In November 1897 the first professional football club in Brighton and Hove, Brighton United, was formed. It competed in the Southern League at the County Cricket Ground in Hove from 1898, but the gates were poor and the club folded in 1900 before the end of its second season. Some enthusiasts then formed Brighton & Hove Rangers, an amateur club who played to the north of Brighton at Withdean. Rangers managed some excellent results against good opposition and secured a place in the Southern League for 1901-02, but then they too were forced to disband.

The indomitable John Jackson, the former manager of United, organised a meeting on 24 June 1901 at the Seven Stars Hotel, now O’Neills, in Ship Street at which a new, third club was formed. Brighton & Hove United took up the now-defunct Rangers’ place in the Southern League. Because of complaints by Hove F.C., serious local competition, the name was soon changed to Brighton & Hove Albion before a ball was kicked.

Brighton & Hove United (1904-1905)

1920, Original members of Division 3 (South) 1921-58; 1958-62 Division 2; 1962-63 Division 3: 1963-65 Division 4; 1965-72 Division 3; 1972-73 Division 2; 1973-77 Division 3; 1977-79 Division 2; 1979-83 Division 1; 1983-87 Division 2; 1987-88 Division 3; 1988-92 Division 2; 1992-96 Division 2 New; 1996-99 Division 3 New.

Before WW2

Before joining the Football League in the inaugural Division 3 in 1920, Albion started in the Southern League Division 2 with current League teams like Fulham and Wycombe Wanderers, and moved into the Southern League Division 1, where they regularly played against teams like Portsmouth, Southampton. Crystal Palace, Millwall, Q.P.R. and West Ham United. Albion won their first Southern League Championship in 1909-10. In the FA Charity Shield they defeated the Football League Champions Aston Villa 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. As long ago as 1909, there were plans to leave the Goldstone Ground.

Brighton remained in Division 3 (South) from 1920 until the outbreak of War, without figuring in the promotion chase (only one team was promoted) until 1936-37 and 1938-39 when they finished third. The tedium was interrupted by FA Cup exploits which resulted in victories over first Division teams: Oldham Athletic (1914 and 1921), Sheffield U (1922), Everton (1924), Grimsby T (1930), Portsmouth (1930), Leicester C (1931), and Chelsea (1933). The largest home gate was for the visit of West Ham U to the Goldstone for a Round 5 match in 1933 when 32,310 spectators saw the Hammers held to a 2-2 draw. The largest pre-War League attendance was 19,183 for the visit of Brentford in 1929. The largest ever crowd to watch Brighton was for an FA Cup tie at Newcastle U in 1930 when 56,469 watched, and this is still the fourth largest crowd ever to watch the Albion.

Post-war to 1959

The years up to 1958 in Division 3 (South) Brighton were the team with the best record never to win the one promotion spot. (In 1958-59 Divsion 3 [South & North] was divided into Divisions 3 and 4.) They finally made it into Division 2 in the last season crowning the overdue promotion with a 6-0 victory over Watford before a record league crowd of 31,038 (gates closed). The first match in Division 2 was a record 0-9 defeat at Middlesbrough, with Brian Clough scoring five goals.

Brighton only remained in Division 2 from 1959-60 to 1961-62. In 1959-60 the average home league gate was 18,272. In the FA Cup Fourth Round second replay Brighton beat Rotherham United 6-0 before 32,864 fans at Highbury, the biggest crowd to date to watch Albion at a neutral venue, and the fifth largest at a neutral venue in their history. (Rotherham United had knocked Arsenal out of the Cup in the previous round).
In 1959-60, the average attendance for reserve matches was 3,469.

Star players: Dave Sexton (1957-59), Adrian Thorne (1954-61), Bill Curry (1959-60).

The 1960’s

At the beginning of the 1960’s Tottenham Hotspur became the first club to win the Football League Championship and FA Cup double with England centre-forward Bobby Smith leading the attack. Another top team at the time were Burnley who were Champions in 1959-60, runners-up in 1961-62 and third the following year. Brian Clough was leading scorer for three consecutive seasons in Division 2, playing for Middlesbrough between 1957 and 1960.
0, Albion drew 3-3 at home to Burnley in front of 28,672 spectators, before losing at Turf Moor in the replay 0-2.

The following year they were relegated from Division 2, and this began the biggest slide in the club’s history. By 1964 they were in the obscurity of Division 4 for the first time.

At the beginning of 1964, the football world was astonished when England international Bobby Smith signed for Brighton for £5,000. The club won the Fourth Division Championship with an average crowd of 17,975.

