Five things that have happened in the 9,033 days since Brighton and Hove Albion rose from 92nd to 1st in English football

Posted On 28 Aug 2022 at 12:27 pm

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday 27 August), for four glorious minutes at least, the Albion led the Premier League. We take a quick look at things that have happened between the day when they plummeted to the depths of the bottom of the Third Division – now League Two – back in 1996 and their ascent to the summit, albeit briefly, of English football.

1) Of course, since Tuesday 3 December 1996, when Brighton played 23rd place Darlington and lost 3-2 at home, the club have had four different home grounds. When they hit 92nd, they had six and a half months left before leaving the Goldstone. From 1997-99, they endured the Priestfield Stadium, in Gillingham, finishing 91st (23rd) again, and then 17th in the two dreadful seasons there. The record was better at Withdean, with four promotions, three of those as champions, and players who became icons. But the Amex era has been marked by Albion becoming one of Europe’s top clubs as an established Premier League team. Dick Knight’s tenacity, determination and “build it and they will come” foresight must never be forgotten.

2) Albion have unearthed some superstars since 1996, back in the last days of when the players were more superstitious than superstars. While at Gillingham, the Seagulls thought that selling Paul Holsgrove for £100,000 after snapping him up on a free weeks earlier was the best business they had ever done. With Neal Maupay’s sale to Everton on Friday, Albion have received about £151 million in transfer fees since Ben White was sold to Arsenal last August. The £100,000 received for Holsgrove may have gone some way to purchasing the legendary Bobby Zamora a couple of years later in 2000. Other players that Brighton have managed to sign since 1996 include Glenn Murray and Vicente Rodriguez, a Valencia legend and Spanish international, as well as household names like Robbie Savage, Matthew Upson and Tomasz Kuszczak – and of course former Manchester United and Arsenal legend and current Albion forward Danny Welbeck.

3) Albion have won three League titles, all at Withdean, in 2001, 2002 and 2011. They narrowly missed out on becoming Football League champions in 2017 when goalkeeper David Stockdale let a Jack Grealish daisy-cutter under his body, as the stadium clock appeared to tick backwards in the last minute at Villa Park. Albion’s League 2 title at Withdean in May 2001 was the club’s first senior silverware for 37 years.

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4) Brighton and Hove is also a completely different animal to what it was in 1996. Now a sometimes over-expensive and occasionally pretentious conurbation, it is sometimes a surprise to find someone who was born and raised in the twin city still living in BN1, BN2 or BN3. However, the new generation have embraced the success of the Albion and the club regularly play to crowds of more than 30,000 and most home matches are sold out. Back 1996 attendances of around four or five thousand were the norm at the Goldstone.

5) Albion have now not occupied the bottom two leagues of English football since 2011. It’s the most successful league performance in the club’s 122-year history. Reaching the summit of world football, even for a few minutes, was a hugely significant moment for many Albion fans. The lows endured in the late 1990s and the doldrums of the mid-noughties are for now distant memories. As is the constant fund-raising and personal financial sacrifices that the club asked, if not begged, fans to make. It wasn’t so long ago and should never be forgotten. As we go into today’s Premier League matches, Albion have DROPPED to third and will occupy the last champions league place, in fourth, if Tottenham Hotspur beat Nottingham Forest. If you had told that to the Seagulls fans of 25 or so years ago, who had to endure the less successful Albion players and performances, they may have taken your temperature!

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