Match Preview – Brighton v Swansea City

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Swansea City – the club
A club who escaped relegation from the Football League on the final day of the season, built a new stadium and rose through the leagues from the bottom division to the top. Sound familiar? The similarities between the Swansea City and Brighton and Hove Albion stories are huge, and we’d do well to continue to follow them. In their second season in the Premier League, they lifted the League Cup at Wembley and that meant they played Europa League football in their third. Things have gone downhill slightly since then and they’ve rifled through a raft of managers with Carlos Carvalhal – a man who achieves the seemingly impossible of actually speaking more crap then we post on our Twitter feed – now in the hot seat. In just a few short months in charge he’s mastered wins over Liverpool and Arsenal to give a real boost to the Swans chances of survival, but even more impressive is that he’s managed to get an analogy about a dying patient in an emergency ward and a Formula One car stuck in traffic in central London into his pre and post match press conferences. It’s like listening to David Brent on crack.

Swansea – the place
Swansea was originally a Viking trading post but it really came into its own in the Industrial Revolution. Being a port city meant it could ship stuff places and Wales had plenty of stuff to ship back then including coal, wine and wool from all those sheep the country is home to. Smelting was also big business in the town and the smelters of Swansea became so adept at the skill that they began recieving ore concentrates from the United States to extract gold and silver from. It’s industrial importance meant that much of Swansea was destroyed by the Luftwafe in War World II and as industries declined, so did the cities fortunes. It wasn’t all bad news though – Prince Charles liked the place enough to decide to make it a city in 1969 when he was invested as the Prince of Wales.

Swansea – the people
Dylan Thomas is Swansea’s best known son, producing some of the greatest poems known to man such as “Do not go gentle into that good night” and “And death shall have no dominion” despite the fact he looked like a bull frog. This pales into the cultural significance of such acts as firing a BB gun at your penis from a matter of yards, taking part in a hurdle race over barbed wire while naked or attempting to snort a metre of strong mustard and for this reason, Pancho from Dirty Sanchez remains our favourite person from Swansea.

A good WeAreBrighton.com memory of Swansea at home
Scoring goals against Swansea is something we struggle with, let alone winning games. We’ve drawn a blank on five of our last six meetings with the Swans which makes a good memory of the fixture particularly hard to come by although we did enjoy seeing Roberto Martinez’s side lifting the League One title at Withdean on the final day of the 2007-08 season, simply because it meant The Leeds United hadn’t been successful in their appeal to have a points deduction overturned which could have made them champions, instead meaning the most homophobic fans in the country faced another season slumming it in the third tier.

A bad WeAreBrighton.com memory of Swansea at home
Saturday 10th January 1998 and barely over a thousand fans bothered to traipse to Gillingham for the visit of the Swans. Soccerbase says that the visitors won 1-0 on the day through a goal from Tony Bird but more impressively, they had a player called L Jenkins in their ranks. Could it have been the famous World of Warcraft player LEEEERRRROOOOOOYYY JEEEENNNKKIIINNSSSSS before he sought fame and fortune from killing all his friends in the game? We’ll never know.

Played for both
There was a period at the start of this decade when Swansea unloaded an absolute mountain of shit on us at quite an expense. Ryan Harley, Stephen Dobbie and Kemy Agustien all arrived from the Liberty Stadium within the space of two years and offered about as much to the Albion as a stall selling gloves at a meeting of thalidomide sufferers.

Dangermen
Tammy Abraham started the season well but four goals in 21 appearances isn’t really good enough given the eye watering fee that the Swans had to pay his agent/father in order to secure his services in the summer. That was enough to put the Albion off and it looks like a bullet dodged. Jordan Ayew is their top scorer with four while Lukasz Fabianski remains one of the most underrated goalkeeper in the top flight.

Betting
Brighton and Swansea are two of the lowest scoring sides in the Premier League and you have to go back nearly 11 years to find the last time both teams scored in the fixture. We’re backing both teams to score no at 31/30 while four of Pacal Gross’ five goals so far this season have come in games after he has had a week off, either through international breaks or being rested for the FA Cup. He didn’t play against Coventry last weekend and so comes into this one fresh. 33/10 for Gross to score anytime.

Prediction
The same as last time at the Liberty Stadium – a 1-0 win for the Albion.