Brighton struggled to avoid being relegated from Division 3 until the last year of the decade, when under Freddie Goodwin they chased for one of the two promotion spots and finished fourth.. In 1966-67 a leading Division 1 team Chelsea visited the Goldstone for a FA Cup Fourth Round tie. The queue for the reserve match where you had to attend to buy the tickets was four deep for half a mile an hour before the kick-off. A capacity 35,000 crowd saw a thrilling 1-1 draw in the real match. Albion lost the replay 0-4 before the second biggest crowd of 54,852 to watch Albion at the time, and the fifth biggest in the club’s history.

Star players: Howard Wilkinson (1966-71), Bobby A Smith (1964-65), Kit Napier (1966-72), Wally Gould (1964-68). Dave Turner (1963-72), Brian Powney (1960-74).

The Early 70’s

The next decade was the most eventful and exciting in the club’s history. In 1971-72 Pat Saward took them up from Division 3 in a season when Aston Villa romped home as Divsion 3 champions and Brighton chased both Notts County and Bournemouth for the other promotion spot and against the odds overtook them. The home match against Aston Villa was an all-ticket affair before the BBC ‘Match of the Day’ cameras. There were outbreaks of fighting amongst fans and many arrests after the Bournemouth game and during the Aston Villa match. It was during this season with 30,000 plus crowds against Bournemouth and Rochdale that it became apparent that the Goldstone Crowd would be unsuitable for football in a higher division. It did not matter as the next season was an unmitigated disaster. Albion were relegated from Division 2 and in 1973-74 only narrowly avoided ending back in Division 4. In 1972-73 Chelsea visited the Goldstone before a disappointing all-ticket crowd of 29, 287, reduced because of fears of hooliganism from the notorious Chelsea followers. Chelsea won 4-1 and there was trouble on and off the pitch with ‘Chopper’ Harris sent off and many arrests.

Star players: Willie Irvine (1971-72), Kit Napier (1966-72), Bert Murray (1971-73).

The Middle 1970’s

Five consecutive home defeats started the 1973-74 season and the spectre of Division 4 loomed again. Something drastic needed to be done. New Chairman Mike Bamber astounded the football world by appointing the Brian Clough/Peter Taylor management duo. Brian Clough turned the club upside down in 6 months. Only the midfielder Peter O’Sullivan and winger Tony Towner were to survive the two and a half seasons of the era continued by Peter Taylor after Clough left for Leeds.

At the time of nationwide falling gates and rising hooliganism, Albion tried to buy their way out of the lower reaches of the League. Soon after Clough arrived Brighton suffered their worst ever defeat crashing 0-4 to non-leaguers Walton & Hersham in a FA Cup 3rd Round replay. They just about avoided going down in 1972-73 and started their clear out and spending spree in the close season before the 1974-75 campaign.

Signings included Ian Mellor for a new club record of £40,000 from Norwich C, and prolific goalscorer Fred Binney from Exeter C. Crystal Palace visited the Goldstone for the first match of the season. The Seagulls beat the Eagles 1-0 in a game marred by crowd violence before 26,235 fans. Brighton struggled throughout the season.

Brighton, Crystal Palace and Millwall were all challenging for promotion during 1974-75. In a tension filled encounter before an all-ticket 33,300 crowd at the Goldstone, Albion beat Palace 2-0, but the referee threatened to abandon the game if the Palace hooligans continued to throw smoke bombs. This was the 13th in a run of 14 consecutive home victories. Hereford U. won the title, but Brighton’s visit to Edgar Road was noted by the dropping of leading scorer Fred Binney. Eyes were on the diminutive replacement’s first touch of the ball. It took 50 seconds before Peter Ward put it in the back of the net. Peter Ward scored in 6 of the remaining 8 games, but Brighton lost a vital promotion game 1-3 at the Old Den against Millwall, who went up, and missed out along with Palace. Brighton signed Brian Horton from Port Vale for £30,000 during the season.

Peter Taylor resigned at the end of season.

1979-80

In the close season Alan Mullery signed Steve Foster from Portsmouth for £130,000, and a player Mullery regarded as a scoop: John Gregory from Aston Villa for a new record fee of £250,000.

Brighton’s first appearance in the top flight coincided with the beginning of the recession which affected this part of the south coast particularly badly – for the first time. Fears of hooliganism were very much on the mind of fair weather supporters, so it was only 28,604 turned up for the opening home game against Arsenal. A large police presence stopped any pitch invasions but there were plenty of arrests. Brighton lost 0-4 and it soon became apparent that remaining in the top division would be just as difficult as getting there in the first place. Mark Lawrenson missed a lot of the early games with a leg injury, and after Brighton went down 0-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford before the biggest League crowd to watch Albion of 52, 641, and followed it by 8 matches without a win including a 0-4 League Cup defeat at Arsenal, it seemed that bottom of the table Albion would be going straight down again.

