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Archive for the ‘Brighton and Hove Albion’ Category

Category C, You’re Havin’ a Laugh
Brighton 1-1 FC United of Manchester (27:11:10)
Brighton and Hove Albion have three options when it comes to attracting the eye of the national press; Flirt with extinction – and be rescued by tireless efforts of its supporters, race clear at the top of League One with a colourful boss at the helm – and a shiny new stadium to move into, or draw FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup.

One argument levelled against FC United is that they get a disproportionate amount of press coverage considering they ply their trade in the Northern Premier Division. This is undoubtedly true, but it’s because they’re so newsworthy. And their fans have certainly struck a chord with us here at European Football Weekends.

Unfortunately, the hype and hoopla of this match got the better of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) who – in their infinite wisdom – decided to grade this a Category C match, meaning that, in their view, it carried the highest risk of disorder. This was the first time this had occurred in five years, since Crystal Palace rocked up to Withdean. That I could understand. This, less so.

Initially, on internet forums (I know), both fans went in swinging virtual windmills and accusing each other of all sorts of nonsense. A resemblance of calm was eventually restored when those fans took a step back and realised they had a lot of common ground; neither of these two clubs would exist if it wasn’t their supporters – two of the best sets of fans in the country when it comes to campaigning and tackling the issues of mod£rn football.

The FC United fans arrive. Did they rampage through the streets of Brighton beforehand? Did they ‘eck as like.
Up for the cup.

When the seagull follows the trawler……
Ultimately, this fixture was drawn out of the hat a year early. Had it arrived 12 months later, then FC United would have been afforded the luxury of a 3,500 away allocation – instead of the derisory 845 – and we’d have all been moaning about ticket prices instead. £10-12 for this game by the way – no own goal there. Incidentally, a ticket to football in 2010 shouldn’t cost more than £15. If you think that’s bonkers, then tap ‘Germany + football + supporters not customers’ into Google.

So, what should have been a football fiesta celebrating FCUM’s biggest game in their short history had kicked off on a sour note. In my view, what puts the magic in the FA Cup is the fact that grounds can teem with away fans on days like these. Football without fans is well worn cliche, and with good reason. Those empty seats at Withdean on Saturday should have been filled with the FC United fans whom had to be content with a seat back at the Flixton Cricket Club, where the game was beamed back to.

There is some good news though; FCUM can rejoice in one decision this week, that of Manchester Council City’s Council Committee (MCCCC!) whom approved planning permission for the club to build a new 5,000 ground and community sports complex at Ten Acres Lane, Newton Heath (Newton Heath!). Brighton fans, for their part, have enjoyed a season in which the Gus Bus has chugged through the gears nicely, and arrived at the top of League One. Thousands of Seagulls have flocked to recent away games; 3,394 at Charlton, 2,519 at Peterborough and 3,105 at Southampton. Woof!

Time for a beer I think don’t you? I met up with a few old faces in the pubs of Brighton prior to the match. A few pangs of guilt about not attending Withdean for a while were dispatched with every passing pint of Harvey’s, and anecdotes of following the blue and white wizards home and away for over 20 years: we were up for the cup – and ready to witness some tippy-tappy football in the Albion’s (not quite) Olympic stadium. £10 for a waft of magic from Elliot ‘Benno’ Bennett’s boot anyone? – rather.
Cries of “Bring on United” rang out across the ground for five minutes or more before the match kicked off. Part of the appeal of FCUM is their vociferous supporters. Karl Marginson – the clubs one, and only manager – described FC United as a 90/90 club, where 90% of fans sing for 90 minutes. Today, they were a 100/96 club. To the tune of Anarchy in the UK then: I am an FC fan, I am mancunian, I know what I want, And I know how to get it, I wanna destroy Glazer and Sky, Cos I wanna be at FC. The songs came thick, fast and loud. The only ditties I didn’t quite get were ones related to Eric Cantona. Yes, he endorsed the club, but why not sing about the players in your own team now?
The Theatre of Trees.

The ultra club.

