Representing your country at football is undoubtedly a proud moment in a player’s career. For those who get to play on the international stage, their caps are often amongst their most treasured possessions.
Inside forward Charlie Webb became the first player to play a full international match while playing for Brighton & Hove Albion. However, his Ireland side suffered a painful 5-0 loss against Scotland in March 1909, and his other two matches for his country ended with the taste of defeat.
In the 1920s, the prolific Jack Doran also won three caps with Ireland as a Brighton player. However, it took until Jack Jenkin’s appearance for Wales in their 2-0 win against Scotland in 1924 for an Albion player to be on the winning side of an international match.
In February 1925, Tommy Cook became the club’s first-ever England international when he played against Wales, while Jimmy Magill became Brighton’s first Northern Ireland international with five appearances in the 1960s.
Speaking of Northern Ireland, Willie Irvine’s superb form for Brighton in 1971/72 helped him back into the international team. He even got an assist for his Terry Neill’s winner against England at Wembley in a Home Internationals match in May 1972.
As the striker wrote in his autobiography, “It was a night all Irishmen from the North will cherish forever. Promotion and a recall to the Northern Ireland team. What more could a man ask for? I will not forget the band of Brighton fans who travelled up to Wembley, not so much to watch England but to cheer me on. When I went over to applaud them I felt ten feet tall.”
‘The Welsh Rivelino’, Peter O’Sullivan was the first Albion player to score an international goal while with the club. In his third and final appearance for Wales, ‘Sully’ came off the bench to get on the scoresheet in an easy 7-0 victory over Malta in October 1978.
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As for the legendary striker Peter Ward, he made his only full England appearance as a five-minute cameo in a cricket ground in Australia.
In October 1980, club history was made when the Republic of Ireland faced France in Paris. It was the first time three Brighton players featured in the same international match. Mark Lawrenson and Michael Robinson were in the Ireland starting line-up, while Gerry Ryan came off the bench.
Speaking in Football Handbook at the time, Mark Lawrenson revealed Alan Mullery’s attempt to get Lawro to represent England, "When I came to Brighton I’d only played once for the Republic and the boss said he was going to find out if I was still eligible for England. It wasn’t on, but I wouldn’t have changed anyway. It was a bit strange in front of the Dublin crowd at first, but now I can’t wait to get that Ireland shirt over my head."
Lawrenson made 14 appearances with the Republic as a Seagulls player. This included a goal against the Netherlands September 1980. Michael Robinson also scored against the Dutch a year later with a thumping volley.
When his country played France a month later, the Republic of Ireland line-up was packed with Brighton club links. Robinson and Lawrenson were there while future Seagulls bosses Liam Brady and Chris Hughton were also in the starting eleven. Partnering ‘Robbo’ upfront was future Brighton striker Frank Stapleton. Once again, Robinson scored, as he ran the French defence ragged.
On 25th June 1982, Steve Foster and Sammy Nelson became the first-ever Brighton footballers to play in a World Cup game. ‘Fozzie’ helped England to a 1-0 success against Kuwait, while Nelson came on as a substitute in a shock victory for Northern Ireland against hosts Spain.
Gerry Armstrong scored the winner against Spain in Valencia and signed for the Seagulls four years later, after the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. His international teammate, Steve Penney, a Brighton wing wizard, had also played in Mexico ’86, against Algeria and Spain.
A year later, Penney fired this solo goal for Northern Ireland against Israel in Tel Aviv.