With Brighton and Hove Albion today getting into the Premier League following their 2-1 victory over Wigan today, I felt it was right to reflect on the last 20 years, when they escaped relegation to the conference with a 1-1 draw against my home town club, Hereford United.
On the 3rd May 1997 I took a couple of hours work at a newsagent so I could cycle to Edgar Street to watch the most important game I had witnessed in my 16 years. I do not remember much about the game but I do remember the final whistle and the sadness I felt, thinking this was the end of an era and it was the closest I have ever been to crying at A game of football. I remember a lot of older men and woman crying as their club they have supported through the league years were sent to the conference as the game finished one all. I can still hear the celebrations of the Brighton players and fans in the distance… then I had to go back to work and think about what was to come.
The journey the two clubs have taken over the last years could not have been different, with Brighton slowely rising up the leagues with a couple of relegations, as they have steadily built the club how a club should be. Built, Slowly, steadily and responsibly, under Dick Knight and since 2009 Tony Bloom. As part of the 20 year journey they have moved from the Goldstone Ground to the Withdean. I had never been there but from what I remember on the TV was a joke if a ground, and then into the impressive looking AMEX stadium. Again never been to a match at the AMEX but having driven past a couple of times, it looks incredible… not many new stadiums I have seen or been in impress me like the AMEX did.
Then onto Hereford, after a couple of poor seasons in the conference in which the club battled financial issues under Graham Turner leadership, both on and off the pitch, the early 2000’s were quite bright as the team played some impressive football- probably some of the best I’ve witnessed. I am aware that outplaying teams such as leek Town and Leigh RMI or Forest Green Rovers may not be impressive to most, I believe it’s all relative. Every year Hereford had a new squad of players that were free signings. In the 2003-2004 season was probably my highlight as the team missed out on promotion despite scoring over 100 goals. Chester pipped us to the post as they insisted on winning game after game 1-0. Then came some success in getting to League one, even though it was for one season only. After that it was back to the norm, until unfortunately the Bulls were forced out of business thanks to some bad owners who had no care for the football club and were only interested In the land value.
At no point do think Hereford would be where Brighton are now if we had stayed up, but the journeys both clubs have taken over the last 20 years could not have been different….
Congratulations to the Seagulls