Keep of the pitch IN THOSE TRAINERS.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist this snap.
For new readers: this isn’t really the site to head to for an actual match report. Others do that much better than I ever could. I will say that FCUM stopper Sam Ashton chose arguably the biggest day in the clubs history to play an absolute blinder between the sticks. A performance in which he added the icing to his cake by saving a last minute penalty, thus securing an unlikely draw for the away team – who were positioned 120 places further down the football pyramid than their table-topping opponents.
It was also so cold that the Albion substitute, Spaniard Franciso Sandaza, took to the field of play sporting a pair of black tights. That wasn’t the worst fashion faux pas though; one of the linesmen had a pair of trainers (trainers!) on. Letter of complaint to the FA on it’s way as I type, obviously.
At half time I met with Andy Walsh, FC United Chief Executive. Earlier in the week, he was afforded just four minutes to put forward the club’s case for that new stadium in Newton Heath. “Everybody took the piss” he said “It normally takes me four minutes to say my name.” We all laughed. I was particularly interested to talk to Walsh, because he’d helped sell the notion of a community club – and gave a morale boosting leg up in the process – to Lewes FC. This community, co-operative club football lark could well catch on you know.
I ended up tapping my foot to the ground, not only to keep warm, but – along with a bit of hum – also to join in with the songs of the travelling support. “I wish I was in their end” said my good friend Mr Cherry. We’re both Brighton fans, but it was hard not to get swept up in the mood emanating from the away seats – seemingly several hundred yards behind one of the goals. Best and loudest song of the day (to the tune of the Beach Boys, Sloop John B): Hoist up the John B sail, see how the mainsail sets, call for the captain ashore, Let me go home, I wanna go home, I wanna go hooo-oo-ome, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on, Doo doo doo dooo (repeat to fade).
So, the mockery of the Category C grading had been turned on its head. Best away fans we’ve had at the Withdean? Probably. Certainly, they were the loudest since Stoke City came to town around six years or so ago. There will be better days for the Albion. Promotion would be rich reward for the Brighton fans whom have fought tooth and nail to keep their club afloat in more trying circumstances. A final thought to the Safety Advisory Committee: Football is nothing without fans.
Cat C – unfair. Tick.
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The Friendly Fires
Brighton 1-0 Aberdeen (31:07:10)

Almost a year ago to this day, EFW – which is based in Brighton, well Hove actually – packed its drinking boots and headed to Aberdeen. After reading, and eventually writing about their ‘Red Ultras’ we were hooked. We saw them play Celtic, dashed across the city to see Cove Rangers – just for kicks – then made merry for days in the plethora of brilliant pubs. Mi casa es su casa as they say – now it was time for them to visit us.

Brighton were fresh from a round of friendlies in Portugal. One of them – against Portimonense – was abandoned after a “mass confrontation”. Albion’s (mad as a box of frogs) gaffer Gus Poyet defended his teams actions. “It was good for team spirit” he said, “they cried at the first sign of an English tackle, just like I did when I first arrived to England” he added clutching at straws.

Albion do have previous in this department. I was in the Republic of Ireland years ago for the ‘Battle of Longford’. That friendly was also abandoned after a wayward Charlie Oatway tackle lead to a scene reminiscent of the Benny Hill end credits, with everyone chasing each other around the pitch and eventually into the changing room for another “mass confrontation”.

Poor old Aberdeen. Whilst Rangers have been in Australia playing in the Sydney Festival of Football and Celtic off on their usual world tour playing anyone with a buck, The Dons have made do with Tamworth, Port Vale and now Brighton. At least their real fans have travelled for these games and in fairness they do play away in Kaiserslautern next week. Dreamy.

As usual, the Dons fans had travelled in good numbers – 516 to be exact. A round-trip of 1194 miles for a friendly? Pah, peanuts – bring it on pal. There was no sign of the Red Ultras though – they disbanded after multiple hassles with the authorities last season. They have now reformed under another name – Red Army 12 – and have something special planned for SPL opener with Hamilton apparently – welcome back and good luck lads.

So after a few afternoon range finders including a few pints of Old Rosie – weighing in at a sleep inducing 7.2% – we headed off to Withdean Stadium. I won’t bang on about that place again (you did enough of that here – Ed.), suffice to say this is the Seagulls last season here, and mercifully, next season they’re moving to Falmer – The American Express Community Stadium to be precise. And it looks lovely already.

If Mark McGhee was worried about how he’d be welcomed back to Brighton he needn’t have. Memories of that play-off win in Cardiff outweighed the negativity that marked the end of his tenure, and his sojourn across the Withdean pitch was greeted with a standing ovation. He must have felt like a golfer strolling down the 18th at St Andrews. Whilst we’re on that subject, golf fans are easily pleased aren’t they? They clap absolutely everything.

Mark McGhee milks the applause of the Withdean faithful.

516 Aberdeen fans enjoying the sun-she-ine.

Rebel without a cause.

