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04/05: Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion
Opposition opinion
by Brighton fan Mark Raven

What happened last season?
Season 2002-3 ended on a big downer, relegation on the final day of the season in the delightful town of Grimsby. When the fixtures came out the reality that we had slipped down the ladder hit home. To add insult to injury Bobby Zamora was off to Spurs on the cheap, Ingimarsson decided to go back to Wolves, Kitson left waving his cash and laughing after a handful of appearances when he wasn't on the treatment table! So, 2003-4... what could we expect. Well we didn't have a manager as Steve Coppell wouldn't sign a new contract, then he did, then a few weeks later left for Reading. Pre-season and one ray of hope, Leon Knight appeared on loan, later Chelsea decided to off load him and Leon decided for us rather than QPR. We started the season with our usual 3-1 win first away game of the season at Oldham. We didn't play particularly well, but spent most of the Coppell part of the season top of the league! He was eventually replaced by Mark McGhee who didn't get off to a good start, the worst display being a 4-1 home defeat to Bristol City (our only goal was a Leon Knight penalty!)

Our home form (other than the Bristol City display) was genuinely pretty good. Won 17 Drew 4 Lost 2 For 39 against 11. We got relegated the previous year due to being unable to win at home, so we need a good positive start at the Withdean to stay up this season.

Our end of season form defensively was superb. No goals conceded in the last 5 league game, a clean sheet away to Swindon in the away leg of the play off semi final and of course a clean sheet in the final.

Penalties became rather central to our play off success. Swindon at home in the second leg of the play offs and after 121 minutes we are 2-0 down, 2-1 down on aggregate. Oatway throw in, Cullip (centre back) nods the ball backwards into the box, Virgo (right back) hurls himself through the air, makes contact with the ball and he heads it beyond the keeper onto the far corner. Withdean went mental, we were on a high, Swindon gutted. The penalty sequence:

Parkin 1-0 Swindon
Carpenter 1-1
Heywood 2-1 Swindon
Iwelumo 2-2
Mooney - MISSED (great save by Roberts)
Piercy 3-2 Albion
Fallon 3-3
Virgo 4-3 Albion
Gurney - MISSED (hit post)

Next and it's on to the Millennium. 30,000 Albion fans made the trip (outnumbered by 35,000 from Bristol, but we sang our hearts out and made it seam like home!). Just eight minutes left and Iwelumo is tripped and it's penalty time. Up steps our usual Penalty taker, Leon Knight (been subbed in the play off match so missed out on that one) and his usual stuttering run up before coolly striking home! What a way to get promoted!

Our deserving player of the season was Guy Butters, who along with long serving Danny Cullip formed a solid central defensive partnership. Up front Leon Knight banged in goal after goal with plenty of penalties and ended up with 26 for the season (plus 9 yellow and 1 red card!)

What's going to happen next season?
We have a potentially lethal striking partnership for 2004-5. Leon Knight will be partnered by new signing Molango (Congo U21 International, who spent 2 years in the youth/reserve team at Atletico Madrid). Our defence is our biggest asset, but do our midfield players have the legs?

As our Chairman Dick Knight said, after being promoted in 2000-1, promoted in 2001-2 relegated in 2002-3 and promoted again 2003-4, a season of midfield obscurity would be nice.

Prediction - survival last home game of the season!

Bigger issue - a "YES" from John Prescott over our new stadium in Falmer some time this century

Expected highlights - Leeds, West Ham & Sunderland fans faces as they enter the away stand at Withdean!

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)

"Football or Cheese, I know which I prefer."

"My Missus is ever so slightly taller than me in her bedroom shoes"

"There are 1500 deck chairs for hire on Brighton beach which is 100 less than the number of parking spaces at the Churchill Square shopping centre"

"theres a girl in my class at uni from watford and she is f***ing gorgeous"

"I was shagging the former King of Iraq's (before Saddam Hussein's regime won power) great graddaughter for nearly two years when I was 17/18. She was very fit."

"my friend likes to eat monster munch with salad cream"

"I can't make the Albion's game at Vicarage Road because I'm on holiday in Wales. Sorry about that as I like the trip to Watford!!"

"I'd like to know who the blazes Craig Ramage is."

"Never, ever, go to watch a football match in Milton Keynes. Ever. Not even if..."

"Brighton need a new stadium at Falmer"

"wolf's fur doesn't freeze"

"Leon Knight has a bad attitude and dispite his ability we wont dip in and hulp BHAFC this season. I imagine he will be dropped or sold."

"That starting lineup above will be absolutely ripped apart in this league, but at the time of me filling this in we haven't signed anyone else!"

"I have a secret stash of garlic in my office desk drawer."