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O’REILLY: I DID MY TALKING ON THE PITCH

8 March 2019

The Argus
Gary O'Reilly celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace in 1984.

Only a handful of players have pulled on the shirts of both Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace — one of those being Gary O’Reilly — and the defender reflected on the transition between the Goldstone Ground and Selhurst Park.

After spending five years at Tottenham Hotspur, O’Reilly moved to the Seagulls, where he went on to feature for two-and-a-half seasons before joining arch rivals Palace.

O’Reilly commented on the reasons behind his controversial switch, and his respect for former Albion manager Alan Mullery, who dealt with the transfer back in 1987.

He said, “I scored my first-ever league goal for Brighton and it was against Crystal Palace. We also played them the following season and I had two goals disallowed — Steve Coppell just got bored with me scoring goals against them.

“I was told one week that if the club didn’t sell a player, they wouldn't be able to pay the wages for that month. Mullers [Alan Mullery] was straight with me, he didn’t hesitate in telling me exactly what the deal was.

Mullery Manager.jpg

“I totally respected him for being like that, he didn’t try to couch it, hide it or play games, he told me straight. He said ‘go to Palace and if you don’t like what you see, come back and we’ll find another way'.

“I didn’t ask for a transfer, but Ron Noades [then Crystal Palace chairman] knew he could come in and cherry pick from a talented side.

“The fans realised I didn’t go to Palace to hate, I went to Palace to win. I’d played against them a number of times and Steve Coppell wanted to develop the squad and make me part of it.”

O’Reilly’s spell with the Eagles came to an end in 1991 when he returned to the Goldstone Ground, and it proved to be the final move of his career.

“When I came back to Albion, the club was in a very different place,” he said. “The financial situation had got worse and we were losing players. We were just haemorrhaging talent and it was a tragedy.

O'Reilly Southend 1992.jpg

“We worked hard to keep the scores down and when you do that and practice the art of defending to the best of your ability, you get professional satisfaction from that.

“If I could stop strikers from scoring, then I was doing my job. If I could help the team create opportunities, I was also doing my job.

“I didn’t have to show the fans anything, I just came out and it was me. I didn’t get involved in discussions and conversations about where I’d come from, it was just about doing my talking on the pitch.”


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