The turning point came when Mark Lawrenson returned for the visit to the European Champions Nottingham Forest, who had not lost a home match since April 1977. Gerry Ryan scored the goal in Albion’s 1-0 victory. Brighton played Arsenal five times during the season without winning before 161,788 supporters. Over a million supporters watched Albion home and away during the season for the first time ever. Brighton finished 16th well clear of relegation.

In the close season, a major fire occurred in the South stand and the North Stand had to be demolished because it was unsafe. The ground was unsuitable for a first division club. The capacity was reduced to 24,000, which was below the average gate for the previous season.

1980-81

Gordon Smith, a midfielder for £400,000 from Glasgow Rangers, and Michael Robinson, a bustling forward from Manchester City, also for £400,000, were signed before the season started.

The season was a struggle with Albion bottom of the table by November. Crowd favourite Peter Ward joined Nottingham Forest for £400,000, but any crowd protests were dimmed by the record signing of Andy Ritchie from Manchester United for £500,000. However, the gates predictably fell, and with four games to go, Brighton were still in the bottom 3 with Crystal Palace propping up the table. Brighton won their last four games and achieved a miracle escape. Michael Robinson was leading scorer with 22 goals. The average crowd fell to 18,969.

1981-82

Before the season started Chairman Mike Bamber and Alan Mullery had a disagreement and Mullery’s contract was not renewed. Mike Bailey, the Charlton Manager was appointed.

Mark Lawrenson left for Liverpool for a club record sale of £900,000. John Gregory moved to Q.P.R. for £300,000.

Jimmy Case

Jimmy Case was signed from Liverpool for £350,000. Brighton played a more defensive game which disappointed the fans who voted with their feet. However, with their best start in the top flight and by the end of September 1981 were in eighth spot with pretenders Swansea C. above them.

Steve Gatting was signed from Arsenal for £200,000 and gave valuable service for the next 10 years. Micky Thomas was signed for £350,000 from Everton, but did not prove to be a success. The recession was biting deeply into football attendances which were compounded by the disgraceful state of the Goldstone Ground and the dreadful fences that the club had to put up to separate the fans and prevent pitch invasions. The supporters brought up with attacking football did not like the new style of Mike Bailey. However, the system worked as the club did not have a relegation battle and even beat Champions Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield. They finished 13th but gates were down to 18,247. The average away attendance was 21.886. Brighton were falling into debt.

Mike Bailey signed Eric Young from non-league Slough T. for £45,000, a record for a player for a non-league club. He did not play for the first team in Mike Bailey’s reign.

1982-83

Jimmy Melia

Brighton’s poor league performances away from home sent them down to Division 2 in bottom place. They only won once on the their travels 2-1 at second bottom Swansea C. Micky Thomas departed after a very short stay to Stoke City for £200,000. Mike Bailey departed before Christmas when Jimmy Melia took over the reigns. Andy Ritchie had not proved a success and was swopped for Terry Connor of Leeds U. They needed to repeat their feat of 1980-81 and win their last 4 League games. They did not win any of them. The only saving grace was the FA Cup run that nearly ended in victory at Wembley, but was eventually a comprehensive defeat in the replay.

Brighton’s record in the FA Cup up to 1982 was appalling. The only win over a club from a higher division since World War II was the defeat of Division 2 club Chesterfield 2-1 at the Goldstone in 1951, and this was the only giant-killing by Albion in this competition for 50 years from 1933 to 1983.

Since the War (up to 1983) they had been knocked out by non-league clubs Bedford T., Walton & Hersham and Leatherhead, as well as Division 4 clubs Swansea T. and Northampton T. In their Division 3 days from 1962 before their rise in 1972 they hardly ever reached Round 3 to play a big club, except in 1967 when they entertained Chelsea in Round 4. In the season 1981-82 they went down to Division 2 club Oxford United 0-3 at the Goldstone.

Round 3 saw an ideal draw with the visit of big name Division 2 club Newcastle U., a team with a poor FA Cup record in recent years. Newcastle gained a deserved draw 1-1 at the Goldstone, before 17,741 supporters, and after outplaying Brighton at St. James Park, Peter Ward, on loan from Nottingham Forest, scored his last ever goal for Brighton to pinch their first away win of the season before 32,134 spectators.

Manchester City (Division 1 relegated with Brighton) were the visitors to the Goldstone in Round 4 and lowly Brighton could only attract 16,804 spectators to a match when they outplayed City in a 4-0 victory.

