A Moment in Time - 1983, the year when Brighton shocked a nation on their way to the FA Cup final...

squad

Brighton and Hove Albion first came into the Football League when a Third Division was created in 1921.  They spent all their time in that Division, other than 4 years in Division Two in the late ‘50’s.  That all changed in 1977 when they won promotion to Division Two, finishing second to Mansfield.  The following season they missed out on promotion to English football’s top tier on goal difference, when Tottenham took the 3rd promotion spot.  But they were undeterred, finishing 2nd the following season when Crystal Palace were champions.  Ironically, Palace had been the other promotion side when Brighton and Mansfield came up from the Third Division in 1977.

So, August 1979 Brighton played their first ever match in the First Division.  It wasn’t an auspicious start as Arsenal arrived at The Goldstone Ground and came away with a 4-0 win.  Brighton suffered defeats in their first three games, before beating Bolton.  By the time they travelled to the European champions, Nottingham Forest in mid November, they had won just 2 games from 14 and were bottom of the table.  Forest had gone 42 matches at home without losing.  Remarkably, Brighton won the game 1-0 and ended Forest’s run.  Brighton won the home game, 1-0, later that season too.

Brighton finished 16th that season, 19th in the next (just 2pts above the relegation zone), and then 13th in 1982.  By Christmas 1982, they were in the bottom three, having shipped 41 goals in their 22 matches.  Ultimately, they didn’t survive and were relegated from the top division, never to be seen again.

But the focus of this particular Moment In Time is the cup run they had that year, which very nearly ended in dreamland

Brighton had never gone further than the Fifth Round in the FA Cup before, reaching that stage on 5 previous occasions.  Since they became a First Division side, they had gone out in the Fourth Round twice.  1983 would be different.

When they gained promotion to the First Division, they were managed by ex-England international, Alan Mullery.  Mullery had overseen the rise from Division Three, but fell out with the club in 1981 and was replaced by ex-Charlton manager, Mike Bailey.  Bailey lasted just one season and the club then appointed Jimmy Melia

MANAGER

Jimmy Melia, had begun his professional at Liverpool, but left the club a couple of years after Shankly took over.  Brighton was his 4th managerial appointment and he was considered a temporary arrangement, as they tried to maintain their First Division status.  His reign lasted just 311 days.

SQUAD

Goalkeepers

GRAHAM MOSELEY (age 29)  -  Spent 5 years at Derby County, before moving to Brighton in 1977.  He spent 9 years at the Goldstone Ground making 189 appearances.

PERRY DIGWEED (age 23)  -  Began his career at Fulham and after 5 seasons, moved to Brighton in 1981.  Became a regular once Moseley left and ended up with 179 appearances for the club before he left in 1993.

Defenders

CHRIS RAMSEY (age 21)  -  Started as an apprentice with Bristol City, before moving to Brighton in 1980.  He was there for 5 years, before joining Swindon.

STEVE FOSTER (age 25)  -  Spent 4 seasons at Portsmouth making over 100 appearances before he arrived at Brighton in 1979.  Inspirational captain, was well-known for wearing a white headband during matches.  Earned 3 England caps, and was in the 1982 World Cup squad.  Also played in League Cup final for Luton in 1988 and 1989

GARY STEVENS (age 21)  -  Started out at Ipswich, but never made it to the first team and so moved to Brighton, making his debut in 1979.  He made 133 appearances, before moving to Tottenham in the summer 1983.  Capped 7 times for England.  Versatile player who could play at full-back, centre-back or midfield.   Now a Radio and TV pundit.

STEVE GATTING (age 24)  -  He started out at Arsenal, but struggled to hold down a regular place.  Moved to Brighton in 1981 and made over 300 appearances for the club.  Brother of former England cricket captain, Mike.

GRAHAM PEARCE (age 23)  -  Spent 4 years at Brighton from 1982, but only made 88 appearances.  Then moved to Gillingham.

Midfielders

JIMMY CASE (age 29)  -  Spent 8 seasons at Liverpool, winning League, European Cup, UEFA Cup and League Cup winners medals.  Moved to Brighton in 1981 and stayed for 4 years before leaving for Southampton.

