7 things we’re worried about since Lee Mason initiated Brighton & Hove Albion into the farce of the season
The debate about whistles and communication with VAR officials rages on. Why did Lee Mason blow his whistle a second time? Was he briefly transported back to 1992 in Ibiza? Or did he once work on a railway platform and get confused? Either way, his clear and obvious error has opened up some far more salient questions and concerns.
1) Goal shy: In fact the Albion aren’t just goal shy they are goal reclusive – with around 40 efforts at the old onion bag in the last two games, yielding ONE goal.
2) Expected goals: The Seagulls are sending this trendy stat haywire. The Albion are underperforming this benchmark by over 11 points. The approach would demonstrate the forwards or players presented with chances are being spoonfed opportunities to score. It’s as if Graham Potter’s quest that his unique system succeeds requires the players to hit a certain area of the net.
3) League position: Based on Albion’s expected goals rate and bearing in the mind the Premier League records set this season – most a club has hit the woodwork in a match (Manchester United at home) first club to miss two penalties by hitting woodwork in a Premier League match ( West Brom away) and others too distressing to recall – instances of total domination and no end product – the Seagulls should technically be around sixth, not sixteenth.
4) Relegation battle? The Albion haven’t been relegated for 15 years. Quite an impressive stat. The last time it happened was against Sheffield Wednesday at Withdean at Easter on Monday 17 April 2006. Wednesday celebrity fan and gritty northern actor Tommy Craig was in attendance with his entourage. You may know him out of Coronation Street, Where The Heart Is and Peak Practice. Anyway, with just four points separating Albion and Fulham, which could be just one later today, the Seagulls are in the mire. It could be a close call – the last time Albion survived a last-day relegation battle was on Saturday 3 May 1997. Yes, that one. Quite how a return to the Championship would affect the club is a further concern. How many of Albion’s adoring new former or dual Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea fan base will be satisfied to shell out for Peterborough or Lincoln at home? How many of the current stars will want to drop down a division? How many will have relegation release clauses? The ’83 team apparently made a pact after the Cup Final replay that the entire squad would stay and get the club straight back to the then First Division. Within a month the two biggest stars left. Then 34 long years passed.
5) Effect on the fans: Albion’s performances, while brilliant to watch at times, are incredibly frustrating to view. Many must have been pleading with indecisive Mason NOT to award another penalty as Kyle Bartley clattered into Pascal Gross late on at the Hawthorns. What would the effect of these “missed opportunities” have on a full house at the Amex? Perhaps it would have the desired effect … 30,000 encouragers to stick the thing in the net. If Albion are relegated, it is perhaps inevitable that attendances will dwindle, especially taking into account the effects of covid. Although the club have been a shining example of reaching out to fans and have been quite rightly endorsed and praised by many for how they contacted vulnerable supporters in this crisis, will irritations like flasks, bottle tops and no free half-time tea or coffee in the 1901 come back to haunt them?
6) Unwanted records: Apart from the two already mentioned, perhaps Danny Welbeck conceding a defending free kick from an attacking penalty should be included. Welbeck was the first player to touch the ball after it struck the woodwork. Let’s hope we’re not all sitting in a quarter-full Amex watching Albion play Gillingham in League 1 in a few years from now, discussing these bizarre incidents, like we hark back to Gordon Smith nowadays.
7) And just why did Lee Mason blown his whistle a second time? Suggestions of an infringement in the wall seem unlikely. If the West Brom keeper wasn’t ready it’s tough luck. Once the whistle is blown, play commences and continues until the whistle is blown again. The ball travelled at a few hundred metres a second into the goal – no one can determine if the second whistle had sounded before the ball crossed line. Speed of sound versus velocity! Unless of course VAR official Simon Hooper had sought support from NASA, he could not have made such a vital decision. There are no FA laws that state a goalkeeper has to be ready to face a shot when the whistle is blown. Perhaps an Albion goal is so unbelievable that it cannot be allowed to stand.
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