Sunderland v Brighton & Hove Albion, 1982
Sunderland went into this First Division fixture at Roker Park needing a win near the end of Alan Durban’s first season in charge. His side were struggling just outside the relegation zone, while visitors Brighton were comfortably in mid-table under manager Mike Bailey, also enjoying his first season at the South Coast club.
David Snowdon’s excellent book chronicling Durban’s reign as Sunderland manager, Give Us Tomorrow Now, describes “a satisfying 3-0 victory,” with the highlight being young forward Colin West’s ‘spectacular strike’. The win owed much to the contribution of two locally-born products of the club’s youth policy. West was later bought by Graham Taylor for Watford, and went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday after becoming Graeme Souness’ first signing for Rangers. At Sunderland he was alongside Gary Rowell, who in 1984 became the club’s all-time leading goalscorer when he reached 102 goals in all competitions to overtake Len Shackleton. Rowell’s record was later beaten by Kevin Phillips, and he struggled with injuries after leaving Sunderland in 1984, including a two-year spell at Brighton.
This win contributed to Sunderland staying up in 19th place, allowing Durban to continue his rebuilding of the squad until he was surprisingly sacked in March 1984. Successive relegations took the club down to the Third Division for the first time in their history in 1987, but by 1990 new manager Denis Smith had restored First Division football on Wearside. They won the Third Division in 1987-88 with Brighton as runners-up, and reached the 1992 FA Cup Final under Smith’s former assistant Malcolm Crosby.
Having been promoted to the top flight for the first time in their history in 1979 under Alan Mullery, Brighton spent four seasons as a First Division club. Former Charlton manager Bailey, having replaced Mullery in summer 1981, guided Brighton to their highest league position to date, 13th in the First Division at the end of 1981-82. His squad included England international Steve Foster, future England cap Gary Stevens, Tony Grealish and Michael Robinson of the Republic of Ireland, the First Division experience of Jimmy Case, Neil McNab, Andy Ritchie and Don Shanks, and Northern Ireland’s Sammy Nelson. After Bailey’s sacking in December 1982, Jimmy Melia took Brighton to the FA Cup Final – and relegation. It would be 34 years before Brighton returned to English football’s top division, leaving the Goldstone Ground and nearly losing their Football League status along the way.
Match details for Sunderland – Brighton & Hove Albion; Roker Park, Football League Division One, Saturday 1 May 1982:
Sunderland: 1. Chris Turner, 2. Joe Hinnigan, 3. Iain Munro, 4. Rob Hindmarch, 5. Gordon Chisholm, 6. Shaun Elliott, 7. Mick Buckley, 8. Colin West, 9. Gary Rowell, 10. Nick Pickering, 11. Stan Cummins. Manager: Alan Durban. Scorers: Rowell 2 (1 pen.), West.
Brighton & Hove Albion: 1. Graham Moseley, 2. Don Shanks, 3. Sammy Nelson, 4. Gary Stevens, 5. Steve Foster, 6. Steve Gatting, 7. Jimmy Case, 8. Andy Ritchie (sub. Tony Grealish), 9. Michael Robinson, 10. Neil McNab, 11. Gerry Ryan. Manager: Mike Bailey.
The state of the Football League in the 1980s is one of the topics in my book Before the Premier League: A History of the Football League’s Last Decades.