TONY GREALISH (age26)  -  Battling midfield player who spent 5 years at Leyton Orient, which included an FA Cup Semi-Final appearance.  Then moved to Luton, where he helped them reach the First Division.  Joined Brighton in 1981 and stayed for 3 seasons.

GARY HOWLETT, (age 20)  -  Dublin born player, who joined Brighton from Coventry in 1981.  Later joined Bournemouth in 1984 and was capped once by Republic of Ireland.

NEIL SMILLIE (age 24)  -  Part of the Crystal Palace side dubbed ‘Team of the 80’s’ and moved to Brighton in 1982.  Spent 3 seasons there before moving to Watford in 1985

GILES STILLE (age 24)  -  Started his career at Kingstonian, before moving to Brighton in 1979.  Never more than a fringe player, made only 27 appearances in 5 years.

Strikers

GORDON SMITH (age 28)  -  Scottish striker who began his career at Kilmarnock before moving to Rangers in 1977.  Won numerous honours with them, before joining Brighton in 1980. Made over 100 appearances before joining Man City in 1983.  He spent part of the 1982-83 season on loan back at Rangers.

MICHAEL ROBINSON (age 24)  -  Began his career at Preston in 1975, before Malcolm Allison splashed out £750,000 for him in 1979 to bring him to Man City.  After just one season there, he moved to Brighton, where he spent 3 years.  He then joined Liverpool.  Born in Leicester, but played 24 times for Republic of Ireland.  After his playing career, he became a tv pundit in Spain.

ANDY RITCHIE (age 22)  -  Started his career at Man Utd in 1977.  Couldn’t get a regular place, despite a decent scoring record when he did get a game.  Moved to Brighton in 1980, spending 3 seasons there, before moving to Leeds.  He was later part of the Oldham side that got into the First Division and reached an FA Cup Semi-Final.

GERRY RYAN  -  Began his career in Dublin at Bohemians, before joining Derby in 1977.  Later joined Brighton and his goal ended Nottingham Forest’s long unbeaten home record in 1979.  His career was ended early when he broke his leg in 1985. 

FA CUP 1982-83

There had already been some giant-killing results as Altrincham, Northwich Victoria, Boston United, North Shields, Bishop’s Stortford, Slough Town and Telford United had all put out league opponents in the First Round.  Weymouth and Worcester City both put out league opposition in the Second Round.  There were more surprises to come.

THIRD ROUND

Brighton began their cup campaign, as a welcome distraction from their disappointing league form.  Just 1 win in 10 had them 4th from bottom, 1pt above the last placed side, Birmingham City.   They were drawn at home against Newcastle United, who were mid-table in Division Two.  Newcastle eventually just missed out on promotion as they had one of their most exciting teams in recent seasons, including players like Kevin Keegan, Terry McDermott, Imre Varadi and Chris Waddle.

Terry McDermott equalised Andy Ritchie’s opener for Brighton, and the game ended 1-1.  The replay at St. James’s Park was in front of a vociferous crowd confident of home success.  Brighton had yet to win away all season and so Newcastle piled forward to put the visitors under pressure, but it meant Brighton could hit them on the break.  That was how the first goal came.  A counter attack saw hesitation in the home defence and Peter Ward was on hand to put Brighton in front. 

Newcastle kept pressing, had shots cleared off the line, hit the woodwork and even had two goals disallowed, but they couldn’t equalise and Ward’s goal proved to be the only goal of the game.

8th January 1983
BRIGHTON  1-1  NEWCASTLE
Ritchie

Moseley;  Ramsey, Pearce, Foster, Stevens;  Case, Grealish, Stille; Ward Robinson, Ritchie

12th January 1983
NEWCASTLE  0-1  BRIGHTON
Ward

Moseley;  Ramsey, Foster, Stevens, Gatting;  Case, Grealish, Stille (Smillie); Ward, Robinson, Ritchie

Other Matches

There were some surprises in the Third Round as Bishop’s Stortford took Middlesbrough to a replay, but eventually perished.  Second Division, Derby County beat Nottingham Forest, who 3 years previously were European Champions.  Fourth Division side, Newport County forced a replay with Everton, but also lost.