United tie on Saturday evening as the Albion negotiate ticket discounts

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Brighton and Hove Albion’s first FA Cup Quarter Final since 1986 will take place on the evening of Saturday 17th March with a 7.45pm kick off at Old Trafford – and Paul Barber has pulled off quite the coup by negotiating ticket discounts for Albion supporters with one of the most corporate clubs in the world.

The standard Manchester United away day ticket when they aren’t olbiged to follow the Premier League’s rules of a £30 maximum is £45, which is what supporters of Derby County had to pie for their third round tie back in January.

Barber though has done his best Del Boyr impression and managed to convince United to price away tickets in line with the discounts offered to home supporters. Season ticket holders will therefore pay a far more reasonable £37, bronze members £40 and, should it make to a non-members sale, anybody else the full price of £45. Fans not customers!

The Albion allocation stands at 5,500, halfway between the minimum offered of 3,000 and the maximum of 8,500. The difficulty of traveling there are back on a Saturday evening – the last train back from Manchester departs before the final whistle will have blown, and that is before taking into account the possibility of extra time and penalties – as well as the cost were said to be behind the decision not to go for the full amount as the Albion would’ve had to pay United for any unsold tickets.

Tickets are on sale now to those with 250 loyalty points. On Monday, any left over go on sale to those with 200, all season ticket holders can buy from Tuesday and broneze members can join the party from Wednesday.

For those planning on overnighting it, hotels in Manchester already look expensive but you can stay just outside the city in the delights of Stockport or other such towns surrounding it for a very reasonable price.

The game will also be shown live on BT Sport for those unable to attend.

Some thoughts on facing United in the Cup

Coming 35 years after facing Manchester United in the 1983 FA Cup Final, most Brighton fans would have had mixed feelings about drawing the Red Devils in the quarter-finals this year. On one hand, it will be a special day at Old Trafford and a good chance to cause an upset, with Jose Mourinho’s men, hopefully, a little stretched due to the rigorous toll of the Champions League campaign. On the other hand, it would have been nice to get a home tie against weaker opposition and a better shot at only a second-ever FA Cup semi-final for the Seagulls.

Big 6 teams all kept apart in intriguing quarter-final draw
Of course, the conspiracy theorists will all be raising eyebrows at the fact that United, Man City, Spurs and Chelsea have all been kept about the quarter-final draw. But let’s hope that Brighton can spoil the ‘Big 6’ party in the semi-finals. In terms of betting on the Cup outright, Brighton have been priced at around 33/1 with most bookmakers, but they are as high as 50/1 with Bet Victor. No doubt plenty of Brighton fans will hope that they can ‘do a Leicester’ and will be dropping a few quid on the win. City, understandably, are favourites at 7/4, with United 3/1, Spurs 7/2 and Chelsea 5/1. You can now get a free bet from your favourite brand to bet on Brighton or anyone else in the competition.

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This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Champions League concerns could cause United to lose focus
Concerning the game at Old Trafford on 17th March (the date could change with TV scheduling), it obviously is a bit of a mountain for Brighton to climb. Contrary to some perceptions, United really are a force to be reckoned with at home. They have lost just once there this season (against City) and have only dropped seven points in total at HQ. In that respect, it is no surprise to see United priced at 2/9 to win the game and Brighton as big as 11/1. The draw, which Chris Hughton would surely take, is available at 5/1.

Despite United’s excellent home form, there are some reasons to be optimistic. We went toe for toe with them in the 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford in late-November, with Mourinho even stating that: “They gave us probably the hardest match we’ve had this season.” There is also the fact that United’s Champions League Last 16 second leg against Sevilla takes place the same week on 13th March. There is every chance that Mourinho will juggle his squad to cope with the two fixtures, possible playing into Brighton’s hands.

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This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

Midfield battles key to unlocking United’s defence
Even if United are fit, fresh and firing, there are ways to cause them problems. While they can sometimes be devastating on the counter attack, they are often unbalanced in midfield. Both Spurs and Newcastle recently showed how swamping Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic can lead to gaining good territory in the final third of the pitch. It should also be noted that both Phil Jones or Chris Smalling can sometimes be a little flat-footed at centre back, perhaps opening the door for the likes of Jose Izquierdo or Anthony Knockaert to thrive.

Of course, Hughton will also be thinking about rotating his squad for what is increasingly looking like the most open relegation fight in Premier League history. It will be interesting to see how he approaches the game, but he surely must feel that Brighton have a better chance than the odds suggest. Most Brighton fans would feel that United ‘owe’ us from 1983. Hopefully, they can collect that payment this year.

