Back in the early days of The Seagull Love Review - September 2008 to be precise - we sent long time contributor Jerry the Sport to interview Paddy McIlvenny (11/11/24-06/03/13). Having read about his recent passing, we thought it entirely appropriate to replicate that interview on the blog - McIlvenny discussed the manager, players and the Goldstone Ground from when he played for Albion. Posting this seemed like an entirely brilliant thing to do this morning - marking this excellent Albion season by praising those who played for us in the olden days and are sadly no longer with us. That was until we spent all of today editing it - a concept we've realised today that we hadn't really considered way back in TSLR002, it turns out.
Paddy McIlvenney played for the Albion between 1951 and 1955. A wing-half, he was signed by manager Billy Lane (1951-61) and played with the nucleus of the Albion’s first title-winning team. Unfortunately an injury sustained in a game in 1954 sidelined him from the team and he moved to Aldershot before the glory season of 1957/58. I met Paddy last month and we talked all things Albion, casting his mind back over 50 years it was a pleasure to share time with him and hope his words, written here, create the same sense of nostalgia amongst those reading this as they did to me.
TSLR: You may well have been part of that Championship winning team if it hadn't been for your injury, what happened, it’s reported that you broke your leg?
PM: I ripped the cartilages, I didn't break it. During a game, I just twisted on the ground. I went to turn and I turned more than I reckoned on turning so it’s taken out across my knee and straightaway I’m off and Joe Wilson the ME (physio) worked on me. Joe was Glen Wilson’s brother.
TSLR: What are your memories of Billy Lane?
PM: Nobody liked him.
TSLR: They didn't like him?
PM: Nobody liked him. No, he was a bastard. He wasn't well thought of, although his work record was good. He went to Southend, everyone said, why did he go to Southend? He’s got Brighton. (The) reason was probably more money which (meant) everything then. He was a crook, everything he did, you looked at and thought, aaaggghh, what’s he on? What’s happening? He’s doing something; you were always worried that he was pulling a stroke on you. He tried to cut my wages following the injury and so we couldn't agree terms and I went to Aldershot. Billy Lane was a bad man as far as looking after players and things, he was always pulling strokes that suited him. He was a poor manager.
TSLR: And the players?
PM: Steve Burtenshaw was a very effective player, he was big; and usually big players get a bit cumbersome but Steve held control. He could play at wing-half and he could still tackle well and make a pass and back the pass up. Des Tennant was small and fat, a lovely bloke. He was hard, he was small and he was fat but the fat was held well (and) he could move with it, he was very fast.
Dave Sexton had great knowledge of football, and he had his own mind about football. In the team he was the number one man when he was out there on the playing pitch. He was very, very good. He was very keen and always in the play; you’d look up and you would see him somewhere. It wouldn't be a hard pass to make. At half time, he’d give a little lecture, he spotted things that others didn't.
Roy Jennings was a lovely player, a centre half, big and strong, and he did his job - he would get up higher than anybody else. He was a good player in his position, a very good player. Peter Harburn was underrated. He was a centre forward and it was hard to beat him. He would go forward and whack a player out of his way without any bother at all. Very strong player. Ken Whitfield was a good centre half, but he went to Torquay. He shouldn't have been let go, too good a player, but they let him go; they accepted money for him and it probably earned him just a little above his wages. He probably made himself 500 quid with this move and that’s how players were rewarded then… mind you, it’s no good me arguing 'cause I was making more money than any of them.
TSLR: Why was that?
PM: I was beginning my building business as well as the football business, so I had plenty of money coming in. I played with Peter Small, he was an average player. Good enough, he’d get the ball and would hang to the wing and accept the balls that were hit square. Then he would play it inside and go so he was effective all the time because he was fast, he could motor. Adrian Thorne - he was a good player, he was a funny player. He wanted to be a champion but he was quite a bit short of being a champion. If a move broke down he’d shrug his shoulders at times and forget about it whereas everybody else would learn from it.
TSLR: What do you remember about playing at the Goldstone?
PM: The Goldstone pitch was a good pitch. The worst snag was when you got down the bottom, as it sloped from just over the halfway line down to the by-line. Nothing worse than a sloped pitch. The South Stand was more or less taken over by the wives and girlfriends who had their own area.
TSLR: Back then the South stand was terracing at the front and seating behind, if I’m correct?
PM: That’s right. and there was food, they’d make food for the wives and girlfriends and the South Stand was packed. Quite a crowd, they used to get 15,16,17 thousand.
TSLR: The average gate in 1952/53 was 17,493 (down a thousand from the previous season). That was an average gate!
PM: The Directors and their friends would sit in the West Stand, there wasn't much seating there then, just enough for them.The North stand was noisy, they’d bollock everybody. Unforgiving. They expected a goal with every attack.