Match Review – Brighton 3-1 West Ham United


What a difference three days makes. 72 hours after showing all the attacking intent of a prawn in scraping to a 1-1 draw against Southampton, Chris Hughton released the handbrake for the visit of West Ham United. The result? A 3-1 victory and our best performance since victory against the Hammers at the London Stadium in October.

West Ham and their supporters – why is it obligatory to wear a flat cap and dress like an extra from Peaky Blinders if you support them by the way? – will be glad to see the back of us. In our two games, we’ve scored six times, conceded only once, taken six points and José Izquierdo has scored two goals of the season candidates.

Andy Naylor may have taken great pleasure in berating Albion fans who criticised the team and set up in that draw at St Mary’s, but this highlighted what we can do against sides around us as an attacking force when Hughton releases the shackles rather than sending everyone into a coma in the hope of boring our way to a point.

There was one period of Saturday’s game where we sat back ala the Southampton game and funnily enough, that was also the one period when West Ham got on top. It came after the Hammers goal when Javier Hernandez foxtrotted his way a little too easily around Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, but you couldn’t argue with the quality of the finish from the Little Pea, slamming home via the crossbar.

Just as the Saints equaliser led to a desperate retreat to defence, so did the West Ham one. Luckily, we managed to make it through the remaining 15 minutes of the first half. After the interval, we abandoned the negative approach by going back on the attack. West Ham didn’t have another meaningful chance after that and that made for a comfortable afternoon.

Glenn Murray had opened the scoring with a cool one-on-one finish past Adrian with less than 10 minutes played. We have may solved the striker shortage by bringing in two new players in the January transfer window, but at this rate neither Leonardo Ulloa or Jurgen Locadia (when fit) are going to be required to start games given the form Murray is in.

Brighton’s second goal was easily the best we’ve ever seen at the Amex. Hammers boss David Moyes described it as world class and he wasn’t wrong. A typically wasteful Albion corner was sent all the way over to the other side of the pitch where Izquierdo managed to pick up the loose ball. He had time and space out on the left to pick out who we wanted with what everyone in the stadium expected would be a cross, but instead the Colombian sent in a shot with exactly the right amount of pace and bend to completely deceive Adrian, brushing his outstretched fingers and flying into the top right hand corner of the net.

If that was a brilliant individual goal, then the Albion’s third was as a result of an equally brilliant passing move finished off by Pascal Gross. This was a welcome return to form for the German playmaker – he also claimed an assist for Murray’s goal with a perfectly weighted through ball – after a few weeks of under par performances, probably due to tiredness as he experiences not having the luxury of a winter break for the first time in his career.

When Gross is in this mood and you are playing attacking football, he will create plenty of opportunities to win you football games. Nothing summed up the difference in approach to the one we saw at St Mary’s than the outstanding Gaetan Bong, who had more touches in West Ham’s half than he did in our own.

This performance highlighted just how damaging the Albion can be to sides around us in the Premier League table. Hopefully, it will serve as a lesson ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Stoke City, another side struggling below us in the table.

Obviously, you probably don’t want your left back playing more in the opponent’s half away from home but there is a balance to be struck between the positive display we saw on Saturday and the negative one of Wednesday night. If we go one ahead at Stoke early on, why not keep plugging away for a second rather than retreating to man the barricades and attempt to hold on?

With four points on the board out of our target of seven from the Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea games, we can afford to lose in the Potteries as long as we then beat Swansea the following week. But why settle for that? Why not try and build some real momentum by pushing for three points against Stoke to open up a six point gap between us and them and secure a first ever win at the Bet365 Stadium in the process?

Hughton has shown us what can happen when we release the handbrake, and it was the best performance in three months and a second win in 15 games. Let’s hope we don’t revert back to type and that handbrake doesn’t come all the way back on next week.

Brighton announce rise in season ticket prices for 2018-19


After Saturday’s 3-1 victory against West Ham United, Brighton and Hove Albion have released details for season ticket renewals for 2018-19.

The club always like to reveal their price increases after a victory to try and take advantage of the good mood. They’ve probably had these plans drawn up since the start of January but seeing as we hadn’t won a game since two days before Christmas, they have been waiting to make them public.

