in this position and I think everyone in the club should make the most of it.”

The Daily Mail even went as far as describing the opposing managers for the 1983 final as “Liberace meets Max Wall”, rather playing on the fact United’s Ron Atkinson had a penchant for bling and the follicly-challenged Melia bore something of a resemblance to the comedian and actor renowned for a silly walk. John  Roberts wrote: “Little Jim has given his usual 110 per cent in the discos, a chest-revealing Tom Jones shirt, black leather trousers, white dancing shoes and glamourous girlfriend offsetting a glistening dome that is just made for the Seagulls.”

The writer continued: “Brighton’s progress to Wembley for the first time in their history has made a relegation season tolerable and enabled the 46-year-old Melia to recapture a measure of the prestige he enjoyed as a player.

“As a nimble, intelligent inside forward he won Second and First Division championship medals with Liverpool and played for England. Some of his friends consider that he suffered to a degree for being a home-produced player rather than a fashionable big-money signing.”

Roberts even quoted comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, a boyhood friend of Melia’s, who said: “To use an old showbusiness saying, Jimmy’s been there and back.”

Who knows what might have happened had Albion actually won that Cup Final?

Melia will forever be associated with taking the club to what was then a globally-watched event and raising their profile to heights never previously achieved.

The cold, hard reality, though, was that Brighton’s brief stay among the elite of English football was over. Melia’s open, expansive style of play had been punished in the league, resulting in relegation and a loss of status that took 33 years to restore.

Melia had designs on boosting his coaching staff in the summer of 1983 with the introduction of his old pal Laurie Calloway, but Bamber had other ideas and, without consulting his manager, instead installed former Albion defender Chris Cattlin as first team coach.

From the outset, it was evident the two were not going to see eye to eye and it wasn’t long into the new season before it emerged publicly that Cattlin was actually picking the team.

Eventually Melia couldn’t continue with what was clearly an untenable position and resigned, but, in a rather tawdry denouement, appeared being carried shoulder-high on the north stand terrace at the next home game amid cries of ‘Bamber out, Melia in’.

At the time, there were rumblings of an Albion takeover from businessman Jeffrey Kruger and Bamber described Melia as “a disgrace” and claimed he had been operating as a mole for Kruger.

Nothing came of the takeover and the dust had not long settled on the end of Melia’s Albion association when he moved to Portugal and spent three years as boss of Belenenses, taking them to a top five finish.

Former Argus Albion reporter John Vinicombe reflected on Melia’s career in a wistful piece for the newspaper in 2001, and recalled: “Back in England Jimmy had a brief spell in charge at Stockport, then it was time to move on to Kuwait and Dubai, San Francisco, San Jose and Dallas.”

He subsequently settled in Dallas and became technical director for Liverpool’s academy in Texas.

 

Pictures from various sources including the Argus, The Sun, The News of the World, Shoot! and Goal magazines.

 

The spot kick highs and lows of penalty king Denny Mundee

Denny Mundee

SPOT KICK specialist Denny Mundee played for the Seagulls during the dark days when they nearly dropped out of the league having enjoyed better times with Bournemouth and Brentford.

His older brother, Brian, also played for the Cherries and another brother, Barry, was forced to quit football at 18 because of injury. It was a case of third time lucky when young Denny finally broke through into league football. Previous attempts to make it, at QPR and Swindon, had got nowhere.

Born Dennis William John Mundee in Swindon on 10 October 1968, Denny first showed his footballing talent at his local primary school (Liden), as a contemporary wrote some years later on the Brentford fans forum, Griffin Park Grapevine.

The poster, called ‘SmiffyInSpain’ said: “Went to primary school with Denny in Swindon and he was a class act then. Went to separate secondary schools, but still kept in contact with him as an opponent at school level football.

“Of all the players of the same age, Denny stood out by far. Of all the penalties he took against me, he never missed.”

Indeed, Mundee was noted for his success rate from the 12-yard spot, taking on the penalty taker duties at whichever side he played for.

The young Mundee was first offered an apprenticeship at Third Division Bournemouth but decided to join First Division QPR as a junior, where he spent a year.

Released in the summer of 1986, he joined home town team Swindon for a season, but again failed to make the grade. It took a drop down to Southern League Premier side Salisbury before things began to click. Scoring 20 goals in 34 appearances brought him back to the attention of Bournemouth, who snapped him up in March 1988.

