Perhaps we are a bunch of sentimental old fools. After all, history generally suggests that the old adage of “never go back” generally registers as a truth. But there is more than just remembering the good times and ignoring the reality in the case of Bobby Zamora.
Indeed, there is more than just football.
Bobby is an iconographical figure in Brighton folklore. He was the first player that brought real hope after almost a decade of protests, riots, groundshares and, quite frankly, awful football. Spearheading Micky Adams’ confident side, his goals and general all round attitude helped usher in one of the greatest love in’s in the club’s history. Back in Brighton, Skint and scoring.
We all knew he wasn’t long for us. His star was always due to shine in the Premier League (to an extent). His side were formed of the promised few; those who were tempted to the club with the carrot of a new stadium and a platform to shine. A stage that turned out not to be set for 11 years. And so Bobby, 83 goals inked into our memories, left. He would never grace the new stadium in Brighton shirt, because we never even knew if we were ever to have one. He was the first, others were to follow - all rightfully trying to find their way to their zenith. But none really matched the success of Bob (Leon Knight, anybody?). Did we mind? Not really, when you love someone, you want them to do what’s best for themselves.*
The arrival of Tony Bloom changed the club dramatically. The empty promises were to become reality, and whilst we were and still are subject to our best players being tempted by a bigger pay cheque or a bigger league, at least we had a fighting chance of keeping our best for a bit longer. Hell, we can even attract Champions League standard players to ply their trade here.
But for those who lived through the dark days, and those who lived through Micky’s revolution, there was always the hope that at least some of those players could run out at the new stadium, leading tens of thousands of Albion fans in a chorus. Especially Zamora.
As the years passed, that hope turned more and more into a pipe dream. The stadium, when it came was fabulous, but it came in 2011, not in 2005. We were just happy to have a proper home. To have a competitive team with a bit of flair was a huge cherry on the top. New players, living out our fantasises.
And then when Gus went, it started to fall apart. Whilst Oscar took the Albion to a play off spot the next season, the wheels were already falling off. Star players, Gus’ players, wanted out. Money concerns meant that some of their replacements were less than adequate, and the remaining good players got injured or, as is what happens in any workplace or group of people, fell into a group negative mentality.
But all the while he was still playing, the Zamora return to Brighton pipe dream continued to burn on North Stand Chat, and then Twitter and Facebook as they developed. With each passing transfer window, it would become the norm to while away the midnight hours talking about 'Our Bob’ holding up a striped shirt, smiling away - etching our fantasies into a professional photograph and a press release. Even those who had never seen him play for the Seagulls would get excited because they were told He was the celebrated one, He was the one that gave us hope, He helped transform the club.
Last night that dream became a reality, and the majority of Sussex lost their shit. The return of Bobby made the national papers and trended on Twitter. The Club’s slightly questionable Vine video had it’s desired effect, making a worldwide impact, NBC rana an article about all of us losing our shit and the reaction to the 6 seconds of Bobby The Terminator. It was patronising. Even those annoying social media graduates working at the betting companies were casting their aspersions as fact on the situation - a sign that the story is popular indeed.
Critics and cynics will highlight his age, and the fact that despite a just over 1 in 4 goal average through his career, around half of those came in his formative 3 years in an Albion shirt, in lower divisions. They’ll note his own words that he hasn’t had a pre season and has already put out the classic caveat of needing to get a few minutes under his belt.
They would be correct to do so. Deep down we all know that he’s not going to live up to the Bobby Zamora of the early 2000’s. But as his performances for QPR over the last few years have shown, he’s still a very good quality top division player, is a positive influence on the dressing room and chips in with crucial (and sometimes spectacular) goals.
And even if his impact is more minimal than that, as is perfectly likely, it doesn’t matter. Because late last night, the phones and inboxes of thousands of Brighton fans lit up and vibrated with the news of his return. For many, it was the realisation of a dream they had thought never would have actually happened. Brighton have a home of their own, and Bobby gets to play in it, as an Albion player.
It is more than just football.
* I don’t actually love Bobby Zamora. Although I did once serve him and Michel Kuipers lunch at the players canteen at the Uni once. I guess that’s close enough.