Brighton & Hove Albion

 

Ground Goldstone Ground
Date Saturday 16th February 1980
League First Division
Result Brighton

0

0

West Brom

HT

0

0

Att

c. 20,000

 

 

Entrance £1.50 Programme 25p

The first visit to my alma mater, the Goldstone Ground was two years after my football inauguration at Elm Park. I was now 6 and  almost a quarter of my life thus far had elapsed since the last 20 minutes of Reading v Swansea. Notts Forest won the double and then a European Cup for good measure. Alan Sunderland’s last minute winner in the FA Cup Final for Arsenal against Man Utd passed me by without comment. I wish I’d been old enough to remember that one – 1979. Arsenal, 2-0 up and cruising with 5 minutes left, were pegged back to 2-2 by Man Utd, thanks to Sammy McIlroy and Gordon McQueen. Then in the last minute Sunderland popped up at the far post with his leg out to win the Cup for the ‘Gooners’. 

A few months after the Reading game my family and I moved to Brighton. The first year in our new house saw Brighton get promoted to the First Division for the first time ever. So with a slight touch of glory hunting about it my Dad took Andy & I to the Goldstone for our first Brighton game. I’d forgotten all about John Toshack (I was a fair-weather Toshack supporter!).

In those days the Goldstone Ground held 32,000, which was fairly average in those days for a team of our size. The East Terrace was a whole side of standing; a peculiar shaped mass of concrete and metal bars that followed the path of Goldstone Lane behind. It started from the North Stand (at the corner of Old Shoreham Road and Goldstone Lane) swept round a floodlight Pylon, increased gradually in height to a crescendo roughly where the middle of the pitch was then tapered down fairly steeply to the South Stand as the lane behind went downhill and at an angle. This last bottom bit of terracing became the away section for the last 8 or so years of the Goldstone. At the time of this match the away section was at the opposite end, a triangular section encompassing the floodlight pylon.

My Dad, my brother Andy and I stood slightly to the right of the centre of this massive home terrace about 10 yards from the front. This afforded me about the best view as there weren’t too many people to crane my neck over but I do remember finding it difficult to adjust to the scarp angle as compared to the television.
A peculiar feature of the east terrace was that the top of it was more or less at street level with Goldstone Lane, the terraces top being roughly at street level. This meant the residents there could all watch the home games for free. I’m pretty sure they could see every bit of the pitch too. Most of these houses had big patios out front and come match day filled up. One patio in particular always seemed packed.

When people explain how they first came to support their team there’s usually some trigger, some defining moment. Apart from the obvious reasons such as proximity (if you follow your local side) or how good they are (if you’re shallow) there’s usually a great first match that ignites the passion of whoever you follow. This match was the antithesis of that. I became a Brighton fan in spite of this game, certainly not because of it. This was the most boring match ever played anywhere in the world. I’ve seen in excess of 300 Albion games and I can say pretty much for certain that this was the dullest, my first.
I was only seven years old and so my memory of it may not be entirely accurate but as I remember the whole game seemed to be played in the middle third of the pitch. I am sure neither side had a shot on goal the whole game. I came away feeling disappointed and convinced that football on the television was far better, benefiting immensely for being edited. My Dad must have been disgusted because he didn’t take me again for almost two years. 
I imagine he was looking forward to this moment for some time, to introduce me to the thrill of live football, to instill in me the togetherness felt by fellow supporters, the feeling of empathy and team spirit with the players as they experience the highs and lows of the match. He obviously wasn’t counting on West Brom. There were no highs, no lows, no team spirit, no togetherness. This was test cricket in its quieter moments.

The Goldstone Ground obviously holds dear memories for me. When you’ve been to see your club week in week out for years the ground becomes part of you and you become part of the ground. The atmosphere of the ground becomes a tangible thing that you can tune into. It’s as if all the emotions of almost 100 years of matches have seeped into the very foundations and structure of the place and are breathed back out.
I’ve stood or sat in every section of the Goldstone. Each section has an atmosphere of its own and the types of people that frequent each part are very different. The North Stand was the singing section, a mini kop behind one goal. It was covered and was where the serious fanatics stood in the main. You knew there were guys chatting pre-match about the options available of getting to Darlington on a Tuesday night. You went in the North Stand for the atmosphere.
If you wanted a good view you stood on the East Terrace which if you stood at the back gave you a pristine ‘Match of the Day’ angle. The ambience there was much more reserved and tended to consist of the ‘gentleman’ fans, middle class enthusiasts.

The South Stand was the closest we had to a family stand, a covered stand housing about 2,000 seats. The view was not great and the atmosphere was friendly rather than raucous. I only sat there twice. I also sat once in the West Stand, our main stand. It was a large old-fashioned structure that started from the corner of the South Stand and extended about two thirds of the way down the pitch. In front was the West Terrace, a very small 10 deep terrace that carried on to the North Stand. Just before it gets to the North Stand there is a tiny raised section that forms a triangle. Until the mid-eighties we had another small box stand next to the West, which was affectionately dubbed the Lego stand, a 984 seater that looked like it was made from Lego.