Although he made his Bournemouth debut towards the end of the 1988-89 season, he had loan spells with Weymouth, Yeovil Town and Torquay United before establishing himself with the Cherries.

It was in 1991-92 that he laid claim to a regular place, and, as right-back, made 41 league appearances that season.

His winning spot-kick in a 4-3 penalty shoot-out decider in the third round of the FA Cup against Newcastle United in January 1992 earned Mundee hero status in a Cherries’ Legends Gallery put together by BBC Dorset.

United, managed at the time by Argentine legend Ossie Ardiles, were floundering at the bottom of the old Second Division, while Harry Redknapp’s Third Division Cherries had already held the Magpies 0-0 at Dean Court before taking the tie to penalties after the replay at St James’ Park had ended 2-2 on 90 minutes.

However, by the end of the following season, Mundee had become something of a utility player, slotting in to various positions, and, in August 1993, he chose to leave the south coast club on a free transfer.

In just over five years, he had started 93 games for the Cherries and come on as a sub in another 29 games.

Former Chelsea and QPR defender David Webb had taken over as manager at Brentford and Mundee was among his first signings.

Bees fans remember him being signed as a full back but, on being ‘thrown up top’, he was a revelation and finished his first season at Griffin Park with 11 goals.

Perhaps ironically, Brentford, in 16th, finished a point and a place above Bournemouth that 1993-94 season. Mundee scored 11 times, including a memorable hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat at home to Bristol Rovers.

Six of his goals that season came in a run of four consecutive games between 27 November and 27 December, four of them penalties.

Mundee found himself part of a side that featured the free-scoring Nicky Forster in attack alongside Robert Taylor.

Described as “whole-hearted” and “a crowd pleaser”, Mundee earned something of a reputation for a shuffle, or a twiddle, he would deploy to get past opponents. ‘Brickie Chap’ on griffinpark.org said of him: “A player that always tried his best. Not the most gifted we have ever had down here but deffo one for providing quality entertainment.”

Unfortunately for a player normally so reliable from 12 yards, it was a penalty he failed to convert that Brentford fans have never really got over.

Mundee’s miss in a 1995 Division Two play-off match against Neil Warnock’s Huddersfield came in what was apparently the first-ever televised penalty shoot-out featured on Sky.

It was all the more galling because Mundee had scored twice from the spot past Town’s Steve Francis the previous season but, on this occasion, he blew the chance to put Brentford two goals ahead when he was outguessed by the ‘keeper. When Jamie Bates missed too, Brentford’s season was over.

Any other year, as runners-up, Brentford would have been promoted automatically, but, because of a reorganisation of the Premier League that year, only the top team went up automatically, hence their participation in the play-offs.

Mundee’s erstwhile primary school teammate wrote: “I watched the Huddersfield match in ‘95 and I would have put my mortgage on him netting like he did for Bournemouth at Newcastle a few years earlier.”

In two years with the Bees, Mundee made 73 starts plus 25 appearances as a sub but, when his old Bournemouth teammate Jimmy Case took over the Albion’s managerial reins from Liam Brady, he and another ex-Cherry, Mark Morris, headed to the Goldstone Ground to try to help the Seagulls’ cause.

With the poisonous off-field developments at the club an ugly backdrop to the playing side, neither could do anything to halt Albion’s slide into the bottom tier.

Things went from bad to worse and on 1 February 1997, bottom of the league Brighton drew 1-1 at Mansfield Town, Mundee scoring for the Seagulls with a follow-up after his initial penalty was parried. Albion were nine points adrift and relegation from the league was looking virtually certain.

However, as we all now know, the drop was averted courtesy of that nail-biting draw at Hereford.

Although Mundee remained on the books for the following season, in December 1997 he, Craig Maskell, Paul McDonald and John Humphrey were all released to save money.

Mundee had played 58 games plus four as sub for the Albion, chipping in with eight goals.

Also burdened by ankle and back injuries, it spelled the end of his professional career although he did manage a handful of games with various non-league outfits.

Ten years ago, a cousin of Denny’s confirmed that he had moved to Throop, a village on the outskirts of Bournemouth, and was working for the same plastering business as brother Brian.

Former Hammer Matthew Upson was a class act in Albion’s defence

ARTICULATE pundit Matthew Upson was deservedly player of the season after starring in Brighton & Hove Albion’s back line during the 2013-14 season.

