‘Saturday Afternoon’ by Fred Yates 1953. To see more of the artist’s work visit https://fredyates.wordpress.com
Brighton & Hove Albion were founded in 1901 after a meeting at the Seven Stars Hotel and spent the first 19 years of their existence in the Southern League, taking the place of Brighton & Hove Rangers, before being elected to the Football League in 1920.
The club was briefly named Brighton & Hove United but this was quickly changed to ‘Albion’. In their debut season, playing at the county cricket ground they finished third in the Southern League second division behind Fulham and Grays United. Their first entry into the FA Cup saw victories over Brighton United, Eastbourne and Hastings & St Leonard’s before defeat to Clapton.
Test Match Winners
The following season Albion were runners-up to Fulham, gaining promotion to the top flight of The Southern League by winning a ‘Test Match’ (play off) against Watford.
The Goldstone Ground was formerly part of Goldstone Farm and the land was originally used for grazing cattle. Mr John Clark leased the land from the Stanford estate and offered it to amateur team Hove FC who moved in for the 1901-02 season. Clark added an 8-foot perimeter fence and turnstiles, plus a covered stand for 400 spectators and changing rooms.
The new tenants paid an annual rent of £100 plus 50% of takings over £200 and played the first game at their new home on 7 September 1901, against Clapton
In February 1902 with their cricket ground unavailable Brighton approached Hove about using the Goldstone Ground. The leaseholders agreed and Albion played their first match there on 22 February, beating Southampton Wanderers 7-1 in a friendly. By this time the Hove directors had realised that their own gate receipts would not be enough to cover the rent so they approached Brighton offering a ground share. Albion readily agreed and started the following season at the Goldstone.
Once the Goldstone became the club’s full-time home ground they would remain there for 95 years. In 1904 Hove decided to move back to their former home, Hove Rec, leaving Brighton as sole tenants. Albion agreed a seven-year lease at £250 per year.
The club began making improvements almost immediately, erecting a new wooden stand behind the south goal. They also installed open-air bench seats next to the West Stand and added new turnstiles.
Charlie Webb, scorer of the goal that brought Brighton’s only major trophy and a major figure in the club’s history.
Charlie Webb and the ‘Champions of England’.
Albion won the Southern League 1st Division In 1909/10 and then went on to capture their first, and to date only, major trophy. The season-opening Charity Shield was, at that time contested between the champions of the Football League and the Southern League.
Facing 1st Division Champs Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in front of 13,000 fans, Brighton won by the only goal, scored by Irish International Charlie Webb.
On their return to Brighton after the win, fans packed the area around the train station to welcome their heroes home. The local Sussex Daily News suggested that Albion could now be dubbed ‘Champions of England’.
Charlie Webb carried on playing until 1915. He would then would go on to serve the club as manager from 1919 until the end of the 1946-47 season when, at the age of 60, he handed over responsibility for first-team affairs to Tommy Cook, remaining with the club for two more years before his retirement.
Pom Pom and Bullet
In this period Albion had a fine side including the likes of Bob ‘Pom Pom’ Whiting in goal and Billy ‘Bullet’ Jones up front and they also claimed the Southern Charity Cup in the same season that they won the Charity Shield.
Unfortunately the club’s status as a Southern League side made it tough to keep players away from the wealthier Football League clubs.
During the 1st World War the Goldstone Ground was used as a rifle range (it was the aforementioned Charlie Webb who led rifle drills on the pitch) and there were also a number of Rugby representative matches played to raise money for the war effort. All of this left the ground and it’s surrounds in terrible condition. Supporters got together and raised £1,974 for improvements. The South Stand was rebuilt and the West Stand reseated along with remodelling of the terracing.
After the War the Football League expanded and in 1920 Brighton were admitted to the new 3rd Division. Further improvements were made throughout the 20s and in 1926 the club reached an agreement with John Clark to purchase the remainder of his lease and almost immediately negotiated a new lease with an option to buy the freehold, the option being exercised in 1930 for £5,120 16/-.
Work continued throughout the 1930s including the construction of a new North Stand. The cost of this was £1,325, paid wholly by the Supporters Club.
In 1933, whilst they were enduring another mediocre season in the 3rd Division (South) Albion managed to put together a fine FA Cup run. Victories over Crystal Palace, Wrexham, Chelsea and Bradford Park Avenue set up a 5th round tie with West Ham United. A thrilling 2-2 draw at The Goldstone saw them head to Upton Park for a replay. There, the run came to an end with a narrow 1-0 defeat.
