At the dawn of the 1980’s Crystal Palace were the team tipped to become the unlikely new kids on the block. However, as that team of talented youngsters failed to live up to the hype at Selhurst Park, down the M23 at the Goldstone Ground, Brighton and Hove Albion catapulted into the top flight and began to take the odd notable scalp during their stay.
Under Alan Mullery, Mike Bailey and finally Jimmy Melia, the Seagulls battled relegation on a yearly basis, even finishing in a respectable 13th on 81-82.
The club’s proudest moments came in 1983 when their famous FA Cup run saw them knock out the likes of Manchester City and Newcastle United before a surprise 2-1 win at the usually impenetrable fortress of Europe’s top club side, Liverpool in the fifth round ( a giant killing feat they would repeat in round 4 the following year on home turf). Galvanised by the win at Anfield, Brighton made the final where they met cup specialists, Manchester United, at Wembley – although the team sported a different, specially designed all-blue Adidas jersey for the occasion.
With the likes of Tony Grealish (standing in as skipper for the suspended Steve Foster), Gary Stevens, Jimmy Case and top scorer Michael Robinson in the starting XI, Brighton struck first through Scottish striker Gordon Smith. Ron Atkinson’s United scored twice in the second half to take the lead before Stevens restored parity with three minutes remaining.
Incredibly, Albion were on the verge of another cup upset in the dying seconds of extra time when the ball dropped again to their former Rangers man just seven or eight yards out. United keeper Gary Bailey flung himself into the path of the goal bound effort for which the immortal commentary of radio commentator Peter Jones spawned the name of the club’s fanzine “…and Smith must score…”. Of course, he didn’t and Brighton went on to get thrashed 4-0 in the replay just four days later.
Defeat in the Cup final was compounded by relegation from the First Division after four seasons. They have yet to return.
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