Gerry Ryan will sit in a packed house at the Amex to watch two of the clubs he served do battle, fervently hoping one of them gets promoted and not too fussed about the other.

Even though the brother of Albion manager Chris Hughton ended his career.

Blue and white, not black and white, are the colours for the genial Irish winger, a popular figure in these parts after helping Albion to promotion to the top flight and an FA Cup final.

Ryan later became assistant manager during the reign of Liam Brady, who is still a resident of Hove.

Son Darragh, now working for Harry Kewell's soccer camps in Australia, played for Albion too.

His father returns to the South Coast on Monday as a special guest of the club for a special game.

Derby are already booked for the play-offs, Albion are trying to avoid joining them in the end-of-season lottery by clinching promotion in the final two matches.

The circumstances will rekindle memories for Ryan of his own career, including a goal in the last day win at Newcastle 37 years ago that took the Seagulls into the top flight for the only time in their history.

And his strong connections with the Hughton trying to steer the club to a repeat.

"I played with Chris for the Republic loads of times," Ryan said. "He was left-back, I was left-wing. Initially it was Jimmy Holmes but then it was Chris most of the time.

"We got on really well. He is a lovely fella. My daughter and his daughter were at Nottingham Trent University together. We were going up and down the stairs when I took her there and saw Chris.

"He introduced his daughter, Aisha, and my daughter is Naoise (pronounced Neesha), so they have very similar names. His daughter played netball for England and Naoise was really keen on netball. They used to played in the same team. They were great friends, so we go back a long way in that respect as well."

By a cruel quirk of fate it was Hughton's younger brother, Henry, playing for Albion's arch-rivals Crystal Palace, who finished Ryan's career before he had reached the age of 30 with a tackle which broke his leg.

There is no trace of sibling bitterness from Ryan. "Nothing like that at all," he said. "We were always great pals, went to loads of places together, different countries, and always had a good laugh. He is a really good bloke, Chris.

"That was just one of those things, just unfortunate. What can you say? it's dead and gone now."

Ryan, 60, is still very much alive and kicking after surviving a couple of major health scares. He became a publican once his playing career had been abbreviated, taking charge of the Witch Inn in Lindfield, West Sussex.

He suffered a stroke nine years ago and three years later was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He has made a full recovery and is flying back to Brighton from Walkinstown, a suburb to the south of Dublin close to the mountains where he grew up and is now spending his retirement, living with his mother.

Ryan started out with Bohemians. Derby brought him to England for £40,000 and he played for them for a year under Tommy Docherty.

Ryan said: "He was really strange, the Doc, he fell out with everybody.

"One minute you were the blue-eyed boy, the next he wouldn't even talk to you.

"I had a great start at Derby, scored quite a few goals, and played really well. Then I pulled my hamstring at Ipswich.

"He wanted me to play the next week against Forest, who were top of the league. It was a massive game. I'd never had a hamstring injury before and at half-time I said to him 'I can't run'.

"Viv Anderson was playing right-back for Forest. I came off in the second half, knackered. The next week we were playing Manchester United and he wanted me to play again.

"I did and ended up coming off again. I was out for about three months after that and he didn't like me then! That's the way he was, he would turn on you and he turned on me.

"He'd slag off the physio, slag off me. I wanted to play every game. I had injections but it took ages to get rid of."

Ryan's career might have taken a different path without the influential input of an Irish legend.

"The next season I started in the team again," he said. "I was doing okay and one day the Doc came to me and said Alan Durban at Stoke and Howard Kendall wanted to sign me.

"They made an offer, he said I could go if I wanted to. I went and talked to them in Uttoxeter. I asked for a few days to think about it.

"I was going to play for Ireland and Gilesy (Johnny Giles) told me Alan Mullery was there to see me.

"After I had spoken to Mullers I spoke to Johnny and said 'What do you reckon?'

"I said 'Where is Brighton?' I didn't even know where it was! Gilesy said 'Stoke have been in and out of the the First Division forever but there is something going on down at Brighton.

"They get great crowds and it's a beautiful place. I went to Brighton that weekend and absolutely loved it.

"We drove over the top of Waterhall and you could see the seaside. It was a gorgeous day. I thought 'This will do for me', I decided there and then as we came over the hill and saw the view."

The view near the top of the Championship is similarly inviting right now for Albion. A sixth win in succession would set them up for another final day decider in the North-East, at Middlesbrough.

Ryan will be roaring them on. "Definitely," he said. "I know I played for Derby but I was only there for a year and there's nobody there that I'd know now."

His place in Albion folklore is contrastingly assured.