Paul Moulden chipped in with goals for Bournemouth and Brighton before batter days

Moulden action in stripesWORLD RECORD youth level goalscorer Paul Moulden now runs a successful chippy in Bolton but he was once in the firing – rather than frying – line for AFC Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion.

The career of the prodigious goalscoring wonderkid tailed off early although it may have taken a new direction in Sussex if the cash-strapped Seagulls had been able to afford to buy him.

Born in Farnworth, near Bolton, on 6 September 1967, Moulden first made a name for himself playing for Bolton Lads Club under-15s: his staggering personal goal tally of 289 goals in 40 games in a single season earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

He was snapped up by Manchester City and was part of their FA Youth Cup winning side in 1986, although manager Billy McNeill had already blooded him in the first team on New Year’s Day that year in a 1-0 home win over Aston Villa.

Moulden CityHe made two further substitute appearances for the first team that season and finished top scorer for City’s reserves. By late 1986, he had earned a regular place but a broken leg sustained in training restricted him to only three appearances in 1987-88.

In the 1988-89 season, Moulden was City’s top scorer with 13 goals as they won promotion from the old First Division back to the elite. But the young striker elected not to take up the offer of a new contract in the summer of 1989 and ended up joining Bournemouth, where Harry Redknapp was beginning his managerial career. Moulden was valued at £160,000 as the makeweight in a deal which saw Bournemouth’s Ian Bishop move to Maine Road.

City boss Mel Machin, himself something of a legend at Bournemouth (a Cherries player, manager and director of football) spelled the end of Moulden’s career at City.

Moulden told FourFourTwo magazine: “Machin just didn’t fancy me. I was offered a contract but it was a contract you’d have been a fool to sign, so I didn’t sign it and I became for sale. All the backroom staff and everyone else concerned was upset that I was going but to have tied yourself down for three years on the contract they were offering, you would have been a fool. That was the lever to get me out.” The Lancashire lad’s move to Dorset proved to be a success on the pitch – but was brief.

He scored six goals in his first three home league matches, including a hat-trick in a 5-4 win over Hull and both goals in a 2-1 win over Newcastle. “I remember the two goals against Newcastle,” Moulden told the Bournemouth Echo in 2016. “One was a three-inch tap-in and the other was a run from the halfway line.”

While he said in the Echo interview how much he enjoyed his time with the Cherries, he told efl.com: “Moving to Bournemouth was a huge move for me. At the time, I was single and it was exciting, but the novelty soon wore off and I found it hard to settle.

“It was a lovely club but I was delighted to return home and back to Oldham.”

Moulden told FourFourTwo: “Bournemouth had some good players, like Luther Blissett, Paul Miller and goalkeeper Gerry Peyton. The thing that struck me was how many old players they had – I was 22 at the time – but Harry was just starting out and I suppose for his first job he wanted security around himself.

“It was a small club and I’d imagine he had to get success quickly. Harry was a nice guy, a decent manager.”

SOCCER
PAUL MOULDEN – OLDHAM ATHLETIC

After just seven months at Bournemouth, and with 13 goals in 37 starts to his name, he was snapped up by Oldham Athletic on transfer deadline day in March 1990.

A £225,000 fee meant a decent profit for Bournemouth but, with Oldham flying high at the time, and Moulden struggling with injuries, he only managed 19 games for the Latics in two and a half seasons.

It was towards the end of his time there that Brighton boss Barry Lloyd seized the opportunity to try to resurrect Moulden’s career – and he couldn’t have made a better start with the Seagulls.

Newly-relegated back to the third tier, Albion desperately needed some inspiration up front and Lloyd thought he’d hit the jackpot in securing on loan the services of strike pairing Moulden and Steve Cotterill, from Wimbledon.

Each got themselves a goal in an opening 3-2 defeat to Orient so the signs were promising and the new men duly delivered the goods on the pitch.

The two goals Moulden scored as Albion beat Preston North End 2-0 in September 1992 were especially sweet, as he explained to Brian Owen of the Argus in 2016.

In total, Moulden scored five goals in 11 league appearances and Cotterill four, but the Albion couldn’t afford to sign either of them permanently.

The void was ultimately filled by the arrival of free transfer Kurt Nogan, who subsequently became a prolific goalscorer for the Seagulls. Moulden, meanwhile, ended up being sold to Birmingham later the same season for £150,000 and Cotterill, also deemed too expensive for Albion, was sold to Bournemouth for £80,000 the following summer.

In an interview with Howard Griggs of the Argus, in January 2011, Moulden explained how he would dearly have liked to have made the move to Brighton permanent.

“I played at Bournemouth two seasons before,” he said. “I liked the south coast and I had the chance to go to either Brighton or Plymouth. I jumped at the chance to go to Brighton and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I struck up a good understanding with Steve Cotterill.”

Moulden spoke particularly highly of assistant manager Martin Hinshelwood – “he was different class, absolutely brilliant” – and said: “It felt just right from the start. I did well with Steve Cotterill. We both scored goals for the team.”

As an ex-City player, Moulden was particularly miffed that Oldham boss Joe Royle would not let the outcast striker play for Albion against Manchester United in the League Cup that autumn, and he added: “If Brighton had had the money I certainly would have signed.”

He told Griggs: “Manchester City was certainly good, and I enjoyed my time at Birmingham under Terry Cooper, but there were plenty of good times and I can honestly say my two months at Brighton was up there.”

One of Moulden’s best games came in a 2-1 home win over Huddersfield as Albion won 2-1. Steve Foster, back at the club for a second spell, put Albion ahead on 17 minutes with a header from a John Robinson corner. Although Huddersfield equalised through a Iwan Roberts penalty, livewire Moulden popped up with the winner six minutes from time.

The Terriers would ultimately be Moulden’s next destination after leaving Birmingham in 1995 but he made only two appearances before switching to nearby Rochdale where he played 16 times in the 1995-96 season.

In total, Moulden suffered four broken legs and his league career came to a premature end at 28, although he played non-league with Accrington Stanley and Bacup Borough.

