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    Brighton & Hove Albion – The Decade the Seagulls Soared - My Thoughts on the last 10 years


    16 Not allowed!
    Below is a piece I have written on my thoughts of the last 10 years of this fantastic club. There can’t be too many more clubs in the country that have had such a positive decade that we have. Enjoy, please give me your thoughts and feedback, and also what has been your highlight of the last decade. I do not get to attend many games due to working on a ship so I am sure I have missed some important moments, events or signings, but those that sail with me know how much the club means to me. It’s fairly lengthy, but hopefully will kill some time as people return back to work. Hope you all enjoy!





    Brighton & Hove Albion – The Decade the Seagulls Soared

    by Jack Lovegrove


    January 1st 2010 – 20th in League 1. Ten years later. 14th in the Premier League.



    What a decade it has been for us, and some, if not most, would say our most successful. It is only fair to start by thanking one man for the last 10 years, and that is Mr Tony Bloom. Without him, we may not be where we are today, and thanks to him we have enjoyed nearly every kick of the last decade. Say what you like about how the club has changed over the last 10 years. Too corporate? Fans just a number? Opinions vary, but one thing we can all agree on, you cannot call the last 10 years boring.

    It started all the way back in 2010, when a quiet, shy and uncontroversial South American had just taken the helm after a poor start to the season under Russell Slade, with the low point being an embarrassing 7-1 August humbling to Huddersfield. Apart from 1 match at Upton Park, we have never seen a result like this again since. We needed a change to ensure our 4 year stint in the 3rd tier of English football didn’t end by dropping down yet another level. Poyet took charge in November, and after a dodgy first month, his tactics soon reaped rewards. 2009 ended with an impressive, yet bizarre 5-2 win at Wycombe, with a certain Glenn Murray scoring 4. I have a gut feeling he was playing below his true level then, more on him later… That January Poyet signed one of the key figures for the Albion for the decade. A beautiful Spaniard all the way from Alaves graced Sussex, a man who has defined the success we have enjoyed. Up step Inigo Calderón. Little did we know then how much he would embrace his time here. Not only was he an incredibly astute signing, he was also, wait for it, foreign… This was a sign of things to come. Up to then, the most exotic player we had was a Former Dutch Marine in between the sticks.

    The decade started with a 1-0 win at Torquay in the FA Cup. Our first goal scorer of the decade has turned out to be another Albion stalwart, both on and off the pitch, a Mr Andrew Crofts. An impressive second half of the season with only 5 losses saw us end 13th. We comfortably stayed up, and most were excited about the upcoming season. A whole summer together working on Poyet’s tactics along with some additional quality signings meant we could possibly push for the play offs. How wrong we were. This was a season that we simply romped to the League 1 title and give the Withdean and the years of uncertainty a fitting farewell. We played teams, quite simply, off the park, it truly was a thing to behold. Barnes, Murray, Bennett, Greer, Bridcutt, Dicker, Ankergren, these were true heroes of the time. A certain Lewis Dunk also made 4 starts that season. I wonder what he is up to these days... A whirlwind 4-3 at home to Dagenham & Redbridge (with a beautiful quartet of goalscorers; Calde, Murray, Bridcutt and Barnes) saw us earn promotion after a blistering campaign. A week later we confirmed our status as league champions with a win at Walsall beating smug Nigel Adkins' Southampton to the crown. Surely this is as good as it will get for us? This was just the beginning though, and just the start of a decade full of highs and thankfully only a few lows. Record transfers for the Albion happened twice in the summer as we prepared for the Championship, with the terrier like, but sadly couldn't quite cut it in our system, Craig Mackail-Smith, cost a mind blowing 2 and a half million pounds. He was brought in to replace the sadly departing, top scorer Glenn Murray who did the unthinkable and moved to Them up the road. With hindsight, had Bloom offered him a contract renewal he could accept, we may have been where we are now far, far quicker. The 2.5 million at the time seemed crazy and unthinkable that we could afford this. But Bloom meant business, our step up in division was not the only change we were going to oversee.

