It’s not every day you get a preview on Brighton But Only At Home but then again we don’t have a match every day. If we did we’d need a squad of eighty players, Tony would be destitute by October and the only person who could afford a season ticket would be The Queen. Sky would continue as normal.
So what I mean is they’re rare. Rare enough to warrant me creating a new Category, a Category that might only ever have one post in it. So why? Well firstly I’m on holiday from work without actually being away anywhere warm with exotic lager and egg and chips priced in Euros. I have a list of jobs to do that reads (approximately); paint shed, take rubbish to dump, family trip to Science Museum, clean paddling pool, write Blackburn preview.
Secondly, though, I’m EXCITED.
Is this the most eagerly anticipated game at The Amex ever? Obviously not. I don’t have the same level of excitement I did before the first competitive game at our new ground against Doncaster for example (and nothing could ever live up to the climax of that particular game). Nor is the tension in the house as palpable as it was when we were about to take on Palace in the playoffs (an ending I’d like never to repeat). Arsenal and Liverpool have visited in competitive games and we have twice vanquished poor Newcastle sides (Newcastle, remember, are an even bigger deal than Sheffield Wednesday).
But compared to last season I’m like the kid who is about to have a birthday party in a Nerf Gun shooting range hosted by Stampy the Minecraft Vlogger and surrounded by bowls of never ending chocolates.
Last season –certainly between October and Christmas and definitely towards the end – I did not want to go to football. Despite the presence of good friends, assurances from The Brass that we were Premier League Ready and a huge poster of JFC (yes I know) proclaiming we had “one ambition” I TRUDGED from the station to the ground like a kid who’s been forced to see that Great Aunt who smells of poo and has the frisky Chihuahuas. We knew – all of us – that we had as much chance of scoring as Plug from The Bash St Kids at a Miss Universe convention.
Not now. OK, I’m possibly jinxing it and I promise all of you, right now, that if we’re terrible tomorrow I won’t write another match preview until the next time I’m bored at home with only an algae filled paddling pool competing for my attention. But I really do think the days of Brighton Nil are in the past.
Firstly we have had a tremendous start. Top of the table after match two and joint top (sort of) after three we have gleaned seven points out of a possible nine. Each of our starting strikers has a goal to their name, something that took until I can’t remember last season (when we only had one starting striker anyway and that was often COG) and we have scored a last minute winner and a first minute goal.
The squad is genuinely evolving as squads should. The defence already has much more strength in depth than last season (though, like my Fulham report, Dunk needs his own paragraph later on). It also has more pace, particularly down the left, meaning we are not defending so deeply. Jamie Murphy has been added as an option to the attack, Kayal and Stephens are forming a natural midfield partnership and we have not one but two number nines who are better than COG (albeit we will probably see one of them about as much as we saw Vicente). We are also playing a style of football that actually suits the league we’re in and players we have, rather than some pipe dream about being the next Barcelona or Germany.
Our opponents tomorrow, meanwhile have none of this. Owned by mental chicken farmers who apparently didn’t understand the concept of relegation Blackburn seem to be the only club in the country suffering under the FFP rules. The hugely impressive Gestade has already left as has Tom Cairney (one of Fulham’s best players last week). In have come Nathan Delfouneso from that current footballing powerhouse Blackpool and Hope Akpan, generously described by Reading fans as a “six out of ten player”.
Of course there is plenty of danger remaining. We all know what a good cross Craig Conway can put in if he’s in the mood while our summer pursuit of Ben Marshall may (hopefully) create its own Dunk type benching situation (though I doubt it). Jordan Rhodes is still just about there. So there is plenty of danger in their attack. They have scored in every game they have played this season though only once in each. They got exactly the same result as us at Huddersfield but they are yet to win a game (including a 1-2 defeat at home to Shrewsbury in the League Cup ). They are both a danger and there for the taking and therefore predicting a 1-1 draw seems the sensible thing to do.
But I don’t want to be sensible. I want to make up puerile songs about Gaetan Bong. I want to get one of those lary hi viz away shirts with “25 ZAMORA” on the back (ok I don’t but I’m as close to buying a replica shirt with a number on it for myself as I ever have been). I want to write to 4-4-2 magazine and tell them that their season preview was wrong, ironically because we are playing 4-4-2. I want to sniff a £4.10 sausage roll, sit in a padded seat and swing a scarf over my head to “Ring of Fire”. In other words my Albion mojo is BACK.
Oh yeah, I promised a paragraph on Dunk. Firstly the club have, apparently, turned down a fresh bid of £5 million from Fulham this week. All of the public noises say we do not want to sell. Yet we have, this week, added a promising young centre back in the form of Connor Goldson from Shrewsbury and I doubt we persuaded him to sign by telling him he’d be fourth choice. So long as GG’s body is holding up I would not expect Dunk to be starting tomorrow. Nor, necessarily, would I expect him to be here at the end of the window. There will be more transfer dealings to come before September, of that I have no doubt. Whether we’ll meet the exorbitant demands of the mental chicken farmers for Marshall remains to be seen. However, neither should we expect the likes of Gary Gardner on loan.
Attendance: 25,000 ish again including 400 odd Blackburn fans who will be applauded despite spending the afternoon singing inaudible homophobic “funnies”.
Team: Unchanged with the exception of Murphy coming in for March.