He later coached at his old boys’ club and also spent three years with the Manchester City academy but sensibly he had an eye for a career outside of football too and followed in his mum and dad’s footsteps by opening up Paul’s Chippy in Bolton.

 

 

 

Pictures: Evening Argus and online sources.

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Nobby Horton has a place in the hearts of Brighton and Manchester City fans

IMG_5170ARGUABLY the finest captain in Brighton & Hove Albion’s history went on to have a far less successful spell as the club’s manager having also been a boss at the highest level, at Maine Road, Manchester.

The £30,000 signing of tenacious midfielder Brian Horton from Port Vale on the eve of transfer deadline day in March 1976 proved to be one of the most inspirational moments of Peter Taylor’s managerial tenure at the Albion and for such a fee was widely hailed as “an absolute steal”.

Even though Taylor didn’t hang around long enough to reap the benefit of the man he instantly installed as captain, his successor Alan Mullery certainly did.

In the early days after his appointment, there was some suggestion Mullery would be a player-manager but the former Spurs and England captain reassured a concerned Horton that wouldn’t be the case, admitting that he wouldn’t get in ahead of him anyway!

“Fortunately, that next year went really well. It was my best year without a doubt,” Horton told Evening Argus reporter Jamie Baker. “I’d never met Alan Mullery, and he’d probably never heard of me, so I was delighted and surprised when he made me his captain.”

It was the beginning of a strong bond between captain and manager and Horton added: “We had that relationship for all the five years I was with him.

“That first season was great. We went 20 odd games unbeaten and I was scoring left, right and centre, and I was very proud to be voted player of the year.

“Suddenly everything was coming right for me, although we were disappointed not to beat Mansfield for the championship because we felt we were far better than them.

“You’ve got to hand a lot of our success down to Alan Mullery. He was a terrific motivator of players. He was a bubbly character and it used to rub off on players.

“He was new to the game of management but he brought fresh ideas, and he’d been under some top managers as a player.

“The team spirit during those first three years was incredible. When you are winning games every week it makes a hell of a difference and we had that for three years. You just couldn’t describe how good the team spirit was.

“My treasured memory will always be of the day we beat Newcastle to clinch promotion to the First Division. It was even greater because I scored the first goal. It had always been my ambition to play in the First Division and now I had achieved it.”

In an inauspicious start, Horton found himself in the referee’s notebook as Albion were hammered 4-0 by Arsenal as the season opened at the Goldstone. After a narrower defeat away to Aston Villa, the next game was away to Man City – and Horton had the chance to earn the Seagulls their first top level point.

On 25 August 1979, Albion were trailing 3-2 when Horton had the chance to equalise from the penalty spot with only eight minutes of the game left. But the normally reliable spot-kick taker fluffed his lines, meaning Albion succumbed to their third defeat in a row.

While the superior opposition was clearly testing the Seagulls, it was testament to the resilient skipper that he was continuing to lead them having started out in the third tier and, on 20 December 1980, before a 1-0 home win over Aston Villa, he received a cut-glass decanter from chairman Mike Bamber to mark his 200th league appearance for the Seagulls.

As the 1980-81 season drew to a close, Albion were perilously close to the drop but four wins on the trot (3-0 at Palace, 2-1 at home to Leicester, 2-1 at Sunderland and 2-0 at home to Leeds) took them to safety. What Horton didn’t realise was the Leeds game would be his last for the Albion (as it also was for Mark Lawrenson, Peter O’Sullivan and John Gregory).

“I’d bought a house in Hove Park off Mike Bamber and I was sunbathing that summer when there was a knock at the door. It was Alan Mullery come to tell me he’d just resigned,” Horton told interviewer Phil Shaw in issue 26 of the superb retro football magazine, Back Pass.

Mullery told him how he’d quit over the proposed Lawrenson transfer, how O’Sullivan and Gregory were off as well, and that the club wanted to sell him too, for £100,000.

Although Mullery advised him to sit tight because he still had a year left on his contract, new boss Mike Bailey explained how he wanted to swap him with Luton’s Republic of Ireland international, Tony Grealish.

“I said I didn’t want to go, that I loved the club and the fans, that I’d bought a house, and, at 31 I thought I had two or three good years left.

“I spoke to Mike Bamber and he said: ‘I don’t want you to go but I have to back the manager’.”

Horton chose the platform of the Argus to thank the supporters for the backing they’d always given him and said his one disappointment was that he didn’t get the chance to lead Albion at a Cup Final. “That I would have really loved.”

Looking ahead, he added: “The Luton move gives me a new challenge. You can get in a rut if you stay at one club too long. Six years at Port Vale and five and a half at the Albion is enough. It will probably put a little sparkle back into my game.”

And so, Horton went to Kenilworth Road and under David Pleat the Hatters won the 1981-82 Second Division championship by eight points clear of arch rivals Watford. Looking back in his interview with Back Pass, Horton reckoned two of his Luton teammates, David Moss and Ricky Hill, were up there alongside Lawrenson as the best players he’d played alongside.

An all-too-familiar tale of struggle in the top division saw Luton needing to win at Maine Road in the last game of the season to ensure their safety, and Raddy Antic scored a winner six minutes from time that preserved Town’s status and sent City down.

Television cameras memorably captured the sight of Pleat skipping across the turf at the end of the game and planting a kiss on Horton’s cheek.

After one more year at the top level, he began his managerial career as player-manager of Hull City in 1984, working for the mercurial Don Robinson, and steered them to promotion to the old Division Two at the end of his first season in charge. He is fondly remembered by Hull followers, as demonstrated in this fan blog.

When he parted company with the Tigers in April 1988, his old Brighton teammate Lawrenson, by then manager of Oxford United, invited him to become his assistant. United at the time were owned by Kevin Maxwell, son of the highly controversial Robert Maxwell.

