The return to Hereford

This weekend provides another stark reminder of the significant rise in status that Brighton and Hove Albion’s mens senior team have achieved over the last decade. As they prepare for a trip to Old Trafford to face the most successful club in English Football League history, many of their former competitors from up and down the country are preparing for FA Cup first round ties.

It’s a round of the famous old cup competition that was until recently a fixture of the football calendar that Brighton fans were all too familiar with and one that for a while was anticipated with dread. One particular FA Cup first round tie that will stick in the memory of those who are old enough is the trip to face Hereford United in the 1st round of the competition in 1997.

As fate would have it, the clubs were drawn together just months after Brighton had survived relegation to the non-league on the last day of the previous 1996/97 season away to Hereford, with instead Hereford relegated after a tense 1-1 draw.

This tale of serendipity is one that cup draws often seem to produce, where naturally emotions were still very raw after the last meeting between the sides, especially for the Hereford faithful. And one that drew the attention of the BBC television cameras for a FA cup Match of the Day special.

With both clubs struggling financially, the chance of a cup run was an opportunity to boost their clubs bank balance with some much-needed prize money. This was demonstrated best by the fact that Brighton had recently transfer listed a number of first team players because the club couldn’t afford to pay their wages, and were facing a Hereford team mostly made up of players signed in the summer after relegation on free transfers.

As the Hereford fan site Talking Bull admitted, “tensions were high”. And after it remained 0-0 at half time it was the home side who struck first to go 1-0 up, through Neil Grayson. But this was not before Albion had missed the chance to take the lead themselves after Paul McDonald’s penalty kick was saved by the Hereford ‘keeper.

But it didn’t take Albion long to level things up, when Stuart Storer converted from a corner after a mistake from the Hereford ‘keeper, (who quickly went from hero to zero for being caught out of position after coming for the corner and missing it) left the goal mouth gaping just four minutes later. An action packed twenty-minute spell came to an end when Hereford again took the lead to take a 2-1 lead through Neil Grayson, this time after Peter Smith had wrestled Ian Foster to the ground in the box to give away the games second spot kick.

And so it ended with the now non-league club gaining some form of retribution for the Seagulls relegating them just a few months before. Something Hereford manager Graham Turner admitted after the game when he said: “There was a lot of pride in the way we played today, and we’ve given the supporters plenty to sing about”.

For Albion however this was just another sorry defeat to a non-league club in The FA Cup. The 1990s saw the club have a spate of defeats to non-league sides in the competition, of which Hereford was the last and least embarrassing. There was the 2-1 defeat away to Isthmian Premier League side Kingstonian in 1994. Then there was a defeat to Southern League Premier side Sudbury Town in a replay on penalties in 1996.

This was a run of notable cup defeats that just exemplified the club’s status at the time as the barometer for a poorly run professional football club. Something greatly chronicled in the tales told by Dick Knight’s autobiography “MadMan”. In fact in those barren years for the club between 1993 and 2000 as the club plummeted towards and stumbled along in the bottom tier of the Football League, it failed to make it past the second round, losing in the first round five times and the second round three times.

Things have changed greatly since then. Aside from a freak defeat to eventual National League Champions of that season Lincoln City in 2017, (a game which saw Casper Ankergren’s 67th and final appearance for the club and a calamitous one at that, along with an equally calamitous debut from the now Chelsea and England defender Fikayo Tomori), this was the last time the club had exited the FA Cup to non-league opponents having progressing past 7 non-league sides since then.

In contrast Hereford fans had little to sing about subsequent to that cup match. It took them 9 years of trying to finally retain their Football League status, but they were once again relegated back to the non-league four years later. And after two further seasons they were then expelled from the conference for financial irregularities in 2014 and were wound up by the high court over unpaid debts to HMRC later that year. A new Hereford football club has since been formed that still play at Edgar Street and in the National League North, two leagues below the Football League.

The varying stories of both club’s recent history just show how important that decisive match in 1997 which sealed Hereford’s relegation has been for both clubs. A fact highlighted even more by the cup match which reunited the sides a few months afterwards.

So as Brighton get set to make a trip to Old Trafford on Sunday sitting 8th in the Premier League and two places higher than their hosts, Hereford have a weekend off before they host Alfreton Town in the National League North on Tuesday. And as such, all Albion fans should count our lucky stars that we aren’t instead preparing for another FA cup first round tie with a team full of transfer listed players we cannot afford and journeymen signed on free transfers.

