One Of Our Own: Steve Burtenshaw

Steve Burtenshaw, who sadly passed away on Thursday, served the Albion with real distinction as a player and coach.

By Luke Nicoli • 18 February 2022

Steve Burtenshaw spent his entire playing career with Albion.

He was featured in the matchday programme against Arsenal in March 2020 where he spoke enthusiastically about his long association with his local club.

When did you first sign for the Albion, Steve?

I was 13 or 14 when Norman Foot, a local scout, invited me along for training. I had been playing for both Brighton and Sussex Boys and remember it being so different to schools’ football. I was two years younger than most of the lads, but that brought the best out of me as I strived to reach their levels. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and I left school early to become an apprentice.

What did that entail?

By Paul Hazlewood
Steve Burtenshaw served the club as a player and coach.

It was much different to the apprentices of today, that’s for sure. I was a groundstaff boy, so I helped cut the grass at the Goldstone, put the rubbish bins out and keep the terraces tidy, but being in and around the stadium every day gave me that extra incentive to want to play there for the first team. I turned pro at 17 which also meant that I only had to do 18 months’ National Service, so didn’t miss out on as much football as I could have done.

You made your debut as a 17-year-old away at Exeter City in April 1953. What was that like?

It was a big day for me to play for my local club, a tremendous high. We won the game quite convincingly [5-1] but it was difficult for me to establish myself in the side, not just because I was so young but because I had to go off to Germany with the Army the following year. I got through that time by playing football for the Services, but in the back of my mind was returning to the Albion and becoming a first-team starter.

You’d become a regular by the time of the 1957/58 Third Division South championship-winning season. What are your memories of that side?

Burtenshaw won promotion from the third and fourth division with Albion.

We had some great players; Eric Gill in goal, Des Tennant, Peter Harburn and Dave Sexton scoring the goals, Frankie Howard and Dennis Gordon always a threat with their pace… when you look at some of those names, I was just pleased to say I held my own in that company, and the crowds, well we packed them in at the Goldstone. I’ll always remember clinching the title on the final day, thanks to Adrian Thorne’s goals five goals against Watford. The Champagne was flowing in the dressing room afterwards and it continued long into the night!

Tell us about Billy Lane, the manager…

Billy was a fine man-manager; he wasn’t one to go out in his tracksuit and train the team, he wasn’t what you’d call a technical coach, but he made sure we always played to the best of our ability and the players rose to the challenge. He would have you giving everything for the shirt and Des, too, was a driving force in that respect. He was always one to gee the lads up on the pitch if things were not going to plan.

You played regularly for four seasons in the early Sixties at left-half but by the time of the 1964/65 title-winning season, you’d become more coach than player…

It was a natural progression for me. While I was a player I did my coach badges at Lilleshall and was delighted to be given the opportunity to become player-coach under Archie Macaulay. I was still a player too, mind, and made a couple of appearances that season, but it was great to be a part of that squad. We had the great Bobby Smith from Spurs who, although didn’t like the lapping we did in training, was a likable lad and we turned a blind eye to any moaning because he was such an asset on the pitch. He also had an outstanding wingers in Wally Gould – a real team player who was top scorer that season – and Jimmy Collins, who provided that bit of craft and could also chip in with goals. It was a great side all around and although we were a bit patchy on the road, at the Goldstone we were unbeatable. We didn’t lose a home game that season.