When Dean Saunders, who Brighton had sold to Oxford for £70,000, was sold against Lawrenson’s wishes – astonishingly he went to Derby for £1million – Lawrenson quit. Horton took over as manager and stayed in charge for five years, during which time he recruited former Albion teammate Steve Foster to be his captain.

Horton’s managerial break into the big time came in August 1993 when Man City sacked Peter Reid as manager four games into the 1993-94 season. Horton didn’t need to think twice about taking up the role, even though City fans were asking ‘Brian who?’

In Neil McNab, Horton recruited to his backroom team a former playing colleague who’d been a City favourite. “I played with McNab at Brighton and knew his strengths and knew he was well liked here,” he told bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk.

Horton brought in Paul Walsh, Uwe Rossler and Peter Beagrie and City managed to stay up.

The new boss acquired the services of Nicky Summerbee (to follow in the footsteps of his famous father Mike) along with Garry Flitcroft and Steve Lomas and at one point City were as high as sixth in the table.

They eventually finished 17th but fans to this day still stop Horton (who lives in the area) and ask him about a terrific match which saw City beat Spurs 5-2.

It was Horton’s bad luck that when City legend Francis Lee took over the club from previous owner Peter Swales, he was always looking to install his own man in the hot seat, and Lee eventually got his way and replaced Horton with Lee’s old England teammate Alan Ball.

Ball took City down the following season while Horton embarked on a nomadic series of managerial appointments either on his own or in tandem with Phil Brown.

Initially he was boss of Huddersfield Town; then he was a popular appointment when he took over as Albion boss during their exile playing at Gillingham, but, because he wanted to live back in the north, he left in February 1999 to join another of his former clubs, Port Vale.

He led Vale for five years and pitched up next at the helm of Macclesfield Town, where, on 3 November 2004, he marked his 1,000th game as a manager. It was at Macclesfield where one of his players was the self-same Graham Potter whose stewardship of Swansea City came mightily close to upsetting City in the 2019 FA Cup quarter-finals.

A bad start to the 2006-07 season saw him relieved of his duties in September 2006 but, by the following May, he was back in the game as Brown’s no.2 at Hull City. In March 2010, he was briefly caretaker manager following Brown’s departure, until the Tigers appointed Iain Dowie.

Next stop saw him as no.2 to Brown at Preston North End; then a second brief spell as Macclesfield boss at the end of the 2011-12 season.

In June 2013, he was appointed assistant manager to Paul Dickov at Doncaster Rovers, a role he filled for two years before linking up with Brown once again during his tenure at Southend United. Horton was his ‘football co-ordinator’ but left the club in January 2018. He followed Brown to Swindon Town but, in May 2018, decided not to continue in his role as assistant manager.

Born in the Staffordshire coal-mining village of Hednesford on 4 February 1949, Horton went to Blake High School in Cannock. Spotted playing football for the Staffordshire Schools side, the Wolves-supporting youngster served a two-year apprenticeship at Walsall. But at 17 his hopes of a professional career were dashed when he wasn’t taken on. He ended up finding work in the building trade while continuing his football with Hednesford Town in the West Midlands (Regional) League.

It was there he acquired the moniker Nobby because he gained a reputation for World Cup winner Stiles-like aggression. It was a nickname that stuck.

At the time, he was playing up front and scoring a lot of goals so he caught the attention of a few league clubs, but only Gordon Lee at Port Vale made a move. Lee sealed the deal by buying the Town secretary a pint of shandy and promising to take Vale to play Hednesford in a friendly.

Vale had little money so the squad was made up of free transfer signings but Horton said it made them strong collectively with “a fantastic spirit” and it wasn’t long before he was made their captain.

Vale legend Roy Sproson took over from Lee as manager and in March 1976 the cash-strapped Potteries outfit were forced to sell their prize asset.

When Vale headed to Selhurst Park that month, Crystal Palace player-coach Terry Venables got a message to Horton before the game urging him to sit tight until the summer and they’d sign him then. But Albion stole a march on their rivals and Sproson told him: “I’m sorry but we’re selling you to Brighton for thirty grand. We need the money.”

Funnily enough, the previous summer Horton had a chance holiday encounter in Ibiza with Albion’s Peter O’Sullivan. He later told the Argus: “Sully asked me if I fancied a move. Little was I to know that I would be joining him soon after. There was a wealth of ability in the Albion side when I joined them and it was outrageous that we didn’t go up that year.

“I felt they had to go places and I wanted to be part of it. I’d never been in a promotion side but then to be made captain of it was really the icing on the cake.”

Albion’s gain was certainly a loss to two other clubs who’ve since encountered similar troubles in their past. Horton explained: “I knew clubs were interested although Roy Sproson said he wouldn’t let me go to another Third Division team. I think he released me to Brighton because at the time they looked certain for promotion.

“Also, it was the highest bid they’d had. Hereford and Plymouth had offered £25,000 and I would have been happy to have gone to either club.”

In November last year, Horton reflected on his long and varied career in an interview with The Cheshire Magazine.

Pictures mainly from my scrapbook, originally from the Argus, Shoot / Goal magazine, the matchday programme and various online sources.

 

 

Winger Walker a great crosser of the ball and scorer of stunning goals

CW Nobo 91 progIN MY OPINION, one of the best wingers ever to pull on the famous blue and white stripes was Clive Walker, an evergreen player who remarkably played more than 1,000 games for eight clubs.

Although well into his 30s when he arrived at the Goldstone Ground, the balding former Chelsea and Fulham wideman was an effervescent talent with the ball at his feet.

Asked by the Argus to preview the squad ahead of the 1991 Division Two play-off final at Wembley, Brighton coach Martin Hinshelwood said of him: “Alias Phil Collins. A great character. The dressing room buzzes when he is around. He is good on the ball, a great crosser and has scored some great goals this season.”

Both Albion’s wingers for that game had Wembley experience behind them having been on opposing sides in in the 1985 League Cup Final.

Walker had missed a penalty for Sunderland as Mark Barham’s Norwich City won 1-0 and six years later, against Neil Warnock’s Notts County, Walker’s bad luck continued when a Wembley post denied him as Brighton’s dream of promotion ended in a 3-1 defeat.