Earlier, in a career spanning eleven clubs, he played more times (144 plus once as sub) for West Ham United than any of his other clubs. He also won 21 England caps.

Upson initially joined the Seagulls during the second half of the 2012-13 season, signing on loan from Premier League Stoke City, where, in two years, he’d only managed 21 games (plus four as sub) following four years with the Hammers.

On signing him for Brighton at the age of 33, manager Gus Poyet told seagulls.co.uk, “When we had the chance to bring a player with the quality of Matt until the end of the season we went for him.

“He’s experienced, he’s been a regular Premier League player and there were no doubts about it. He has presence, he’s a leader as well and it’s a good opportunity for us to use him the right way and for him to play football.”

Upson joined a side already blessed with the on-loan presence of another former England international in the shape of left-back Wayne Bridge, but unfortunately the side couldn’t get past arch rivals Crystal Palace in the play-offs to gain promotion from the Championship.

Although Poyet departed, Upson decided to make his move to Brighton permanent and played 41 games, mainly alongside skipper Gordon Greer. Unfortunately, Oscar Garcia’s squad also stumbled in the play-offs.

Hampered by an ankle injury towards the end of the season, although Upson played in the first leg 2-1 home defeat to Derby County – when he conceded a penalty with a clumsy foul – he was one of several players to miss out through injury in the away leg, when the Rams prevailed 4-1.

At the season’s end, Upson declined a new contract offer with the Albion and decided to seize the opportunity to return to Premier League football with newly-promoted Leicester City.

As it turned out, injury delayed his debut by seven months and he made just six appearances for the Foxes before ending his playing days with MK Dons, where he was limited to four full appearances plus three as a sub.

Upson is now a regular pundit on our TV screens, displaying verbally the sort of calm assuredness he demonstrated out on the pitch.

So where did it all begin? Born on 18 April 1979 in Eye, a small Suffolk market town, Upson went to Diss High School, over the border in Norfolk, and his football ability first shone at Diss Town FC. He went on to the Ipswich Town Centre of Excellence but it was Luton Town who took him on as a trainee after his Ipswich coach, Terry Westley, had switched to the Hatters.

It was to be a lucrative decision by Luton because, after signing him as a professional in April 1996, a year later they sold him to Arsenal for £2million. He only ever made one first team appearance for Luton and that was as an 88th minute substitute against Rotherham United in August 1996.

Unfortunately, his time with the Gunners was dogged by injury and lack of opportunity because of the solid form of the likes of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and Martin Keown.

Just as he was beginning to make a breakthrough in the 2001-02 season, taking the ageing Keown’s place, he broke his leg and missed out on the Gunners’ end-of-season League and FA Cup double, although he earned a league winners’ medal. At the season’s end, he’d made 16 appearances plus six as a sub.

While waiting for his chance at Arsenal, he had gone out on loan, to Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace, then Reading after his return from the leg break. But after a total of 39 appearances, plus eight as a sub, for Arsenal spanning five and a half years, he made a £1m move to Birmingham City in January 2003.

City were halfway through their first season in the Premier League, under Steve Bruce, and Upson made 14 appearances as the side finished in 13th place.

Upson told the dailystar.co.uk: “I had a good four and a half years under him at Birmingham. We had quite a successful period there.”

It was during his time with the Blues, during which he made 127 appearances plus one as sub, that his form was recognised with a call up to the England squad.

He had played at youth level and 12 times for the under 21 side but his first call-up for the senior squad came in February 2003, when he was an unused sub for England’s 3-1 win over Australia.

Three months later, coach Sven-Göran Eriksson gave him his debut when he came on for the second half In England’s 2-1 win over South Africa in Durban on 22 May 2003.

His final international appearance also came in South Africa – when he scored in England’s 4-1 defeat to Germany which brought about their exit from the 2010 World Cup. His involvement in the tournament was keenly followed by relatives and the whole community back in Diss.

He was involved in the squad for two subsequent games in September that year, but didn’t get to play. In total, he won seven caps while with Birmingham and 14 under Fabio Capello, after he had moved to West Ham. Of his 21 England appearances, 16 were as a starter, five as a sub.

Birmingham boss Bruce was reluctant to lose him but, on the final day of the transfer window in January 2007, the recently appointed Hammers boss, Alan Curbishley, paid £6million to take him to Upton Park, where enjoyed the longest spell of his playing career.

