LAST week it was promotion to the Championship. This week our Seagulls travelled up to Walsall and won, 3-1, meaning they go up as CHAMPIONS. In winning the crown, Brighton have notched up 93 points with four games still to go. The next challenge is the 100 points target.
This season has been astonishing. Let’s be honest, we have struggled to understand the reason for the superiority of our team following the struggles of the previous season. History has been created by our amazing success. It is fact that we are by far the best team in the division, 16 points clear of second placed Southampton with a fantastic goal difference of plus 47.
We kept the faith, we trusted Gus, and we are at the Amex in August in the Championship. Now everybody knows. So how and why has it happened? Answer: Gus Poyet.
Poyet has persisted insisting that his team play the possession passing game. There were sceptics early on. Fans enjoyed the new approach without necessarily believing it would bring the sought after success. When new chairman Tony Bloom surprised everybody by his bold replacement of Russell Slade with Poyet there were doubters. Bloom’s stated objective was for the new Uruguayan manager to develop a side that would compete for promotion to a higher division in the short time before Brighton ran out this August in their fabulous new stadium. That was the Bloom vision and Gus has delivered.
Of course there are other names to add to Poyet’s on the honours list. Mr Bloom obviously. On the playing side I’d like to add a defender, a midfielder and a striker.
Spaniard Inigo Calderon has been a revelation at right back. His reading of the game and attacking flair brought vital contributions to many games, including eight goals. He currently captains the team during Gordon Greer’s suspension.
In midfield Elliott Bennett has shown true class. He has become much more than a wide player adding distribution, fine set pieces and stunning goals to his play. And up front Glenn Murray has been that elusive 20-plus goalscorer. His control, movement and work rate make him the most improved player this season. And he wins a good few penalties.
Each of my chosen three scored at the Bescot Stadium, Walsall. My favourite defender popped up early on in the six-yard box to head home from a corner. Walsall did manage an equaliser in the first-half. Murray brought his tally to 22 goals with a deft headed flick early in the second-half, again from a corner. Finally it was Bennett who sealed the win right at the end. He picked up the ball in midfield, took it forward and let fly from outside the box, beating the keeper with a stunning long shot for the third goal. Well over 2,000 Albion fans were there celebrating at the end.
All the chasing pack of five clubs won but of course they didn’t get gain any ground. It is Southampton and Huddersfield who are second and third. Guess who our last two opponents are at Withdean? Yes, Saints and Huddersfield! We are the Champions so each game will be a celebration.
You may have spotted that Albion legend Peter Ward is playing the REMF charity match at the Lewes Dripping Pan (Friday April 29 KO 7.45pm). Albion supporters will be playing their Crystal Palace counterparts. Former Albion captain Paul Rogers will appear and Gully’s Girls will be there. Talking of Peter Ward, there will be a massive mosaic at the Amex, featuring a famous Wardy photograph, made up of snapshots of Albion fans. As it stands I’m there on the red No 8 on his back!
The stadium gets nearer and nearer to completion. The seats are going in the North Stand and we are waiting for the grass to appear. CEO Martin Perry expects to get the keys to the stadium at the end of May. They will then get everything ready for the first event, the Sussex Senior Cup final in July. Derek Chapman, the stadium construction director, tells of how Tony Bloom has insisted on the stadium being “the best money can buy”. It can be brought up to 30,000 seats without altering the infrastructure. Excited? Just a bit!
Back to this Saturday at Withdean it is the penultimate game at our athletics track. It will be a full house as Saints come to help us celebrate.
A week later, Terriers for the final party. Can we finish the season unbeaten at our ‘temporary’ home of 10 years?