Both had played big parts in Albion reaching Wembley, though: Barham levelled for the Seagulls in the first leg of the semi-final at home to Millwall and Walker got the third when the Seagulls upturned the form book and beat Bruce Rioch’s side 4-1.

Born on 26 May 1957 in Oxford, Walker joined Chelsea in 1973, made his league debut in a 1-0 defeat away to Burnley on 23 April 1977 and was a first team squad regular between December 1977 and the summer of 1984, although, in 1979, Chelsea loaned Walker to Fort Lauderdale Strikers (as pictured below) where he scored nine goals in 22 appearances.

CW Fort Laud

“Those were exciting, lively times and we loved our football. We were a bunch of young lads growing up together and, in my last couple of years there, I played with the likes of Kerry Dixon for the side who brought good times back on the pitch,” Walker told Mike Walters of the Mirror. “We were a close-knit bunch with a great sense of camaraderie, and a lot of teams these days would probably envy us in that regard.”

A fast winger with the knack of scoring stunning goals, Walker netted 17 in 1981-1982 and the next season, with Chelsea looking set to be relegated to Division Three, fans still remember how he scored the winner at Bolton Wanderers to maintain their status.

Details of many of his memorable moments at Chelsea are highlighted by the Sporting Heroes website.

And a Chelsea fans’ blog, Game of the People emphasised the impact he had at Stamford Bridge, pointing out: “He was left-footed, as quick as a sprinter and awkward to knock off the ball. And he could shoot! Those that liked wingers were excited by his willingness to run between players and take a pot shot at goal. Put simply, he was exciting to watch.”

In what is an otherwise interesting and informative piece about Walker in 2014, they unfortunately failed to mention his successful stint with the Seagulls.

Although he began the 1983-84 season well, he sustained a broken jaw which put him out for several weeks and, during his absence, another nippy winger – Pat Nevin – seized the opportunity to claim a first-team spot and Walker’s Stamford Bridge days were numbered.

3-2 N v Sun CWalker

Come the end of the season, he was allowed to join Sunderland (above in action v Newcastle) for a fee of £70,000. “He returned to torment Chelsea in the Football League Cup semi-final second leg, scoring twice in what was a dreadful night for the club,” Game of the People observed. “Walker was abused from the stands, too, which was especially heartbreaking for those that appreciated his efforts at the Bridge.”

After two years in the north-east, Walker returned to London in September 1985, initially via a £75,000 move to Jim Smith’s First Division (Premier League equivalent) QPR, where he played 28 games in the 1986-87 season, alongside the likes of David Seaman, Michael Robinson and John Byrne. Just 20 months later, he left on a free transfer to Third Division Fulham for whom he made 127 appearances in three years, scoring 32 goals.

His debut was certainly memorable as he scored twice in a 3-1 home win over York City. Writer Ian McCulloch remembered the occasion in an article on fulhamfc.com.

“Fulham were in the doldrums, on the brink of extinction, owned by property developers, and going nowhere fast. And then, in the midst of all the doom and gloom, appeared one of football’s all-time, genuine crowd-pleasing entertainers. Walker ran the show that night, scored twice, and generally lifted both the fans and the team.”

Walker recalled: “That game really does stand out. And in the pouring rain as well! To score two goals on your debut is very special, and I just look back at it as a fabulous memory. Very, very enjoyable.”

Walker explained that it was Ray Lewington who took him to Craven Cottage, adding: “I had a great rapport with him – of course we were both apprentices at Chelsea – and we’re still good friends today. But then other managers came in, and you couldn’t escape the feeling that the club was going backwards and that was very, very sad because I had a lovely time at Fulham and I’ve got some very fond memories of those years. I loved playing at the Cottage and on the Cottage pitch.”

Walker picked up Fulham’s 1989-90 Player of the Year award before former Fulham captain Barry Lloyd went back to his old club to secure Walker’s services for the Seagulls in the summer of 1990. Even though he was the wrong side of 30, he pulled on the no.11 shirt on his debut away to Barnsley (in a side containing his old Chelsea teammate Gary Chivers in defence) and missed only one game all season as Albion nearly made it back to the elite level.

After that Wembley disappointment and only three games into the new season, Walker suffered another blow when he sustained a serious knee ligament injury away to Barnsley which sidelined him for several weeks.

With the previous season’s goalscoring duo Mike Small and John Byrne having been sold for big money, the side struggled, and eventually ended up being relegated.

Emerging young winger John Robinson had slotted into Walker’s place in the side during his absence although it was Barham who was the odd man out when Walker was fit to return to the line-up.

Back in the third tier the following season, although the return of Steve Foster in defence was a plus point, off the field the rumblings of financial meltdown grew louder and louder. Young Robinson was sold to Charlton Athletic and only the proceeds of the sale of goalkeeper Mark Beeney to Leeds United kept the taxman at bay when there was a winding-up order threat hanging over the club.

Three cup games against Manchester United were rare highlights in that precarious season and one of my favourite Walker moments came at Old Trafford in a League Cup replay on 7 October 1992.

Having managed a 1-1 draw against United in the first game, Albion gave United quite a scare in the replay, largely through Walker giving England full-back Paul Parker a torrid time. I watched the game sat amongst United supporters and they were full of praise for the veteran winger, albeit that United edged it 1-0.

Walker’s final appearance in an Albion shirt came on 24 April 1993 when he came on as a substitute for Matthew Edwards in a 2-1 home defeat to Rotherham United.

When most players would be considering hanging up their boots, at the age of 36, Walker left Brighton and moved into non-league with Woking where he scored 91 goals in 210 games.

