Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club
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Albion History
 

1900s
Several influential United supporters, led by photographer William Avenell, then formed an amateur side, Brighton & Hove Rangers, designed to attract the best of the local players. Using a pitch (now Surrenden Field) at Home Farm, Withdean, to the north of Brighton, Rangers managed some excellent results against good opposition and reached the final of the county’s premier competition, the Sussex Senior Cup, where they lost 3–1 to Eastbourne.
The success of Rangers did not go unnoticed and they were invited to join the Southern League’s Second Division for 1901/02. A pitch was secured at the Sussex County Ground, but in the summer Rangers also folded, probably because of financial difficulties or allegations of professionalism.
The cause was then taken up by John Jackson, the former manager of United, who called a meeting for 24th June 1901 at the Seven Stars Hotel (now O’Neills) in Ship Street at which a new, third club was formed. Brighton & Hove United took up the now-defunct Rangers’ place in the Southern League, but, because of complaints by Hove F.C., the name was soon changed to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Early Success
Run semi-professionally, the infant club beat Shoreham 2–0 in its first game on 7th September 1901 on a pitch in Dyke Road. The first competitive fixture, played at the County Ground, saw Albion defeat Brighton Athletic 6–2 in the preliminary round of the F.A. Cup.
Playing in “fisherman’s-blue” shirts and white “knickers”, the team challenged for promotion from the Second Division but fell away to finish third in its first season. Late on a number of games were played at the Goldstone Ground, which had been rented to Hove F.C. by Alderman John Clark of Goldstone Farm from the start of the season, and Albion were invited to share the Spartan arena from 1902. There was just one stand, seating 400 spectators on the western touchline, while a natural bank rose from south to north on the east side.
In 1902/03, Albion shared the Southern League Second Division title with Fulham, but had to play a “test match” with First Division side Watford for the right to compete in the top section the following season. Although Albion won the game 5–3 at Canning Town, with former England international Ben Garfield scoring four times, the club committee recommended that promotion be rejected on the grounds of expense. However, the club membership voted overwhelmingly to accept the place in the First Division in an early demonstration of “fan power”.
Further Progress
The first season in Division One of the Southern League was a struggle and Albion were forced – successfully – to seek re-election, but 1904 was a notable year for other reasons: the club was incorporated as a limited company under chairman George Broadbridge to maintain the good progress; Hove vacated the Goldstone Ground, leaving Albion as sole tenants of Alderman Clark; an 1,800-seat stand was installed behind the south goal; the club adopted a new strip of blue-and-white stripes which went on to become the traditional colours; and Albion were admitted as full members of the Football Association.
League form was erratic over the next few seasons and the club struggled to make ends meet. John Jackson was sacked, but more as a result of the administrative chaos that had arisen rather than poor performances on the pitch. In fact, the Football Association inquired into the club in 1905 and suspended a number of directors for mismanagement, as well as censuring the now-departed Jackson. He was replaced by Frank Scott-Walford who led the club to the F.A. Cup’s first round proper (equivalent to today’s third round) for the first time in 1905/06 before losing narrowly to Middlesbrough in round two, and to third place in the Southern League the following season.
Cup games provided the major interest, though, and Preston North End, from the Football League’s First Division, were beaten in 1908 and Liverpool were taken to a replay. The latter tie attracted a record crowd of around 12,000 to the Goldstone.
Champions of All England
In 1909/10, however, Albion won the Southern League championship. Jack Robson, manager since 1908, had assembled an excellent side with the meanest defence in the club’s history. Men such as goalkeeper Bob “Pom Pom” Whiting, full-back Joe Leeming, wing-half Billy Booth, winger Bert Longstaff, centre-forward Bill “Bullet” Jones and inside-forward Charlie Webb (who, in March 1909, had become Albion’s first international) were outstanding in a superb season. A crowd of around 11,000 saw Albion defeat their nearest rivals, Swindon Town, 3–1 at the Goldstone on 23rd April to clinch the title. Just sixteen players were used as the club also annexed the Southern Charity Cup.
Winning the title qualified the Albion to play for the Football Association’s Charity Shield, which was then contested by the respective champions of the Football League and the rival Southern League.


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