Like many stadia around the country, the Goldstone was damaged by a German bomb during the 2nd World War with the roof and girders of the North Stand suffering serious damage. The damage was repaired by the time football resumed after hostilities.
Shortly after the war the club announced a huge reconstruction programme which would affect all sides of the ground. This included increases in terracing (by 1953 all areas of the ground were terraced) and in 1954, construction of a brand new South Stand.
During the 1956-57 season the North Stand was extended to run the full length of the pitch and the following season the club finally escaped the Third Division (South) where they had been competing since 1920. Fired by 20 goals from Dave Sexton they won the title and spent the next four seasons in Division Two. On 27 December 1958, a record crowd of 36,747 turned up to see a clash with high-flying Fulham, which the Seagulls won 3-0.
But then in 1961-62 they were relegated to the 3rd Division and suffered another drop the following year to Division Four. They got back into the third in 1965 and spent the remainder of the 60s and all of the 70s bouncing between Division Two and Three.
Perhaps the club’s biggest claim during this period was the appointment of Norman Wisdom to the Board of Directors. Wisdom was a Director between 1964 and 1970, was often seen on the pitch at the Goldstone whipping up support and also rewrote the lyrics of the club’s unofficial anthem ‘Sussex By The Sea’.
Clough In – and Out
Albion dropped a bombshell in 1973 when Chairman Mike Bamber lured Brian Clough and Peter Taylor to the club, and the club got plenty of publicity but little success and first Clough, then Taylor departed. Then Alan Mullery arrived in the summer of 1976 and immediately started to oversee an upturn in fortunes.
Mullery’s five-year reign saw the club rise from the 3rd to the 1st Division with the arrival of Mark Lawrenson a key factor in Albion’s upturn. Mullery left in 1981 and was replaced by Mike Bailey who led the club to their highest-ever League finish of 13th in his sole season at the helm.
Next came the colourful Jimmy Melia who failed to keep the club in the top flight but did lead them to Wembley and an FA Cup Final. Marooned to the foot of the 1st Division, Albion’s Cup form bore no relation to their league displays. After seeing off 2nd Division Newcastle United in the 3rd Round they overcame Manchester City, champions-elect Liverpool at Anfield, Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday to set up a final against Manchester United.
A 2-2 draw in the first encounter was made famous by a late chance that fell to Gordon Smith to win the game for Brighton which was saved by Gary Bailey. The replay, with an already relegated Brighton seemingly out on their feet, finished 4-0 to United and their brave attempt had failed.
After this it was back to bouncing between the second and third divisions, a spell broken by a single season in the top flight. But events away from the playing field took precedence on the south coast.
A story broke in 1995 that the ground had been sold for redevelopment and it was also revealed that a clause in the club’s constitution forbidding directors from profiting if the club was wound up had been removed. Thus, Bill Archer, who had gained control of the club for £56.50 was able to remove Albion from their home of over 90 years.
Archer had arrived at the club in 1993 and ‘provided’ the £800,000 needed to save the club from a winding-up order. It was later revealed that the money had come from a bank loan using the Goldstone Ground at colllateral. When it became clear two years later that he intended to sell the ground with no provision made for a new home the fans, unsurprisingly, revolted.
A series of marches, pitch invasions and various other demonstrations failed to stop the sale and demolition going through and suddenly the club were left homeless and forced to ground-share for a number of seasons.
On 26 April 1997 Brighton played an emotional last ever home game at the Goldstone Ground, against Doncaster Rovers. They started the day three points adrift at the foot of the table and knowing anything less than a win would confirm their exit from the Football League – an exit from which there would surely be no way back.
A sell-out crowd of 11,341 filled the stadium for its 1534th and final league game at the venue. After both sides were reduced to ten men following a double sending-off, Albion finally got the breakthrough they needed when Stuart Storer scored after 67 minutes and held on for a tense, emotional 1-0 win. Results elsewhere meant that a draw at Hereford would be enough to retain their league status and Albion duly got the point needed and survived.
it is thanks to the tremendous loyalty and fighting spirit of their fans and to strong, generous new ownership from Tony Bloom that Brighton have managed not just to survive since they lost their home but also to thrive. They have done this to such an extent that having been on the verge of being forced into non-league football at the same time as they were left homeless just 20 years ago Brighton & Hove Albion now have not only a superb new stadium but a Premier League team capable of doing it justice.