Sporting memories: Taylor takes charge but it's tough going

A look back to the 1974-75 campaign when Peter Taylor took charge following Brian Clough's departure.

By Luke Nicoli • 22 May 2020

From left: Peter Taylor, Peter O'Sullivan and the cover for the opening home game of the 74-75 season against Crystal Palace.

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 remain on hold, so each Friday at we’ve been bringing some Albion sporting memories of our own, continuing with a high-profile departure in the dugout prior to the start of the 1974/75 campaign... 

As Brian Clough prepared for his first full campaign at the Goldstone, there were further changes to the playing squad with just four squad members – Peter O’Sullivan, Tony Towner, Micky Conway and Dave Busby – still present from the Pat Saward era.

‘If I’ve turned Brighton upside down and inside out, I don’t apologise,’ he wrote in the Supporters’ Club handbook. ‘Now we are looking forward to a great start from a new team.’

Not that he would be around to witness the opening games of the season as on 20th July, Leeds United chairman Manny Cussins announced to the world that Clough would be replacing Don Revie as manager!

Left: Tony Towner; Right: Bobby Charlton in action for Preston at the Goldstone.

Attracted by one of the biggest clubs in the country and a £20,000 a year salary, Clough had negotiated a release clause in his Albion contract. In return, it was reported the club would receive £75,000 in competition from Leeds, who would also play a friendly at the Goldstone.

Clough’s assistant Peter Taylor was to stay on as manager and the general consensus among Albion fans was that the club had come out well from the deal given Taylor had always appeared far more committed to the cause than his partner.

The financial wrangling, however, continued and was eventually settled out of court in Albion’s favour in December 1975 – Leeds paying compensation of £45,000. It was a long, drawn out affair that lasted far longer than Clough’s 44-day tenure at Elland Road.

Graham Winstanley, Ernie Machin and Harry Wilson

In full charge, Taylor completed the summer signings with Ricky Marlowe arriving from Shrewsbury Town along with Ernie Machin from Plymouth Argyle. Another change came in the form of the playing strip with all white replacing the traditional blue and white stripes.

The campaign begun with a 1-0 win against recently relegated Crystal Palace, with debutant Ian Mellor finding the target, but with just two further victories by mid-October, the side languished in 20th place. The month included a 6-0 defeat at Walsall and 4-0 home reverse at the hands of Bobby Charlton’s Preston North End.

Taylor responded by bringing in defender Graham Winstanley on loan from Carlisle United, with Andy Rollings and Steve Piper both benefiting from the experienced stopper’s arrival. He was soon made skipper and his temporary spell made permanent. Full-back Ken Tiler also arrived from Chesterfield while O’Sullivan moved in from the wing to impress in a more central role.

Albion remained unbeaten throughout December to move out of the relegation places but it would remain a struggle for the remainder of the campaign. The side’s third-tier status was only assured on 23rd April with a 2-0 home win against Peterborough, thanks to goals from Harry Wilson (pen) and Gerry Fell.

Ultimately, it was the side’s home form which proved crucial, with just two league defeats all season – although that record was soiled somewhat with a 1-0 FA Cup third round defeat at the hands of Isthmian League side Leatherhead in front of 20,491 fans.

A campaign which promised so much largely fell flat with a 19th-placed finish, leaving the fans demanding a big improvement the following campaign…

From left: Programme from the 6-0 defeat at Walsall, Tony Towner, Brian Clough and Goldstone action against Aldershot.

Star man: Tony Towner 

Chipping in with ten goals from the wing, Towner outshone both high-profile forward signings Fred Binney and Ian Mellor in 1974/75.

The Brightonian made his debut as a 17-year-old, in a 2-0 win against Luton Town in February 1973, and went on to make 183 appearances, scoring 25 goals for the club.

Initially playing on the left wing, ‘Tiger’ had switched sides by the time of his impressive first campaign under Peter Taylor and went on to play a significant role in the promotion season of 1976/77.

He eventually made way for Gerry Ryan and left for Millwall for a fee of £65,000 in October 1978. Spells followed at Rotherham, Wolves, Charlton, Rochdale and Cambridge before dropping into non-league football with the likes of Lewes and Crawley Town.

Did you know?

Colin Woffinden, who was in the Walton & Hersham side that knocked Albion out of the FA Cup in 1973/74, was also in the Leatherhead side that won at the Goldstone in 1974/75.

* With thanks to club historian Tim Carder and Ian Hine [] for images

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