Ahead of our latest visit to play Brighton, club historian Rick Glanvill recalls a spring night down in Sussex when Chelsea were in unstoppable form…
Until the Seagulls’ elevation to English football’s top tier in 2017, Chelsea had only visited Brighton twice in the league, both in the 1980s and both in Division Two.
The famous Victorian seaside resort is regarded by many as ‘London by the sea’ and it definitely felt that way 30 years ago in September 1983, when hordes of Blues fans swamped not just the Goldstone Ground but the town itself as John Neal’s side ran out 2-1 victors.
Five-and-a-half years later on Wednesday 15 March 1989, Bobby Campbell’s high-flyers (Campbell is pictured above) returned and kept on course for an instant return to the top flight in the 20th match of an unbeaten run that left promotion in the Blues’ own hands.
Despite the fervent away support, the Londoners laboured against a Seagulls side who had gone 11 games unbeaten at home and featured former Blues Gary Chivers and Keith Dublin in their ranks.
The hosts maintained a long-ball bombardment of World War One proportions throughout the night but, fortunately, when Dave Beasant could not keep the hosts at bay, Graham Roberts and John Bumstead were on hand to clear off the line.
Roberts afterwards credited his young Scottish centre-back partner, who had endured an up-and-down season. ‘What’s booted us up the backside is Joe McLaughlin,’ the veteran revealed. ‘He had a bad time early on – Colin Pates took over – and Joe’s just come in and done a fantastic job.’Besides surviving the aerial barrage from Barrie Lloyd’s side, Chelsea settled the match with a single goal 10 minutes before half-time. Bustling Scots winger John McAllister nicked the ball off Adrian Owers, surged towards goal and cracked out a shot. Goalkeeper John Keeley could only parry, and Kevin Wilson swept in his 12th goal of the season.
Three days later the Londoners won 3-2 at Manchester City to vault up to first, a position they never relinquished.