Brighton and Hove was a different place altogether, although the place to be culture was just starting to peep through. Before it was just the more of a place to live mentality.
Albion weren’t a big draw or attraction in the local mindset. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if many residents weren’t aware in those days if Brighton and Hove had a football team at all.
The Argus in those days did their bit to ensure the club at least were supported in trying to stay in league, hiring coaches to the last few away games at very favourable passenger rates.
After a few draws and beating Barnet in the last floodlit match at the Goldstone, after which I rushed to back to my flat to gain a good vantage to watch the lights go off for one last time, the Albion then beat champions Wigan at the Goldstone, in a game former Wigan player and Albion captain Paul Rodgers once suggested to me, he and his Wigan teammates were a little worse for wear.
Of course the Albion beat Doncaster in that last game at the Goldstone.
The week that followed was surreal. Not only was there all the speculation of this absolutely unique fixture in which the team that didn’t gain the required result would lose their Football League status – but also a general election.
Ironically Albion had won promotion to the top flight the day after Margaret Thatcher swept into power 18 years previously. The Tories had been in power throughout Albion’s glory years. Four seasons in the old Division One and an FA Cup Final.
On the Monday after the last Goldstone match, Albion had flatly turned down Sky’s request to broadcast the fixture live – although it was never determined what time or date it would be played.
Of course Tony Blair swept to power himself on Thursday 1 May 1997.
Two days later Albion achieved that hard fought draw that secured their football league status and this gave them the building blocks for the astonishingly successful Premier League club they are today.
I started going to the Goldstone with my Dad in around 1976 – later as I grew up I went my school friends, and I still do today.
I enjoyed those heady days of the early mid 80s and endured the not so happy times of the mid to late 90s
One of those pals I went with was Karl. A good mate I met in 1976 at West Blatchington Junior School after his family moved to Hangleton from central Hove.
We became great friends and, although Karl’s interest waned a little, he still followed the club and by 1997 was sharing my flat in Hove.
On Saturday 3 May, Karl didn’t go to Hereford but instead went on a boating weekend.
Sometime over the night of 3-4 May 1997 Karl drowned on the Thames near Windsor. To this day no one really knows how, when, or why.
So when ever I think of the ecstasy of that Hereford match, I also think of the agony of Karl’s death. And 25 years on, today, I think of and remember Karl and those Albion escapologists.
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