“With all due respect…”

So here’s the thing. I was expecting to arrive in Stoke to find the attitude ‘with all due respect, we should be beating teams like Brighton’.

The reality was that they were bricking it. Not since their first season back at the top table 10 years ago have they ever found themselves in serious relegation bother. Stoke as a place has got a bad reputation and even the local rozzers advised me when I was looming for a recommended watering hole ‘you really don’t want to go into town mate’, and directed us towards the nearest designated away pub which was a Student Union bar which was advertising their Valentine’s night. If the best that Stoke can offer for a romantic night out is an evening with the Chuckle Brothers then thank God I live in Sussex.

A very nice pub was actually found which even boasted a deli counter – so not all bad. A bus to the ground was very simple.

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Since our last visit the corners have been filled in and the attendance was in fact a record 29,876, which perhaps was a portent for how massive this game was to them. The team news saw one change for the Albion, with Solly March preferred to Anthony Knockaert. It’s clear that Chris Hughton thinks that Solly is more reliably defensively than AK.

Stoke had been starting with Peter Crouch of late but an injury to the lanky mirth maker meant his place was taken by Chuba Moting. Whoever advised him that the man bun actually looks good was clearly taking the piss. Albion started brightly and when Glenn Murray played in Jose Izquierdo, breath was held. However, despite applying a better finish than he did early doors at Southampton the South American Express’s shot was brilliantly saved by Jack Butland. The game was far from the war of attrition most of us were expecting and both teams were not there to play out a draw. Chances were coming for both teams but some trademark woeful finishing did for both teams.

There was nothing woeful about Albion’s goal though.

At the time I wondered why Gross played square to Jose but as El Pig drove into the box and played  a series of 1-2s and then slotted past Butland I erm… forgave him. It was the best team goal we have scored this season and the speed of the interplay was a delight. Izquierdo has clearly found his mojo and is displaying the sort of form that made him our record signing.


The Stoke fans were definitely getting twitchy and when Pascal Gross wandered in to the box, their anxiety levels went up a notch. I’m still not quite sure what the German engineer of goals was thinking as he tried to find a banana clad team mate but the chance game to nothing.

Tension amongst the Stokies was high at half time but you knew that the Potters would come out fired up. Two corners in the first two minutes got the Abion faithful’s nerves a bit frayed but amazingly, Stoke are worse at corners than us…. taking them that is. Will we ever score from a corner this season?

The game continued to go from end to end but we created the better chances, most of which were falling to a much more advanced Davy Pröpper, but he couldn’t finish any of them. Stoke were pushing and, in Shakiri, they have player who can always find space …which he needs. He’s the size of a detached bungalow in the Cotswolds. And space he found as he advanced on the area and curled one into the bottom corner.

The Bet365 / Brittania is loud; very loud when it gets going and my God it got going. We continued to probe though and silence the crowd. Changes were made with Ulloa replacing Murray, and Kayal replacing Gross. Ulloa has come back to us a much better all-round player. His touch, movement and passing ability show that He has spent a lot of time with a higher quality of player.

So to the finish then. By now you will have all seen the replays. It wasn’t a pen. It wouldn’t have been given as a foul in the centre circle so it shouldn’t be a foul anywhere else. The fact that Jesè went down just proves that he is a big version of his name… He wanted to take the spot kick himself but after a bit of jostling, designated taker Charlie Adam lined up to take it.


I’ve seen worse penalties and it took a magnificent save from Mat Ryan and some last ditch defending from Lewis Dunk to retain parity. So it finished honours-even and on balance, probably a fair result but we had chances to put the game beyond them and to stay up. We should really be beating teams like Stoke…


2017 – the finest year in the history of the Brighton & Hove Albion

A bold statement, but I am going to endeavour to back it up.

For a start, I’m not putting it out there in terms of stats and figures. There have been other years where we have scored more goals, gained more points, conceded fewer and so on (actually, 2016 takes most of those plaudits).

My assertion that it is the finest year ever is based on the slightly more intangible. I’ve just been reading through people’s Albion memories of 2017, and one thing strikes a chord more than other. 20 years since resurrecting our club from the wastelands of Archer tuberculotic P&L sheets – the work we had put in, the marches we had gone on, the letters written, the political candidates, the petitions, the banner over bridges – everything we had done over the past two decades was building to this. And this was OUR MOMENT, one we as fans had collectively worked towards. We had booked it, paid for it – it was our turn.