Match Review – Brighton 3-1 Coventry City

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A lot has changed since Brighton and Hove Albion last made the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Back then, Maggie Thatcher was still in power, there was a wall running through Berlin, Mr. Mister topped the charts with ‘Kyrie’ and Prince Andrew was still a couple of weeks away from becoming engaged to Fergie (Sarah, rather than Sir Alex).

Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Coventry City sent the Albion into the last eight for the first time since 1986 and only the third time in the club history. The draw hasn’t been kind with a trip to Old Trafford probably meaning it will be as far as we go in the competition, but even so it is some achievement for Chris Hughton’s second string and a welcome distraction from the bread and butter of a Premier League relegation battle.

Anybody who thinks the magic has gone out of the FA Cup should’ve been at the Amex for this one. Nearly 5,000 Coventry City fans made quite the racket from the away end and despite there being fears of a repeat of the Crystal Palace home game and swathes of empty seats across the stadium, we sold around 27,000 tickets which just goes to prove that with sensible pricing there is still life in the competition yet.

The prospect of seeing £20m worth of strikers no doubt helped and both Jurgen Locadia and Leonardo Ulloa marked their full debuts (or second debut in Ulloa’s case) with goals. Ulloa’s came in the second half and was a typical header from the man from Argentina, leaping high to power home a Bruno cross. When we bought back Ulloa, we knew exactly what we were getting and he showed he hasn’t lost any of that ability despite mainly warming the bench at Leicester over the last two seasons.

Locadia remains more an enigma and this performance did little to lift the cloud of mystery around him. His goal was well taken, hitting a precision shot into the bottom corner from Anthony Knockaert’s low cross. That was exactly the sort of finish you expect from a striker costing £14m but after that he then managed to slice an effort wide from six yards when placed front and centre and produced a quite brilliant air kick. The jury remains out and the wine was obviously flowing in the 1901 area if his selection as man-of-the-match ahead of Dale Stephens or Connor Goldson was anything to go by, not to mention the highly entertaining punch up that broke out in the prawn sandwich area in the second half.

Goldson scored the Albion’s second, his header providing the first goal we have managed to score from a set piece in 32 games this season. It was a great moment given all that Goldson has been through this season and hopefully Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk were watching on and noting how it is done while Markus Suttner’s delivery was excellent all afternoon.

The woodwork was hit four times, twice by Jonson Clarke-Harris for Coventry either side of Locadia’s opener, once by the Dutchman himself inside of five minutes and once by Sam Baldock late on. Clarke-Harris scored the Sky Blues consolation passed Niki Maenpaa in the second half after the Finn had replaced the injured Tim Krul at half time.

Both goalkeepers looked absolutely dazzling in all organge goalkeeper kits. Whoever picked those out needs to give Maty Ryan a push to ditch his black shorts as orange shorts are far superior while for reasons we can’t work out (and didn’t even notice until watching the highlights back if we’re honest), the Albion swapped their normal white socks for blue ones.

Kit and new strikers aside, we didn’t learn much else. Coventry were limited and the gulf in class between the sides was a big one which makes it all the remarkable to think that seven or so years ago we were watching that sort of standard week in, week out.

Now we’re got a reserve side that can brush aside lower league opposition without getting out of second gear and are one game away from a trip to Wembley that isn’t for a pointless league game in front of a half empty stadium against opponents whose only purpose in life is to finish above Arsenal.

We’ve come a long, long way together as the song that used to be played to celebrate victories goes – could Wembley be next? Unlikely, but we owe Manchester United given our history in the FA Cup. And Locadia must score…

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Match Preview – Brighton v Coventry City

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Coventry City – the team
To say Coventry City have had a pretty rubbish time of it over the course of the 21st century would be somewhat of an understatement. They were relegated from the Premier League in 2001, moved from Highfield Road to the Ricoh Arena in 2005, were 20 minutes away from administration in 2007 when their current hated owners SISU bought the club, relegated to League One in 2012, went into administration in 2013, spent the 2013-14 season groundsharing with Northampton Town after a dispute over the rent at the Ricoh, moved back to the Ricoh in 2014 and were relegated to League Two at the end of last season when they also lifted the Paint Pot or whatever it is called these days by beating Oxford United at Wembley. Oh, and they may yet find themselves homeless again come the end of the campaign as no new tenancy agreement is in place with the Ricoh’s new owners, Wasps.

