Here's the perfect Christmas present for Brighton & Hove Albion fans - Ian Hart

The year is 1973, the month is November, Ted Heath the beleaguered Tory Prime Minister is battling the Unions, the three-day week beckons and Poland have knocked out England in the World Cup Qualifiers for the 1974 finals in West Germany.

The front cover of Bloody Southerners
The front cover of Bloody Southerners

Domestically Brian Clough, once quoted as saying ‘I’m not necessarily the best manager in England but I’m in the top one’, has had his final fall out with his Derby chairman Sam Longson and resigned in a fit of pique only for Longson to ‘reluctantly’ accept his resignation and that of assistant manager Peter Taylor.

Meanwhile down at the Goldstone, the Albion under manager Pat Saward are struggling in the old Division 3 teetering just above the relegation zone with crowds dipping well below the 10,000 mark.

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So in the words of the late, great David Coleman, what happened next?

Then Albion chairman Mike Bamber relieved Saward of his duties and set about rocking the football world by luring the highly-rated Clough and Taylor to the Goldstone and the depths of the old Third Division.

Journalist and long-time Albion fan Spencer Vignes’ book “Bloody Southerners”, recounts the thrilling events when lowly Brighton appointed Cloughie, OBE ‘Old Big ‘Ead’, the finest manager England never had to the Albion hotseat.

Pardon the cliché, but I literally could not put this book down, reading it on holiday in under a day and a half. It’s a must for Albion fans of all ages as Vignes takes us back to halcyon days of the 1970s.

The Clough and Taylor era at the Albion was effectively airbrushed out on the big screen in the Damned United, although the title is a piece of dialogue uttered by Michael Sheen as Clough. This book, with its 300 pages tells the amazing story of how Bamber put the Albion on both the back and the front page of every national newspaper.

It’s warts and all, covering the initial local euphoria and national shock elsewhere at Clough’s arrival, the heavy home defeats by Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup (4-0) followed three days later an 8-2 league mauling by Bristol Rovers in front of the ITV Big Match cameras.

Spencer painstakingly interviews all the main protagonists of the time who are still with us, including the likes of Norman Gall, Ian Goodwin, Kenny Beamish, Peter O’Sullivan, Tony Towner, Alan Mullery, John Templeman and Bryan Powney. Steve Pier and BBC’s Peter Brackley have both sadly passed away since taking part in the book.

As well as the much documented Clough reign, the book also recounts his departure to Leeds United, at the time the best team in the country. Taylor rejected a move to Yorkshire and served as manager of the Albion for two years, effectively building the foundations of the side which Alan Mullery took from the Third to the First Division in three seasons in the late 70s.

Every facet of the Albion’s 1970’s rollercoaster ride is explored. You won’t believe how good this book is until you read it.

Bloody Southerners is published by Biteback Publishing and costs £12.99. It is available in all good book shops as well as on Amazon.

But before you buy it, Spencer has donated a signed copy by the author. All you need to do to win it is answer the following question: Who did Brian Clough manage immediately after leaving Brighton and Hove Albion?

Please email your answer to [email protected] by 12pm on Tuesday (November 27). Normal competition rules apply.