Round 5 saw the expected end of Brighton’s Cup run as they had to visit League Champions and leaders Liverpool at Anfield, who had not lost on their own ground since Brighton beat them 1-0 the previous season. Brighton had not won an away League game this season and their last League win on their travels was at Liverpool in March 1982. Liverpool had not lost at home in the FA Cup since 1974, an event at the time that occurred about once a decade. The game was played mostly in Brighton’s penalty area. Gerry Ryan broke away and put Albion 1-0 up. Craig Johnston scored an equaliser with a scissor kick. Phil Neal missed a penalty and Jimmy Case scored a late winner for Brighton in another breakaway 2-1. The attendance was 44,868.

Middle of the table Division 1 Norwich City side visited the Goldstone for the Quarter Finals and were a great danger to bottom of the table Albion, despite Brighton having beaten them 3-0 earlier in the season. Brighton won comfortably 2-0 before a capacity crowd of 28,800, with the gates closed before kick off.

You need luck in the FA Cup and Brighton missed Arsenal who would play Manchester United in the other semi-final and faced Division 2 side Sheffield Wednesday instead. The match was played on a sunny day at Highbury and in an even game before a 54,627 crowd, the sixth largest ever to watch Brighton and the third largest at the time. Jimmy Case scored a swerving shot to put Brighton 1-0 up and this was the crucial moment of the match Wednesday fought back strongly and deservedly equalised, but failed to push their advantage and it was Michael Robinson who scored the winner 2-1.

Cup Final tickets were available only to season ticket holders and none went on general sale. Brighton’s allocation was 25,000 and although regular fans could get a ticket, many of the fair weather supporters missed the trip to Wembley.

Gordon Smith

Steve Foster missed the Saturday final through suspension. Brighton played much better than their bottom of their table position indicated. Gordon Smith scored a soft header for a 1-0 lead in an exciting first half. Brighton looked reasonably comfortable until full back Chris Ramsay got injured after a clash with Norman Whiteside. He was unable to challenge Frank Stapleton’s far post equaliser, 1-1. Then Ray Wilkins put United into a 2-1 lead with a rare and spectacular swerving shot. Albion defender Gary Stevens popped up in the last minute of normal time to score his first goal of the season and equalise 2-2. The most dramatic moment of the most exciting Cup Final for years came in the very last moment of extra time, when Gordon Smith was foiled by Gary Bailey, when he was expected to score.

Brighton got a larger ticket allocation of 30,000 tickets for the replay before a reduced capacity of 92,000, so there were many more fans for this match. Steve Foster returned and Brighton took the game to United and created as many chances but lost 0-4 for the largest losing margin at Wembley.
The season 1983-84 saw the first league visit of Chelsea. The visiting fans rioted and football was threatened with destruction by the hooligan element that had no interest in the game.

New Manager Chris Cattlin built a good new team but there was no quick return to Division 1. For his first match in charge unbeaten league leaders Charlton Athletic visited the Goldstone and were dispatched 7-0.

Following the 1982-83 FA Cup Final season, Liverpool had to visit the Goldstone before an all-ticket crowd of only 19,057 (Liverpool did not take their full allocation) and the Chelsea riot had discouraged many fans. Brighton won comfortably 2-0 with Gerry Ryan playing well and scoring a goal. Financial problems because of the relegation and falling gates began to pose limitations from the free spending days. The nucleus of the team included Eric Young (replacing Steve Foster in the centre of defence), Steve Gatting, midfielder Danny Wilson, Irish international winger Steve Penney, prolific goalscorer Dean Saunders, and Gerry Ryan playing his best ever football in attack. Brighton went out in the Fifth Round in 1983-84 to the runners-up in Division 1 and finalists Watford 0-2.

Before the 1984-85 season Mike Bamber lost his position as Chairman of the Board, and was replaced by Bryan Bedson. Both Brighton and Portsmouth were in the promotion race and they both missed out narrowly, without really exciting the crowds. Albion with Graham Moseley in goal only conceded 34 goals in 42 League games, but only Terry Connor scored regularly. A new striker was needed.

Dean Saunders was signed on a free transfer from Swansea City.

In 1985-86, Brighton visited Division 1 Newcastle United , and came up against Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne, and won 2-0. The FA Cup run ended in a disappointing 0-2 defeat in the Quarter-finals at home to Division 1 Southampton before an all ticket 25,069 crowd. League form was middle of the table, (below Crystal Palace and Portsmouth) and with falling crowds causing serious financial worries, the Directors felt compelled to take some action to bring about a resurgence of the glory years.

The end of the 1985-86 season ended with the acrimonious dismissal of Chris Cattlin and protest marches of 500 supporters through Hove.

Dean Saunders was leading scorer with 19 goals.

Alan Mullery was appointed as manager by the new Board. There was no new money to buy players and after defender Gary O’Reilly was sold to Crystal Palace for a give-away £40,000 to ease the financial problems, Alan Mullery resigned. Barry Lloyd became Manager and the season ended in disaster.

