Time for Poyet to Foxtrot Oscar

So the Gus Poyet saga is heading towards over. No news yet on the appeal to his sacking but the club have moved on and appointed a new man to a new role. Welcome to Brighton and Hove Albion, The Amex and, most importantly Casa Don Carlos, Oscar Garcia Junyent. Head coach. *winks*

The manner of Poyet’s sacking (and indeed his suspension) has been the subject of much talk on Twitter and Facebook, in pubs and workplaces and on North Stand Chat (a place I normally leave for the close season). Fans have appeared to be divided in to Club and Poyet camps much as you appear to have to choose between Labour and Tory or Simon Cowell and humanity. In reality I’m not sure the camps are that straight forward.

For me Poyet’s position became untenable the second he speculated about ‘hitting the roof’ after the Palace defeat. I’m not saying I know that’s why he was suspended because no one outside the proceedings knows that, but saying ‘can I have a shitload more cash please boss’ when you’ve just capitulated at home to your biggest rivals is never going to go down well. That doesn’t mean I’m not appreciative of everything he did while he was here (something I’ll come back to a bit later).

Equally, no matter what they say, in my opinion the club scored a PR own goal as spectacular as the one by Colin Hawkins at Withdean with the manner in which they announced Poyet’s sacking. Allowing him to go on TV and claim he had found out about his sacking live on air, whatever the reality, looked bad to fans of other clubs and the public at large. The placing of the statement simply could not have been more badly timed. This does not mean I am anti club, anti Paul Barber or stirring up heated revolution against the legend that is Tony Bloom. Simply that I have found some of the goings on at the club frustrating and puzzling. If that’s how I see it as a fan what must the players have been thinking?

The club have come back strongly this week with the appointment of Oscar. Unlike the hoards of experts on NSC who somehow managed to make time to watch every Maccabi Tel Aviv game last season as well as ours, I don’t actually know anything about him beyond a paper coaching record and a vague memory of someone swarthy turning out for Barcelona on nights when there was no game on featuring an Englsih team. However it’s that Barca pedigree that excites me. The team under Poyet were staffed and set up to play a particular way and it needed a particular type of boss to be appointed to take us forward. It increasingly looks like we are adopting the Swansea model, something that excites and pleases me in equal measure.

Besides, as unknown as Oscar may be in England, he represents the polar opposite of the gravy train of failed mediocrity that is the rest of the English managerial merry go round. Some of the other names touted were just ridiculous. Harry “£12 million on Christopher Samba” Redknapp with his huge Sandbanks residence to maintain? No thanks. Glenn “it’s the disabled’s own fault” Hoddle with his failure academy and failed tenure at Wolves? Not on your nelly. Colin Wanker? As out moded as my mum’s prawn cocktail recipe. *makes Family Fortunes big yellow cross noise*

No Oscar is a spectacular gamble from a spectacular gambler but I’d rather we were going large (and modern) with a high risk strategy than trying not to lose our stake by constantly folding. In Tony and Oscar we trust.

That doesn’t mean I want to rewrite Poyet’s history. In my less than humble opinion he’s the best manager we’ve had since Mullery. A dispassionate look at statistics and names backs this up. Whereas Mickey Adams’s first signing as manager second time round was the aforementioned Colin Hawkins, Poyet brought flair and a trophy to the grim surroundings of Withdean. Far before we had the Amex we had Elliot Bennet and Liam Bridcutt, exciting young players far too good for that league. Poyet turned Kazenga Lua Lua from a sprinter and gymnast with a brain the size of a pea in to a footballer with a brain the size of a pea. He kept us up in his first season and then set about building a side that was part football team, part philosophy and all ego. Poyet’s ego.

Ultimately that might be what led to the unfortunate events of the last month and a bit but we should not forget that we improved our league position in every season under Gus just as he’d promised. That fans used to watching the aforementioned Hawkins, for whom Gary Hart was a hero because he was “a trier” have suddenly been treated to Wayne Bridge, Tomasz Kuszczak, Matthew Upson and Vicente, internationals all as well as Greer, Bridcutt and CMS earning international call ups (*whispers* but only for Scotland). Winning League 1 while winning all 8 games in March, the St Patrick’s Day massacre of Palace, our first shot at the top flight via the playoffs since 1991, the 6-1 demolition of Blackpool and the spectacular, breathtaking opening competitive win at the Amex over Doncaster were all achieved while aboard the Gus Bus. Now, however it is being overtaken by the Os-car. Let’s hope it’s a joyride.

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Fixtures

It’s the day my weekend life until next May is planned out and as such a day I look forward to and dread in equal measure. The fixtures are out for next season which would be great if we actually had a manager to plan them but we still seem to be lacking in that department. On the Gus saga there is not much to say factually other than it seems a meeting is planned with him for Thursday 20th. The insane reactionary who lives within every football fan (mine is just behind my right knee) has already dictated this is far too late and we should have just got rid of Gus the way any other club gets rid of their manager. The rational human being may now have taken over and suppressed the shouting. What if this is the way ALL dismissals of managers have to be under Financial Fair Play? When you pay off a manager that’s an immediate hit on your bottom line. It could yet prove to be a master stroke on the club’s behalf but at the moment it’s a frustrating one. I still believe we will go in to the start of the season under prepared. Good job we don’t have a tough start then. Like, say, Leeds away. Oh.

To be fair in the last two seasons we’ve had some cracking games with Leeds at home and some good results up there, drawing two seasons ago and going one better last season winning 2-1 and securing our playoff place. However if you were offered a choice of starts in the Championship, going to Elland Road first up would probably not be many people’s first choice.

