Albion’s first black player, 50 years ago

Celebrating Black History Month, October 2023

Today, Friday, 20 October 2023, sees the 50th anniversary of David Busby making his first-team debut for the Albion.

When he came on in the 78th minute of a 2-0 win over Shrewsbury Town at the Goldstone Ground, the speedy, 17-year-old forward may not have realised he was a trailblazer, but he was the first of many black and minority ethnic players to appear for the club in the half-century since.

Born in Paddington, Dave went to school in Sussex, at Heathfield, and joined the Albion as an apprentice in 1973 having played as a junior for Heathfield United.

His first manager at the Goldstone Ground was Pat Saward, who was replaced in November 1973 by Brian Clough. In fact he had played a three-week trial for Clough at Derby County previously.

Dave signed a professional contract in August 1974 when Peter Taylor had taken over as manager, and was in the starting eleven for the Third Division (now League One) fixture away at Blackburn Rovers the following month. He also came on as a sub in a couple of home games in September 1974 – against Reading (League Cup) and Port Vale.

The Albion squad for 1974/75. Dave Busby is in the front row, two to the right of manager Peter Taylor.

Given a free transfer in May 1975, he went on to appear for Worthing, Blackpool, Barrow – where he was also their first black player – Gravesend & Northfleet, Tooting & Mitcham, and Littlehampton.

Dave worked as a greengrocer before becoming a car mechanic, but he’s proud of his role at Brighton and has been a welcome guest at the Amex Stadium on several occasions. But it wasn’t always like that, and the racial abuse he suffered has left its mark.

In October 2020, he told

You were told “you’ve got to turn the other cheek,” but when you’re 16, how do you not let it bother you when someone is using the n-word and calling you racist names?

You get frustrated and you have to hold yourself back because there were quite a few times where I could have quite happily have just walked off the pitch.

You had to give a bit back but there would be times a player would come up to me and whisper something racist in my ear during a game and I would want to fight them there and then.

A few of my team-mates would back me up, but when you’re there by yourself it’s different. …

I had to channel that anger into the game. I feel I would have been given a proper chance to prove myself if I was playing now, but that shows how far we have come.

However, he does appreciate his status as the first of many: “Being Brighton’s first black player is just great. I just wish they had given me more of a chance and I would have been fine,” he said.

Tony Foster