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2009-10 Season Review Part One

Having escaped relegation to League Two on the last day of the season, many changes were afoot as Russell Slade attempted to build a side for promotion in 2009-10.

Unfortunately, there were more comedy moments than memorable ones (Southampton aside) and Mr Slade paid for it with his job, which heralded the arrival of the Gus Bus and an impressive turn around.

Part one of our season review focuses on the end of Russell and the start of Gus, featuring August through to December.

Pre-Season 2009
Hopes were high coming into the new season. Falmer was beginning to spring up at an astonishing rate, we had a brand new multi-millionaire owner in Tony Bloom and Russell Slade's remarkable record in keeping the Albion up when they looked dead and buried at the end of the previous season gave cause for optimism. For the first time in, well, bloody ages the club had spent a wad of cash "improving" the squad. In came the likes of Liam Dickinson, Graeme Smith, Gary Dicker, Andrew Crofts, Mark Wright (remember him?!), Alan Navarro, James Tunnicliffe, Matt Thornhill, Jake Wright and Jamie Smith, with the best part of 600,000 being spent. And out went players who although invaluable in the run in, were deemed not up to a promotion challenge. And so, much like a year previously, the Albion entered the new season with an overwhelming sense of optimism. But talk and seemingly the money spent, is cheap, as the Withdean crowd soon discovered once August rolled around. Talk about a sense of de ja vu unfolding at the Theatre of Trees...


August 2009
Oh dear oh dear as the Chuckle Brothers would say. Two shots in the opening three games to the campaign as we drew blanks against Walsall, Swansea in the League Cup and Brentford, after which Glenn Murray became public enemy number one for not applauding the fans at the end, wasn't an encouraging start. We finally scored away at Huddersfield - unfortunately though, they netted 7 (seven) of their own following Michel Kuipers' dismissal. Not a good debut for substitute Graeme Smith. He continued his fine record between the sticks in the 4-2 home defeat at Stockport, in which Tommy Elphick become the second man to see red this season. His defensive replacement Colin Hawkins made his only appearance of the season and lasted 90 seconds before suffering exactly the same fate for conceding a penalty thanks to a late and ill-advised lunge. The month ended with a 1-1 draw at Millwall, and Mark Wright departed the club after just six games to be replaced by Arron Davies while Elliott Bennett also arrived from Wolves.
Record: P6, W0, D2, L4, F4, A16
Results: 0-1 Walsall H, 0-1 Swansea A, 0-0 Brentford A, 1-7 Huddersfield A, 2-4 Stockport H, 1-1 Millwall A.
Red Cards: 3. Michel Kuipers, Tommy Elphick, Colin Hawkins
League Position at End of Month: 22nd


September 2009
September began with an unconvincing win at home to Wycombe Wanderers, but at least we were up and running. Nicky Forster added to his goal in that game with two at Carlisle as back-to-back wins were recorded to renew optimism following the shaky August, meaning that without the 36-year-old skipper we would have been in a British Eurovision situation - nil points. It was short lived though, as a last minute home defeat against Southend followed with Tommy Elphick taking a very public telling off from the management for missing not one, but two headers, and then displaying all the speed and grace of a man on a penny farthing to recover and retrieve the situation as the Shrimpers escaped with all three points in the 92nd minute. The team coach was involved in a crash with a car on it's way to the final game of the month at Bristol Rovers, but with nobody hurt and once again down to ten men following a tackle from Adam Virgo that miraculously hasn't ended up on crime watch, James Tunnicliffe popped up to give the Albion a 1-1 draw.
Record: P4, W2, D1, L1, F6, A4
Results: 1-0 Wycombe H, 2-0 Carlisle A, 2-3 Southend A, 1-1 Bristol Rovers A
Red Cards: 1. Adam Virgo (Season Total: 4)
League Position at End of Month: 21st


