OMG! I’m super excited! Like totes!
Sorry, I don’t know what’s come over me (except that if I keep writing like that the answer will eventually be Joey Essex). It’s just that I’m going to my first away game for SEVEN AND A HALF YEARS on Saturday. I really wasn’t kidding when I named this blog. Back then The Boy was The Baby. I had just come back from four years living abroad and combined the odd Withdean game with the odd away game. At the end of that season we played Cheltenham away and I went, partly to get away from my Step Father In Law who’d invited himself down. We had cheese and organic cider on the train, got there for opening time and one of my mates sported a particularly daft false mullet and tashe combo to the derision of the rest of us. Standard.
At the time I really didn’t think that would be it for me and away games but the demands of family and work meant that was it for me and footy for a while. Then, after years of campaigning (of which a bit more later), we got our new ground and I did my deal with the devil, a home season ticket in exchange for family duties on away days. Sounded fair enough to me. However, The Boy was no longer a baby. He was becoming increasingly interested in what Daddy was doing at “the football”. Eventually he found out. Though he can’t remember his first game (which was lucky as it was the dreadful 1-3 reverse to Watford in Poyet’s final season) he went a few times under Oscar and practically begged me for a season ticket this year. Well, who was I to refuse?
Incredibly he is yet to see us win this season. We were in France for Bolton. Wigan was an evening game as were the Capital One Cup games. Yet these are the only home games he’s missed. I’m typing this in January. That tells you all you need to know about our car crash of a season. Clearly, though, he is a natural born Brighton fan as, far from put him off, he has become more and more keen with each game, to the point where he was pestering me to go to an away game. One of the other dads at his school takes his son and we go over together and have a drink before and after the game, and his son wanted to go away too. So we chose Charlton. Nice and easy to get to and very little expectation of a result. Should be perfect. Oh, wait.
Thanks to Network Rail it will actually be a complete pain in the backside to get to. It would probably be quicker to drive to somewhere in the south Midlands than get the train to Charlton on Saturday. At least the boys will have plenty of time to get their questions out of the way I suppose. Meanwhile, since we got the tickets the club has a new manager and has played away in London twice, winning each game 2-0. That’s right. Two wins. Two clean sheets. Four goals including a couple from our strikers. This should ensure an excellent turn out at The Valley and PLENTY of noise, but it also means that, where there was once resigned indifference there is now expectation. Chrissy Hughton’s Blue and White Army need to bring home some points.
What are the chances of that? The reverse game was actually my favourite of the Hyypia era. Admittedly that’s like finding the Christmas Quality Street tin in June and having to choose from the final two but still. Last minute equalizers are brilliant, especially when your seven year old has spent the previous five minutes deriding early leavers on the basis that “we could still score, Dad”. Bob Peeters was sufficiently scathing at the end of the game to suggest he thought we’d lucked out but, at the time, there seemed plenty of promise. Particularly in that game in the way Teixeira linked up with Colunga. Both should be fit to start this one. Other changes for us have seen Gary Gardner return to Villa to absolutely no tears whatsoever and Greg Halford come back in to the delight of many Albion fans – not a sentence I ever thought I’d type.
For sure it will not be an easy game as the new boss adapts to a squad that still looks a little thin and leader-less given our injury list. However some of that squad seem to be reborn. COG and Stockdale are notable for the stick they received under Sami but the latter is now showing exactly why we paid what we did for him with some brilliant shot stopping. The former has set up one and scored one in the previous two games despite only coming off the bench. His interview post Brentford is compelling listening. A decent family man who seems to have been messed about by the club and left to the derision of the supporters in an age when it’s the moneyed ex-pros who are attacking the fans. We should re-appraise and accept that we will get a better player if we play to his strengths or a chunk of our money back if he goes back to Sheffield.
I mentioned campaigning earlier. This week we lost a long term campaigner in Sarah Watts who did so much to secure our new ground, fight off the Archerlotti and get homophobia in football on to the mainstream agenda. She was secretary of the Supporters Club when I joined it at the age of seventeen. It’s fair to say that I ended up as not quite a Supporters Club type but not before I had met two very good friends and travelled to a fair few aways on the coaches that she and Liz Costa organised. Her straight talking was legendary and she copped far more stick than she deserved. The Albion have now lost Sarah, Roy Chuter and the Veggie Postie, all contributors in the gory years in different ways, far too young and with the new era only just in full swing. The thoughts of this writer and many Albion fans are with Sarah’s friends and family.