There is a 4-5% rise in the cost of season tickets across the stadium regardless of what division the Albion are playing in next season. That means supporters could be forking out £810 to see the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool or £810 for Burton Albion and Millllllllllllll, although there is the added bonus of four extra games in the Championship.

The full prices are as follows:

West Lower Central
£810 (+4.5%)

West Lower/East Lower Central/East Upper
£730 (+4.3%)

West Upper Central/West Lower Wings
£615 (+4.2%)

East Family
£550 (+3.8%)

North/South West Corner

£515 (+4%)

Supporters can still pay for their season tickets via the direct debit scheme and existing season ticket holders also have the option to move seats so if your current area has become too expensive, head for the North Stand.

Free travel is also included in the cost while anyone wanting to become a season ticket holder has to sign up for the waiting list which now has 8,000 people or just under one Withdean Stadium on it.

The size of the waiting list probably explains why they are hiking the prices as they know that even if 30% of current season ticket holders don’t renew, it doesn’t really matter as there are enough people waiting and willing to take their places.

The full details are on the Seagulls Tickets website here. Funnily enough, the club haven’t mentioned the price increase at all on the article on the main site. We can’t think why…

Match Preview – Brighton v West Ham United


West Ham United – the club
West Ham are one of only eight teams never to have fallen before the second tier of English football, having spent 59 out of their 91 seasons in the Football League in the top flight. They famously won the World Cup for England in 1966 and are very proud of the “West Ham way”which, as far as we can tell, involves hounding good, effective managers out of the club based on some myth about attacking football and replacing them with clowns. Their current owners are David Sullivan and David Gold who rather hilariously have moved the club to the Olympic Stadium and declared that they should be Champions League contenders while pinching as many pennies as possible. We’ll have some of what they are smoking, please.

West Ham – the place
West Ham is situated in East London. The area underwent rapid growth from 1844 following the Metropolitan Building Act. This basically meant that buildings dealing in dangerous substances and the like couldn’t be built in central areas of London, so they all had to shift to the outskits and places like West Ham. As a result, it became one of Victorian Britain’s major manufacturing centres for pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and processed foods. The slum conditions in these areas led to outbreaks of contagious diseases and severe poverty. Still, can’t have done much harm can it? West Ham won England a World Cup after all.

West Ham – the people
West Ham have a plethora of famous fans including Danny Dyer, Ray Winstone and Russell Brand. It’s actually difficult to find a celebrity Hammers fan that isn’t a bit of a prick, especially when it comes to brand who despite looking homeless and being about as funny as homelessness, managed to marry Katy Perry. Three famous residents of West Ham of course won Engand a World Cup as well.

A good memory of West Ham at home
Bobby Zamora showed he was a Brighton man at heart when missing an absolute sitter when the two sides drew 2-2 at Withdean in 2005. Mark McGhee’s side desperately needed to avoid defeat in order to avoid relegation to League One and our Bob helped the cause hugely. He would go onto score the winning goal in the play off final for West Ham come the end of the campaign.

A bad memory of West Ham at home
It’s hard to think of anything worse than going to a football game but not coming home from it. That was the fate afforded to one poor elderly Albion fan when West Ham fans ran riot at the Goldstone in August 1979, breaking out of their pen in the North East corner of the ground and invading home sections with the result being a gentleman losing his life after being crushed on the East Terrace.

Played for both
We’ve already mentioned a certain Mr Zamora but other players to have represented both sides are few and far between. Defender Tony Browne from the Gillingham era began his career at West Ham before signing for the Albion under Brian Horton while an even more forgettable name was midfielder Tony Stokes who managed six appearances on loan under Mark McGhee before the Albion belatedly realised he was terribe (every supporter knew that after 10 minutes) and sent him back to Upton Park.

One of the reasons behind the Hammers upturn in form since replacing Slaven Bilic with David Moyes has been Moyes managing to get the best out of Austrain striker Marko Arnautović. Given the fact that Shane Duffy in particular has looked a little bit ropey over the last month or so, Arnautovic could cause real problems to the Albion.