Coventry – the place
Coventry was a major centre for the British car trade in the 20th century with both Rover and Jaguar making the city their home. It suffered extensive bomb damage at the hands of the Luftwaffe during World War II with fire bombing during the Coventry Blitz resulting in the destruction of three quarters of the cities industrial plants and its medieval cathedral. While German cities that were similarly destroyed by the RAF such as Hamburg and Dresden were rebuilt to their original style and plan, Coventry was turned into a concrete jungle with all the charm of Katie Hopkins.

Coventry – the people
Coventry’s most famous daughter was Lady Godiva who decided a good way to protest about the rate of tax was by getting naked and riding a horse through the city. The people of Coventry were ordered not to look but one cheeky beggar did and he went blind as a result, becoming known as Peeping Tom in the process. Unfortunately, topless woman riding horses though the streets appears to have died off as a form of protest in the 1200’s.

A good WeAreBrighton.com memory of Coventry at home
The Sky Blues last visited the Amex in 2011 which resulted in a rare Brighton win. An own goal and a neat finish gave the Albion a 2-1 victory. Future Albion loanee Gary “I don’t know what a forward pass is” Gardner scored Coventry’s goal that day but far more memorable than the football was the fact we met 90s football legend Steve Orgrizovic afterwards. This offered confirmation that his nose is bigger than Rohan Ince’s python.

A bad WeAreBrighton.com memory of Coventry at home
Our last FA Cup meeting came in the third round in 2006 at Withdean when Coventry triumphed 1-0. It must have been dull as I have absolutely no recollection of it at all. Hopefully this time around will be more memorable.

Played for both
The Micky Adams Rule which stipulates that the two-time Brighton manager can only sign players he has worked with before means there are a shed load of players who have played for both clubs. In no particular order, we have Andrew Whing, Colin Hawkins, Chris Birchall, Adam Virgo and Kevin Thornton who all played for Adams during his spell at the Ricoh and were then signed for his Withdean Reign of Terror in 2008.

Dangermen
Marc McNulty has 16 goals in 34 appearances so far this season and has attracted the interests of higher division clubs while Michael Doyle is the Sky Blues stand out midfielder.

Betting
The Albion’s struggles against teams from a lower division over the last 25 years are pretty well documented, but the one thing that does tend to guarantee is goals. Both teams to score is available at 39/29 and looks a solid bet.

Prediction
Chris Hughton may send out a reserve side, but our current second string squad would have been considered one of the best first choice teams in Albion history even as recently as five years ago. There’ll be £20m worth of strikers up front in Jurgen Locadia and Leonardo Ulloa, a fully fledged Dutch International in goal in Tim Krul and a backline that would be one of the best in the Championship. All that means we should be winning this game so we’re plumping for a 2-1 Albion win in a place in the quarter finals for the first time since 1986.

Match Review – Stoke City 1-1 Brighton

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Given that Brighton and Hove Albion had lost their previous five visits to the Bet365 Stadium managing only one Lee Steele goal along the way, we were long overdue some entertainment from a trip to Stoke City.

And Christ, did we get it. The final two minutes alone made up for every one of those crap dasy out in the freezing wind drinking in a city that Father Time left behind in the 1970s.

Enterting stoppage time at 1-1, it looked like a valuable point was in the bag for the Albion. We’d gone ahead in the first half through an another stunning goal from Jose Izquierdo, the Colombian getting involved in a dazzling passing move with Solly March and Dale Stephens which he finished off with aplomb.

Izquierdo was a real handful all afternoon, forcing Jack Butland into tipping an effort from distance over inside of two minutes while he also forced a fine parry with a powerful right foot effort in the second half. Against one of the Premier League’s lesser goalkeeper than the England international, Izquierdo could have had a hat-trick.

The winger is in excellent form at the minute and has been involved in four of our last seven Premier League goals. The fact we’ve only scored seven goals away from home this season has been a combination of Chris Hughton – great to see his James Bond Vilian Beard back, by the way – pulling up the handbrake on the road and the fact we have hardly created any chances. But when Izquierdo is in this sort of mood, he is always going to make something happen and that will be a real boost in terms of the Albion picking up points away from home between now and the end of the season.