When we fell at the final hurdle at Middlesbrough in 2016 in truth, I never really believed we were fully ready. However, for a team which finishes third (automatic promotion once upon a time), to not only repeat the feat, but to better it (we’re not going to talk about those last three matches of the season) shows class, character and desire. And no little love.

The signs were there. Tony Bloom had put an £8m chip on the table to keep Dale Stephens at the club. And no-one goes eye-to-eye with the Lizard in a game of high stakes poker for one of our players and comes out smiling. Glenn Murray came home. Shane Duffy joined and became a colossus – horizontal and vertical.* Knockaert was on fire, and it was a team (hardly ever) laid down and died.

The year started amazingly well. Hemed and Dunk scoring with 90 seconds of each other at Fulham; the Putney end threatened to collapse, and I still wince when I see Shane Duffy bundling on top of the celebratory pile. Sheffield Wednesday at home, bloody hell – That. Felt. Good. Hemed at Brentford (with a jubilant Bloom in the crowd), Pocognoli at QPR (‘scenes of utter bedlam’), AK on fire at Wolves and on and on.


Tony Bloom – the man, his moment

And how good was 17th April 2017…? A run-of-the-mill (eventually) victory over a mediocre Wigan Athletic side secured the near-as-dammit nailed-on probability that we had been promoted. Cue enormous pitch invasion, great scenes and a bawdy, NSFW karaoke singalong from a dozen half-naked players in the Press Area. Fast forward two hours, promotion is secured and we do it all over again. This time, however, the players had got some clothes on. Two more hours and some half-cut Albion players are passed down the train like a torpedo on the way into town.

When Paul Hodson, Steve North and I put on ‘Build A Bonfire’ back in April, we knew we were in the middle of the zeitgeist. We had been promoted 11 days before – ‘We’re On Our Way’ was a constant earworm, and the city was dressed in blue and white. More so than the Cup Final, and (from memory) more so than promotion in 1979, we were the footballing story. People wanted to know about us; about our story. And ours is a story which does need telling. So we told it.

We were ridiculed by other fans for having an open top bus parade for finishing second. Twaddle. We were having a parade for the 20-year journey we had made together from Gillingham to Withdean – via John Prescott, NIMBYism, letter-writing, local authorities, planning consultants, planning lawyers and a whole host of other bodies that have no business involving themselves in the history of our old and cherished club – to Falmer to get where we are. And to go into the final game of 2017 in 12th place in the Premier League? You’d have bitten your arm off for it in September, let alone this time last year.


Hove seafront – a riot of sunshine, flags, ticker-tape, fans and noise. Together.

We made a slow, nervous, rabbit-in-the-headlights start to our second spell in the top flight, but I believe we have already better equipped ourselves in this division this time around than in 1979. A great win at home to West Brom, and and even better one away at West Ham have already made people sit up and notice. Chances of PL survival are reasonable; more optimistic than the outlook back in August. The second half of the year hasn’t been the total crash-and-burn some may have feared.

But, for me, if 2017 has to be about one person – it’s about Chris Hughton. Again. The man is a hero. Never mind the wonderful in-jokes about his behaviour on the touchline – this man has got us to where we are today. He kept his head while all those around him were screaming theirs off. He doesn’t always get it right, but he does so far more often than he gets it wrong. He has by no means taken the club as far as he can; I believe he has plenty more gears to go through, and if Plan A (not getting relegated) for 2018 can be achieved, he will have there wherewithal to take us much further. And if we do go down, I can think of no better person to take us straight back up.


Pragmatic, considered and respected – Chris Hughton is one of the finest managers ever to take the hotseat at Brighton & Hove Albion

We’ve done as well as we have in 2016 and 2017 because we’ve done it the right way… #Together. 

So – as an Albion fan, was there a better, more memorable year? Does 1979 (as a whole) compare? Was another year better – given the context? If so, when? Over to you…

* His leaping and his diving headers. What did you think I meant?

