• What a Difference A Year Makes

    Around about this time last year I was having one of the biggest meltdowns of my Albion supporting career and I was far from alone. It was Friday night and we were playing Millwall, one of the few teams (yes, in December) that could possibly go down instead of us. A six pointer live on Sky. We lost in the most pathetic display I’ve seen from an Albion side since we played at Gillingham (ok, perhaps one or two famously rubbish games at Withdean excepted). When the club’s twitter account announced an impossibly high pretendance I lost it and told it where to go. The next morning I wrote and published this:

    “A pathetic capitulation on the pitch, Brighton fans fighting among themselves (thank goodness I didn’t take my eight year old) off it and, as I type, the worst manager I have ever seen in our job, perhaps except Jeff Wood, still in a job.........

    We have no fight, no strength at all. No direction. No leadership on the pitch and ever more bizarre leadership off it.

    We are in total meltdown. We are poison. I don’t want to go on Boxing Day.”

    Yep, the team was losing it, the manager had lost it (or rather I don’t think Sami ever had it) and I had most definitely lost it. And yet, one year later, everything is the polar opposite.

    It is quite hard to believe that there could be SUCH a turnaround in every area. Look at that quote and then think about this season, about everything that has happened since Sami left, about Saturday against Charlton. I can’t stop thinking about Saturday against Charlton. We have fight and strength of character in every possible area, all the players, the management, the fans and the brass. We have a very obvious direction – upwards. We have leadership that is not bizarre but coherent and dignified. We are in heaven. We are the bottle of fine wine you save for Christmas. And while I can’t make Derby I can’t blooming wait for QPR, an away game where you dodge West London and the Met’s finest to pay over the odds to be in a stand where you can’t see the goals. Un-flipping-believable.

    So how have we done it? For me three things stand out.

    Firstly, and most obviously, there is playing side recruitment. Getting in Chris Hughton was a masterstroke. I said at the time how encouraged I was that we’d attracted him, that it was exactly time to put the tika-taka experiment back in the cupboard and go with some tried and tested Championship methods. Chris obviously had one job and that was to keep us up. Our recruitment brought in only one permanent player but WHAT a player. With Beram Kayal came strength, leadership, quality and, eventually, Tomer Hemed.

    We stayed up by the skin of our teeth and it was time to rebuild. Out went the loan players. Out went the dead wood (sorry CMS). Out went a very disruptive influence. And in came quality. I could not believe there were still meltdowns going on around here in the summer but I’m going to put it down to frustration at the delays in landing A Certain Player. But if you analysed our business all of it was shrewd. Rosenior is a calming influence, Bong and Hemed internationals and perfect partners for certain existing playing staff members, Goldson one for the future, Hünemeier a massive improvement on Halford and Harper a coup. I said at the time though the time to judge the summer window is always December. Well here we are. What do you think?

    Secondly there’s the management off the pitch. I will admit I was screaming for Paul Barber’s head this time last year but I’ve admitted I was wrong since and I do again now. The people that have been brought in have cemented our new togetherness so quickly that what could have been a trite hashtag has become reality. We’d all rather that the Shoreham disaster hadn’t happened but the response when it did was symptomatic of a new spirit rather than creating it. Before any of those sad events had unfolded we’d taken around four thousand fans to Fulham, sung non-stop and seen one of the iconic moments of the season when Hemed scored the last minute penalty and stood, arms out, on the advertising boards.

    Last week I had the privilege to meet Tom Gorringe, our Head of Marketing. If you’ve ever read my blog or some of my posts on here you’ll know that I often give Marketing people a hard time. There’s no doubt I still struggle with our necessarily corporate nature. I look at Whitehawk with their in-jokes and rapid progress, at Lewes, fan owned, beer on the terraces and the best match day posters ever and I get just a little bit nostalgic. I’d rather the “business” of football didn’t exist. But it does, and since it does we might as well be the best at it. Tom – despite looking about fifteen years old – is slowly being recognised as just that. He was hugely impressive and it is no surprise that we are slowly becoming a sort of corporate entity with a community feel. That half season ticket Christmas video for example – brilliant.

    Thirdly - and this is to keep our feet on the ground – we’ve had a bit of luck. Last season nothing seemed to go for us. This? Fairly much everything has except injuries. Losing Lua Lua and Bong was bad enough but to then get a long term injury to your replacement left back the day after the loan window shut is terrible fortune. But everything else has gone our way. On Saturday it could easily have been March who was carried from the field not to continue. We were a couple of inches from going 4-0 down. Yet, in the end it was Charlton that were decimated while the winner was scored by a player who desperately needed some luck, by dint of a keeper’s save spinning back in to the net.

    Will this carry on next year? Who knows. Some were saying after Charlton that days like that have convinced them this is our season. As we go in to some tough games with a reduced squad the work ahead just gets even harder. However - already - after probably the worst half-season I can remember since Mickey Adams II this time last year, this half-season has probably been my favourite ever.

    Read more from Guinness Boy at Brighton, But Only at Home
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Greg Bobkin's Avatar
      Greg Bobkin -
      Fantastic. Great piece, GB.
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