I’m not too sure how seriously Aberdeen took the match – which the Albion won with a wonder strike from Elliot Bennett. There were reports that they were out in town sinking a few beers the previous afternoon. Not too surprising then that despite fielding their first team, their only shot in the whole game came in the last minute when a Michael Paton volley shaved the post.

On the flip-side, Brighton were pretty impressive. It was one-way traffic in their favour. Oh, and what’s not to like about an Argentine winger called ‘Baz’ who shone out in his bright yellow boots and seemed determined only to attempt to score goals via the scissor kick.

Back at EFW HQ afterwards, fans of both clubs drank, and eventually sang long into the night. There was apparently some fairly serious trouble in town but we’re more into giggles and beers than fighting here at EFW.

Aberdeen now move onto Germany then, whereas, for the Seagulls, anything other than relegation this season should ensure that they will be watched by crowds of 20,000+ at the beginning of next season in their new shiny home. Exciting times on the South Coast.

Stairway to heaven?

Argentine Baz in those boots.

New Dons signing Paul Hartley failed to impress on his Dons debut.

For lots more photos CLICK ME.
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Sea, Sea, Seasiders

Brighton & Hove Albion Res 4-0 Bognor Regis Town (03:05:10)

*click on photos to enlarge image*

Brighton, Bognor Regis, Eastbourne, Bank Holiday Monday – welcome to the Beautiful South. It was like thumbing through a holiday brochure of coastal resorts. With Wembley Stadium fully booked, this years Sussex Senior Cup Final took place at the home of Eastbourne Borough and was played out between Brighton & Hove Albion Reserves and Bognor Regis Town.

As per usual, I was joined by Cynical Dave (Cinico Dave as he is known to his Spanish fans). After raiding a chemist overnight for our blue pills we joined up with Phil Daniels, Sting and the boys before heading along the coast to Eastbourne on our vespas. Brighton is of course synonymous with Mods and as for Bognor, they’re known as the Rocks. Mods v Rockers it was then.

Bognor Regis used to be a big noise in the Isthmian Premier League but relegation this season means they’ll be kicking their heels in the Isthmian League Division One South in 2010/11. That is the eighth tier of English football. A bit beneath a team who are in the Guinness Book of Records for winning this competition a record 5 (five) times in succession between 1980-1984. They really did rock in those days.

Bognor Regis Town’s Green Army

I would have gotten away with dressing like this if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

Hola Gus! Albion gaffer Gus Poyet joins EFW.

Contrary to popular belief, the Sussex Senior Cup isn’t a competition designed purely to line Brighton and Hove Albion’s trophy cabinet each year. Blink, blink, I mean no blinks. For reasons of fairness to other Sussex clubs, the Albion have to field their reserve side. That hasn’t stopped them winning it three times in the last five years though.

We left Phil Daniels and Sting fighting running battles with Ray Winstone on the beach and headed towards the Langney Sports Club via a couple of pubs on Seaside (Road). The first was the Kings Arms, a throw back to the 70’s with a David Essex album being played and a barmaid who asked Dave if he wanted ice with his pint of Pedigree. The Arlington down the road was a bit better. £5 for a pint and a curry, although the later contained 20% curry and 80% rice.

There are two bars at the ground itself. One is huge and would have catered perfectly for most of the crowd of 605. Not today though old chap. It was closed for an after match function for the Sussex FA blazer brigade. Quite why they couldn’t have set it all up after the game was a mystery. As it was then, we were shoe-horned into another bar around the corner, which was jam-packed with a couple of hundred vociferous and colourful Bognor fans.

Eastbourne Borough isn’t the most accessible ground in Sussex. I think the final has been held here over the past few years for its exemplary selection of shiny cutlery and napkins for the aforementioned committee knees up rather than its actual location.

It was a cold windy afternoon…

….with moody skies overhead…

…and glum Rocks defenders picking the ball out of the onion bag at regular intervals.

At the turnstiles we paid our £10 which seemed like quite a lot of Leslie (Ash, cash, ie Leslie Ash played Steph in Quadrophenia and in cockney rhyming slang it…oh never mind). We weren’t to let that ruin our day though and a quick rub down with the Non-League Paper revived us as.

Bognor Regis did themselves proud, backed by their tremendous green army of fans but the Albion reserves won quite comfortably in the end. In truth, it’s a bit of a folly that Brighton are allowed to field a side in this competition. Pitching Adam Virgo who was playing for Celtic not long ago against the Rocks isn’t really on. The half arsed celebrations at the end showed what it meant to Brighton players and fans alike – not much. A Bognor v Worthing final for example would have been a better showpiece for a competition with bags of history.

