As it’s the end of the season please indulge me as I give out some well-earned awards to recognise what I believe are some of the most memorable moments from the Albion’s season gone by, some for the good and some for the bad.
The Guy Butters Award for defying initial judgements – Paul Winstanley and his recruitment team
The general public can be fickle about those in the public eye. Albert Einstein once said of fame:
“Worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow, that is the fate of people whom—God knows why—the bored public has taken possession of.”
There is no truer example of this than with us football fans, just listen to a football fan phone-in on a Saturday evening on more than one occasion. One week you’ll get the fans calling for a manager’s head and the next they’ll be calling for a statue of him to be commissioned. The way the Albion’s recruitment team have been spoken about over the season personified that attitude more than anything.
The panic throughout both transfer windows was absurd, the stench of the bed-wetting fans on internet forums and social media was unbearable and yet the ultimate result of the work of the recruitment team was better than most of their peers. When the Albion’s long awaited new striker didn’t come in the summer window, some were calling for members of the recruitment teams head, now that we are safe from relegation Paul Winstanley deserves a knighthood.
Not that I’m undermining the praise, far from it. The signings that were made transformed the Albion from a good Championship team to an established Premier League team. In particular, the signings in the summer of Matty Ryan, Davy Pröpper and Pascal Gross were crucial and they have all been a core part of the team that secured survival. Furthermore, all these players were widely criticised following the first three games in which we recorded only one point, yet all could have rightly been given the player of the season award. Top work Paul Winstanley and co, a lesson for us Albion fans to keep faith with the people Tony Bloom puts his trust in.
An honourable mention here goes to Tomer Hemed – if only for the stick I and many others gave him after the opening game against City. The performances he subsequently put in and goals he scored against West Brom and Newcastle in the next two home games that secured two vital early season wins disproved that criticism entirely.
The Mark McCammon Award for most cringeworthy moment of the season – John Motson’s minutes applause.
We all love Motty, he’s a national treasure and he’s been staple of Match of the Day as well as all football coverage on the BBC for decades and his retirement will leave a huge gap in the BBCs future football coverage. So, the gesture shown on Football Focus before the West Brom home game following the announcement of his retirement, where Albion Chief Exec Paul Barber presented him with a Brighton shirt with ‘Motty’ and the number 50 on the back to represent the five decades that he’s worked for the BBC, was a wonderful tribute but the minutes applause was too much.
During the previous home game against Man City, the passing of Albion fan and Falmer For All campaigner, Ed Bassford, was recognised with a minute’s applause. Ed was a man I didn’t know personally, but knew of. This is because he was a man who dedicated much of his later life to ensure that people like me have a club to support and a stadium to watch them play in. Whilst I don’t want to be seen to be utilising the death of a person purely to labour a point, the example provides a worthwhile and poignant comparison. Celebrating his life and recognising his passing with a mid-game minutes applause wasn’t just fitting but important due to his contribution to the club. Using this method to celebrate a person’s retirement only goes to trivialise and undermine the tributes that are otherwise apt. Cringeworthy.
The Award for the moment that most made me cry – Connor Goldson and his MoM performance against Watford
Like all grown men, I like a good cry but only about football. I jest of course but there’s been quite a few moments this year which I could have picked, what an emotional rollercoaster. So please let it out once more to recognise Connor Goldson. The unexpected shock and horror of his heart defect that required preventative surgery last season hit many at the Albion hard. A health issue that was potentially career ending, we can just be thankful it wasn’t missed and more damage wasn’t done. Therefore, a year later that man of the match performance he put in against Watford was a tear-jerking moment and a testament to what a talented and hardworking individual Connor is.
The Award for Most funny Albion GIF – Hughton awkward walk away
Something a bit lighter now. Whilst Knocky’s failed knee slide goal celebration against West Ham got plenty of plaudits, I am a fan of the awkward exit made by Chris Hughton after being interviewed by the Sky pundits after the Friday night away trip to Bournemouth. A link is included below:
The Award for the most irritating and most repeated line of Albion punditry – “Did you know that last season Pascal Gross created the most chances in the Bundesliga?”
Pundits do struggle to remain informed on anything outside the top 6 or 7 clubs and anyone who’s followed the Albion for even only a few years will know that first hand. Therefore, when there’s a good line about a club or a player from outside that group it gets utilised by all and sundry.
This line about the Albion’s player of the year was repeated almost as many times as anything discussed about our fair club this season. A player who was signed for a relatively mere sum, yet one whose influence on the team has been so great and who’s produced so many match winning moments, all this reduced to one stat, embarrassing.
The Billy Sharp Award for best opposition player performances at the AMEX – Eden Hazard
It’s been a season where we’ve seen the best that English football has to offer come to the AMEX so it would be amiss to not recognise that. Whilst we can all agree as Albion fans we’ve enjoyed the performances of those in Blue and White stripes the best, the other lot have at times been good too and last season’s PFA player of the season definitely comes into this bracket.
As an Albion fan with Chelsea fans in the family I looked forward to the visit of Chelsea with both great anticipation and anxiety, but the early two goals, inspired by Hazard’s brilliance killed off any of that excitement. Whilst we battled back and played well at times that day, we were ultimately outclassed by the reigning champions and their star man Eden Hazard. Chelsea’s fourth goal, which left more than one Albion player on their bum, was truly special. Well played sir, but you can keep your shirt thanks very much.
So that’s it for the 2017/18 season, another great one to be a Brighton fan. Let’s not forget how spoilt we are to have experienced it and remember where we’ve come from to get here. Up the Albion!