Dean Wilkins

Dean Wilkins Brighton & Hove Albion
Dean Wilkins

Dean Wilkins had just eighteen League appearances under his belt when he left England for the Continent in 1984, but after three years in the Netherlands he returned considerably more experienced and played a large part at the Goldstone for nine years, appearing in more than 370 games and nearly leading the Albion back to the First Division in 1991.

Although he sometimes became the target of criticism from the terraces. the talented midfielder could transform a game when his vision and distribution came off. Equally, his outstanding free-kicks will long be remembered, especially the superb effort against Ipswich Town in May 1991 which famously clinched a place for the Albion in the Second Division play-Offs.

A member of the Wilkins football dynasty, Dean is the younger brother of Ray (ex-England skipper), Graham (Chelsea and Brentford) and Steve (Brentford): and the son of George (Brentford, Bradford (P.A.), Nottingham Forest and Leeds United). As a schoolboy, he represented Middlesex and trained with Chelsea and Manchester United. but it was with Queen’s Park Rangers that he served his apprenticeship. signing professional forms in May 1980.

Originally a defender. he developed into a midfielder but in three seasons at Lotus Road he made the starting line-up just twice. In August 1983, Dean arrived at the Goldstone on a free transfer and appeared in the first-team three times, but was released after a loan-spell with Orient towards the end of the season. Recommended to PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands by his former Albion colleague Hans Kraay, he honed his skills during three seasons in the Dutch League. Although Zwolle finished bottom of the First Division in his first campaign, they regained their place the following season and finished 1986-87 in mid table.

In July 1987, Albion manager Barry Lloyd brought the 25-year-old back to the Goldstone for a £10,000 fee. After a rocky start to his second spell with the club, Dean played an important part in Albion’s promotion back to the Second Division in 1987-88 and became an essential member of the side, making 123 consecutive appearances and captaining the team on many occasions. Although often criticised for his apparent lack of ‘bite’ and left-footed almost to a fault, there was no doubt that he was the chief play-maker in the side for several seasons and created countless goals with his imaginative passes.

Beset by injury problems in his latter days, Dean enjoyed a testimonial season in 1995-96, his brother Ray bringing Queen’s Park Rangers to the Goldstone for his benefit. At the end of the season, though, he was released, subsequently taking trials with Worthing and Torquay United. During 1996-97 he played for Worthing and Crawley Town before settling down with Bognor Regis Town.

Mike Trusson

Mike Trusson Brighton & Hove Albion
Mike Trusson

Mike Trusson made only a limited impact at the Goldstone, but he did enjoy a successful career in Yorkshire before coming to Sussex. After a trial with Chelsea, the Middlesex born youngster was playing for a youth side in Somerset when he was taken on as an apprentice by Plymouth Argyle, and made his Football League debut as a trainee before signing professional forms in January 1977.

Playing up front, Mike scored fifteen goals in 73 League games in four seasons at Home Park which included a loan spell with Stoke City in December 1978) before moving to Sheffield United for £60,000 in July 1980. While with the Blades’ he won a Fourth Division championship medal in 1981-82 and appeared in 126 League matches before being exchanged for Rotherham United’s Paul Stancliffe in December 1983.

Three-and-a-half seasons and 124 League matches at Millmoor ended when a receiver was called in to handle the club’s affairs. Mike was offered less-favourable terms and was made available for transfer at £50.000, but, as a creditor of the club, he appealed to a Football League tribunal for a free transfer and won his case. Now able to negotiate his own conditions, he signed for the Albion in July 1987. but suffered persistent knee problems before makine his debut five months later.

Playing as a tough-tackling midfielder, Mike was plagued with injuries while at the Goldstone and, unable to establish himself in the team, moved to Gillingham for a £20,000 fee in August 1989 where he brought his total of League appearances to 434 before further injuries cut short his career.

Mickey Thomas

Micky Thomas Brighton & Hove Albion
Mickey Thomas

Mickey Thomas came to prominence with Wrexham, whom he joined as an amateur in 1969 after representing Clwyd & Conwy and North Wales Schools. In 1971 he became an apprentice, signed as a pro in April 1972, and went on to play a big part in the “Robins'” most successful era. Gaining Welsh Cup winner’s medals in 1975 and 1978, he helped his side to the Third Division title in 1977-78.

The tenacious little Welshman also represented his country at youth, under-21 and under-23 levels, and won his first full cap against West Germany in October 1976 in a 2-0 defeat in Cardiff. His success as an attacking midfielder or winger attracted the attention of Manchester United, and he signed for them for £300,000 in November 1978. Mickey went on to enjoy 90 First Division outings at Old Trafford, playing in the side which lost the 1979 F.A. Cup final, but that proved to be the pinnacle of his career.

After joining Everton in August 1981, in an exchange deal for John Gidman valued at £450,000, he started on a downward spiral which barely relented. Mickey made just ten League appearances before joining the Albion three months later for a £350.000 fee, but his spell at Goodison was idyllic compared with his time in Hove and the impish 28-year-old moved on in August 1982, joining Stoke City for £200,000.

Mickey continued his wanderings for many vears: he later turned out for Chelsea (January 1984), helping them to the 1983-84 Second Division title: West Bromwich Albion (September 1985), where he won his last cap; Derby County (on loan March 1986): Wichita Wings in the U.S.A. (August 1986); Shrewsbury Town (August 1988); Leeds United (August 1989); and Stoke City again (on loan March 1990, signed August 1990).

