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The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC
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  1. The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC

    Going to have a pop at doing one of these stories since I've been (and still am) having the best FM game I've played to date. I'll pick it up as I go along I'm sure, but I'm going to do it in the style hopefully of one of those documentaries since I'm already a few seasons into it. Think of it like QPR's 'The Four Year Plan', only narrated by Des Lynam. Who else?
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  2. 2012-13 Season: New start, new man, new goals.

    2012-13 Season: New Start, New Man, New Goals.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-bha-v-spurs-062.jpg
    Albion finished the 2011-12 season solidifying a return to the 2nd tier of English Football with a credible 10th position, briefly flirting with the prospect of a mouth watering promotion push. No one could grumble on the south coast with the bold steps into the Championship, and with the new stadium impressing in attendance and awards, there was a very real sense of continued climbs up into the rarefied heights of English football.
    Any optimism was short-lived, and any fan would have been justified for their fears for the future. Chairman Tony Bloom took the unprecedented decision to let talisman manager Gus Poyet leave, followed immediately by the appointment of the young incumbent manager of only 26 years. The real fan favourite gave his parting message on the website rather than with fond waves to the stands. There was no 'O lord Gus Poyet' to thank the man for his efforts.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-tony-bloom.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-poyet.png
    Chairman Tony Bloom and The flamboyant Gus Poyet

    The media rumourmill had a field day with the surprise dropped upon the Seagulls faithful; of Gus' comments of wanting to make the move to managing one his former clubs of Tottenham or Chelsea may have been the catalyst... ...the Uruguayan and the management both felt he had taken the team as far as he was all irrelevant, the decision had been made.

    An uncommon number were in attendance at the unveiling press conference of the young manager, press from further afield came to make their appraisals, search for the chinks in this outrageous gamble. The man held up well, needing no education of the club.

    "My first game was as a boy, north stand of the old Goldstone ground. Steve Foster scored, and I was hooked, they were and are my team, through relegation to the depths and the rise to this level. It's never easy being a fan of this club is it?" he joked, met with mildly patronising appriciation.

    Something of a fairytail emerged in the stands of football grounds, that a fan who showed the aptitude might actually get that dream chance. Whether such a move would pay off was still to be seen.
    The press lapped it up, disaster forecasts and celebrity.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-frankiesandfordbrighton.jpg
    With the arrival of loanee coup Wayne Bridge came a little pop glamour.

    The cameras moved in, documenting this would be football history. The English Riviera began.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-board-room.jpg

    Speculation quickly disappeared over the futures of all the staff gathered by the previous gaffer, the decision had been an easy one for the new man in charge, stating that the team and setup were already of an excellent standard for this level.

    It was just as well as the players for the season had been decided with all work in the market done early under Poyet, leaving no money to change the shape of the squad the new boy was to manage. It didn't seem to matter, after a stubborn 1 - 0 defeat to Hull it was quickly followed with
    an away win over Ipswich of 5 - 1. It was a sign of things to come, Brighton soared to the top of the table by the end of September. It couldn't happen could it?

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-gordongreer_2604158.jpg Captain Gordon Greer led the line in what quickly became a military effort in defence, and at the opposite end the goals came from all over as the talent in midfield and attack alike found the net at least a few times each outing. Shock victories against Blackburn, Blackpool and Cardiff showed the betting types that finishing 10th again was going to be a poor prediction for their second season in the capricious league.

    Given the tremendous form in the league, anyone could forgive the boys for failing to advance beyond their first game in the Capital One Cup; especially when January rolled around, the team laying in second place embarked upon their F.A. Cup campaign, revealing early inspired performances in the competition from Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith and Spanish wizards Vicente and Andreas Orlandi.

    The board must have been pinching themselves, the luck was surely going to run out, and it looked as if it had when Everton came calling for young talent Will Buckley who had been instrumental on the right wing.
    3 Million pounds and he was off to Merseyside. The manager could be seen to reveal his frustrations with his coaching staff when Vicente decided that his future lay back in his homeland at the end of his contract.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-will-buckley-newcastle.ashx.jpeg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-vicentebrighton.jpg
    Whippit Will Buckley said his farewells in the Janurary window; Former Spanish International Vicente orchestral in midfield signalled goodbye was on the horizon.

    The pundits claimed without bringing any fresh faces in would hamper the continued brave efforts, and with none the fans began to believe the talk. It proved unfounded, the astonishing run continued.
    Trading places with Blackburn Rovers and Wolves for the lead, the three clubs asserted their dominance in the league building a handsome tally of points, yet what was more inspiring was Brighton's run in the cup.

    Home ties against lower league opposition were comfortable victories no one batted an eyelid at, however when the likes of Wigan came calling, everyone thought the Premier League was about to flex its muscles and see off this championship fluke.

    The Latics fell by the wayside. The Semi-Final beckoned for the seagulls. Striker Ashley Barnes developed the midus touch when faced with the net, his previous marmite label as a lethargic forward faded with each sprint towards the stands arms aloft.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-ashleybarnes.jpg

    A semi-final tie with Arsenal was drawn, the tactics were predictable, dig in and wait. Blue and white stripes held their breath for ninty minutes in the Wembley seats as Eygptian International El-Abd knocked about the likes of Giroud; Hammond and Crofts battered the Arsenal midfield leaving any chances the Gunners had to be from range.
    Neither side found the net. Extra time came and the frail who had never dared to dream of their team ever reaching a final again staved off heart attacks with each flying run from Wilshire or Walcott.
    The Albion had their penalties.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-kuszczak.jpgTomasz Kuszczak wouldn't be beaten, saving two, another went high and they had their dream date in the headlines. Halfway between the gutter and the stars didn't cover it anymore, they were nearly there.
    The league was looking all but assured for automatic promotion, only a few clubs could catch Wolves and Brighton, but the run kept up. Before long they were both celebrating their successes of promotion, a dip at the end saw Wolves the eventual winners.

    Elation came. They had slowly begun to believe it was a possibility as the results had come, to gain promotion to the Premier League was hailed by everyone in the seaside city as a miracle. They had joined the giants and couldn't wait for the glory and wealth that came hand in hand with it.

    But it wasn't the greatest highlight of the unbelievable season. All eyes turned elsewhere.

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    Chelsea saw off rivals Manchester United to set up the final. The Albion didn't stand a chance, the likes of Torres, Hazard, Oscar and Lampard. They had managed a replay of their one and only F.A. Cup final against Manchester United back in 1983, receiving a sound beating for their efforts.
    Everyone involved in the team could be seen to smile, they had a slim chance, but what they had already accomplished was enough.

    3 - 1 to the Albion. Europe beckoned.
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    Premier League Winners: Manchester City
    Champions League: Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham
    Europa League: Brighton, West Brom, Arsenal
    Relegated: Southampton, Liverpool, Swansea

    Championship Promoted: Wolves (Champions), Brighton (Runners-up), Bristol City (Play-Offs Winners)

    F.A. Cup Winners: Brighton, Runners-up: Chelsea

    Captial One Cup Winners: Manchester United, Runners-up: Tottenham

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-poyet1.jpg  
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  3. 2013-14 Season: Enhance and Elevate

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    As the curtain fell following the triumph at the heart of English football the celebrations slowly moved back to the coast in a wave of heady flag waving and a chorus of songs.

    The footballing world joined in heralding the fairytail story taking place as the previously unknown manager appeared only sporadically before the lenses and out-thrust microphones brandishing their loud emblems.
    BBC South-east today reveled in covering the customary open top bus parade; May was the month every Brighton fan bursted with pride.
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    Unprepared for the staggering achievement, a local bus was converted at short notice.

    Players disappeared on their holidays about the world, shielding themselves from the flurry of attention suddenly descended upon the south coast. It was a different picture for the management.
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    The Brighton stadium office's lights burnt on late into the nights.

    The Premier League geared up to welcome the new changes. All focus was on the back to back champions Manchester City and their abilities to retain it a third time. The likes of the BBC's Mark Lawrenson were left to field the usual questions in his glum demeanour whilst looking like he wanted to be anywhere else but there.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mark-lawrenson-commentato-001.jpgQ "Mark you used to play for Brighton, held in something of a high regard there. What do you think to their chances in the top flight after all this time?"

    A "You're right, they've got me as one of their banners outside the new stadium for some reason. Well; I don't know to be honest with you. The manager has done an unbelievable job winning the F.A Cup as they did, and gaining promotion was against the odds...but the step up is often too much for the new clubs and I don't really see Brighton any differently. The main problem and it always is, is I don't see where the goals are going to come from. It's all good and well drawing games but if you don't have a proven goalscorer at this level you're not going to get enough points on the board."

    The management agreed with the former Seagulls great. Ashley Barnes had been their top scorer during the dream opening season for the manager, but the harsh reality was he didn't look like that of a Premiership striker. So too were a number of faces in the squad looking like they had enough about them to be squad players or backup, but not the starring talent which would see the team cemented in the top division for the forseeable future.

    Journalists who had been unkind toward the incumbent boss had stated perhaps to sound controversial alone that it had been Poyet's team who had achieved such brilliant success, and had the man still been in charge they would have no doubt done the same.
    What was obvious was that it was the summer where the changes in personnel would begin.

