Brighton and Hove Albion’s rivalry with Norwich City goes back nearly 100 years, to our very first season as a football league club in 1920.
Since then, we have played each other 88 times, with Albion winning 30, Norwich City 34 and 24 draws. Over half those fixtures were in Division Three (South) and Saturday’s game will be just the seventh time we have met in the top flight. The most recent meeting at The Amex was the sparkling 5-0 win at the end of October 2016.
For this week’s column I am going back to September 1980, when the Canaries visited for a First Division fixture. Albion, under Alan Mullery, had just avoided relegation in our first season in the top flight and the 1980/81 campaign promised to be a struggle.
A win on the opening day was followed by three defeats and two draws and the Seagulls were hovering close to the relegation zone. Norwich were also at the wrong end of the table, above Albion only on goal difference.
Alan Mullery made just one change from the previous week’s draw at Birmingham City, Gary Stevens coming in for the injured Ray McHale. Graham Moseley was in goal, behind a back line of John Gregory, Steve Foster, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Williams. In midfield, Stevens was joined by Brian Horton, Neil McNab and Gordon Smith. Up front, Michael Robinson was partnered by Peter Ward.
Norwich under John Bond included the manager’s son Kevin, as well as Justin Fashanu up front.
Albion had scored just 8 goals in their 6 league games, with Peter Ward struggling to find the form that had brought him so many goals in previous seasons. He was unsettled by talk of a possible move away from the Goldstone, with Nottingham Forest expressing an interest.
The unsettled times at the club were reflected in the play, as Albion made a hesitant start against Norwich. Despite creating little, it was the same for both sides and the teams went in at half time level at 0-0. The crowd was just under 15,000, a far cry from the huge attendances that had been seen at The Goldstone in previous seasons.
The North Stand had been declared unsafe in the summer and had been demolished, with the South Stand also undergoing repair after a fire in April 1980.
Alan Mullery’s words at half time seemed to do the trick, as Albion came out for the second half in a much more positive frame of mind. Michael Robinson was a constant threat up front and he got his reward soon after half time with his fourth goal of the season.
This gave Albion fresh hope and Gary Stevens doubled the lead with half an hour to go with just his second goal for the club. He was on hand to slot home after Steve Foster had nodded down Gary Williams’ corner. At the end of the game Albion were good value for the 2-0 win and hopes were high that this would give the team some impetus going forward.
This was not to be the case and the win against Norwich was to be the last for nearly two months. The team hit the bottom of Division One in November and struggled to pull clear for the rest of the season. With four matches to go, it was looking like Albion were going down and Norwich City were also struggling against relegation.
In one of the greatest escapes ever seen, Albion won their last four games to stay up by just two points. Norwich were not so lucky and were relegated, along with Leicester City and Crystal Palace.
Albion come into Saturday’s game on the back of two consecutive home wins and with Norwich struggling, let’s hope Graham Potter’s men can continue the good run and continue to climb the Premier League table.