In August 1991, Mickey returned to Wrexham and enjoyed a last, brief moment of glory when he helped knock Arsenal out of the FA. Cup, but he played his last League game in November 1992 at the age of 38 and was released in May 1993, joining Conwy United.

Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith Brighton & Hove Albion
Gordon Smith

‘And Smith must score!’ Gordon Smith has gone down in history for the incident in the 1983 F.A. Cup final when, confronted only by Gary Bailey in the last minute of extra time, he shot against the Manchester United goalkeeper – who spread himself well – and thus failed to land the F.A. Cup (and a place in Europe) for the Albion.

Yet it would be most unfair if the gifted Scot was remembered only for that. Described by manager Alan Mullery as ‘the Trevor Brooking of Scottish football’ when he paid £400,000 for the 25-year- old’s signature in June 1980 (an Albion record at the time), Gordon was an intelligent, constructive player with undeniable skill on the ball, and was – that one incident excepted – a good finisher in his role as an attacking midfielder.

As a precocious youngster he represented Ayrshire Schools, played regularly for Kilmarnock’s reserves while still at school, and made his first-team debut for ‘Killie’ at the age of seventeen in August 1972. After 44 goals in 203 League and Cup games at Rugby Park, and four appearances in Scotland’s under-23 team, Gordon joined Glasgow Rangers for £65,000 in August 1977 and won a host of honours in three seasons at Ibrox: a Scottish League championship, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups.

The tall midfielder was an immediate success on arriving at the Goldstone in 1980: he scored on his debut, completed a nineteen- minute hat-trick at Coventry two months later, and finished second in the scoring list to Michael Robinson in his first season with the club. At his best when coming forward from the middle of the park, Gordon was played as an out and-out striker by new manager Mike Bailey in January 1982, a situation which caused him to seek a transfer.

Subsequently in and out of the side, he returned to Ibrox on loan in December 1982 and played in the Rangers side which was beaten 2-1 by Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final. In the meantime, though, Bailey had left Hove and Gordon was welcomed back by Jimmy Melia, who used him as a striking partner for Michael Robinson following an injury to Gerry Ryan in March.

The Scot’s contribution to the F.A. Cup run was substantial: it was Gordon who made the winner for Robinson in the semi-final, and it was he who opened the scoring at Wembley with a beautifully directed header before booking his place in football folklore.

Following the appointment of Chris Cattlin as manager, Gordon had little opportunity to impress and was transferred to Manchester City for £35,000 in March 1984, helping them to promotion to Division One in 1985. He subsequently played for Oldham Athletic (on loan January 1986, signed for £5,000 in February).

Don Shanks

Don Shanks Brighton & Hove Albion
Don Shanks

A Fulham apprentice who joined Luton Town at the age of seventeen in July 1970, Don Shanks represented England at Youth level during his time at Kenilworth Road and had made 90 League appearances up to November 1974 when he was transferred to Queen’s Park Rangers for a £35,000 fee.

Helping Rangers to runner’s-up spot in the First Division in 1975-76, he was released in 1981 after 180 League matches at Loftus Road and joined Albion on their pre-season tour of the Netherlands Proving a more-than- adequate replacement for the departed John Gregory, Don was quickly signed on a free transfer by manager Mike Bailey and went on to make 42 League and Cup appearances in the ensuing 1981-82 season, playing consistently well as Albion tightened up their First Division defence considerably to finish a respectable thirteenth.

He appeared in twelve matches during the early part of 1982-83, but was dropped by Jimmy Melia and George Aitken in favour of Chris Ramsey when Bailey was dismissed in December 1982 and soon left for the Eastern club in Hong Kong.

On returning to the U.K, Don joined Wimbledon on a non-contract basis and made one Third Division appearance in 1983-84 before leaving to play and coach in the United States.

Gary Rowell

Gary Rowell Brighton & Hove Albion
Gary Rowell

An accomplished attacking midfielder Gary Rowell was worshiped by the fans on Wearside during a twelve year career with Sunderland, but was sadly unable to reproduce his excellent form away from Roker Park.

The son of John Rowell, the former Bournemouth, Wrexham and Aldershot forward, Gary played junior football in his native Seaham before joining the Roker staff as an apprentice in 1972. After turning professional in July 1974, the local youngster went on to become one of the club’s greatest heroes of recent times, scoring 99 goals in nearly 300 League and Cup games.

Top scorer in five of his ten seasons as a professional, he converted no fewer than 24 penalties and won an England under-21 cap in 1977 However, all good things come to an end, and Gary’s Sunderland career finished in 1984 following a dispute over the terms of his contract.

He moved on to Norwich City, but his time at Carrow Road was wrecked by injury and twelve months later he returned to his native North-East with Middlesbrough. ‘Boro, though, went into receivership during the 1986 close season and, with Ayresome Park padlocked, Gary was released to join the Albion in August 1986; Brighton manager Alan Mullery, in his second spell at the helm, thus finally signed a man he had pursued in the “Seagulls'” First Division days.

The classy midfielder’s debut came somewhat ironically at his spiritual home, Roker Park, but he was unable to establish himself in the Albion side until December, and then a toe injury suffered on 27 December effectively ended his career in Sussex.

Making only three more appearances before his contract was paid up in February 1988, Gary joined Dundee on a month’s contract and also had spells with Carlisle United (March 1988) and then Burnley (close season 1988), where he made nineteen appearances in the Fourth Division before he left the Football League.