Six out of our 12 home games so far this season have ended in draws and with two struggling sides who would rather avoid defeat than actively chase a win, it isn’t hard to find value in the draw at 5/2. Leonardo Ulloa is 15/2 to score last and given he is likely to be used from the bench, that seems like a good bet given his liking for dramatic goals such as that away at Nottingham Forest or on his previous home debut against Arsenal in 2013.

Do you even need to ask? 1-1, of course. With Chris Hughton making his first tactical sub on 74 minutes.

Brighton’s defensive efforts could keep them in the Premier League

It has been a rocky ride for Brighton this season, with Chris Hughton’s side finding themselves tasked with the possibility of a relegation battle in the maiden Premier League campaign, unless something drastic changes in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, a relegation battle is where many expected Brighton to be, along with the likes of Huddersfield Town, who were the Championship’s surprise package last season and joined the Seagulls and Newcastle United in promotion to the top flight. However, taking that into consideration, Hughton has had a good go at establishing the Seagulls in the top flight – whatever happens from here.

Brighton’s journey from the depths of the Football League to the Premier League has been nothing short of remarkable, with the squad at the Amex Stadium now containing personnel more than worthy of their shot in the English top-flight. The squad Hughton has assembled includes internationals, and ones that are likely to be featuring at the World Cup later in 2018.

The Amex Stadium, Brighton” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by J’Roo

The one man who is almost certain to be featuring is Matt Ryan, the Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper, who has enjoyed a reasonably successful start to life in the Premier League and English football. The goalkeeper is likely to be named as Australia’s number one for the World Cup, with his country going up against France, Peru and Denmark at the Group Stage.

Despite having a Premier League regular as the last line of defence, Australia are not well fancied to be a success in Russia this summer, with the Kangaroos priced as outsiders of 3/1 to qualify from their group and 14/1 to be surprise winners in bet365’s international football betting markets.

Ryan is likely to be a major part of that assault on qualification in Russia during the summer, but first of all, the goalkeeper is tasked with helping Brighton avoid an expected relegation from the Premier League.

The goalkeeper arrived at the Amex Stadium during the summer, with Hughton swooping to secure a deal with Valencia that saw Ryan move to Brighton for a club-record transfer fee. Hughton’s high-profile summer signing has been one of Brighton’s major success stories of their maiden Premier League campaign, with Brighton looking a more than capable defensive outfit, with their troubles coming at the other end of the field – something that the club will hope the loan capture of Leonardo Ulloa can help to solve.

Defensively the Seagulls are sound, with Ryan organising a consistent back four, they have a real chance of mounting a survival campaign in the coming months and defy what many people thought by surviving their first season back in the top flight since the Premier League’s formation in 1992.

It will be some coup if Brighton can avoid the drop in their first year in the Premier League, and if they are to do so, maintaining their defensive record will be just as important as adding goals at the other end of the field. Ryan will be one key member of that defensive effort, and if the goalkeeper can help the Seagulls avoid the drop, he will head off to the World Cup in Russia on a major high.

Match Review – Southampton 1-1 Brighton


Points mean prizes, and Brighton and Hove Albion claimed another valuable point towards the ultimate prize in playing Premier League football again in 2018-19. But the main feeling when walking away from St Mary’s after the 1-1 draw with Southampton was one of frustration that all three points weren’t in the bag.

Southampton were one of only three teams below us at the start of play and on a club record run of 11 games without a win in the Premier League. Their confidence was low, the home crowd were restless – who doesn’t love hearing 30,000 opposition supporters booooooooooooooooooooo – and Maurico Pellegrino was a man under pressure.

For the first 15 minutes, the Albion looked prepared to take advantage of the Saints woes and heap more missery on the club Gus Poyet reckons should be our rivals. We went on the attack from the first whistle, Jose Izquierdo blasting wastefully over when when placed within 20 seconds of kick off and Davy Propper having a slightly harder chance which ended in the same outcome.