As a financial crisis loomed, the Management embarked on a series of decisions that were the root cause of the problems the club faced in the next decade. Barry Lloyd sold all the good players for paltry sums: Dean Saunders, Eric Young, Danny Wilson, and Terry Connor, and then introduced very ordinary players. The club finished bottom of Division 2 in 1986-87.

Barry Lloyd changed the play from passing football to an unattractive direct ball game. The club introduced a compulsory Membership Scheme that prevented any new spectators, and the view was impeded by anti-hooligan fences. Crowds fell drastically with the shoddy goods on show, and as any businessmen knows, once you lose your customers it is difficult to get them back. Together with the give away prices and the destruction of the team that Cattlin built it was hardly surprising the fans were annoyed. Most of them voted with their feet, and they never went back!

In 1987-88 Brighton figured in the Division 3 promotion race and after winning eight of the last nine games, with the penultimate game drawn, Brighton went up in second place behind Sunderland. The team were not convincing until the late run and the crowds did not return. Only 19,800 watched the home game they had to win against Bristol Rovers. Garry Nelson was signed as a striker and potted in 32 goals which was an excellent strike rate. Steve Gatting stood out in defence as a fine reader of the game.

In 1988-89, despite spending £700,000 on ground improvements, part of the East terrace had to be closed, never to reopen. The ground capacity was now officially 23,000. Barry Lloyd went to non-league Barnet and broke the record for a non-league player going to a league club twice in a week with two £100,000+ signings of Robert Codner and Nicky Bissett and then paid an astonishingly large sum for Larry May at £200,000 when he was nearing the end of his career. These were average Division 2 players. In an away game at Crystal Palace the referee awarded a record 5 penalties, 4 of them to Palace. Brighton finished 19th in Division 2.

In 1989-90, the Police insisted on closing the gates for an England ‘B’ international with only 16,125 spectators inside, and over 2,000 unable to get in. (This was the season following the Hillsborough disaster). There were demonstrations against Barry Lloyd in a season in which Brighton flirted with relegation and finished 18th.

With all the grounds in the top two seasons going all-seater, plans were again muted for the construction of a new stadium as everyone agreed that the Goldstone was unsuitable for improvement. Waterhall was the first choice but there were the obvious problems over both finance and planning permission.

The Nineties

Before the 1990-91 season Barry Lloyd signed Mike Small and john Byrne who had been playing on the continent. The quality of football improved, but the fans who had disappeared in the recession of the 1980’s did not return on a regular basis. Despite conceding more goals than they scored Brighton finished in 6th place and qualified for the play-offs courtesy of a last minute free kick by Dean Wilkins swerved over the wall against the only quality side in the Division: Ipswich in a 2-1 win in the last League match of the season. Brighton beat Millwall 4-1 and 2-1 in the first play-offs and took their biggest ever crowd on an away trip with 32,400 supporters on the road to Wembley in a crowd of 59,940. Brighton were thwarted by the woodwork twice, but were eventually outwitted by Notts County and lost 1-3.

Brighton gained a classic FA Cup 3rd Round 2-2 draw against Liverpool after being 0-2 down, but lost the Goldstone replay 2-3 AET, when it was Liverpool’s turn to come back from the dead in a game Brighton let slip.

In 1991-92 Brighton again sold their best players Mike Small and John Byrne, and lost the experienced Steve Gatting in defence. At least this time, the players were sold for a decent price, West Ham United paying £400,000 for Small and Sunderland laying out £235,000 for Byrne. Crowds fell again and the team plummeted for the second time they had sold all their best players and were relegated from Division 2 to the the New Division 2 (after the formation of the Premier League). In the FA Cup 3rd Round a capacity crowd of 18,031 against non-leaguers Crawley Town saw Brighton win 5-0 in what was a local derby. The dis-satisfied fans formed the Brighton Independent Supporters Association and staged protests.

In 1992-93, serious financial problems meant that the players did not get paid on time and Brighton facing a winding-up petition. They sold Mark Beeney, the keeper to Leeds United for £350,000 and obtained a stay of execution from their financial problems. They finished 9th in Division 2. Money was also made from three meetings with Manchester United watched by 75,664 spectators. In the League Cup, United did not bring a full team with the supporters unable to see Ryan Giggs. Brighton drew 1-1 in the home match and lost 0-1 at Old Trafford where supporters said they played well. In the FA Cup, Brighton struggled to beat Woking after a replay and met Manchester United at Old Trafford. Only Clive Walker made any impression for Brighton, but the game was heading for a 0-0 draw until Ryan Giggs swerved a free kick around the defensive wall for a late winner 0-1.

