Result: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-0 West Bromwich Albion (FA Cup 4th Round)
Venue: Falmer Stadium (Saturday 26th January 2019, 3pm)
The FA Cup 4th Round draw threw up little in terms of intrigue or excitement – in my eyes anyway – and so I was quite stuck with what my plan for that weekend would be. Yes, my booking history with West Brom did give me the option of heading down to the south coast and the Falmer Stadium – home of Brighton & Hove Albion. But did I really want to make the trek? Did I? Come the Thursday afternoon arrival of my ticket, the question was duly answered and to Brighton I set, fittingly bright and early.
Getting the train at a little after 8am, a trouble-free trip had me arriving in Euston around quarter-past ten and after purchasing my tickets onwards there, the short walk over to St. Pancras followed where I’d catch my carriage onwards to Brighton. A nice bonus was the saving of a couple of quid on the ticket there due to the subsidisation of travel to the ground which is included in the match ticket, meaning I only had to buy to Haywards Heath – the rest of the journey being “free of charge” in many respects. Whatever the case, I wasn’t complaining!
After finally pulling into the large expanse of Brighton Station at just after midday, a ten minute walk down the busy main road linking the two had me on the seafront. Getting my bearings, I quickly sought out where my first planned stop of the day was located – this being the interestingly named Fortune of War, located inside what were apparently former railway arches that now run beneath the seafront road. The Fortune of War has been termed as an “upside down boat” and it proudly proclaims itself as Brighton’s only pub in this regard. Really nice place with view over the sea from the large window on the slightly upstairs area. They also allowed me to charge my phone too (which was much required) whilst I supped at a lovely pint of Pale Ale (£5.05). The service was en pointe too, so props to the guy for that.
Brighton & Hove is a city and seaside resort on the south coast of England, lying between the South Downs and the English Channel with archaeological evidence showing the area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, whilst also showing later occupation by Roman and Anglo-Saxon peoples. A Neolithic camp was found on Whitehawk Hill dating from between 3,500 BC-2,700 BC with numerous burial mounds and tools suggesting it was a place of importance. A Bronze Age settlement was discovered in the Coldean area, whilst the Iron Age Brythonic Celts, upon their arrival in Britain, set up a settlement around Hollingbury Castle from the 7th century BC which has been suggested to have been the tribe’s capital. A Roman villa was located at Preston Village, with a Roman road running nearby, whilst the Romano-British Celts began to expand into farming prior to the Romans’ departure in the 4th century, whereupon the area returned to Celtic control.
After the Anglo-Saxon invasion in the late 5th century, the region became part of the Kingdom of Sussex from 477 AD, under King Ælle. The village of Bristelmestune was likely founded by the new settlers due to its more favourable location – both geographically and weather wise, growing into a fishing and agricultural settlement. Mentioned in the Domesday Book as “Brighthelmstone”, the town grew in importance after the Norman Invasion and during the Middle Ages as the Old Town area developed at pace, with a church and market being founded and Brighton becoming Sussex’s most populous and important town, but later regular attacks by invading forces (Brighton was sacked by the French in the early 1500’s), storm damage and the resultant suffering of both the economy and population numbers saw the area begin to subside, along with its ailing fishing industry.
King Charles II fled from Brighton to exile in France after his defeat at the 1651 Battle of Worcester and a permanent barracks was built up in 1793. During this time, the port area was apparently thought of as part of the wider Shoreham area, despite occasional mentions of a “Port of Brighton”. As the years rolled on and the roads and transport links were improved, Brighton began to flourish – becoming a boarding point for ships heading to France and also had those seeking supposed health benefits from bathing in the sea water beginning to swarm into the town. But it was during the Georgian Era that it became a fashionable resort, frequented by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) who spent much of his time in Brighton and duly had the Royal Pavilion constructed. The railways only added to Brighton’s popularity and it continued to boom through the Victorian-era with day trippers escaping the capital and many large hotels and the piers were then built too to accommodate the tourists’ comfort and leisure needs.
Brighton continued to grow through into the 20th century, gaining much in the way of housing estates as it grew to encompass surrounding areas in the post-WWII years, and it merged with neighbouring Hove in 1997 to form the unitary authority of Brighton & Hove, the two adjacent towns being granted city status in 2000 as the city of Brighton & Hove, during the Millennium celebrations. More recently, the area has become a popular haunt for the LGBTQ community, with Brighton being bestowed the title of “unofficial gay capital of the U.K. It has since added to it unofficial titles, being termed as both the U.K.’s “hippest city” and the “happiest place to live in the U.K.”.