    The 6th of August 2011. For many the start of another football season, for us a 6 year long wait to play 2nd tier football again, but more importantly, we had a home. Dick Knight's, and many others', tireless campaigning meant we had a place we could belong again. Our ground, our home, our church, our Amex. As most would say, moving home is never simple, and that was encapsulated perfectly in our opening game. Symbolically, we played the same opponents then as our last game at The Goldstone, Doncaster Rovers. We won that game back in 1997 1-0, and for most of that summer afternoon in 2011, it looks like they were going to get revenge with the same scoreline. We were banging on the freshly painted door for the whole match, but Billy Sharp's first half opener looked to have won it. But off the bench came a young, and at one point that summer, record 1 million pound signing for the Albion. Could he come on and earn us a fully deserved point. No, he couldn't. He did more. Will Buckley's stunning brace helped seal a breathtaking win for us. A forgotten name to some regulars at the Amex now, but because of this match (and heroics against Newcastle in the cup that season) will always be the first true hero of the Amex era. This Christened our the Amex, and set a dizzyingly high standards of games to expect. We had a home, and what a home it has become. Gone were the days of the running track and a crowd of 5 thousand for a glum Tuesday night turgid loss against Southend. We had a place we could call our own. This also wasn’t some flat pack, plug and play popup stadium with blue and white seats, this was designed and built for the South Downs and for the community. Personally, I still get goosebumps when I leave the concourse and take my seat and see what’s our. Sussex by the Sea has never sounded so good, when 30 thousand proud voices sing aloud. We had to get promoted the year we did, playing League 1 football in the Amex would not have felt right. The Championship is where we belonged.

    Stability and knocking on the Premier League door came for the next few seasons, with many memorable moments. The definition of true cult legend joined us in the form of Vicente. His performance against Derby that season is still held up as one of the best performances by any one player at the Amex. 2 glorious assists along with mesmerising the whole Derby back line and nearly scoring a truly magnificent piece of art. We had continued where we left off in League 1 and finished 10th in our first year back in the Championship. We pushed on the next season. Looking back now, the summer transfer window in 2012 was truly special. We bought in Bruno, Kuszczak, Bridge, Crofts, Orlandi, Hammond and Lopez. Many of them would become stalwarts of the team for the next few years. Poyet worked his magic again in 12/13. We flew out the traps with 6 wins from the first 8 games saw us sit top in September. After dips in and out of form, we were 8th come the halfway point of the season. We were a good team. Solid, creative, quick. We just missed a quality striker who just knew where the goal was. The chances were there, we just needed someone to take them. Poyet dipped into the market, and boy, did he buy well. In came the man we all adored, Leonardo Ulloa. And he became an instant hero. Scoring on his debut in the FA Cup against Arsenal, we knew, even then, we had a gem on our hands. He wrote himself into Amex history in March against Huddersfield, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick there. An explosive 2nd half of the season saw us climb steadily up the table. The St Patrick's Day massacre being a stand out result followed soon by a 6-1 blitzing of Blackpool. (Funny to think how different the last few years have been for us and the Tangerines). We ended that season 4th. Just a simple play off tie with Them up the road and we would be at Wembley. Surely this was it, it was our year. The luck, the momentum, the team were all with us. After a tight, yet goalless draw at Selhurst, along with traitor of the decade Murray limping off injured, it was surely set for a famous night at the Amex. Sadly not. We just couldn’t get the ball in the net and a sickening late double from Zaha crushed us and gave them a victory that still pains me today. This surely, is the one result any Albion fan would change if they could from the decade. To add salt to the wound, they went on to beat Watford at Wembley and take their seat at footballings top table. This was the end of Poyet's revolution which sadly ended on a poo note. We had a team that knew how to win, in wouldn’t take much to have another successful campaign.

