Sunday, 31 July 2011

Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur

American Beauty

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur (30-07-11)

Brighton's new stadium is landmark architecture, designed to inspire. Premier League calibre. Beautiful inside. A mansion for the homeless. Paul Hayward

I didn't actually want to attend this match. I'd waited so long - 14 years to be precise - to see Brighton play in a "proper" home stadium again that I promised myself one more week wouldn't hurt and I would save that emotional, magical moment for the Seagulls first league game at Falmer. Friendlies are bobbins after all, no matter what stadium they're played in. And then, like everyone else, I got swept up in all the hype and hoopla, cracked, and before I knew it, the cash had been hoovered up from my pockets and sucked straight into the clubs coffers.

A stadium costing £90m, million pound (million pound!) players and Brighton & Hove Albion mints (mints!) for sale in the new club mega store. Jesus H. Christ, this is going to take some time to sink in. It's not all cats kissing dogs in Sussex though; one fan had complained on the fans 'North Stand Chat' forum that his new season ticket, smart card if you will, had already started attracting traces of dust and fluff. No really. Get that hoover back out. No doubt cometh the season we'll all be moaning about having to pay £30 for Portsmouth away tickets. Actually, that's already started as well. Football fans eh?

Dabbing away tears isn't my normal pre-match routine, but that's what happened as I strolled up to the new place for the first time. All those years of protest, marches, fans united, pitch invasions, letters, petitions had paid off. Good things do come to those who wait. Brighton are officially back. And it feels good.

Walking up the ground you pass the Albion legends gallery. It's brilliant. You marvel at the giant new club badge positioned high up on the outside - They've gone back to the old badge this season, but with a modern twist and I could have kissed them on the lips for doing so - it's ruddy superb. There's the aforementioned new Seagulls Mega Store. I bought mints. And then we reach the supporters bar, "Dick's Bar" in fact. Laugh all you like but this bloke [Dick Knight] that helped rescue the club in its darkest hour. Fans can toast a drink to him every day in this place. It's a fitting tribute, and if opposition fans take the piss, then so what? We do things differently at Brighton.

He shot, he scored, it must be Peter Ward. 

The old badge*. *With a modern twist. Lovely. 

[Dick] Knight in shining armour. 

A swipe of my smart card - happily devoid of dust and fluff - later, and I was in. The concourse at the back of the West Stand is plush and - Watford take note - spacious with high definition plasma televisions everywhere you look. There's frothing pints of Harveys Ale for sale to wash down the butternut squash pies. I'm not making this up. Honestly, if you took along a deck chair, sat in the concourse for 90 minutes watching Jeff and the boys on Sky, and not watch any live football, you'd return home and say you'd had a tip-tip afternoon out. Possibly.

These mobile Harveys pubs were the stars of the show. I want one for my garden.

This chap was caught trying to steal a framed photo from the wall. 

My season ticket for 2011/12 is in the North Stand where the club expect the majority of vociferous, and dare I say raucous, fans to gather. I know this because, upon closer inspection, it's the only bit of the ground where they've pinned up protective covers on those plasma screens; presumably in case they meet with a disproving shower of ale following news of an unlikely Crystal Palace victory elsewhere filtering through on Sky Sports News. Anyway, I was in the West Stand for this match as it's the only opportunity I'll get this season. I will save my North Stand experience for that game with Donny Rovers next Saturday.

Not even "England's Winning Tenor", Martin Toal operatic nonsense could dampen my mood as I took my seat. I've slatted him on these pages before so I won't go into it again. Nothing against him personally, I just don't think he belongs within a country mile of a football stadium. In truth, today he sang "Abide With Me", and it sort of fitted the bill perfectly. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

And what's all this? Noise? At a Brighton home game? Yes sir. Our vocal support away from home is right up there with the best, but it's barely registered on our own patch since we left the hallowed turf of the Goldstone Ground. The acoustics are magnificent. They were factored in during the design of the ground, and it's one of a number of attentions to detail that set this place aside from the modern "identikit" stadiums. Small touches like projecting images of opposition legends onto the concourse walls of the away end, guest ales from that clubs region, seats the size of a bus, and proper blooming food for once means it gets 5 (five) Fifa stars from me.

Water bout that then? The North Stand faithful get a pre-match soaking. 

Brighton are back

Ah, the actual match. Yes, well this day was always going to be more about the occasion and the stadium as opposed to the football. Pre-season friendlies as we've already established are normally turgid affairs. Danny Baker reckons clubs shouldn't even charge for them. But having said that (nod to Larry David) here was a game that ebbed and flowed with goals raining in willy nilly. The pick of the bunch was a LuaLua special in the second half; he cut inside Corluka and unleashed an unstoppable drive from twenty-five yards. Delicious. I wouldn't have got carried away if we'd have won this match (I probably would), and I didn't mind losing. It was, however, thoroughly entertaining.

LuaLua's effort prompted the singing of a song for a full twenty minutes which looks set to split opinion among the Albion faithful: "We are the North stand, the North stand, the North stand,The North stand of the Albion, the Albion, the Albion, The Albion of the Sussex, the Sussex, the Sussex, The Sussex by  the sea, the sea, the sea". Controversial because it's an adaptation of a tune made famous by our bitterest of rivals, Crystal Palace. These guys to be precise.

I'll wager that not one Brighton fan will refer to our new gaff as the 'American Express Community Stadium'. It'll be either The Amex or simply, Falmer. But after those 14 years of nomadic existence, I'll readily take it as my new home. To me, for now anyway, it'll be referred to as the "American Beauty". Cheers Tony Bloom.

Up for the cup

Got any spare change mate? EFW meets Albion's new million pound man, Craig Mackail-Smith.

A couple of arty ones from The Ball is Round's Stuart Fuller to finish with.

For lots more photos from the day CLICK ME.

Discuss this and more on the EFW Forum


Danny Last said...

The Ball is Round version:

A gallery from the excellent We Are Brighton:

Nick said...

Great stuff. This will carry me on a wave of excitement until the Donny game, I'm still an Amex virgin. Pre-packed for grandchildren-on-knee storytelling when I'm fat(ter) and grey. GOSBTS

Anonymous said...

All lovely, except the link to the P*l*c* article. The new chant yesterday didn't scan. Now I know why..... whatever - the Amex is stunning.

Danny Last said...

@Nick You'll absolutely love it mate. It ticks all the boxes.

@Anon - The fact that chant has annoyed Palace fans makes it just about acceptable in my eyes.

There's another report here from The Hovian:

And there's a splendid gallery of fan's photos gathering over on North Stand Chat:

Kenny Legg said...

Butternut squash pies? Really? Pah, the modern world hey...

Danny Last said...

@Kenny Legg And not a free swiss roll in sight!

Yasser said...

How easy it would be to get tickets for league games? Will we need a membership?

And, which stand would you recommend getting in?

Anonymous said...

Danny, as you well know that chant was doing the rounds in Spain well before palace picked it up -

Yes palace sing it but so do many clubs. Oh well back to ALLLLLLLBIOOOON next week.

Danny Last said...

@Yasser You have to get yourself a 'fan number' from the club. It takes seconds, and it's free. I'd recommend sitting in the East Stand as you'll get a magnificent view of the West Stand in all its glory.

@Anon - Absolutely correct. ALLLBBIIIOONN is my least favourite Brighton song. I was delighted it only got a couple of airings yesterday. For what it's worth - I like the new song. I'd love a full rendition of "We Are Brighton" to echo around the ground next Saturday.

Nick said...

I see Aussie Denz checked in 24 minutes ago from Melbourne, marvellous scenes.

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