That positive start was rewarded when Glenn Murray gave the Albion the lead from the penalty spot with 15 minutes played. It looked a soft foul from the away end, Solly March going down like an Amsterdam window woman under a challenge from Wesley Hoedt. Still, it was enoug to convince the man in the middle to point the spot and give Murray the chance to net his ninth of the season. We always did like that Mike Dean.

At this point, our attacking football coupled with Southampton looking absolutely abject meant that a comfortable win looked more than achievable. So what did we do? Sat back, retreated into our own half and looked to defend the 1-0 lead for the next hour of the game. Given how poor we’ve been defensively recently and our penchant for conceding from set pieces, it was unlikely we would see the game out but we abandoned all pretence of going for a second goal which looked more than achievable in the hope of doing exactly that.

Only lady luck prevented Southampton equalising before half time, when Maty Ryan dithered on a back pass for far too long, smashing his attempted clearance into Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg with the ball looping up into the air and thankfully onto the crossbar after which we managed to clear it away.

Shane Long, Oriel Romeu and Ryan Bertrand all had half chances while Murray showed good feet to work space for a shot that was straight at Alex McCarthy. That would be our last effort on goal of the game incidently with an hour still left to play.

Pellegrino made a double change at the break, throwing on attackers Sofiane Boufal and Guido Carrillo. The equaliser came just past the hour mark and it was from that familiar foe, the set piece. A low free kick came in from James Ward-Prowse and a combination of a wall that looked like it had been built by the same firm who constructed the Leaning Tower of Pisa and some pussy footed defending in the box allowed Jack Stephens to back heel home.

Back on level terms yet having seen how vunerable Southampton were when attacked from that opening spell, you’d have thought that Chris Hughton would release the handbrake and go for the win. The crowd certainly thought so if the chants of “ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK” were anything to go by. But no, Hughton played his normal trick of waiting until ater the 75th minute to make a change when Leonardo Ulloa replaced Murray.

Any hopes we had of going for the win dilapidated with the second change, Pascal Gross being withdrawn for Beram Kayal. 4-4-1-1 became 4-5-1, Anthony Knockaert and Sam Baldock remained sat on the bench and any hopes of actually winning the game were out the window. The decision not to throw on Knockaert in partcular was baffling given that March could have been the first man in football history to manage a negative pass completion rate.

Remarkably, Hughton came out afterwards and said we were going for the second goal. He must have been on a strong batch of LSD given we didn’t create any chance of any note for the final hour of the game and for most of that time we were defending deeper than the current location of one of Southampton’s most famous sons, the Titanic. Against an under pressure side booed off by their fans at the break and who looked there for the taking in the first 15 minutes, we were happy to defend our way to a draw. These were levels of negativity not seen since the days when the great Mark McGhee was in the hot seat and trips to St Mary’s were more memorable for players being thrown off the team coach than the football.

Anyone clamouring for a managerial change must be taking an even bigger dosage than LSD than Hughton has to claim we went for the win. Even if we lose every game between now and the end of the season, Hughton should remain Brighton boss as there is no man better qualified to bring us back up from the Championship again if it comes to it.

But none of that means he is above criticism. Last night was a real chance for three points but his over-conservatism means it wasn’t taken. See Newcastle United away. See Southampton at home. See Eveton at home. His use of substitutions is also an area that needs looking at as you can say with worrying predictably when the changes will come, and it is always after 70 minutes which often leaves too little time to have any effect.

Warren Aspinall reckons we need seven points out of 12 from these four consecutive games against our fellow strugglers. That seems about right. A point at Southampton is a good start, but it won’t be if come 5pm on Saturday we haven’t beaten West Ham United.

Stick your house on a draw.

Match Preview – Southampton v Brighton


Southampton – the club
While Gus Poyet kept banging on about the Albion hitting glass ceilings, it is in fact Southampton, the club that he laughably tried to portray as our arch rivals, who have done so. Bar Leicester’s freak title winning season, the Saints have consistently been the best of the rest outside of the top six without ever managing to break down the door. As a result, their best players frequently depart to Liverpool and their fans, clearly bored of finishing seventh or eighth every season, decided to liven things up by hounding Claude Puel (top 10 finish, Wembley Cup final, doing great work at Leicester now) out of the club. That stunning piece of judgement from the St Mary’s faithful has left them as one of only four teams below the Albion coming into this game, making it a huge fixture for both sides.