    In came a man who, if the songs were to be believed, just drunk sangria. Less exciting football? Maybe. Still getting results? Definitely. We always thought it was possible to get promoted under Garcia, but sometimes just felt like we may not have enough goals in the team. For most of the season we hang around just outside of the play offs, 3 losses on the bounce in March made it feel like we may just miss out, but a remarkable 4-1 away win at top of the league Leicester reinvigorated us and saw us get into 6th for the final game of the season. (Funny to think how different the last few years have been for us and the Foxes.....) All we had to do was win away at Nottingham Forest who had nothing to play for.

    Any Albion fan would surely have THAT Forest game on the last day of the 13/14 season as one of their highlights of the Championship era. I can still watch that goal and get chills. After going in at the break 1-0 down, it looked like we were in for a tough 2nd half. Stephen Ward got one back on the 53rd minute, but for most of the match, it looked like we just wouldn’t get another. Until the 92nd minute. Forgotten cult record signing whips a beautiful ball to the beautiful 6ft2 Argentinian talisman. CMS to Ulloa. Boom. Header. Goal. Bedlum. Choas. Kazenga screams down the camera lens. The away end erupts. Explodes. I'm at my uni house (ironically in Reading) going crazy. "Brighton, on the brink of the playoffs, they've prized open the door to the Premier League." Not only did we sneak into the play offs, we dislodged a Nigel Adkins' team in the process. Surely this was it, it was our year. The luck, the momentum, the team were all with us. Again, sadly not. We got Rammed in the play off Semi Final, by admittedly, the better team. We can do it again lads. Regroup. Push on. Play offs again surely? Dare to dream of the top 2?

    Yes, we had another new manager again this season, but this time with some pedigree. He's managed in the top flight in Germany. Played at the back for Liverpool. He must be good. How wrong we were. Seeing Calderon being forced to bomb up and down the right was heartbreaking. He spent more time near the opponents corner flag then in his own half. It was not pretty. The one highlight of Hyypia's era was THAT goal that a lesser spotted Rohan Ince, scored at Swindon in the League Cup, which I was lucky enough to see live and be sat right behind. Volleyed. Curled. Rocketed. It was a screamer. Shame he couldn't do this more often. Apart from that, in the league, this was the year where we thought we would give the others teams a chance at promotion.... 2014 did not Finnish well. What sticks in my mind of Sami's farcical tenure was a truly awful 1-0 home loss to fellow strugglers Millwall. It was one of the most toxic atmospheres I have experienced with a truly gutless and thoughtless display. A team outplayed and captained by Danny Shittu, oh the irony, and managed, of course, again by, Ian Holloway. He really has got a reputation of stinking the place out at the Amex. We finished that game with a forward line of Colunga, McCourt, Bent and Teixeira. No wonder we were woeful. For me, this truly was the low point of the decade, which surprisingly enough, came almost exactly half way through the 10 years. One game later and Sami was gone. Despite the poor antics on the field at the Amex, just along the A27, in my home village, the highly impressive ‘American Express Elite Performance Centre’ opened. Still hailed today as one of the best footballing facilities in the country, now, in 2019, starting to feel the benefits of this with many youngsters coming through the ranks. Sadly though, in 2014, this was the least of our worries and knew survival in the Championship was key to any long term success.

    A remarkable win at Fulham, (not for the last time this decade) under the stewardship of Nathan Jones and then, in came, the not wholly popular appointment at the time, Chris Hughton. After Poyet, Garcia and Hyypia, this seemed a fairly unfashionable and bland choice. He has a decent record at this level, but that is with the top flight regulars Newcastle, not struggling to score Brighton. But the appointment, of the often said to be 'the nicest guy in football', now looks like a master stroke. For those of you that don't remember, we were awful for the first half of that season. We had only won 3 league games before Christmas. We had gone from being a solid and impressive Championship unit that had finished in the play offs the last 2 seasons, to a team in serious danger of the drop. This was a squad sapped of confidence. But Hughton joined, and thankfully did steady the ship. He brought in King Kayal from north of the border in January who helped give some leadership to a fragile midfield. A comical 4-3 win over Birmingham in February, with Calderón having the Cheek to score a brace, gave us some light between us and the drop. A hopeless last 7 games of the season saw us scoring a grand total of 1 goal, which meant a nervous ending, but thankfully we finished 6 points clear in the end, thanks partially to a Rotherham team managed by the orge-like Steve Evans cheating their way to a win when we faced them. Evans not playing by the rules, who would of thought. Hughton had done it, he had saved us from relegation. Thanks Chris, you kept us up, don't forget your coat as you leave. We can now go back to our roots and get back to appointing Getafe's under 18s manager, or something along those lines.

