I had already booked a stadium tour of the Amex stadium, the home of Brighton and Hove Albion. No – I have not deserted my beloved Fulham after 50 years but, now having a property nearby, they are my local side. If you take season tickets as the measuring stick, Brighton are the seventh best supported club in the land. They have 24,000 season ticket holders. The reason for this is that Brightonians are proud sports lovers with the country cricket ground at Hove, a statute for Steve Ovett and a horse race and dog track. It must have been a mighty blow when the old Goldstone became a Toys For Us store and they had to play their home games as far away as Gillingham. It’s largely due to the Bloom family that they have a fine stadium nestling in the downs at Falmer, just off the A27. They have made the play-offs these past two seasons but the general view of taxi drivers, all of whom are season ticket holders, whose carriage and company I have enjoyed, is that the squad is rather thin. They have sold two of their best players – Ulloa and Mattie Upson – to Leicester but, as one driver said, they got a good price for the former and you cannot begrudge the chairman for wanting to get some money back. They all like the chairman and take his side in the fall-out that led to Poyet going to Sunderland.
Through an introduction I was met at the stadium by ex-club captain Paul Rogers. Paul was in the Sutton side that beat Coventry in the Cup some 20 years ago and played for Wigan and Sheffield United before settling in the south, playing for Brighton and coaching locally. A strapping blonde 6-footer who heads up the 1901 Executive club, which is of course full with a waiting list, I found him helpful. The facilities and stadium are all impressive. Unlike Fulham at the moment, you very much feel it’s a community club pulling together. Amex, the largest Brighton employer, have the stadium-naming rights but choose to call it the Amex Community stadium. The taxi driver on the way back, of course a season ticket holder, said that for a few years you saw local kids in Manchester United shirts, now they are all in Brighton blue. It’s a wonderful story. I would not say this to the taxi drivers but, although I cannot see one Brighton player getting into the Fulham team, I would say I wish we had their spirit, pride and togetherness.