JIMMY CASE is guaranteed a warm ovation from all sides of the new Amex Stadium when he strides out on to the pitch at half-time tonight.
The former tough-tackling midfielder, who served both Liverpool and Brighton with distinction, will take a break from his job as Radio Merseyside’s match summariser to be introduced to the fans who idolised him.
After a trophy-laden eight years at Anfield, Case lit up the south coast in the early 80s and returned for a second spell a decade later.
Liverpool maybe his first love but the Seagulls will always hold a special place in his affections.
It was Case who helped inspire Brighton’s run to the 1983 FA Cup final and en route gave them their greatest triumph over the Reds.
A fifth round tie at Anfield in February 1983 looked to be heading for a 1-1 stalemate until Case famously grabbed the winner against his old club.
“Scoring the goal that knocked Liverpool out was a bizarre feeling,” he said.
“There wasn’t long left in the game and after taking a battering we were holding on for a replay.
“I hit this shot from the edge of the box and it clipped Ronnie Whelan’s shoulder and looped over Bruce Grobbelaar.
“I didn’t celebrate. I just turned around and the other lads jumped on me.
“I always blame Ronnie – that was his goal. He can have that one.
“As I was walking off the pitch after the final whistle what hit me was that the Kop were singing my name.
“I had just wrecked their hopes of winning the FA Cup and they chanted my name. You can’t buy those type of moments. Liverpool fans have always been special and they proved it that day.”
Case’s hopes of adding to the four league titles, one UEFA Cup, one League Cup and three European Cups he won with the Reds were dashed as Manchester United beat Brighton in a final replay.
The Seagulls were relegated the same season and have never returned to the top flight.
Case moved on to Southampton, Bournemouth, Halifax, Wrexham, Darlington and Sittingbourne before being lured back to Brighton by boss Liam Brady in 1993.
He finish his playing days there at the age of 41, coached the reserves and had one year as manager following the departure of Brady.
They were tough days as the Seagulls – dogged by financial problems and mismanagement – slumped down the divisions.
“I didn’t really have any desire to be manager,” Case said.
“But Liam fell out with the directors and supported a new consortium who were trying to get hold of the club.
“The idea was I’d do it for a year and then Liam would have his old job back but it never happened.
“You could write a book about the situation the club was in back then.
“Brighton were always strapped for money and the directors wanted to sell the Goldstone Ground. The club had no chance of moving forward.”
Brighton moved from the Goldstone in 1997 after only narrowly escaping relegation from the Football League.
They ground-shared with Gillingham for two years before returning to Brighton to play at the Withdean Stadium.
A boardroom takeover saved them from liquidation and in recent years they have made impressive progress.
Former Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet led them to the League One title last season and this summer they moved into the new 22,000 capacity Amex Stadium.
The Seagulls have enjoyed a flying start to life in the Championship and are third with 16 points from seven games.
There will no split loyalties for Case tonight but he’s delighted to see Brighton, who knocked out Sunderland in the last round, re-emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
“Getting Liverpool at home is a great draw for Brighton and they are a club on the up,” he said.
“I’ve got some happy memories of my time there and it’s a nice gesture that they’ve asked me to go on the pitch at half-time. It will be my first visit to their new ground and I’m looking forward to it.
“They’ve got a very good manager in Gus Poyet. They’ve had good managers in the past but they’ve moved on because of the situation the club was in.
“Now with the new ground and the facilities they’ve got, they’re more likely to keep hold of people. Hopefully Poyet will stay there and take them all the way into the Premier League.
“Brighton have had some tough days but all along the supporters stuck with them. They’ve got a loyal fanbase.
“I went down to the Withdean on numerous occasions – I was doing the radio under a makeshift canopy while the fans were sat out in the rain in their cagoules.
“Their supporters deserved a new stadium and now the club is moving forward.
“I wish them well but I don’t want to see Brighton get any further in the Carling Cup.
“I’ve always been a Red – born and bred – and this is a game Liverpool need to win.”
Case expects to see a reaction from Kenny Dalglish’s side following their embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Tottenham on Sunday.
The 57-year-old knows Liverpool can’t afford a repeat of their sloppy start in the capital.
“We seemed off the pace from the word go,” Case said. “Spurs caught us by surprise a bit in the first 20 minutes. Then the red cards spoiled the game.
“We need to regroup and I’m sure Kenny will get them organised. The attitude will have to be right as Brighton will be up for it.”