Brighton & Hove Albion: a journey from nowhere to the Premier League

On, hello. That would be … unless the battery has run out which use to happen to us quite a bit. Oh hang on. Oh there
we go, ooh good we’ve done it. Welcome to Withdean, its a quarter to three
on an a Saturday afternoon Brighton and Hove Albion are home and we are just about to start
to play some music because before a quarter to three we are not allowed to. 1983 saw Brighton one kick away from winning the FA Cup final against Manchester United. Went to a replay and the Albion lost 4 – 0 and that started the extricable decline. of the clubs fortunes both on and off the pitch. In the mid 1990’s the club were regularly
appearing at the high court for unpaid debts. The story broke in 1995 that the directors
had sold our home ground. Goldstone Ground was one of those old fashioned football grounds, in the heart of the community, surrounded by houses. Ramshackled, rundown, but it encapsulated
the history of the club and it was the place where generations had
been to watch their local football team. We knew the ground was going to have to be
renovated but we never ever thought we were going to have to lose it, that’s the point. We’d heard a rumour that the Goldstone had
been sold to clear the debts by Bill Archer. The York game was scheduled to be the last
game. We invaded the pitch and broke the crossbar
to make sure the game had to be replayed in order to get the maximum amount of exposure. And it wasn’t until after all the drama that
we had discovered that we’d actually got a stay of execution. Which I think was down to the fans to stay at the Goldstone for one more year. I knew by then that the only way we were going to save Brighton was to get rid of Archer. And whether that involved the club being sold, the ground being sold first or not, he had to go. And we needed somebody to come it who was a Brighton supporter, who understood football who understood the area, who understood the fans. So the impetus had to be on getting regime
change to secure the future of the club. We knew that we had to get really organised
very quickly and we did. There were about a dozen of us. No formal
membership structure, no members, no boards, no boring sort of stuff like that. We met probably two, three times a week and
we organised campaigns, protests. We planned what we were going to do and we
did it! Whistles being blown throughout the game, walk outs flares being lit 15 minutes before the end, and then a walk out. Pitch invasions, we try and attract media
publicity to alert everyone as to what was going on at the club. Around that time Liam Brady, put together
a consortium featuring Dick Knight, as being the salvation of the club. I thought how can this guy destroy this incredible
organisation that brings so much enjoyment to so many people. How could he just destroy it without even
bothering about it? So he made me very angry, he thought I would go away, he called me a chancer and he found out very quickly that i wasn’t a chancer and the big difference was that I loved the Albion. Coming into April and Brighton were bottom of the league, we had to win our last game at home to give ourselves a chance in the last game of the season the following week away. We need to beat Doncaster to have any chance of staying in the league knowing its the last ever game at the Goldstone. I did a big banner that I painted the night before when I was drunk. RIP Goldstone 1902-1997 sold to moneymen
by Archer – we will never forget. A very emotional game, the last post was played. A very, very tense match. I actually cried
most of the way through it. Because I thought we don’t win this we’ve had it. And thank god for Stuart Storer, bless his
cotton socks. And at the end everyone came onto the pitch and took there mementos, whether it was a piece of the pitch, some goal net, some seating but everyone took their piece of the Goldstone with them It was an extremely sad ending to what had been a great football ground. We managed to survive the last game of the season by securing a draw against Hereford. Which then meant we were able to keep our
league status. We’d stayed up and we had got rid of Archer,
but we had no where to play and that’s when we had to go to Gillingham. If Kent is the garden of England then the
Priestfield is the outside toilet. We had horrible time there. You imagine 140miles
for a home game, absolutely ridiculous. So for two years we played at Gillingham. Myself and Attila the Stockbroker ran the
PA at home games in Gillingham. It was horrendous, going there was awful.
Then treated us more like away fans. We were corralled. Not aloud to do this not
allowed to do that. Not allowed to a arrive before the appointed moment. Obviously the next thing we had to do was to bring back the club to Brighton. So we started the ‘Bring home the Albion’
campaign. Centred obviously on the local council. And basically we told the council we need a home in Brighton and Hove. Please find us one if you don’t we will form the Seagulls party and stand against you in the next election. And of course they were scared stiff of that. So they found us somewhere to play. Withdean. An athletics stadium which was converted for league football. Totally unsuitable for league football. With uncovered stands and very small capacity. And it was obvious that this was just going to be stop gap until we managed to secure permission for a new permanent home. I played The Clash more often in this stadium than has been played anywhere in the world. I liked Withdean although I was very much
away that the future of Brighton & Hove Albion we needed to get out as quickly as possible. Lou Macari summed it up brilliantly to our
manager who was Micky Adams at the time It’s like playing a pre-season friendly in Norway. The moment we were back playing in Brighton and Hove, the campaign for the new stadium began. This time we were centred not on the local council, but the national government. because we needed to get planning permission for our new stadium. The person that was ultimately going to be making the decision on our new ground was John Prescott. First we had to identify a location, then
we had to put pressure on the local council and national government to get the thing built. The sort of initiatives that we ran during
the campaign, bouquets on Valentines day from every league club, delivered to the deputy
Prime Minister’s office. And the campaign goes on, it continues at
Luton tonight, it will continue you with a demonstration at Hull on Saturday outside John Prescott’s constituency headquarters. It is a national campaign now and is gathering momentum day after day and we want Falmer. We just came up with all these ideas, creative ideas that would get us publicity. One of the most obvious ones, in the middle of the campaign to get the new stadium, was the hit. Tom Hart, ‘We Want Falmer’, number 17 in the charts. At every home game there would be something going on. Away games tended to be more because all the activists were in one place. At Wycombe players put up the banners as well. That was one of the important things, that the players got involved sometimes. This was a prolonged dedication to a cause which involved myself as the leader of the club, and the directors. And the fans, they played a huge role in it. I couldn’t of done it on my own, it was because we were united that we won. That was the reason. I cycle an awful lot and I cycle to the home games and when I cycle up the hill and I see the first curve of the stadium. Every time I think we did that. Brighton & Hove Albion fans did that. When I walked into the ground I said ‘we did this’ and that will be the same on the first game in the Premiership. To come from nowhere to the Premiere League in a few years is quite exceptional. And I’m proud of the part I played in that. And so should the fans be because they deserve it.

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