Southampton – the place
Southampton was where the unsinkable Titanic set sail from on its maiden voyage and it was the port where rats infested with the black plague first arrived in Britain on board merchant vessels. Apart from those two little indiscretions which cost the lives of millions of people, Southampton is the closest city to the New Forest and has not one, but two rivers – the Test and the Itchen which provide excellent fly fishing if you like that sort of thing.

Southampton – the people
The city has produced some of Britain’s finest musical acts including Craig David, David Craig, the drummer from Coldplay, Foxes (who I’ve never heard of but actually looks quite fit from her Wikipedia page) and Matt Cardle won won X Factor 10 years ago. Famous Southampton fans include glamour model Lucy Pinder, David Frost and Fiona Phillips.

A good memory of Southampton away
We’ve only won three times in 19 trips along the coast, the most recent of those coming in 2009 in Poyet’s first game in charge. Glenn Murray scored twice along with Andrew Crofts as the Albion shocked Southampton 3-1 in front of the Sky Cameras to move out of the League One relegation zone.

A bad memory of Southampton away
Mauricio Taricco always managed to set a good example as player-assistant manager. He can’t have started more than 10 games for the club and yet managed to get sent off twice for dissent, the second of those red cards coming on our last visit to St Mary’s. Nigel Adkins’ promotion chasers won 3-0 and to top off a miserable day, we left the ground after an hour in favour of going to the pub. The extra 30 minutes drinking time proved disastrous for one member of the team who ended up being sick on the dance floor of West Street nightclub Pasha on our return home (the 15 other pints over the course of the day may not have helped).

Played for both
Dean Hammond and Dan Harding were two former Albion players who went onto become pantomime villains after moving to the Saints later in their careers. It’s easy to forget that Inigo Calderón almost joined them. Long before he became the most desirable man in Sussex, the Spanish right back turned down Brighton’s offer of a new contract at the end of the 2009-10 season in favour of moving on a free to Southampton. A week or so later he had a change of heart and the rest, as they say, is history.

If he fulfills his potential, then Nathan Redmond should be the next Southampton player to step up to the Saints parent club, Liverpool. Charlie Austin also has a ridiculously good scoring record against the Albion from his time at Swindon Town, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers.

He hadn’t been added to any anytime goalscorer books yet, but Leonardo Ulloa to mark his return with a goal would be a fairytale. Luckily, the Argentinian specialises in those sorts of moments and can emulate his first debut for the club when he notched against Arsenal in the FA Cup five years ago.

The game at the Amex finished 1-1 and in truth, both managers could’ve shaken hands on the draw as soon as Glenn Murray equalised early in the second half. Both will be desperate not to lose again and that makes another score draw the most likely option.

Brighton to host Coventry City in FA Cup 5th Round


Brighton and Hove Albion have been drawn at home to League Two side Coventry City in the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Given that we’ve had two spectacularly shit draws so far with home games against arch rivals Crystal Palace and a trip to bloody Middlesbrough, drawing the lowest ranked team left in the competition at home was just about the best result that could come out of the hat.

Chris Hughton’s reserve side proved too strong for Championship promotion challengers Middlesbrough in the last round, so even if the Albion send out the stiffs there is a golden opportunity here to make a first FA Cup Quarter Final since 1986.

Of course, this being Brighton and Hove Albion there is also the extreme likelihood that they will cock it right up. There have been inglorious exits in the FA Cup, League Cup and Paint Pot at the hands of lower league clubs Lincoln City (x2), Newport County, Swindon Town, Luton Town, Mansfield Town, Shrewsbury Town, Bristol Rovers, Hereford United, Sudbury Town and Kingstonian.

We last faced the Sky Blues on New Years Eve 2011, a particularly harrowing experience that involved a 2-0 defeat away at the side bottom of the table in which Gus Poyet’s men failed to have one shot on target. Our last FA Cup meeting came at Withdean in the third round stage in 2006, a game so memorable I can’t even tell you what the score was.