The big game was Manchester United, 3rd in the league, against West Ham, who were lying 5th.  Man Utd won 2-0.

FOURTH ROUND

Brighton were drawn against Manchester City.  City were lying mid-table and had been beaten finalists just 2 years before.  They’d beaten Sunderland after a replay, in the Third Round.  Ultimately, this season was to end in disaster for City, who were relegated.

Brighton began well when Jimmy Case’s shot was deflected past Joe Corrigan.  Then just before half-time, Andy Ritchie’s shot was parried by Corrigan, but the loose ball fell to Smillie who couldn’t miss.  In the second half, a lovely bit of skill in midfield from Tony Grealish saw him find Robinson in the area and he finished in style.  Then, with a minute to go, a typical Brighton breakaway saw Robinson beat the defence to slide the ball past Corrigan and Brighton had won handsomely.

29th January 1983
BRIGHTON  4-0  MANCHESTER CITY
Case, Smillie, Robinson (2)

Moseley;  Ramsey, Gatting, Foster, Stevens;  Case, Smillie, Grealish;  Smith, Ritchie, Robinson

Other Matches

There weren’t too many surprises in this round.  But, Arsenal needed three games to get past Second Division, Leeds United.  Crystal Palace beat First Division, Birmingham.

FIFTH ROUND

By now, Brighton were rock bottom of the First Division and still without an away win in the league.  They were drawn against the league champions and current league leaders, Liverpool.  Liverpool were 15pts clear at the top of the table and unbeaten at home since Brighton beat then in March 1982.  In fact, Liverpool hadn’t lost at home in the cup since 1969.  The odds were stacked against the visitors.

The game also bore further significance as ex-Liverpool player, Jimmy Case was back at Anfield after being sold to Brighton in 1981, having won League, League Cup, European Cup and UEFA Cup winners medals, as well as scoring in the 1977 FA Cup Final defeat to Man Utd.  Don’t forget Brighton were managed by former Liverpool player, Jimmy Melia.  In the Liverpool side that day, was ex-Brighton defender, Mark Lawrenson.

This was surely going to be a formality for Liverpool, wasn’t it?

Brighton caused a stir amongst the home fans when Gerry Ryan put the visitors in front after 32 minutes.  Craig Johnston then levelled things up in the second half, with an acrobatic overhead kick and Liverpool were expected to kick-on from there.  But within a minute, Brighton had scored again.  Who got it?  Oh yes, it could only be one player…..Jimmy Case.  The goal was similar to his strike against Man City in the last round, and Brighton were able to withstand the onslaught and pull off the shock of the cup that season.

20TH February 1983
LIVERPOOL  1-2  BRIGHTON
Ryan (32), Case (70)

Digweed;  Ramsey, Stevens, Foster, Gatting;  Case, Grealish, Smillie;  Ryan, Robinson, Ward

Other Matches

Arsenal were again taken to a replay by a Second Division side, but they eventually beat Middlesbrough, 3-2.  Manchester United  won away at Derby County, a side they’d beaten on the way to lifting the trophy in 1977.  Everton beat Tottenham, 2-0 and Burnley beat Crystal Palace, 1-0 in a replay.  Norwich beat Ipswich, 1-0 in the East Anglian derby, and in an all Second Division clash, Sheffield Wednesday beat Cambridge United. 

The tie of the round was at Villa Park, when Aston Villa, in 6th place in the First Division, beat Watford, who were 3rd, 4-1.

QUARTER-FINALS

For the Sixth Round, Brighton were up against Norwich City.  Norwich were also struggling in the First Division and were just 2pts ahead of Brighton with both in the bottom four.  Interestingly enough, Norwich had been Brighton’s opponents on more occasions than any other club.