The West Stand was probably the quietest part of the whole ground – in quieter moments of a game the North Stand would tease them with chants of ‘West Stand – give us a song, West Stand, West Stand – give a song’. They rarely did apart from the odd time when a couple of lads would tentatively to do an ‘Albion, Albion, Albion’ much to the great delight of the North Stand. As one North Stander succinctly put it ‘The only peep you get out of the West Stand is if someone farts or drops their handbag’. Andy and I found the West Stand a constant source of amusement. 
Half the time it was as if the West-Standers were watching a different match to the rest of the crowd. They got incensed at clean tackles, they cried ‘handball’ in unison when the ball touched some opposition player’s groin and generally made strange noises at inappropriate times! Their collective behavior was often the source of many puzzled looks and shrugged shoulders among the rest of the crowd.
On one unforgettable occasion most of the West Stand celebrated a goal that hadn’t gone in. I can’t remember the match but I know that it was a free-kick by Steve Penney. He curled it about an inch over the bar and it hit an advertising board behind the goal and then nestled in the back of the net (but the wrong side). The West Stand went absolutely berserk, not just the ‘yeaaaaaaaahh, whooooaaa’ that accompanies very near misses when you have a deceiving angle, but a full-blown celebration that didn’t wane at any point. After 5 seconds of jumping up and down they then did the after clap totally oblivious to the fact that Steve Penney had just run back to the half way line and a goal kick was about to be taken. My brother and I were beside ourselves with laughter. I’m sure there are some West-standers to this day who still think that Penney scored his free kick.
Because of this moment ‘West Stand’ has become a verb in Andy and mine’s private vocabulary. To do a ‘West Stand’ is to celebrate any goal that hasn’t gone in for slightly longer than the initial whoooaaa!
As well as sitting twice in the South stand (Come to think of it both games were crackers – 4-0 against Man City in our famous ’83 Cup Final run and 3-0 against West Ham in the second division, I also stewarded a game there. It was during the summer holidays of 1989. I was doing nothing, pottering around the house all day. I was registered with a few job agencies but didn’t really hold out much hope of getting a call. I didn’t really want to work anyway. But one agency rang me up and asked if I’d like to steward a friendly with a view to stewarding for the coming full season. I couldn’t believe my ears – they were going to pay me £7 to watch my team play Dynamo Kiev. What could be better?
So I turned up outside the Goldstone Ground in a shirt and tie at 6:30 that night ready to receive my instructions and my orange jacket. As well as being a warm-up game for Brighton it was a warm-up game for the fledgling stewards. Only some of us would be picked for the coming season. But I never had any intention whatsoever of doing it after this game as the idea of having to stand with my back to the action during a proper match was unthinkable.
This man gave us extensive instructions on what to look out for and what to say. He told us in serious tones to watch the fans and not the match at all times, to be ever vigilant and not to be distracted by the football action no matter how good it may be. A few of us looked round slowly at the empty seats and exchanged smirks and stifled giggles. ‘Well this was going to be hard!’ I thought, as I stood in my assigned position in the middle gangway of the South Stand on the left (not bad). Behind the goal but a still a good view.
What am I saying, I’m supposed to be facing the other way I reminded myself. I paced around the gangway until kick-off keeping a watchful eye on the empty seats. Actually, by 7:30 they were maybe a few hundred in the stand. As the players came out I couldn’t help but clap, it was an automatic response. As the Kiev goalkeeper came towards the goal I raised my arms a little higher and clapped some more. I was looking forward to the match. I was tempted to sit down, maybe get a coffee and a burger, but I thought that might be taking it too far.

The match was an absolute classic. I stood plainly facing the match without a clue as to what the fans might be getting up to behind me. Not being one for friendlies normally I thought it might be a dull affair but it was so good I wondered seriously whether there were instructions to both sides to turn on a show for the fans. We were 4-0 up at half-time thanks mainly to Clive Walker who bagged a hat trick including a screamer curled from 25 yards into the top corner just in front of me. I was jumping up and down. My oversized orange stewards jacket half a second behind me. It was great stuff. In the second half Dynamo Kiev staged a miraculous comeback and levelled things at 4-4. Then in the 90th minute the hapless John Crumplin, the much laughed at but much loved right back, banged in a half volley from 25 yards into the top corner to make it 5-4.

I left the ground delighted having done no stewarding whatsoever, started walking home with the jacket on, realized, ran back and handed it to the agency man, thanked him for the £7 and returned to being a paying fan.

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About thegroundhog

I live underground, occasionally popping up at non-league and Welsh grounds. I live on a diet of insects, small rodents, nil-nils and post and pre-match angst.
This entry was posted in Stadia, Grounds, Travelog. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Brighton & Hove Albion

  1. Seagulls says:

    The 5-4 game was actually v Steaua Bucharest

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