There is a bitter twisted part of me that wishes Brighton were still involved in a last day relegation drama. For nearly all of the 2009 part of the 2009/2010 season, Brighton were average at best and looked destined to sink to the bottom tier of English football. Under Gus Poyet, there was a mini renaissance, so with 3 games to go we were safe from relegation and had no chance of getting into the play offs.
Saturday's game at Milton Keynes Dons had the air of a pre season friendly about it. There was nothing on the game, MK Dons could barely field 11 players, and we were blooding youngsters. The result was a drab game with barely an incident to talk about. The only talking point was the 15 man shove around at half time which resulted in Diego Arismendi and Alex Rae being sent off. The game was in fact so boring that a lad about 10 seats to my right was fast asleep after 20 minutes, and only woke up to get to the concourse for a half time snack. Unsurprisingly, the game finished 0-0.
It was an expensive day out for a meaningless game of football, and that is probably why this part of me wants something riding on the final game in the form of relegation. Look how dramatic events were at Hillsborough for our friends at Crystal Palace. The game was set at 1-1, and if Sheffield Wednesday scored they would have survived, and Palace would have gone down. In the end Palace stayed up, mainly due to the lack of footballing ability of Francis Jeffers, who unbelievably, I saw scored for England back in the day of his past glories. I would love that drama in our next game against Yeovil, as long as it resulted in a happy ending. Instead we have a game that will determine if we finish 12th, 13th or 14th, maybe seeing more youngsters or saying good bye to players who will be out of contract at the end of the season.
At the moment the most exciting part of the season we have left now is the unveiling of next season's home shirt, having to pay £430 for next year's season ticket, rumours of about 58 players definitely signing for us and the fixtures coming out on the 17th June.
Thirteen years ago, pretty much to the day, we survived the biggest last day drama of all time. I honestly believe that had we lost that game, there would be no Brighton & Hove Albion for me to support today. Picture the scene: Brighton, a club in turmoil were at the bottom of the Division 4 for pretty much six months. A win against Doncaster in the penultimate game put us outside of the relegation zone on goal difference. Our last game of the season was away at Hereford - the only team below us. A win or draw would save us from dropping out of League Football. A defeat would mean non-league football, and probably not enough money to stay in business.
The game was one the worst games of football probably ever contested in professional history, but that didn't matter! It seemed somewhat apt that an own goal put Hereford in the lead, as they never looked like scoring. With the score at 1-0 to Hereford, we were dead and buried. I was only 16 at the time and have never seen so many grown men so close to tears walking around the stand to the toilets at half time at Edgar Street - Thankfully the footballing gods gave us Robbie Reinelt for the sum of £15,000.
At 4.17pm on Saturday 3rd May 1997, Craig Maskell hit a 25 yard dipping shot which hit the post in front of the mentally exhausted Brighton fans, but thankfully the ball rebounded back into play. Robbie Reinelt ran towards the loose ball in the best erotic slow motion run since Pamela Anderson hit the screens in Baywatch. He slid in to score from 3 yards to spark more pandemonium in a football stadium than I have ever witnessed, and probably ever will. The stand behind the goal, the top tier along the side of the pitch, and even the multi-story car park nearby were full of Brighton fans jumping and screaming in more relief than joy. There was still half an hour to play after the goal went in and I swear it lasted at least four hours, the ball always seemed to be in our penalty box with us scrambling it away. Thankfully we held on for the draw, we stayed up and the rest as they say is history! Reinelt became an instant hero, who is still worshipped to this day. If he was running in this General Election, I am sure most Brighton fans would probably vote for him.
Speaking of the big vote, not only will Friday reveal who will be Prime Minister, it will also unveil who has won Brighton Player of the Season 09/10. Just like the General Election, there are only three real candidates, none of which stand out. That is probably due to the fact that we have spent most of the season battling against relegation yet again. In my opinion the two best players have been the two we signed in the January transfer window - Inigo Calderon and Marcos Painter. I felt I couldn't vote for them as they have only played half a season, so I ended up voting for Elliott Bennett as he has scored 5 or 6 brilliant goals across the season, as well as setting up a few along the way. I don't think he will win it, but if anyone else does deserve it, it should be Andrew Crofts. He has been pretty consistent, reliable and scored some vital goals. Not bad for a free transfer made by Russell Slade. Poyet inherited him and values him so much that he is now club captain. Congratulations to whoever picks up the award, although it doesn't always bode well for the winner, as Andrew Whing has since found out.
Going back to our friends at Crystal Palace, I would like to say congratulations to their supporters team on beating us 2-0 in the 9th Robert Eaton Memorial Fund Charity Match. It's about time you guys won, as we've had the trophy for 6 years! As I said in my previous blog, they have played a massive part in the Brighton based charity, and this year we exceeded all expectations and raised well over £10,000. A monumental effort - thanks also go out to everyone who donated money and the tremendous prizes. Especially at the club and Buckingham, and finally the lovely young ladies of Gully's Girls who had the hardest task of all by dancing to Palace's Anthem, Glad All Over in front of a packed Withdean Stadium.
Anyway, back to the final game of the season, at home to Yeovil Town. There is the return of the pantomime villain Nathan Jones, who was once an Albion hero, but now held in the same regard as Adolf Hitler after an incident at Huish Park a couple of years back. The result will largely be irrelevant, but it would be nice to win, as it is a rare commodity at the Withdean. Thankfully there are only about 25 games left there before the move to the Community Stadium at Falmer, not that I'm counting down or anything like that!!