    Those not out of contract kept their jobs, but in came a host of faces to the manager's backroom. Croatian Ivan Juric brought some international experience to the staff, as did Scot Arthur Albiston. A total of another five coaches found employment at the AMEX, with the scouting numbers bolstered to meet the demand of their global search for the necessary talent.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-davidburke.jpgImmediately Director of Football David Burke was seen to pull his weight, finding his list of players to find new homes for a task well within his grasp. Ashley Barnes headed for Norfolk and the Cannaries for a club record of £5.5 million. Stephen Dobbie also said his farewells after just one season, making the trip to fellow promoted Wolves for £2.7 million. Romain Vincelot and Marcos Painter were deemed surplus to requirements for £350,000 and £575,000 respectively.

    The board looked at the figures, the club had never seen such money coming in through the door. Already in a very healthy financial position with the sponsored stadium and prize money; the transfer funds were bolstered by the board's decision to inject nearly all of the inward bound television rights funds the club was entitled to.
    A series of extremely well mannered meetings took place, each time the manager emerging with a grin he had trouble disguising before the cameras.

    Surprisingly he looked to the back first for strengthening. As June was coming to a close so too were a number of contracts of players who had failed to secure further employment thus far.
    Immediately Kolo Toure was welcomed to the AMEX, seen as having the necessary experience at the top level that the team would undoubtedly need for their season.
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    Slimmer of the year Kolo decided the twilight of his career lay with the Albion

    Following him a day later was German left back Diego Contento, disappointed at only recently being put up for transfer he quickly embraced the move across to England and the chance to continue playing in European competition.
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    For a fee of £4.3 Million Bayern Munich happily parted with the left back

    The Brighton staff were in fine form after another day with their third signing; young Brazilian talent Admelison. At £5.25 million he was the record signing of the club, and in a surprising scene with the manager one night following a spell with a whiskey bottle, the man revealed his exploits to obtain the youngster.

    Initially he had travelled to Brazil last december to scout the potential future star of the country. Valued at the time as a transfer at the bought price, the Brighton board had proven unwilling to release the funds required for the January transfer window, leaving the manager at a loss as to how to attain the prospect forward.

    In a questionable tactic, the Brighton manager acted outside of the board's knowledge in finalising a transfer for the player; Sao Paulo accepting the offer and allowing contract talks to take place. Ademilson soon agreed terms the manager explained, but without the money to complete the transfer he instead chose to delay the deal for a number of weeks.

    Sao Paulo grew tired of the stalling before long and broke off the proposed transfer, however over a month later following the break-down another club came calling for the player. The Brighton manager eager not to lose his man once again spoke to Sao Paulo, offering the same amount previously agreed upon. Convincing enough, the South Americans decided Brighton had the better offer and finalised the transfer on their end.
    The money was still missing, and after delaying some weeks again the errant practices of the Brighton manager were starting to give rise ill feelings over ocean.

    Finally, with yet another club, more prominant still making a move for the player, Brighton came in with an equal offer once more. How the manager convinced the Sao Paulo board that the deal was genuine this time is a mystery; perhaps the notable successes in the footballing world were so blatant to see that now no one could deny the funds had to be legitimate. Pleased to be playing in Europe, the Brazilian arrived.
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    What happened yet another 24 hours later will go down in Albion history forever.
    For £13 million, Fabio Borini pulled on the blue and white stripes.

    Liverpool had undergone the impossible nightmare Newcastle had endured a few seasons past, relegation to the Championship and the sheer embaressment a club of such incredible stature would now have to take. Everton fans labelled the day they went down as 'the greatest moment in Everton's history' as they well and truly overtook their neighbours for current dominance.
    In the drop, the reds still clinging to their Elvis anthem were forced to take on the onerous task of letting go of their crop of disparate stars.

    The riches of Paris St-Germain could afford the services of highly rated Lucas Leiva, someone Brighton had enquired about but found to be well beyond their means.

    When asked of who he'd like to take from the club, the manager said "I put in a cheeky offer for Gerrard" however the England captain clearly felt it was in his best interests to stay at the home he had made all his career.

    The likes of Joe Allen and Jose Enrique had been scouted, but in the end it was decided that the 22 year old Italian former under-21 striker was the man they needed.

    A tentative meeting took place with the chairman and directors over whether the club could really afford to spend the substantial sum of £13 million on one player when so many areas needed strengthening. The manager got his way. The press gathered as the man who had failed to find the back of the net often enough in Liverpool's doomed campaign now smashed the day old transfer record at Brighton.
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    Borini brought some Italian class to the already international squad.

    Ryan Shotton joined the Brighton defence on a free at the start of July, failing to agree terms on a new Stoke contract.
    It was then the turn of the midfield, with Mosambique international Simao following a week later from Chinese side Shandong for a reported £16,000. Norberto Tradito, an Argentinian youngster at the prestigious Boca Juniors signalled his intention to form his career like much of his compatriots on the European stage for a fee of £3.4 million. Finally the centre of the park's ranks were filled with Japanese defensive midfielder Hajime Hosogai. The same day Bayer Leverkusen felt he was outside of their plans he was snapped up by Brighton for £1.8 million.
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    Shotton remained the only English player to sign for the club, as Simao and Hosogai brought still more international experience.

    The season began with its customary opening match, the Community Shield. It had been billed as the real indication of how the promoted side would fare against the megastars of the elite, with bookies giving out odds which were less than kind to the southern team.
    What the spectators were treated to however was a closely fought tie, resulting in a scoreline of 3 - 2 to the Manchester side. Fabio Borini had arrived, and with a debut brace, supporters felt immediately assured their mammoth signing was money well spent. The pundits were quick to change their predictions for which promoted side had the best chance of remaining a Premier League team come May.

    Just about everyone thought that had been it for the Brighton transfers, a team was formed and from the surface it looked as if they might keep their heads above water should they gel quickly enough. A 4 - 0 opening day victory at home against Bristol City saw them begin to build momentum once more, with three more wins quickly and effortlessly rolling by. Only Manchester City stood above them in the table on goal difference, but it was too early in the season to be dreaming of anything beyond staying up.

    However, on transfer deadline day veteran Yossi Benayoun forced his way out of Chelsea in order to secure first team football before his playing days were up.
    The negociations went on for hours, with the Israeli's agent refusing to accept the drop in wages Brighton required; however with no other clubs interested in his services, the Albion got their attacking midfielder for the promise of regular football. It wouldn't be hard to grant it with the experience of the division the man brought with him.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-yossibenayoun.jpg
    Arriving on a free, Benayoun signalled the last of the summer action for the Seagulls.

    Manchester City hosted a visit from Brighton at the Etihad stadium for the first time. Flush with their tense victory over the upstarts in the Community Shield they were already in title contender form comfortably in first place. It was predicted Mancini the Manager of the Year last season would have the measure of this Brighton squad having already played them in the capital. A draw played out, Kolo Toure shutting up the familiar faces of his former club including his brother to secure the massive point.

    Whilst the Capital One Cup disappeared without much of a fight once more; Arsenal found themselves being beaten by the seagulls again. Newcastle too had no answer, and even Manchester United couldn't gain even a point. By Christmas...Brighton were in the lead.
    But that wasn't all. The Europa League had drawn them against the likes of Roma, PAOK and Athetlic Bilbao. Amazingly, an away win of 2 -1 over Roma and a return home victory of 4 -1 had continued the trend of predictions being woefully short. PAOK lost twice, seeing the seagulls qualify for the knockouts despite Bilbao's harsh reminder they wern't invincible, thumping them 5 - 1 at the Amex.

    The board called in their manager, re-evaluating their gamble this season as the form had been something else. No longer were they aiming for a relegation avoidance battle, he told them he would garentee them a comfortable top half of the table finish.

    Fresh funds were freed up, and for £14.25 million, German lightning bolt right winger Patrick Herrmann traded Gladbach for the vastly overachieving Albion.
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    When asked about the move to Brighton, Patrick had only "Wunderbar..." to say

    The signing had an instant impact. In the league he reached the byline as if it were a ritual, but in Europe, FC Porto were the opposition in the knockout stages. A 4 - 0 home victory meant they were all but through, Herrmann contributing three assists and cementing his place in the starting eleven. The return journey to Portugal was a comfortable 0 - 0 draw, the march went on.

    In the league, Sunderland felt the full force of Fabio Borini who was in imperious form, a hattrick from the Italian contributing to a 4 - 1 victory at the Stadium of Light.
    A series of draws and small wins kept Brighton at the top of the pile, the Manchester reigning champions only a few points shy of them.

    The F.A cup was kind, draws against Ipswich in the third round and Shrewsbury in the fourth yielded easy victories where the manager fielded weakened sides. The luck persisted as Yeovil travelled to Brighton to lose 3 - 1, and Reading at the Majeski were unable to stop Borini and co, losing 3 - 1 also.

    They had made it Wembley again, but there they met Manchester City.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-wembley-stadium.jpg
    Despite their best, it seemed the sky blues wanted it more. The defence of the Albion getting torn apart for three goals from the Argentinian forwards of Tevez and Aguero. Only a late consolation prevented Joe Hart from keeping a clean sheet again.
    It was expected that the manager would be down-hearted about the loss and the chance to reach the prized final at both times of asking, however he was coy at the press conference that followed stating: "The result was a shame though Manchester deserved the win, however we've had some good news regarding this coming summer's work. Should make our jobs a little easier in a few months time."

