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It’s official. Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club are flying. They will play in the top flight of English football in the 2017-18 season. 

The seagulls secured automatic promotion to the English Premier League on Monday as they defeated relegation-threatened Wigan 2-1 at the American Express stadium in front of a capacity 30,000 crowd, and as Huddersfield Town drew with Derby 1-1.

With three games still to play, Brighton have secured an impressive 92 points from 28 wins, eight draws and only seven defeats which means they are now soaring into the EPL.

What’s more, if Brighton secure three points from their remaining three games, they will win the Championship above Newcastle United; the team who has a Champions League winning manager and a player budget of £54 million. 

Destination: Brighton

So ... there will be a new South coast destination on the EPL fixture list next season. 

Destination: Brighton.  Yes, you read that right! The American Express stadium will host the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.

It’s not often I’m lost for words, but right now I’m struggling to find any that will be enough to describe this unbelievable story.

The lows

As a lifelong Brighton fan, I’ve seen my fair share of lows; I’ve seen the club go through six painful relegations, I’ve watched on from the stands and witnessed the club come agonisingly close to falling out of the football league completely, I’ve seen the club be left with no other choice, but to sell their beloved Goldstone ground in 1997 and – not forgetting - I’ve travelled some 75 miles to watch them play “home” games in another county in Gillingham, Kent. 

Finally, when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. The Seagulls home became the makeshift Withdean ground (a converted athletics track owned by the Council) with a capacity of just 7,000. The not so glamourous Withdean also boasted sheds that doubled as changing rooms and corporate hospitality spaces, and a discus net and a long jump pit for extra ambience! Hard to believe this was “home” for 11 years.

But somehow, against all odds, the club survived well as nomads, all whilst battling for planning permission to build a new, world class stadium.

The American Express Community Stadium

After years and years of lobbying, persistence paid off. In 2010 Brighton could finally call the American Express Stadium home.  

Quite an incredible journey when you consider planning permission was given in June 2002, with the intention of the new ground being ready for the 2005-06 season; but along came an extensive, lengthy planning inquiry which delayed any progression.  It wasn’t until 2007 that the plans were re-affirmed.

The stadium officially opened on 30 July 2011. The Amex played host to Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly, the home-side narrowly losing 3–2. The first competitive match was held on 6 August 2011, when Brighton beat Doncaster Rovers 2–1, after being 1–0 down.

So close but yet so far

The Seagulls came so close to automatic promotion last season missing a place by the cruellest of margins as Middlesbrough took out the second automatic promotion spot on goal difference. The Seagulls were left to the play-off lottery where they ultimately ran out of gas and went down over two legs to Sheffield Wednesday. 

Prior to this, the closest the club came to fame was in 1983 when they reached the FA Cup Final against Manchester United and had the opportunity to score and win the game, prompting the well-known phrase, “and Smith must score”. He didn’t score, and Manchester United went on to record an emphatic victory in the replay, 4-0. Enough said!

The highs

Fast forward to 2017 and, wow, Brighton and Hove Albion have come a very long way. 

The club has one of the best stadiums in the country, a world class multimillion-dollar training facility, a generous, passionate chairman, an astute, business savvy CEO, an experienced, dedicated, humble manager and a sense of togetherness that makes each person associated with the club feel immensely proud.

The fairytale

In 1994, as a 14-year-old, I worked as a catering assistant at the Goldstone ground where I served hot dogs, Bovril and Mars bars to countless rowdy disgruntled Albion fans. 

Fast forward to 2017, some 23 years later and it feels unimaginable that I will soon sit in the stands of a world class stadium and watch Brighton and Hove Albion host the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal and I can also say “see you soon” to  Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, Anfield and the Emirates.

Congratulations Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. 

You have created history and you’ve made fans all around the world incredibly happy and proud including this crazy Seagull fan downunder. 

See you soon. Old Trafford. Etihad. Emirates. Anfield. We're on our way!


Categories: Opinion | Premier League | Football Life

premier league, championship, brighton and hove albion fc

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