And it’s goodnight from him. Adam Virgo is on his way out of the Albion.

And it’s goodnight from him as well. Dean Cox last photo in a Brighton shirt?

For more photos of the day CLICK ME (best viewed as a slideshow)

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Wash your mouth out son
by Ian Clark


As my good friend Larry pointed out in Part 1 those of us fortunate enough to have been born in Sussex during the Albion’s halcyon days grew up to hate our neighbours from Surrey (they’re not a proper London club , the Nigels , are they?) with a passion. A writer from the London Evening Standard once memorably opined something to the effect that “Brighton and Crystal Palace fans despise each other with a passion rarely seen outside of the Balkans to the bemusement of the rest of the football world”. The way fans of both clubs have come together to address the misfortunes to have befallen both clubs in recent years might challenge that but more of that later.

My earliest trips to the Goldstone in the spring of 1979 saw huge crowds , an ultimately successful promotion push and almost non-stop songs about Palace and their fans that quickly cemented in the mind of an impressionable 10 year old that they were the enemy. Some things you just don’t question! Favourites , and I’m sure Palace have the same with the names of the two teams reversed , include a little ditty about the joy of wandering the cliffs of Dover only to happen upon a hapless Eagles fan and push him off the edge and another about how when an “itty little boy” my granddad bought me a nice new toy. Two little Palace fans hanging from a string. He taught me to kick their fu….you can work probably figure out the rest!

In an attempt to strike a balanced view (not easy given how much I hate them. I mean really hate them!) I’m going to recount three games Brighton v Palace games that live in the memory. One win , one draw , one defeat – now you can’t say fairer than that! And no Palace fans the defeat isn’t the unspeakably horrible 5-0 one but you couldn’t really expect it to be if you’re honest could you?

First up was my first taste of the rivalry back in April 1984 when as a member of the Junior Seagulls (as in the junior branch of the Supporters Club as opposed to any fledgling “firm”) I stood in the South East corner at the Goldstone enraptured as goals from Terry Connor , Alan Young and , if memory serves correctly , Eric Young gave Albion a 3-1 win in the sunshine. Not sure who scored their consolation but who cares really eh? Slough’s favourite son would later go on to sell his soul and serve Palace with distinction but I’m sure apart from that he’s a decent bloke. Don’t remember too many other details from that one but there’s number one in the books!

Click to enlarge any image

Around a year later on a Tuesday night it was all aboard the Seagull Special and off to the mean streets of Norwood for my first ever visit to Selhurst Park. A 1-1 draw was chiefly memorable for a shocking assault on Albion stalwart Gerry Ryan by one Henry Hughton that cut short a wonderful playing career. If memory serves correctly both Danny Wilson and Frank Worthington reacted to the tackle by punching the Palace full-back and both went without so much as a yellow card.

My final trawl through the memory banks takes us to Easter 1989 when Kelvin “Madder than Mad Jack McMad” Morton took charge and awarded a then (not sure if it still is) record five penalties in the same game. Amusingly a Palace team featuring Wright and Bright missed three of their four (yes 4 – we only got the one) on the way to a jammy 2-1 win which was only preserved due to an acrobatic late save by Perry Suckling which denied the Albion the draw which was the least they deserved. Albion’s Alan Curbishley gave an exhibition on how to take the perfect penalty to his hapless Palace counterparts. What sticks in the memory the most I think is the fact that Morton awarded them 2 pens in the space of about 3 seconds. Having missed the first , awarded for the little known offence of sneezing too audibly in the area , the ball was cleared and promptly returned into the box only for Kelvin to agree to a cheeky request from Wrighty of “can we have another go please ref”. It was a display of blatantly biased refereeing which has only been topped by the ref in Escape to Victory where a team of Allied heroes (the Albion let’s say) featuring John Wark , Mike Summerbee , Pele and Michael Caine fought bravely against the forces of evil (Palace).

Penalty ref! A bird’s-eye view (well almost) of the game in which Kelvin Morton may of had a hand in a Palace victory.