Tweeting Seagull – Ever-growing expectations amongst an uncertain reality.

In sport, expectations of success and failure are constantly being discussed, something that is especially true of the globally followed and scrutinised English Premier League. But whilst some disagree over their veracity, the expectations held over a Premier League club are a good barometer of its perceived standing.

The dictionary definition of an expectation is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future”. Or in layman’s terms in this context a “preconception” or “anticipation” of a club’s future performance.

The expectations ahead of Brighton’s season were vastly contrasting depending on who you listened to. Many pundits predicted the club to be relegated and some bookies tipped newly appointed Graham Potter to be the first Premier League manager to be sacked. Whilst some of the more optimistic Albion fans were talking of new dawn of free-flowing attacking football, and even qualifying for Europe.

Neither of these are necessarily exemplify the club’s genuine status, but both are a consequence of the perceptions many have of the club from recent events. Speak to some about the club, and they’ll say it’s one that has no business being at the top level, whilst others will say the only reason the club aren’t matching the loftier achievements of clubs like Leicester and Bournemouth is because of failures in the first team management last season.

The reality, as ever, is somewhere in between. But either way it is true to say that expectations of the club have never been higher. The combination of consistent levels of smart investment by owner Tony Bloom, unprecedented levels of success across all teams representing the club and a board of directors that hold a seemingly unwavering ambition to succeed and progress in a hugely competitive industry, have all created an environment where the club’s supporters have begun to expect continuous progression. Even when many outside the club think the only realistic expectation is the opposite and a regression to the club’s previously lowlier status.

This is a level of expectation that ultimately told for former men’s first team manager Chris Hughton. Who was subsequently sacked just hours after the season ended despite continuing to meet what many saw as the club’s ultimate objective of last season, surviving relegation. Expectations that despite his successor overseeing two impressive 3-0 victories in his first ten competitive matches, have led for some to suggested that the jury is still out on whether Graham Potter is the man to lead the club forward.

Hughton’s sacking and Potter’s subsequent appointment is a topic I’ve discussed here before, more than once. But what is relevant here is that the expectations held are guided by perceptions of events and not just the events themselves.

Whilst on paper Hughton’s achievements were great, possibly the best any manager has ever achieved at the club, they were often not easy on the eye. His defence-first mindset was pragmatic and unarguably successful. And it built a base that without it, the club wouldn’t be now aiming as high as it is. But nonetheless it left many supporters uninspired and craving more.

Hence why now the club has chosen to twist and go down a different route. A route intended to arrive at achieving a more entertaining spectacle as well as improved results. And we’re already seeing evidence of it. Pretty much any statistic or piece of informed punditry you can find demonstrates the drastic change in style of play since last season, and whilst the points total after eight league games this season (9), is only marginally ahead at this stage last season (8). The nature of the expansive style of play in contrast to Hughton’s pragmatic and conservative style has caught many Albion fans imagination.

But, how does the club manage the situation to ensure the euphoria of exciting football and significant, if sparsely populated victories don’t create an unrealistic level of expectation?

This is tough, especially as so much of the perception of the club is drawn from factors outside their control or incidents from the past. And managing expectations isn’t as simple as shaping or manipulating the truth, but instead ensure the perceptions of your performance are based on realistic boundaries.

Perceptions over football managers success or failure are often shaped by the circumstances they work within that are out of their control. Circumstances which will inevitably create biases towards a certain mindset. 

As Andy Naylor said in the Athletic recently: “For all the importance placed on a change of style, Brighton’s Premier League success or failure will come down to something much more straightforward: scoring goals.” As much as Graham Potter tries to create an environment where the team will score more goals, he is reliant on others to do their jobs properly for this to be successful.

At Brighton, the success of not only the men’s team, but also the women’s team and its youth academy team’s has created a positive atmosphere and a bias towards expecting continued success, despite the increased level of competition that comes with playing at a higher level.

When managing expectations a key rule is: never overcommit. An area which if not explicitly, but at least implicitly Brighton have certainly been unafraid of risking doing just that of late. Not only in sacking Chris Hughton and in his place appointing a manger tasked with bringing in a more expansive ambitious style of play whilst achieving better results on the pitch, but also by stating that the club’s long-term aim is to become a top half club.

