On this day: Gary Chivers signs for Albion

Today marks 35 years since Gary Chivers made the move to the south coast.

By Nick Szczepanik • 19 March 2023

By The Argus
Gary Chivers spent five years with Albion.

Fans often wonder whether players care about results as much as they do. Well, Gary Chivers did. The versatile defender, who signed for Albion 35 years ago, once confronted a referee about a decision that had cost the club a vital goal 20 years after the event.

The contentious ruling happened in Albion’s 3-1 defeat by Notts County in the 1991 second division play-off final at Wembley. Gary recalled the incident a few years ago for this website.

“At 0-0 I played the ball off [County’s] Tommy Johnson for a goal kick and David Elleray, the referee, gave a corner that they scored from,” he said. “I saw him a few years ago, and went over to set the facts straight and he said: ‘You’re still going on about that from 20 years ago?’ and I said: ‘Too right I am.’

“I walked away from him because it was winding me up, but it was because of how much it would have meant to the club. We would have gone on from there if we had got into the first division but instead we ended up having to sell Mike Small and Budgie [Byrne] and we went down at the end of the next season.”

By The Argus
Gary Chivers is still frustrated with a corner decision given against him in 1991.

In those days before transfer windows, Chivers’ signing from Watford for the third division promotion run-in of the 1987-88 season had been something of a coup for Albion manager and shrewd transfer-market operator Barry Lloyd. Londoner Chivers had begun his career with Chelsea in 1979 and was used to playing one or two levels higher than the third tier after spells with Swansea City and QPR.

“Brighton were fifth or sixth in the third division, where I’d never played, while Watford were near the bottom of the old first division,” he said.  “But I decided to go to Brighton because I had a look at their fixtures and I even asked for a promotion bonus because I was so confident they would go up. I was probably a bit more confident than Barry Lloyd, but it was still a gamble.”

The gamble, though, paid off.  Slotting into the defence at right back alongside Bob Isaac, Steve Gatting and Keith Dublin, he helped Albion to seven wins and three draws in their last ten games of the season. Promotion was clinched on the final day, goals from Keven Bremner and Garry Nelson beating Bristol Rovers 2-1 at a packed Goldstone.

By The Argus
Gary wasn't a fan of the 'deckchair' shorts.

He was later joined in the old second division by former Chelsea colleagues Clive Walker and Colin Pates and one-time QPR teammate John Byrne, who had been playing in France. His versatility meant that he was also called upon to play in central defence alongside Pates, Paul McCarthy or Gatting. 

And he also had the valuable knack of getting on the scoresheet. Until the emergence of current Albion skipper Lewis Dunk, he was the proud holder of the club’s scoring record for a defender, with 16 goals in his 252 appearances. “All centre-halves have a secret centre-forward in there,” he said. “We all want to be goalscorers. I loved getting up there for a header or volley, loved it.”

Among many other highlights of his Albion playing career were a 2-2 FA Cup fourth-round draw against Liverpool at Anfield after the Reds had led 2-0 and the sixth-place finish in 1991 that led to that play-off final after a 6-2 aggregate semi-final triumph over Millwall. 

But the following season was an extreme anti-climax that ended in relegation back to the third division, and the club’s finances dictated that he left at the end of his contract for AFC Bournemouth after five seasons in Sussex.

“I loved playing for Brighton even when they brought in the deckchair shorts,” he said. “I was sad to leave in 1993. We just missed the playoffs, but my contract was up and anyone on decent money had to go.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Gary Chivers is now a matchday host at the Albion, alongside former player Andy Rollings.

But Gary would eventually return to the club as a popular match-day host at the Amex Stadium. And, if pressed, he might tell the story behind the ‘We’ve Got A Maltese International’ t-shirts bearing his picture that were once sold outside the Goldstone.

“My dad was Maltese and someone wrote a story about me and I was asked whether I was interested in playing for Malta – because I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the England squad, and at 28 that was probably true.

“Contact was made with the Maltese FA before they were due to play the Republic of Ireland in a World Cup qualifier and they said they would love me to play but I had to satisfy one of three criteria. Had I ever lived in Malta? And I said I hadn’t. Could I speak Maltese? I could say ‘ Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Sit down,’ and swear. So no, not really.  And was I married to a Maltese citizen? No, my wife is British. So I couldn’t play. The irony is that even having an Irish grandfather would have qualified me to play for the Republic.”