Why Andy Naylor Is (Mostly) Wrong

Good ratings at the Argus this week as Andy Naylor’s latest piece of clickbait went viral. To be fair to Andy it has also spawned plenty of debate among Albion fans in various other media such as North Stand Chat, Twitter and Facebook. He’s clearly touched a nerve. But does he have a point?

The article can be condensed in to three points, always handy when you’re discussing football. Firstly that to help the team get over the promotion finish line the crowd needs to play its part. Indeed to be the twelfth man. We need to turn up and we need to crank up the noise. I don’t really think anyone is disputing that this would be a good thing. Being at a packed, noisy Amex as we’ve seen for both home playoff games (and indeed all the Palace games) or the Arsenal cup games is far more exciting as a fan than a half dead midweek fixture such as Wigan last season. If it gives us a boost, imagine what it does for the players. His central point is correct, if obvious. But how do you get people to read something that is patently correct and obvious? If you’re Andy then you stab them in the back.

You do so firstly by inferring that Brighton fans are turning their back on the team, just as we’re looking like we have a shot of automatic promotion. Andy labours over the attendance at the Reading game. His second point, and one that goes on for far too long without justification, is that the attendance for that game was “poor” and that pointing it out on Twitter just led to “excuses”. Extraordinarily he compares it unfavourably with the Sheffield Wednesday game and our away turn out against MK Dons without realising these games were a massive factor in the turnout.

The Reading game was Category A – that’s the most expensive. Compared to that the Sheffield Wednesday game had a ticket deal, where many seats in the areas that were deserted against Reading were on sale for just ten pounds. Meanwhile, MK, as we know, priced their away tickets amazingly at twelve pounds for adults and kids for a quid. Seven thousand Albion fans lapped up this offer creating our biggest away day for years. Cheap tickets, Saturday 3pm kick off and a one off event created by both factors and clever marketing. Then you had Reading. Full price, rearranged twice, virtually zero opposition fans to generate atmosphere and a week after the dullest game the Amex has seen all season. If you have a limited budget, or a family or work life that dictates you pick and choose your games, which would you pick? The Reading game attendance wasn’t poor, it was higher than most of our rivals have mustered all season despite less than three hundred away fans and ticket pricing bordering on the insane.

Andy finally twists the knife in a bit further by stating that

“The best example of home support is the most painful of all for an Albion fan, Palace at Selhurst Park.”

Great to see this myth propagated by supposedly one of our own, one whose job means he visits Selhurst once in a blue moon. No Andy, a few black clad teenagers with a drum, a bog-roll display and goal music isn’t atmosphere. It’s a drum and some bog-roll.

That statement, of course, is cynically intended to get the article read and responded to on social media, and since I’m still responding he clearly had a great day at the office. It is, however, insulting to many other football fans, not only of Brighton and should be beneath a proper journalist.

Are Palace really better than the incredible numbers who turn up to Plymouth or Pompey, two teams who nearly died, in League Two? Has anyone watched Leicester this season? Their atmosphere is incredible, showing what can be done with the much derided clackers (no, please don’t resurrect them Paul). Are Palace louder than Stoke, Spurs or West Ham? Not for me. And how many did they have roaring them to Championship success? Fourteen, fifteen, nineteen thousand max. You can argue what you like about the noise coming from bigger clubs but to state that Palace are the best example of home support in the country is laughable. Argus ratings one, reality nil.

Recently I was on The Albion Roar and we discussed timings of games that have been rearranged by Sky to death. One of my points was that, in this day and age, you are on very thin ground when mocking attendance figures. You risk thumbing your nose at fans for not paying sixty or seventy quid for a ticket, or not being able to travel the length of the country on a Monday, Tuesday or Thursday night. You risk deriding people for missing five o’clock kick offs as there are in the Europa league or suddenly not being able to go to a game that has been rearranged twice, as with Reading. It is not the fans who we should be having a pop at, it’s the system and the game, one that is in danger of eating itself.

So yes, Andy, we do need the fans to turn up and make some noise. But in this day and age, what’s needed for that isn’t just a successful team. It’s reasonably and consistently priced tickets and Saturday 3pm kick offs. Maybe someone with a journalistic platform could turn their attention to campaigning for both?

0-0 at Yeovil? Let’s All Get Really Angry (or not)

You may think it’s odd writing about a game I wasn’t at but actually people do it all the time. I first noticed this sensation last season when a poster on the message board North Stand Chat posted player ratings based on what they’d heard on the radio. Then, on the same site, someone posted a link to comments from Crystal Palace fans on the 3-0 loss they suffered to us (the St Patricks Day Massacre as it’s known) based entirely on radio commentary aimed at – guess who – Crystal Palace fans. “Wow” I thought, “this reviewing a game you haven’t seen must be a piece of piss”. Thus suitably deluded I knew this blog would be complete.

There is one thing that is handy if you are to base your assessment of the team on a radio commentary though. That’s a radio. I don’t have a radio at the moment. My old one broke and since then I’ve been too busy doing stuff to get a new one, And ting. Stuff and ting. Lots of it. Also some shenanigans and a kerfuffle or two. I normally realise this lack of radio on the morning of an away match by which time I have so much family stuff and ting to do, the chances of me finding a radio that’s priced to suit my parsimonious nature are approximately the same as those of me winning the 2014 X Factor. Naked.