In football, one stakeholders’ expectations that truly matters is the supporters, and as a club with a fan as an owner this is no truer than anywhere as it as at Brighton and Hove Albion. 

As a supporter of a club like Brighton, holding our club to high standards is a virtue of the recent and almost unprecedented levels of success. And it’s a virtue constantly evident in an industry of great flux where there must always be both winners and losers. 

The contrasts of which are demonstrated perfectly by the recent fortunes of crisis club and once holder of the Premier League’s “model-club” tag: Bolton Wanderers. What stories like theirs show is just as having high expectations of our club is a virtue, so is lowering those standards by showing the situation the empathy it deserves and being willing to demonstrate forgiveness when your team is inevitably at times cast as a loser rather than a winner.

In practice expectations, and possibly more pertinently hope, is a natural consequence of supporting a football team. But the level of expectations that a group of supporters have and the pragmatism of those expectations, can have an impact on the mental state of the team. And in a sport decided by such small margins, this could be a key factor in Brighton’s Premier League season.

As Graham Potter approached the North Stand after that memorable 3-0 victory at home to last season’s European Cup finalists Tottenham Hotspur, the sound of “Graham Potter’s Blue and White Army” was sung throughout the stadium. A clear sign he is currently meeting the expectations of most. Time will tell if the reality of this seasons achievements by his Albion team can continue to keep up with the ever-growing expectations that are being set of them.

The Tweeting Seagull WSL Albion season preview – From inspiration to realisation

Ahead of the new WSL season the Telegraph asked me to answer some questions about Brighton’s prospects, which you can read here. And I’ve extended my thoughts into a season preview blog. Which you can read here:

The new WSL season starts this weekend with probably the greatest amount of anticipation since the FA launched the Women’s Premier League in 1991. And with Brighton retaining its topflight status for a second season the excitement is also building in Sussex.

Like most WSL teams, Brighton’s fan base is comparatively minuscule compared to that of the club’s men’s team. And playing their home games over 20 miles away in Crawley hasn’t helped to build on that either. But with WSL season ticket sales hitting club record numbers this summer, there is hope all that can change. The potential of the teams support no better demonstrated than the record breaking WSL crowd of 5,256 attending the final home game of last season against Arsenal after it was played at the club’s HQ, the AMEX Stadium.

Last season was a big step up for the team in its first ever topflight season. And this was particularly true for most players who were adapting to going professional, along with the squad losing some key players who decided to not go do so, like promotion winning captain Vicky Ashton-Jones. But despite a few heavy defeats to Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea, lessons were learnt and the season ended well with a 4-0 win away to West Ham.

Nevertheless for the club to remain competitive then continued progression will be required. The WSL has never been stronger and with the addition of the highly resourced Man United and Spurs replacing the softer-touch of Yeovil, points will be harder to come by. But there will still be hope of further progress at the club this season.

This is something manager Hope Powell is more than aware of ahead of the new season, saying to the Argus over the summer: “With the introduction of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to the division, it is set to be an even tougher task, and all the players and staff need to be ready for what lies ahead.”

And she will no doubt continue to ensure Brighton won’t replace Yeovil as the league’s soft touch. Mainly through the team’s relatively solid and resolute defensive base. Last season they made most teams work hard to break them down, bar the handful of heavy defeats that come with the territory of being an inexperienced newly promoted team.

This was an attribute shown best by the team’s relatively comparable defensive record to the remainder of the WSL outside the top four. And the shrewd additions of Dutch international Danique Kerkdijk who has signed from Bristol City along with the highly rated Danish youth international Matilde Lundorf Skovsen, adds to the teams strength at the back, which will be needed given the long-term injury recently sustained by Laura Rafferty.

It will be hoped that as well as those signings, the further additions of experienced WSL keeper Megan Walsh and former French youth international Lea Le Garrec, as well as the added experience gained by the existing players from last season, will all ensure the squad possesses the quality required to make the required progress. Required given that the team were too often found lacking against more established WSL teams last season.

At the other end of the pitch goals were harder to come by, with a quarter of the team’s goals coming in that 4-0 end of season win over West Ham. A victory that came after the team had secured survival from relegation. England youth international Ellie Brazil top scored in the league with just four, and it will be hoped that her and Imi Umotong (who scored only one league goal last season) can contribute more in that department this season.