1993-94 began badly under Barry Lloyd and to the relief of the supporters he was finally dismissed as Brighton were next to bottom in Division 2 at the end of November. Liam Brady took over in December 1993, and 10,053 spectators turned up for the visit of Barnet to see Brighton win 1-0 followed by a crowd of 9,753 to see Kurt Nogan score a rare Brighton hatrick in a 4-1 win over Cambridge United. This was followed by a dramatic come back in an exciting 3-3 draw at home to Bournemouth before 9,689 spectators. Liam Brady had a daunting task to build a completely new side. However, he managed to save them from relegation in a season when Brighton finished 14th.

In 1994-95 under the new leadership of Liam Brady Brighton finished 16th in Division 2.. In the FA Cup they lost 1-2 at non-league Kingstonian. One plus was the two leg League Cup victory over Premier League Leicester City 1-0 at the Goldstone and 2-0 at Filbert Street with Stuart Munday scoring a spectacular 30 yard opening goal.

1995-96 was a disastrous season as they fell to next to bottom of Division 2 by October and then started on a bad run which led to Liam Brady’s resignation. They never escaped the relegation zone and by the end of the season dropped into the bottom division (now Division 3) for the second time ever. New Manager Jimmy Case was unable to stop the slide after Liam Brady departed. A thousand fans invaded the pitch after the home match against Carlisle in April and demanded the Directors Archer and Bellotti Out! And demonstrated that they would not be going to watch home matches at Fratton Park, Portsmouth. Albion won the match 1-0. In the final match against York City before a crowd of over 10,000, the discontented supporters invaded the pitch during the first half and the match was abandoned. There were no complaints from the rest of the crowd. The replayed match played in a midweek afternoon, with tickets not available on the day, was all time League low for Brighton of 2,106, and this was the official crowd attendance for the match.

The sale of the Goldstone Ground to developers had ignited the fires of simmering protests that had rumbled for over a decade. In the close season further one year tenure of the ground had been secured so Brighton had somewhere to play for 1996-97.

1996-97

Jimmy Case seemed to have built a team of very good players and the supporters expected Brighton to figure amongst the promotion contenders.

Because of protests against the Board of Directors, Bellotti and Archer, the atmosphere at the ground for most home matches was appalling. This began to have an affect on performances and it certainly contributed in reducing the attendances to an all time low.

Two points were deducted by the League after a mini crowd invasion in a home defeat against Lincoln City.

Brighton found them themselves at the bottom of the bottom division (at one time 12 points adrift) in 1996-97 going into the New Year, and faced going out of the League. Jimmy Case lost his job after a humiliating home FA Cup replay defeat against non-league Sudbury Town, followed by another home defeat against strugglers Darlington.. Steve Gritt was appointed Manager.

Gillingham FC

Director David Bellotti announced a contract had been signed for Brighton to play at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, next season, to the complete dismay of all the fans. Gates plunged to an all time low. The Goldstone East Terrace was completely closed.

Jimmy Case seemed to have built a team of very good players and the supporters expected Brighton to figure amongst the promotion contenders.

Because of protests against the Board of Directors, Bellotti and Archer, the atmosphere at the ground for most home matches was appalling. This began to have an affect on performances and it certainly contributed in reducing the attendances to an all time low.

Two points were deducted by the League after a mini crowd invasion in a home defeat against Lincoln City.

Brighton found them themselves at the bottom of the bottom division (at one time 12 points adrift) in 1996-97 going into the New Year, and faced going out of the League. Jimmy Case lost his job after a humiliating home FA Cup replay defeat against non-league Sudbury Town, followed by another home defeat against strugglers Darlington.. Steve Gritt was appointed Manager.

Director David Bellotti announced a contract had been signed for Brighton to play at the Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham, next season, to the complete display of all the fans. Gates plunged to an all time low. The Goldstone East Terrace was completely closed.

The Great Escape

Steve Gritt was appointed Manager in December 1996, when Albion were 11 points adrift at the foot of Division 3, with one club to be demoted out of the League if the Vauxhall Conference Champions fulfil the League Ground requirements (most likely). The crowds and atmosphere at the Goldstone were at an all time low.

At the end of Janaury after Albion’s 3-0 home victory over Rochdale before a poor 4,468 crowd, Albion had 19 points and were still 7 points adrift of Doncaster Rovers at the bottom of the League.

Talks to start between the new Richard Knight Consortium and the hated Chairman Bill Archer announced.

After gaining a rare away point in a 1-1 draw at Mansfield, Albion go back to 9 points adrift at the bottom, and this was the position they were in before the 8 February “Fans United” game against Hartlepool United which Albion won 5-0, with an attendance of over 8,412, which was the largest for all clubs in Division 3 for the whole of the season so far. By the end of the day, hopes were beginning to be raised that Albion would achieve the impossible and avoid the drop as they were now 6 points adrift of Doncaster Rovers. Experienced supporters realised that if Albion could maintain there home form and pick up a few points away, it would go right down to the wire to the last minutes of the last game of the season (as it proved to be).

