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Mark Lawrenson dodgy claims of coming to Newcastle United backed by 10,000 Brighton fans

5 months ago
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Mark Lawrenson has revealed he will be on the pitch ahead of the Brighton v Newcastle match on Saturday.

In his playing days he was part of a Brighton team that won promotion to the top tier for the very time in the club’s history.

That was back in 1978/79 and with it being the 40th anniversary, that Brighton team are reassembling on Saturday, with a party planned afterwards.

Obviously, when this was all planned, Brighton would have had no expectation of them being in big relegation trouble with only two weeks of the season remaining.

Despite Brighton having not scored in their last seven matches and the team picking up one draw and six defeats, Mark Lawrenson predicts a 1-0 home victory.  For Newcastle fans, if the Magpies pull off a win it will be an added bonus if it spoils Lawrenson’s party after the game.

We have learnt not to put too much store by what Mark Lawrenson has to say and that is the case as well with his memories of promotion back in 1979.

Ironically, the Seagulls sealed promotion at St James Park 40 years ago, a 3-1 away win on 5 May 1979 taking them into the then Division One.

The BBC pundit remembers it well…talking about that win at St James Park ‘…in front of more than 10,000 Seagulls fans who had made the long journey north. It was a fabulous occasion.’

No doubt it was a fabulous occasion for everybody associated with Brighton but his memory is playing tricks when it comes to the travelling army of fans.

I was at the game and remember it will.

This was back in the days of almost everybody paying on the day, so crowds could wildly fluctuate.

Newcastle had been relegated the season before but were regularly playing in front of over 25,000 at St James Park in Division Two and before the turn of the year, had never had a crowd under 20,000.

However, with the team never properly getting into the promotion race and then fading away totally, crowds really nosedived at the end of the season.

Newcastle having to play three home games in the very last three fixtures, with nothing to play for. Only 9,627 to see them beat Bristol Rovers on Wednesday 2 May 1979 in the third last match, then 7,134 there for the very final game, a 2-0 defeat of Wrexham on Tuesday 8 May.

However, the one in between saw 28,434 turn up on Saturday 5 May for this Brighton game.

This wasn’t down to the Brighton masses, although they did bring a healthy 5,000. The old  Leazes End had been knocked down the previous summer and a much smaller open terrace holding 5,000 put in its place, you can see the Brighton fans celebrating all three first half goals below.

However, most people inside St James Park were there because of Sunderland…

A Brighton win would mean that they and not Sunderland would be promoted. That is what produced a crowd of over 28,000 despite Newcastle having nothing to play for (apart from to lose and deny Sunderland a promotion).

It was my first ever experience of wanting Newcastle to lose a game and I remember it (far better than Mark Lawrenson apparently!) being a great atmosphere, Newcastle fans celebrating at the end!

Derby rivalries had been heightened earlier that season as this was the infamous year when Sunderland won 4-1 at St James Park. To see Brighton deny the Mackems promotion being a fitting end to the season.

Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:

“I am at the Amex Stadium on Saturday for a 40th anniversary reunion with the Brighton team that got promoted to the top flight in 1979.

“We will be on the pitch before the game and then there is a party afterwards.

“It should be a great day and I am really looking forward to seeing some old friends.

“Newcastle were the opposition when we won promotion at St James’ Park for the first time in the club’s history with a 3-1 win on the last day of the season, in front of more than 10,000 Seagulls fans who had made the long journey north. It was a fabulous occasion.

“I know Brighton have not scored in their past seven games but I think there could a little bit of fate involved here with the Magpies the opposition again, and this time a win would help them take a huge step towards staying in the Premier League.

“I am sure there will be a lot of celebrating afterwards if that is what happens, although I will not be partying too hard – I will be up bright and early because I am travelling to Turf Moor on Sunday to cover Burnley versus Manchester City.

“Prediction is Brighton 1 Newcastle 0.”

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