Connor: I didn't know where Brighton was when I signed

Former striker reflects on time with club after celebrating his 60th birthday.

By Charlie Hanson • 18 November 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
The former striker turned 60 last week.

He wasn’t quite sure how, but Terry Connor enjoyed another victory with Mick McCarthy last week.

“I am not 100% sure how golf handicaps work, but our friends shook hands with us on the 16th hole and said that me and Mick had won!”

The night before Mick had done an ‘evening with…’ in Wolverhampton and met up with his assistant manager from their time together at Wolves, Ipswich Town and the Republic of Ireland for a round of golf with some friends.

Mick and ‘TC’ have become an intrinsically linked duo in the last 15 years, but to Albion fans, Terry has always been a number nine, rather than a number two.

The striker arrived on the south coast in March 1983 from Leeds United.

By Paul Hazlewood
Terry spent four years with Albion, departing in 1987 for Portsmouth.

“I didn’t really know where Brighton was when I signed,” TC admitted. “I was told that we were flying to Gatwick – I knew Gatwick was south of London. My then fiancée Jan and I were waiting at Leeds Bradford Airport for the flight to come up which had Andy Ritchie on, who was travelling the other way.

“We walked across each other in the airport and we had a quick chat, but then the penny dropped and I realised what was happening, it was a swap deal. We got the flight down and I was thinking ‘we can’t be far from Brighton’. We drove for a while and I ended up saying to the driver ‘what way are we going, are we going south?’”

That journey would prove to be the easier than their next when they drove down to Sussex from Leeds for the first time a few weeks later. 

“My dad gave me a map so I could work out the route. So, you go down the M1 and round the M25, the A23 and down to Brighton. So I thought I was driving on the M25 towards Heathrow on this new route and then bang! Rubble, stones and big diggers.

I looked at the map again and the road was a dotted line, it hadn’t been finished! We left at 11am and got to Brighton at midnight, it took us 13 hours!
Terry Connor

“I looked at the map again and the road was a dotted line, it hadn’t been finished! We left at 11am and got to Brighton at midnight, it took us 13 hours!

“We went through places I’d never heard of. We had to stop to ask people in Leatherhead and Staines if we were going in the right direction towards Brighton!”

Terry quickly realised that the facilities he enjoyed at Leeds might not be the same at his new club.

“Before some away games we would go over to Hove Park from the Goldstone. We would take poles and put a tracksuit or a jumper on top, this was in the first division. We would have a game of eight-v-eight. Dogs would come and chase the ball sometimes.

“I hadn’t come across that before, but there were a lot of things I hadn’t come across when I moved to Brighton. I heard a home team applaud the opposition for the first time, you wouldn’t get that in Leeds! Elland Road was hostile and that’s all I had ever known.

“We were playing Tottenham and were chasing this ball and we couldn’t get it, and our fans were clapping saying ‘well played, very good’! I was on the pitch thinking ‘no!’” But I grew to appreciate the football knowledge and the passion for the game that Brighton fans had."

We meet at Terry’s home in Sutton Coldfield, the day before Albion’s trip to Molineux, though you’d struggle to find any evidence of his long career in the game.

There’s nothing hanging on the walls or on display, but then Terry points to a small cabinet by his sofa.

In it is probably the most iconic picture of Terry’s playing career, him celebrating his goal against Liverpool in the 1983-84 FA Cup fourth round.

“I took two or three touches, but I knew [Liverpool goalkeeper] Bruce Grobbelaar was fast off his line and when strikers went to take their first touch he would smother it. On my second touch I looked and saw him, so I hit it early and it surprised him.

“They had the best players in the country in their team. [Mark] Lawrenson was exceptionally quick, him and [Alan] Hansen could control it, positionally Alan was superb, they trusted themselves and played a lot like Liverpool do now, so the space was in behind – we said for the boys to try and get the ball in that space.

By Paul Hazlewood
Terry Connor with the photo of him celebrating against Liverpool, which was tucked away in a cabinet.

“They were European and league champions. The only way we could beat them was to really pressurise them in every situation. Hansen said to me at one point ‘will you f*****g stop running!’ because we chased them all afternoon.

“We still had the nucleus of the team that reached the final, who knew how to win a one-off game.”

FA Cup success was an ambition TC had from a young age and especially after missing Albion’s run to the Cup final the previous year because he was cup-tied.

“I went to the first final against Manchester United in 1983 to watch but I couldn’t face going to the replay. Everyone was in decent spirits after the first game. I said to [Albion manager] Jimmy Melia, ‘if you want me to be with the team and help in any way, I will, because I am a part of the squad. But I can’t go through being at Wembley and not being able to play.’

By The Argus
Terry Connor scored 51 goals in 156 appearances for Albion.

“It’s one of the things that I would have loved to have done, but it was impossible for me to play. A few years later we played in the quarter-finals against Southampton and that was the closest I came to any sort of glory in the FA Cup.”

TC’s time at Albion ended in 1987 when he signed for Portsmouth. He departed having scored 51 times in 156 appearances.

“Every time I go back people call out to me from the stands. There’s a passion about Brighton, but a different kind of passion to Leeds. I remember asking a supporter who stopped me in the street if he went to games, he said ‘I do sometimes, but on the weekends I like to go out on my yacht’, You certainly didn’t have many people in Leeds with yachts!

“I loved living in Brighton. It was a different way of life to what I had really seen or known before. When I lived in Shoreham I would say ‘morning’ to people and they’d look at me as if to say ‘did he just speak to me?!’ It was normal in Leeds but not so much in the south.

“Apart from being born and bred in Leeds and having that dream of playing for Leeds, Brighton was some of my best days as a player, I learned so much. What the club went through with losing the Goldstone, moving to Gillingham and then Withdean. The stadium at Falmer was what everyone in Brighton deserved. It’s a great place to play isn’t it?”