    The comments did the trick, the media spent more time speculating just whom he could be alluding to rather than steeping immense pressure upon the surprise package league leaders. Roberto Mancini was still playing catchup, the duel wasn't over.

    But a downturn was on the cusp. Borussia Dortmund met the seagulls in the second knockout round, and though the first leg away ended in a 2 - 2 draw, full of optimism; the second leg was a drubbing as the Germans smashed in 4 goals to send Brighton crashing out.
    Exiting two of the competitions they were challenging for left a deflated feeling, but the glass was still half full as it freed up all efforts to focus on the league, something which translated into results as Everton suffered the frustrations of the Brighton boys, going down 4 - 0 themselves.
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    Lua Lua just couldn't wait until the final whistle

    They went on a crusade of an end season in search of results, never had the club been in such a lofty position before, gaining Champions League football in the process. 3 losses, 3 draws and 4 wins, their rivals slipping up each time the opportunity to leapfrog them presented itself.
    Only one game remained.

    Manchester City, at the Amex, one point seperating them for the title.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-falmer_stadium_-_league_debut_2.jpgThe flags came out, 'Sussex by the sea' boomed from speakers and fans mouths as the packed stadium promised that the Premier League was heading one way or the other in the next 90 minutes here.

    Fabio Borini scored. Brighton took the lead, the manager shouted no instructions from the touchline just as he had always refrained. Mancini could be seen to fume, the mistake by Kompany so uncharacteristic. The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-roberto-mancini_2701142.jpg

    Manchester City leveled before the break, Aguero striding clear of Greer to slot past the Polish keeper. Half time had nervous conversations taking place all round the nation, how could it be so close between these teams?!

    The cameras didn't dare try to enter the dressing room. Tension rolled over the half-time spectacles as cheerleaders and mascots did their best to ease the fraught nerves of the eyes watching.

    Howard Webb blew for the second half. Borini Scored. Whatever had been said at the break worked; the directors pumped fists and joined in the manic scenes in the stands. No poznan, the Seagull flags were waved high.

    The clock ticked closer and closer to a famous victory, Manchester pushed up trying to burst bodies into the box and bag that all important goal to get them back into the tie. Herrmann broke clear with the ball, flying down the right only to square to Orlandi. The spaniard took too much time, the defenders closed in on him, he cleared his feet dropping the ball back to Admelison. 3 - 1 to Brighton. The final whistle blew, they had done it, they had actually won the Premier League in their first season.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-albion-fans-celebrate.jpg

    Premier League Winners: Brighton 78 pts
    Champions League: Manchester City 74 pts, Chelsea 74 pts, Manchester United 71 pts
    Europa League: Sunderland, Arsenal 70 pts, Tottenham 69 pts
    Relegated: West Ham 35 pts, Sunderland 31 pts, Fulham 27 pts
    Top Scorer: Fabio Borini - 24 league goals
    Most Assists: David Silva - 35 league assists

    Championship Promoted: Swansea (Champions), Blackburn (Runners-up), Southampton (Play-off Winners)

    F.A. Cup Winners: Manchester City, Runners-up: Tottenham

    Capital One Cup Winners: Sunderland, Runners-up: Aston Villa

    Europa League Winners: Bayern Munich, Runners-up: Athletico Madrid

    Champions League Winners: Chelsea, Runners-up: Manchester City
    Last edited by Slimchap; 08/12/2012 at 04:16 PM.
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  4. This. Is. Amazing!
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  5. 2014-15 Season: Antagonists and Acclaim

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brightonpavillion.jpg
    T-shirts mocked up by suspicious vendors flooded the shops in the lanes to offset the sporadic grandiose about the seaside city; politicians and senior figures got in on the act, appearing before the television cameras as they began to soak up the new wave of attention swooping on the colourful inhabitants. Most were interested in the teams exploits, others tried to use the success as a platform.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-caroline-lucas-amex-stadium-visit-dugout-22-july-2011-2-resized.jpg
    Local MP Caroline Lucas at the Amex attempted to promote her green ideals off the back of the astonishing victory.

    It was chaos as crews from the continent roamed looking for that priceless interview. The players delayed their holidays a few days in order to put their faces out there, champions league preview programmes would be repeating the footage for months when the World Cup wasn't dominating. Comparisons to Montpellier were drawn time and again. But that was the French league...this was the best league in the world.

    The naive voiced how their champions would go on to bigger and bigger, more money meant more success, and more success meant more money! If only it was that simple. The manager knew that the biggest point of his career lay in this season, and crucially the summer.

    So many clubs who reached such dizzying heights found themselves quickly raided by the larger predators staking their continued dominance on the well traversed territory. Then there was stagnation, such success can seem like a flare burning fantastically before the inevitable. Blackburn Rovers had written the history, in just 4 seasons they slipped away, never gaining the same prestige again.
    They needed a plan.

    It began in the boardroom, changes were needed. The manager regretted it, but a part of his duties entailed parting ways with those who's services were no longer right for the club, however well they might have performed.

    Almost every head of department was given thanks and wished well. Director of Football David Burke, Under 18s Manager Simon Rusk, Reserves Manager Luke Williams, Head of Youth Development John Morling, and most prominent of all Argentinian Assistant Manager Mauricio Taricco - brought in initially as Poyet's number two.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-simonrusk.jpgThe English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-lukewilliams.jpgThe English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mauriciotaricco.jpg
    Simon, Luke and Mauricio pre-dated the incumbent manager, and despite a good rapport with the boss were thanked and let go.

    Others followed them quickly, the overhaul had to happen fast for the work in the transfer market to be successful. Free agent Dani Lopez was brought in to manage the development squad, Dave Watson was poached from Newcastle to take charge of the reserves. West Ham's Tony Carr was appointed Head of Youth Development, his wealth of experience deemed as invaluable to the position and would help to build upon the progress the club was making with its youth setup, a portion of the winnings of their season going straight into improving the facilities.

    Physios in the form of Swansea's Ailsa Jones, Leed's Faith Fisher-Atack, and unattached Eva Carniero brought a little style into the backroom, the manager said upon getting asked about the appointments and their nature:
    "Football is dominated by men throughout; yet we've had a female Prime Minister and the head of state is a woman. The medical department is one area we earmarked as where we could bring in some capable staff which would show the club's intent to share the city's message of equality. Of course they needed to show they can put up with a little stick, otherwise they'd never last in such an environment, and the players have been warned about any phantom injuries..."

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    Former Chelsea Physio Eva refuses to treat groin injuries after her time at Stamford Bridge.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-damiencomolli.jpgThat left the two major positions in the manager's staff. Frenchman Damien Comolli took up the post of Director of Football, his previous roles at Arsenal, Liverpool and notably the success he had at Tottenham with finding and signing prodigous talent made him the clear leader for the job. A fond reunion between the Director and Ivorian Kolo Toure took place, Comolli the man who brought him into the English game.

    But the club revealed at a press conference their biggest staff member signing, the manager declaring he was absolutely thrilled to be working with the man.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-johan-cruyff-coach.jpg
    Footballing legend Johan Cruyff signed as Assistant Manager for the Premier League champions, stating that he was fully committed to helping out the manager in any way possible, and that he hoped his experience could aid in a number of ways.
    The media agreed, the work at Barcelona was now the template for youth systems the world over, its dividends evident for all to see. The man's tactial knowledge was better than most managers in the league currently.

    In no time at all the shape of the club had changed. Experience and continued optimism had been brought in, but staff don't win football matches.

    Reminiscent of the Harry Redknapp interview, the Brighton manager was quizzed during the free hours he had in the streets of the city, those few reporters chasing him down when others had peeled off out of respect. Rolling down the window of his DB5 the microphones pushed in.

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    Q. "It's reported that Manchester United are going to come in for an offer for Borini, what are the chances of the top scorer being sold?"

    He measured the response. A. "We've got him under contract for another 4 years. If any team wants him, or any other player we don't want to sell, it'll cost them enough that we could buy the entire England squad."

    Q. "Hah. Nice car, bought with the winnings?"

    A. "The chairman joked I could have one if we won the league. He was a little put out to find I was serious!"

    The message was clear enough, any enquiries were rebuffed within minutes of arriving, the squad would be bolstered not cashed in on.
    Reformed and rejuvinated, the offers were sent out. Relegated Sunderland were the first port of call, much like with Liverpool the Brighton manager felt it was a good template to see what was worth pulling out of the sinking ships. Nathaniel Clyne though a former Crystal Palace and Southampton player signed for £6.75 million as the first choice right back.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-nathanielclyne.jpeg
    Any talk of his former ties with the Eagles was avoided where possible

    The manager seemed to have a favouring for youthful English talent as he next picked out future international goalkeeper Jack Butland as his next player of choice. With Peter Brezovan retiring from football and Casper Ankergran sick of filling the bench as all backup keepers eventually did, it was time to cycle the keepers and bring in new recruits.
    The young English keeper fetched £4.8 million for Birmingham, and another £1.5 million was dolled out to Arsenal for Italian Vito Mannone to become their third choice goalie.
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    Jack Butland on his senior England debut

    Yet unlike last season, the early flurry tapered off, for a week or more as the club busied itself in other areas. It seemed they were building up to something big, generating funds as Comolli found homes for Spaniard Bruno to Bristol City for £525,000; Casper Ankergren then followed suit to the tune of £75,000.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-craigmackailsunderland.jpgTireless forward Craig Mackail-Smith who had produced performance after performance with his workhorse efforts was informed that his opportunities would become less and less, and thus when Watford made an offer of £1.9 million he was given customary thanks for all his goals. The fans sad to see him depart.