One final related anecdote from the perfect Tuesday night in Wolverhampton where the Albion put on a display worthy of the Brazil 1970 World Cup team to hammer Wolves 4-2 including a goal from Robert Codner that in an eerie twist I described in perfect detail to Mr Last several hours before kick off. As we waited on the South Bank at Molineux for the home fans to disperse news came through from Anfield of a 9 (nine) nil win for Liverpool against Palace. The memory of grown men dancing with tears of happiness in their eyes has never left me.
As well as Eric the Ninja another man to have served both clubs is Steve Coppell. It says a lot about the man that he is revered by both sets of fans. Despite having been manager of Palace no less than 207 times and being derided in songs throughout that time by Albion fans about his lack of a birth certificate (“he’s a Palace bastard”) and his regular trips to the STD clinic – these are tribal football songs and no-one is seriously alleging either is actually true in case any libel lawyer is planning a raid on Danny’s bank account I should make clear at this point – the Albion fans instantly took him to their hearts during his all too brief spell managing our club. It’s also true that upon Russell Slade’s departure earlier this season Coppell was the overwhelming choice of the fans to return. This of course was pre Gus so we’ll never know how that would have worked out but by all accounts Coppell conducted himself honourably throughout the time he was courted – if indeed he was.

This coming Friday Palace fans will once again make a trip to Sussex to take part in an annual kick around with their Brighton counterparts to raise money for the Robert Eaton Memorial Fund. Anyone wanting to know more about this laudable cause can read up on it at REMF Homepage. Suffice it to say that everyone involved in the venture is an absolutely corking chap and the media would do well to devote to it a 10th of the time they take to talk up every scuffle anywhere near a football stadium as evidence that everything from hanging , the birch , National Service and the Watney Cup should be brought back immediately to avoid the country descending into anarchy.

The game comes less than 48 hours before Palace’s own date with destiny in the shape of a relegation decider with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Only a home win will save the Owls while a draw will keep Palace up – almost like their very own Hereford 1997. Do I want Palace to go down? Probably. Is the 10 point deduction seemingly forced upon them by an impatient Hedge Fund fair? Probably not. One thing however is beyond dispute. No real fan on either side would wish extinction on the other team due to a debt a fraction of that which it’s apparently ok for Man United to carry.

In order for the next generation to enjoy their own derby moments to come Palace have to overcome their current difficulties. If that only comes after a good few seasons struggling at the arse end of League Two while the Albion prosper in their new gleaming state of the art stadium so be it. Hey I’m a proud son of West Sussex so it’s upto Crispin or Nigel somewhere in Tattenham Corner to get in touch with Dan for the right of reply!

The game that started it all off? See comments section below for details and please feel free to comment yourself.

Brighton v Palace Rivarly PART 1

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On the wings of a sparrow…

by Larry from Lancing

It’s a most unusual relationship. Perhaps an analogy will help. Think of the celebrity couple Sophie Dahl and Jamie McCallum. One is glamorous, sleek, edgy, fashionable and popular; the other is dumpy, bit strange looking and of appeal to a rather weird group of people. Despite this they sort of go together and there you also have Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace. I don’t think we need to spell out here who is Sophie and who is Jamie.

There’s no real reason for this hate, love relationship. Hate is of course uppermost, though in recent times an unlikely alliance has been formed between fans who have both battled to save their clubs from lunatics.

There’s no real geographical reason for the rivalry, we’re not in the same county let alone the same city, there’s no deep routed historical reason, no trading rivalries between the areas, no religious differences, pure and simple it’s football. A genuine footballing rivalry based on the fact that we used to play each other a lot and had managers happy to stoke up the fires of rivalry. We even changed our nicknames to annoy each other, the Glaziers becoming Eagles and the Dolphins flipping to Seagulls.

Palace v Brighton from March ’89. The view from the away end. Note the netting between fans and the bizarre pencil inflatable. This is the infamous match in which referee Kelvin Morton went quite literally bonkers awarding penalties willy and indeed nilly. More of that in Part 2.

Growing up in 1970’s Sussex the hated rivals were always Palace, even though Portsmouth was just 30 minutes from where I lived. I remember a football annual from 1980 having a feature on the self proclaimed “team of the decade” and the headline read “Terry’s Toppers,” a reference to their then manager El Tel. This was too much for this 10 year old and within minutes the Christmas present had been vandalised and Terry’s Toppers had become “Terry’s Tossers,” a stark improvement I’m sure you’ll agree.

The games have become less frequent over the years and to be honest lack the chaos and anarchy of the 70’s, though when they do come around they have that special feeling that only this type of rivalry can give you. Now I’m no fan of war and I’m more likely to join the Salvation Army than the British Army, but setting off for a trip to Selhurst Park is probably as close as it comes to the feeling of going off to war. Troops assemble at all points, from Littlehampton to Worthing and right along the coast, inland from Brighton to Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, the army grows as we prepare to march on Selhurst. All this for a football match and based on a rivalry that anyone outside of Croydon or Sussex never really understands.

