Story of Shoreham football legend Bert revived in new Brighton and Hove Albion book

He’s arguably Shoreham’s greatest ever footballer and now Bert Longstaff features in a new book which recounts the lives of players who once graced the Goldstone Ground.

Bert Longstaff
Bert Longstaff

Outside right Bert (1885-1970) played for Brighton & Hove Albion 443 times over a period of 16 years after first helping his home town team Shoreham win the county treble in 1906.

Life-long Albion supporter and award-winning investigative journalist Nic Outterside, who was raised in Shoreham, has published Wet Socks and Dry Bones, which unveils the lives of 50 former Albion players.

And Bert, who was a household name across the south of England in the early part of the 20th century, is among the pick of the former football legends who feature.

Nic Outterside's new Albion book

The 300-page paperback was inspired by WP Kinsella’s baseball classic Shoeless Joe, which in turn inspired the Hollywood movie Field of Dreams.

Nic’s new book chronologically unwraps the biographies of players from full-back Arthur Hulme, who played for the Albion from 1902 to 1909, right up to Paul McCarthy, who played in the blue and white stripes between 1988 and 1996 – just a year before the Goldstone Ground was demolished.

Nic, who lived in Gordon Road and Newbarn Road as a child, attended his first Brighton & Hove Albion game in 1967 and for 54 years has followed his beloved club the length and breadth of the UK.

His last football book Death In Grimsby, published in 2019, became an Amazon best-seller.

“It was while finishing that book that the blinding flash of light took place, which led me here,” explains Nic.

“The moment was Monday, April 1, 2019… the day I heard the news that my boyhood Brighton & Hove Albion hero Kit Napier had died at his home in Durban, South Africa, aged 75.

“There was a loud howl inside my head, as if part of my own life was gone!

“I was an impressionable 11-year-old kid in 1967 when I first saw Kit play, and for me, he was everything you wanted from a football hero… and like all childhood heroes, I thought he would live forever.

“So, when he died, I realised, that, like all of us, he was mortal; and when I got to know his family over the ensuing months, I discovered he was full of human flaws as well as being a football genius.

“Then slowly, I came to realise several stars from my first few seasons at the Goldstone Ground had also passed on – some well before their time.

“They were now all ghosts of the Goldstone’s Field of Dreams and in something akin to Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, I believed this was our moment in time to bring our ghosts home.

“So, with my own memories running around my brain, I began the task of researching the lives and deaths of those players before our collective memories were lost forever.

“While researching the book, I was gobsmacked to discover that Bert Longstaff once lived in Queens Place in the same house occupied by my maternal grandparents in the 1950s and 1960s.

“He later lived in Victoria Road, where I first went to school and in later life ran a beach kiosk in Hove.

“Besides being an outstanding footballer, his life was amazing.”

Nic was a successful newspaper and magazine journalist for 28 years, winning a raft of awards for his work.

He took early retirement in 2013 and three years later formed Time is an Ocean Publications, an independent UK publishing house. He has a forward schedule of books running well into 2023.

n Wet Socks and Dry Bones is priced £11.99 with free delivery from Amazon outlets worldwide.