The tie will be played on the weekend of February 17th and ticket prices should be at the bottom of the scale. Hopefully those unable to secure tickets for the glamour away games so far this season will be able to attend to pick up loyalty points rather than being scheduled to wash their hair that day.

Leonardo Ulloa returns to Brighton and Hove Albion


He’s back! Leonardo Ulloa has returned to Brighton and Hove on loan from Leicester City until the end of the season for a fee believed to be around £1m.

The Argentinian striker became a hugely popular player in his first spell at the Amex which lasted 18 months between January 2013 and July 2014, scoring 26 goals in 58 games as he fired the Albion to the Championship play offs in consecutive seasons.

His last goal for the club was one of the most memorable in Brighton history, that last minute header at Nottingham Forest which saw Oscar Garcia’s side sneak into the play offs with virtually the last kick of the season to spark wild scenes of celebration in the City Ground away end.

His form earned him a move to Leicester City were he notched 13 goals in 40 games as the Foxes pulled off a great escape from relegation. The following season he scored six times to help Leicester become Premier League champions but has gradually slid down the pecking order since under a succession of managers, featuring only four times from the bench for a grand total of 19 minutes so far this season.

Both Ulloa and Leicester had wanted a permanent deal but with no offers forthcoming, the Albion have swooped to land their man on loan.

Having gone from having no available strikers as recently as October, Chris Hughton now has Ulloa, record signing Jurgen Locadia, Glenn Murray, Sam Baldock and Tomer Hemed to choose from, although Hemed’s future at the club must surely now be in doubt as five forwards competing for one spot in a 4-4-1-1 seems like overkill. The Israeli was nearly sold to Cardiff City in the last transfer window.

Ulloa goes straight into the squad for Wednesday’s trip to Southampton. Given what he achieved during his previous spell with the club, expectation will be high but with the quality of wide man available to Hughton, the prospect of Ulloa getting onto the end of balls into the box from Solly March, Jose Izquierdo, Anthony Knockaert and Pascal Gross is nearly as mouth watering as the steak served in the restaurant that the striker is still involved in in the city.

One thing that will need some work is Ulloa’s song, given that he could be played in tandem with Glenn Murray.

We won’t mention O’Grady anymore, anyone?

Match Review – Middlesbrough 0-1 Brighton


For 70 minutes, Middlesbrough v Brighton looked like it might provide a long awaited breakthrough in the attempt to find a cure for insomnia.

Even the most hardened insomniac would have struggled not to be bored to sleep at the Riverside Stadium. As an attacking force, Brighton were non existent until Jose Izquierdo’s introduction on the hour mark. Warren Aspinall in the BBC Radio Sussex commentary box told it exactly how it was when asked why he was standing up at the start of the second half, his response being that it was the only way he could guarantee staying awake.

Many Albion fans have been clamouring for the return of 4-4-2 as a way of making us more of a threat going and they got their wish but it made no difference in that regard. Boro had the best chances of the game, Tim Krul having to tip an effort from the lively Adama Traore onto the post and Daniel Ayala headed straight at the Dutchman from a corner.

Krul was one of seven changes to the side beaten by Chelsea last week and if this is considered a reserve team, it shows what strength in depth we have across the park bar up front which the club are bealtdeley addressing anyway. Only two of the starting 11 – Krul and Markus Suttner – weren’t regulars in the side that did so well in our previous two seasons in the Championship.

Krul is an upgrade on David Stockdale and Suttner is just as effective performer as either Gaetan Bong or Sebastian Pocognoli. Which suggests if we were to end up relegated and sell the crown jewels like Maty Ryan, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy and Pascal Gross back to the Premier League, we’d be well placed for an immediate return even without taking into consideration the quality of any new signings we may make.

It looked like those reserves would get another run out in a replay that would’ve been about as welcome as discovering John Worboys was your new next day neighbour. That was until substitute Glenn Murray popped up with the only goal of the game in the 90th minute, producing a brilliant piece of opportunism to use his thigh to divert George Friend’s clearance of a Markus Suttner cross past Darren Randolph to make the long journey north worthwhile for the 911 Albion fans who bothered to attend. Looking forward to the inevitable arguments about the closed shop for away game tickets when the Everton, Crystal Palace and Liverpool games roll around.