Much like with Graham Potter and the Men’s team, much will depend on Hope Powell and her coaching team continuing to get the most out of this fairly young squad of players and for the more experienced players,including the likes of last season Albion’s player of the season award winner Aileen Whelan, to continue to lead the way. One young prospect in particular to watch out for is England u17 Captain Maya Le Tissier (no relation) who will be hoping to make more of an impact on the first team this season after making her debut last season.

In 2015 the club stated that it wanted to be playing Champions League football in 5 years, and whilst wins over Birmingham, Liverpool and West Ham towards the end of last season demonstrate progress, achieving that within the stated timeline is at best unlikely.

Those of course were different times, before the mass professionalism of the topflight and before Albion’s involvement in it. But Tony Bloom announcement at the recent fans forum that the club’s long-term vision for the Women’s team has been revised for it to become a top-four club is equally ambitious in the short-term.

Realistically another season of avoiding relegation is the goal, whilst bettering last season’s 3rd bottom finish would probably be considered a success for Hope Powell’s side.

At the beginning of last season, Hope Powell spoke a lot about the importance of her team being role models as much as being successful competitors. But with the success of the Lionesses at this summers World Cup, it does seem that discussions about Women’s football in the UK have largely moved on from talking about inspiration and aspirations and onto realisation of the sports potential.

As Assistant Manager Amy Merricks recently said “The game is changing all the time and we need to ensure that we constantly evolve with it as well… It’s great to be on this journey and now we want to be able to stay at the highest level.”

With this increased focus on Women’s football in the UK coinciding with the increased competitiveness of the WSL and Brighton and Hove Albion’s new AMEX sponsorship deal including performance based payments specific to the Women’s team, there will be much more focus this season on results and performance. The question is, can Brighton’s aspirations and progression keep pace with the continued advancements of the Women’s game in the UK?

Brighton – The 1910 Champions of England

In Brighton’s 118-year history, it has won a only one major national trophy and it came 9 years after its formation and 109 years ago today, when the club won the 1910 Charity Shield.

Back in the early twentieth century English club football was fragmented. With the Southern League, the Northern League and the Combination League all rivalling the now long established Football League, which was initially established in 1885 by clubs from the Midlands and the North of England. Brighton instead played in the Southern League, formed in 1894 by teams in the South of England, created to mirror the success of the Football League.

A preview of the 1900/01 season in the Daily News described the league as “now, without a doubt, second only in importance and the strength of its clubs to the Football League itself. With the exception of Woolwich Arsenal, who prefer to remain members of the Second Division of the Football League, all the best professional teams in the South are now enrolled in the ranks of the Southern League”

Brighton and Hove United was formed in a meeting at the Seven Stars Hotel on Ship Street, Brighton on 24 June 1901. The new team was to take the place of the defunct Brighton and Hove Rangers in the Southern Second Division. But after disapproval from City neighbours Hove FC over the name (who were worried it sounded like a merger between them and the defunct Brighton Rangers), the name was changed to Brighton and Hove Albion, and so it has remained.

After promotion to the top level of the Southern leagues in 1902, Brighton made an unremarkable start, finishing in the bottom half in the first three years. But in the 1909/10 season all that would change when Brighton won the league title.

In doing so they qualified for the Charity Shield, a new cup final formed in 1908 that at the time was effectively the All-England football final between the Southern League champions and the Football League Champions, who that season were Aston Villa.

Aston Villa were a true football heavyweight at the time. Having been a founding member of the Football League in 1888. They’d won the FA Cup four times prior to their meeting with Brighton, and that season’s league title represented their sixth First Division title.

But this was also a Brighton team with much prestige having won that season’s Southern Division title with a five points margin and a game to spare, along with the less prestigious Southern Charity Cup. The Times wrote at the time that “Brighton and Hove Albion have not had much difficulty in finishing at the head of the Southern League, and for that reason the competition has lost some of its interest, though probably the rivalry between the teams has been as keen as ever.”

The match was to be played at Stamford Bridge, the ground where they’d won the Southern Charity Cup Final earlier that year, beating Watford 1-0 after extra time. But that match was attended by around a fifth of the attendance of this Charity Shield match, a game that was the biggest in the club’s short history to that date.

