Video of the Day: Sunderland vs Brighton & Hove Albion, April 1981
Sunderland and Brighton & Hove Albion both have critical matches in their respective divisions today, with Sunderland battling to stay in the Premier League and Brighton needing a win from their trip to Middlesbrough in order to get there. This isn’t the first time the Albion have had to travel to the north-east of England on the last day of the season with something at stake. In 1979, a win away to Newcastle United on the last day of the season secured promotion to the First Division of the Football League, and two years later Albion had a similarly long trip to Wearside in order to secure a third ever season in the top flight.
Postponements meant that there was no formal last day of the season in 1981, and this complicated matters at the bottom of the First Division to an enormous extent, an extent that wouldn’t even be recognisable to modern day supporters. On the last full Saturday of the season, two clubs – Crystal Palace and Leicester City – had already been mathematically relegated to the Second Division, with one from a further four – Sunderland, Brighton, Norwich City and Wolverhampton Wanderers – due to join them. Wolves occupied the final relegation spot on the morning of the last day of the season, but they had two league matches to play because of their run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
All of this meant that the match between Sunderland and Brighton & Hove Albion had a hint of desperation about it, with the winners being guaranteed survival for a further season. As things turned out, Brighton won this match, but results elsewhere were enough to secure Sunderland’s safety for another season. With Wolves also scrambling clear, it was Norwich City that were relegated alongside Leicester and Palace, but as the two teams took to the pitch at a skittish Roker Park, no-one knew that this would end up being the case. Commentary comes from Roger Tames.