I DIDN’T make the trip up to Meadow Lane for the game against Notts County missing this fancy dress occasion. This was the last game of the season and for the Seagulls the last game in League One (I hope for a long time). The next game will be in our fabulous new AMEX Stadium.
News in this week: Chairman Tony Bloom announced, after the open-top bus victory parade around Brighton, that Premier League Spurs will be the prestigious opposition for the kick-off game at the American Express Community Stadium on July 30.
We gained promotion to the Championship weeks ago. We were crowned champions with four games left. Am I wrong to be a little disappointed about those last results? Away we drew at Colchester and Notts County. At home the “Unbeaten at Withdean” record went with losses against Southampton and Huddersfield. We picked up only two points out of the 12 possible.
The worst aspect was losing to Saints who won all their final games and ended just three points behind us.
Did we take our foot off the gas? Was Gus happy to coast to the line? Perhaps it didn’t matter as we had the most magnificent season.
Promotion as champions was beyond our wildest dreams at the start. We ended with 24 points more than was needed to make the play-offs. Manager Gus Poyet, the team, and all at the club deserve the accolades for the exceptional performance. I’m just slightly miffed we lost some bragging rights over Southampton.
Notts County needed to get a point against us to ensure survival in League One so it was always going to be a battle. Albion started brightly and Ashley Barnes reached his 20 goal target after just 12 minutes, scoring with a great drive from outside the area...cue Albion chants of “That’s why we’re champions!”
Unfortunately our other top scorer, 22-goal Glenn Murray, wasn’t playing. He was still out with the shoulder injury picked up against Southampton. His missing the last three games certainly contributed to the dip in Albion’s performances.
I like Murray and think that had he been our penalty taker, and scored two-thirds of them, he would have been a 30-goal man. I’m worried he won’t be with us next season.
Poyet has put terms to him and these are being considered. It is possible that the chemistry between player and manager isn’t the best. I still hope he is an Albion player in August. Gus has said: “We have made the best offer we can so now it’s in his hands. I can see the negotiations will go right to the wire.
“Our level of payments will be less than the top ten or 12 in the Championship, so a player like Glenn will get some better offers.
“I cannot control that.”
Six of the Seagulls championship-winning squad ARE leaving: Radostin Kishishev, Christian Baz, Agustin Battipiedi, Gary Hart, Chris Holroyd and Fran Sandaza. Gus will be looking to find a similar number who play his style of football.
Back to Meadow Lane, where around 2,500 Albion fans, including my nephew’s stag-party group of Steve Fosters, were enjoying life and providing fantastic support.
Into the second-half County were more positive. Striker Craig Westcarr broke down the right and got lucky when his cross was diverted by our skipper Gordon Greer past Casper Ankergren for the equaliser.
The match became tastier from then on as County pushed for the winner that would guarantee safety. Brighton certainly weren’t prepared to let this one go and created their own chances. Poyet changed Matt Sparrow with Craig Noone and Gary Dicker took over from Yaser Kasim. This had been the youngster’s debut. Kasim is a former Spurs trainee and had performed well in midfield.
Worryingly our defender Tommy Elphick was carried off with a possible ankle injury (and Adam El-Abd is still on crutches with his). Albion pushed for the win and Sam Sodje illegally stopped Barnes’s run. Elliott Bennett fired the free-kick over.
Right at the end it was Sodje again, fouling Chris Wood, resulting in ref Simon Cooper waving the red card.
Neither side could find a winner so it ended Magpies 1 Seagulls 1. County were safely in League One for another season: Brighton were on their way up.
Coming up: Saturday July 16 at the AMEX, Sussex Senior Cup Final – Albion Reserves, with many youth team players, against Eastbourne Borough. The crowd will be restricted to 10,000 as the first ramp-up event for the new stadium.
Saturday July 30 and Tottenham Hotspur will be our first opponents and officially open the new home in front of 22,500.
PS... the club has said there are a small number of season tickets for sale to the general public. Get in quick if you are interested.