The odds on lightning striking in the same place twice are thousands, perhaps millions to one against, so Robin "Nobby" Upton may count himself singularly unlucky.

Just when a bright Albion career lay in prospect, he broke his right leg twice inside four months and was never the same player again. Nor did the tale of woe end there. Wretched luck dogged the young half back from Lincoln throughout his five years at the Goldstone.

If it was not waiting seemingly interminable months for the snapped tibia to knit, and then re-knit all over again, Upton had first of all to undergo a cartilage operation and this was not to be the first. Compressed into a relatively short space of time came a succession of crippling injuries that would have driven lesser men to despair.

So frequent were his visits to hospital, specialists and treatment rooms that Upton managed only 44 first team appearances from 1962 to 1967 yet remained cheerful and wonderfully optimistic. This was far from easy when watching training and matches propped-up by crutches.

I recall Billy Lane taking on a fresh-faced 15-year-old almost straight from school just before Christmas, 1959. Young Upton had been spotted at an England Boys' trial at Blyth and I suspect Joe Wilson, given his strong links with the North-East, had something to do with bringing him to the Albion.

At the Goldstone Upton learned his craft with the rest of the ground staff lads. There was early encouragement in playing for Sussex Youth and hard work brought due reward when, on his 17th birthday, he signed as a professional. By this time his mentor had vacated the managerial chair and George Curtis was in charge, but not for long.

Not that Upton was concerned at that time with club politics. He, like all the other young pros, were enjoying themselves as they banded together in a happy-go-lucky group dedicated to working hard and playing hard.

A number, like Upton, were a long way from home and the bright lights of Brighton held a strong fascination. Not surprisingly, many made their homes here and, in Upton's case might have strayed far, but always returned to their adopted patch.

George Curtis sent Upton out for his first game in an FA Cup-tie against Southend in November, 1962. But, after only three outings, an operation was necessary on a damaged cartilage and he played only one more first team game that campaign.

Meanwhile, events had moved swiftly on the managerial front. Archie Macaulay took over from Curtis and it must have been unnerving for the players to have so many bosses in quick succession.

Youngsters like Upton, with no ties, had little cause to worry but not a few of the married players were starting to look over their shoulders. That summer was spent regaining fitness while Albion adapted to life in the Fourth Division for the first time. Soon Upton was in the side at centre-half and attracting attention from Bill McGarry at Ipswich Town. Ten games were played straight off, some at wing half and then Upton had a short spell out of the side as Norman Gall came back from injury.

Just as Upton was about to sign for Ipswich disaster struck when he broke his right leg in a reserve game at Leyton Orient. It was nobody's fault as Nobby recalled: "Three of us were involved; myself, Bert McGonigal our goalkeeper, and Dave Forsyth was the Orient player whom I later met while playing in South Africa."

Recovery was slow but when Upton got back life soon took an even grimmer aspect. "It was during training that I broke the leg again in the same place in a tackle with Jimmy Collins. Again it was a complete accident; just one of those things."

After that Upton played one more League game in mid-May at Oldham and figured in the 1966-67 opener, a 2-2 draw with Swindon at the Goldstone.

"I had a shocking game. I had been determined to get fit again and all that summer I had run up and down the terraces on my own and the fracture did mend. But I hadn't really recovered and that was my last game for the Albion."

It was no surprise to be given a free. A trial with Torquay came to nothing and Upton looked a bit closer to home and, for a change, struck lucky. He signed a three-year deal with Fred Cook at Crawley Town.

"I'd enjoyed my time at Brighton and got on well with all the managers and the lads. Archie Macaulay was okay although I did have a couple of fall-outs with him. At Crawley I was a lot better off than at Brighton. Janet and I had only been married six months and it was helpful when Crawley found me a job as a progress chaser in a local factory."

Upton was at Town Mead just under two seasons when an agent for Durban United made contact. Wally Gould was already there and singing the praises of life on a coast washed by the Indian ocean. It sounded idyllic.

"I loved the place but didn't like the apartheid policy. Apart from that everything was all it had been cracked-up to be. Johnny Byrne was at Durban City and Alec Hamilton, who played 34 times for Scotland, was also there. From United I moved to East London and spent two seasons with them until my contract expired."

Returning to the UK, Upton was given a trial at Bournemouth by John Bond only for the cartilage in his left leg to go in the first minute. "That was it - I packed it up. I wasn't employed by a club and had to rely on the NHS and I had to get a job."

He worked for Knowles bakery and had a few tentative kickabouts for them on Sundays.

"I was never the same again, not that I was brilliant beforehand. I took life as it came, as I do now."

For 14 years Nobby ran a mobile grocery business and later worked as an inspector on the railways and for the past six months has been an on-board train team manager with Connex. This takes him all over the South East region at all hours and he finds the work interesting.

But there is little room in his life these days for football. Whenever Lincoln City are down here he goes to watch. And he has his memories. "For all the wrong reasons I remember the home game with Carlisle. I had scored 10 consecutive penalties in the reserves but in the Carlisle game, which was the last of the 1963-64 season, I hit the bar and the ball skimmed over the top and we lost 3-1."

Albion's 2-0 win at Lincoln, however, is the match most vividly etched in Nobby's memory. "People might have a problem believing this, but Wally Gould scored from around the half way line and against quite a strong wind. I've never seen a goal like it.

"The time we spent in the Fourth Division was short, but there was such a lot of good football on our part. I thought Bobby Smith was a terrific player ... at home. You didn't see much of him away, but all credit to him, and the club, when he came to Brighton he had not long left off playing for England. I remember the huge interest caused at the time."

To Upton's regret he has had to pack up playing squash due to arthritis in both knees so the rivalry with Derek Leck, who also lives in Hove, has ended.

"As for football, I'm not as interested as I used to be. It is more about money than love of the game. Football has changed, but the world has changed and that's what it's all about."

Despite the injuries and after effects of a career in football, Nobby is a remarkably fit-looking 58 and a happy man. Married 34 years to a Brighton girl, he and Janet have three grown up daughters and very soon they will be grandparents.

Always bright, Nobby passed the 11-plus a year early and went to Lincoln GS. As captain of the City and County boys team he made no secret where his intentions lay once school was over.

"The teachers all said - don't go into football. But I've never regretted it. Not one bit."