    What? Hughton is staying? Yes he kept us up, but he oversaw a team where the home grown centre back was the top scorer with Dunk's 7 goals. Does he understand the strikers are there to score? Bloom decided he should be given a full season to see what he could do. Hopefully solidify again this season, then push into the top half again next year? No one in their right mind thought we would kick onto where we ended up. The summer signings started to roll in. Hemed, Rosenior, Bong, Hambo (Remember him!) and of course, the return on Bobby. BZ was back. As expected, he didn't play a lot, but sure made an impact when he did. Popping up to score a later winner at Elland Road was always going to recement his status as a legend.

    The second home game of the season, against Blackburn, will always be remembered because of the awful back drop that it was played in front of, the truly awful Shoreham Air Disaster. Traveling to the game that day, I remember news starting to spread on the train that a plane had crashed while performing a stunt at the air show. Footage trickled in on phones as we travelled to Falmer. That match had an understandably eerie atmosphere but the boys did their part and won 1-0 that day thanks to a Lualua goal, but days like that are when the sport we love takes the backseat. 11 people lost their lives that day with more injured. It was a dark day for the area. The next home game against Hull couldn’t have made me more proud to be an Albion fan. A truly special dedication and service to honour those that had died was executed with the highest respect. Many said that this local disaster brought the club and fanbase Together and pushed us on for the season we had. Despite many of the squad not being born in Sussex, they knew what it meant to the community. This helped drive the team to an incredibly impressive 21 match unbeaten streak that saw us constantly tussle for the top 2 places. However, people were nervous; every one of the 11 wins in that run was only by 1 goal. Was it luck, or a gritty and ‘know to win’ attitude? The bubble had to burst at some point, but hopefully in a narrow 1-0 loss away from home right? The streak came to an alarming end when we lost 3-0 at home to an incredibly impressive and physical Middlesbrough. In hindsight, this was one of the most important results in our history. Spoilers… had we lost that only 2-0, we would have been promoted come the end of the season due to goal difference with Boro, who eventually ended 2nd after drawing with us in the last game. Chris knew in the winter he had to add some quality, and that he certainly did. In came a smattering of signings, but one man would add a little magic to the squad. In stepped Anthony Knochaert. This season would see him settle, but 16/17 would see him make a huge impression on the league, and again, spoilers, would go on to win Player of the Season in the Championship. As stated a draw on the last day of the season at The Riverside saw them promoted, and us stuck in 3rd. Chris' first full season in charge saw us come a shin pad away from promotion to the Promised Land. To do what Chris had done, take us from 20th to 3rd was remarkable and something I think that is often forgotten about. We entered the play-offs as the highest ranked team there, 15 point off our semi final opponents Sheffield Wednesday. They were a decent team, but nothing spectacular. Surely this was it, it was our year. Yet again, sadly not. Looking back, the exhaustion of that run in, along with the crushing result at Boro took too much out of us. We were beaten fairly comfortably 2-0 at their place, and despite Dunk getting 1 back early at the Amex, it was not enough, They also scored in the first half and we simply did not have enough to mount any kind of response. We were so close. So close that we could almost picture the matches at Anfield and Old Trafford. But it was not to be. When the new season rolls around and your points are reset to 0 it feels like another herculean task to do it again. People wondered if we could do it again, or if we had blown the once chance we had, especially with more of the banked rolled big boys from the league above joining us.