Stoke’s equaliser came with just over 20 minutes left to play and it was no surprise that it was Xherdan Shaqiri who got it. Shaqiri ran the show in our 2-2 draw at the Amex in November and although not quite as influential here, he still showed why it should remain one of lifes great mysteries as to why a player of his quality is playing for Stoke City when he curled past Maty Ryan from the edge of the box. That was the Potters first shot on target.

It wouldn’t be their last, not with that breathless last two minutes to come. Firstly, Dale Stephens was adjudged to have bought down on-loan Paris Saint Germain forward Jesse in the box with referee Robert Madley pointing to the spot.

Jesse wanted to take the spot kick himself but luckily for the Albion, Charlie Adam overruled him and he saw his effort kept out superbly by Ryan. The loose ball fell to Adam but Lewis Dunk somehow cleared it away not by totally legally means.

Actually, Dunk’s whole role in the penalty was pretty much illegal. He began by encroaching in the box which, had it have been spotted would have meant a retake. He then basically wiped Adam – who had the goal at his mercy – out in prodding it out of play for a corner.

Dunk himself was honest enough to say in his post match interview that he couldn’t believe he’d gotten away with that but the drama still wasn’t over and the point still wasn’t in the bag. From the resulting corner, the Albion’s marking was predictably non existent which allowed Kurt Zouma to head goalwards but substitute Anthony Knockaert somehow headed off the line to preserve the draw.

That meant the draw was celebrated more like a win, given the circumstances in which we achieved it. But a point away at Stoke given our awful record there and it remaining one of the toughest places in the Premier League to go is a good one.

We’ve said that seven points from this run of games would be a good return and so far, five are on the board after this draw, the point at Southampton and the win over West Ham. Beat Swansea in a fortnights time and it’s a very good month for the Albion which is just as well given what lies in wait for April.

The anyone-can-beat-anyone nature of the bottom half of the Premier League was in full evidence this weekend with Huddersfield defeating Plucky Little Bournemouth (another reason to hate that smarmy bastard Eddie Howe) and Newcastle United seeing off Manchester United.

That leaves the Albion two points off the drop zone yet only six points off ninth. If 40 points is the safety mark – and it looks like it will be a high one this season – then we need four more wins to reach it. That seems more than achievable, but realistically those points need to be on the board before the middle of April as it is tough to see where they will come from with games against Spurs, Burnley, Manchester United, Liverpool and possibly Manchester City to round off the season.

So strap yourselves in, it is going to be a breathless finish. That last two minutes on Saturday was only the start of it.

Brighton on course for a 15th placed finish

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Brighton find themselves bang in the middle of the most intense relegation battle the Premiership has ever seen and need to muster a spirited effort to survive. Heading into the weekend’s games, just three points separated West Ham in 12th from Huddersfield in 19th, and at least 10 teams are locked in a relegation dogfight. This is unprecedented in the Premiership and slightly unfortunate for the Seagulls, who have performed admirably in their maiden season in the top flight. But relegation is a financial disaster for clubs and they are pulling out all the stops as they bid to survive.

Many have rolled the dice by sacking their managers and bringing in a new boss to galvanise the squad, and it has often worked. Some have loosened the purse strings in an effort to beat the drop, evidenced by Swansea breaking their transfer record to bring Andre Ayew back to the Liberty Stadium. Every time a team looks like escaping the relegation scrap, they are sucked back in as the clubs below them find their form. Swansea, Bournemouth and Southampton, three teams that recently looked in severe danger, have all been magnificent in recent weeks. Crystal Palace and West Ham, who both looked to have climbed to safety, are now nervously looking over their shoulders. Palace’s star player, Wilfried Zaha, is out for a month and that could be devastating to their chances of survival. How Brighton fans would love to stay up at the Eagles’ expense.

It all makes for a thrilling spectacle for neutrals, but a nail-biting affair for fans in the thick of it. In this context, Brighton have gone on a strong run, taking seven points from a possible nine to open up a three-point gap on the drop zone. But that is nothing really, just one win from peril. Even if they win another couple of games, they need to stay extremely focused and keep battling for every single point, as their rivals will not ease up at all.

There is little danger of the team slacking now, under the guidance of Chris Hughton, who has done a magnificent job once again this season. He has operated with limited funds compared to several of the teams around him, but has kept the Seagulls extremely competitive. Defensive organisation and diligence are the hallmarks of this team, and that is half the battle when it comes to Premiership survival. Brighton have conceded the fewest goals in the bottom half of the table, the same number as sixth-placed Arsenal and only four more than third-placed Liverpool. That is heartening.