Whilst there was much anticipation, the fans would have to wait as the Charity Shield match was four months on from both Albion’s and Villa’s league title triumph’s, with the match being played after the first round of fixtures of the new 1910/11 season. When the day finally came, it is reported that fans decked out Brighton train station in blue and white and it is thought that hundreds of supporters travelled on the train from Brighton to Stamford Bridge for the big match.

It was a game where Albion started brightly, but also had to see out long periods of pressure from their more distinguished opponents. And it was to many’s surprise that it was Brighton who took the lead on the 72 minutes. A cross from Bert Longstaff found Bill Hastings who passed to Charlie Webb to score the famous goal that won what is to date Brighton’s only major national trophy.

While it was his more famous moment for the club, it wasn’t just that goal that wrote Charlie Webb’s name in the Brighton record books. An amateur at the time, Webb became the first current Brighton player to represent his country, when in 1909 he played for Ireland against Scotland and Wales.

After being ever-present in the Brighton side that won the Southern League title and then scoring that historic Charity Shield winning goal, he signed professional terms with Brighton. He continued to play for the club in the Southern League until the First World War broke out, after which he returned to manage the club for twenty-eight years, and is still the club’s longest serving manager to this day. And was replaced as manager in 1947 by Albion’s record goalscorer Tommy Cook. After a short spell as the club’s general manager, Charlie Webb retired in 1949.

But that goal is what he will forever be synonymous with in Albion history. At the end of the match a pitch invasion took place to celebrate the club’s victory and when the team arrived back at Brighton station, it is said that they were welcomed by a large crowd of hat waving well-wishers celebrating Brighton’s victory. A victory that was described by a reporter the Fulham observer as “deserved”.

It wasn’t just Charlie Webb whose legend remains strong from that team, but also Bert Longstaff. He was an Inside Forward known for his pace and skill who represented the club 443 times from 1906 right up to 1922, scoring 86 times and playing for the club in both the Southern League and then again after the First World War in its inaugural two seasons in the Football League.

The Charity Shield went on to have a diverse history of opponents before settling on its current format of Premier League Champions vs FA Cup winners. After a brief hiatus during the First World War it switched to a match between the First and Second Division Champions in 1920. As that change coincided with the national expansion of the Football League, the winners of the First Division rather than the Charity Shield have been considered “champions of England”. But in 1910 Brighton could rightly claim that title. Their win was also the only occasion a Southern League team to won the trophy.

The club continued in the Southern League until 1920 when the top division was absorbed with in Football League and Brighton started a 38-year long spell as a Third Division Football League club before finally achieving promotion to the second in 1957/58.

Stability and consistency didn’t remain. The club has since spent no more than seven consecutive years in the same division, in a 62-year period that has contained 11 promotions and 9 relegations, or an average of just three years between changing divisions.

Seagulls Reading List

This week’s Seagulls Reading List fills the purpose of referencing some of the sources that I have used in my blogs to date. This week four Albion fans who’s co tent is a must read for the avid Albionite!

Spencer Vignes – Author and Journalist, amongst the many things Spencer has written are two must read books about the Albion. The first was one of the favourites of my Albion book collection ‘A Few good men’, in which he names, profiles and interviews his all-time Albion 11.

Spencer received the Roger Harris Memorial Shield earlier this year, an award for the person who’s done the most over the past 12 months to preserve & promote the history of the Albion. An award that was given in recognition of his new book ‘Bloody Southerners’ which chronicles Brian Clough’s I’ll-fated 32-game spell in charge of the Albion.

Brighton on TV – a fellow Albion blogger who has collated a great amount of the television coverage of the Albion from over the years. These includes regular blogs about specific games and an abundance of linked videos clips of gold from Albion’s tv coverage that can help you while away many spare hours.

Nick Szepaznik – A sports journalist and Albion fan who regularly writes pieces for the official club website and a variety of national newspapers, Nick is one of the best Albion fans to follow on Twitter for all thing Albion, but more importantly his book ‘Brighton Up’ which covers the two seasons up to the Albion’s promotion to the Premier League is a must read. Not just for any Albion fan looking for a nice bit of reminiscing about a great period in the club’s history, but this book also includes some great insight behind the scenes of the Albion’s promotion campaign.

Argus archive – the Brighton Argus has been covering the Albion with distinction for decades. And more than the last two decades worth of that coverage is available by a few clicks in the Brighton Argus Archive and is well worth a look. If only to remember how far we’ve come.

Hopefully those four get you started, more to follow next week.