A poster called NewAdventuresinWiFi, on Sunderland’s readytogo.net fans website, recalled watching Walker play for Woking, and said: “Walker was an absolute class act when he fancied it. He was instrumental in the cup run of 96-97 when Millwall and Cambridge were dispatched and Premiership Coventry given an almighty fright.
“Also remember a Conference game against Altrincham when we put seven past them and Walker was unplayable that day…to the point the opposition full back ended up getting a straight red for a frustrated desperate two footed ‘challenge’ he attempted on Clive after yet another glorious attacking run.”

Another poster, JumpingAnaconda, remembered: “I saw him playing for Woking in a minor cup final at Vicarage Road, in the season where he won a few big games for them in their FA Cup run. He was 40 years old and he was absolutely quality, up and down the line all night. That season there was some talk of Premiership sides looking at him to come in to do a job for them. His level of fitness was incredible. He ran around like a 20-year-old. He was probably the closest we would get to another Stanley Matthews in the Premiership era in terms of a winger that kept his pace, creativity, ability to beat a man and make crosses into his 40s.”

From Woking, he had a spell as the assistant manager at Brentford under Eddie May but then went back to playing, at Cheltenham Town. Finally, after winning the FA Trophy and the League, he retired at the grand old age of 43, although he continued to turn out for Chelsea Veterans teams.
He had a brief excursion into management with Molesey but a career in the media took off and he became a regular and well-known voice with BBC London, and for Sky TV’s coverage of Conference football.

CW on Chels TVWalker has also worked for Talksport and appears regularly with former Chelsea and Spurs player Jason Cundy on Chelsea TV and radio (as above).

Pictures from a variety of sources but mainly the Albion matchday programme.

 

 

Why the ‘hook’ at Edgar Street was a great relief to ex-Saint Paul McDonald

Paul McD on ballIF PAUL MCDONALD hadn’t been subbed off in that infamous game away to Hereford United in 1997, Brighton might have gone out of existence.

That’s some statement to make, but it’s a thought that has crossed the diminutive wideman’s mind over the years.

It was McDonald who gave way for substitute Robbie Reinelt to enter the fray and, as the history books thankfully record, it was he who buried the equalising goal to restore Albion’s status as a Football League club and condemn Hereford to relegation instead.

Even as recently as August 2017, in a preview to the Albion’s opening Premier League game against Manchester City, the current day Kilmarnock academy director shared his thoughts with the Daily Record (pictured below).

paul mcdonald Daily Record

“The prospect of top-flight football would have been the furthest thing from anyone’s mind at full time at Hereford but I’m over the moon to see them in the position they are in now,” said McDonald.

“I’m often reminded of that game and I’m actually claiming the assist because Robbie Reinelt replaced me. I’m just glad the chance didn’t fall to me or they might well have ended up as a non-league club!

“Seriously, it was a huge day for Brighton. I’ve never been involved in a game with so much at stake.

“It is a massive club and to be in the position they were in was bad.

“If we had lost to Hereford then in an extreme circumstance they could have folded but businessman Dick Knight had come in as chairman and he may not have let that happen.”

Born in Motherwell on 20 April 1968, McDonald was spotted playing local boys club football in his home town by Hamilton Academical and he was taken on in June 1986.

Over the course of seven years, he made a total of 215 appearances for the Accies before trying his luck south of the border.

Premier League Southampton paid £75,000 for his services but he failed to make a breakthrough and managed just three substitute appearances for Saints.

During the 1995-96 season, he was loaned out to Jimmy Mullen’s third tier Burnley where he made 11 appearances in two months, his only goal coming in a 2-0 Auto Windscreens Shield win away to Peterborough.

However, one of his matches included a 3-0 win over Brighton (in which one of the Clarets’ scorers was Kurt Nogan) and, according to the excellent clarets-mad.co.uk, McDonald so impressed watching Brighton manager Jimmy Case that day that it prompted him to sign the winger the following February.

Case persuaded hard-up Albion to part with £25,000 to take McDonald along the coast, where at last he managed to get plenty of game-time.

In two years with the Seagulls, he played more than 60 games and scored five times. The first came in a 2-1 defeat away to Exeter City; he was also on the scoresheet in a 3-0 home win over Hull City, then scored from the spot in a 3-2 home win over Fulham in the Auto Windscreens Shield three days later.

He was twice more successful from the penalty spot, one coming five minutes from the end of the game to secure an unforgettable 4-4 draw with Orient at the Goldstone, the other in a 2-0 home win over Cardiff.

At the start of the following season, with the Albion in exile at Gillingham, McDonald was on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw with Macclesfield, the toxic atmosphere around the proceedings captured by The Independent.

As financial constraints forced Albion to let go of certain players, McDonald returned to Scotland with Dunfermline in 1998. He then moved onto Partick Thistle and Greenock Morton before finishing his playing career back where it started at Hamilton Academical.

McDonald stayed in the game, initially working at Hamilton as youth development manager, before becoming the SFA community coach at Kilmarnock in 2003.

In 2013, he became academy director and in October 2017, McDonald was appointed caretaker manager of Kilmarnock after Lee McCulloch stepped down as boss with the club bottom of the table.

 

‘Have boots, will travel’ striker Steve Claridge mixed it with Lions, Wolves, Foxes – and Seagulls

VETERAN striker Steve Claridge, who saw service with 22 professional and semi-professional clubs, helped Brighton to one of the most amazing smash-and-grab raid wins I’ve ever seen as an Albion fan.

The former Millwall forward answered a plea from his old Lions boss Mark McGhee in November 2004 which paid off big time when the Seagulls snatched a 1-0 win away to West Ham United.

It was the first of only five games Claridge played for second-tier Brighton after McGhee turned to a player who had delivered for him during his spell in charge of Millwall.

Albion went into the game at the Boleyn Ground on 13 November 2004 on the back of three defeats and McGhee was desperate to stem a tide which had seen eight goals conceded and no points on the board.

A trip to West Ham (who ended up being promoted via the play-offs that season) was a daunting prospect if the bad run was to be halted.

However, as McGhee pointed out: “We approached the game differently. Whereas before we thought we could win, today we did not, and played to make sure we didn’t get beaten.

“We kept the ball up front more which is important. Steve Claridge was key to that.

