Roberto De Zerbi’s 2023 Albion squad has attracted praise from one of our greatest teams of the past, the players of the 1983 FA Cup final.
When the greats of ‘83 got together at the Amex for the 40th anniversary of that Cup run, there was only admiration for the performances of their successors this season.
Chris Ramsey, the right back at Wembley 40 years ago, has coached in the England set-up and is a great admirer of De Zerbi’s methods.
“His style of football is very adventurous,” he said. “The fans have bought into the way he wants to play and what they have achieved this season has been unprecedented. The ownership has backed him as well with the players they have bought and I can only see a bright future.
“I think anyone would enjoy playing like that, to be able to express yourself with other players who can do the same. They are showing the way to teams who are paying a lot more in wages and transfer fees than they are.”
Gordon Smith, the scorer of Albion’s opening goal in the final against Manchester United, agreed. “I think the present team is excellent,” he said. “I’m a big fan and I watch a lot of the games. I don’t think there is any doubt that this one of the best teams Brighton have ever had.
“Winning the Cup didn’t happen for us, but if this team gets into the Europa League, it will be the greatest achievement any Brighton team has managed. Lewis Dunk has been outstanding, Alexis Mac Allister too – but it’s more of a squad game now than a team game and you can look round and say that everyone has done well. They made a good signing getting Billy Gilmour in here. Only 21, but I think he has a lot to grow into. This Brighton team is going the right way and I’m delighted for them.”
Defender Gary Stevens now works on the other side of the cameras. “I’ve seen a lot of games doing media work in Malaysia and I think they play a great brand of football that puts them on a par with the best teams in the Premier League,” he said.
“Graham Potter did a great job and Roberto has moved the club on even further. The club is so well run from top to bottom, Tony Bloom, Paul Barber, the recruitment department is phenomenal. The ability to keep players when they want to, Moises Caicedo for example, and the ability to sell them at top money, Ben White for £50 million, I think that is really good business, personally. A very good player, yes, but I don’t think he has been missed. That type of work is exceptional. Would I have liked to play in the present team? Simple answer: yes please!”
Centre half Steve Gatting, who played for the club until 1991, is another who would have relished performing alongside the current players. “I have been to the Amex for about eight games and I have been very impressed,” he said. “They play fantastic football with great understanding and execution and it is really impressive.
“I would have loved to play in this team. I have had the stadium tour and the pitch is fantastic, not like when we played. I admire the way they are trying to play and I enjoy watching them. I was a defender, but I enjoyed playing football and I liked to play out from the back so I would love to have played in the present team.”
Left back Graham Pearce added: “The risk and reward for me is something they obviously practise on a daily basis and I admire them. But there are times when perhaps that ball needs to be further down the field. But who am I to tell the manager what he should do and how they should play? It’s exciting times for Brighton, the stadium, the way they are playing, being close to getting into Europe, I’m massively proud of where they have gone from the Gillingham and Withdean scenarios.”
Goalkeeper Graham Moseley might even have enjoyed playing out from the back on the Amex surface rather than in the conditions prevalent in 1983.
“Who wouldn’t want to play today?” he said. “The facilities here, the pitch, the support, the infrastructure. It has moved on a lot. I would have loved to earn the money they get as well, of course.
“You couldn’t play the way the team do now on The Goldstone, and that was one of the better pitches! But I’m so pleased that they are showing the rest of the country what a great team they have got. I would like to think they are becoming everyone’s second team.”