If you missed it here is my latest blog on Brighton’s 1978/79 League cup run.

Brighton’s 1978/79 League Cup run

When Brighton fans think of the 1978/79 season, they will most likely remember the club’s first ever promotion to the top flight and that historic day away to Newcastle when the club finally secured it. But that season the club also achieved another first, the club’s first ever major cup quarter-final in what is to date its best ever League cup run.

This wasn’t the club first good run in the competition, in fact they’d got to the last 16 in the 1976/77 season. A run which included the club’s first win over a First Division club since 1933 courtesy of a notable 2-1 win in a replay at the Goldstone Ground over Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town. This was an Ipswich team that would go on to win the FA cup the following season and the UEFA cup in the 1980/81 season, as well as being a regular feature at the top-end of the First Division for an extended period. They finished 3rd that season and within the top-6 in nine out of the ten seasons between the 1972/73 and 1981/82 seasons, after which Bobby Robson left the club to take the England job and the their fortunes diminished.

It was a feat they then repeated in the third round by beating another First Division team, West Brom 2-0 at the Hawthorns. But, the Seagulls were eventually beaten by Derby County 2-1 in a replay, First Division League Champions from two years previous.

On defeating Brighton then Derby manager Dave Mackay said “Brighton produced the sort of display I thought they would. I hope they get promotion and I’m sure they will.” And then in the Third Division, Brighton did achieve promotion to the second tier that season.

The 76/77 season was the first in a five year spell as manager of the club by Alan Mullery, and one where a famous FA cup first round tie between the Brighton and Palace instigated the club’s rivalry. Animosity that was no doubt exacerbated by the fact they were also competing for promotion to the second tier that season. A target both achieved, with Brighton finishing second ahead of Palace in third.

The following season Brighton almost achieved back-to-back promotions, only missing out to Tottenham on goal difference. So they entered the 1978/79 season still in the old Second Division (now the Championship), and with their sights set firmly on promotion to the top flight.

Due to its league position from the season before, the Seagulls received a bye in the first round of the League cup. A rare occurrence for a club who’d spent all bar five years of its history to that date in the third tier or lower. And entered the competition in the second round, with a home tie against Millwall.

But despite the early season promotion expectations, Albion started the season with a mixed set of results. First came a draw away to Wrexham and then a defeat at home to Cambridge, before finally winning at home to Sunderland.

So after it’s first win of the season Alan Mullery named an unchanged team which ran out 1 – 0 winners over Millwall with Peter O’Sullivan scoring the only goal of the game.

There had been talk of renovating the Goldstone Ground over the summer to improve the now run-down facilities, but the 16,748 fans that watched this second round tie found those promises undelivered, much like many promises at the time for ground development.

This was five years prior to the Bradford stadium fire that killed 56, ten prior to the Hillsborough stadium disaster that killed 96 and still fifteen years prior to the beginning of the Premier League that came just after the Taylor report was published. All of which instigated a significant investment in upgrading football stadiums across the country to become all-seater stadiums. And so the Goldstone’s run-down features were fairly common for British football stadia of the 1970s.

The teams met 4 days later in the league at the Den when Albion ran out 4-1 winners to get their promotion campaign properly on track. It was a result that rang true come the end of the season, as whilst Brighton were promoted to the topflight, Millwall were relegated down to the third tier.

In the run up to the 3rd Round Albion won their two home games against Oldham and Preston but only drew away to Stoke 2-2 and were hammered 4-1 away to Leicester City. Leaving them short of the promotion places, with ten points from eight games.

So they travelled to Lancashire to face a Burnley team for the first of two trips to Turf More that month, in search of a much needed morale boosting win, and achieved it through a convincing 3-1 victory. It was a performance described by the Brighton match-day programme as: “little short of brilliant”, as the Albion won through two Peter Ward goals and one from Teddy Maybank in front of 9,056.

This was another win over a Burnley side they’d beaten nine months earlier at the Goldstone Ground. But that day was more notable for the rock band Slade recording the video to their new Song “Give Us a Goal” at the ground ahead of the match.

But the most recent win was very notable. It was a win that secured only the club’s second last-16 league cup tie, the other being the defeat to Derby two years earlier. And previously the club had also only got to the last 16 of FA cup on four occasions, but never made it to the last 8 of either competition.