From there I headed for the old part of town – the Lanes. Here there is a wide range of restaurants, shops and other amenities, but I’m sure by now you know which ones I was looking out for! My first stopping point in here came about rather by accident, as I found myself at the door of the Cricketers which, by all accounts, is Brighton’s oldest pub. Luckily it was on my list anyway, so I quickly headed inside. After a pint of Heineken at £5.05 (that 5p would become a theme), I continued onwards after deciding against the neighbouring Black Lion in favour of a change of scenery, and soon came upon the Pump House – a mix of a restaurant and bar that still resembled more of a pub than most that undergo the change-up. Timing it just right to get a table (which were at a premium), I had my first of two straight Amstels in here (£4.05) prior to heading on just down the way to the Sussex for the second of the duo which was 40p more for some unknown reason.
With drizzle beginning to fall as I exited and with time starting to run out, my next two stop-offs would have to be brief. The nearby pubs of the Druids Head and the Market featured bottles of Corona and Sol respectively, though this proved to not be as economical as I’d hoped – coming in at £4.75 and £4.40 respectively. To make matters a little worse, I then misjudged the walk back to the station and missed my planned train up to Falmer, meaning I’d be on the last one. Luckily, this seemed to work out OK as it was actually fairly empty, with the majority of fans seemingly already at the ground. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.
Arriving at the ground around ten minutes before kick-off, I managed to somehow turn the wrong way, resulting in a lap of the ground before finally making it to the turnstile I was looking for. Entering in whilst the minute’s appreciation for the missing Emiliano Sala was happening, I soon purchased a pie (£4.20 ish) and headed up to the stands and my seat away in the corner of the away end giving good views across the pitch. The ground is somewhat like the Kirklees in appearance, all stands are of a similar size, though are all connected here, unlike its Yorkshire counterpart. The tunnel and dugouts populate the right-hand touchline from my viewpoint, with the main stand also hosting the executive boxes etc. That’s the Falmer Stadium and this is the story of the Seagulls:
Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club was founded in 1901 and had the suffix ‘United’ for a short time before swiftly becoming Albion and first played in the Southern League Division Two, taking the place of the defunct Brighton & Hove Rangers and becoming professional in the process. After being promoted to the Division 1 in 1903, Brighton won the Southern League title in 1909-’10 and went on to lift the FA Charity Shield at the start of the following season, defeating Aston Villa, to record their first national honour – with the Shield at the time contested between the champions of the Football League and Southern League. Brighton also entered a side in the Western League for two years from 1907, winning the Division ‘1A’ in 1909 before losing the ‘play-off’ to Division ‘1B’ champs Millwall and being closed. Brighton initially played at both the Hove County Ground and the Goldstone Ground – home to Hove F.C., with both clubs sharing the latter stadium from 1902 onwards.
In 1920, the Seagulls were elected to the Football League and its newly founded Division Three South. They remained here throughout the period between the two World Wars with little success coming their way, their best finish being 3rd, twice, in 1937 and 1939. After the end of WWII and the recommencement of football nationwide, the club struggled initially and finished bottom of the league in 1948 though remained in the Football League and soon rose back up the table in the immediate years following and 1958 saw them finally escape Division 3 South as they took the title and were duly promoted to Division Two.
Spending the next four seasons there, they steadily dropped down the table each of those seasons before being relegated after finishing bottom in 1962. Things immediately worsened and Brighton headed straight on through Division Three the next year, finishing third-bottom and found themselves in Division 4 with the league having been fully nationalised. However, the club would spend just the two seasons there before going up as champions in 1965 and 1972 saw the Seagulls back in Division 2, having finished up as Division 3 runners-up. Their stay in the second-tier would be brief, the single campaign ending with the dreaded drop once again being suffered as the club found themselves heading back to the Third Division, where they would spend the next five years before going up to Division 2 once again.
This time, things got even better for Albion and after spending another two years in Division Two, the club secured their first stint in Division One with a runners-up placing in Division 2 and would remain in the top division for the next four seasons prior to relegation in 1983 and 1987 had Brighton back in the Division 3 once again, but they would bounce back immediately by finishing as Division 3 runners-up. Despite reaching the 1991 play-offs and losing in the final at Wembley to Notts County, Albion became one of the sides to hold the dubious honour of being relegated in 1992 from Division Two, only to end up in the re-designated one after the formation of the Premier League) and remained there up until the penultimate season at their long-standing Goldstone Ground home.
It was then things went awry, with relegation to Division Three being suffered in 1996 and two successive second-bottom finishes duly followed, though relegation was avoided with it not being a relegation place at the time. Indeed, the 1998 survival was only secured on the final day, with Albion meeting relegation rivals Hereford United on the final day and doing enough to ensure it would be the Bulls whose League stay would come to an end by virtue of goals scored taking priority over goal difference at the time.
Upon the club’s return to Brighton after a two-year hiatus at Gillingham, things quickly improved and two successive promotions were enjoyed at the Seagulls’ new home the Withdean Stadium. Not only that, both promotions came as champions as Brighton lifted the Division 3 title in 2001 and Division Two in 2002 and were back competing in Division One. Unfortunately, the stay would only be a sole season and the club were again relegated to Division Two, only to make an immediate return after reaching the play-offs and defeating Bristol City in the final at the Millennium Stadium. They went on to compete in the newly named Championship for the next two seasons before suffering the drop once more – to League One in 2006.