There have been some cracking games between us, my first being a 0-0 draw at the Goldstone in 1979. The Boxing Day and Easter clashes were the games you most looked forward to, walking into the North Stand at 12.30 for a 3pm kick off to get your spot on the terrace and launching into the first rendition of “Hark now hear the Brighton sing…” is a moment that stays with you forever. A little corner of Hove Park should have one of those blue plaques commemorating those who chased each other around there before, often during, and always after Goldstone games. These were more than football matches, it was pure theatre on a grand scale with Alan Mullery more than happy to ham it up.

So for these, and many other reasons, on Saturday I would swap a 5-0 defeat for my beloved stripes for a win by a Yorkshire side in blue and white stripes. It’s written in the stars that our final game at Withdean sees the Albion clinch promotion to the Championship with a 5-0 win over Palace which condemns them to life in the 4th division.

If I had the wings of a sparrow,
If I had the arse of a cow,

I’d fly over Selhurst tomorrow,

And sh*t on the bas*ards below.

Part 2 to follow shortly including more derby memories and the REMF match between the two sets of fans this Friday.

Brighton v Palace Rivalry PART 2

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Withdean & I

Brighton 1-2 Norwich City (13:02:10)

– click on photos to enlarge image –

I’ve penned 168 articles since EFW found its sorry way onto the interweb a couple of seasons ago. You might find it a bit Ken Dodd that none of these have featured a Brighton home match at the Withdean Stadium because for 30 years – man and boy – they were the love of my life. So what happened I hear you drone before rolling your eyes into your collective sockets.

Withdean & I have had a love-hate relationship. I loved the club returning to Brighton after a couple of seasons of travelling to Gillingham for home matches. I loved beating Manners 6-0 on our first game back. I loved back to back promotions. I loved Micky Adams (first time round) and the Bobby (Zamora) years. I loved Paul Watson’s free kicks and Daddy Cullip. Moreover, I loved meeting up with 15-20 mates before each home game for three hours of pre-match tomfoolery.

Welcome to the Theatre of Trees.

So what went wrong? Well, silly old me, I fell out of love with paying £450 for a season ticket. I could go on about the lack of atmosphere, the running track around the pitch, no roof, poor facilities, lack of beer, mediocre football and the like but the bottom line was the money. Three seasons ago I waved my little white flag, as did almost all of my other mates and we went our separate ways. I discovered European Football Weekends and became a Non-League football bore.

Having said that, *nod to Larry David* it doesn’t take too much to get my Albion juices flowing again. I still attend the odd away game (see Yeovil & Southampton for details) and when we started reminiscing about the old days on these pages this week , a couple of phone calls were made and before you could say £26.50 a ticket, we were sinking a few ales prior to the visit of League One leaders Norwich City in HQ three hours before kick off – just like the old days. And relax.

Wives to the shops + lads to the football + meeting up again in the evening to celebrate our good work = (the last time I checked the EFW manual) a winning formula. So with the ladies happily spending our cash in town; Ju, Greeno, Binsy and a cast of tens got gooey eyed talking about our favourite subject – the old days – over a couple of bevingtons whilst watching our “friends” along the coast – Southampton v Portsmouth – do battle in the FA Cup Filth Round on the tellybox.

Erm….where to start!?

When the seagull follows the canaries.

Stands up if you love Brighton.

Trees are good, trees are good.

Only 894 Canaries were allowed to swoop down to Sussex due to space restrictions. I doff my cap to Norwich fans who travel in huge numbers and not just when they’re top of the league either. I’m not sure how much of the game they actually saw because the away stand at Withdean is famously a country mile from the pitch.

The Albion fans were fairly mute throughout save for a few renditions of Sussex by the Sea and the dreadful ‘Alllllllbion, Allllllllbion‘ chant. Brighton are one of those teams that has tremendous vociferous backing away from home – where fans often travel in their thousands – as opposed to home games, where the ‘Withdean experience’ seems to have drained them of their vocal chords.

The Albion actually had the better of the first half against table topping Norwich. To my untrained eye, midfielders Bennett and Navarro looked the pick of the home side. It was Bennett who opened the scoring with a free kick which found its merry way through a whole host of players into the net. Minutes later Glenn Murray had two (two!) shots cleared off the line. It was all going swimmingly for the Seagulls. What could possibly go wrong?

At half time we chatted away to Delia Smith and Fat Boy Slim – as you do. Turns out Delia is as nice as (Smoked Haddock and Quail Egg) pie. Five FIFA stars to the pair of them for being celebrity fans that actually go to games.

