Brighton and Hove Albion’s Cinderella Story | The Turf x Chris Hughton

Brighton & Hove Albion clinch promotion to Premier League!

After a four year dog fight in League One, and resurgence to the Championship, the Seagulls have been promoted to the  Premier League for the first time in the clubs history.

Last season the Seagulls went on a dream run, going undefeated in their first 21 games. This season they finish first in the Championship, only losing seven games. The inclusion of manager Chris Houghton in 2014 has transformed a worn out team into a well-oiled machine.

CHRIS HUGHTON x 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 in December 2014, 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. Brighton has 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.

hereforda3

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 traveled 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”.

“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?

Can Brighton 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 roller-coaster 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 will see their beloved Brighton and Hove Albion reach the Premier League for the first time.

Ari Charilaou