The game was a stop-start affair with many more fouls than chances, although either side could’ve won it.  The only goal of the game came in the second half when Jimmy Case burst through into the area, holding off a challenge, to put the ball past the Norwich keeper.  Norwich later disputed the goal, claiming Case had fouled their player, and then the linesman had raised his flag but then put it down again.  The goal stood, though, and it proved to be the only one of the game.

12th March 1983
BRIGHTON  1-0  NORWICH
Case

Moseley;  Ramsey, Stevens, Foster, Gatting;  Case, Grealish, Smillie;  Ryan, Robinson Ritchie

Other Matches

Six of the Eight clubs who’d reached this far were from the First Division.  Ironically, two of the eight clubs in this round, would eventually be relegated that season.  One of those clubs, Burnley, were up against Sheffield Wednesday.  A draw at Turf Moor saw Wednesday win comfortably, 5-0 in the replay.

Arsenal, who were languishing in 15th in the league, beat Aston Villa 2-0.  The big game was at Old Trafford, where Manchester United beat Everton, 1-0.

SEMI-FINALS

Many could claim Brighton had a relatively easy route to the final, but up to this point they had always met First Division opposition, and had put out the league leaders.  They managed to avoid Manchester United and Arsenal as they were drawn against Sheffield Wednesday.  Brighton were the highest ranked team Wednesday had met in that season’s competition.  By this time, Wednesday were 7th in the Second Division.  The game was played at Highbury.

Brighton got a great start when they were awarded a free-kick about 35 yards out.  Grealish rolled the ball for Jimmy Case to hit a typical thunderbolt, which swerved past the keeper and with barely 15 minutes gone, Brighton lead 1-0.  That’s how things stood until 10 minutes into the second half, when Brighton failed to clear a ball played into the area and Ante Mirocevic, Wednesday’s Yugoslav midfielder, was on hand to score from close range.  Into the final 15 minutes and Brighton broke with Case finding Smith, whose shot was saved, but he squared the ball for Robinson to shoot on the turn and Brighton were back in front.  Brighton held on and earned their first appearance in a cup final.

16th April 1983
BRIGHTON  2-1  SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY
Case, Robinson

Moseley;  Stevens, Gatting, Foster, Pearce;  Howlett, Case, Grealish, Smillie;  Smith, Robinson

FA CUP FINAL

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By the time of the final, Brighton already knew they wouldn’t meet United again the following season as they finished bottom of the table.  United had finished 3rd in the league and were also losing finalists in the League Cup.

Many teams have tried to do something different for the Cup Final build-up.  Brighton were sponsored by British Caledonian and they laid on a special Helicopter to fly the team to Wembley from their hotel in Croydon.  They circled Wembley Stadium several times before landing.

Brighton were hoping to emulate Sunderland, Southampton, Ipswich and West Ham.  All huge underdogs who’d beaten their more illustrious opponents in finals over the previous ten years

Brighton would be without their inspirational captain, Steve Foster, who was suspended for the Final. 

United had the better of the early chances when Alan Davies and Norman Whiteside should’ve done better with their headers, but Brighton weren’t overawed.  On 15 minutes a cross into the United box from Gary Howlett and Gordon Smith got between two United defenders to head the ball past Gary Bailey.  Brighton lead 1-0.  United kept trying to find a way back into the game, and created several chances but Graham Moseley made some important saves to deny them.  As the half wore on, Brighton themselves had chances to increase their lead, but they went into the break still 1-0 up.

In the second half, United had the ball in the net but it was ruled out as Whiteside had used his hand to control the ball.  Whiteside then turned things against Brighton as he went in hard on a tackle with Chris Ramsey and was lucky to still be on the pitch.  Ramsey tried to run off the injury, but United were able to take advantage as a cross from the right from Duxbury, was met at the far post by Stapleton and United were level.  Whether a fully fit Ramsey would’ve been able to get there before Stapleton is not certain, but the poor Brighton defender was then unable to continue.

