Monthly Archives: March 2016
I don’t write this blog nearly as often as I would like. Unfortunately, work gets in the way and on the basis that I get paid for that, but not for this, it’s a no-brainer.
As I sit down now however, it’s Easter Saturday and, weirdly, there isn’t a programme of football. Well, there is, but not in the top two divisions. Instead, I will sneak a peek later, at England’s latest attempt to convince us we’ve got a chance at Euro 2016. I’m not holding my breath but I am a confirmed super optimist so we are clearly going to hammer Germany by three or four.
The real business starts again next week, with Albion’s game against Burnley. This is a proper ‘top of the table clash’, as we are second, just 4 points behind The Clarets. I said above that I am a super optimist and I am, but I just haven’t been able to get too crazily optimistic over Albion this season. This is despite the fact that compared to the carnage of last season, we have been nothing short of unbelievable, even allowing for the blip in December and January.
So, with eight games to go, there is a real chance we could be promoted to The Premier League. If we beat Burnley next Saturday, in front of the cameras (again), can we really start to believe? You know what, I think we can. Disappointment goes hand in hand with a life as a supporter of Brighton & Hove Albion, and I think it’s this that keeps me from going too overboard when my friends ask me ‘are you going up then?’. But I really think it’s on this season.
So, make no mistake, next week’s game is massive, but it’s just another massive game in the list, since we moved to Falmer. It’s pretty hard to believe that we are coming to the end of our fifth season at The Amex, so how many ‘massive’ games have we had in that time? The answer, of course, is ‘lots’, but I’ve picked out four that have defined our time at Falmer.
1. 6th August 2011 v Doncaster Rovers – W 2-1
Well, yes, obviously. I’m assuming that everyone who reads this blog will be aware of what it meant to us, to see the team run out after 14 years without a ‘proper’ ground, so I won’t dwell. It’s enough to say that as emotional moments go, the 97th minute Will Buckley winner, was right up there with anything I’ve experienced in my football-supporting life. It was great for me personally, because I was there with my son Fraser, who was aged 10 at the time.
He went to his first game as a 6-week-old baby, on 10th March 2001. Albion 3 Hull City 0 at Withdean, if you’re interested. As he grew up, the parental responsibility of drip-feeding my allegiance into his mind gathered pace. The turning point was 15th November 2009 when, aged 8, we watched Gus Poyet’s men run riot in our home town to beat Southampton 3-1. He had major bragging rights at school on that Monday. Anyway, here we were, me and Fraser, watching The Albion, under cover, in a fantastic shiny new stadium. And I cried. A lot.
2. 28th January 2012 v Newcastle United (FA Cup) – W 1-0
Earlier in that first season we had played Liverpool in the Carling Cup. We lost 2-1 but it didn’t feel like a massive game. We were almost expected to lose and the atmosphere didn’t quite have the edge is should have done.
After struggling past Wrexham in the 3rd Round, the draw paired us with Newcastle United at The Amex. They were struggling and although a Premier League Club, we felt we could turn them over. And we did. It was that man Buckley again, with a deflected shot in front of us in the North Stand. We had beaten a top-flight side in the FA Cup and THAT definitely DID mean something.
Fraser loved it as well – it was his birthday and they read his name out at half-time, before playing The Who over the PA. The whiole day was a massive WIN.
3. 17th March 2013 v Crystal Palace – W 3-0
Oh. My. Word. Crazy scenes. We went into the game on the back of two defeats and a draw, with the dream of a place in the play-offs starting to recede. Nearly 28,500 in the ground, including loads from them up the road. It was tense, for 43 minutes anyway. Then Leonardo Ulloa scored in front of the Palace fans to give us the lead. 1-0 at half-time – thanks very much, that will do nicely. A good few people left their seats to join the queue for a pie and/or a pint. We then got a free-kick on the edge of their box, which David Lopez stepped up to take. Just get it on target and we can go in and re-group. Well, he got it on target, and some. A gasp of disbelief was quickly followed by absolute delirium. A one-goal half-time advantage had been doubled and it went absolutely mental in the North Stand.
A further goal from Ulloa followed, early in the second half and we saw out the game in style. Afterwards, the club let us take our beers out onto the seats and we enjoyed some quality banter with the Palace players as they warmed down. Winning this game told us we could do it, and this made play-off defeat to Palace just two months later, even harder to stomach.
4. 8th May 2014 v Derby County (Play-Off Semi-Final 1st Leg) – L 2-1
In March 2014, I was in Hospital, having an operation on my ankle. After years of football injuries and post-football hobbling, I had an ankle fusion. I was in a cast for 11 weeks and this coincided with us sneaking into the play-offs under Oscar Garcia. I nearly ruptured myself as Ulloa headed that goal in at Forest This brought us to another play-off semi-final, this time against Derby County. They were flying, but we all thought that the momentum gained by our heroics at Forest, would carry us through against what was probably the best side in the division.
Not a chance. We lost 2-1 at The Amex, 4-1 at The I-Pro, Garcia resigned and we entered the dark days of Sami Hyypia.
Onwards and Upwards
The 2014/15 season brought no massive games. At least not of the type we enjoy. The Millwall game just before Christmas was massive, but only because it featured fighting amongst our own fans (as well as the obligatory Millwall neanderthals causing mayhem). I left that game, thinking ‘where do we go from here?’. It was the most disappointed I have been after a game for a long, long time.
Into January 2015 and Chis Hughton came to the club. We survived, just, and pretty much everyone viewed 15/16 as a season of consolidation, with Hughton building a squad capable of challenging (hopefully) in 16/17.
That’s all a load of bollocks – this is Tony Bloom’s club and we don’t do consolidation. Twenty-one games unbeaten at the start of the season, the usual blip in December/January and here we are, 2nd in the league and on the verge of something pretty crazy.
A win next week against Burnley and we will be in dreamland. Me and Fraser will be there, daring to dream.
I can’t wait.