The 4-0 demolition of Manchester United in the penultimate home game of last season will live long in the memory of all who were there. Many have described it as the best Albion performance they have ever seen. But where does it stand among the greatest performances in the 121-year history of the club?
As the montage played on the screens at the Amex before kick-off illustrates so well, the Albion and our fans have enjoyed some exhilarating moments over the years in winning promotions, play-off matches and last-gasp relegation struggles.
Nobody can forget injury-time headers from Adam Virgo against Swindon and Leo Ulloa at Nottingham Forest, Solly March opening the door to the Premier League against Wigan, Stuart Storer volleying home the last winner at the Goldstone and, of course, Robbie Reinelt’s life-saver at Hereford.
But some might argue that although these were important occasions, they were not matches at the highest level of the club game. But would restricting the choice to matches in the Premier League and the old First Division not rule all but nine seasons worth of the club’s matches out of the running?
So, taking into account the importance of the occasion, the quality of the performance and the strength of the opposition, here are six of the best.
Sept 5 1910: Aston Villa 0 Albion 1 (FA Charity Shield).
Albion became the unofficial champions of England when Charlie Webb’s goal beat Aston Villa, the Football League title-winners, to land the only major piece of silverware in the club’s history (so far).
It was only fitting that Webb decided the outcome. The Irishman was one of the most important figures in the history of the club – scoring 79 goals in 275 appearances as a player before going on to take charge of 1,215 games as manager.
The Charity Shield (now the FA Community Shield) is a Wembley showpiece between the Premier League Champions and the FA Cup holders these days but for five years before the First World War it was contested by the champions of the Football League and the Southern League, the two major leagues.
Albion were Southern League champions for the only time in their history and so faced Villa, Football League champions for a record sixth time, at Stamford Bridge in a match that was the talk of Sussex for weeks beforehand. Crowds headed north in special trains and the players travelled to Chelsea’s ground in a horse-drawn carriage, but any sense that the team was there just to enjoy a day out soon disappeared.
Nor, according to contemporary reports, was the result a smash-and-grab operation. In the first half, long-serving Bill ‘Bullet’ Jones hit the Villa post and goalkeeper Bob Whiting had very little to do despite the international quality in the opposition ranks – although there was a let-off when Villa winger Albert Hall curled a corner into the net, but goals direct from flag-kicks were not allowed until 1924.
In the second half, an Albion defence that had conceded only 28 goals in 42 games during the title-winning season held firm again, while winger Bertie Longstaff began to trouble Villa’s back line. From his corner 18 minutes from time, Villa goalkeeper Arthur Cartlidge failed to punch clear and Webb scored from Bill Hastings’ pass.
Webb then dropped into defence to help see out the win before skipper Joe Leeming stepped up to collect the Shield from the vice president of the FA and the Mayoress of Fulham, who handed out the medals. Cheering crowds filled Brighton station as the team arrived before changing trains for Hove and the return to the Goldstone.
We will be taking a look at other famous results on the club website in the club's history in the coming weeks.