Any thoughts that the continued cup run would spur an instant upturn in league form were diminished when the Seagulls lost their following league game, which happened to be the Derby match against Palace. The game saw a 3-1 defeat to the top of the table team, one of their main promotion rivals and the team who’d ultimately beat the Albion to the title.

And the team’s patchy form continued with two wins and two defeats in the following four games to leave the team 8th and 6 points off top place and plenty of work to do in the league.

So when the 4th Round draw paired Albion with Third Division Peterborough, who would ultimately be relegated to the fourth tier that season, you could understand a little apathy towards the match. But 21,421 saw Peterborough put up a good fight at the Goldstone Ground, only going down to a narrow 1-0 defeat thanks to a goal from Mark Lawrenson.

Lawrenson went on to score another three goals that season, a reasonable return for a centre back, also winning the club’s player of the season award, a season which helped to create his legend status at the club. The most notable of his four goals came in the third round of the FA cup against Wolves when he scored after making a mazy run up the pitch from defence. Scoring a goal many who saw it consider the best goal ever scored by an Albion player. And it was this sort of solo run out of defence that he partly became known for at Albion before he left for greener pastures at Liverpool.

With that win Brighton booked their first ever major cup quarter-final. But in the run up to the match Brighton’s patchy league form continued, and three wins, two defeats and a draw left them on the fringes of the promotion hunt in 7th.

But maybe the draw had distracted the team, after all Albion were drawn away to League Cup holders and reigning Division One Champions Nottingham Forest, who were possibly the biggest draw at the time. And as highlights of the game were being shown on national television on ITV’s midweek sports special, it was a rare occurrence of national exposure for the club and its players.

Very rare in fact. When BBCs Match Of The Day expanded in 1970 to cover a 2nd game nationally, (often from outside the top Division) highlights of a Brighton game were only featured ten times before the 78/79 season. A massive difference from the level of national and now international TV exposure seen in modern day English football.

In a strange twist of fate it was national exposure for the club that once again featured a certain Brian Clough. Forest were then managed by the mercurial but brilliant Brian Clough, went on to win the League Cup that season, along with the European Cup and finishing 2nd in the league. Only losing out to a Liverpool team that won the 4th of its 11 league titles out of a possible 17 available between 1973 and 1990.

But Clough’s reputation in Sussex wasn’t what it was nationally after a failed 32 game spell as manager of Brighton during the 1973/74 season with the club still in the third division, a period chronicled in Spencer Vignes book “Bloody Southerners.” But a spell that Vignes admits put Brighton on the map due to Clough’s reputation.

His assistant Peter Taylor stayed at Brighton as manager for two more years before joining Clough at Forest in 1976 and was replaced as Albion manager by Alan Mullery who took the club from the Third Division to the First, a task originally meant for Clough.

This was Clough and Taylor’s first meeting against the Seagulls since their departure, and it would be seen by more than 5,000 Albion fans that had made the trip to Nottingham, many of which made it up on the special trains that were put on.

It was no surprise to the Albion faithful that such milestones were being achieved at the club. After all, when Chairman Mike Bamber bought the club in 1972, he did so with the intention of turning this perennially Third division club into a more prestigious outfit and appointing Clough was all part of the plan. And whilst that didn’t work out, he wasn’t deterred until ill-health forced him to step down in 1984 subsequent to the club’s relegation from the topflight the year before.

But, whilst the fans that made the trip would witness a spirited and respectable performance, Forest’s class and superiority that night told in a convincing 3-1 victory. John McGovern opened the scoring for the home side before future Forest player Peter Ward equalised for the Seagulls. But goals from Gary Birtles and John Robinson gave Forest a convincing victory and ended the Albion’s historic cup run.

It was a run that helped give the Seagulls the confidence they needed to finally achieve promotion to the top flight. Subsequent to the trip to Nottingham, the team won their next four straight games to take them up to 3rd in the table and a point off leaders Palace. A points difference that would be replicated come May as the Seagulls secured 2nd place and their first ever promotion to the topflight behind their A23 rivals.

The following season they lost in the fourth round of the League cup away to Arsenal in a replay 4-0, after drawing the original tie 0-0 at the Goldstone Ground. But Arsenal would go to lose in the next round (quarter finals) of the League cup as well as losing in the final of the FA cup and finishing 4th in the league, in a season of near but yet so far for the Gunners. Whilst Albion finished 16th of 22 teams in their maiden topflight season, avoiding the dreaded relegation.