Cooking good. Delia joins the EFW team.

Bennett fires the Albion ahead. Probably worth clicking to enlarge this one.

1-0 to the Albion (repeat to fade).

Funk Soul Brothers. Fat Boy Slim joins Danny and Binsy.

Grant Holt skanking!

On the ball City.

After an iffy substitution in which Holroyd was hauled off in favour of Seb Carole the game started to turn in favour of the away side. Albion gaffer Gus Poyet – the man they call the “radio” because you can’t switch him off – is a likable and relentlessly positive manager in terms of his personality but he probably got this one wrong.

McNamee, Martin, Johnson starting pouring forward for Norwich. Hoolahan began pulling a few strings and Grant Holt, well he is superman. Holt it was who equalised with deflected shot before Gary Doherty – who must have playing for Norwich for 150 years – popped up late doors to notch the winner with his noggin. On the ball City – at last. Harsh on the Albion but that’s life.

As it is Valentines Day, I better put and end to this report and let you get on with your romantic plans for the day. I’m pretty excited because I’ve booked the wife a table today. Excited because we haven’t played snooker for years. Boom, boom, tish. You’ve been watching….

Coming soon! The new stadium at Falmer.
– For more photos from the day CLICK ME

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Setting Sons – Our Price at 9

– click on photos to enlarge image –

I spent the years 1986 to around 1992 watching Brighton and Hove Albion pretty much every week home and away For most of that time the team was pretty mediocre with a few highs but probably more lows but that wasn’t really the point. I was reminded of those days recently when Albion were drawn away to Aston Villa in the 4th round of the Cup and a flurry of emails between old friends brought back a lot of memories. Hopefully this will capture a few of them.

Brighton have always drawn support from all over Sussex and the members of the ERS hailed from points as far afield as the jewel of the south coast (Littlehampton for anyone who was in doubt) to dowdy Crawley suburb East Grinstead. The usual routine in the immediate aftermath of an uninspiring home defeat went something like this:

“You’re not going to Barnsley next week then”
“No bollocks am I”.
“No me neither”

By Tuesday you were starting to think about it. By Wednesday you would go “if Merlin’s going” and by Friday train timetables had been researched (no internet for us in those days boys and girls) , comedy hats had been made and most of the work day was taken up exchanging phone calls with the well known instruction “Our Price at 9”. I wonder if the good people of Our Price appreciate what a big part their small rather nondescript looking shop at Victoria Station played in our lives back then? As well as providing commuters with somewhere to buy Rick Astley cassettes (cassettes!) it was always the meeting point for the boys from Angmering/Littlehampton , Lancing , Horsham and East Grinstead who all travelled up to London on different trains but always independently observed a solemn little ritual. Just after the train pulls out of East Croydon station the home of hated local rivals Crystal Palace looms into view out of the windows on the right hand side. As subtly as possible so as not to offend fellow travellers a one fingered salute would be delivered in the direction of the Arthur Wait Stand whose nasty red and blue frontage peered unattractively over the roofs of the delightful streets of Selhurst. With this little formality taken care of the day could begin in earnest.

One of our favourite ways to pass the time on the journey north was with a harmless game or two of “pass the pig”. Someone , probably Harry who was the inspiration for the Jay character in the In-Betweeners , had acquired a pack of barely legal pornographic playing cards depicting deprivation on a scale that can only be hinted at here. The two of clubs featured a vicar’s wife and a rutting pig but that was only half the equation.

A quick trip to the buffet car supplemented the various tinnies we already had with us (usually a selection of lager , bitter , cider , pale ale) with other ingredients which could be anything from worcester sauce , miniatures of whiskey and creme de menthe and canned britvic pineapple juice to produce something we knew as “the rancid cocktail”. The object of the game was that whoever was left holding the aforementioned card had to drain the glass. Occasionally our best laid plans went tits up. Memorably a fellow fan known to us as Percy who nobody ever saw sober would happen past our table somewhere around Rugby and neck the pint in one gulp proclaiming it to be “not bad that”.

Somewhere along the line our happy little band developed an obsession with pants. It might have started with the Felix character out of Viz , or not , but the point was that wherever the Albion were playing a pre-match trip had to be made to the club shop to acquire said article. A few days after a particularly uninspiring and cold 2-1 defeat at Oldham Athletic a very surprised Albion midfielder by the name of Adrian Owers received an envelope in the mail containing a very classy pair of blue edged white nylon ladies knickers with the legend “I scored at Boundary Park”. I like to think Adrian was the John Terry of his day in the clubs of Brighton and that said article was donned by a French lingerie model of the time for him. That would seem only fair for rifling in our consolation goal that day. On balance though probably not.