“He is one of the fittest players I’ve worked with and I had no doubt that after 18 months away from this level he would be able to perform.”

Centre back Guy Butters headed the only goal of the game on 68 minutes from Richard Carpenter’s pinpoint pass and the Seagulls held out for an unlikely three points. Hammers boss Alan Pardew had to admit: “Technically they were perfect and obviously came here to play deep and try and nick it on a set piece, which is what they did.”

Claridge’s professional career looked to have run its course after he left Millwall in 2003 and became player-manager of Southern League side Weymouth.

But the disappointment of missing out on promotion had seen him and chairman Ian Ridley leave the club and Claridge, at the age of 38, was keen to give league football another go.

McGhee knew the qualities Claridge could bring to his ailing side having been a popular figure as Millwall came close to promotion from the second tier.

The West Ham success didn’t spark a great revival in Albion’s fortunes, however, and there was only one more win (1-0 at home to Rotherham) during Claridge’s month with the club.

In one of those strange footballing quirks of fate, his fifth and final game for the Seagulls came away to Millwall (see Argus picture at top of article) on 11 December 2004, when Albion lost 2-0.

Claridge said all the right things in a programme feature about him that day, included likening the circumstances of both clubs. “The club has no money and it is tough just to survive, but everyone is in it together,” he said. “At Millwall we had a great team spirit and togetherness, and that is very much the case here.”

Unfortunately, it seemed money was the obstacle that precluded Claridge’s stay at Albion being extended and, after his deal was over, rather than it being one last hurrah, he went on to continue his league playing days at Brentford, Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham, Bradford City and Walsall.

Then, at the age of 40, and with him needing just one more game to fulfil the landmark of 1,000 professional games, his old club Bournemouth gave him a match against Port Vale on 9 December 2006. No fairy tale, though, as they lost 4-0.

Born in Portsmouth on 10 April 1966, there aren’t many clubs in Hampshire and Dorset that Claridge has not had some kind of association with! Having been brought up in Titchfield, he started out with nearby Fareham Town in 1983. AFC Bournemouth took him on and gave him his debut in 1984 but he only played seven games before moving to Weymouth for three years.

Crystal Palace offered him a route back to the full professional game in 1988 but he didn’t make their league side, instead moving on to fourth tier Aldershot Town.

In two spells with Cambridge United, he scored 46 goals in 132 games. A falling out with manager John Beck saw him sold to Luton Town, and then bought back after Beck’s departure!

Nearly two years later, Birmingham City paid £350,000 to take Claridge to St Andrews and he became one of the club’s most prolific goalscorers, netting 35 in 88 games.

Such form eventually saw him switch to Leicester City and Claridge wrote himself into Foxes’ folklore, scoring winning goals in a play-off final to earn promotion to the elite level, and in the 1997 League Cup Final over Middlesbrough, the last time the competition staged a final replay. That, though, came after an ignominious beginning with Leicester.

McGhee’s successor as manager, Martin O’Neill, signed him for £1.2m in March 1996 and his early form was dreadful. Astonishingly, it seemed his poor start might well have been related to the wrong medication he had been taking for a heart defect for EIGHTEEN years, according to this official Leicester City website report.

In 1998, Leicester sent Claridge on loan to his hometown club, Portsmouth, but, in March 1998, McGhee, then boss at Wolves and seemingly at odds with more established strikers at the club, took Claridge to Molineux for a £350,000 fee. Only five months later he was sold to Portsmouth for £250,000.

Writer Dan Levelle said on an amusing Wolves’ fan website: “He was that amazing food blender you saw at your mate’s house, but you can’t get it to work at all for love nor money.”

claridge Wolves1

Claridge’s time at Molineux was clearly not appreciated by the Molineux faithful, as Levelle revealed in this 2012 piece.

Even more galling for Wolves followers was that no sooner had Claridge made the switch to Portsmouth, he was scoring a hat-trick against them in a 3-1 win at Fratton Park!

The goals and games came thick and fast for Claridge back on home turf – 34 in 104 – but his reign as player-manager at Fratton Park in 2000 was curtailed after just 25 games.

Remembering the player he’d seen only briefly a couple of years earlier, McGhee, by now in charge at Millwall, offered the striker a lifeline with the Lions, initially on loan and then as a permanent signing.

He joined on a temporary basis to cover a period when current boss Neil Harris was banned following a sending off, but, after he hit the ground running, was then tied to a permanent deal, as this Millwall blog post described in 2016.

Writer Mark Litchfield summed him up brilliantly when he said: “His style was unconventional, to say the least: shirt untucked, one sock down and no shin pads, any naïve defender probably thought they could eat him for breakfast. But hard work was a pre-requisite for Claridge – he wouldn’t give any opposition player a moment’s rest and would more often than not always get the better of them, too.”

Few could doubt Claridge’s enthusiasm for the game, as he told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus during his time in Yorkshire.

Even after achieving the 1,000-game landmark courtesy of Bournemouth, Claridge couldn’t resist the lure of another game, turning out for Worthing, Harrow Borough, Weymouth, Gosport Borough and Salisbury.

Many younger readers will know Claridge as a pundit who worked extensively for the BBC on TV and radio and he now coaches youngsters in Salisbury and Warsash through his own scheme, the Steve Claridge Football Foundation.

Claridge

 

Eagles’ Cup Final scorer Gary O’Reilly had two Seagulls spells

GARY O’REILLY was one of those rare players who had two different spells with Brighton – and played for rivals Crystal Palace in between.

Indeed, his career highlight came when he played – and scored – in the 1990 FA Cup Final for Crystal Palace against Manchester United.

It was from Phil Barber’s free-kick on the right that O’Reilly put Palace ahead after 18 minutes, his header looping over goalkeeper Jim Leighton.

United recovered to lead 2-1 before Ian Wright, only six weeks after breaking his leg, came on to score twice, in the 72nd minute and again at the start of extra-time. But Mark Hughes got an equaliser for United seven minutes from the end of extra-time, and, just as they had against Brighton in 1983, United went on to win the replay.