Chairman Bill Archer was still pursuing his ill-conceived plan of a stadium at Toad’s Hall, Hove.

February continued with a 1-0 home win over Exeter City, when although they had played an extra game, Albion were now only 3 points adrift of Doncaster. Away form was awful with a 1-2 defeat at Carlisle. The proposed fans boycott was abandoned for the home 3-2 victory against Swansea City. The first meeting between Richard Knight and Bill Archer took place on 23 February 1997.

March began with a 0-2 defeat against fellow strugglers Darlington. However, Albion’s home victory 2-1 against play-off contenders Northampton Town made it five home wins on the trot.

A look at the fixture list showed that the remainder of Albion’s game were all difficult with the possible exception of the next home match against Leyton Orient. Albion’s run of successive victories came to an end with an incident packed 4-4 draw which included a skirmish between some Albion spectators and Orient players, before one of the most volatile Albion crowds ever of about 9,000 spectators. Hereford United drop into the relegation zone with only 3 more points then the Albion with the same number of games played.

Albion then went down 0-3 at Hull City. Home form continued to be excellent before a crowd of over 9,000 for a 2-0 win over Cardiff City. With seven games to go the situation still looked grim for the Albion. None of the bottom clubs went on a bad run and they were all doing much better than expected.

Everyone knows what happened next, 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.

I am not going to go in to too much about Archer and Bellotti, and the fight for the club by the fans, as this can all be summed up in a wonderful book, Build a Bonfire. I suggest reading it.

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.

Back Home

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.

Withdean Stadium

Mark McGhee took the reins 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.

The season began with uncertainty, over the future of manager Mark McGhee and consequently the out of contract players. Several board member, led by major shareholder Tony Bloom wanted McGhee sacked, but chairman Dick Knight still backed him. The situation was eventually resolved with McGhee retained as manager, youth coach Dean Wilkins promoted to first team coach, and first team coach Dean White named chief scout.

With pre-season came mixed messages, then manager Mark McGhee proclaiming promotion was the aim, while Knight stated at the pre-season fans forum that mid-table would be acceptable. The mixed feelings for Seagulls fans continued into the season, as new non-league signing Alex Revell scored a debut goal to secure a 1-0 victory at Rotherham, but in the immediate aftermath young forward Colin Kazim-Richards handed in a transfer request that would eventually lead to him leaving the club on deadline day to sign for Sheffield United for £150,000 with a 25% sell on clause.

Dick KnightResults quickly deteriorated, and manager Mark McGhee was sacked at a meeting with Albion chairman Dick Knight on 7 September 2006. Assistant manager Bob Booker also left the club on the same day, after several years working with a number of managers. Many fans had lost faith in McGhee during the previous season’s relegation battle, and this was cited by Knight as one of the key reasons for his departure, along with a loss of faith in the dressing room.

Following McGhee’s sacking the club installed Dean Wilkins as caretaker-manager, saying they would have to give Wilkins a chance to see what he could do for the club. Chief scout Dean White was promoted to Wilkins’ assistant manager. The pair were given the posts on a permanent basis on 29 September, and former player Ian Chapman was also added to the coaching staff shortly afterwards.

It was to prove a difficult season for the rookie management team, whose inexperience was mirrored by that of the team, 10 youth players having been awarded contracts in the summer, along with several youth team graduates already in the first team.

The 2006-07 season proved to be very successful for the Seagulls Reserve team, after securing the Sussex Senior Cup and winning the Football Combination Southern League by finishing just one point ahead of Southampton Reserves.

On 24 April Dean Wilkins signed a three-year contract extension.

The 2007-08 season was a considerably better season for the first team, who finished seventh in League One, finishing 7 points off the play-offs and the club retained the Sussex Senior Cup beating Crawley Town, 1-0, in the final.

Return of Adams (2008 – 2009)

Micky Adams

After what many fans and pundits deemed a very good 2007-08 season for Brighton and Dean Wilkins, it was announced on 8 May 2008 that Wilkins had been sacked from his position of manager and offered the role of first-team coach at the club, which he subsequently declined. It was then revealed that Micky Adams would be returning to the club to take over the duties of being manager and that reserve team coach Ian Chapman had left the club.

The 2008-09 season began strongly, albeit with poor home form. An early highlight was a penalty win against Manchester City in the second round of the Football League Cup which shocked the city fans and their new owner, the royalty of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. After being defeated by Luton on penalties in the Football League Trophy, Adams left the club by mutual consent.

