The Albion have had a terrific 10 years – from Withdean to Wembley and more importantly to the Falmer Stadium.
The Seagulls have exceeded expectations along the way and ended the decade as an established Premier League team.
Here at Brighton and Hove News we look back on some of the most memorable moments.
Albion went to Aston Villa in the FA Cup 4th round – an early trip to a Premier League club. The last time that Albion had played at top-flight team in the competition was Tottenham at White Hart Lane five years earlier. Albion lost 3-2 although Tommy Elphick sent 3,000 visiting fans into delirium just before half time to equalise at 1-1. Nicky Forster got late a consolation to make the scoreline look respectable and Steve Sidwell played for Villa. If memory serves, it was the first Brighton and Hove News match report.
Albion had an astonishing season in League 1. Gus Poyet’s team, with a backbone of Ankergren , Elphick, Kishishev, Wood, Barnes and Murray, were just too good and brushed most opposition aside. Who could forget that glory night of winning promotion against Dagenham and Redbridge with six games to and singing “are we keeping up” to a bewildered Nigel Adkins as the Southampton manager tried to forget his comments from earlier in the season. The Seagulls won their third League title at Withdean as they said farewell to the theatre of trees.
Who could forget the emotion and delight of the first game against Doncaster Rovers at the newly named Amex Stadium at Falmer, with a last-minute winner by £1 million record signing Will Buckley! And there was the amazement of landing the Valencia legend Vicente Rodriguez, playing Liverpool home and away in the cups and the disappointment of not making the play-offs (but not worrying about relegation).
Highlights included signing Wayne Bridge and Tomas Kuszczak, thrashing Barnsley and Blackpool at the Amex and the St Patrick’s Day massacre of Crystal Palace. There was the arrival of Leonardo Ulloa. And the horror of the play-offs. Gordon Greer rattled the bar in the 0-0 draw at Selhurst. Then there was “poo-gate” at the Amex. Zaha sent Palace to Wembley and ultimately the Premier League and Poyet’s demise.
Oscar Garcia made his mark as the new manager – a Barcelona stalwart many had never heard of. He had a team made up of loanees, including Stephen Ward and Keith Andrews, who the new manager had obviously never heard of. It was an average team in a poor Championship and scraped into the play-offs on the last day at Forest. The side was eventually thrashed by Derby County and Garcia called it a day as Tony Bloom wracked his brain for excuses and relieved his senior recruitment team of their duties.
This was when a Champions League winner took the reins. He frequented the North Laine pubs but took the club back towards League 1. Sami Hyypia was greeted with great expectations. He replaced Ulloa with Chris O’Grady. After an opening day home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, and the famous @bhcitynews “Owls v Pussycats” quote, Albion enjoyed a win at Leeds and a foray to the 4th round of the League Cup but not much else. With crowds dwindling and Albion 22nd in the table, and despite the excitement of Darren Bent on loan, and after visiting the Young Seagulls Christmas Party, Hyypia apparently resigned not long after a home defeat to Millwall.
Nathan Jones managed four points from two games as caretaker boss before Chris Hughton came in as the club’s third manager in 18 months exactly five years ago – on new year’s eve 2014. Hughton steered the club away from relegation with lots of draws but what was to come was the stuff of Brighton fans’ wildest dreams.
Pre-season erupted early as late on a Monday evening the archetypal prodigal son returned. A short online video clip announced “I’m back”. It was none other than the now 34-year-old Bobby Zamora. The season itself started with disaster not on the pitch but off it. The devastating Shoreham Air Show crash claimed the lives of 11 men, including a member of the ground staff team Matthew Grimstone and Robert Eaton Memorial Fund player Jacob Schilt. #Together was now the club’s tagline, replacing the much ridiculed #onecluboneambition and togetherness spurred the club on as they held a memorial match for all 11 victims of the disaster which had worldwide attention.
Hughton brought in Tomer Hemed. Zamora scored away at Leeds then a few days later in front of an emotionally charged North Stand at the Amex – at last. Albion went a club record 23 league matches unbeaten, finally losing to promotion rivals Middlesbrough at the Amex just before Christmas. The Season probably hinged on not beating Derby at the Amex on a May bank holiday Monday afternoon. If they had, the Seagulls would have needed just a draw in the final games at ’Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League. They got the draw but it wasn’t enough. Though level on points with ’Boro, Albion were two goals behind – so faced Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs instead. It wasn’t to be as Albion faced a fifth consecutive season in the Championship.
With Zamora retiring, another former talismanic star striker returned, initially on loan from Bournemouth. Glenn Murray, who still lived in Brighton and had allegedly fallen out with Eddie Howe, started banging in the goals again. By Christmas the Albion and Newcastle had raced clear at the top. In January, 10-man Albion beat Sheffield Wednesday with a David Stockdale penalty save and an Anthony Knockaert winner. At the end of February, Newcastle came to the Amex. Even Ant and Dec popped by. Toon won thanks to a comical equaliser.
We were “on our way to the Premier League”. A Good Friday win at Wolves and two Anthony Knockaert goals set up an encounter at home to Wigan on Easter Monday. The Seagulls won again and after 34 long turbulent years were all but mathematically promoted by 10 to five. Despite Paul Barber begging them not to, thousands ran on to the pitch at the end to celebrate with the players who were up in the directors’ box. Paul Barber reaffirmed his authority by singing songs into a microphone.
By 6.45pm Huddersfield had failed to win their late kick-off and the BBC news, yes even they, announced on their ticker: “Brighton and Hove Albion promoted to Premier League after 34-year top flight absence.”
The Seagulls needed just three points from three games to be crowned Football League champions but lost to Norwich and crucially at home to Bristol City then could only draw at Villa. Twice the Football League presentation committee were seen packing up a podium and shiny trophy back into a van. However, a glorious open-top bus tour and presentation to thousands on Hove Lawns reignited celebrations. Sweet Caroline was the players’ victory anthem.
Albion kicked off Premier League life at home to Manchester City and finally won their first Premier League match at home to the other Albion, West Bromwich, with Motty commentating for the first and last time at the Amex.
The Seagulls reached eighth place in the table in November, beat Arsenal at home in March and secured survival with a marquee win at home to Manchester United when goal-line technology assured that Pascal Gross’s header had crossed the line.
Albion beat Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United again at the Amex in August and then, a while later, Newcastle away. In December they dispatched Palace with only 10 men, winning 3-1 at the Amex. They beat Palace at Selhurst as well before a thriller at the Den saw the club reach its first FA Cup semi-final since 1983 and the Seagulls’ first visit to the new Wembley. But league form suffered and they flirted with the drop, thrashed at home by Bournemouth and outplayed by relegation rivals Cardiff City. Safety was secured as Cardiff fell away. There was a memorable once-in-a-lifetime Premier League trophy presentation to Manchester City which marked the culmination of the Amex season. However, poor form and boring football cost Hughton his job.
New young manager Graham Potter fields a side with an attacking high-tempo style that has seen notable victories against Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Arsenal at the Emirates. Midway through the season, the Seagulls are sitting comfortably mid-table in the Premier League, sign players regularly for fees in excess of £20 million and sell out to over 30,000 fans at the Amex every home match.
What a decade!