As he’d experienced at previous clubs, injury hampered him early on but eventually he got a regular spot in the side and subsequently took on the captaincy after the departure of Lucas Neill in August 2009.

It was after relegation from the Premiership during Sam Allardyce’s tenure as manager that Upson finally left the Hammers at the end of the 2010-11 season.

studio upson

 

Elite career eluded Darren Hughes after cup-winning start with Everton

DARREN Hughes won the FA Youth Cup with Everton but it was lower down the league where he built a long career which included a season with second tier Brighton & Hove Albion.

Born in Prescot on Merseyside on 6 October 1965, left-back Hughes played for Everton in two successive FA Youth Cup finals.

He was on the losing side against Norwich City in 1983 (when among his Everton teammates was centre forward Mark Farrington, who later proved to be a disastrous signing for Barry Lloyd’s Brighton).

The tie went to a third game after it was 5-5 on aggregate over the first two legs. The Canaries won the decider 1-0 at Goodison Park. The following year, Hughes was a scorer, and collected a winners’ medal, as Everton beat Stoke City 4-2 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, the young Hughes had broken into Everton’s first team as an understudy to stalwart John Bailey, making his Everton debut two days after Christmas in 1983.

Unfortunately, the game ended in a 3-0 defeat away to Wolverhampton Wanderers, for whom former Albion winger Tony Towner was playing.

It wasn’t until May 1985 that Hughes next got a first team opportunity, featuring in a 4-1 defeat to Coventry City at Highfield Road and a 2-0 defeat to Luton Town – manager Howard Kendall resting some of the first-choice players after the League title had already been won and ahead of the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Rapid Vienna.

With the experienced Bailey and Pat Van Den Hauwe in front of Hughes in the pecking order, Kendall gave the youngster a free transfer at the end of the season, and he joined Second Division Shrewsbury Town, where he made 46 appearances.

Hughes played against Albion for Shrewsbury at Gay Meadow on 16 September 1986, and, two weeks’ later, Alan Mullery, back in charge of the Seagulls for a second spell, signed the 21-year-old for a £30,000 fee.

D Hughes blue

Not for the first time, hard-up Albion had devised a scheme to raise transfer funds from supporters, and the money for the purchase of Hughes came from the Lifeline fund which also helped Mullery to buy goalkeeper John Keeley for £1,500 from non-league Chelmsford and striker Gary Rowell, from Middlesbrough.

Hughes made his Albion debut in a 3-0 defeat at home to Birmingham in the Full Members Cup on 1 October 1986 and his first league match came in a 1—0 home win over Stoke City three days later.

“I was quite happy at Shrewsbury,” Hughes told matchday programme interviewer, Tony Norman. “But when the manager told me Brighton were interested in signing me I thought it would be another step up the ladder. It’s a bigger club with better prospects and it’s a nice town as well.”

The single lad, whose parents were living in Widnes, moved into digs in Hove run by Val and Dave Tillson. He was later joined there by Kevan Brown, another new signing, from Southampton.

Hughes said away from football he enjoyed golf and had played rounds with Steve Penney, Dean Saunders and Steve Gatting.

Brown, in a similar programme feature, said Hughes had been a big help in him settling into his new surroundings. “He has been showing me around the area and we’ve become good friends,” he said. “I’m glad I wasn’t put in a hotel on my own.”

Unfortunately for Hughes, life on the pitch didn’t go quite according to plan.

Mullery was somewhat controversially sacked on 5 January 1987 and, although Hughes played 16 games under successor Lloyd, those games yielded only two wins and the Albion finished the season rock bottom of the division.

The only consolation for Hughes was scoring in a 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace on 20 April. His final appearance in a Seagulls shirt came in a 1-0 home defeat to Leeds when he was subbed off in favour of youngster David Gipp.

Having played only 29 games, mostly in midfield, for Brighton, Hughes joined Third Division Port Vale in September 1987, initially on loan, before a £5,000 fee made the deal permanent.

It must have given him some satisfaction to score for his new employer in a 2-0 win against Brighton that very same month.

Hughes spent seven years with the Valiants, helping them to win promotion from the Third Division in 1989, making a total of 222 appearances, mainly as a left back.