It was Murray’s eighth goal of the season and he now has a better goals per minutes ratio than Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford and Jermaine Defoe. Murray for England?

Perhaps not, but he played like a man on a mission when he was introduced for the ineffective Tomer Hemed with 15 minutes remaining. Anyone would think he needs his goal and FA Cup winners bonus to pay off a tax bill or something.
Could an FA Cup win be on the cards?

It’s unlikely, but there is no reason the Albion can’t go further in the competition than the fifth round stage that has been the furthest we’ve advanced since the 1980s. We’re just two wins from a potential semi final and a trip to Wembley that isn’t for a shit league game in front of a half empty stadium with all the atmosphere of a wake.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool have already fallen and Spurs were fortunate to claim a replay against Newport County. There is a route opening up for at least one of the top flights lesser teams to go deep into the competition so why can’t that be the Albion?

We can but dream.

Match Preview – Middlesbrough v Brighton


Middlesbrough – the team
Middlesbrough spent seven seasons in the Championship before winning promotion back to the Premier League in 2016 in circumstances I am sure you need no reminder of. It was a brief stay back in the top flight as they managed to score a paltry 27 goals which is a total even we should be able to beat having amassed 17 so far with 14 games to go. That negativity cost Aitor Karanka his job. His permanent replacement was Garry Monk who was appointed in the summer but has already been and gone with Tony Pulis now in charge at the Riverside.

Middlesbrough – the place
There is only one thing you need to know about Middlesbrough and that is that it gave the world the parmo, the greatest food substance currently in existence. Seemingly only available in the North East, it is a huge slab of pork covered in breadcrumbs and smothered in cheese and bechamel sauce. Plenty of Albion fans have bemoaned this FA Cup draw including most of those complaining about the “closed shop” for away tickets this season and while a day at the Riverside may be less appealing than a vegan BBQ, it’s worth making the journey for a parmo alone.

Middlesbrough – the people
The world famous explorer Captain James Cook heralds from the town which isn’t surprising as if we lived in Middlesbrough, we’d be quick to jump on a bloody great boat and sail off to Australia. Magician Paul Daniels, World Billiards Champion Dave Causier and Preeti Desai who was Miss Great Britain 2006 have also put Middlesbrough on the map.

A good of Middlesbrough away
The life changing moment when we we discovered the aforementioned parmo was a visit in December 2011. The football itself was absolutely shit as it always was when watching the Albion away under Gus Poyet at that point in time, a 1-0 defeat in which we managed a grand total of zero shots on target. The train food home was an absolute triumph which more than made the journey worthwhile.

A bad memory of Middlesbrough away
Mike Dean. Say no more.

Played for both?
Given how much he has got right since being appointed Albion boss, its mad to think how poor both the football and the signings were in Chris Hughton’s first six months in charge. Leon Best was obviously the cherry on top of the wank players cake, but two loan signings from Middlesbrough weren’t far behind as both Emmanuel Ledesma and Mustapha Carayol arrived for completely forgettable spells from Boro.

Pulis’ first choice 11 includes the likes of Britt Assombalonga and Ben Gibson, the talented defender who was on the verge of the England squad last season who Boro have somehow kept hold of despite their relegation (take note Albion re Lewis Dunk). It will likely however be their stiffs who line up so your guess is as good as ours as to who will be involved.

Presuming that Hughton actually decides to start him, then Sam Baldock to score anytime at 21/5 looks a decent bet given how lively he looked when coming on against Crystal Palace in the last round. Other than that, betting on this one is particularly hard given nobody can reasonably predict what each starting line up will look like. One bet across the board that normally has a pretty good return in knockout competitions is both teams to score when a side from a lower divison host one from a higher division. That is available at a best priced 5/4.

Honestly, we’ve got absolutely no idea what is going to happen. Could be 0-0, could be 6-4, could be 0-9 (those last two are actual results from Middlesbrough v Brighton games in the 1958-59 season). As long as we get a parmo, we’ll be happy.

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