    Andrea Orlandi disappointed the management by refusing to sign a new contract, demands too steep for the role he filled, the bosnan rule meant he could leave for Granada without Brighton able to gain anything for the loss he now presented.
    Andrew Crofts expressed his personal regret at venting to a reporter one night, a chat with the manager revealed he was surplus to requirement despite his family and the man himself being well settled in the area. With great reluctance he moved to Blackburn for £2.7 million.

    Wigan felt David Lopez would suit their needs, paying out £2 million for the aged winger. However most surprising of all was the sale of Gordon Greer.
    The captain had steered the club through promotion, cup glory and even the title. Yet even he couldn't deny the fact that as he entered his latter years he couldn't keep up the pace that some others had managed to retain such as Kolo. With a heavy heart he moved back to his country of birth, joining Rangers for £1.2 million.

    June was advancing, and with every player needing to be sold all at new homes, the pooled finances meant they could make their assault on the prime target.

    For £21 Million, Schalke parted ways with Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos. On word the deal had been done, The Brighton manager was quick to state: "Kyriakos is one of the best defenders in the world currently, and his signing for the club is proof of the immense progress we have made. I've no doubt we can go on from here with him at the back." Comolli had travelled to Brazil and the world cup to obtain the signature of the 22 year old.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-papadopoulos.jpg
    After signing, the greek's reaction was stark when he learned from teammates what Brighton was also famous for:

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-gaypride.jpg

    Young Adam Henley was brought in from Blackburn as cover for the full backs, costing only £100,000. Then came July, and the promised news of previous excellent work done by the Brighton staff in the market. The press gathered, unable to discern just who would be arriving with all the activity in the footballing world, the world cup in full flight.

    Rafinha, the jaded Barcelona prospect pulled up at the ground, his obvious joy at the fresh start joining the high-flyers was infectious amongst those in attendance.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-rafinha.jpg
    Costing nothing, Rafinha was shrewd business offering more options in the attack.

    A week later an old familiar face decided to turn up. Posing next to his own banner heralding his magnificent years of service at the turn of the millenium. Bobby Zamora resigned to Brighton having run out his contract at QPR. The word was the player came in as much for the manager's benefit as the supporters, watching him from the stands those years ago. What was certain was the man was the new third striker, replacing the sold Mackail-Smith and providing the forward line with some experience and a little height.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-7003481161_bd448ba773_z.jpg
    The fans loved the return, the favourite deciding to end his career where it was truly made

    Goalkeepers, defenders, an attacking midfielder and a striker. They were looking a good squad, but whenever asked the manager simply stated he had more he wanted to bring in. Despite the shareholders withdrawing a substantial sum from last seasons winnings it appeared there was plenty to spend.

    Gianluca Caprari, previously co-owned - the mad system of Italian football, was bought by Pescara. Brighton moved in. Not wanting to negociate and let the Italian club have a think on how far the English were prepared to go with their chequebook, £8 million was offered. Caught off guard by the offer for their new player they accepted. The player voiced his surprise, but didn't take long to accept the contract. Orlandi on the left was replaced, Borini had a compatriot, Brighton had another future star.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-gianlucacaprari.jpg
    Already a regular of the Italy Under-21's, Caprari expressed his excitement at playing in the Champions League

    Paul Pogba disenchanted at Juventus followed Caprari on a plane from the boot of Europe to the south coast of England. With first team chances limited at the Italian giants he refused to sign a new contract, the story was getting some repetition with the arrivals of the Amex.
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    The French midfielder has been hotly tipped for success for a long time

    There was one more doing just the same.
    Japanese international star Keisuke Honda finished his services at the World Cup, joining his teammates in Brighton on a free transfer from CSKA Moscow. The press rightly labelled it a massive coup much like Papadopoulos. The midfield looked set, with Hosogai overjoyed a fellow national had joined him.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-keisukehondaexcited.jpg
    Honda couldn't contain himself when he heard Brighton had offered a contract

    Hardcore Brighton fans were quick to start telling stories of how they were about during the days of the legendary Peter Ward or pulling on the shirt from birth to distinguish their longtime support for the club in combat of the influx of international supporters now flooding in to join the Champions and their new stars.
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    People had little trouble telling those from the orient apart from the locals

    There was one last bit of news for the Brighton faithful; following the retirement of a slew of prominant names, Brighton announced the signing of David Trezeguet and Antonio Di Natale as part of the coaching staff. It would be a model the manager would look to later, the theory no doubt that big names would draw more talented youth to train under their heroes.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-davidtrezeguet.jpgThe English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-di-natale.jpg

    Their rivals hadn't been lazy either in the market; Manchester United had emptied their savings account to lure the incredible Neymar, £41.5 million for the trouble. Chelsea decided to buy British, taking Arsenal's Jack Wilshire off their hands for £34 million despite the lad only recently signing a new contract with the gunners citing his 'love for the club' the reason for doing so. The big teams wern't going to lay down and just let Brighton join their ranks, all comments indicating they were an unwelcome freak accident, they didn't belong.

    Pre-season started, the training camp was hosted by the states, taking on a trio of US teams before heading back to familiar shores. They had booked one final game however before the season would start with its customary opening trophy. A friendly with Borussia Dortmund would tell how the new players were fitting in, and given the manner in which the Europa League tie went it would give the boys present at both a chance to get even.

    It wasn't to be. 3 - 1 the Germans trounced them, at the Amex again no less. Perhaps all the signings had upset the balance the press speculated, perhaps the momentum had run out? There was one more chance to test themselves before the games started to really count.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mariogotze.jpg
    Mario Gotze showed just why he is Dortmund's golden egg

    Manchester City.

    Brighton fans and the manager no doubt alike were getting sick of seeing Mancini's boys turn up. Every time without fail the boys had to fight like dogs to gain even an inch against the billionaire's playground, and it seemed the two teams were set to confront one another forever if they both continued to string together win after win.

    Wembley for the third time was the stage, and it was one that the two Ivorian brothers seemed to relish. Just about the only people who must have greatly anticipated the clashes, both Kolo and Yaya bagged what were to be the only goals in normal time of the game, Kolo heading a corner whilst his brother Yaya drilled a trademark piledriver that could have killed a man on the wrong side of luck.

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    Penalties quickly followed, and Kuszczak clearly did something right as two Manchester spot kicks hit the post, another after a goal being saved by the shootout saint. Brighton missing only one notched a result the fans and board seemed to cherish perhaps a little too much.

    The victory did one thing for the team however, morale was high, the fans were being given every reason to cheer, the atmosphere even in the offices at the club felt buoyant.

    West Brom had the great misfortune to kick off the season against the champions, on Brighton soil no less.
    5 - 1 the Seagulls won, a ruthless victory as Borini immediately picked up where he left off; Caprari a league debut goal to help him settle. Manchester United at Old Trafford came next, 2 - 1 to Brighton. 4 - 1 against Reading, 2 - 0 Stoke. Top of the league.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-lewisdunkcelebrate.jpg
    Defender Lewis Dunk enjoyed opportunities as a sub, bagging a few goals from set pieces in the process

    With things so settled in the league after 4 straight victories naturally all minds focused on the big draw, their first time in what unanimously is known as the greatest club competition on the planet.
    Seeded 4th, of course, second round of Europa League didn't get you far.

    Group D: Bayern Munich, Zenit St Petersburg, Olympique Marseille, Brighton and Hove Albion. Oh Christ.

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    Bayern Munich at the Amex, the fans had done everything to get tickets, the upgraded stadium to nearly 31,000 seats felt inadequate when faced with the demand for the massive occassion. Every blessed supporter in attendance or crowded about a television felt that supreme joy upon hearing the anthem boom out for the first time, for your team.

    The manager growled as his arms waved purposefully, as they settled to kick off he just couldn't take his seat, they had to make sure this wasn't a fluke. Bayern attacked, and attacked. Contento their old player was struggling, the idea that he would know his old teammates well backfired, who figured it turned out they also knew him. He was getting skinned alive. Simao playing as an anchor covered the defender, Caprari created space to get forward whenever able.

    Herrmann on the right similarly struggled, both the Germans were seriously failing against their compatriots. Had something in their native language been said? Brighton's boss screamed 'Schnell Schnell!' from his box, anything to get them going. Half time came and the Albion were hanging on for the draw.

