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Withdean's Greatest XI

Despite it being arguably the worst ground in the Football League, Withdean will forever hold great memories for Albion fans.

From hometown boy Darren Freeman's hat-trick scoring debut in the 6-0 demolition of Mansfield in the opening game to Danny Cullip's header to defeat the cheats of Chesterfield. From Adam Virgo's 120th minute equaliser against Swindon to Ben Roberts penalty save in that game. From three promotions, two relegations and two last day escapes

Over the course of March and April in the run up to the last game to be held at Withdean, we asked you to vote on nine polls - one for each position and the manager - of you thought should be named the best eleven players to pull on the stripes at our temporary home.

Some of the votes were very close, others were a shoe-in to make the team, but we are finally able to announce the results. This is Brighton and Hove Albion's Withdean's Greatest XI:

 

Manager: Gus Poyet 2009-, P84, W46, D21, L19 (55% win record)
We've been blessed with some great managers at Withdean, which shows in how higher regard Gus is kept by the Albion faithful. He beat of competition from three other promotion winning managers in Micky Adams, Peter Taylor and Mark McGhee and two other popular custodians in Steve Coppell and Russell Slade. It's not just the success that Poyet has bought to the club that helped him win this, but also the style. We've been playing some of the best football in living memory and his post-game comments are always worth a listen. There is no doubt he will achieve big things as a manager - and hopefully they will be with the Seagulls at The Amex.
Goalkeeper: Michel Kuipers 2000-2011, 247 appearances
Behind Gary Hart, Kuipers spent the longest amount of time at Withdean and it was his longevity that helped him hold off the challenge of Ben Roberts to claim the number one spot in an extremely tight vote. Roberts was the only man who successfully displaced the former Dutch marine, with Kuipers holding off the challenges of Mark Cartwright, Wayne Henderson and Graham Smith to come just short of the 250 appearances mark, which he would have broken were it not for horrendous luck with injuries. As passionate as they come and a superb shot stopper, he awaits a well-deserved testimonial at some point in the future giving him the chance to play at The Amex.
Right Back: Paul Watson 1999-2005, 197 appearances, 15 goals
Current custodian Inigo Calderon and the 2009 player-of-the-season Andy Whing provided stern opposition, but it was Withdean's first right back that took the vote. Watson made the position his own for four years, making over 100 appearances in a row at one point as the Albion marched to Division Three and Two titles back-to-back. A solid defender on the right side despite being left footed, he was also a constant attacking threat thanks to his dead ball delivery, which provided Bobby Zamora with a hatful of his goals in the stripes. Injury put paid to his Seagulls career in 2005, and it is extremely doubtful that the club will see a man with his ability from set pieces again.
Centre Back: Danny Cullip 1999-2004, 217 appearances, 7 goals
The overwhelming winner of the centre backs poll was the man who captained the Albion to the Championship via a play-off final victory over Bristol City at the Millennium Stadium, Danny Cullip. A no-nonsense defender who left no prisoners, Cullip became an instant fan favourite for his passion on the pitch and his constant cries of "lets have a winner" every time his defence faced an opposition goal kick. Led by example every time he stepped onto the pitch, it was no surprise to see him make the move to Sheffield United for a tidy profit, although his career never again hit the heights or adulation that he received during his five years at Withdean.
Centre Back: Adam El-Abd 2003-, 298 appearances, 5 goals
If Cullip was a shoe-in for the team, than his partner at the back Adam El Abd must be considered somewhat of a shock pick. The fact that the youth team product held off the challenge of the likes of Simon Morgan, Dean Blackwell, Ivar Ingimarrson and Paul McShane, all of whom have spent time in the Premier League, indicates just how much of an improvement he has made under Gus Poyet. It's a remarkable turnaround from the player whose back passes and mistakes used to cost what seemed like a game a month, and who even had a very public spat with the South Stand, but is testament to the fantastic 2010/11 season he has had.
Left Back: Kerry Mayo 1996-2009, 367 appearances, 12 goals
Another model of consistency, long-serving Kerry Mayo takes his spot at left back with the only real challenge coming from another Mr Consistency, Marcos Painter. Despite starting the Withdean era as back-up to Jamie Campbell, it didn't take long for Mayo to gain his place in the starting line-up and he remained there for the next five years until the emergence of firstly Dan Harding and then Joel Lynch. He won three promotions during his time at the club and was a key player in the two title winning seasons of the early 00s with his best campaign coming under Steve Coppell in Division One when he ended up coming second in the player-of-the-season awards.