Albion also took revenge on Forest that season by beating their 78/79 League Cup victor 1-0 both home and away in the 79/80 First Division season.

Since then, Brighton have only got to the fourth round of the League Cup once, in the 2014/15 season. At the time the team was under the short-lived and ill-fated management of Sami Hyypia, losing to Tottenham 2-0 at White Hart Lane after beating Cheltenham, Swindon and Burton respectively in the previous rounds. So here’s hoping that anything Sami Hyypia can do it, Graham Potter can do better!

This Weeks Seagulls Reading List

I started this blog, in part, because I always found myself searching for Albion related content to read that wasn’t about Hereford in 97 or the cup final in 83. However, now Albion related reading has never been more frequent and interesting. So here, in the first of what I hope to make a regular feature, is my weeks worth of Albion reading.

*note, all articles mentioned are linked below, just click on the underlined words.

Mellow Monday

After Albion beat Watford 3-0 on Saturday to go third on the Premier League there were quite a few people getting rather carried away, including many Seagulls fans posting a Europa League themed Albion GIF, which being polite is a best premature.

So as well as reminding my readers of a similarly emphatic opening day victory away to Burnley in 2002 that’s was followed by 13 games without a win and subsequently relegation. I looked back at Saturday’s victory and reminded everyone that there’s plenty of football still to play.

Tudor Tuesday

This week I christened Tuesday, Tudor Tuesday in honour of Tudor Baluta, Brighton’s Romanian U21s international who has been given the number 28 shirt this season and is tipped by some pundits to have a breakthrough season in 2019/20.

Described by Dumitru Barbu (one of Baluta’s youth coaches) as a future replacement for Sergio Busquets at Barcelona, there are high hopes in Romania that Brighton manager Graham Potter can be the person to nurture Tudors talent. If you want to know more about Albion’s young prospect the this peice by Leftbackfootball in him is worth a read.

Webster Wednesday

It may have escaped some Seagulls fans that Albion fought off serious interest from Aston Villa to sign Adam Webster, a player repeatedly praised in the Birmingham Mail as ‘Gold Standard’ as well as ‘one of the Championship’s leading centre-backs’.

Here are a selection of articles from the Birmingham Mail that covered Villa’s chase for Albion’s new man.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

I think you get the point. But if you want to know more about Adam Webster than just what Villa thought of him, Andy Naylor’s peice in the Athletic is worth a read ‘Adam Webster has two great feet. It’s hard to tell which is his strongest’

Tactics Thursday

It’s not taken the Albion fans by surprise, but those with a less keener eye have been pleasantly surprised by the change in style at the Albion this summer, so much so it’s been the talk of the town. Naylor has a go in the Athletic saying it “felt very different”, JJ Bull had a go in the telegraph saying Potter’s appointment as manager “already looks like a great choice” and the the difference to last season is “enormous”. Leftbackfoot had a go to in another interesting take on Potter’s approach and everyone’s second favourite unofficial Albion twitter page Albion Analytics showed us some useful tactical illustrations.

But let’s not read too much into Potter’s Brighton after one game, as As Swansea Vital describes here, Swansea fans found out quickly that he is the sort of manager who tactically can keep you guessing.

Freestone Friday

Amongst all the flux of the summer you may have missed the signing of a young centre back who spent last season at Peterborough, Lewis Freestone. After signing his first professional contract for the Posh back in 2016, he only made a handful of appearances for the first team along with and a number of small loan spells with non league clubs and was released by the Posh this summer before he moved to the Albion.

A surprising signing you may think? Well the club need the numbers within its u23 squad after sending so many out on loan, and Freestone impressed U23 manager Simon Rusk whilst on trial earning a 1-year deal. But to be able to make it at the Albion he will have to fight off competition from a number of talented youngsters, as shown by the fact he didn’t even make the bench for this weeks 2-0 win for the U23s over Wolves.

Any other business: Who owns the Albion?

Brighton & Hove Albion Holdings Limited, the company that owns the football club released its confirmation statement this week including an updated list of shareholders. And it’s worth a quick glance if only to see some of the people who have minor shareholding’s in the club, which include, Dick Knight (who seemingly failed in his bid to shift them to fans), the Friday Ad, Pig City Incorporated (a company of which Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim is a director of), and twenty others.