Untold to many, the story of Brighton & Hove Albion is a true underdog story.
A four year dog fight in League One and resurgence to the Championship has them on the brink of Premier League promotion, for the first time in the clubs history.
Undefeated after the first 21 games, Albion’s miracle run has fans in disbelief. The inclusion of manager Chris Houghton has transformed a worn out team into a well-oiled machine.
CHRIS HUGHTON SPOKE EXCLUSIVELY TO THE TURF
“Yes it’s a wonderful sense of achievement so far. It’s down to a really committed group of players for what they have had to produce game in game out. In the Championship it’s a tougher league as any league in the world.
Houghton took over the reins of Brighton last year in December, resurrecting his team from relegation fears with a Houdini-like escape.
Home fans have been infatuated by the style of play Houghton has implemented in his side this season. Brighton have played an “all-in” highly attacking style of football this season, causing innumerable problems for many Championship sides.
With all this being said, things could have been so different for the Seagulls.
A DARK PAST
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows in the coastal city of East Sussex.
In 1997, the Seagulls were on the verge of falling into absolute oblivion. A horror season saw them clinging to life at the foot end of the English fourth tier and needing a miracle to survive obscurity from the Football League.
Brighton’s fate would be determined on the final match day, desperate for a win or draw against Hereford United. Brighton drew with Hereford 1-1, keeping their club alive quiet literally. Hereford never made it back to the Football League after that day, and fell into liquidation last year. An impact that reveals the sad reality teams are faced with when dropping from the Football League.
Robbie Reinelt famously scored the equalising goal against Hereford to keep Brighton in the Football League
Brighton’s rise this season has been a reward to the fans who have stuck with the club through thick and thin. Their great escape in 1997 brought more than just happiness and relief. It resulted in the sale of their stadium, in an attempt for the club to clear themselves of financial debt. Brighton had no home, and the fans felt lost and frustrated.
The clubs fan following took a hit after losing their stadium, but the die hard’s remained true and stuck by their team. Thousands followed as Brighton travelled 70 miles to Gillingham, their temporary home. Albion went from a massive fan base to an average attendance of just under 10 thousand. After multiple protests and support from communities and the board, Brighton had an approval on a new stadium.
The American Express Community Stadium was revealed to fans in 2011, seating just over 30,000 fans.
NEVER SAY DIE
Hughton has injected an incredible amount of self-confidence into his players. Brighton have been the comeback kings this season, turning games on their heads from losing positions.
“It’s a massive achievement for us, but I think you have to have a group of lads that are motivated in every game”.
Hughton has brought in a strong artillery of attacking players for his arsenal this season. The introduction of new signings James Wilson, Elvis Manu, Jamie Murphy and most recently Richie Towell has sparked new life for the East Sussex club.
“They are all very offensive players. One area that we found very difficult last season was to get the goals that we needed to win enough football matches. So you look at the options you have, the quality you can bring in and certainly for me it was to give us an offensive edge against teams in games”.
CAN THEY SURVIVE IN ENGLAND’S TOP TIER?
A discussion point as of late has been whether Brighton will be able to survive the ruthless first year of the Premier League. Staying afloat is the hardest part for any newly promoted club and Hughton is no stranger to the highs and lows of English football.
Hughton’s stint with Newcastle United in 2009-10 saw a similar record to his current one with Brighton. Winning 30 games, drawing 12, and losing only four games for the season, his side were unbeaten at home, winning the Championship title. The following year he was sacked following a 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion FC. His dismissal was taken poorly by the fans and players. Hughton also had moments of greatness when he managed Norwich, but was let go after a poor 2013/14 Premier League season.
There is no doubt Chris Hughton has learnt an enormous amount along the English rollercoaster ride. His experience in success and failure could be pivotal to Brighton’s survival if they make the Premier League.
Everything has clicked so far for Brighton, a rising club that holds their manager in the highest regard.
“I think when you are a smaller club or an inexperienced club as such, it’s not generally about a style of football. It’s about an ability to try and get enough results to stay in that division. I think there are some great examples of clubs that have built their reputations in the premier league”.
The sense of anticipation and excitement is growing in East-Sussex, where a community could see their beloved Brighton and Hove Albion reach the Premier League for the first time.
The story of Brighton has captured the hearts of a city, and will soon make their mark on the Premier League if they can defeat Middlesbrough tomorrow night.
Saturday KO: 9:30 pm (AEST)