    But we did.

    Murray returned from his traitorous move to Palace, after a loan spell at Bournemouth. Thank god he is good, or normally he should never be forgiven for these. GG left us that summer as it was clear he had reached his limit with us and may not cut it if we wanted to push on. For the 6 seasons he was with us, he captained the team to where they were, and was always the first name on the team sheet. He is one player who could easily be forgotten about as he just missed out on the promotion season, but deserves a lot of credit for guiding the club to where they were. Irish giant, and Greer’s replacement Shane Duffy, joined for another record breaking 4 and a half million pound. This season would see the start of the formidable Duffy/Dunk partnership that us, and many pundits have grown to love. The season started slowly with us 13th after 6 games. But then from September to early January, it clicked. 14 wins and 4 draws from 18 games saw us sore up the table. We enjoyed many memorable wins from this run, but Love of Our Lives, Stevie Sidwell’s exquisite lob followed by holding Knockaert’s shirt aloft showed after Anthony’s father had passed showed that this was a special team, both on and off the field. A shaky start to 2017 put doubts in a few people’s minds and wondered if we would choke again. A crushing loss in February to Newcastle at the Amex, with still, the luckiest goal I have ever seen, followed by a comprehensive loss at Forest made it feel, despite still being in the top 2, we may not do it. But as we all know, we did. And what a season it was. We didn’t do it easily, with many dramatic results, but as always, they are the ones that stick with you. If you haven’t recently, take a moment to watch the highlights of any of the games below. These really were special days to be an Albion fan.

    Wednesday Away. (Finally, we won at Hillsborough.)

    Norwich Home. (5-0 thumping of one the Premier League regulars. Murray’s hattrick showing again why we loved him so much from his first stint at the club. He isn’t flash, but my word he knows how to score.)

    Birmingham Away. (Murray, 95th minute winner, running the length of the pitch to celebrate with the Albion faithful. There is nothing sweeter then checking the score, resigning yourself to a loss, then checking it again at full time, and seeing we’ve only gone and won it! This is when I started to believe again that we could do it.)

    Fulham Away. (Double penalty save from Stockdale. Come from behind win. Dunk's never say die attitude. The stands shaking. My mum, despite not being a huge football was there, in tears as she is overcome by emotion. This is when the team started to believe again.)

    Wednesday Home. (Dramatic Knockaert double, Stockdale saving another penalty after Murray is sent off for handling in the box. Another late winner. The whole of the stadium driving the team on to get what would be a heroic victory and getting revenge from the play offs the year before. This is when the Amex started to believe again.)

    Brentford Away. (Rescuing the most dramatic of draws to salvage a point after losing away at promotion rivals Huddersfield in midweek. 2-2 as we enter extra time after being 2-0 down for most of the match. They get what looks like to be a sickening winner in the 93rd minute until Tomer Hemed pops up with, what felt at the time, a huge goal.)

    QPR Away. (Pocognoli wonder free kick to seal a vital 3 points in the run in. This is when the whole of Sussex started to believe again)

    And then it happened.

    The 17th of April 2017. Wigan at home. 2-1. The 2 Ms, Murray and March. To most, a routine result that saw another unfavoured team get the honour to play with the big boys for a season. To us, and Tony, something we have felt we had deserved for a few years. Together, we made the huge step up to Promised Land after another season from our wildest dreams. A squad of heroes wearing the blue and white stripes under the guidance of Chris, we had finally done it. I sadly wasn't there for this game, but I genuinely can never imagine a celebration like that happening at the Amex again. Completely unbridled joy, fully grown men crying, a full pitch invasion that no one was ever really going to stop. Even if we won the Premier League, there would be formalities because the whole world watching. Not then, little old Brighton enjoying every second that we could. People ask me why I love football, seeing people react like that is why. Despite disappointing results in the next 2 games, it looked like the title was going to be ours, until Grealish’s late equalizer at Villa Park handed the title to the Toon. A memorable parade around a sundrenched Brighton soon helped us forget about that slight blip. This really was the season of dreams. Incredible performance, late winners, and a team who you felt wanted it badly after the season previous meant it felt like it was always going to be our year. We were in the top 2 from late October, and constantly jostled with Newcastle for the top position. Was it ever it doubt really, probably not, but no football fan ever feels that confident to admit it.

