Midfield. Born Yapton, Sussex. Age 23 (until 21 Sep ’71). Versatile, popular player who could be relied upon to take the ball out of defensive midfield area and find the right pass. ‘Shirley’ was known to occasionally pop up on the edge of the area to score some spectacular long range goals. He was captain of his school team at Westergate, Chichester, before joining Portsmouth. When Portsmouth disbanded their reserve side, he went to Brighton in July 1966. Starred on his debut against QPR to thwart Rodney Marsh and became a regular in the side for most seasons thereafter. With his pacy, intelligent running, he was runner-up in the ‘Player of the Season’ competition in 1971/2, missing only one League game. Scored seven times in the campaign, including a wonderful lobbed winner at York in December. Indeed, his were the opening and closing Albion goals of the season, the latter a terrific left foot shot at home to Rochdale that was to seal promotion.
Midfield. Born Burnley, Lancashire. Age 25 (until 20 Mar ’72). Skilful, influential midfield general who was Albion’s find of the season, a bargain at £14,000. After 184 League and cup appearances for Bolton, he joined Portmouth in a £25,000 deal in November 1968. He came originally to the Albion on loan in November when a knee condition kept him out at Portsmouth. For a short while Dave Turner went in a sort of part exchange but Turner got injured. After Saward persuaded the Fratton Park side to part, Bromley played a major role in the promotion run and eventually took over the captaincy on the field from March when John Napier lost his place in the side. Scored a memorable goal in the 2-0 win against Tranmere in that month after a run beginning in his own half with a neat bit of tackling and a brilliant shot.
Midfield. Born Retford, Nottinghamshire. Age 27 (until 7 Sep ’71). Hard, no-nonsense and wholehearted player who added steel as a defensive midfield player. Beginning at Newcastle, he made one appearance before Brighton bought him for £4,500 in December 1963. He was a fixture in the Albion side of the rest of the 1960s and his tigerish tackling and dynamism led to him becoming captain in the 1966/67 season. Despite being hampered by knee problems in the previous campaign, Turner was still first choice at the start of 1971/72, scoring twice at Rotherham in August, but found his place under threat from loan signing Brian Bromley from November onwards. Was loaned to Portsmouth in December. Although he came back to the Goldstone, he was only thereafter used as a substitute for the next few months. Returned to the starting line-up against Rotherham in April but had to go off, limping shortly after half-time. It was his last kick for the Albion. Joined Blackburn on a free transfer in August 1972.
Forward. Born Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Age 28 (until 18 Jun ’72). After a loan spell in the previous campaign, this clever and classy goalscorer proved an excellent £7,000 buy from Preston in July 1971. His keen opportunism and skilful control helped him to sixteen League goals, making him joint top scorer with Kit Napier. Irvine played 41 League games in 1971/72, with many of his goals being very late ones, such as against Torquay, Halifax, Walsall (FA Cup) and Bristol Rovers. Memorably scored with a ferocious, swerving shot with the outside of his right foot against Aston Villa, a team goal that was second in the Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Season’ competition that season. Such was Irvine’s form that he regained his place in the Northern Ireland side and was involved in the only goal when they beat England at Wembley in May.
Forward. Born Dumblane, Perthshire, Scotland. Age 27 (until 26 Sep ’71). Ball-playing attacker, skilful with both feet, and with tremendous talent for goalscoring. After playing for Blackpool, Preston and Workington, his talent attracted First Division side Newcastle for whom he signed in a £18,000 deal in November 1965. The move was not a success, and a Brighton bid of £8,500 secured this Scot’s services for the Sussex club. At the Goldstone, Napier’s class and quick-witted play endeared him to the crowds. After being top scorer for the Albion in four of the previous five campaigns, Napier again led the way in the 1971/72 season with sixteen League goals, although this feat was equalled by Willie Irvine. Napier’s contribution to the attack including a hat-trick at Mansfield in August and the final header of a breathtaking team goal involving Templeman and Murray in the important 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December that Pat Saward described as the best goal he had ever seen: ‘The movement was sheer poetry and the execution deadly.’ Another header, his 100th League goal in the Football League with a fine header against Shrewsbury in October, won a magnum of champagne from Lanson’s.
Forward. Born Bebington, Cheshire. Age 23 (until 25 Aug ’71). Tall, swashbuckling striker who became an instant hit after signing for the Albion from Tranmere in March 1972 for £25,000 plus Alan Duffy on transfer deadline day. At Tranmere, Beamish had hit 49 League goals in 176 games. With his energetic harrying of defences, he scored his first goal for Albion, latching onto a poor backpass to put the side 2-1 up against Torquay in the late comeback on Good Friday. A hero for getting late goals in the promotion run-in, he scored crucial second-half winners against Rotherham and Rochdale in April. In all, his six goals in twelve games for the Albion made a telling contribution as the season reached its climax. Got 23 goals in total in 1971/72, including seventeen for Tranmere.
Forward. Born West Stanley, Co. Durham. Age 21 (until 20 Dec ’71). A real character that was once seen, never forgotten. With his thick, black bushy sideboards, Duffy fleetingly appeared to be Third Division George Best, when he made a sensational scoring start to his Albion career against Bradford. He had signed from Newcastle by Freddie Goodwin in January 1970 in a £10,000 deal. With the infamous Preston penalty incident in February 1970, when he took a penalty that Kit Napier was preparing to take and missed, not to mention some reported discipline and weight issues, Duffy had fallen out of favour with Saward by the start of the 1971/72 season. Indeed, this wayward striker did not start a game throughout the campaign, although he did make nine substitute appearances. Left for Tranmere in March as part of the deal that took Ken Beamish to the Goldstone Ground.
Forward. Born Banbridge, Co. Down, Northern Ireland. Age 21 (until 13 Jul ’72). Wolves attacking midfielder and striker who had played in the side’s 3-2 win over Brighton in the League Cup tie in September 1969. Had appeared twice for Northern Ireland by the time of his two month loan with the Albion in September 1971. Made his Albion debut, on the right-wing, in the Match of the Day-featured game at Villa Park in September. Scored in successive matches, against Torquay and Bristol Rovers later that month before returning to Wolves in November. Lutton’s performances impressed Pat Saward enough to sign him permanently for Brighton in March for £5,000. He responded again by scoring in consecutive matches, this time against Torquay and Bournemouth.
Winger. Born Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, Wales. Age 20 (until 4 Mar ’72). Fast and clever, O’Sullivan really emerged as a left-winger with real cutting edge in the 1971/72, so much so that he attracted a lot of interest from top flight clubs. He had joined Albion on a free transfer from Manchester United towards the end of the 1969/70 season. He won Welsh Under-23 honours in the previous campaign and again during 1971/72, where his dribbling and visionary passing made him a Goldstone favourite. Ever-present in Albion’s promotion season, ‘Sully’ also contributed ten League goals. These included a cracker against Notts County in September, hammering the ball in from the left to round off a lively display.
“One game, away to Halifax, sticks in the memory. Our coach never arrived to pick us up from our Manchester hotel where we were staying on March 5th. We crammed into four taxis for the drive over the Pennines. It was a pig of a journey. For some of the southern lads who had no idea of life north of Watford it was like a journey to the end of the world. When we arrived at The Shay, Saward jumped out and handed in the team sheet, just avoiding the fine for late arrival. Not only had we had this journey of a lifetime but we had also somehow managed to change into our kits in the taxis, no mean feat when we were squashed in four to a car. I saw bits of Bert Murray’s anatomy that not even he knew he had. We ran out and thrashed them 5-0 and one of the goals was mine.” Willie Irvine, ‘Together Again’ (2005)