This meant that yesterday I was once again taking the reviewing the radio concept to a new level of ridiculousness. My impression of what was going on at Huish Park was to be gathered from the comments on the Official Match Thread on the aforementioned NSC.

I clearly wasn’t even taking that very seriously. Having recently resolved (yet again) to get a bit fitter I had been out on one last mammoth bender a bike ride along the seafront and therefore got in at ten past three, seriously worried that I might have missed a goal. Ha ha. As I sat down and flicked between the thread and the text commentary on the BBC one thing became abundantly clear. There was not much chance of a goal from either side and people were quite het up about it. Somehow not having the radio commentary took the tension out of this and made it easier to accept. People at the game may have been worried about conceding a last minute winner (or rather loser) but I had accepted a 0-0 from about half an hour in.

What I hadn’t accepted or anticipated was the reaction on the site afterwards. Apparently this was the worst result and performance in the club’s history (despite getting the same result at the even worse Bristol City last season without having a shot – never mind those last years at the Goldstone or the day we lost to nine man Walsall). Apparently we’re doomed to League One (despite being in 14th place, higher than Reading were at this stage two years ago when they ended up winning it). Apparently Oscar doesn’t know what he’s doing (despite us being the only team this season to beat Burnley, despite having got a similar result at big spending QPR, despite only being in the job three months, despite missing seemingly half the team with injuries).

We got a point away. We will be a different side when our injured players are back. The season is never decided in October. And I still didn’t get a radio.

From The Stars to The Gutter

Last week being a Brighton fan was brilliant. Last week we were heading for the stars. We had thrashed Blackpool 6-1 in one of the best displays I’ve ever seen from our club. Then we secured 4th place in the Championship, securing both a playoff place and a higher finish in the table than bitter rivals Crystal Palace, by winning at Leeds and overcoming a disappointing Wolves team. After that game the players did a lap of honour with their kids and I drank myself silly and danced to Northern Soul and reggae in the concourse under the North Stand. A celebration too early? Not a bit of it. Last Friday in the first leg of the playoff semi we went to Palace and came away with a creditable 0-0 draw. We could have won. And they lost Glenn Murray, top scorer and former Seagull to an admittedly horrid injury. While that was nothing to gloat over waking up this time last week felt pretty good. Since then it’s been a load of old shit, metaphorically and allegedly literally.

I write a lot but not much about the Albion. When we moved to the Amex my deal with my family was that I would get a season ticket for home games as long as I didn’t go away. Somehow not seeing away games made me feel I would be commenting on half the story. Towards the end of last season I started to think that my twitter was becoming clogged with BHAFC stuff and that actually ONLY going to home games could be a USP. I planned this blog. This week’s events have accelerated its birth.

So to summarise. We lost the return leg 2-0 to bitter rivals Palace who’s goals came from Wilfried Zaha who, in the first half at Selhurst and in the St Patricks Day Massacre had been distinctly average and had been told about it. Some “genius” in the marketing department decided to hand out annoying colour coded clackers (as someone on NSC said, the sort of thing Reading would do). And someone allegedly took a dump on the Palace dressing room floor, reminding everyone of that old Duncan Ferguson joke.

Then Gus Poyet gave a frankly baffling post match interview that was pretty much a ‘come and get me’ appeal to Premier League teams (Hello? Gus? You just lost. To fucking Palace). As we licked our wounds the news suddenly came that Poyet along with assistants Mauricio Tarrico and Charlie Oatway had been suspended with immediate effect and that the ‘retained’ list had been done by others at the club. As I type all sorts of speculation is rife.   One thing that seems certain is that Poyet won’t be managing us next season.

Poyet. I love that man. Loved anyway. It’s like breaking up with an annoying partner you happen to be addicted to. His teams played beautiful football, the emphasis on skill and passing. We were like the Little Girl With The Curl. When we were good we were very, very good and when we were bad we were horrid. No plan B, team selections that were occasionally baffling and the total inability to come from behind (ironic given the gay chants aimed at Brighton). But against that the likes of ex England players Bridge and Upson playing in the stripes along with ex-Spain Vicente. The same Vicente who today stuck the knife in to Gus’ still twitching body in the local paper. He won League 1 at a canter in a crappy old athletics stadium. Then we finished above Palace in the first season back in the Championship (this matters). Then this season there was the St Patricks Day Massacre followed by the Blackpool game and 4th place. Make no mistake Poyet achieved.

So if and when he goes who will go with him? Bridge and Upson’s loans are over and I don’t think Senor Vicente will be getting a call but the player I want to stay more than anyone is Liam Bridcutt. Liam plays football like Heston cooks, like Johnny Marr plays guitar, like Clive James writes. This pretty much guarantees he will be off to Norwich.

As for the next manager who knows? All I know for now is that we are back in the gutter. We have to get back, somehow, to the stars. I hope to document the journey.