His time with Vale was punctuated by two bad injuries – a hernia and a ruptured thigh muscle – and they released him in February 1994.

However, he gradually managed to restore his fitness and in 1995, between January and November, he played 22 games for Third Division Northampton Town.

He then moved to Exeter City, at the time managed by former goalkeeper Peter Fox, where he made a total of 67 appearances before leaving the West Country club at the end of the 1996-97 season.

He ended his career in non-league football with Morecambe and Newcastle Town but could look back on a total of 388 league and cup appearances for six clubs over a 14-year career.

After his playing days were over, according to Where Are They Now? he set up a construction business.

D hughes by tony gordon

 

Pictures: matchday programme.

Rami’s route from Rome’s Olympic arena to Albion’s ‘Theatre of Trees’ – and then the World Cup!

 

IN ALBION’S 2004-05 Championship season, both regular goalkeepers, Michel Kuipers and Ben Roberts, were injured.

A rookie American ‘keeper, David Yeldell, was signed on loan from Blackburn Rovers but didn’t inspire confidence and was discarded after just three games.

Instead, Albion manager Mark McGhee turned to Rami Shaaban, a Swedish-born goalkeeper with a Finnish mother and Egyptian father who hadn’t played a competitive match for two years!

However, that game had been for Arsenal in the Champions League in the 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Rome!

Now, here he was on 19 February 2005 lining up for Albion in front of 6,647 at Withdean – The Theatre of Trees – against eventual champions Sunderland.

It proved to be an eventful debut, which I watched with my 10-year-old daughter, Holly (during her brief flirtation with wondering why her Dad was obsessed with this football lark). Albion played more than an hour of the game with only 10 men, Adam Virgo being sent off by referee Dermot Gallagher for two yellow cards.

Shaaban, Albion’s fourth different goalkeeper in the space of five games, did not have that much to do but he made an instinctive stop to keep out a cross from Dean Whitehead, fisted away a Sean Thornton effort and did well to hold Julio Arca’s shot from 15 yards.

He told The Argus afterwards: “It’s a great start. I’ve always been lucky with my first games at new clubs.

“At Arsenal, I had a clean sheet. That was in the Champions League, so it was a bit different, but you have to start somewhere and I’m very pleased to get 90 minutes of competitive football.

“I was more nervous playing here than for Arsenal, because before I went to Arsenal I was match fit. Here I had not played competitive football for two years, so this was a big milestone for me.”

albion action

Against all the odds, Albion won the game 2-1 with Albion’s goals coming from a deflected Richard Carpenter shot and a rare Mark McCammon header from a corner.

Born on 30 June 1975 in Solna, Stockholm, Shaaban’s professional football career began with the local Saltsjöbadens IF who he played for 39 times in 1994-95. Then, while studying at university in Cairo, he played for Zamalek and Ittihad Osman.

After university, he spent four years in Chile, between 1997 and 2001, playing initially for Coquimbo Unido and then Deportes Temuco.

Good performances there alerted his hometown club Djurgårdens, of Sweden’s first division, and it was while he was playing there that Arsenal snapped him up.

But his good fortune was to run out quite quickly. Originally drafted in by Arsenal as a possible successor to David Seaman, he suffered a freak training ground accident on Christmas Eve 2002 that left him with a broken leg.

It took him a year to recover and during that time the Gunners signed Jens Lehmann who went on to establish himself as Arsenal’s no.1.

Shaaban did play five games for Arsenal – three Premier League games and two in the Champions League – but he never did make it back to play for Arsenal competitively again after his injury.

However, he did warm the bench in the latter part of the famous Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ season (2003-04), because regular back-up ‘keeper Stuart Taylor had picked up an injury.

In January 2004, Shabaan was loaned to West Ham for a month, but didn’t play for the first team, and then at the season’s end he was released.

Immediately before joining Brighton, he had been training back in Sweden with Djurgårdens, but he was a free agent when McGhee picked him up.

Shaaban kept goal for the Albion for six games one of which, on 12 March 2005, saw him harshly penalised in a 5-1 defeat away to Plymouth Argyle, which I attended with my son, Rhys.

Of course, as fans, we would say it, wouldn’t we, but it was never a 5-1 game, and that was largely down to an unbelievable performance by referee Phil Crossley.