But the other half of the battle is sticking the ball in the back of the net and this is where Brighton have fallen short this season. Only two teams – Swansea and Huddersfield – have scored fewer times than them all season. Big things are expected of record signing Jurgen Locadia, but he will take a while to acclimatise himself to the rigours of Premiership football. As has often been the case, Brighton will probably find themselves turning to the evergreen Glenn Murray, who has scored 10 times this season, one every 144 minutes. Contrast that with Tomer Hemed’s record of a goal every 848 minutes, and you can see the value Murray brings to the team, even at the ripe old age of 34. It would be risky to replace him with Islam Slimani, who is not exactly a pacey striker anyway, and he Murray may be able to operate in tandem with Locadia.

For now, Brighton are favoured by the bookmakers to claw their way out of danger: sportsbetting.ag offers competitive odds, review them first and you will see that the Seagulls are given a good chance of success in their upcoming fixtures. In the relegation betting, five teams are ahead of them: Huddersfield, West Brom, Swansea, Stoke and Newcastle. Brighton are all the way out at 7/2 to go down, and it goes as forecast the Seagulls will achieve a creditable 15th placed finish. Right now most fans would probably bite your hand off for that.

Match Preview – Stoke City v Brighton

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Stoke City – the club
Stoke have been a Premier League team since finishing second in the Championship in 2008. This is the only season so far of their 10 campaigns in the top flight that they have been embroiled in a relegation battle and the first time since October 2002 that they have changed managers mid campaign, Mark Hughes being replaced by Paul Lambert. Lambert has enjoyed the traditional new manager bounce but really, a side containing the likes of Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jesé shouldn’t be battling at the bottom of the table anyway. The Bet365 Stadium is one of the most difficult to the country to go to although since filling in the corner between home and away stands, it will hopefully be less windy. That extended capacity means that this game with be the largest attendance for 30 years at the Potters home, since Voldermort tired to murder Harry, Lily and James.

Stoke City – the place
Trying to make Stoke sound anything other than horrible would be beyond even a wordsmith of Shakespeare’s talent. It gave the world a load of pottery and Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor but that is about it, to the point where our pre-match pub plan tomorrow is to go nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme and drink a few of their local Newcastle Brown Ales before getting to Stoke as late as possibly. Those of you braving the city itself will at least be cheered by the fact the average price of a pint is £2.50, the second cheapest place we visit this season after Burnley, providing a great opportunity to get legless in a slightly different manner that at nearby Alton Towers.

Stoke City – the people
Stoke’s most famous son Robbie Williams doesn’t even support Stoke but their city rivals, Port Vale. Dennis Quaid and Morgan Spurlock are listed as famous City fans while the Wedgwood Family of pottery fame hailed from the city.

A good WeAreBrighton.com memory of Stoke City away
Five visits to the Bet365 Stadium, five defeats. Can Brighton and Hove Albion do it on a cold February in Stoke? The answer is a resounding no.

A bad WeAreBrighton.com memory of Stoke City away
The last visit was a particularly bad one. Gus Poyet reckoned his League One leaders would to Stoke and show their Premier League hosts, known for their agricultural style of play under Tony Pulis, a better way to play the game. Needless to say we were absolutely outclassed, losing 3-0 as long throws from Rory Delap and set pieces from the Potters caused absolute chaos. Set pieces? Chaos? Oh shit…

Played for both
It’s not just a recent phenomenom for Albion fans to wet themselves at the prospect of any new signing before ever seeing him play. Perhaps the best example of this was when Diego Arismendi joined from Stoke towards the end of the 2009-10 season and North Stand Chat went into meltdown about this amazing new signing. Turned out he was complete gubbins, with his only contribution in a Brighton shirt being a red card for fighting in the most boring game imaginable, an end of season dead rubber away McDons.

Dangermen
Peter Crouch has been starting more games since Lambert took over a month ago. Just as well we’ve been really good over the fast few months at defending crosses into the box…

Betting
It’s an away game against a relegation rival which probably means that Chris Hughton will be reapplying the handbrake. The draw looks a good bet for that reason, as does under 2/5 goals given that only two of our away games all season have featured more than two.

Prediction
Standard Brighton and Hove Albion away performance and a 1-1 draw.

