Cheeseslices writer David Smith gives his account on why he supports Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. This is the first in a series on www.cheeseslices.co.uk of why our writers support their respective football clubs.
My first season supporting Brighton and Hove Albion FC was an astonishing one. My father had very kindly bought me a season ticket. It wasn’t so much the act of kindness that compelled me into supporting Brighton, but the season itself. I was only 7 years old when the 1996/97 season started but it was to be an amazing initiation into the game, and one that has kept me hooked on the Albion ever since.
Brain Horton was sacked after a poor start and Brighton languished at the bottom of the 3rd division. It had not been a fun first half of the season for a 7 year old. At this point I’m sure I was thinking of throwing in the towel (I’m sure my dad was too). That was until Steve Gritt was appointed manager. Gritt was to lead an inspirational fight back.
Brighton’s board, headed my Bill Archer, had already sold Albion’s ground, the Goldstone. Such was the hatred of the board I saw my first ever pitch invasion, at a game against Lincoln City which cost the club a 2 point deduction.
Such demonstrations weren’t just limited to pitch invasions. The first ever ‘Fans United’ game saw people from clubs all over England come to the Goldstone. I remember sitting next to a Manchester United flag (they would go onto win the premier league that season). It was an amazing show of unity from all involved and sparked a 5 – 0 win that come the end of the season would prove priceless.
The loathing of Bill Archer and David Ballotti grew substantively throughout the season and as the last game at the Goldstone grew nearer fans were becoming more and more irate. Reclaiming the Western Terrace brought the biggest unofficial attendance at the ground for years. Another pitch invasion against Layton Orient saw Ray Wilkins attacked by Brighton fans. To this day he is thanked by many for not pursuing an appeal.
(Image by Timco)
The last game at the Goldstone (and the last game played by the Albion in Brighton for 2 years) was against Doncaster Rovers. The game was poised at 0 – 0 and Brighton desperately needed the win. A corner was awarded in front of the South Stand. The ball came over and was blocked off the line; the rebound was then headed onto the crossbar which landed to Stuart Storer who smashed home from all of 6 yards (with a little help from MacDonald pulling the keeper down). Brighton held on and dragged themselves out of the relegation zone for the first time in months.
Goal difference separated Brighton and Hereford at the bottom and fate meant the last game of the season was at Edgar Street. Brighton need a draw or win to ensure survival, Hereford needed the win alone. Left back Kerry Mayo scored an own goal to give Hereford the lead. The, a long shot from (I believe, but again I was only 7) Ian Baird hit the post and rebounded to Robbie Reinelt who smashed home a left footed shot in to the bottom corner to level up. The result never changed until the final whistle, and Brighton were save. It was a remarkable survival.
I was there for both Doncaster and Hereford and can remember both goals. However, there reason I have such a clear memory of these two every important goals is because of a picture hanging in my toilet at home. It’s a frame with signed pictures of both goals, along with the ticket stubs for each game.
Gritt was a hero that season. Unfortunately he was sacked midway through my second season watching the Albion. My dad wrote him a letter thanking him for his hard work and stating that he was one of the most successful managers in the clubs history. I found Gritt’s reply in the loft a few months ago, compelling me somewhat to writing this short article. So I can safety say that the reason I support Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club is because of my father, Steve Gritt and ‘Sir’ Robbie Reinelt. Thank you; all three of you.
(Image by Timco)