Albion's victorious Fourth Division championship campaign of 1964-65 was marred by tragedy.

Barry Rees died from injuries received in a road accident when the pennant was within reach.

In rather less than three months Rees appeared 12 times after being signed from Everton. He gained instant acclaim from Albion supporters and, most importantly, won the wholesale admiration of his new colleagues.

Professionals know a good player when they see one and Rees came up to scratch in every respect. When Archie Macaulay despatched Joe Wilson to watch Rees in Everton reserves he lost no time acting on the strong recommendation of his experienced and trustworthy scout.

Joe had more than one look as a fee of just under £10,000 was being asked and in those days that was quite a big sum for Brighton.

Despite his talent, Rees had made only four First Division appearances. A former Wales schoolboy international, Rees played up front on three occasions and on another wore No 2. The Wales selectors had named him as a reserve for the under-23 side and, from Albion's point of view, it stood to reason that a prompt acceptance of Harry Catterick's valuation was necessary or the price would surely rise.

When Rees played at schoolboy level for Wales it was leading the attack, always a good pointer when a player is under review. Blessed with two good feet, height, balance and a natural instinct to go forward, he had been snapped up by Everton at 17 and added to an already highly competitive ground staff.

He made his Albion debut on January 9 in the 3-1 home defeat of Crewe, playing alongside Norman Gall and Dave Turner with Bobby Baxter at left-back and the equally unflappable Mel Hopkins on the right of defence.

Fellow Welshman Hopkins helped settle the new boy but, truth to tell, he slotted in as if he had a couple of hundred games behind him. It was not long before some of the older hands were looking to him to set an example.

Remember, this was the lowest division and the class of Rees, particularly the way he made time for himself by acute positioning, soon had rivals wondering how on earth Everton had let him go.

The club had not long brought the First Division championship to Goodison so perhaps Catterick thought he had sufficient strength and that Rees would be better off pursuing his career elsewhere.

And it should not be forgotten that Macaulay was a most astute negotiator and could charm the birds out of the trees.

Evidently, Rees had no qualms about stepping down in class. Like most players kicking their heels in a second team outfit he wanted first team football and with Albion he got it from day one.

Archie knew he had uncovered a diamond and there was no question of Rees being rough-cut. In his 12 games Albion won eight, lost two and drew twice.

The most goals conceded in any one match of that period was the 4-4 humdinger on a stormy Goldstone night with Chester. It was one of the most entertaining games I ever saw at Brighton and notable for Rees's one and only goal.

From early February the bandwagon rolled on and very shortly Bobby Smith had recovered from injury to regain his place and increase the vital ingredient of competition for places.

With the arrival of Rees this particular side had bags of strength and that counted for much where the physical element was so important. Rees shirked nothing, but the same could be said of that half-back line and they were all put to the test in the fiery furnace of Rochdale.

Norman Gall was sent off after a dust-up with Bert Lister and a hail of missiles descended on the Albion team when the oldest spectator complained that Gall had smacked him on the nose. What actually happened was that Gall aimed a retaliatory punch at Lister close to the touchline, missed, and hit the innocent and elderly party.

A marksman mistook Brian Powney for a bullseye and hit him with a dart while team mates were struck by coins and washers and Rees ducked to avoid a china cup. Amid all the mayhem Barry maintained a cool and dignified presence.

Albion's next game, at home to Southport, was played on a Friday to avoid clashing with the Grand National and there were close on 20,000 at the Goldstone to see them win 3-1 and take second spot for the first time.

With no game for five days there was time to relax and Barry took himself off to his lodgings in Wordsworth Street and set his alarm for an early start next morning.

Before first light he was in his Mini and en route to Rhyl and a reunion with his parents. It was to be no ordinary visit as, earlier in the week, Barry's uncle had won £28,000 on the pools.

Nobody knows what happened on the journey. But it was confirmed that at 8.45am Rees, who was travelling alone, was in collision with a lorry at the junction of the A5 and the Ashby-Nuneaton road in Warwickshire. He died at the local Manor Hospital shortly afterwards.

The task of breaking the news to Archie fell to me. He wept. Only a few hours earlier he had congratulated Barry on yet another superb performance.

When word quickly spread all supporters went into mourning. Team mates couldn't believe the news at first.

Only a couple of weeks earlier, and returning from Torquay after a hard fought single goal win, they had seen the generous side of Barry's nature.

A coming-of-age present, a box of cigars, went to his team and we all lit-up on the coach ride back home cracking jokes and larking about the way teams and well-wishers do when there is good cause for celebration.