Born in Isleworth on 21 March 1961, O’Reilly started to make a name for himself with the Essex Boys team and, as a schoolboy, played for both England and the Republic of Ireland because his father was from Dublin and his mother English.

Arsenal wanted him on associate schoolboy forms, but it was Spurs who snapped him up at the age of 13. His youth team-mates at White Hart Lane included Kerry Dixon and Mick Hazard.

O’Reilly also had the offer of a sports scholarship at Columbia University before signing for Spurs as a professional. Among a total of 45 first-team appearances in five seasons at Tottenham were games in the Charity Shield at Wembley against Liverpool and a quarter-final victory in the UEFA Cup over German giants Bayern Munich.

Ironically it was the arrival of Gary Stevens from Albion shortly after the 1983 FA Cup Final that began to signal the end of his time at White Hart Lane, together with the emergence of Danny Thomas.

Even though he still had two years of his contract remaining, O’Reilly requested a transfer and, in August 1984, he became part of Chris Cattlin’s Albion squad after signing for a fee of £45,000.

Cattlin recalled: “I watched him eight times before signing him, and six times with Tottenham Reserves he had stinkers. But I thought then he had great potential.”

O’Reilly’s Albion career was only a few weeks old when he joined that illustrious list of players to score a winning goal AGAINST Palace.

That came on 15 September 1984 when 15,044 at the Goldstone Ground saw O’Reilly score the only goal of the game.

His centre-back partner that day – and for most of his time at the Goldstone – was Eric Young, who also later joined the Eagles, having left Brighton for Wimbledon.

O’Reilly made 79 appearances in three seasons with Albion, scoring three goals, and was virtually an ever-present for the first two seasons.

GO'R by the pierOff the field, he became a popular figure with a social conscience, leading a campaign to help youngsters fight drug addiction and becoming president of the Junior Seagulls.

Unfortunately, injuries, including a worrying hamstring condition, restricted him to just eight games in the ill-fated 1986-87 season.

Then, on 3 January 1987, manager Alan Mullery reluctantly sold him to Palace for £40,000. Two days later, Mullery was gone himself – his second spell as manager ending in a sacking.

O’Reilly played 70 times in his first four seasons at Selhurst Park but he did not figure in Steve Coppell’s plans in the 1990-91 season and had just one game on loan with Birmingham City.

At the age of 30, the versatile defender returned to the Seagulls and was given a two-year contract by Barry Lloyd.

“There’s no substitute for first-team football,” he said. “There is nothing like playing regularly to give a player the right degree of confidence.”

Although he made 31 appearances in the 1991-92 season, he was unable to prevent Albion’s relegation back to the third tier and, after a series of unsuccessful knee operations, he was forced to retire from the game in April 1993.

After hanging up his boots, he embarked on a successful broadcasting career for Sky Sports, BBC, ART Prime in Dubai and Trans World International’s Premier League international feed.

On Twitter, with the handle @mythreeleftfeet, he describes himself as “global TV presenter, co commentator, ex professional football player all round sports broadcaster, writer, amateur photographer & someone you might just like…”

worldsoccertalk.com caught up with him in May 2017 to discuss a new venture in which O’Reilly is joint host (alongside stand-up comedian Chuck Nice) of a weekly podcast in America Playing With Science, which explores fascinating topics linking sport and science.

Phoenix O'R w Pompey's Biley

Pictures mainly from the matchday programme.

Above, defending against Portsmouth’s Alan Biley, who later played alongside him.

History-maker Lynch went to Town after Brighton breakthrough

SUSSEX lad Joel Lynch made Brighton & Hove Albion history when he was made first team captain aged just 19 and 186 days.

The ‘youngest-ever Albion captain’ honour was a measure of the maturity the defender had displayed in Dean Wilkins’ young line-up in April 2007, even if it was a temporary appointment in the absence of the rested Guy Butters and the injured Dean Hammond.

“I wasn’t even captain of my school team,” Lynch told Argus reporter Andy Naylor. “I am 19 years old and it is a great honour. I am grateful to the gaffer for having so much faith in me and it will be good for my confidence.”

Unfortunately, the experience against Doncaster Rovers at Withdean was marred when Lynch missed a clearance, the player he was supposed to be marking, Graeme Lee, scored and Rovers went on to win 2-0.

It was a minor blip at the beginning of a career which has seen Lynch become a consistent Championship defender for more than a decade after emerging from Brighton’s youth ranks in the ‘noughties’.

Born on 3 October 1987 in Eastbourne, Lynch made his way through the age group sides with the Albion, often alongside another local youngster who went on to have a good career, Tommy Elphick.

“We played all the way through the youth teams together since the age of about ten,” Lynch told Naylor of the Argus. “Both of our games really changed and we really grew up when we went to Bognor on loan. We did really well there for Bognor and ourselves.”

 Lynch pictured in the Argus alongside Tommy Elphick when they were together as under 14s in 2001, and still together a couple of years later.

As well as being part of the Brighton team which reached the quarter finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2006, the year couldn’t have begun better for Lynch when Wilkins’ predecessor, Mark McGhee, handed him his first team debut in a narrow 2-1 defeat away to Southampton on 2 January 2006.

He went on to play 16 times that season, and also registered his first goal for the club, which is a fond memory for me and my son, Rhys. It came on Easter Saturday 2006, and we made a last-minute decision on the day to travel up to Ipswich to watch the game.

Although Albion were destined to relinquish their Championship status, they had a new-found confidence in their play thanks to the belated arrival of much-needed hold-up centre forward, Gifton Noel-Williams (on loan from Burnley).

He’d scored on his debut in a home draw against Luton and got an assist by laying on a goal for Paul Reid in a 2-0 win at Millwall two weeks before.

At Portman Road, always a favourite away ground, Albion, wearing the stylish all-burgundy away strip, opened the scoring when Noel-Williams buried a cross from Colin Kazim-Richards.