Albion, wearing yellow, started brightly enough and soon had the ball in the net. Admittedly the action was at the far end from us, but we couldn’t see anything wrong with the goal (I think the ref ruled out Guy Butters’ header because he claimed the ball from Richard Carpenter’s free kick curled out over the line before the cross came into him).

It was the first of several injustices meted out to the Albion that afternoon by Crossley. Plymouth took a lead as early as the ninth minute when Nick Chadwick finished off a neat one-two with Dexter Blackstock, who, ironically, manager McGhee had tried to sign on loan from Southampton earlier that season.

Our hopes were raised, though, when Charlie Oatway, on his 200th League appearance for the Seagulls, scored with a deflected header from another Carpenter free-kick.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Plymouth were back in front when Crossley failed to spot Adam Hinshelwood being pushed as he went to head the ball. Instead he saw the ball hit the young centre half’s hand and awarded a penalty which Paul Wotton converted.

Then, though, came an almost unbelievable bit of nitpicking by a linesman which led to Plymouth scoring again!

Goalkeepers often go right to the edge of their penalty area before drop-kicking a clearance up field and, just as Shaaban did so, the lino flagged to claim he had taken it out of the area.

Crossley was obliged to award a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area and Wotton duly dispatched a thunderbolt into the net. It was as good as a penalty.

close-up shout

Although 3-1 down, it still looked like Albion were in with a chance, but Plymouth got a fourth on 36 minutes when David Norris evaded several despairing tackles before slotting past Shaaban.

To make matters worse, shortly into the restart Richard Carpenter was consumed by red mist when Chadwick stopped him taking a quick free kick and, having pushed the guy in the chest, was sent off for the first time in his career.

So, 4-1 down and with only ten men, a difficult task just got harder: Plymouth continued to plug away and with just seconds remaining, substitute Scott Taylor rounded the hapless Shaaban to notch a fifth.

In the post-match interviews, McGhee described Chippy’s dismissal as “an absolute joke” and the refereeing as “shambolic”. And of the decision which led to Plymouth’s third, he said: “We see goalkeepers kicking at the edge of the box week in and week out and never in my career have I seen a linesman so sharp to put his flag up.”

Unfortunately for Shaaban, in his short time with the Albion he had conceded 13 goals, so McGhee turned to another loanee ‘keeper, Alan Blayney, from Southampton, who took over between the sticks for the remaining seven games of the season, when four draws and a win saw Albion do just enough to avoid the drop.

Shaaban remained on the bench and, at the end of the season, Albion decided not to take him on long-term. A year later he was called up to the Sweden squad for the 2006 World Cup!!

After his release from Brighton he had a trial with Dundee United but played only once, and also went on trial at Bristol City, but wasn’t taken on. Instead he went to Frederikstad in Norway, where he spent two years, and then joined Stockholm-based Hammarby, where he managed 26 appearances.

Those games led to him being selected for Sweden’s 2006 World Cup squad, although he had never previously been involved with the national side. In fact, in 2006 (and 2007) he was named Swedish goalkeeper of the year.

He made his debut as a half-time substitute in a warm up game with Finland and he played in his country’s 2006 World Cup opener, a 0-0 draw against Trinidad and Tobago, in place of injured first choice Andreas Isaksson.

He also played four Euro 2008 qualifying games for the Swedes, in which he kept a vital clean sheet in a 2-0 win over a Spain side which included the likes of Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa and was also a member of their final stage squad.

Earlier in his career Shaaban could have chosen to play for Finland but decided to represent Sweden because, at that time Finland had two strong national team goalkeepers in Antii Niemi (later Albion’s goalkeeping coach) and Jussi Jääskeläinen, a Premier League ‘keeper for Bolton for many years.

 

Photos from Albion matchday programme.

 

Cherries legend Mark Morris and the memorable Storer moment

mark morris bw bourne

STUART Storer is rightly remembered as the scorer of the vital winner against Doncaster Rovers in the last ever match at the Goldstone Ground.

Few remember exactly how the ball fell kindly to him that rain-lashed afternoon on 26 April 1997, but close scrutiny of the much-played clip before games at the Amex (also available on YouTube) shows it was from a rebound off the bar following a header by centre back Mark Morris.

Although defending was his priority, Morris had chipped in with a fair few goals over the years – including getting the winner for the Albion on his debut in a 3-2 win at Hartlepool on 2 November 1996.

Morris was a seasoned pro who had captained Bournemouth and Wimbledon and been part of a promotion-winning side at Sheffield United.

