A five-a-side team comprised of legendary Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford players over the years.
Tony Burns (Goalkeeper)
With his blonde hair and tall figure, Burns was popular in ‘Football League Review’ magazine, with female supporters regularly voting him as one of the best-looking players in the late 1960s. Brighton boss Archie Macaulay bought the 22 year old as a £2000 bargain from Arsenal in July 1966, with the young keeper making 57 Albion appearances over the next three years. In the match against Reading in October 1968, Burns was even named as the club’s substitute, at the time a very rare occurrence for a goalkeeper. Had a change been required, Burns would have gone in goal, and Brian Powney would have come out. Burns subsequently played for Crystal Palace and, like Neil Smillie, was loaned from Selhurst Park to Brentford in January 1977.
Graham Pearce (Defender)
It was a fairytale story for the left back when Barnet drew Brighton in the FA Cup in 1982. Already on the transfer list at Underhill, Pearce performed admirably in two cup ties against the Seagulls, who eventually acquired his services. Even so, the transfer was not as straightforward as it may seem. According to an Albion matchday programme against Oxford in that 1981/82 season, “With an income from his full-time job as a printer and also from part-time football, it needed a little thought for the 21 year old to enter the comparative insecurity of the professional game. Graham couldn’t join our staff immediately as he had to serve out a full week’s notice with his employers first and they couldn’t afford to release him early.” A year later, he played his part in Brighton’s famous FA Cup journey to Wembley. After a move to Gillingham, the full back joined Brentford in October 1988 for a short spell before later holding a coaching role with the Bees in the early 1990s.
George Parris (Midfielder)
Parris made his West Ham United debut on the last day of the 1984/85 season against Liverpool. The tough-tackling midfielder played much of the following campaign on the left side of defence as the Hammers stormed to a third-place finish in Division One. After seven years as a regular at Upton Park, he joined Birmingham, before loan spells with Brentford, Bristol City and Brighton in 1994/95. His famous goal for the Seagulls against Bristol Rovers at the Goldstone came in October 1995. Having saved a weak shot, Pirates keeper Andy Collett had rolled the ball out of the goal area to kick forward, thinking all the players were upfield. However, George had hung around the goalpost to mischievously dispossess the Rovers keeper from ten yards and score. “I’m deadly from that range”, quipped ‘Sneaky George’ afterwards.
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Neil Smillie (Winger)
‘Specky’ had two spells at Griffin Park although the first was as a loan signing from Crystal Palace in 1977. He later moved to Brentford in a free transfer in August 1988, playing all but two games in the Bees’ Third Division championship side of 1991/92. In between, the tricky winger played for Brighton, Watford and Reading. While excellent at Wembley in 1983, he proved it was no flash in the pan with another incisive performance the following season as he and Steve Penney made life dangerous for the Liverpool full backs in the 2-0 win in the FA Cup upset in January 1984.
Alex Dawson (Striker)
The fondly-remembered centre forward was a thorn in the side of many defences at the Goldstone in the late 1960s. Famous for his tendency to bundle goalkeepers into the net, Dawson’s firepower was clear for all to see in January and February 1969 when the former Busby Babe hit eight goals for Freddie Goodwin’s Albion side in just four league matches, including four away at Hartlepool. The following 1969/70 campaign, Dawson found himself a marked man but new striker Alan Gilliver gave defences a different problem. As Goodwin told Soccer Star magazine: “Alan is a wonderful character, always full of life and he and Alex Dawson are a great pair of comedians off the field. Gilliver is a big, strong player and takes some of the weight of Dawson.” The Scot was loaned to Brentford in September 1970, scoring six times in ten matches.
Jimmy Sirrell (Manager)
This ebullient Scottish inside forward played for Brighton between 1951 and 1954, scoring 17 times in 58 appearances. Although a strong and intelligent player, his lack of pace hampered his progress within Billy Lane’s Third Division (South) side. However, despite a modest playing career, Sirrell went on to great things in management, starting with Brentford, where he was boss for two seasons. As the obituary writer Ivan Ponting stated, ‘It proved a tough first assignment at Griffin Park, with the club heavily in debt, but he put in prodigiously long hours and within two years had reinvigorated the team and dramatically reduced the overdraft.’ At Notts County, he transformed the club from Fourth Division strugglers into a force in Division Two. In a second spell at County, Sirrell guided the club into the First Division, bringing in ex-Albion winger Howard Wilkinson as head coach.