    When they re-emerged, the players looked like they were ready to kill. Contento and Herrmann had been changed. Honda started to pull the strings, his trade mark passes cut gaps Bayern didn't know existed. Borini caught wind and timed his run, the ball found him and he launched, sprinting away from a closing Lahm. A jink and the captain was wrong footed, Neuer flung himself from his 6 yard, spread wide like a wrestler his eyes guessed again and again over the space of a second which way the Italian poacher would go.

    The ball looped into the air, way off his line Manuel clamoured to get back in time to no avail. He scored. Even the manager went nuts, with not long to go he composed himself, a substitute for some fresh defensive legs, they would hold on to this.

    Papadopoulos, enjoying the old rivals being in his new backyard bullied and bossed the likes of Gomez. 1 - 0 Albion. The players celebrated, giving prolonged applause to the fans who gorged themselves. The manager sent the employees home after winding down, pats on the back for every shirt. Tired from the adrenaline, he stepped back out into the stadium, surveying the empty arena as a spectacle...reminiscing on what had just happened. He had asked it of himself before; but they couldn't...could they?

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    A still 2nd tier football Anfield was drawn as the opponents in the Captial One Cup, the cup that had dumped out Brighton with all haste twice already. 2 - 2 after 90 minutes, the manager had begun to regret fielding a rotated side, the players were getting shown how to play by the likes of Gerrard and Allen. Borini Caprari and Honda all came on, triple substitute to sort the mess out. Caprari and Borini linked up, 3 - 2. Gerrard led from the front, 3 - 3. Time ticked away, one minute to go. Lua Lua was brought down some way from the area. Keisuke stepped up, the whole setup looked like a mirror of the 2010 world cup. He blasted it, up and over the wall, top right corner. 4 - 3. A sigh of relief.

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    The only difference was the teams and the corner it nestled

    The league rolled on, wins and draws with the odd loss thrown in. They wern't infallible. A trip to Russia was in order, their next champions league tie.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-flares.jpg3 - 1 and victory.
    Olympique Marseille at the Amex yielded exactly the same result. The Brighton boys were on the up and up!
    Wolves in the league cup took a 3 - 3 against backup players to a penalty shootout. Brighton won. Aston Villa away, 2 - 0. The pundits were beginning to feel silly, still trying to base their predictions upon reputations and experience. Clearly the Albion were proving capable as they brushed all opposition aside!

    It was that time again, Manchester City. November and coaches headed up the countries motorways taking the scheduled trip to the Etihad. Mancini had been subtly piling on the pressure, claiming Brighton were in top form looking incapable of losing, then stating that the style of play was ugly. The man didn't know what he was talking about, the slick passing play fed out to the greyhounds on the wings was easy on the eyes; the magical goals scored by the Italian now international striker Borini as he danced his way past defenders to goal of the month not just once.

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    Whatever preparation had gone before worked better for the Sky Blues. The poznan was taunted before the Albion faithful twice before the break, another after it. But the southern boys didn't look done, reignited once again in the dressing room when heads were starting to drop. Herrmann forced a mistake, Honda got the final touch in a scramble, and then there was a first for Kyriakos. 3 - 3 it finished, Brighton the happier of the two sides.

    OM had no response in France. Chelsea despite the lavish spending of £83 million in the summer saw three go past them. White Hart Lane another trio of goals. It was threatening to become a two horse race, the Etihad and the Amex.

    Bayern Munich set the score straight at their end, a bulldozer performance of 2 - 0 kind on the seagulls, offering nothing in the game against what is still much of the German national side. Lahm seemed luxuriate in the goal he netted; Ruckzahlung.

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    Zenit similarly gained their revenge, repaying the exact same scoreline Brighton dished out in Russia. 4 wins and 2 losses, they topped the group. Outstanding was the word in the ITV studio, but that could have just been Gareth Southgate's inability to think of another.

    The domestic cups reminded management of their importance. The F.A. Cup drew a trip to Goodison Park, a tough fixture. What was worse as the Semi-final draw for the Capital One Cup was drawn with the Brighton staff all watching the office screen.

    "...Manchester City will play......number 14, Brighton and Hove Albion."

    "Oh F*** off!!!!" Exclaimed the manager as he burst from his seat, Cruyff the only man brave enough to calm him down.

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    Stress relief for the man in charge

    Everton hounded Brighton's efforts, a goalless draw led to a 3 - 0 replay at home, a replay they could easily have done without, the young squad were getting tired, tired by January.
    Doing his best, the bit part players took on a few league games gaining only draws and a loss for the trouble. A difficult meeting ensued between the Chairman and the manager with Cruyff to lend a hand. They couldn't compete on all fronts and come out winning, that much was clear. Injuries of potentially key players would almost certainly ensue if they went for an insurmountable goal of a clean sweep, it couldn't be done, no matter how good momentum was.

    In agreeance, one of the cups had to be sacrificed. The chairman wished of course for the League cup to go, but the manager had other ideas. Already at the Semi-final and with the perennial Man City to beat again, it made more sense to try and bag the trophy and focus elsewhere sooner.
    A full strength squad turned out for the first leg. The handshakes normally so pointless offered reporters salacious fuel for their pre-amble, fierce sets of eyes locked as Mancini had risen to the challenge of Brighton's designs on the competition.

    Defences were not the order of the day, the home leg saw hopeless displays from both sides, the woodwork doing the job of the back four far too often. Jack Butland, the favoured choice for the cup competitions in order to blood the youngster was forced to well and truly earn his wage, Dzeko who was in criminal form in the league came at him like a train again and again, getting two for his trouble. Brighton managed three.
    They travelled to the Etihad. 1 - 1. Just a goal in it, Mancini was left to lick his wounds before the cameras once again, though had the consolation they had a point in the title race to the good.

    Southampton who were enjoying a favourable run in all avenues got Brighton away, not a long trip for them, but after a 1 - 1 disappointing draw that held true to the manager's plan of a weak side turning out for the Albion, the return leg felt like a waste of time. It was treated as such. 2 - 3 to the Saints. The chairman called in the manager to chastise him. The F.A. Cup was more important, the season goal had been 6th round. Fortunately they were in a final, knockout stages of the Champions League, and second in the Premiership.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-leaguecup.jpg

    And the final turned into victory. Arsenal must have rued Brighton's progression, Wenger just couldn't find the magic answer to the Brighton tactics. 3 - 0 as the continued heroes of the team laid on a masterclass for the cameras of the 90,000 seater.

    The poor buggers had to suffer even more humiliation as the gunners a week later travelled to the seagulls, losing 3 - 0 again. The press sat down the Brighton boss for one what might well become one of the defining meetings of the manager's career.

    Q. "You're side keeps on going from strength to strength, two small trophies in the cabinet already this season and you're competing for two more major ones. Do you possibly think you can keep this up?"

    A. "I honestly see no reason why not. The fortunes of a team can change in a second, we all know that, but you just have to look at my boys to see they aren't going to fall away too easily. The draw for the Champions League has us playing Sporting...favourable given who is left in the competition, but I'm sure they feel the same. With the quality in our side I genuinely have the belief we will be ending this season on a high."

    He didn't want to get drawn on the possibility of silverware, the league was still months off with Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea all a point or two off Manchester City and themselves. And the Champions League spoke for itself, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City....the list was esteemed.

    Q. "But with the early signs of the squad failing to find fitness for the busy fixture list, you've already limped out of the F.A. Cup, something your Chairman was obviously not happy about in the stands. Could a rift be forming between the management and the board at the club?"

    A. "Could a rift be forming? Is my relationship with the board a difficult one are you saying? Promotion to the top flight, the F.A. Cup, the Premier League title, the Captial One Cup, Champions League knockout stages...are you seriously asking me this question? Seriously?"

    Q. "It's been suggested that the Brighton board were unhappy with your fielding a weakened side in favour of the league cup. And with the final two losses in the Champions League group stages it's been hinted at that the form in Europe is lacking."

    A. "Suggested that...hinted at...its you rumour-mongering with all this." He could feel his anger rising. Johan leant forward with a little push back on his inexperienced boss.

    "What he's trying to convey is that the team is doing its talking on the pitch for everyone to see, and the coming games against Sporting will be no different. Thank-you all for your questions."

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    The cameras captured the manager losing his rag with the stirring reporters, but he hadn't stormed out. They travelled to Portugal for the first leg. 4 - 1. They came back to England, 3 - 1.
    7 - 2 on aggregate, the manager vindicated, the media beat into line.

    The draw took place for the subsequent rounds. Quarter-Final: Barcelona. Semi-Final: Juventus or Manchester City.

    All the staff watching together held their breath as the boss disappeared into the nearest office, slamming the door.


    Arsenal finally got their revenge in the league, the Emirates seeing a 0 - 2 win for the londoners, Wenger's press conference a glib series of congratulatory sentences tripping off the tongue for his players. It was understandable, they were still in the title race and morale could count for everything.

    Yet Brighton had bigger things on their mind.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-messibalondor.jpg
    The player who could easily fit into any side the world over

    Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates had forged out a reputation which permeated throughout the sporting world; people who knew nothing of football knew of Barcelona and their dominance.

    A walkover was predicted, even the faces of the Brighton players showed they didn't really believe they could walk out there and gain a solid victory.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-noucamp.jpg

    Very few teams went to the Nou Camp and got a result. It was an imposing sight as the travelling fans were hemmed in by the catalan masses, their cheers deafening as the blue and red stripes lined up on the turf, foghorns ringing out from all sides.