He had answered the call to join Brighton when his old Bournemouth teammate Jimmy Case was manager, as he told The Argus in a 2001 interview. The Seagulls were struggling at the foot of the bottom division with the trapdoor to oblivion gradually creaking open.

Maybe if the Morris header had gone in rather than rattling the bar, a different name would have been etched into the annals of Albion history.

Of the vital last-ditch game at Hereford, Morris told The Argus: “As a player, we were playing for the future of a club steeped in tradition. It was one of the biggest games in my career and the result was paramount.

“I was about 35 then. It was getting to be close to the end of my career and I wanted to end on a decent result. Hopefully I played some part in keeping the club up.”

 

Mark Morris in his Wimbledon days; lining up for Bournemouth, and in Albion’s colours.

Born in Morden, south London, on 26 September 1962, Morris made it through the youth ranks at Wimbledon and was part of the famous Crazy Gang’s rise through the divisions in the 1980s.

Morris was club captain for a while, playing alongside the likes of Steve Galliers, Vinnie Jones, John Fashanu, Wally Downes and Alan Cork. Most of his 168 appearances for the Dons were in Divisions 3 and 4 and, in the 1985-86 season, he had a 14-game spell on loan at Aldershot.

Nevertheless, he did get the chance to play in the top division and manager Dave Bassett recalled in an interview with the dailymail.co.uk how he set about claiming a famous victory at Anfield in 1987.

“Our target was to score 50 per cent of goals from set-plays — and we were always close,” said Bassett.

He explained how they’d spend up to two hours working on set-pieces on the morning of a game. In a car park in Runcorn, his Wimbledon team fine-tuned a corner routine which earned them three points at Anfield.

“We’d watched Liverpool,” said Bassett. “We knew if we got a corner they’d think we were taking it short and send two players out.

“So Wisey ran out to the corner taker and they sent two with him. Glyn Hodges delivered into the space, Mark Morris flicked it on and Alan Cork headed it past Bruce Grobbelaar.”

Wimbledon’s football may have split opinion but they got results and had a laugh, and Bassett has recounted several times since how they could play a bit too.

When Bassett moved on to manage Watford, Morris was one of several former players he took with him, although he subsequently admitted in an interview in 2009 that he had made a mistake.

Bassett took over from Graham Taylor after he had left to join Aston Villa, and it proved to be a disastrous six months in which he was castigated from all corners.

He told Lionel Birnie, as part of the Enjoy the Game series on watfordlegends.com: “I brought in Mark Morris from Wimbledon, who was a steady Eddie, but he wasn’t the right one because it became this Wimbledon thing. I should not have brought him because it didn’t do him any favours either. I thought he did well but people saw him as Bassett’s boy and he had to win them round.”

Reflecting that Glyn Hodges did turn out to be a good buy for Watford, he added: “Morris was a squad player, a good influence around the place, but he ended up playing every game.”

After Bassett moved on to Sheffield United, it wasn’t long before Morris joined him there too – with a lot more success.

He was part of United’s promotion-winning side in 1989-90 and, in October 2015, was among a gathering of that former United squad who got together with Bassett for a special 25th anniversary dinner at Bramall Lane to celebrate clinching promotion back to the elite in 1990. The squad also included Paul Wood, who had joined the Blades from Brighton, and later also played for the Cherries.

Morris played 14 games in the top division the following season, in 1990-91, but Harry Redknapp, in his first managerial role, paid £95,000 to take him to then third tier Bournemouth, where he made his debut on 17 August 1991 in a 2-1 defeat to Darlington.

He was a mainstay of the Bournemouth defence for five years, notching up a total of 190 league appearances, plus four as a sub, and was voted Player of the Season in 1992-93.

Redknapp’s former assistant, Tony Pulis, took him on loan to Gillingham at the beginning of the 1996-97 season, before he joined Case at Brighton in the October.

After his release from Brighton in 1997, he linked up briefly with Hastings United but then moved back to Dorset, and Dorchester Town, where he spent eight years as a player, player-manager and manager.

In 2009 Morris was running The Crown pub in Bournemouth and hit the headlines for a different reason when masked raiders tried to burgle the pub.

A return to coaching was announced in July 2017 when Morris joined Wessex League Division One side New Milton Town, although there has since been another regime change at Fawcett’s Field.