Booker to a T…

The Roar’s Alan Wares reviews ‘Ooh-Ahh – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman – a funny, open and sometimes uncomfortable look into the life of the Albion’s long-time Assistant Manager.


There was a moment during ‘An Evening With Booker & McGhee’ recently where Bob stopped himself halfway through a point he was making by pondering ‘… it feels funny, even after all these years, to call him ‘Mark’ rather than ‘gaffer’…’ McGhee, with customary lightning speed, responded ‘no, don’t call me Mark…” McGhee disarmed a potentially over-revealing moment with fine diplomacy. Booker’s unnecessary pause sought to highlight the deference, even 12 years on, in which he holds McGhee.

It was a similar recurring theme which I came across as I read through Greville Waterman’s excellent ‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’. Added to this is the fact that Booker, former assistant manager at the Albion under six different managers, feels humbled and grateful to have worked with each and every one of them.

Booker started his playing career at Brentford, before a surprise Indian summer was offered to him by Dave Bassett at Sheffield United. He gained legendary status at Bramall Lane; there’s a hospitality box bearing his name there. He returned to Brentford where injury finally put paid to any hopes of continuing his playing career beyond the age of 35. He joined the Albion as assistant manager in 2000.

It’s very tempting as a Brighton fan to flick through the Brentford and Sheffield United pages, and catch up with the juicy bits from his days at Withdean. To do this would be to undermine the very essence of the story, and render the reasons behind Booker’s longevity here meaningless.

We all know Booker to be a gentle giant, a clown Prince, the good cop in the rough-tough partnerships. What Waterman’s book does is to get to the heart of his subject’s personality, and to reveal what makes him tick. On so many pages, in amongst from the professionalism, the courtesy and the humour is the vulnerability, the self-doubt and the anxiety of a man who, by his own words, doesn’t feel he deserves the accolades.

Booker instead treats everyone he feels helped him along the way – family, friends and colleagues – with such good grace and courtesy. In the book, Waterman deals with the ups and downs skilfully, and with care without lingering on the worries for too long. He wants the book to be a celebration; we all do. And it is.

Booker ultimately feels very proud of his career – and so he should. If there’s one thing you’ll take from this book it’s that no matter how highly you respected, appreciated and acknowledged what Bob Booker brought to Brighton & Hove Albion during the noughties, you’ll love him even more after you’ve finished reading it.

‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman is published by Bennion Kearny and is available for £12.99 from Amazon and from City Books, Western Road, Hove.

Shaun is happy


Shaun is happy.

The fixtures are out, marking the official end of British Summer Time, and with it the heightened expectation of Sky making a total mockery of everybody’s best laid plans to try and see their team on the road.

This season sees a new corporate partnership in ongoing hopelessness and total advocacy in chaos. SASTA will be providing no service, no assistance and no consideration for the ‘EFL’s’ away supporters as they continue on their arbitrary folly of cancelling trains for a laugh. And don’t even think of asking for your money back.

I predict a boom in minibus hire this season.

Meanwhile, on Planet Twaddle, EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “Our first season rebranded as the EFL promises to be one of the most exciting yet for league football and we’re delighted the TV cameras will be with us every step of the way to showcase all the action as it unfolds at stadia up and down the country.

“As ever, whilst being supportive to our principal broadcast partner, who continue to provide our clubs with an important guaranteed income, we are extremely conscious of the impact moving fixtures for television can have on fans.

“We are in a regular dialogue with Sky to ensure that any Sky Bet EFL matches set to be displaced for live coverage are done so as soon as is practically possible.”

Shaun is happy.

We must congratulate Shaun in taking an evidently tortured-over 120 words and making them say absolutely nothing; a masterclass textbook corporate drivel.

In short, Sky have tried to consider maybe thinking about the distant possibility of accommodating inconvenienced fans, as long as it doesn’t interfere with it affecting themselves in this continuing omni-shambles, of course.

And calling the Football League the ‘EFL’ will of course make the season that much more exciting. How do we know? Shaun said so, and Shaun is happy. Cardiff City and Newport County should think themselves lucky that England is bending so far backwards in ignoring them…

Meanwhile, English football administrators – still split into three separate and diverging entitites – shuffle papers on their desks, make meaningless arbitrary changes of no significance, make fatuous statements, and supporters are still inconvenienced. Easiest gig going.