    The whistle blew. Messi scored. Nightmare.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-messigoal.jpgBrighton fans covered faces with hands, fearing that the absolute worst was about to take place, the expensive trip all just to see a rout. The manager looked quietly confident; as Barcelona waved flags and sung their favourite songs he stood at the edge of this technical area, arms folded, watching his players with a face full of eagerness. It was a blip.

    Play settled, the ball stuck to the deck as slick passing became the order of the day, slow build-up, retain the damn ball...don't let the Catalonians have it for God sake. It went out to the wings, the style Brighton's successful football had been built on, Caprari took it and went, blitzing the full-back in his pursuit of fulfillment of his role, the Spanish looked despairingly at the play as it cruised into the box.

    orini, who else?

    They were outnumbered, but now they were the voice of the stadium...eliciting further smiles from the players as they mirrored the belief the manager was exuding.
    "....We are Brighton, we are Brighton!!! Super Brighton!! From the south...we are brighton...super brighton..."

    The play bogged down in midfield
    until half time, the likes of Iniesta unable to find space as he was hounded and harried. When they emerged, it was more of the same, but a draw away would be enough to please anyone from the English south coast.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fifa-substitute.jpg
    Signals came from the Brighton bench, they were changing it up. New legs for the tired midfield, Rafinha came to face his former club, the crowd a mixture of hosility at the bosnan and bemusement at just who the youngster even was. Two attacking midfielders, there was only one result the manager wanted.

    Caprari stole the ball, feeding Rafinha quickly. He took his first touch, shaky, he didn't look confident out there
    as possession was squandered. The defence shut down the Barca attack, it was back with the Brazilian, he looked up. Honda; the ball shot through the air finding the Japanese man perfectly, one touch to control, eyes up, he launched it onwards. Borini had broken the line...taking it neatly the keeper came. Quick feet, round the last line of defence and it was an open net. 2 - 1.

    pushed bodies forward, they refused to revert to direct football, pinballing play between their anxious creative talent. Messi got ahold of it; two Brighton players were on him in a second, fierce tackling and he couldn't retain the ball, looking to the referee with exasperated gestures at the rough treatment.

    Like so many Spanish teams when they began to really feel up against it, the play got dirty. Hard tackling became cynical upending of Brighton players, the yellow card was flourished as if it were going out of fashion. The Brighton bench knew they had to act quickly if they wanted to save their star players.

    finha pushed up, Pogba and Ademilson stripped off, replacing the instrumental Honda and Borini, their ovation well deserved.

    The onslaught continued, a f
    ree kick with injury time to go saw Brighton taking their time, frustrations were rising. Rafinha got the ball, a short one; Barcelona rushed out looking to shut him down and break with all bodies. Over the top it went, Ademilson reading his countryman's mind perfectly, the run went noticed only by one defender, the striker collecting the ball he shaped up to shoot. The defender came sailing into him, the referee blew up as his hand thrust toward the spot, running in to split apart the ridiculous protests of the spanish players.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fc_barcelonadefeat.jpg

    Ademilson placed the ball down with purpose, the jostling behind him at the line a distraction he could do without, the fans beyond the goal simulating how he was supposedly the worst of mankind just a blur as he focused his entirety on the ball, and the goal.

    Spot p
    icked, he darted the short distance and launched the ball into the high corner. No goalie could have saved that.
    3 - 1. As many jeers from the Catalans joined the del
    irious celebrations of the English on the final whistle.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fanscelebrate.jpg

    A two goal lead, the management decided the tactics wouldn't work twice against the 4 times winners of the competition. Shutting up shop, the defence worked overtime at the Amex. 0 - 0, only the neutrals and opposition minded the poor entertainment on display. Manchester City joined them a day later for the Semi-final tie, no one had believed Juventus would be the ones despite having as much of a chance, it just seemed the mancunians were destined to meet the seagulls in every damn trophy.

    Journalists and the hype machine couldn't have had a better platform for the coming tie; Manchester City arriving in Brighton for their second matchup in the league. Everyone knew what it was, the league had been reduced to Brighton, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea; but the match wasn't about the was a precursor to the biggest prize of all.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-davidplatt.jpg2 - 2, some questionable decisions giving the Sky Blues a late late equaliser. The manager refused to get drawn on the matter, he couldn't risk being reprimanded with every game left so vital.

    Southampton, Blackburn, Norwich, Swansea, Everton. All wins. They couldn't have done more, yet their rivals kept pace.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brighton___hove_albion_cup_winners_227.jpg
    The city prepared itself, two games and they might have a trip to Paris to play for the trophy every club dreamed of.
    Papadopoulos got the first, Herrmann the second, Borini the third. An answer from Dzeko gaining only the dangerous away goal, but it wouldn't be enough. 0 - 1 in Manchester, Brighton had it 3 - 2...into the Champions League final.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-manchester-city-training-press-conference.jpeg
    Mancini's press conference was a moody affair, the man unresponsive on claims if he lost the title too his job would go with it.

    Wigan and Bristol City resulting in wins. That left one glorious fact. Kyriakos Papadopoulos spoke to the media with great passion, rallying the troops they called it. Honda, Toure..they were all at it. The very real sense they were nearly there, nearly at another moment of supreme victory. The team was getting used to it.

    Win one of their remaining two games, win the title. Tottenham at home, Chelsea away. Tough asks.
    Brighton 2 - 0 Tottenham
    Chelsea 1 - 0 Brighton.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-kyriakospapadopoulos.jpg

    That left just one all important game. Dreamland had been reached already, frequently. Sex for Brighton fans had to broach new territory to match the highs they were having to endure.

    Bayern Munich, the Champions
    League final, Paris.

    The big boys of the group D had gone all the way,
    regretting they had to play one another yet one last time to try and take the glory. The predictions were the usual, Bayern had done this before, 9 times finalists of the top European honour they had lifted the trophy 4 times. Brighton 0 times finalists.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-camera.jpg
    Fingernails dug in as hands clasped at screens everywhere, fans from around the world sharing in the huge event as anyone who had ever lived in Brighton at some point became staunch believers in the team.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-stadedefrance.jpeg
    Butland was preferred, his education under Kuzsczak bringing the development along fantastically. He was showing his worth on the big stages and becoming the number 1.

    As things kicked off, Brighton started slowly. The manager screamed to his staff needing to vent somewhere as his side once again needed a scare to sort their lives out. Young Butland got fingertips again and again as corners for the Germans came thick and fast.

    It was punched clear, Borini took it inside the Brighton half, twisting on it he beat the defenders, racing the huge distance to slot cooly past Neuer. Pressure, what pressure?

    The crowd expected the names Schweinsteiger and Kroos and Muller to battle back, take the fight to the Albion.
    Munich crumbled, Toure and Tradito sealing a win which would give Brighton bragging rights forever. It wasn't even a contest, Brighton's chances just came at the drop of a hat. Every run on the wing resulted in an opportunity to land another blow as the midfield pulled the strings, the defence refusing to concede an inch. The manager was hurled up by his boys, grins plastered upon each face.

    Confetti fell, and Toure threw up the silverware.
    Brighton and Hove Albion had won a treble.
    Brighton, the English Riviera

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-uefa-champion-league-trophy.jpg

    Premier League Winners: Brighton - 85 pts.
    Champions League Places: Manchester City - 83 pts, Arsenal - 80 pts, Tottenham - 77 pts.
    Europa League Places: Southampton, Chelsea - 76 pts, Wolves - 63 pts.
    Relegated: QPR - 34 pts, Reading - 33 pts, Bristol City - 25 pts.
    Top Scorer: Djibril Cisse - 31 Goals
    Most Assists: David Silva - 36 Assists

    F.A.Cup Winners: Arsenal, Runners Up: Southampton
    Captial One Cup Winners: Brighton, Runners Up: Arsenal
    Champions League Winners: Brighton, Runners Up: Bayern Munich
    Europa League Winners: Paris St Germain, Runners Up: Athletico Madrid
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-inside-wembley.jpg   The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-messi.jpg  
    Last edited by Slimchap; 11/12/2012 at 03:24 AM.
    BigK63 likes this.

  6. I'm now up to date with my game, a few months into the next season. I'd really appreciate if anyone reading along could tell me what they think, is the style any good or just plain tripe? There are only so many times I can write about a bloody crucial game resulting in a 3 - 1 scoreline.
    Also I'd love it if someone could Pm me how to remove the attached thumbnails at the end of a post which I didn't use. They are leftovers from lost material in general muckups and I decided to go with a different image for the final version.

    As a final note besides the requests; for any possible skeptics, this game has been done with zero save-scumming. It is the 100% what happened bar the embellishment of the details in the matches and events outside of the matches which I've obviously dressed up for the story. I really did somehow win the Champions League first time of asking. The godlike luck will surely run out soon

  7. I've read through bits and pieces, no doubt it's a good story could do with abit of tidying up on the text and layout ect but that is me being picky

  8. brilliant work! nice read too!

