As Albion look to extend a three-match Premier League unbeaten run, we go back to a similar scenario in February 1982.
Mike Bailey’s team were eighth in Division One and dreaming of a top-half finish. The manager’s tactics were being called into question by some sections of the Goldstone crowd, despite the high league position.
In his ‘From the Manager’s Chair’ column, Bailey stressed the importance of a good defence: “You don’t build a skyscraper from the top, you start with the foundations”. He pointed to recent success for teams like Nottingham Forest who, when they won the European Cup against Hamburg, “were able to cope with pressure for much of the game but their defensive organisation allowed them to win a trophy.”
Perhaps summing up his attitude, Bailey says “I am prepared to put up with some criticism, but I am not looking for a ‘one-off’ season. If we went out in every game and attacked non-stop and were relegated, we would get no thanks from anyone”.
To reinforce this, he opted for his settled line-up for the game against Everton. Graham Moseley was the rock in goal, behind Gary Stevens, Sammy Nelson, Steve Foster and Steve Gatting.
In midfield, Jimmy Case and Neil McNab provided the steel, with Gerry Ryan and Tony Grealish completing a strong quartet. Up front, Gordon Smith and Andy Ritchie provided the spearhead to a powerful Albion line-up.
Crowds were on the decline and just over 16,000 turned up for the game, which could have seen Albion move up to fifth. The ever-present threat of hooliganism had affected gates all over the country and in an attempt to make a better environment for fans, Albion applied to have the perimeter fence in front of the West Stand replaced with less intrusive bars.
Those that did turn up, on a cold crisp afternoon, were rewarded with an excellent performance by the Seagulls. Despite his defensive duties, Grealish found time and space to open the scoring and we went in at half-time with a slender advantage.
The second half was all Albion and although Everton scored early on, goals from Ryan and Foster gave us the three points and a 3-1 victory.
Other results that day meant we remained in eighth place but our remaining 19 games yielded just four victories and 12 defeats.
This still led to our (to date) highest ever top-flight finish of 13th, but the style of play and worsening financial issues left fans feeling frustrated. Everton went on to finish in eighth and over the next few seasons were to enjoy the most prolific period in their history.
Bailey lasted until December 1982 when he was replaced by Jimmy Melia. There are many parallels from that season and it would be great if Albion could replicate that result at Goodison Park on Saturday and go on to better that league position.
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