What a grand time
When Brighton faced Stoke City back in November, it was a significant milestone. Not only had Sky Sports selected the most uninteresting game in live football history for their Monday Night Football programme, but I watched the Albion play for the 1,000th time in a competitive game.
The first came in September 1990; a 1-1 draw with Wolves at the Goldstone. Quite how my parents have never been charged with child cruelty for subjecting a helpless boy of only 21 months of age to a lifetime of sporting disappointment is a genuine mystery.
Yet here we are 998 games later about to celebrate a millennium of matches. What can happen in 999 games prior to the Potters visit? Well, it turns out quite a lot: promotions (4); relegations (4); competitions (8); wins (390); draws (266); defeats (343); goals scored (1,307); conceded (1,197); opponents (109); stadiums (133); different Albion scorers (190).
One game in which I slept for 20 minutes in a toilet (1). Chairs through pub windows (1). Stolen baby dolls (1). Pubs showing Jeremy Kyle on a big screen (1).
Best home game: Brighton 2-1 Wigan Athletic, Monday 17th April 2017
There are many that could qualify: the first game at the Amex, beating Chesterfield to win the Division Three title, winning against Dagenham & Redbridge to secure promotion out of League One. The night against the Daggers was particularly memorable as we headed onto West Street to celebrate with some £1.50 VKs in Oceana, but bumped into Charlie Oatway en route who bundled us into the players’ party in Vodka Revs instead. Soon we were having Adam El-Abd pour vodka from the bottle into our mouths, doing Jägerbombs with Matt Sparrow and annoying Fran Sandaza by constantly making him pose for photos with a shirt with ‘Promoted’ printed on the back.
But really, it has to be that Wigan game seven months ago. Nothing can compare to seeing your side finally make it to the top flight after 27 years and 989 games. It wasn’t exactly a classic performance but it didn’t need to be. We’d come from the bottom back to the top and that is something nobody who was there will ever forget.
Worst home game: Brighton 0-3 Barnet, Wednesday 5th November 1997
Finishing school on Bonfire Night, most 10-year-olds would be excited about the prospect of fireworks and Guy Fawkes. Not so much a coach journey to Gillingham to watch the worst Brighton team in history get absolutely destroyed 3-0 with just over 1,000 other hardy souls/idiots (delete as appropriate).
Best away game: Peterborough United 0-3 Brighton, Saturday 30th October 2010
Everyone raves about that 4-0 win at Charlton a fortnight before we went to London Road, but for me the 3-0 win over Peterborough was even better. Posh manager Gary Johnson had been beating a drum all week about how he wanted to bring the League One leaders down a peg or two but they couldn’t land a scratch on the Albion that day. It is no exaggeration to say that 3-0 could’ve been 10-0. Elliott Bennett missed a penalty and Joe Lewis was doing his best Gandalf impression as nothing was getting past him.
It was a particularly sweet match for me as the previous evening one of my friends had decided to take advantage of my drunk state by shaving all my hair off, meaning I went to London Road looking like a Russell Slade tribute act. In normal circumstances, this would’ve been a disaster but being completely bald didn’t seem like such a bad thing when you’ve just gone miles clear at the top of League One after one of the most complete displays for years.
Worst away game: Milton Keynes Dons 2-0 Brighton, Saturday 4th April 2009
The 6-0 defeat at West Ham in 2012 comes instantly to mind as a worst away game, but seeing as I walked out of Upton Park after 20 minutes with us 3-0 down in favour of watching the Grand National, I don’t think it counts. The National incidentally was even more of a disaster than the football as my pick, Synchronised, ended up having to be put down after the race. Clearly, the race hadn’t gone well for some West Ham fans either as a chair ended up flying through the window of the pub we watched the race in afterwards.
So with that game ruled out, it falls to MK Dons in 2009 to take the category. Never has an Albion crowd turned on the side like that as they were booed off at the end with chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” directed at Craig Davies, who missed a succession of chances my grandmother could score, while looking completely unbothered by the whole experience.
League Two beckoned and things didn’t get much better on the way home when we got on a train carriage in which the toilet was locked. No matter, somebody just forced open the door and people started going anyway. Turned out the reason it was locked was because it was in fact blocked, something that didn’t become apparent until it had filled up with urine and, quite spectacularly, a layer of sick on the top. This disgusting concoction eventually reached the top of the bowl and when the train went around the corner, overflowed out, underneath the toilet door and into the carriage. And yet that still wasn’t as bad as the Albion’s performance.
Best individual performance from an Albion player: Paul Emblen, Brighton 4-4 Colchester United, Friday 26th December 1997
There have been some cracking individual performances down the years from Albion players, from the magic of Vicente to pretty much any game Anthony Knockaert played in last season. So you will probably wonder how much crack I’ve been smoking when suggesting that Paul Emblen on Boxing Day in 1997 was the best of the lot. But honestly, it was. We’re back to talking about that appalling Brighton team again, yet here was a man who despite being surrounded by rubbish managed to score a hat-trick and single-handedly earn Steve Gritt’s side a very, very rare point. You often hear it asked; could Messi do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke? Well, could he do it on Boxing Day at the Priestfield in front of 2,000 people, in a side with Andy Ansah, John Westcott and Nicky Rust? Paul Emblen could.
Best away day: Carlisle United 0-2 Brighton, Saturday 12th September 2009
Ah, Carlisle away. Four hours on a train from London to put away a crate of Strongbow. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot as it turns out. Our visit to Brunton Park in 2009 saw us acquire a baby doll from a charity shop. Said doll got launched into the middle of a brass band performance in the city centre, which resulted in police intervention. Once at the ground, one of the party got in on a children’s ticket much to the steward’s consternation, before producing ID to buy a beer at the bar. The stewards took great pleasure in removing the alcohol from him at that point, saying the identification must be fake if you came in as an under 16. The game produced a first away win of the season 2-0, although I did have to check the result the next day given that I spent 20 minutes of the first half asleep in the toilet. Things were rounded off nicely on the way home when a suicide meant we spent two hours stuck on the train at Leighton Buzzard and the baby doll was unceremoniously thrown once again into a bush at the end of the day.
Remarkably, we retrieved the baby on Monday afternoon believing it to be some sort of good luck charm. Turned out this was a good move. Baby Potts went to the next seven away games – we only lost one. He was lost permanently at the Aston Villa FA Cup game, and we were victorious in only one more away game until the end of the campaign.
Worst away day: Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Brighton, Saturday 21st March 2015
You know you are somewhere horrible when the best pub in town is a Weatherspoon. Or when there is another pub that advertises itself as having big screens, and you think you will be able to catch the lunchtime Premier League game, only for them to be showing Jeremy Kyle to a captivated audience. Or when a group of 12-year-olds give you homophobic abuse. Stay classy, Blackburn.
We Are Brighton is an independently-run supporters’ website, described by the people who put it together as ‘infuriating, angry and often simply wrong’.