  9. Well after some computer trouble my game is back up and running, the next season all finished so the writeup will follow soon. I am going to try a few new things and hope they work out, the big one being I'm going to try putting some music to the season, optional of course but just open in a new tab/window if you would like to try it out. Again feedback is welcome as to whether or things have pulled off well. I'm also going to include some aspects of the season which were crucial I feel but perhaps don't seem that important on the face of it.

    I've read lots of other peoples really decent stories, and one of the best things they've (you've) done that I've missed/neglected is splitting up the content into multiple posts. Having gone with a post a season I'm going to stick with it, I just hope anyone trying to read it either perseveres or remembers where they were up to. Apologies if they are simply too long winded to get through.

    Des Lynam's stint as narrator is over after those three years Brighton rose to the top of Europe. He's getting on a bit now, poor fella. So its time for a fresher face. Introducing radio DJ, Socceraid player, Mensa member and most importantly of all Brighton fan:
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-jamietheakston_1348546086_600.jpg Jamie Theakston
    Last edited by Slimchap; 24/12/2012 at 06:00 AM.

  10. Season 2015-16 Perpetuate and Pressure

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-goldstone_ground_-_geograph-1220106.jpg

    The old Goldstone ground couldn't have dreamed of the spectacles on its sacred turf the Amex had been playing host to; It's terraces a distant memory now in the mind of every fan. Expectations of a Brighton fan had ballooned to sizes no-one would have dared voice just 3 years ago, 3 utterly astounding years.

    ((Long Tall Sally - Little Richard - YouTube))

    The number of fans swelled to ever greater heights, vast throngs of ecstatic faces flocked to cheer as the buses once again held their heroes atop, proudly displaying the campaign’s riches. As the blue and white striped masses drew closer to the eclectic scenes of the open top vehicles the sounds as much as the sights reeled them in, the manager taking liberties with the audience it seemed as they won yet more and more.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brighton___hove_albion_cup_winners_225.jpg

    Packed streets followed the glinting treasures through the streets like dazed fanatics, caught in the moment of music, tapping feet and delirious celebration. The manager lifted the Champions League trophy, a far reaching roar of approval went up with it, a feeling any man could get drunk on.

    The players danced on the buses, the fans danced in the streets, a microphone occassionally picked up an out of tune voice singing along with the string of upbeat numbers. It felt like an impromptu carnival, a welcome change from the usual chanting of the same songs from the stands, those could wait for the coming occasions.

    Every sports reporter in the country would have been coating the Sussex coastline were it not for other events demanding worthy attention.
    Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger had both decided their time in the game was up, announcing their retirements the same day, it was as if they were still competing for those final honours.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fergusonwenger.jpg
    The Invincibles and the most League titles, the two longest serving Premier League managers

    Two of the prominent English clubs suddenly had vacancies, the speculation had already begun. Surely the young English manager with a plethora of trophies already to his name would be the likely man to take charge at one of the giants?
    However there was no getting an answer out of the man on his team’s victory parade, reporters trying - only to get severe treatment from those in attendance.

    Two major trophies added to the expanding cabinet, it was beginning to look a pretty sight at the Amex stadium; men in suits were far too congratulatory of themselves as they preened before the well polished display. It was just as the media had been asking whenever the players had gone on a good run; would expectations of victory build them up too much?

    The cameras hung around as the players departed after another amazing campaign, the meetings starting up again; budgets, board goals, personnel.
    Cruyff and the Manager began their negotiations with Bloom and the board...
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-johan_cruyff.jpg

    A first press conference opened with the congratulations which would likely continue through the coming months. Foreign reporters were becoming familiar faces, a feature the club couldn’t have envisioned in the championship without the extraordinary.

    Q. “No one has gained an answer from you thus far, you’re still the Brighton and Hove Albion manager but for how much longer? Surely Manchester United or Arsenal presents a tempting opportunity?”

    A. “So long as the chairman Tony Bloom and more importantly the supporters want me at the club, I shall refuse any and all other offers. Never mind that I’ve been a fan of the club since I was a boy; why leave a team who have just won almost every honour they were competing for? We are European Champions, in my eyes that makes us better than Manchester United and Arsenal however big the clubs wallets and histories are.”

    Q. “Following the Champions League win, many big name players in both Europe and the rest of the World are being linked with the club, is the signing of one or two headline signings the plan for the coming season?”

    A. “To put it simply, no. Brighton is in a wonderful position; the city has been invigorated by the success with a still new feeling stadium which is packed every home game by loyal fans, and a growing fan-base as more residents experience the joy winning football brings. But we have to acknowledge that the club doesn’t have the financial infrastructure of other clubs who are now considered firm rivals.

    Arsenal we all know have a solid financial structure which has worked well and been carefully balanced despite a lack of league or European titles in recent years. Manchester United have a global fan-base built from decades of aggressive globalisation much in the same way the big European clubs have done so. Manchester City are about to unveil their new stadium; the state of the art ‘Al Mubarek’ stadium, nearly 64,000 seats. The Amex is less than half the size, and as formidable a fortress we’ve made it, revenue differences are obvious.

    Q. “Are you pointing the finger at the board then for not finding ways to generate the revenue to make up the gap?

    A. “That’s not what I’m saying at all, what I am saying is that when you achieve the kind of success we have in such a short space of time you gain a large injection of prize funds and improved reputation to command further opportunities, but without the billions made from oil or an empire writing blank cheques you can’t afford to keep spending in the manner these clubs do. Improved sponsorship deals have been signed with nearly every piece of silverware coming in.”

    Q. “So despite the likes of Edison Cavani and Lucas Ocampos both declaring they would strongly consider any offer from Brighton, you feel they wouldn’t be right for the club? Even Wayne Rooney has expressed his admiration for your success.”

    A. “I think we were incredibly fortunate that previous circumstances allowed us to obtain the services of Kyriakos, Keisuke, Fabio, Patrick and Gianluca who are all world stars now. With an established first team who know success at the highest level it has been decided that the best course of action would be to build for the future and look to address the clubs youth setup further still along-with bringing in some stars for the future.”

    Q. “This would be in line with the previous work of Johan at Barcelona?”

    A. “Perhaps he would rather answer himself.”

    Cruyff stirred from his comfortable position in auto-pilot sat back in his chair.
    “Well over the past year we’ve given a lengthy look at improving the development squad and facilities, work that started in accordance with….”

    What could be gleaned from the efforts in the offices and any comments made early on in June was that youth had been the galvanising area of interest. Tony Carr the Head of Youth Development decided his time was up, retiring from football altogether rather than staying the course for the changes, a year in the job all he spent with the Seagulls.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-warrenjoyce.jpg
    A replacement was in the works, but first the manager had other areas he felt could be easily improved.
    With the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson at United, a lightning small raid was commenced, Warren Joyce and John Cooke both travelling south to the champions on the same day to join the coaching staff, the idea to get in before the new boss arrived.

    However business in the offices paused as three days apart press conferences were held elsewhere to announce the arrival of those new managers to do homework on. Manchester United came first, Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola was the man to take over from the legendary Scot.
    The Gunners went with the choice of Athletic Bilbao’s manager Marcelo Bielsa.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-josep-guardiola-barcelona-press-conference.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-marcelo-bielsa.jpg
    It would remain on the hush-hush that both men were second choice for their job

    Everyone was ready to get back to it when another press meeting was called at home. With a Champions League and Premier League medal he never imagined he would ever obtain; Bobby Zamora just as it had been clear he would sooner or later do so decided to hang up his playing boots, finishing his career with the club he built his name at. A packed testimonial match and a flurry of messages of thanks from the fans sent him away with a smile.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-zamorapressconference.jpg

    Work quickly resumed, Aurelio Pereira joining the scouting team from Portuguese side Sporting; Txiki Begiristain, Mauro Pederzoli, Pepe Bonet and Nigerian Finidi George all following suit having previously been without employment.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-karen_gibson.jpg
    Jose Segura was poached from QPR, Karen Gibson became Head Physio, leaving her beloved Dundee FC to travel right to the south coast of England.
    Julen Masach unable to find a job in his native Germany was also delighted to join the team as a fitness coach.

    The senior backroom team was looking bolstered for the new season, a host of fresh faces. It was the turn of the youth.

    Negotiations had been difficult at times, but when dealing with one of the top clubs in Europe they were bound to be when prizing away a quality asset.
    Cruyff and the manager has decided Roberto Samaden, the Inter Head of Youth Development was the correct choice.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-roberto.samaden.jpeg
    Roberto Samaden made the change at the prospect of assisting Cruyff's rebuilding of the youth

    Fellow Italian Marco Di Vaio became Dani Lopez’s assistant to the Under 18’s squad; John Iga left Wolves to sign on the Brighton books as a fitness coach for the youths. Clare Houston became under 18’s physio signing from Peterborough.

    It was then the turn of players, Roberto Samaden immediately getting to his duties and bringing in 18 year old Croatian fullback Pavel Hadjek for £1.9 million from Sparta Prague.

    Liam Bridcutt who had found his first team opportunities severely limited the past season agreed terms with Aston Villa for £3.9 million.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-liambridcutt_20120317.jpg

    Shortly after came in through the door the last three players of the only four in the transfer window to sign for Brighton:

    David Creemers, a 20 year old Dutch left sided striker/winger from Ajax for £13 million. Every major club in Europe had been watching the youngster who had all kinds of famous Dutch legends’ names had been linked to the prospect, Cruyff included, the assistant's involvement in the deal no doubt a huge factor in the boy’s decision.

