Sporting Memories: Smith's goals power promotion push

A look back to the 1964-65 season when Albion overcame tragedy to win promotion.

By Luke Nicoli • 01 May 2020

At care homes and social clubs throughout the county and beyond, sporting memories mornings help to improve the wellbeing of people over 50 through the power of sport, by sharing photographs, articles, memorabilia or talks. Some participants live with dementia or have memory problems, while others have experienced depression, live alone or are dealing with ongoing health issues. Given the current coronavirus pandemic, such events are obviously on hold, so each Friday at we’ll be bringing some Albion sporting memories of our own. We continue with the 1964/65 season, which ended in glory for Archie Macaulay’s men...

In May 1964, Albion made national headlines when they signed England international Bobby Smith from Tottenham Hotspur for a modest £5,000.

Just six months earlier the burly 31-year-old forward had scored in an 8-3 victory against Northern Ireland so it was seen as a remarkable acquisition.

As a result, season-ticket sales soared and more than 20,000 fans turned up to see the Albion, in their new blue shirts and white sleeves, for the opening game of the season – a 3-1 win against Barrow, in which Smith scored twice.

A five-game unbeaten start, which included a crowd of over 22,000 for the visit of Oxford United, left Albion in fourth spot but three successive away defeats saw the side drop to mid table by the end of September.

With crowds diminishing so did the hopes of mounting a promotion push. Manager Archie Macaulay returned to Tottenham in October to sign Welsh international full-back Mel Hopkins. His impact was immediate, helping the side to a 6-0 win against Notts County at the Goldstone.

Macaulay had set the target of reaching the promotion places by November and, by winning 2-0 at Aldershot at the end of October, Albion achieved the target by climbing into fourth place.

A 3-1 win over Crewe in early January extended the side’s unbeaten run to five games but it would be Smith’s last game for six weeks following a hamstring injury. Team spirit remained high, however, with the side winning five of their next six games. Wing-half Barrie Rees was also brought in from Everton for just under £10,000 and he scored in a 4-4 thriller against Chester at Hove.

As the promotion push ramped up in March, Albion suffered a setback with defeats at Doncaster and Bradford Park Avenue, likewise an infamous 2-2 draw at Rochdale. Half-back Norman Gall was sent off at Spotland and a number of players were pelted with washers, coins and other objects. Goalkeeper Brian Powney was even hit by a dart and Rees just managed to avoid a china cup.

Albion returned to winning ways with a 3-1 home victory against Southport but the success paled into insignificance following the news that Rees had been tragically killed in a car accident on his way home to North Wales the following day.

Widely tipped as having a big future in the game, his passing affected not just the whole squad but the entire town. It remains one of the saddest days in the club’s history.

Macaulay’s men picked themselves up to draw 2-2 at Oxford the following weekend, thanks to goals from both Smiths – Bobby and Jack – and followed up with a 2-1 win at Wrexham.

A 4-1 defeat at Bradford set the side back but a last-gasp 2-1 win against leaders Tranmere in Hove, thanks to a Gall header, saw Albion hit the top of the table for the first time – and with three wins from their final four games, it was a position they would maintain.

Albion needed a point from the final game of the season to be crowned champions, against Darlington at the Goldstone, and a crowd of 31,423 descended in anticipation. The players duly rose to the occasion with Jimmy Collins registering the side’s 100th league goal of the campaign, while Jack Smith added a second before half-time. Darlington pulled one back before the re-start but Wally Gould’s 21st of the season capped a truly memorable day.

Did you know?

Comedian Norman Wisdom, an Albion director between 1964 and 1970, rewrote the lyrics of ‘Sussex by the Sea’ that season and we first heard a rendition during half-time at the Chesterfield game in February.

Star man: Wally Gould

Albion’s top scorer in 1964/65, winger Wally missed just three games all season.

Formerly with Rotherham, Sheffield United and York City, he joined the Albion in January 1964 for £4,000 and soon became a fans’ favourite at the Goldstone.

For four seasons he was a model of consistency with his direct style making him a real threat as a goal taker as well as a goal maker.

Wally Gould

He netted 46 times for the club in 193 appearances before he was reluctantly allowed to leave Hove to pursue a highly successful career in South African football.

Returning to the UK permanently in 1975, he joined Southern League Chelmsford City before later taking a coaching role at Stoke City.


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