To add to the unexpected delight, teenage defender Lynch made sure our trip was a memorable one. Ipswich failed to clear a corner properly and when Reid returned the ball to the penalty area, Kazim-Richards jumped simultaneously with ‘keeper Shane Supple and the ball broke for Lynch (above left) to prod it in.

Albion, never wanting to make life too easy for themselves or their fans, allowed Ipswich to pull a goal back when Alan Lee flicked on from former Seagull Darren Currie’s cross for substitute Nicky Forster – a future £75,000 signing for Albion – to score. But thankfully it was too late for Ipswich to salvage anything from the game.

It was all to turn pear-shaped on the Easter Monday at home to Sheffield Wednesday, but for a couple of days at least the Great Escape still seemed a possibility.

In December 2006, the matchday programme devoted a two-page article to Lynch’s progress in the first team, pointing out how he had begun at left-back, stepped in as a left-sided centre-back – his more natural position – and even played right-back in the 8-0 thrashing of Northwich Victoria in the FA Cup.

Lynch spoke of the experience he had gained playing alongside the veteran defender Guy Butters, telling the programme: “I learned a lot from him, Guy’s had a great career and he is still playing great football. Hopefully I will just slot in there when the time comes and, in the meantime, I will play wherever the manager wants me to play and hopefully stay in the team. I’ve still got a lot of years ahead of me to make the centre-half slot my own.”

Lynch confessed being handed the no.5 shirt at the start of the season had given him a massive boost. “So far, I have really enjoyed this season. I have had my ups and downs and missed a few games due to my performances,” he said. “There have been things that I have had to sort out within my game, but I think I have resolved them now and I am slowly regaining my confidence and my performances have been improving week by week since I regained my place in the team.

“I feel more confident and my self-belief has improved a lot. I want to keep improving and I think that I can help the team in a big way.”

Lynch said a lot of the younger players had been inspired by Bobby Zamora’s elevation to Premiership football and added: “Hopefully a few years down the line we all will be playing at a higher level with Brighton in a new stadium.”

Interviewed by the Argus on the eve of the 2006-07 season, Lynch said: “Last season was a season to just keep on progressing and doing well.

“This season is one where I really want to push on. I want to play a major part in getting the club promoted and express myself more so maybe more clubs are interested in me or I get called up for England.”

Pretty bold stuff from a 19-year-old player still aiming to establish himself, but, having been awarded a three-year contract, he certainly wasn’t short of confidence. “I’ve got to do something really big or something big should happen,” he continued.

“We’ll take it one game at a time but you’ve got to aim for promotion. You can’t aim for anything else.”

Lynch certainly made his mark across the League One season, playing in a total of 44 league and cup games.

The following season was only a matter of a few weeks old when Lynch was sidelined by a hairline fracture in his left leg and ligament damage when twisting to clear in a game against Millwall. Then when he returned sooner than expected, he suffered a hamstring problem.

Perhaps if Albion’s move to the Amex had come sooner, Lynch might have stuck around, but he clearly felt he needed to be playing at a higher level than the Seagulls could attain at the time and, in September 2008, having made 88 first-team appearances, forced through a loan move to Nottingham Forest, with various extensions taking the loan through to the end of the season.

In July 2009, the deal eventually became permanent, with Forest paying a £200,000 fee and offering Lynch a three-year contract. Albion obtained midfielder Matt Thornhill on a six-month loan from Forest as part of the arrangement.

The young defender initially found it difficult to break through as a regular at Forest, with most of his appearances coming as a stand-in left-back.

It was in the 2011-12 season that he began to get games in his preferred position, at first playing alongside Wes Morgan and then, after Morgan’s transfer to Leicester, pairing with Luke Chambers.

In November 2011, writer Peter Blackburn waxed lyrical about Lynch’s form at Forest via the seatpitch.co.uk platform, describing him as “a tough-tackling, committed, classy and agile defender”.

Blackburn added: “Capable of reading the game, nipping in front of the attacker to steal the ball and hold his own in the air, Lynch also seems to possess the sort of driven cross-field ball out of defence not seen on the fair shores of the Trent since prodigal son, Michael Dawson so entertained the crowd.”

No doubt it would have delighted Lynch that he scored a last-gasp equaliser for Forest at the Amex in March 2012.

Four months later, he rejected a new deal at Forest to become a fifth new signing made by Simon Grayson at Huddersfield Town, and in August the same year he got onto the international stage – not for England, though, but Wales. He qualified for Wales because his father came from Barry in South Wales, and he made his debut as a substitute in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzogovina.

HuddExam LynchLynch made 22 appearances in his first season with the Terriers; nine more the following season, and 35 in 2014-15. In January 2015, Lynch was winner of the Examiner Huddersfield Town Player of the Month award, with writer Doug Thomson saying: “He scored a stunning goal to help clinch a welcome 3-1 win over Watford. But Lynch, who stung the Hornets with an overhead kick, also excelled in the centre of defence.

“And the former Brighton and Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest man played a key role when Town finally ended their long wait for an away win, and kept a clean sheet to boot, at Wigan Athletic.

“Calm and composed both on the ground and in the air, the 27-year-old brings plenty of experience to the backline. Lynch also works well alongside skipper Mark Hudson.”

lynch qprAfter making 40 appearances for Town in 2015-16, he departed Yorkshire for London and signed a three-year deal with Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

The fee was undisclosed but was believed to be something of the order of £1.2 million and the QPR manager at the time, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink told bbc.co.uk: “He offers us something a little bit different. He’s left-sided, which will give us better balance, and has that ability to bring the ball out from the back.”

Hamstring and foot injuries hampered opportunities to show his worth to the Loftus Road faithful, a frustrating situation he talked about in January 2018, but he has since become a regular at the heart of the Rs’ defence.

Perhaps with an eye to the future, Lynch has a profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

 

Pictures sourced from The Argus (Simon Dack / Liz Finlayson), matchday programmes, Huddersfield Examiner and QPR websites.