Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Amex is great, but my glass isn't quite half full

I didn't bother reviewing the Doncaster game.

Why? No Brighton fan needs me to explain the significance and the emotions running through each of us will have been a world apart.

For me it was all about years of frustration being over and about looking forward to a future so alien in its optimism it almost feels like supporting a new club.

For others, the day would have been about who was not there. The fans who did not make it. You only had to glance at the memorial notes to realise that, for many fans, their first visit to the Amex would be bitter-sweet.

The Donny match - and the subsequent visit of Gillingham - were by no means classic footballing displays. But in the short term, that does not matter.

Brighton fans everywhere will be holding court, telling their office how great the team are, boring work colleagues over the brilliance of the new ground.

For that reason, and quite simply because I am still partly stuck on the Withdean era moan setting, I am going to talk about a few things which concern me.

Most of you won't agree / care. But allow me this moment of killjoyery. I will get over it soon.

1. Marcos Painter at left back.

A strange one considering Painter was among the Albion's best players last season. Mr Consistency at left back in League One and a great addition to the squad.

But the Championship is a different kettle of fish. Wingers as quick as Kazenga Lua Lua and as tricky as William Buckley are almost the norm. Painter will be tested far more defensively this season and, I fear, his lack of pace - particularly on the turn - may be exposed.

Against Doncaster, Mustapha Dumbuya gave him a torrid time on the overlap and, with Brighton more often than not operating from a 433 formation, the full back is afforded little protection.

And, in attack, Painter will struggle to make much of an impact. The higher up the leagues, the more key the full back positions become, and, without the creativity of Elliott Bennett and the drop-deepery of Glenn Murray, outlet balls out wide could be key.

2. Ashley Barnes' finishing

Unlikely to be a major issue if Craig Mackail-Smith and Will Hoskins can find their scoring boots and stay fit, but against Gillingham, last season's second top scorer looked sorely out of place.

In League One Barnes scored some vital goals and won over the more critical of fans. However, a league up and the sort of space he thrived on is in far shorter supply and he is unlikely to get the four of five chances he would often take before finding the net.

3. Missing season ticket holders

The club announced 18,500 season ticket holders. The attendance in the SECOND EVER GAME was 16,000 and something. Gillingham contributed 1,400 odd to that. So where, we may ask, were the best part of 2,000 season ticket holders? Not to mention the hordes of people who have been vocal about how they might not be able to get tickets to individual games.

Only an idiot would say the new fan base is unwelcome, but against Gillingham the crowd seemed increasingly nervous and, dare I say it, a little impatient.

Last season's success was built on an understanding that the team would play a certain way. The worry is that the new 10,000 odd regulars will expect winning football every week and be quick to stick the boot it in they don't get it.

And as for the man I sat behind on the bus the other night who said, "I didn't bother going to Withdean because the seats were crap and I didn't like it," I would perhaps ask him to consider what would have happened to the club if everyone had acted the same.

4. Fan Cam

What. The. Shitting. Hell? A camera broadcasting wacky fans onto the big screen in a hugely manufactured and obviously-not-at-all naff pre match build up. Is this was we marched for? Did we write letters and sign petitions for this? No. A thousand times no.

But, and here is the important bit, if you DO end up on the screen and decide you need to wave, can you do so looking straight ahead rather than at the screen. You look silly waving to the side.

5. The North Stand Ultras

I have nothing against fans trying to improve the atmosphere, but do they have to be so elitist about it? So you all sit in the stand behind the goal. So you have flags, which incidentally only point to the grey, concrete corner of the ground and not the pitch, and a new brilliantly original song only sung by a million other teams including Crystal Palace. But do you have to go on about is so much?

"We are the North Stand, the North Stand, the North Stand..." Well, you 24 might be - but the 11,000 people in the West Stand Upper happy to join in with the singing are not.

*Disclaimer: For all those ready to moan about me moaning, I had to scrape around for a few downers for this blog. Devil's Advocate and all that. Although I do hate that 'We are the North Stand...' song. That much is true.


  1. agree with everything but why point 5, exactly the fans you celebrate in point 3. Not noticed any elitism but a spirit of come get involved and make an atmosphere. otherwise good points well made. J

  2. ps think the idea (maybe) that the West standers (like me) sing "West Stand, West Stand..." rather than North (unless they're confused). Sometimes I don't know if I'm a Right Side or Left Side Brighton Boy, depending which way I'm stood. But my 'neighbour' singers soon correct me ;-) At some games I've sung with both cause I was in the middle :-O

  3. I disagree in part with 5, I sit in the north stand just under the main Kollective and was a little intimidated by them before I had even got to the ground. But they haven't done anything to exclude me or forcefully recruit me. I think it is great we have a section of fans (not saying there arent others) that collectively want to increase the atmosphere of the ground for OUR team, but they know they cant do it alone. Their baiting to the west stand to match their stamina can come across as agressive but it is only to help achieve their target of a intimidating atmosphere to encourage our team and to scare the opponients. Don't forget withdean had a terrible atmosphere for the amount of effort you had to put in to make any noise.

    As for 3, I'll be concerned when a league game drops below 18,500 - you cant expect all season tickets to go to every game. Following football is expensive, I certainly cant afford to keep up with a storming cup run all season.

  4. The league crowds will, I suspect, hold up. People don't pay that sort of money to not go unless they really can't get there. As for the Gillingham game, personally I think over 16,000 for a game which would have struggled to attract 3,500 last season was absolutely staggering, and a testament to the attraction of the stadium.

    I was also worried about Painter but his performance at Pompey yesterday has calmed a lot of that down - he was much better.