Right Wing: Elliott Bennett 2009-, 82 appearances, 12 goals
It's a signal of just how highly regarded Elliott Bennett is that he managed to hold off the challenge of Albion legend Gary Hart to make the right wing position his own. Russell Slade had no qualms in outlaying a significant amount of money on the young wide man from Wolves, and Bennett has been rewarding that decision ever since. His contribution in 2010-11 has been outstanding, scoring and assisting over 20 goals before Christmas that attracted the attention of Premier League bound Norwich and a seven figure bid. Tony Bloom turned the offer down and Bennett completed the season in the blue and white stripes with a championship medal for his efforts.
Centre Midfield: Richard Carpenter 2000-2007, 252 appearances, 20 goals
Although a tough poll to win, it was always likely that Carpenter would be appearing in this side for his contribution in his seven year stay at Withdean. His arrival from Cardiff City coincided with the Albion's march through Division's Three and Two, and he did not look at all out of place in Division One either. "Chippy" was a tough tackling midfielder who could spray the ball about and worked his way through a multitude of different partners right up until his retirement in 2007. His trademark free-kicks will long be remembered, as will that Withdean slide tackle against Luton on a typically wet and windy day that seemed to carry him the width of the pitch
Centre Midfield: Charlie Oatway 1999-2005, 224 appearances, 8 goals
Holding off the likes of Paul Rogers, Simon Rodger, Steve Sidwell, Dean Hammond, Andrew Crofts and Gary Dicker to be named the second central midfielder in the team was Charlie Oatway. It's quite apt that Carpenter should have his long-time partner alongside him, as the two built up a fine understanding and partnership in the five and a half seasons they played together. Oatway was never the most talented player to pull on the stripes but he made up for that with sheer effort and leadership. He was a regular in the side that won three promotions and an important player in the 2004-05 survival season.
Left Wing: Kazenga LuaLua 2010, 22 appearances, 4 goals
The fact that every other player selected for this team have made at least four times the number of appearances that LuaLua has tells you everything. Two separate loan spells at Withdean saw him endear himself to the fans in a way that few loan players have. Comments that he lacked a final product to go with his sheer pace and skill during his first stint were instantly dismissed on his return, with wonder goals following against MK Dons, Bournemouth and Charlton. Left midfield may not have been the strongest category with his nearest challengers being Nathan Jones and Dean Cox, but the fact that LuaLua was a convincing winner says it all - Tony, Gus, sign him up.
Striker: Glenn Murray 2008-2011, 115 appearances, 56 goals
Would Murray be taking his place in this side had we conducted the poll after the news that he was leaving on a free for Crystal Palace? Probably not. But that doesn't take away what he achieved in his spell at Withdean. With Poyet stating that he needed a 20 goal a season striker this season for us to gain promotion, both Murray and Ashley Barnes stepped up to the mark. It was Murray though who impressed the most, with the side struggling with him out of it as he smashed 22 strikes home as well as impressing with his hold up play and general work as a target man. Our loss is unfortunately Palace's gain, let's just hope the money was worth it for Glenn.
Striker: Bobby Zamora 2000-2003, 119 appearances, 82 goals
If one place in this side was guaranteed, it was Bobby Zamora leading the line. One of, if not the greatest player of any era to play for Brighton and Hove Albion, Zamora was the main reason for the success of the early part of the last decade, breaking the thirty goal a season mark two years running and then still managing to hit 15 in a season in which he missed half in Division One. Now a full England international and one of the Premier Leagues most consistent scorers, Zamora provided some great Withdean memories with that volley against Halifax sticking in the mind. A well deserved place in the team for arguably the best player to play at Withdean.

 

Thanks to everybody who took the time to vote over the last nine weeks in the polls to name our Greatest Withdean XI. Do you agree with the final results or do you think the likes of Ben Roberts, Gary Hart and Paul Rogers should have made the cut? Let us know using the comments form below.

 


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