Glenn Murray a decade on

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It’s mad to think when Brighton and Hove Albion are splashing £14m on a player that as recently as 10 years ago, £300,000 seemed a huge amount to be spending on a striker from Rochdale.

That striker was 24-year-old Glenn Murray, a man who had netted 39 goals in 97 games in what had been a pretty nomadic career across the north of England, taking in Barrow, Carlisle United, Stockport County and Rochdale.

At the time, the fee paid made Murray one of the most expensive players in Albion history. Only in our top flight days of the 1980s had we spent more on the likes of Andy Ritchie, Jimmy Case and Gordon Smith.

It was remarkable given that we seemingly didn’t have a pot to piss in back then. The Albion squad at the time was an assortment of loan signings from Ipswich Town, youth team products, free transfers, Alex Revell and one player who actually cost more than a bag of magic beans, Nicky Forster. Little did we know at the time that there was a bloke behind Dick Knight in the background called Tony Bloom, willing to start funding signings such as Murray.

Murray had been on the Albion’s radar for a while before he arrived at Withdean. On the day he signed, posing with Dick Knight while signing a contract in a ridiculously oversized Albion shirt, Knight said, “We fixed our sights on Glenn a year ago and Barry Lloyd and our scouts have watched him regularly since.”

“Along with Steve Thomson (Steve Thomson!!!!!!!!), Glenn is of the quality we are determined to bring in. We have secured the services of an exciting young player with tremendous potential. This signing underlines the ambition of the Board for the Albion to get back to Championship as soon as possible.” Of course, that ambition saw the board sack Dean Wilkins for finishing seventh at the end of the season and reappoint Micky Adams, who they then had to sack nine months later with the club 20th

At the start of January 2008’s transfer window, Knight had made an extremely rash promise live on air on the BBC Southern Counties Radio Fans Phone In. We’d just lost 2-1 at home to a Mansfield side bottom of the entire Football League in the third round of the FA Cup and two of that seasons best performers had left the club, George O’Callaghan (George O’Callaghan!!!!!!!) not having hisloan not renewed and Bas Savage (Bas Savage!!!!!!!!!) seeing his contract run out.

In a parting shot at the Albion chairman, O’Callaghan was hugely critical of Knight, not only for his departure from the club, but for the fact that captain Dean Hammond’s contract had been allowed to run down to its final six months as well with players not knowing whether they were coming or going. Hammond was sold to Colchester United a few weeks later.

As a result of all this acrimony, after one disgruntled caller had aired his views, Knight guaranteed that he would sign five new players in the transfer window.

That led to some understandable concerns about whether each of these new arrivals were being signed to improve Wilkins’ squad or merely to try and keep Knight’s promise. The five players ended up being Murray, Thomson, Jonny Dixon, Matt Richards for a second loan spell and Shane McFaul. McFaul was signed just as the window shut and was clearly just there to make the numbers up.

Murray was clearly the best of these by not just a country mile, but a thousand country miles. But it would be rewriting history to suggest he was universally popular in his first spell at the club. He was nicknamed “The League One Berbatov” after Manchester United’s mercurial Bulgarian striker, a player supremely talented but who didn’t really put the effort in on the pitch as he felt he didn’t need to.

Elements of the Withdean crowd just never warmed to him as a result. There was the home game with The Leeds United when he was berated for not chasing back Fabian Delph when the midfielder ran from his own box to score one of the great goals seen as the Theatre of Trees, despite the fact Murray was playing through the pain barrier with a hernia at the time. Some fans wanted Capital Punishment reintroduced just for Murray after he had the nerve to not clap the away fans after a game at Brentford the following season.

Niggly little injuries didn’t help his cause either as over the course of the 2008-09 season and the 2009-10 season, he missed over a third of the Albion’s games, managing 65 appearances which bought 26 goals.

At the start of 2010-11, the constant talk was about how Gus Poyet needed to bring in a 30 goal striker if we were to have any chance of getting promoted from League One. Turned out he didn’t as Murray had the best season of his first spell at the club, netting 22 times in 50 games to fire the Albion to the title in one of the most enjoyable seasons we’ve ever had.

That belatedly earned the love of the Withdean crowd but not of Poyet, who decided that Murray wasn’t worth a couple of hundred extra quid a week. Despite the constant rumours that Murray was unhappy living in the south of England, he didn’t want to leave the area and with Brighton deeming him not value for money, that meant signing on a free transfer for, gulp, Crystal Palace.

