The next decade was the most eventful and exciting in the club's history. In 1971-72 Pat Saward took them up from Division 3 in a season when Aston Villa romped home as Divsion 3 champions and Brighton chased both Notts County and Bournemouth for the other promotion spot and against the odds overtook them. The home match against Aston Villa was an all-ticket affair before the BBC 'Match of the Day' cameras. There were outbreaks of fighting amongst fans and many arrests after the Bournemouth game and during the Aston Villa match. It was during this season with 30,000 plus crowds against Bournemouth and Rochdale that it became apparent that the Goldstone Crowd would be unsuitable for football in a higher division. It did not matter as the next season was an unmitigated disaster. Albion were relegated from Division 2 and in 1973-74 only narrowly avoided ending back in Division 4. In 1972-73 Chelsea visited the Goldstone before a disappointing all-ticket crowd of 29, 287, reduced because of fears of hooliganism from the notorious Chelsea followers. Chelsea won 4-1 and there was trouble on and off the pitch with 'Chopper' Harris sent off and many arrests.
Star players: Willie Irvine (1971-72), Kit Napier (1966-72), Bert Murray
At the beginning of the 1970's the Goldstone Ground had a capacity of
just under 35,000, with crowd-packing announcements and jammed in like
sardines so in some parts it was impossible to even clap. The Main Stand
on the West Side holds only 3,400 spectators. Since then the small stand
behind the south goal has been converted to all seating. The North Stand,
or Shoreham Road End is a large covered terraced area. A distinctive area
of the Goldstone is the large uncovered East Terrace, or Chicken Run, with
a capacity of about 15,000 when it was in good order. (This was reduced
to 10,500 by 1986). The television gantry is erected on the East Terrace).
Brighton will be leaving the Goldstone a the end of the 1996-97 season with no new ground even on the Drawing Board. The East Terrace is now closed, apart from a small area for away supporters. The capacity is now very low, possibly in the region of 10,000. A Covenant preventing development of the East Terrace has always prevented any possibility of improving the ground to standards in the top two divisions. The poor ground in the past has been a handicap as when the gates rose above the 30,000 figure, the ground and approaches became so crowded that many people stayed away in subsequent matches because of the congestion. On the plus side, the ground is about 10 minutes away from Hove Railway station.
The grass surface was (even the condition of the pitch deteriorated
under the Belotti regime) the best in the country. In a drought it is far
superior to the highly rated Ipswich pitch. There is a slight slope from
north to south-east.
At the time of nationwide falling gates and rising hooliganism, Albion tried to buy their way out of the lower reaches of the League. Soon after Clough arrived Brighton suffered their worst ever defeat crashing 0-4 to non-leaguers Walton & Hersham in a FA Cup 3rd Round replay. They just about avoided going down in 1972-73 and started their clear out and spending spree in the close season before the 1974-75 campaign.
Signings included Ian Mellor for a new club record of £40,000 from Norwich C, and prolific goalscorer Fred Binney from Exeter C. Crystal Palace visited the Goldstone for the first match of the season. The Seagulls beat the Eagles 1-0 in a game marred by crowd violence before 26,235 fans. Brighton struggled throughout the season.
Brighton, Crystal Palce and Millwall were all challenging for promotion during 1974-75. In a tension filled encounter before an all-ticket 33,300 crowd at the Goldstone, Albion beat Palace 2-0, but the referee threatened to abandon the game if the Palace hooligans continued to throw smoke bombs. This was the 13th in a run of 14 consecutive home victories. Hereford U. won the title, but Brighton's visit to Edgar Road was noted by the dropping of leading scorer Fred Binney. Eyes were on the dimunitive replacement's first touch of the ball. It took 50 seconds before Peter Ward put it in the back of the net. Peter Ward scored in 6 of the remaining 8 games, but Brighton lost a vital promotion game 1-3 at the Old Den against Millwall, who went up, and missed out along with Palace. Brighton signed Brian Horton from Port Vale for £30,000 during the season.
Peter Taylor resigned at the end of season.
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