Those “I scored at Boundary Park” pants sported by Julian Simpson.

Oldham v Brighton on the plastic back in February of 1989 (1989!).

Greeno, Danny, Big Deaks, Paul from Woking, Clarky and Ju at Stoke City for the last game of the 1989 season.

Danny, Merlin the Pig, Ju and Greeno at Elland Road in April 1989.

Another bemused recipient of a bizarre package was ex-Sheffield Wednesday goal machine Gary Bannister. After a heavy Friday night in Brighton EFW’s very own Danny Last and his flatmates had the brilliant idea of unscrewing the banister from the stairs of their home and sending it north asking for Gary to sign it. To GB’s undying credit said article arrived back in Brighton a few days later autographed and with a personal message saying “Here you are then you sad lads”.

We liked to keep it real and always do something to pay tribute to wherever we were going. So it was one October day in 1987 when we pitched up in Grimsby complete with boxes of fish fingers and packets of Fisherman’s Friends. One of our group wore waders and oilskins especially. In those days the away fans were housed in a small terrace at the side of the pitch and so it was that “hometown boy” was warming up in front of us waiting to come on as sub to make his Mariners debut. His sprints and star jumps were mimicked by a couple of our group accompanied by frantic shouts of “Oi mate. Mate. Mate”. I was mentally pleading with Cleethorpes youth not to turn around but sadly he couldn’t resist and the last thing he heard before trotting out to make his debut were the words “Who the f*ck are you”? Needless to say he didn’t have a stormer.

Wherever we played and win lose or draw the day always ended in the Stage Door pub close to Victoria Station where more beers were necked before we all headed back home to our own parts of Sussex. For me that usually meant a lazy Sunday and a lunch time game of darts and a pint with my Dad. For H it once too often resulted in an unfortunate confusion between the exact location of the toilet and his parents’ bed. Legend has it his Mum’s parting words as he left home (recounted on a subsequent trip to much hilarity) were “____ (name withheld to protect the identity of the innocent) I love you because you’re my son but I hate you for what you are”!

Mad Jock, Timmy Krispies, Danny, Fenners, Paul from Woking and Ju.

Fenners, Nick, Danny, Paul from Woking, Howard and Ju celebrate another defeat.

Kev, Danny, Clarky and Ju en route to Sheffield United.

Big Deaks, Danny, Clarky, Paul from Woking and Ju in the away end at Bramall Lane, September 9th 1989. We lost 5-4. (5-4!).

Bangsy raises a can. He once slept at Lancing station overnight to ensure he didn’t miss the train. He was a true legend.

Somewhere along the line it all came to an inevitable end although we all still met up at the bottom of the North Stand , right behind the goal , for home games. Looking back I don’t think we were ever aware of a sense of “this is the last season and the grown up world beckons”. It was probably better that way. Paul Weller , who at least in my mind , is a total genius wrote a song back in 1979 called Burning Sky which seems to sum things up quite nicely. It’s in the form of a letter to friends and includes the lines:

“In any case it wouldn’t be the same
Cos we’ve all grown up and we’ve got our own lives
And the values that we had once upon a time
Seem stupid now cos there rent must be paid
And some bond severed and others made”

Weller goes on to say how he has to admit “we had a laugh but that’s all it was and ever will be”.
I thought of that again as I sat in an office in Florida reading emails telling of a January 2010 day out in Birmingham and it all came flooding back. We definitely did have a laugh but I think it was much much , more than that. And happily not all those bonds have been severed. Well not totally anyway.

I hope that about 20 years on from our little adventures there are groups of fans like us somewhere. These days of course you probably don’t need an Our Price because you make all your arrangements on Facebook and with your iphones and the price of a rancid cocktail has probably gone up a bit but apart from that I imagine it’s all much the same.

Everybody welcome. Well sort of…

Tony Rochdale blows us a kiss. You could write a book about Tony Rochdale.

Good luck to you lads and lasses wherever you are. Enjoy it while it lasts because to quote another Weller classic “we seemed to grow up in a flash of time as we watched our ideals helplessly unwind” Some of us keep in touch to this day and all too briefly a Saturday at Villa Park gave us a taste of when Saturday’s Kids were as Thick as Thieves.

Thanks a million to Ian Clark for the words and Julian Simpson for the photos.

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