1000 not out – the high(and low)lights of a millennium of Brighton games

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Ever wondered how much crap you would sit through if you watched 1000 Albion games? Wonder no more. One of the WeAreBrighton.com team achieves the milestone when Stoke City visit the Amex on Monday night. Here are some of the “highlights” of the previous 999…

When Brighton face Stoke City, it will be a significant milestone. Not only will Sky Sports have selected the most uninteresting game in live football history for their Monday Night coverage, but it will be the 1000th time that I watch Brighton and Hove Albion play in a competitive game.

The first of those came in September 1990, a 1-1 draw with Wolves at the Goldstone. Quite how my parents have never been charged with child abuse for subjecting a helpless boy of only 21 months age to a lifetime of sporting disappointment is a genuine mystery, but here we are, 998 games later about to celebrate a millennium of matches.

Quite a lot has happened in the 89,910 minutes (not including injury time) of my life I’ve spent watching Brighton. Four promotions. Four relegations. Eight different competitions including the Windscreen/Van/Paint Pot Trophy and the Full Members Cup. Whatever the hell that was.

There have been 390 wins, 266 draws, 343 defeats, 1307 goals scored and 1197 conceded. 109 opponents ranging from Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool to Hayes, Canvey Island and Northwich Victoria. That includes the glamour of watching Rotherham United 25 times.

We’ve played in 133 stadiums, three home grounds – or four if you count that time an LDV Vans Trophy game was switched from Withdean to Griffin Park – with the most visited away ground being Brisbane Road for 13 games back when Orient were our “rivals”. I’ve seen 190 different Albion scorers with Bobby Zamora leading the way on 79 goals right through to Sam Rents, Keith McPherson, Kevin McGarigle, Alan Navarro and Phil Stant who all netted once.

Barry Lloyd, Liam Brady, Jimmy Case, Steve Gritt, Brian Horton, Jeff Wood, Micky Adams, Peter Taylor, Martin Hinshelwood, Steve Coppell, Bob Booker, Mark McGhee, Dean Wilkins, Dean White, Russell Slade, Gus Poyet, Oscar Garcia, Sami Hyypia, Nathan Jones and Chris Hughton have all taken charge. 20 managers, bloody hell.

Away from the football, I’ve spent one game asleep for 20 minutes in a toilet. Chairs have come through pub windows. Baby dolls have been stolen and kept as lucky mascots. Jeremy Kyle has been on the big screen in a pub. There has been hitch hiking with Tranmere fans, meeting the England netball team and a train toilet spewing piss and sick all over the carriage floor. Food poisoning, frostbite and and the hangover from hell after drinking neat vodka with Adam El-Abd.

So, in not particular oder, here are some of the highlighs – and of course, what with this being the Albion, lowlights of 1000 games as a Brighton fan

Best home game – Brighton 2-1 Wigan Athletic, Monday 17th April 2017
There have been plenty that could qualify for best home game – the first game at the Amex, beating Chesterfield to win the Division Three title, winning against Dagenham and Redbridge to secure promotion out of League One. That night against the Daggers was particularly memorable as we headed onto West Street to celebrate with some £1.50 VK’s in Oceana, but bumped into Charlie Oatway on route who bundled us into the players party in Vodka Revs instead. Soon we were having Adam El-Abd pour vodka from the bottle into our mouths, doing Jagerbombs with Matt Sparrow and annoying Fran Sandaza by constantly making him pose for photos with a shirt with “Promoted” printed on the back.

But really, it has to be that Wigan game seven months ago. Nothing can compare to seeing your side finally make it to the top flight after 27 years and 989 games. It wasn’t exactly a classic performance but it didn’t need to be. We’d come from the bottom back to the top and that is something nobody who was there that day will ever forget.

Worst home game – Brighton 0-3 Barnet, Wednesday 5th November 1997
Finishing school on Bonfire Night, most 10-year-olds would be excited about the prospect of fireworks and Guy Fawkes. Not so much a coach journey to Gillingham to watch the worst Brighton team in history get absolutely destroyed 3-0 with just over 1,000 other hardy souls/idiots (delete as appropriate).