    This may be strange and controversial to say at this point, but the following 2 and a half season, stupidly, feel like a footnote to the rest of the decade. It may be because of the nature of my job at sea, and that I get to watch far less games then the first 6 years of the season, or it may simply be because the glitz and glamour of the Premier League isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Yes, don’t get me wrong, I have loved the attention, despite being under the radar, and love it when I meet people from all corners of the world who now know who Brighton are. I love the famous results we have got while battling with the best. But the Championship is a special league, where you can truly beat anyone, and often for our 6 years there, we did. Games aren’t as special in the 2nd tier, but that isn’t a bad thing. Lose at Rotherham at the weekend, don’t worry, we play again in 3 days we are bound to win that. Lose at home in the Premier League, and it’s 3 weeks till we are back here, and then even then we are playing City. Yes, of course, we could win away at Anfield, but far more likely we would have won away at Oakwell. However, saying this, the Premier League years have been enjoyable while also being steady and sometime fairly unremarkable on the pitch. Down slightly to Hughton’s management style but also down, obviously, to the far tougher opponents we have faced.

    Another busy summer in 2017 saw a shock, and still unsure why, departure, of goalkeeping hero David Stockdale. A big man would be need to fill those gloves. Matty Ryan came in, who as most pundits say, isn't the tallest keeper, and would have a job in his hands stepping up to the Premier League. Davy Propper and Pascal Gross also joined which looked shrewd signings on paper, but would they be able to add the quality to the midfield needed to stay up. As we all know, they did, with Gross become most people's bargain of the season for the whole league.

    One thing I do enjoy more, especially that debut season, was when the fixtures are released. Who were we going to start this difficult campaign with? A possibly winnable tie against one of the smaller regulars of the league? A day out at one of the big boys? We found out that reality of league football would hit home when we started back again in August when Manchester City would grace our home as our adventure in the top flight of English football began. Unsurprisingly, they won. For them, a fairly routine 2-0 win in the end, despite us hanging on for the first 70 minutes. Aguero, and a Dunk own goal the difference. They were clearly the better side. But they didn’t play us off the park. This gave us belief that we may be able to compete. And compete we did. Nothing unspectacular, nothing that made huge headlines but we battled through the season. Our first goal in the league, scored by Gross, helped us to a 3-1 win over West Brom at our 4th time of trying. He actually scored 2 that day which allowed us to start to see the quality he could give us. The game which really made me feel like we had arrived and deserved to be in the Premier League, was a rare, yet highly impressive 3-0 win at West Ham, with another summer signing Izquierdo scoring, what can only be described, as a peach of a goal. Cut in from the left, and curls it majestically into the top right. Away from home we were pretty dire, with a win at Swansea the only other victory on the road. It was our home form that kept us up. Consistency was not our game that season. A run of 3 losses was our worst losing run, where a run of 5 games undefeated around February (DWDWW) was our most impressive spell. Back to back games of a 4-1 thrashing of Swansea, and then our first scalp against one of the big boys. Dunk and Murray scored in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. We stayed up quite comfortably in the end, with a famous 1-0 win over Manchester United booking us another year in the league. Gross with the goal in the second half, and a typical Hughton display letting us see it out. Chris had proved a lot of people wrong, both personally that he could cut it in the top flight, but also keeping an unfavoured Brighton up. We finished in the end 15th with that magical number of points, 40. However, the tough second album was to come.

