A LONG time ago (Saturday, April 26, 1997 in fact) it was Doncaster Rovers who played Brighton in what was the very last game at the Goldstone Ground.
I was there, with 11,340 others. The 1-0 win and three points sent us to Hereford needing a draw to stay in the Football League (Division 3), but that’s another story.
The fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle and mementoes were taken. My son’s lawn is said to have derived from the Goldstone turf. Our Seagulls didn’t have a proper home for 14 years. The Goldstone was much loved, even though it was a ground rather than a stadium. It was sold and that is also another story.
Years passed, the first two with us playing home games at Gillingham and then 12 years at Withdean.
So, who did we draw for the very FIRST league game at our spanking new AMEX stadium at Falmer? Yes, Doncaster Rovers. But there will be more than 20,000 at the Amex.
The Championship fixtures for 2011/12 came out last week, handing Brighton the home game on Saturdsy, August 6 against the Rovers, starting the Seagulls in their new £93million stadium. It will be an attractive beginning to their championship campaign.
Four of their first six games will be at the Amex. Following Doncaster, the second match, three days later, will be the first evening game, a midweek Carling Cup. The coincidences continue as that draw brings our former landlords Gillingham.
The second league game, away, is certainly one to look forward to, a new local derby, Portsmouth. A few months later, on Saturday, November 19, the Albion visit the other south coast side, Southampton.
I can’t remember back to when both Pompey and the Saints were in the same league us, but it feels good.
Cardiff away is on the Tuesday night of August 16, followed by two more at the Amex on consecutive Saturdays, still in August.
First Blackpool, relegated from the Premiership, and then Peterborough, promoted with us from League One. The six games in August provide an interesting and challenging start.
Wearing my new Amex pink-tinted specs, I see eight, nine or 10 points from the five league games – and progress in the Cup! Big games to look for were, of course, relegated West Ham and our favourite foes: Crystal Palace. The Hammers come to the Amex Stadium on Saturday, October 22 whilst our trip to Upton Park isn’t until Saturday, April 14.
I think the Football League computer must have had some help in fixing the Palace games. They’ve come up with two Tuesday evenings: September 27 for the home game and January 31 at Selhurst Park.
Past troubles have obviously been factored in and they weren’t prepared to give us back a traditional Boxing Day clash.
To be honest, the Christmas period fixtures are disappointing. There are no games at our stadium between Burnley (on Saturday, December 17) and Southampton (on Monday, January 2). OK, that’s a tasty one and perhaps Reading away for Boxing Day isn’t too bad, but being sent to Coventry on New Year’s Eve isn’t attractive!
As I write, I’m still waiting to hear if Kazenga LuaLua has been bought from Newcastle. Apparently it is a done deal and there are just formalities to settle. This will be another exciting signing, adding to Will Hoskins and Will Buckley. Our attacking force is looking good. I suspect manager Gus Poyet now has defenders at the top of his shopping list. There is talk of a £3m player but it may be just talk so don’t hold your breath. Elliott Bennett was sold to Premiership Norwich for “an undisclosed fee”, but I doubt it was for this much.
n NOTE from the Sports Ed: Duncan Muir, who some readers may remember last year sending us a superb electronic postcard of the still-being-built Amex Stadium, has kindly sent us a wonderful updated 2011 version of Albion’s pride and joy (above).
Also, earlier this month, he caputred the poignant moment when the beloved Seagulls sign went up at the Community Stadium.
As Duncan says: “As I drove past they were putting up one of the large badges on the side of the stadium outside of the west stand. I have attached them in case they are of interest for your ‘Seagull Scene’ section.”
They most certainly are, Duncan!