Poyet’s inability to see how good Murray was is arguably the most costly mistake in Albion history. On the pitch, Murray fired Palace to promotion with 30 goals in his second season at Selhurst Park. Had we have kept him instead of spending the next six years dicking around trying to replace him with the likes of Billy Paynter, Sam Vokes, Leroy Lita, Jonathan Obika, David Rodriguez, Chris O’Grady, Adrian Colunga and Leon Best, we could have made the Premier League much sooner than 2017.

Off the pitch, we paid 10 times as much as Murray cost from Rochdale to initially replace him with Craig Mackail-Smith. It then cost a further 10 times his initial fee to re-sign him from AFC Bournemouth for £3m last January.

When Murray returned on loan from the Cherries in the summer of 2016, there were plenty of doubters still questioning why we were bringing him back, largely because of his spell with Palace. That was despite the fact that we were one goal short of automatic promotion the previous year. Even Stevie Wonder could see Murray would help us score more goals and collect more points to give us a better shot at promotion.

And so it proved as he hit 23 goals in 2016-17. He is on course this season to become Brighton’s highest ever scorer in a single top flight season and is now just 10 goals away from a century for the Albion having recently passed a certain Bobby Zamora in the all time list. Tommy Cook’s record stands at 123 and Murray doesn’t seem the type of player who is going to be too badly inhibited by age. Could he break it? If he hadn’t have spent five years away from the Albion, he surely would have done.

It’s taken a long time, but 10 years after his arrival at the Albion, Murray is finally getting the love and acclaim he deserves and he will rightly go down as one of the greatest goalscorers to pull on a Brighton shirt. For all the talk of new strikers, Murray is the man currently firing the Albion to safety and if he can do that while moving closer to Cook’s record, then he will have every right to be mentioned in the same breath as the best players to play for the club.

If you aren’t already walking in a Murray wonderland, then you bloody well should be.

(If you are like us and enjoy finding out what Albion players who were shit are up to these days, then you’ll probably be wondering what happened to the other members of Dick Knight’s January Five. Thomson left after one year for St Mirren and was last heard of playing for Dover; Richards is still playing but has transformed from a fully haired left back to a shiny bonced midfielder; McFaul went back to Ireland where he played for a further six clubs and Dixon retired from football to become a television and music producer while also dating Holly Valance. Lucky bastard.)

Brighton need four more wins at least to secure survival

four-wins-to-survive

It has been a fantastic season so far for Brighton and the team has performed better than most predicted. At the start of the campaign, they were the third favorites to go down and you could find them priced at 5/4. If you were lucky enough to take advantage of the 888sport free bet offer on the Seagulls staying up, it will be a nervous end to the season.

The only two teams below them were Burnley at 6/5 and Huddersfield at 4/6. The bookies were right to choose Huddersfield as the most likely to face the drop. They are second from bottom currently on 24 points with only West Brom behind them on 20 points. There is only seven points difference separating the bottom eight teams which means it is going to be a thrilling end to the season in the battle for survival. All it takes is for one of the teams to go on a bad run of results and they will find themselves in the relegation zone.

Brighton are only three points above the relegation battle even though they are placed 13th in the EPL table. If Brighton are going to secure survival they will need to win at least four more matches. That will take them to 39 points, one shy of the amount that is normally enough to secure safety. With the battle so close between the clubs this campaign, teams may have to set record points tally to survive.

Brighton’s last four matches in the season do not come much tougher. They face Tottenham Hotspur at home, away to Burnley, then they entertain Manchester United before their final game away at Liverpool. It is going to be extremely hard for them to pick up any points in that run of fixtures which is why they need to get the wins they need beforehand or they could be in trouble. Since the 4-0 thrashing against Chelsea, the seagulls are unbeaten. They have won two and drawn one which is exactly the type of form they need to keep up over the next couple of months.

Up next is Stoke City which could have a huge impact on both teams survival. If Brighton can win that along with their next match against Swansea City, it will greatly increase their chances of survive. Brighton still have to play Huddersfield at home and Crystal Palace away. If they can with those two matches along with the Stoke and Swansea games, that will give them the four wins they need to almost guarantee survival.

If they do not get the wins against these teams it is going to be a very difficult task. They still have five of the top six teams to play so it will mean that they will need to get something from one of these if they do not take care of business against the teams around them.


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