Gary Stevens has revealed the key role played by the late John Shepherd in his career with Albion, Spurs and England.

Shepherd and youth team assistant Mick Fogden helped persuade Alan Mullery and his No.2 Ken Craggs to sign Stevens for the Seagulls.

Shepherd continued to be like a father figure to Stevens long after his playing days were over.

Southwick FC are staging a memorial match at Old Barn Way on Sunday in memory of Shepherd (below), who died in June at the age of 86 following a long battle with ilnness.

The Argus: A stand named after the ex-Albion striker and Southwick player-manager will be opened by Sussex FA officials at the game (1pm) between former players of both clubs.

Stevens, now based in Thailand, will be there in spirit. He has never forgotten Shepherd's contribution to an illustrious career which flourished after rejection by Ipswich and a two-week trial with Albion that turned into four weeks and a place in the first team in the old First Division and the 1983 FA Cup final against Manchester United.

Stevens said: "I played in a couple of youth games. I think my first one was away at Burgess Hill. I had a decent game and scored.

"During the week I trained with the other apprentices, in those days in Hove Park, and with the first team as well.

"After two weeks Alan Mullery and Ken Craggs were saying 'We don't really know'. They weren't so sure.

"That two-week trial extended to four weeks in the end. It was a difficult time for me, because I'd been rejected by Ipswich, so your confidence is low and you need somebody to trust you and believe in you and see something in you.

"Without a doubt, based on what John Shepherd and Mick Fogden regularly said to me in training and before games, the encouragement and belief and confidence they instilled in me went a long way to picking me up, getting me going again, and after four weeks their strong opinion to Alan Mullery and Ken Craggs was 'you have to take this young lad, because he's going to be good for you'.

"Off the back of that trial I went on to have the career that I did."

Shepherd's interest in Stevens' fortunes continued, even after injury forced him to retire.

Stevens said: "When I broke into the (Albion) first team, John and Mick were always there. They were talking to me in addition to what Mullers and Craggsy were doing with me.

"Their support continued. When I went to Tottenham, played for England and then had my career ended by injury they were still in touch with me.

"When I went into radio, John rang me up after hearing me on Talksport to give his thoughts.

"It was almost like a father-and-son type relationship. And my understanding is John and Mick were that way inclined with all the youngsters at Brighton.

"Just before Christmas last year I was back in England and had a chat with John on the phone. From a 16-year-old kid I was still ringing him up as a 56-year-old man. That was the last time I spoke to him.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't be at his funeral and I can't be in the game at the weekend, but my thoughts from a distance will be with his family and everybody there. I hope it's a great success."

Steve Foster, John Byrne, Dean Wilkins and Paul Rogers are among the ex-Albion players listed to feature.