An honourable mention in this category to Hull City away on a Tuesday night in January 1996. At school, they teach you that the North and South poles are the coldest places on Earth. As an eight year old with a keen interest in science, my Mother allowed me to try and disprove this theory by taking me out of school to go to Boothery Park. I’m delighted to report that the experiment was a complete success as it was categorically proven that Hull’s old home ground was in fact the coldest place on Earth, but my primary school didn’t share my desire to take part in practical scientific experiments, instead making a right fuss about being truant for a 0-0 draw between the two worst sides in Division Two at the time.

Best away game – Peterborough United 0-3 Brighton, Saturday 30th October 2010
Everyone raves about that 4-0 win at Charlton a fortnight before we went to London Road, but for me the 3-0 win over Peterborough was even better. Posh manager Gary Johnson had been beating a drum all week about how he wanted to bring the League One leaders down a peg or two but they couldn’t land a scratch on the Albion that day. It is no exaggeration to say that 3-0 could’ve been 10-0 – Elliott Bennett missed a penalty and Joe Lewis was doing his best Gandalf impression as nothing was getting past him.

It was a particularly sweet match for me as the previous evening, one of my friends had decided to take advantage of my drunk state by shaving all my hair off, meaning I went to London Road looking like a Russell Slade Tribute Act. In normal circumstances, this would’ve been a disaster but being completely bald didn’t seem like such a bad thing when you’ve just gone miles clear at the top of League One after one of the most complete displays for years.

Worst away game – Milton Keynes Dons 2-0 Brighton, Saturday 4th April 2009
The 6-0 defeat at West Ham in 2012 comes instantly to mind of a worst away game, but seeing as I walked out of Upton Park after 20 minutes with us 3-0 down in favour of watching the Grand National, I don’t think it counts. The National incidentally was even more of a disaster than the football as my pick, Synchronised, ended up having to be put down after the race. Clearly, the race hadn’t gone well for some West Ham fans either as a chair ended up flying through the window of the pub we watched the race in afterwards.

So with that game ruled out, it falls to MK Dons in 2009 to take the category. Never has an Albion crowd turned on the side like that as they were booed off at the end with chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” directed at Craig Davies, who missed a succession of chances my Grandmother could score while looking completely unbothered by the whole experience. Twat.

League Two beckoned and things didn’t get much better on the way home when we got on a train carriage in which the toilet was locked. No matter, somebody just forced open the door and people started going anyway. Turned out the reason it was locked was because it was in fact blocked, something that didn’t become apparent until it had filled up with urine and, quite spectacularly, a layer of sick on the top. This disgusting concoction eventually reached the top of the bowl and when the train went around the corner, overflowed out, underneath the toilet door and into the carriage. And yet that still wasn’t as bad as the Albion’s performance.

Best individual performance from an Albion player – Paul Emblen, Brighton 4-4 Colchester United, Friday 26th December 1997
There have been some cracking individual performances down the years from Albion players, from the magic of Vicente to pretty much any game Anthony Knockaert played in last season. So you will probably wonder how much crack I’ve been smoking when suggesting that Paul Emblen on Boxing Day in 1997 was the best of the lot. But honestly, it was. We’re back to talking about that appalling Brighton team again, yet here was a man who despite being surrounded by rubbish managed to score a hat-trick and single handedly earn Steve Gritt’s side a very, very rare point. You often hear it asked, could Messi do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke? Well, could he do it on Boxing Day at the Priestfield in front of 2,000 people, in a side with Andy Ansah, John Westcott and Nicky Rust? Paul Emblen could.

Best indidivual performance from an opposing player – Neville Southall, Brighton 0-1 Torquay, Saturday 21st August 1999
Neville Southall came to Withdean with Torquay United looking not so much like he had eaten a few kebabs the previous night, but all the kebabs in the shop, all the stock in the back and the entire building itself. He must have weighed 20 stone at least and if anything, that is underestimating things. Yet he showed why he was one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, keeping out everything that the Albion could throw at him to single handedly earn Torquay the honour of being the first side to leave Withdean with three points.

