Manchester United’s 4-0 demolition in last season’s penultimate home game will long be remembered by all who were there. Many described it as the best Albion performance they had ever seen. But where does he rank among the finest performances in the club’s 121-year history?
As the montage shown on Amex screens before kick-off so well illustrates, Albion and our fans have had some exhilarating times over the years winning promotions, play-offs and struggles last minute relegation.
No one can forget Adam Virgo’s stoppage-time headers against Swindon and Leo Ulloa at Nottingham Forest, Solly March opening the door to the Premier League against Wigan, Stuart Storer sending home the latest winner at Goldstone and, of course, , Robbie Reinelt’s life- saver at Hereford.
But some would argue that while these were important occasions, they were not games at the highest level of club play. But wouldn’t limiting the choice to Premier League and former First Division fixtures rule out all but nine seasons of the club’s fixtures?
So, given the importance of the occasion, the quality of the performance and the strength of the opposition, here are six of the best.
September 5, 1910: Aston Villa 0 Albion 1 (FA Charity Shield).
Albion became the unofficial champions of England when Charlie Webb’s goal beat Football League title winners Aston Villa to clinch the only major piece of silverware in the club’s history (so far ).
It was fitting for Webb to decide the outcome. The Irishman was one of the most important figures in the club’s history – scoring 79 goals in 275 appearances as a player before taking charge of 1,215 games as manager.
The Charity Shield (now the FA Community Shield) is a showpiece at Wembley between Premier League champions and FA Cup holders these days, but for five years before World War I it was contested by the champions of the Football League and the Southern League, the two major leagues.
Albion were Southern League champions for the only time in their history and so faced Villa, Football League champions for a record sixth time, at Stamford Bridge in a game that had Sussex talked about for weeks before . Crowds headed north on special trains and players took to the Chelsea pitch in a horse-drawn carriage, but any sense that the team were there just to enjoy a day quickly disappeared.
Nor, according to contemporary reports, was an operation of mass destruction. In the first half, long-serving Bill ‘Bullet’ Jones hit the post for Villa and goalkeeper Bob Whiting had little to do despite international quality in the opposition ranks – although there was had a release when Villa winger Albert Hall curled in a corner. into the net, but direct goals from flag kicks were only allowed in 1924.
In the second half, an Albion defense that had conceded just 28 goals in 42 games in the title-winning season held firm again, while winger Bertie Longstaff began to trouble Villa’s back line . From his corner with 18 minutes remaining, Villa keeper Arthur Cartlidge failed to clear and Webb scored from Bill Hastings’ pass.
Webb then moved into defense to help secure the victory before skipper Joe Leeming stepped in to collect the shield from the FA vice-chairman and mayor of Fulham, who presented the medals. Cheering crowds filled Brighton station as the team arrived before changing trains to Hove and back to Goldstone.
We’ll be looking at other famous results on the club’s website in the club’s history in the coming weeks.