First the positives. We didn’t lose. David Stockdale was superb. And, in the week my wife put me on a strict diet I was able to look at Steve Evans and see what would happen if I didn’t comply. We scored a goal, albeit as a result of a terrible first touch. Paddy McCourt briefly lit up the stadium with some genius wing play and the perfect low cross across the six yard box which ALL three of our strikers stood and admired. Paddy went apoplectic. I went apoplectic. My friend Steve went apoplectic (or so he told me, he used the actual word). Half the ground held their heads in disbelief. The other half? They were empty seats.
Yes, it was another exercise in futility, frustration and effing up. To make us look bad this season all you need to do is have a couple of big, physically fit players (and every other Championship side except us does) who are prepared to burst in to the channel at speed. That’s it. That basic. That’s how to counter Brighton.
The players don’t understand the tactics. I don’t think the players like the tactics. The players are all over the place. I’ve never seen us give the ball away so much. Having taken an improbable lead through a poor Joe Bennett first touch, followed by a brilliant Joe Bennett finish, just before half time, we should have come out for the second half riding a wave of optimism. Instead we switched off and, once again, let our opponents straight back in to it. By 85 minutes we were already in the dressing room. Five minutes left of real time plus an implausible four minutes injury time and yet we’d given up already, as had the majority of the emptying ground. It felt like only me, the boy, Best Friend and his boys and the people in the row in front were watching. In actual fact there were other pockets of die hards still there. The Police Box singers. The guys around me at the back of the WSU G and H blocks. The A21 club. Another pocket or two in the North. There is a risk they will be the only ones who turn up next season. At the whistle a chorus of boos rang round the stadium.
Just a week ago when We Are Brighton tweeted the question of Hyypia in or out I was on the fence, mainly because he’d only had a few games and I wasn’t sure who we’d get in to replace him. Two games later it is clear he’s lost the dressing room, or at least split it, since Bennett and Stockdale’s post match interviews contradicted each other. The risk of keeping him is now too great. He has to go now.
I do feel sorry for him though. When I dared to suggest on another forum that there might be something more sinister to the quick and similar departures of Poyet and Oscar I was rounded on as a heretic against St Tony, St Paul and St David. I was even sent a PM briefing about Oscar’s deficiencies. And yet Sami is not entirely culpable here. We’ve spent a summer buying lemons and then given them to a chef who only knows how to make steak and kidney pudding. Yesterday he HAD to start COG. He HAD to put Fenelon on the bench. He HAD to start the disinterested Gary Gardner. However, he CHOSE to play Calderon at wingback instead of in a conventional position. He CHOSE to drop Holla, one of our few decent looking signings (perhaps he has questioned the tactics or gone in to his shell having not understood them). He CHOSE to have Bennett push up, resulting in a goal for us and a goal for them.
I don’t know how many other ways there are of writing this. I will say this to Paul Barber. This is not a moan from someone who doesn’t understand or isn’t prepared to contribute. Aside from my two season ticket DDs, yesterday I bought three rounds of drinks, two pies, a programme and a bag of crisps and I do every game. I work in a financial capacity in a management role and I understand a business plan that shows a protracted operating loss. But while I’m digging in that money not everyone can afford to. That level of spending isn’t viable for anyone who isn’t on a good salary, and I remind you here and now that football is the working man’s game. I would certainly urge every fan to spend as much as they can afford in the stadium but I would also urge St David to stop wasting money on guff like Chris O’Grady, Agustien, Toko, and Gardner. I know which adjustment would see a better result on the pitch and it is now that which is needed to get the income side of the business plan back on track.
I wish I didn’t have to rant. I wish I could dash off a 200 word praise-poem about how great we are and how we’ll be playing Arsenal and Man United next season. However, the reality is, unless Hyypia goes, and unless we adjust the parameters of the famous SWOT sheets we will be playing Colchester, Crawley and Fleetwood next season.
There may be some out there prepared to defend the current set up but none of the people I spoke to were. I talk to fellow bloggers. I talk to people who have followed the Albion and England home and away for decades. Ian Hart was massively critical in the Worthing Herald this week and Adam Virgo was after the match. Loyal fans, former players and fellow writers all shaking their heads in disbelief. Something needs to change.