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Brighton and Hove Albion's Knight in shining armour

PUBLISHED: 11:51 10 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:51 10 April 2014

Dick Knight

Dick Knight

Archant

Dick Knight, the former chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion, rescued the football club against all the odds, taking it to the Championship and even securing a multi-million pound stadium at Falmer. But he has made plenty of enemies along the way, as Adam Trimingham reveals

Dick Knight is a combative man with great energy and a determination to succeed at everything he does. So it was no surprise that when he went into advertising he founded an agency which merged with others to become one of the largest in Britain.

In the 1990s Knight then turned his talent to Brighton and Hove Albion, his home town club, which he had supported since boyhood. At that time they were in a parlous plight, having fallen on hard times since reaching the FA Cup Final and being promoted to the old First Division only a decade earlier.

They were hovering near the bottom of the lowest Football League division and were in danger of disappearing from that, too. Additionally, the Goldstone ground in Hove was being sold and there was nowhere else for the club to go. It was also nearly bankrupt.

Thousands of fans were appalled at what was happening in the boardroom, with chairman Bill Archer and his sidekick David Bellotti hate figures to most of them. But only one was bold and rich enough to get on to the board, get rid of the pair and get on with reviving the club.

Against almost impossible odds, Knight became chairman and found the club a new temporary home at Withdean Stadium. Then, with a band of colleagues, he managed to get the Amex stadium built at Falmer. The club is now in the Championship and has the highest attendances of them all.

It is an astonishing story and Knight has recounted it at length in a new book called, appropriately, Madman, because many people thought that’s what he was. The book is as controversial as the man himself. Knight fell out with so many people that, in the end, the club refused to sell it.

He was forever appointing managers, welcoming them with praise and then discovering they did not live up to expectations. Off they went after just a few years – or sometimes only months later – as Knight looked for someone better.

In the book he revels over some of the deals he fixed and says bringing Bobby Zamora to Brighton was one of the best things he did. He also settles old scores against such enemies as Lewes MP Norman Baker, who had the temerity to oppose the stadium at Falmer.

It’s a long story, told with vigour, and is often extremely entertaining, but some of the detail will interest only the most committed of supporters. He does not come out of the book, with its endless arguments, as well as he might suppose. But for all his faults, no one else could possibly have done what he did for the Albion.

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Literary Life

Unexploded by Alison MacLeod - (Hamish Hamilton: £16.99)

See the feature on Alison MacLeod’s book here
It is May 1940 and Brighton is under the constant threat of invasion. Geoffrey and Evelyn Beaumont and their eight-year-old son Philip are struggling to keep their small family together in the most uncertain of times.

Geoffrey, a banker, is doing his bit for the war effort as the head of an internment camp; Evelyn is bored and volunteering at the camp, largely against her husband’s wishes, though he is too weak to stop her. Philip is lost in his own fear and imagination, and has become convinced that Hitler is going to take over the Brighton Pavilion and install his evil henchmen.

This is a reassuringly uncomplicated literary novel and was deservedly long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Meticulously researched by MacLeod, a professor of contemporary fiction at the University of Chichester, it’s full of character studies and psychological insights, but doesn’t shove them down your throat.

Angela Wintle

***

Sherlock Holmes: The Russian Connection and Other New Adventures by NM Scott - (Book Guild Publishing; £16.99)

We last heard of Sherlock Holmes keeping bees after retiring to Sussex. But it appears from a new volume of ten short stories by Sussex-based author N M Scott that the great detective is still active.

In this volume, he investigates a case of poisoning in Pulborough, meets the Brighton-based inventor Magnus Volk, and discovers the truth about a giant animal footprint found near Lewes.

Written allegedly by Holmes’s faithful sidekick Dr Watson, these stories convey some echoes of the originals. Scott has clearly done his homework well. This is his third volume of Holmes stories and they are readable. By far the best of them is the first about skulduggery in Russia.

But they constantly emphasise how good Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, and how hard to imitate.

Adam Trimingham

***

Tulips in the Snow by Cay Towner - (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, £7.48; Kindle edition, £4.40, and the village stores in East Hoathly)

For all the hoo-ha over E L James’s self-publishing mega-success, few such novels make a splash, the majority barely raising a ripple before sinking without trace.

Debut Sussex novelist Towner is not about to rival Fifty Shades but has produced an engaging tale, set in a fictionalised village based on East Hoathly in Georgian times. Billed as ‘a satirical romantic comedy’, the story of mother-of-two Anna fighting her sudden passion for a village newcomer while becoming entangled in a sinister murder mystery, is more often dark than amusing and the satire is subtle, rather than sharp. The story is entertaining and unusual, but lacks the professional editing and guidance necessary for the book to stay afloat, though Sussex readers’ local interest may well buoy it up for a while.

Anne Hill

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Literary round-up

Budding poets, rappers, songwriters and novelists will get the chance to share their work at The Write Night, Worthing’s only spoken word night, at Fraser’s Bar at the Connaught Theatre on 18 March. This popular monthly event, hosted by award-winning playwright and writer Melody Bridges, will be an opportunity for wordsmiths across Sussex to share their work. “We never know who’s going to turn up,” says Melody. “We’ve had celebrities, multi-published authors and even a 90-year-old-poet blogger, and what they all share is a love of words and a desire to spread new ideas. Some writers contact me beforehand to book a slot to perform, but many just turn up on the night and are welcomed by our friendly, appreciative audience.” Admission is £2.50. For further information, email melodystories1@gmail.com. The next event will be on 22 April.

The next Lewes Book Fair in aid of the Paws and Claws Cat Rescue Service will take place at Lewes Town Hall on 15 March between 10am and 4pm. More than 40 secondhand book dealers will be selling a wide range of titles, including vintage children’s book, modern first editions, topography, crime and collectable books.

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