Into the final 20 minutes and Muhren swept a ball from the left out to the right where Wilkins was unmarked.  Wilkins controlled it with his chest, switched it to his left and curled a beautiful shot past the outstretched hand of Moseley.  United looked to be in control and Robson should’ve made things certain rather than hit the side netting, but with 3 minutes to go Brighton had a corner on the right.  Case played it to Grealish on the edge of the area and his pass into the box, found Stevens on the penalty spot.  Stevens, Brighton’s best player on the day, controlled it with his left and then hit a right-foot shot past Bailey and Brighton had levelled.  90 minutes were up and for the 3rd season running, the FA Cup Final would go to extra time.

Both sides looked increasingly tired and there were few chances, but towards the end Stevens attempted to head Bailey’s long –kick back to his goalkeeper and Whiteside nipped in but handled the ball.  Remarkably, for a player who had deliberately handled the ball twice, and also ended Ramsey’s final with a fierce tackle, Whiteside was still on the pitch.

But with a minute to go came the moment the final will always be remembered for.  United gave the ball away on the halfway line, and Jimmy Case played it over the United defence for Robinson to run onto.  The Brighton forward held off Moran, turned inside McQueen and then looked to his right and there was Gordon Smith all on his own.  He played it to Smith, who took a touch to steady himself and it seemed inevitable that he’d smash it past Bailey.  But Smith rather scuffed his shot and Bailey managed to smother it, and there went Brighton’s hopes of a giant-killing to remember.

Just before Smith shot, legendary radio commentator, Ron Jones came out with the now immortal line

“...and Smith must score”

But he didn’t.  Looking back now, it seems a little unfair on Smith as he was clearly tired and he still ‘had plenty to do’, as they say these days.  But, either way, the chance had gone.  The game ended 2-2 and for the 3rd season running we now had a replay the following Thursday evening.

Smith must score

21st May 1983
MANCHESTER UNITED  2-2  BRIGHTON
Smith (14), Stevens (87)

Moseley;  Ramsey (Ryan), Stevens, Pearce, Gatting;  Howlett, Case, Grealish, Smillie;  Robinson, Smith

For the neutrals and the Brighton fans, the replay was a bit of an anti-climax.  They often were.  With the exception of the 1981 Final, all replays just seemed to lack something which made the cup final such a special occasion.  Man Utd were unchanged, but Brighton had an important change in their line-up.  Chris Ramsey, who went off injured in the first match, was replaced by club captain, Steve Foster.  Foster had missed the first game through suspension, and Brighton were confident he would make the difference.

Brighton were the livelier to begin with, putting some good passes together but were unable to really trouble Bailey.  Then on 25 minutes a low cross from the left found Davies in the Brighton area with his back to goal.  He laid it back for Robson to hit a low left-foot shot which went past Moseley’s outstretched left hand and United had taken the lead.

4 minutes later and United were 2-0 up.  Davies on the left, turned and crossed with his right to find Whiteside who headed past Moseley, and now United were in total control for the first time in the final.  United were finding more and more space, but then as the half drew to a close Jimmy Case picked up the ball just inside the United half.  He ran at the defence and then unleashed a shot, which deflected off Moran.  For a minute, it looked as if we were going to see a repeat of his goal against Man City or Liverpool from earlier in the campaign, but Bailey just got a finger to it to tip it over.

Then with a minute of the first half remaining, Foster gave away a free-kick on the left.  Muhren took it, Robson headed it on to the back post where Stapleton headed it back across goal and there at the near post was Robson again, to put the ball into the empty net and the game was all but over.

3-0 to United at the break, and then as we passed the hour mark, Stapleton put Robson through.  Stevens held him back and the ref pointed to the spot.  Muhren stepped up and made no mistake and so United were 4-0 up.

So the dream was over for Brighton, who never stopped running and working.  They were a credit to the club and the town.  At times you couldn’t understand how they had been so poor in the league, but this was the end of their brief flirtation at English football’s top table.

26th May 1983
MANCHESTER UNITED  4-0  BRIGHTON

Moseley;  Stevens, Pearce, Foster, Gatting;  Howlett, Case, Grealish, Smillie;  Robinson, Smith