Brian Horton recalls Paul Holsgrove transfer that worked out well for Brighton

Former Brighton player and manager Brian Horton has described the summer of 1998 at Albion as a “frantic” one. This was not a hyperbolic statement as Horton, who managed the Seagulls between February 1998 and January 1999 when they were in what would now be League Two, completely changed the squad. With Horton at the helm, the Sussex outfit finished with 35 points at the end of the 1998/99 season – 12 fewer than the previous campaign when they had stayed up on the final day at Hereford.

In his autobiography, Two Thousand Games: A Life in Football, he told club chairman Dick Knight what needed to happen, leaving his boss rather taken aback.

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The book reads: “I want 18 out and 18 in,” I told him. “The reserves are bottom of the league; the kids are bottom of their league and the first team finished one place off bottom place in the bottom league. There is something wrong with the club.” Horton, who played more than 200 times for Brighton between 1976-81, said there could be no room for “sentiment” and only leading goalscorer, Jeff Minton, centre-forward, Richie Barker, and goalkeeper, Mark Ormerod, stayed.

The rest, as Horton put it, “could go”. One player signed was a striker called Gary Hart, a forklift truck driver who was playing for Stansted Airport in the Essex Sunday League.

He was brought to Brighton’s attention when chairman Knight received a letter from a Seagulls fan living in Essex. However, Horton’s “biggest transfer coup” was with a certain Paul Holsgrove.

Brighton signed the Stoke City midfielder on a free transfer and then a great bit of transfer work commenced. The book reads: “That summer Paul seemed to be a good fit to captain Brighton. Alex McLeish, who was then managing Hibernian, had also been interested in Holsgrove but he had gone on holiday, and Brighton had nipped in and completed the signing.

“When McLeish returned from holiday, he called and offered GBP70,000 for Holsgrove. GBP70,000 seemed a lot of money to Dick Knight but I thought we could get more and turned Alex down.

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Brian Horton recalls Paul Holsgrove transfer that worked out well for Brighton

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“Paul had a few pre-season fixtures when McLeish came back again and we settled on GBP113,000, which was considerably more than my salary. I had effectively paid for myself.” That is the story of how Brighton signed a player for free and sold him for a great deal more without ever playing a senior game for the club.

You can buy Brian Horton’s autobiography on Amazon, here.