So Shaun is happy.

The forgotten international match at The Goldstone…

Any self-respecting Brighton fan will let you know that The Goldstone Ground (RIP) played host to a smattering of internationals down its 95-year history.

In 1948, Luxembourg beat Afghanistian 6-0 in an Olympic Football Tournament match, while in 1977 England U21s beat Norway by the same score, with host striker Peter Ward bagging a hat-trick. Aston Villa’s John Deehan (2) and Manchester City’s Peter Barnes completed the rout.

In 1989, England ‘B’ took on Italy ‘B’; a match which would include many players who would feature in the following year’s World Cup. 16,125 watched on a cold night in November Tony Adams equalise Giovani Stroppa’s opener.

But one international appears to have snuck in under the radar…

16th April 1910 – The Goldstone Ground, Hove

England Amateurs 10
Wilson (4), Steer (4), Chapman, Berry
France 1

Att: 3,500

Few in-depth records exist about the match, and no match reports appear to have been unearthed.

The England Amateurs team 1910

It was, strictly, England Amateurs against a French full national side. At that time, there was a distinction made between professionals and amateurs. However, while the match is not given full international status in England (nor are any England Amateur matches), the amateur side was considered strong enough for other countries – including France, Belgium and Germany – to consider them full internationals in their records.

In all, England Amateurs played France eight times, winning seven and losing one, scoring 61 goals, conceding four. France’s heaviest-ever home defeat was to England Amateurs in Paris, the hosts losing 15-0 in 1906.

As an afore-mentioned self-respecting Brighton fan, the most interesting point I found in all this is that the 10-1 match against France was played at The Goldstone Ground 104 years ago, and was therefore the first international to be played there.

Admiring the German Löw for football…


Joachim Löw has it within him to be one of the great international managers of all-time

I write this 45 minutes after the end of a World Cup Semi Final that will be talked about forever. But at this present time, in the immediate aftermath, it was a match which is only being talked about in terms of the end of an era for Brazilian football.

Maybe, but that misses the central issue regarding this match. This was the start of something special in football.

The Germans have been building for this since their nadir in 2000 (lost all of the Euro 2000 matches) and 2001 (losing 5-1 in Munich to England).

They were down, bowed, humiliated and a shadow of their former selves. They looked at themselves in a cool, calm and professional manner and set about a long-term programme of re-building and improvement – with a little help from Howard Wilkinson’s plans, and the English FA’s own insular arrogance.

What we saw tonight was the culmination of 12 years of hard work, focus and a keen philosophy for the improvement of German football on a domestic and an international level. They have reached the semi-finals in the last four tournaments they have participated in. Are you watching, Greg Dyke – or are you happier being at Wimbledon while the World Cup is on?

If the boot had been on the other foot, we’d have been drooling over an awesome Brazil side. As it was, the boot on the Brazilian foot may well have had its studs showing, thigh-high. They may have their own issues – they played in a World Cup on home soil where they won few friends around the world – but it’s still unthinkable that anyone could put seven past them.

Be in no doubt – Germany were as good as it got and, despite feeling that they can yet get even better, their first priority is to prove themselves the best on the stage that matters this coming Sunday.

Oh, and congratulations to Miroslav Klose on his 16 World Cup Finals goals – scored at a combined distance not dis-similar to Andy Carroll’s idea of ‘close control’ – knocking Ronaldo into second place.

Zac Toumazi speaks to the Albion Roar



Zac Toumazi, chief executive of Sussex CCC in conversation with The Albion Roar, stated he can’t expand further on the allegations of match-fixing against Lou Vincent and Naved Arif from a match in 2011. However, he has stated Sussex’s full co-operation with the ECB.

He feels that the game has moved on dramatically since then in terms of player and staff education, getting hold of players at a young age and warning them of the risks and temptations that may come their way.

“I was asked ‘is the game clean?’ As far as I know, it is. But you’re always going to get individuals who think they can beat the system. Our job is to educate, prevent, and if we have to… punish.

“This is not the behaviour of the county club, this is the behaviour of individuals…”

To hear the whole interview with Zac Toumazi in his role as…

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