Writers, bloggers, journalists and generally opinionated people should not be stuck for words. It’s like a chef who has forgotten how to boil an egg. And yet I have sat down this morning (with a large coffee and two paracetamol) with the distinct impression I have written this all before. How do I make original the fact that I once again used one of the best views in the entire ground to get a bit pickled and miss the only goal (or at least its build up) because I was busy talking? Yet that is what happened.
So the match report part of this will be necessarily short but the blog won’t. This is a time of year when everyone takes stock and reviews and BBOAH is no different. Plus, this week, I had a close up look at why we are truly Premier League Ready.
The Match / Day Out
Christmas. It’s a great excuse for getting out there with your friends (or indeed, on Christmas Day, sitting at home) and getting absolutely smashed. There’s a multitude of excuses and mine (given that I work from home for a company with two Jehovas Witnesses as PAs and quite a few Muslim employees) is catching up with friends rather than the office Christmas Do. I had already had one such session up a QPR though I’d had no intention of covering that game with any sort of report. But you guys expect a home report right? Some of you poor sods have actually been waiting for this to come out. Which is a shame as I’m still trying to piece it together.
I know we went to Brewdog. I was catching up with a very good friend and we hadn’t had a boys night in a long while and then never in Brighton so we took the opportunity to visit one of the newer pubs with its delicious craft beers and crisp packets full of dried ham type snacks. When my mate checked in on Facebook another friend suggested we should attempt the six pint walk off to which we replied we’d rather see the football. On balance we probably should have stayed in the boozer.
My mate’s company occasionally lets him use their 1901 tickets and so, for the second time since we moved in to The Amex I did something that in general goes against my grain and went corporate. I talked about this in last season’s Brentford report. I’d rather wear trainers and no collar. I’d rather be singing. But that said there are a number of advantages. No queues at the bar (except for half time and even then we got served quickly), beer out of a glass, a seat at a table and the best view in the house.
We had one of those sessions that only good mates can have. We put the world to rights over a pint and then we put it to rights again over another. I had TWO pies. I justified all this excess with the slightly terrifying thought that I am signed up for the Brighton Marathon in April and will by “dry” from 1 January. So it was sort of like a prisoner scoffing a last meal. What this meant though, was that my judgement was slightly clouded, key moments wise. The opening exchanges seemed even enough, certainly compared to Middlesboro. Ipswich were not as fast on the break and our five man midfield had tightened that up anyway, but it did mean we sacrificed the penalty box presence that has characterised most of our home games this season. Then we took the lead. Or at least I thought we did, a good cross from the right being turned on to the bar before Murphy put the rebound in to an empty net. What the rest of the ground had realised, however, was that he was offside. Whoops.
A minute later or so and I turned to my mate to opine that I didn’t think Ipswich were all that. I picked a moment when we were comfortable passing the ball around at the back. I turned back to the action to see Darryl Murphy clean through. How the actual HECK did that happen? Of course I have since seen the replay of Mr Dunk making his one point costing error that he does every game. It was unforgivable. Murphy slotted home via a post and despairing dive. 1-0 them.
To be fair though Ipswich probably deserved to go in one up at half time having hit the bar before any of this happened through a cracking long range shot from Bru, while the same player also hit the post later on. We forced a couple of good saves but we looked nothing like the side that had seemed certain to score in most of our other home games.
Then we had a pint at half time and the rest of the game passed in a blur. I’m pretty sure Bobby hit the bar for us from a decent VLP centre (though at that stage it could have come from Bruno as far as I could see) while Stockdale made a couple of decent saves, but by then I had reacted to what I saw as an inevitable defeat by chatting to and laughing with my mate. That seems to be what one does in corporate hosp anyway. It ended 1-0 to them and even through my beer sozzled blue and white spec wearing eyes they probably deserved it. So what next? And how have we done so far?
Grounds for Optimism
The day before The Boy and I had finally got round to taking a ground tour. The other great thing about Christmas is that I can normally get away with a big amount of leave and so we booked the tour as one of his Christmas presents (I know, maybe next year I’ll get “him” away tickets somewhere) to be taken on one of my days off.
It’s easy to mock the phrase “Premier League Ready” when you’re at the wrong end of the table and indeed everyone did, including me. However, here was an opportunity to see what a prospective new player sees in front of him on match days. In fact it’s only half the story as they now also get to see one of the best training facilities in Europe. Everyone – the media, players, officials and coaches are afforded state of the art facilities that blew me away (not hard given that when I played our pre match warm up was a smoke behind the changing shed).
If you haven’t done it do. The finishing touch is the museum and this has been done utterly brilliantly. The Boy could not believe my formative football watching years happened behind an eight foot fence with spikes on. His eyes opened wide as I told him about York City, Hereford and Doncaster, going to Gillingham and winning back the club. He seemed more impressed with that than with the fact we’d played in a Cup Final. All of it was beautifully and carefully illustrated with memorabilia.
The point? We have history and we have quality facilities and, now, we have money and a chairman who claims we are going to strengthen from a position of strength. We will need to. There was something eerily familiar about last night, something very last season and that’s not a surprise because, with the exception of the rookie Goldson (who looked decent) and the front three it WAS last season’s team. OK, the second half because we had Kayal and Stephens but both of those players are now looking jaded. They could do with a rest.
So we need to bring in quality. No offence to legends like Calde and Crofts who will always have a place in our supporters hearts but not only was last night’s team not good enough for the Premier League, it was not good enough for The Championship, which is a shame given our facilities.
Happy Anniversary Chris
Finally a word about our manager. For all the negatives above, if you’d told me we’d reach the turn of the year in fourth place with 44 points I’d have bitten your arm off (well ok, I’m not a sushi loving cannibal and anyway that seems to be cruel to a bearer of good news so I wouldn’t have but I would have taken it there and then).
Tomorrow is Chris’s one year anniversary with the club. He has kept us up with very little to work with. He has brought in quality. He has made the first three months of this season some of my most enjoyable ever with the club. He has been incredibly unlucky with injuries. He’s done all of this with dignity and intelligence. Thank you Chris. In an era of managerial turnover here’s hoping for many more years.