Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton and Hove has become known as ‘London by the sea’. Unlike London though, Brighton have only one major football club. Their minds seem to be on other things down there in party-town. The club, otherwise known as the Seagulls if you live locally, have enjoyed a brief spell flying high with the big clubs but have never quite managed to soar to the heights that the fans dream of.
Brighton isn’t known for its football, instead being a cool and trendy place to have a good time. However, there’s an increasing group of die-hard Seagulls fans that sleep in their blue and white shirts and pray for the day when they will re-enact their biggest success, when they drew 2-2 with Manchester United in the FA Cup final of 1983. With more and more people leaving London and using Brighton as Zone 7 on the Underground, and with such a magnetic attraction to the whole way of life down by the sea, it feels it might not be long before Brighton and Hove Albion are the next Chelsea.
Pre-World War 2
Within ten years of forming, Brighton would win their only piece of major silverware. Some might say they peaked early. What we know as Brighton and Hove Albion were born in 1901. For the next 19 years they played in the Southern League, which was just below the national Football League. It was whilst in the Southern League that they beat Aston Villa to lift the FA Charity Shield in 1910. However, only ten years later would they be given a bunk-up to the Third Division, where they would then have to prove they could cut it with the rest of the country.
In the years before the Second World War, Brighton failed to make a huge dent in the Third Division and only in 1937 and 1939 did they get near to that illustrious top spot and promotion by finishing third in the table. There was success in the FA Cup, however, and they would upset a few of the big clubs in various rounds such as Oldham, Leicester and Chelsea. In 1930 a record attendance at their stadium, the Goldstone Ground, saw 56,000 people witness a game against Newcastle United, which remains one of the highest attendances in the club’s history.
Post-World War 2
After the war, Brighton would embark on one of their most successful runs of form whilst in the Third Division. However, sadly this wouldn’t lead to promotion until 1959 when they beat Watford 6-0. Even with the likes of star players Dave Sexton, Adrian Thorne and Bill Curry, Brighton would find it tough in the Second Division and, in 1962, they dropped back down to the Third.
More upset followed when they were relegated to the Fourth Division in 1964. Things were looking decidedly bleak for the Seagulls but then, in 1964, something quite unexpected happened to the club. The famous England international Bobby Smith signed and helped them return to the Third Division where, after a difficult couple of seasons, they eventually climbed, regained their notoriety and, at the close of the 1960s, finished fourth in the league.
One historic encounter came during the 1960s when the Seagulls faced off against Division One’s Chelsea in a FA Cup match. Chelsea came down to the Goldstone Ground for a Fourth Round tie and, in front of a crowd of 35,000, Brighton held the big-boys to a 1-1 draw. Although the replay would see the second largest crowd to ever watch the club at 55,000, they lost the game 4-0.
In the mid seventies, Brighton were granted one of the game’s most successful and famous managers in Brian Clough, albeit for only one season. He didn’t make much of an impact apart from his usual spiky tongue in the dressing room.
Following Clough, a huge turning point came in the late 1970s when they were finally given the chance to play in the top division, after finishing runners up in the Second Division in 1979. They would have to adjust quickly though and thankfully they did. The Seagulls ended that season mid-table and would come back for another year at the top. Unfortunately, the dream wouldn’t last forever for Albion and, although they played in the FA Cup final in 1983, they were relegated back to the Second Division at the end of that season.
Once they’d slipped once, it wasn’t long before they slipped again and sadly for Albion fans their time in the Second Division was to be as short as in the First. 1987 saw them back down to the Third. They were becoming a yo yo club.
Barry Lloyd then came in as manager and he won them promotion back to the Second and then pushed on for the First. They landed themselves in the playoff final in 1991 but lost to Notts County at Wembley.
Let’s forget about this bit
The traumas suffered by Brighton and Hove Albion during the 1990s would be the most devastating the club has ever known. The decade started poorly when the club were relegated to the now Second Division for the 1991/1992 season (the year the Premiership was formed). Barry Lloyd subsequently left and, after a brief spell with Liam Brady, finally Jimmy Case took over. Neither of these men could help the struggling club and they hit rock bottom in 1996 when they were relegated to Division Three. It was a problem of money. The directors realised they would have to do something inconceivable to save the club from certain bankruptcy – they would have to sell their ground.
Money problems were reflected on the pitch. Case was sacked and Steve Gritt brought in to try and save the club who were ploughing head-first into non-league status for the first time in their history. In a remarkably dramatic showdown on the final day of the season, Brighton’s Robbie Reinelt scored the equaliser against Hereford United to save the club from relegation to the Conference. It was a last minute salvation, but that wouldn’t stop them becoming homeless.
No club wants it but some have to swallow hard and lump it for a period. Brighton had to sell their stadium and share their home games with Gillingham, 70 miles from Brighton. For two seasons, between 1997 and 1999, Brighton played at the Priestfield Stadium in a different county. In their new boss Brian Horton, they were finally finding some credentials and looking likely contenders for promotion to the Second Division. Unfortunately, Horton left and both Jeff Wood and Mickey Adams didn’t really do much to save them from staring down the barrel at the Conference.
In 1999 Brighton returned to the seaside and to a converted athletics track called the Withdean Stadium. Not really a football ground at all but it was in Brighton and that was what mattered to the fans. In 2000 a young lad would come to Brighton on loan from Bristol Rovers called Bobby Zamora and no one could have predicted the impact he would have. He scored on his debut and followed it with a hat-trick soon after when they beat Chester City 7-1. Brighton finished their first season back in their home town mid-table and confident for more next year.
Then came an unbelievable turn of the tide for the Seagulls. Having narrowly avoided relegation to non-league status, 2001 saw them win the Third Division and then in 2002, with new manager Peter Taylor, they won the Second Division too and went up to the First. It was a remarkable double promotion. Taylor then went on to so-called bigger things and, after Martin Hinshelwood’s poor spell, Steve Coppell came in to manage. Sadly, they didn’t perform as well as everyone had hoped and in 2003 they went down to the Second and lost their most potent weapon, Bobby Zamora, to Tottenham Hotspur.
Mark McGhee took the reigns and in his first season won them promotion through the playoffs back to the First Division. They would then finish the following 2005 season in their highest ever league position. Like the yo yo they are though, the next season saw them drop back down to the Second. McGhee would be booted out in September 2006 and in his place a caretaker manager Dean Wilkins would take over and then subsequently become the official manager.
- Football League Championship/(Old) Second Division – Runners-up (1978/79)
- Football League One/(Old) Third Division – Winners (1964/65, 2001/02)
- Football League Two/(Old) Fourth Division – Winners (1957/58, 2000/01)
- Southern Football League Division One – Winners (1909/10)
- FA Cup – Runners-up (1982/83)
- Charity Shield – Winners (1910)
Travel, Tickets and Contact Information
Brighton & Hove Albion
44 North Road
Tel: 01273 695400
Fax: 01273 648179
5/6 Queens Road
Tel: 01273 776992
Brighton & Hove Albion Club Shop
5/6 Queens Road
Tel: 01273 776969
Web: Albion Club Shop
If you fancy a day out to see the Seagulls then the Withdean Stadium is always happy to welcome you. Tickets on average are around £25 and the travel to the ground is pretty easy. Here is a link to the club site where all the information you’ll ever need can be found.