Best away day – Carlisle United 0-2 Brighton, Saturday 12th September 2009
Ah, Carlisle away. Four hours on a train from London to put away a crate of Strongbow. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot it turns out. Our visit to Brunton Park in 2009 saw us acquire a baby doll from a charity shop in the run up to the game. Said doll got launched into the middle of a brass band performance in the city centre, which resulted in police intervention and a stern ticking off for disturbing the peace. Once at the ground, one of the party got in on a children’s ticket much to the stewards suscpicion, before producing ID to buy a beer at the bar. The stewards took great pleasure in removing the beer from him at that point, saying the ID must be fake if you came in as an under 16. The game produced a first away win of the season 2-0, although I did have to check the result the next day given that I spent 20 minutes of the first half asleep in the toilet. Things were rounded off nicely on the way home when a suicide meant we spent two hours stuck on the train at Leighton Buzzard and the baby doll was uncerimonously thrown into a bush at the end of the day.

Remarkably, we retrieved the baby on Monday afternoon believing it to be some sort of good luck charm given that not only had we won the game, but nobody got arrested or died. Turned out this way a good move – Baby Potts as it became known went to the next seven away games in which we only lost one. He was lost permanently at the Aston Villa FA Cup game, and we only won one away game from then until the end of the campaign.

Worst away day – Luton Town 1-1 Brighton (Luton win on penalties), Tuesday 17th December 2009
Kenilworth Road is a grim place. Luton had a massive chip on their shoulders anyway, what with a30 point deduction that had all but consigned them to relegation into the Conference before a ball had even been kicked. So they were out to prove a point to the FA, the Football League, basically anyone when it came to the Paint Pot in 2008-09. Unfortunately, we’d made the Southern Area Final with the second leg being in Luton.

Every pub in Luton was effectively home fans only, making getting a beer a nigh on impossible task. We eventually settled in a Wetherspoons out of pure and simple desperation. The game was then terrible, Luton winning on penalties to book a spot in the final at Wembley with their fans taking the strange decision that the best way to celebrate would be to invade the pitch, run over to the away end and start pelting us with coins. £8 in loose changed pocketed, we then went to the house of one our friends Dad’s who had the unenviable task of living in Luton.

Clearly, this had effected his sanity as he gave us uncooked, microwaved chicken for dinner before the journey home which led every member of the traveling parties toilets resembling the Battle of the Somme the following day as food poisoning kicked in. Shit place, shit football, shit fans, shit in the toilet.

Best opposition fans – Tranmere Rovers 1-0 Brighton, Saturday 20th December 2008
Birkenhead in the pissing down rain is not somewhere you want to be five days before Christmas, even less so when you’ve just conceded a 90th minute goal to lose 1-0 and slip into the League One relegation zone. Thank God then for the helpful Tranmere Rovers fan who saw us completely lost and having a full on argument in the street about where the station was and, more importantly, whether Micky Adams should be hung, drawn or quartered, and took pity on us. “Get in lads, I’ll give you a lift” he said. And so three of us piled into the back of this tiny car outside Prenton Park and he proceeded to drive us the 15 minutes to the station, all while his cheeky son in the front seat took the piss out of our demise.

We didn’t mind that – without this guys intervention we’d have missed our connection at Liverpool, and if we’d have missed that we’d never have been on the same carriage home as the England netball team, and we’d never have been able to attempt to chat them up for the entire three hour journey. Unsuccessfully, of course.

Worst opposition fans – Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Brighton, Saturday 21st March 2015
You know you are somewhere horrible when the best pub in town is a Wetherspoons. Or when there is another pub that advertisers itself as having big screens, and you think you will be able to catch the lunchtime Premier League game, only for them to be showing Jeremy Kyle to a captivated audience. But even those things can be made up for if the people are friendly.

Shame that the locals in Blackburn were even worse than their shit heap of a town with a constant barrage of homophobic abuse, largely from boys who had just about entered puberty. When they were challenged on their behaviour as we left Ewood Park after a drab 1-0 win through Matt Kilgallon’s own goal, they ran away because “we weren’t wearing the right clobber.” Football Factory isn’t real, guys

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