Albion legend Peter Ward has one regret about his time at the club - he could have stayed longer.
Signed by Peter Taylor from non-league Burton Albion while he was working as an apprentice engine fitter at Rolls Royce in Derby in 1975, the striker scored his first goal for the club within a minute of his debut against Hereford United a year later. He went on to score 95 goals for Albion in two spells.
In the 1976-77 campaign Ward netted 36 goals – still a club record for a single season – before joining Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest in 1980. Never a regular at the City Ground, Ward returned to the Albion on loan in 1982 but by then he had started to forge a career in America, eventually playing for eight clubs in outdoor and indoor leagues including Tampa Bay Rowdies. He eventually settled in Florida.
Speaking to Richard Newman in the Football, Albion and Me podcast, Ward said, “Looking back now, maybe I should have stayed at Brighton a bit longer the first time.
“I played in a World Club final in Tokyo with Forest and I played at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, but I was in and out of the team. I had some good and not some good times with Forest. I should probably have gone back to Brighton for longer because I could always have come back to America later [in my career].”
Ward’s legendary status among a generation of Albion fans was forged during his first spell at the club, but he revealed the caught the football bug very early.
“I remember as a 10-year-old I got on the train on my own from Derby to Tottenham to watch Spurs play Manchester United, who I supported the same as my Dad. It was a great adventure and tremendously exciting,” he said.
“I started playing men’s football three times a weekend at the age of 14 and in my first season at Burton I got 25-odd goals and Brighton came in and Peter Taylor signed me.
“I played in the reserves and youth team and scored that goal at Hereford in a game which was shown on Match of the Day after 50 seconds of my debut. I’d been suffering from a cold so [trainer] Glen Wilson dozed me up with whisky and cough medicine. There was some doubt as to who had scored and I remember the coach stopping on the way back to Brighton and we found a TV somewhere to watch and confirm it was my goal.
“Alan Mullery came in to replace Taylor and he put me in the first team. We had a good side and great rapport with the fans. I remember getting brought down near the West Stand once and tearing my shorts. All I had on underneath was a jockstrap so, while I changed shorts, I wiggled my bum at the crowd, and they loved it!”
To listen to the full interview and previous podcasts with Tommy Elphick and Garry Nelson click here.