Friday, August 26, 2011

Football in the museum

What do you do on a wet and windy day by the seaside when you are sick of the amusements and fish and chips? Go to the local museum of course. Earlier this week I was down in Brighton for a break rather than the tedious work trips that take place in Brighton. The second day was pretty rubbish as far as the weather was concerned and we found ourselves in the local museum.

Now don't get me wrong I enjoy a bit of history, but local museums tend to have the same series of themes running through them: A bit of history about how the town was formed (i.e. Vikings / Saxons / Normans, etc.); some famous battle (War of the Roses, Civil War); a look at the towns glory years and some of the harsh realities of the time (Usually always the Victorian era) and then some stuff about the two world wars abd their aftermath and its impact on the local community. Therefore I was pleasently surprised that in Brighton as well as the usual stuff there was a lot more about the more social side of history and stuff like fashion, music and thankfully sport. Along with some interesting stuff about speedeway and the surprising popularity of ice hockey in the city in the past was a small exhibition paying respect to Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.

Part of the exhibition was a turnstile from the old Goldstone Ground:

The Goldstone Ground played host to football in Brighton (or more accurately Hove) between 1901 and 1997. From 1901 to 1904 it played host to Hove FC and then to Brighton & Hove Albion. It played host to many encounters, 2,174 to be exact and the biggest attendance was for a clash between Brighton and Fulham on 27 December 1958 when 36,747 fans were crammed in the ground. It was also the place where David Beckham made his professional debut coming on as a sub in a league cup game for Man U against Brighton.

However, with mounting debts and a greedy chairman in the shape of Bill Archer the ground was sold for redevelopment and is now a retail park. The last game that Brighton played there was a 1-0 victory against Doncaster Rovers on 26 April 1997 and the week later preserved their league status by drawing 1-1 at Hereford.

Brighton then groundshared with Gillingham at their Priestfield Stadium, which was a ridculous 70 miles away. They stayed there for 2 seasons. Several other groundshares were mooted but between 1999 and 2011 Brighton were forced to play at the frankly inadequate Withdean Athletics Stadium. The story does have a happy end though as the Seagulls moved into the beautiful Falmer Stadium (or American Express Community Stadium) at the start of this season. They also celebrated the move with promotion to the Championship where they have continued their winning ways including a 1-0 win over Premier stalwarts Sunderland in the League Cup on Tuesday night.

Another part of the exhibition in the museum is a shirt from arguably Brighton's biggest match - the 1983 FA Cup Final against Manchester United:

Brighton went into the game as complete underdogs, which was understandable as United had finished 3rd in the league and Brighton had just been relegated from the top division. I actually remember watching the game on my Granny's black and white TV eating fish and chips. The game finished 2-2 with Gordon Smith and Gary Stevens scoring for the Seagulls and Frank Stapelton and Ray Wilkins scoring for the Reds. Brighton went on to win the replay 4-0, but the achievement shouldn't be taken away from Brighton. The 3 players that could in any way be called household names were Gary Stevens, who went on to play for England when he was at Spurs, Jimmy Case, who was most well known for being one of the dirtiest players in football and will always be synonymous in my mind for wrecking the career of Gary Shaw and Michael Robinson, who was most well known for his weight problems and later for doing a brilliant job as a pundit on Spanish TV. Manchester United on the other hand had a star studded team that included Gary Bailey, Ray Wilkins, Gordon McQueen, Bryan Robson, Arnold Muhren, Frank Stapelton and Norman Whiteside (who became the youngest player to play in a cup final and to score when he did so in the replay. He was also the youngest player to play for United since Duncan Edwards whn he had made his debut in 1982, also against Brighton at their Goldstone Ground).

Anyway, if you find yourself in Brighton on a wet and windy day you now know what to do.

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