Russell Slade (2009)

After 3 weeks of managerless football, Brighton appointed ex Yeovil manager Russell Slade as their frontman until at least the end of the season. Brighton lost their first two games under the management of Slade and like many seasons beforehand, it looked inevitable that Brighton would need a miracle to stay up – amazingly a miracle opportunity arose, with Slade winning 5 of Brighton’s last 7 games. The relegation dogfight however lasted until the very last game, with a 1-0 win over Stockport County, also risk of relegation following a 10 point deduction, securing Brighton’s position with just 2 points to spare. Brighton finished the season in 16th, and with a new manager, a new stadium under construction and a whole host of new signings over the summer, things were looking up for the team.

Gus Poyet (2009-2013)

Gus Poyet

After a disappointing run of results in the first few games of the season, Slade was sacked on 1 November 2009, to make way for former Chelsea and Tottenham player, Gus Poyet, who officially became Brighton’s new manager on 10 November. The move also saw former Ipswich Town player Mauricio Taricco join the club, as Poyet’s assistant. The move proved to be a positive at first, as Poyet’s first game in charge saw the Seagulls overcome local rivals Southampton F.C., gaining a 3-1 victory at St. Mary’s Stadium. Around this time, 12 year veteran chairman Dick Knight became Life President at the club to make way for Tony Bloom, a Brighton fan, poker player and founder of Starlizard (who predict the results of football matches amongst other services). Bloom invested £93 million to secure the building of the new Falmer Stadium without the club taking external debt. The team gradually climbed up the league, owing to some large wins, including a 5 goal win at Wycombe, and 3 goal wins at Brentford and Tranmere, and despite an embarrassing 7-1 thrashing at Huddersfield Town. Brighton were able to retain their League 1 status on 24 April with a win over Bristol Rovers. Brighton captain Nicky Forster left the club, and moved to Brentford, once his contract expired at the end of the season. A late run saw Brighton go undefeated in 5 games, finishing the season 13th.

In the 2010/11 Season Brighton’s solid defence saw them to the top of the league, clear by 3 points, with the second greatest goal difference, only behind championship rivals Southampton, and to the most wins in the football league, equal to championship rivals Southampton. They won promotion on Tuesday 12 April at the Withdean after a 4-3 win over Dagenham and Redbridge, the team then secured the League One title on 16 April at the Bescot Stadium after a 1-3 victory over Walsall. As the season drew to a close Brighton form dropped after securing the League one title and they last 2 home games and draw their last 2 away game, including losing their last ever game at Withdean 3-2 to 3rd place Huddersfield before drawing 1-1 with Notts County on the last day of the season. A victory parade was then held on Brighton seafront on 8 May 2011.

A late run of form in the 2009/10 Season saw Brighton enter the 2010/11 Season undefeated at home for 2 games, with their last loss at home to Carlisle on 10 April 2010. This form continued till 23 April 2011 in a loss to championship rivals Southampton, though this was elementary as Brighton had won the league little over a week earlier. Brighton were undefeated, in cup and league, for over a year at the Withdean Stadium, with a total of 27 games run. Brighton only lost 2 home games all season and only one team managed the double over them, Huddersfield Town. During the season Brighton peak form included 9 consecutive home wins and 9 consecutive matches undefeated in all competitions and also recently recorded 8 consecutive wins, both home and away, equalling the post war record for the club. In addition, Brighton’s 24 points in March matched the Football League all time record for points in a single calendar month.

On 16 May 2013, days after Brighton lost to Crystal Palace in the Championship play-off semi-finals, Poyet was suspended by Brighton and told to stay away from the club pending an inquiry. Poyet reportedly told his players that he could not guarantee whether he would remain at the club, and also intimated that he had taken Brighton as far as he could. On June 23, Brighton released an official statement declaring that Poyet had been informed that “his employment has been terminated with immediate effect”. Poyet said that he was only made aware of his sacking when a member of the BBC production staff handed him a printout of the club statement, whilst working as a pundit for BBC Three’s coverage of the Spain vs. Nigeria group game in the FIFA Confederations Cup, although club senior management said that Poyet knew of his sacking beforehand. Poyet unsuccessfully appealed the decision.

Óscar García Junyent (2013 – Present)

Oscar

On 26 June 2013, Brighton appointed Óscar García as head coach; this was shortly followed by Charlie Oatway leaving the club by mutual, having spent 8 years as a player, and 3 as a coach, at the club After 6 competitive matches in charge of Brighton, CA Osasuna requested permission to approach the newly appointed manager; Brighton denied this request.

His first win came on 17 August, 1–0 at Birmingham City, however has turned in Brighton and Hove Albion in to an exciting attacking side, with a solid defense. Experience and Youth are scattered though out the starting teams, and full of energy and enthusiasm.