Nostalgia: All aboard the ‘Seagull Special’ to Watford...Ian Hine looks back at Brighton v Watford

Watford v Brighton 1975
Watford v Brighton 1975

The start of the new Premier League campaign takes us just north of London to Watford.

The Hornets are one of the few teams that Albion have played over 100 times.

Our 44 wins to 36, with 34 draws, mean that Saturday’s game will be the 115th time the clubs have met since the 1920/21 season.

Most games have taken place in the third tier, with both clubs members of Division Three (South) until 1957/58.

Perhaps the most famous meeting took place at the end of that season, when a 6-0 victory for Albion, in front of over 31,000 fans, sent us to the second division for the first time in our history.

For this weeks’ column however, we are going back to 1975 and a meeting at Vicarage Road in the FA Cup First Round. Albion were back in Division Three and about to embark on one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history. Watford were a division below, having been relegated the previous season.

Albion were enjoying a great opening to the 1975/76 season and were second in the table going into the cup-tie. Fred Binney was the league’s top scorer, with 12 goals in 16 games. Watford were finding life in Division Four difficult and were lying 17th with 14 points from their 17 games.

Albion, under manager Peter Taylor, were beginning to show the style of play that would take us all the way to the top flight by the end of the decade.

Crowds were coming back to The Goldstone and after huge interest in the Watford cup-tie, the club management took the step of chartering a train for the match. We had done this on a few occasions before, but the success of the short trip to Watford led to further excursions for the remainder of the season. These charter trains, later to be called the ‘Seagull Special’ were a regular feature of away games until the early 1980s.

As well as the train, many supporters made the journey by coach and in all, it was estimated that over 2,000 Albion fans made the journey to Vicarage Road.

The large contingent galvanised the team and they continued their fine league form with an emphatic win.

Neil Martin opened the scoring early and Albion went in at the break with a slender 1-0 lead. The second half was all Albion and two goals from that man Binney gave us a 3-0 victory and sent the Seagulls fans back to Sussex in great spirits.

Our FA Cup run continued to the third round where we fell to a disappointing defeat at third division strugglers Southend United. In the league, we ultimately suffered from an inability to get results away from home. We finished the season fourth, on 53 points, just three behind Millwall, who were promoted alongside Hereford United and Cardiff City. We picked up no less than 39 points at home and only managed four wins away from ‘Fortress Goldstone’.

That season also saw the debut of Peter Ward, when he made his debut at Hereford United in March 1976, scoring within 50 seconds of kick-off.

The stakes are considerably higher this Saturday, with the chance to put down an early marker in the Premier League.

Albion will no doubt be roared on by another large away contingent and although there are no charter trains this time around, here’s hoping that Graham Potter opens his account as Seagulls manager with an away win.