October 2009
With the club still in the drop zone entering October, it was a make-or-break month for the future of Russell Slade as Brighton and Hove Albion manager. Unfortunately, it ended up being as broken as North Korea's foreign policy. Milton Keynes Dons triumphed 1-0 at Withdean thanks in part to another red card moment of madness from Adam El-Abd, the Johnstone Paint Trophy dream ended when the reserve side went down at Leyton Orient and a 2-0 lead was blown at Yeovil with the Glovers coming back to draw 2-2 as Gavin Hoyte made his debut on-loan from Arsenal. Glenn Murray did nothing to dispel rumours of attempts within the club to set an English record for most dismissals by a team in one season when he saw red for a quite simply ludicrous hand ball as we lost 2-1 at Tranmere, and a home defeat against Oldham and a defensive horror show overseen by Graeme Smith back between the sticks in a 3-3 draw at home to Hartlepool United heard the first audible boos around Withdean, and with it the end of the egg headed ones reign. 
Record: P7, W1, D2, L4, F7, A11
Results: 0-1 MK Dons H, 0-1 Leyton Orient A, 2-2 Yeovil A, 1-2 Tranmere A, 0-2 Oldham H, 3-3 Hartlepool H
Red Cards: 2. Adam El-Abd, Glenn Murray (Season Total: 6)
League Position at End of Month: 20th


November 2009
November saw the Albion embark on a horror run of fixtures. The Graeme Smith goalkeeping show continued with Martin Hinshelwood in temporary charge as Gavin Hoyte found himself being man number seven to go this season in a ridiculously entertaining 4-4 draw at Wycombe in the first round of the FA Cup. Liam Dickinson missed the match for disciplinary reasons after being caught out on the piss carrying an inebriated woman by a Sun photographer in an article about broken Britain, before phoning in "sick" and missing training the following day. Gus Poyet took the job after Steve Coppell had turned it down, and had an immediate impact with a 3-1 win away at Southampton live on Sky. A 3-0 defeat at home to The Leeds United was followed by a 4-0 horror show away at Norwich, which ended Graeme Smith's time as an Albion player, while a third round FA Cup glamour tie was earned with Torquay United after Wycombe were dispatched 2-0 in a replay and Blue Square Premier outfit Rushden and Diamonds were overcome in tricky fashion 3-2.
Record: P6, W3, D1, L2, F13, A14
Results: 4-4 Wycombe A, 3-1 Southampton A, 2-0 Wycombe A, 0-3 Leeds H, 0-4 Norwich A, 3-2 Rushden and Diamonds H
Red Cards: 1. Gavin Hoyte (Season Total: 7)
League Position at End of Month: 20th


December 2009
The horror run of fixtures against promotion chasing teams ended with Charlton earning a 2-0 win at Withdean. Graeme Smith had proved himself to be about as useful as a set of trainers for a man with no legs between the posts, so Gus Poyet moved to bring in ex-Swindon keeper Sexy Pete Brezovan on a free transfer and he marked his debut with a penalty save as Exeter were defeated 1-0 at The Real St James' Park thanks to Andrew Crofts in the last minute. Defeats at home to Colchester and away at Swindon followed, and there was sod all to cheer on Boxing Day as a 0-0 bore draw with Leyton Orient did little to inject any Christmas spirit - especially for newly-named club Crofts who managed to get himself onto the growing red card list. A Brezovan howler at Wycombe was cancelled out by a four goal haul from the in-form Glenn Murray, with Nicky Forster also on target as the Seagulls triumphed 5-2 and set the basis for the good form of 2010 with an outstanding second half display of what has since become known as "flicky flicky" football.
Record: P6, W2, D1, L3, F8, A8
Results: 0-2 Charlton H, 1-0 Exeter A, 1-2 Colchester H, 1-2 Swindon A, 0-0 Leyton Orient H, 5-2 Wycombe A
Red Cards: 1. Andrew Crofts (Season Total: 8)
League Position at End of Month: 20th