    That summer we signed a lot of players, however, not many would make a huge impact, especially that season. None of the signings from that summer would stamp there authority on the squad and become first team regulars. This may explain the difficulties we had that season. Dan Burn joined (see 2019/20) along with Ali J (see New Year’s Day 2020…) becoming our record signing. A drab 2-0 loss at Watford was not the start we wanted, however, our first home game of the season beautifully mirrored our last of the previous season; another famous victory over Manchester United. This time however, a far more dramatic, if not more deserved 3-2 win. A run of 3, 1-0 wins in October helped us build on the solid start. However, December 4th of that season was THE game we had all been waiting for. After a draw and a loss the previous season, it was our time to beat Palace in the top flight. And beat them we certainly did. Murray, as he normally does, converted an early penalty which helped calm the Amex nerves. However, soon after a rush of blook to Shane Duffy’s head saw us down to 10 men with well over half the match to go. We all thought this was going to be the most Chris Hughton display then we had ever seen. We were not wrong, but we added 2 beautiful goals to go 3-0 up. The first was from the man brought on to help fill the gap the Irishman had left. Balogun came on, and with his first touch, from the corner straight after the red, with a stunning strike on the half volley. The Amex erupted. A truly incredible strike from a centre back against our rivals, while down to 10! The stuff of dreams. BOYS, get back. Everyone behind the ball. We can see this out! We were not done. 15 mintues later, Romanian Florin Andone went on to score one of the goals of the Amex era. A huge punt down field looked like it was going to nothing, until Andone got on the end of it, collected it, just about kept it in and kept running with it. And kept going, and kept going. He ghosts past 2 ‘defenders’ Tomkins and rifles it low into the net. Absolute delirium. A famous win and another 3 points. We were then 10th after 15 games. Could we push on? Europe, surely not? Surely not indeed. 6 wins from our first 15 games was followed up with a pathetic 3 from out last 23. Thankfully one of them was a 2-1 win at Selhurst, Murray scoring again, with Knockaert scoring the goal of the season to win it. This completed a fine and incredibly league double over Palace. One of the few high points of the pretty turgid end of season. We managed to limp over the survival line, thanks mainly from doing the double over those generous folks in Croydon. We also notably, in a dreadful run, did get our first point away from home against one of the ‘Top 6’, a 1-1 draw away at Arsenal. But 3 pathetic home losses without scoring from Southampton, Cardiff and a 5-0 humiliation by Bournemouth meant the end of the season could not come soon enough with us eventually finishing 2 points above the relegated Bluebirds. Our league form may have been poor, but that main have been down to our run to the FA Cup Semi Final, and our first for 36 years. The teams we beat on our way were not the hardest we could have faced, but we got past all of them. Just. After beating Bournemouth, West Brom in a replay and then Derby, it looked like we may crash out in the Quarter Finals with a loss at Millwall. 2 goals from them in the 70th and 79th minute looked to have sealed a painful defeat for us, until on the 88th minute, the not too reliable Locadia swivels in the box and slots home to give us hope. They try to wind the clock down as much as they can, and it looked to have worked, until, in the last minute we win a free kick. Everyone is in the box, but everyone is not need. Sussex boy March lofts it in, no one gets a touch, until the keeper palms it into his own net. It was a true howler, and not what the rest of the country or media wanted but we denied them a famous win. No goals in extra time, but we went on to win the penalty shootout, despite Murray missing the first. After years of play off misery, and despite going there to play Spurs, this was our big day out at Wembley. Unfortunately, we would be playing the incredible Manchester City for a place in the final. Despite them not being at their best, an early goal from Jesus sealed a professional 1-0 win for them. It wasn’t the day we had all dreamt about but when we knew our opposition, given the form we were in, we knew it would take a minor miracle to get past them. They went on to win the cup by humbling Watford 6-0. Makes our 1-0 look fairly impressive!

