Brighton & Hove Albion have made an impressive start to the season in the new Amex Stadium. Some fans may already be thinking back to past glories, such as the 1983 FA Cup final. One of Brighton’s goals in that final was scored by Gary Stevens, and his shirt is proudly displayed in our Exploring Brighton gallery. Back in the less optimistic days of 2005, one of our volunteers, Wills McGuigan, was so impressed by this shirt that he wrote down his memories of that final.
Football shirt belonging to Gary Stevens, Brighton & Hove Albion player in the 1983 FA Cup final.
If you were to tell someone that Brighton & Hove Albion were playing in the FA Cup final this year, they would eventually (no doubt after a hearty laugh) look on you with pity and accuse you of living in a football-shaped dream world.
Way back in the early 1980s however, when this fan was just 9 years old, the Seagulls commanded respect that stretched all the way to the Anfields and the Old Traffords of the domestic game.
Gary Stevens played for us – an England international no less! Irishman Gerry Ryan represented his country too. Steve Gatting, Michael Robinson,…..Steve Foster was heroic, deadly, extremely hairy (he wore a headband too and STILL looked cool),… the mighty lanky Graham Moseley in goal (who I’d actually met at Sussex General – I had stepped on a weaver fish near the West Pier, he was visiting his son who was in the next bed)…. In 1983 Brighton & Hove Albion had made it to the FA Cup final!
At 9 years old you would have forgiven me for believing that this was just the beginning of a golden era for the Seagulls – a Golden era at the Goldstone with silverware pouring out of every trophy cupboard.
The enemy was Manchester United. It was David and Goliath. I watched the game at home on Goldstone Road in Hove. Manchester United were 2-1 up with only a few minutes left to play…. and 22 years later in Brighton Museum & Art Gallery I can actually listen to the hero of the day, Gary Stevens, talk about how he hit the ball as hard as he could at the target, scoring the equaliser!
Brighton & Hove Albion had made it to Wembley and hadn’t lost to Manchester United. That was our victory.
And yeah we lost the replay of course, but the Seagulls came home to a hero’s welcome all the same. The procession passed by the end of my road. I ran out to join in and waved furiously at the Seagulls as they passed by in their very own open-top bus (Brighton & Hove Albion’s answer to the Batmobile, I thought at the time). I looked up and saw them all – Gary, Graham, Gerry, Steve, Michael – and the rest waving right back at me.
It was like the end of that Nick Hornby film ‘Fever Pitch’, except that everything was blue and white instead of red, and we hadn’t won the league, we’d lost the FA Cup. But you can ask anyone who was around back then – losing never felt so good.