There’s been no shortage of news involving current and former Brighton and Hove Albion centre-backs over the last week. Lewis Dunk finally got an England call up just a few days after him and Shane Duffy signed new five-year contracts.
Dan Burn, that bloke we signed for £3.5m despite him having a broken foot and then loaned straight back to Wigan, marked his return from said broken foot by getting booked, conceding a penalty and scoring an own goal in the Latics' 4-0 defeat at Preston. And Adam Hinshelwood’s Worthing side are now within one game of the first-round proper of the FA Cup.
But it’s Gordon Greer that I want to talk about. It seems to have slipped somewhat under the radar that Greer announced his retirement on the pitch at half-time of the West Ham United game on Friday night. That’s probably because Greer is one of the most criminally underrated players to play for the Albion, and with him hanging up his boots it’s about time that people appreciated just how good he was.
For reasons that seem to be totally unfathomable, there were plenty of Brighton supporters who never took to Greer or never rated him. That’s despite the fact that he is arguably the best captain the club has ever had.
He skippered the side 234 times under four different managers, leading the Albion to the League One title in his first season and three subsequent top-six finishes in the Championship.
The fact that such a diverse group of managers, from the egotistical Gus Poyet to the calm and collected Chris Hughton to the Barcelona-bred Oscar Garcia trusted him to captain their sides shows what a leader he was.
He was also a brilliant footballer who was pivotal to the transformation that the club underwent on the pitch under Poyet. Greer was the first real ball playing defender many of us had ever seen pull on the stripes.
Brighton’s idea of a cultured defender before that was Danny Cullip shouting “Lets ‘ave a winner”.
Then this £250,000 signing from Swindon Town rocked up in white boots, demanding the ball from the goalkeeper to start passing moves from the centre half position. He just made it look effortless. As Scotland boss Gordan Strachan put it, Greer looked like a Rockstar who was playing in a charity match.
Brighton looked good in the first two months of that League One title winning season, but they only looked truly great once Greer was in the team. He’d famously decided to elbow a Rochdale player in the face off the ball to get sent-off on his debut, having just come back from a three-match ban picked up while at Swindon which ruled him out of captaining them at Wembley in the previous season’s play-off final.
That meant we had to wait until October for Greer to get a run of games. With him in the starting line-up, the Albion suddenly went from drawing with Bournemouth and Tranmere and scraping narrow wins over Oldham Athletic and Brentford to hammering promotion rivals like Charlton Athletic and Peterborough United 4-0 and 3-0 away from home respectively. Coincidence?
He was an automatic pick right the way through the next six seasons until a combination of injury, age and the promising partnership between Lewis Dunk and Connor Goldson that was developing brought the curtain down on his Brighton career.
Not many players can touch Greer’s record as both a captain and a player. His arrival brought success on a level that we hadn’t seen for decades and, although we’re living halcyon days for the moment, that will always be remembered as among the greatest in the club’s history.
So, it’s time to give Greer the credit he deserves. To Gordon Greer, one of Brighton’s best ever players and the club's greatest ever captain. Enjoy your retirement, Gordo.
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