    It wasn't pretty but Chris had kept us up and got us to a cup Semi Final but without any final thank you from the Amex faithful, was let go by Tony. Hughton, despite how this season ended, will always go down as an Albion Hero, and possibly our best manager. To take us so quickly from where we were when he joined, to 2 seasons in the Premier League was incredible. Along with that, there are so many sly/unlikeable people in the sport, and it was great to have one of the true managerial gents at our helm. I hope next time he visits the Amex with another team, we give him the farewell he never got from us.

    Replacing him though was never going to be easy, and would feel like a risk. We were a stable club. Even if we went down, we always felt Chris would be able to get us back up. But Tony, always the gambler, took the risk, and appointed a man whose only managerial experiences were in Sweden and Wales and who had played most of his games as a full back at York, West Brom and Stoke. Welcome to the club the strange, often praised for his unusual techniques, but again likeable Graham Potter. After a decent season in the Championship with Swansea, Bloom obviously thought he would be our man. Signings of Trossard and Maupay showed Potter’s intent, we were going to attack, but could we stay up like that. We were unsure. We knew it would be a change, we knew we wouldn't be hanging on for nil-nils away from home anymore, but would it work? If the first game was anything to go by, we would have the league wrapped up by March. 3-0 away at Vicarage Road. No one expected this. That was the start of the Magic of Potterball. We have ebbed and flowed our way through the season, with most people, not just us fans, agreeing we deserve more points on the table then we have. There has been 2 huge stand out results this season, that under Hughton, many would agree would not have happened. The 3-0 deconstruction of Spurs where Aaron Connolly scored a double, showing the rest of the world what he could be capable of and then a fully deserved 2-1 win at Arsenal that TeamsLikeBrighton should not be getting. If we had got the results that many say we deserved in some games, we would comfortably be in the top half. Under Potter, we feel far more like a team. We aren’t praying for a piece of magic to get us a goal. We aren’t hoping Murray will take one of the rare chances he will get as he scraps for 90 minutes for any touch of the ball. We now play in a system where have a belief we can always score. This was proven perfectly in a crazy, and possibly most dramatic win since we’ve been promoted, victory over Everton. Now Albion stalwart Gross puts us 1-0 after 15 minutes. Under Hughton, we would have then sat back, possibly tried to get another, and either seen the game out or draw 1-1 as they get a late equalizer. Under Potter, this was not the case. They soon equalized, and then in the 74th minute, took the lead. It felt like a big blow, and one we may struggle to come back from in previous seasons. Almost instantly, Maupay converts a controvertial VAR given penalty to even it up. The game looks like it will end in a draw, but that is not good enough for Graham. We still blitz and get our reward as Digne turns a beautiful cross into his own net. 3-2 full time. A victory that encapsulates everything we enjoying at the moment.

    I started to write this as the Albion suffered an uncharacteristic 1-0 home loss to the incredibly impressive Sheffield United. We went on to lose narrowly at Spurs but finish the year with what felt like a routine, and fully deserved 2-0 win over Bournemouth, with many saying it could have been 4 or 5. With Jahanbakhsh scoring a beautiful goal (he surely won’t get a better one for a while..) to open his Albion account to the relief of him and 30,000 fans around him and possible contender for Player of the Season Mooy sealing the victory. As I said at the beginning, we started the decade 20th in League 1 wondering if we could stay up. We end it with an impressive and fully deserved win over a Premier League regular.
    It seems obvious to say, but the last 10 years have been exciting times to be an Albion fan. Where Potter can take this team, nobody knows, as it stands, it looks like we may be playing Premier League football for a 4th season in a row, playing attractive, fast paced football while blooding youngsters from our impressive youth facility. Not only could the next decade be the most exciting, it could also be our most successful.





    If you got to the end of this, thank you, I really hope you enjoyed it. Please, share your thoughts on the piece, both positive and negative, and if you think there is anything I have missed. I am the only one to have read it, so I am sure there are some gramatical errors/spelling mistakes! Also let me know if we share similar thoughts on the decade as a whole, or certain events.

    Thanks again,

    Jack
    Last edited by JOLovegrove; 02-01-2020 at 19:50.

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