The club would have a five season stay in League One until 2011 when they took the title in their final campaign at the Withdean before moving to their new Falmer Stadium home and returning to the Championship for a second time, this time established themselves as a major contender for promotion to the Premier League. Brighton made the play-offs in each of 2013 & 2014 – losing out in the semi-finals to Crystal Palace and Derby County respectively, and suffered worse heartbreak in 2016 in missing out on the runners-up spot and automatic promotion and were then defeated in the play-off semis for the third successive year, this time by Sheffield Wednesday. Finally they broke their near-miss curse in 2017 by securing the runners-up placing in the Championship and with it the much coveted automatic promotion place for the Premier League, finishing 15th at the end of their first season.
The game got going with the hosts on top during the early stages, though they created little of note. Shane Duffy’s header was the closest either side came within the first twenty minutes, before Beram Kayal’s effort finally forced one of the ‘keepers into action – Jonathan Bond saving rather comfortably in the end. The Seagulls continued to have the vast majority of play through to the half-hour, restricting West Brom to the odd breakaway here and there with Yves Bissouma, Kayal and Florin Andone all being denied by Bond – the first stretching him the most. West Brom did come into the game more as the half entered the last fifteen minutes or so with Jonathan Leko firing way off target in the visitors’ first true sight of goal.
The tempo of the tie kept rising and the contest became a highly entertaining one, with West Brom happy to try to break at pace against a Brighton side who continued to press on forward. It was Brighton too who would have the better of the late first half chances, Bissouma and Andone firing off target as the sides headed in still deadlocked. Not consecutive nil-nil’s, surely?
An uneventful half-time was spent having a flick through the scores on the doors before the game got back underway with the Baggies seeming far more adventurous in their attacking endeavours while attacking the end at which their fans (and me) were located. Hal Robson-Kanu, annoyingly wearing #4 against what really should be a law, had a headed effort comfortably saved by Brighton stopper David Button and Rekeem Harper drove a shot just wide of the target as the visitors started strongly.
Just before the hour, the Seagulls would go as close as they would come in the game when the ball came to Dale Stephens just outside the area and his low shot looked to be headed for the bottom corner until Bond’s hand intervened, diverting the ball onto the post. A good stop, which would soon be matched by opposite number Button, when he palmed Tosin Adarabioyo’s header from close-range onto the crossbar.
As the game entered its final quarter, both sides were looking to grab the deciding goal and send themselves into the fifth round alone. Robson-Kanu saw an effort fly wide and Brighton sub Viktor Gyokeres again found Bond in the way, but other than that, the substitutes didn’t have too much effect on the tie overall. Glen Murray was sent on in the final stages and the veteran almost grabbed the winner with seconds left on the clock when he was denied by another Bond stop to ensure the goalless draw and both teams a place in the hat. The double-0 part definitely fitted in.
Post-match I headed round to the club shop with some really freezing rain now falling steadily. Having been pointed this way by a steward at half-time as a likely place to secure a programme, I came across a few at one of the tills and upon being asked for the £2 due, just happened to have my wallet come out upside down….only for the correct amount to drop out. I definitely meant it, it’s my party trick (my parties really are that exciting). From there, I made haste to join the growing masses attempting to make the Falmer platforms in any sort of respectable time and, to be fair, it was marshalled well and enabled me to be on a packed third post-match train back to Brighton, giving me a good hour and a bit back in the city centre.
Popping into the Spoons I’d come across earlier in the day, the Bright Helm, I discovered the walk had been significantly longer than I expected (I hadn’t learned from before) and so had to resort to a Hooch – which came in a plastic glass “because of the football”. No, me neither, but this wasn’t to be the worst of it as, on attempting to visit the station neighbouring Railway Bell I was told it was by home match ticket only. WTF?! That really was my thoughts at the time, but the guys on the door did give me a couple of options (one being directly next door) and another being just up the hill. Luckily, I’d already scouted out the Battle of Trafalgar before the trip so a quick Amstel was had in this really traditional pub before finally returning to Brighton station for the final time for the day and grabbing the train back to the capital.
A doze off passed the majority of the journey and I awoke just before Croydon, meaning just a short hop remained until I could disembark and return to Euston for one of the more welcome trains I’ve ever seen to this point. All went smoothly and a slight delay getting to Manchester even helped out to shave a few minutes off my wait for the bus home. A good day, good pubs, good ground, good food and a good place to visit too. The game was alright considering it was the dreaded nil-nil, but having suffered through three in six matches now, I’m well versed in the feeling. How I pine for the 81 game streak….
Programme: 5 (cut back effort)
Value For Money: 6