At least it’s away. I say that completely selfishly. I had sort of forgotten the early start to the season and that day I have promised to take the kids to their Grandma’s for a whistle stop tour of London, a sort of Saga meets Playgroup sightseeing trip where the only thing we will be guaranteed they will notice will be pigeons and Japanese people. It’s going to make listening to the game a bit difficult mind you.

The thing is, as a former away game regular who now only gets his fix at Falmer, I looked, not as many would for the tasty away days but rather for when I could get out of the house, away from the kids and down and dirty with a pint of Harvey’s for a couple of hours. I know I will already be missing one home game early on as we’ll be on holiday but luckily that game is Millwall. For once we get them on a Saturday and since the fixtures came out a few hours ago my money’s on a few of the local likely lads phoning Columbia and asking for extra supplies. There will be strict segregation at this game not only between home and away fans but also within the away end between Bermondsey and Peckham. A third area, known as “the boxing ring” will also be created. Thank fuck I’m in Spain for that one.

Another dilemma that comes up every fixtures day is whether or not to put the fixture on our Big Family Calendar That Is The Source Of All Bookings now or wait a bit. To not put it on now risks me forgetting to put it on ever and therefore being trumped in my attempts to go to a game by a Nearly New Sale or Toddler Disco. To put it on however is to tempt the Gods of Sky (or even the Gods of the University of Sussex) to immediately move the game to a time that clashes directly with The Boy’s swimming lesson (or a Nearly New Sale or Toddler Disco). Every time you see an ad on Sky Sports promising you ‘even more action’ next season be aware that what they really mean is ‘even more chances to fuck up the lives of people who choose to watch their 3D football in real 3D at the ground’.

In the absence of Palace there is no big derby game this year (even when we play Derby – that’s the little Derby game). So are there any highlights to look forward to?

Oddly Yeovil and Bournemouth. Fans of both clubs will be more than used to sitting watching games at Brighton in the open air with a terrible view over a running track. This time round they’ll not only be able to get beer in the ground but half of them will have an effective roof and all should be able to see the far goal. Doncaster is always good for pally rivalry and a fairly nailed on three points. None of the sides who came down from the Premiership interest me at all but I have just finished texting fellow school Dad Andy the Bluenose to let him know that Sat 11 Jan is the day that Birmingham get to mug us of three points again. We finish away at Notts Forest but anyone planning on a round at the Notts Co social club or Trip to Jerusalem should know that the 15:00 kick off time attributed to that is already pure fiction. Sky will dictate it’s 12:15 again surely.

Despite my birthday being on a Saturday this year we have managed to get an away game that day which, given the state of me and my brother after my birthday home game last year will at least be a blessing to my wife. She can look forward to me moping in front of Johnny and Warren in a reasonably sober fashion this time round, unless of course my present this year is to actually get to go to an away game? You are reading this aren’t you love? My blog? The Brighton one?

*cleans kitchen and buys beauty voucher*

It’s a Cliché – But We Are Preparing to Fail.

It’s annoying that one of the phrases (actually make that two but they mean the same thing) that annoys me immensely – that is almost a self parody of a phrase – is nevertheless very true. It has been uttered from every desperate would be Napoleon from Micky Adams to Nev from The Call Centre via anyone who’s had a first day in Junior Management and is trying to find a mantra to justify their entry in to the world of the de luxe coffee machine and corporate parking space. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. See also Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail. See, I told you there were two. They are as annoying as one another. And they are true. It’s my deepest worry at the moment that Brighton and Hove Albion are preparing to fail.

Let’s look at where we are. The regular season finished on 4th May. Most clubs in The Football League knew on that day what division they would be in next season and who their manager would be. Most could start planning how to improve on the season just past the very next day. What sort of players fit? How do we get them on our budget? Are any of those players in the under 21s tournament going to be out of contract or available on loan? Whose contract is expiring on 1 June?

We have not been able to do any of that. To put it starkly we are over a month behind the competition. You think I’m exaggerating or panicking? Here are a few less than comfortable home truths.

We have no left back. No one really thought we could compete on wages for Wayne Bridge but with the management team still suspended we couldn’t even try, never mind get in a replacement. Whoever comes in will be our fourth starting left back in three years. They will need to connect with the rest of the back four but who knows if they’ll have the time?

Nottingham Forest are circling round Spanish Dave like flies round a really fresh and juicy cow pat. This most English of teams wants one of our flairtastic midfielders and there may be nothing we can do to stop it. Our star striker meanwhile doesn’t even know if his manager will speak the same language as him next season. In unconnected news business loans for new tapas bars in Brighton have started to be refused and the specials board is back at Casa Don Carlos.

Matt Upson who was an absolute rock in central defence in the second half of the season and who was apparently ‘playing for a contract’ down here is a free agent. Anyone could snap him up. Call me mad but I’m expecting it to be a team with a manager who’s allowed in the front door.

Meanwhile Gus may be suspended but there are certain things we can’t stop him doing. Consequently another hiatus in the situation has developed while he slopes off to Barbados to play masters football and tell Roberto Di Matteo not to touch us with a very long piece of spaghetti (though if we couldn’t afford Bridge I have no idea how fans think we will afford RDM).

A final worrying thought. This season starts on 3rd August. We are a month behind  and we have less than two months to go until the madness starts again. With no manager, no left back and no footballing philosophy. We have got a new membership scheme that nobody wants though so at least the club haven’t been sitting completely idle.