    Jonathan Menichini left Juventus for Brighton, costing £18 million. 17 years old and already a regular in the Italy under 18’s squad, the scouts had informed he played in the centre of the park and had the look of a future Italy international conductor in the role.

    Finally Dundee United fans were saddened to see Steven Rodger their 20 year old striker leave for £4 million. Tall, imposing, and a cool finish, he remains one of the most hotly tipped young Scottish talents to emerge for years, and in his backup duties at Brighton he brought some height upfront which was completely lacking otherwise.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-jake-forster-caskey_03.jpg
    Loans were sorted out for reserves; Jake Forster-Caskey once again heading out to play a season elsewhere.
    Adam Henley was told he would be back-up only at the Seagulls, and when Fulham offered to pay £120,000 a month to loan him for the season the manager swiftly agreed.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brighton-beach_798429c.jpg

    The British Summer was scorching and Brighton found its seafront rammed each and every day as people seemingly had no jobs to go to, flocking to the beach instead.
    Reporters cheekily stated the completion of the youth setup plans were only achieved due to the heat wave, deluding the prospective employees in their interviews and meetings into believing the English weather had always been so sweltering, forcing the beauties to wander the city wearing ever less.

    Martin Petrov, Angelo Palombo, Lucio, Didier Drogba, David Villa and Xavi all signed as under 18’s coaches. The press conference was a mixture of flustered reporters unsure of how to interpret the stars signing to teach the kids and gleaming local paper workers, lapping up the easy columns they could slather over.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-petrov.jpeg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-palombo.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-lucio.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-didierdrogba.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-villaxavi.jpg

    ((ACDC - Money Talks - YouTube))

    Yet once again, had it not been for the activities of the Premier League giants and the millions of pounds they could command, every set of eyes would have been on the Albion.

    Manchester City with Roberto Mancini had retained his job despite losing to the likes of Brighton on every front; he blew away the media with the arrival of Alan Dzagoev for a staggering £38.5 million, amazing when the player had been available on a bosnan a few years earlier.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-alandzagoev.jpg

    Guardiola was second in the price war, bringing in Nicolas Nkoulou for a price tag of £32.5 million.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-nicolasnkoulou.jpg

    Surprisingly David Moyes had found some money at last, be it a relative dying or robbing a bank, he was able to somehow spend £31 million on Belgian highly rated talent Alex Witsel, a statement of intent the Toffees had never made before.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-alexwitsel.jpg

    Finally Arsenal and Bielsa not wanting to be left out got their main target of Robert Lewandowski, costing £28 million and replacing the outgoing Lukas Podolski.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-robertlewandowski.jpg

    Brighton would be up against it for sure. With no players who would improve upon the first team, they would be heavily reliant on their existing stars doing the business all over again. They decided to the copy the actions of United and Liverpool by travelling to the US once more for their pre-season camp, the manager stating to the cameras -
    “We don’t want to remain the isolated or minnow English champions forever, the world is watching, sooner or later we’ll capitalise on that.”

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-hondainjury.jpg
    It got off to a rocky start. Japanese superstar Honda was injured within the first few days, he’d be out until after the season began.

    Predictions for the season had Manchester City still the favourites, Brighton second for a change. They’d have done well to revise those quickly.

    Papdopoulos took the captains armband, Kolo Toure taking up the Greek's previous role as Vice captain, a reflection upon the time they could expect to be playing on the pitch no doubt.

    The Charity Shield started it off as always, which pitted the Albion against Arsenal. With Honda injured, Rafinha took his place, yet did little to nothing in the attack. 4 – 2 to Arsenal in the end, Aaron Ramsey and Lewandowski netting twice each and making Lewandowski look like an expensive blessing for the beleaguered London side.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-aaron_ramsey_2360044b.jpg

    The league form was indifferent to start. A home tie against Manchester United drew the attention as Guardiola made his league debut with the club. The highlight reels ran endless footage of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, and the dominance of Barcelona under Pep.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-goal_celebrations_10-3-12.jpg
    Brighton spoiled the party with a solid 3 – 0 victory. But morale in the club oddly seemed low, the usual motivation from the manager did little to improve the situation, and on the pitch the players seemed like strangers despite the only arrivals being just the youngsters bought in to fill the ranks and learn, so it wasn’t a question of gelling.
    Aston Villa away 0 – 0, the football played ugly and as if both sides had been drugged beforehand.

    Paris Saint-Germain in the Euro Super Cup, that was where the heads would lift and the momentum would build.
    2 – 1 to PSG, the Albion abject and lucky to even get one.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-zlatan-ibrahimovic-psg.jpg

    A lucky penalty against Newcastle at home sealed a 2 – 1 win, but only down to a fluke.

    The play wasn’t pretty; the slick passing out to the wings wasn’t on show. Everyone looked as if they were all bemused as to why it wasn’t clicking. Speculation was irrelevant as there was no rift, no contract disputes. The Italians just weren’t dancing on the ball, the Japanese playmaker wasn’t finding his passes, and the strikers weren’t troubling the defences.

    The Champions League champions were relieved to draw FC Porto, Ajax and Standard Liege in Group F of the major competition; a home win of 1 - 0 to kick things off would have seemed like a great start, but instead it was the start of something much worse.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fabio-borini-008.jpg
    Fabio Borini pulled up 50 minutes in, his face a picture of agony as his arm flagged frantically to the bench. Limping off, it later was revealed he had torn his hamstring, 3-4 months.

    Losing Borini was a blow, but they had other strikers, other players who could make magic happen and hit the back of the net. Ademilson failed to find the net and Arsenal strode to another win, Wolves quickly joined them.

    It was new territory for the seagulls, they hadn’t had such a bad run before so early into a season. Their position was languishing in lower mid table, Manchester City by contrast hadn’t lost a match.

    Rafinha was found exiting the managers office, approaching the cameras, filled with petulant frustration.
    R. “I’m losing faith in his methods, we are underachieving and I joined this club to win things…I don’t believe the manager can turn this around.”

    “You’re saying the manager who has won the Premier League twice out of two tries, and the Champions League last season doesn’t have the ability to turn around the bad situation? A bad situation 4 games into the season…”

    R. “Right, we should be top of the table but we’re not!”

    A long pause ensued; bewilderment and aggression hung strangely.
    “You understand that as a player, on the pitch it’s your job to turn it around.”

    R. “But the manager isn’t doing his job well enough! It’s unacceptable!”

    The young Brazilian stormed off. Perhaps the reason why he had been free from Barcelona was becoming clear, however much of a talent he was.
    Everton struck another blow, three losses in a row.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-evertoncelebration.jpg

    The players began to appear in the manager's office one at a time, word was getting around the dressing room they were not to have faith in their young English manager. Yet each time they emerged, when choosing to talk to the cameras came only comments of reassurance, they recognised it was their job, heads up, play through it.

    Caprari went down with a damaged elbow - 1 month+
    Tradito strained his knee ligaments – 2 months

    The fixture list was already hammering the small squad as they came into December. QPR had been easy in the League Cup, but a drawn out tie against Liverpool again had gone into extra time, requiring a moment of brilliance from Simao to gain the result desired and progress in the cup.
    Draws and the odd win littered the league, their position improving only a little at a time. In the Champions League they ground out hard fought results, 2 wins 2 draws and 2 losses got them second in the group and qualification. It felt like the skin of their teeth as only the head to head results with Standard sent them through.

    Manchester City gladly welcomed the struggling champions to their new stadium. Aguero, Dzeko, Dzagoev. 3 – 0 to the sky blues. Mancini couldn’t help but rub it in, comfortable atop the table.
    “This Brighton team didn’t really -errrr- offer anything, they are a a a shadow of the team they were last season.”
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-smugmancini.jpg
    Smug fop

    Christmas had been wonderful in previous years, perhaps the childlike delight at the camp glitter filled world mocked up had spurred on the Brighton boys. Not this time.
    Honda dropped out with a fractured arm – 1 month.
    Ademilson collapsed with a groin strain – 3 weeks.
    Herrmann rested with a bruised rib – 10 days, only to come back and gain a gashed leg – 2 weeks.
    Rafinha took a hammer blow of a tackle to his right foot breaking it well enough to see him sidelined for over 4 months. At least he wouldn’t be able to stir ill feelings in the dressing room for a while.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-savingprivateryanmedics.jpg
    The ladies in the medical department were earning their money twice over, the first team line-up was ravaged, a sick joke to Brighton’s hopes of another glorious season.
    New boys Creemers and Rodger were holding the fort up front, snatching a goal here or there as they tried to blend into the squad desperately quickly.

    South Africa then brought new stadiums and a new competition to the team as they went straight into the semi final of the Club World Cup. A tired win put them into a final with Chivas the Mexican outfit in the cup.
    A 3 – 0 loss. Disgraceful was the word to describe the performance.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-chivascelebration.jpg

    Three matches for three pieces of silverware had been attempted, all three lost. The players were shattered, they all started each match looking like they were only 80% fuelled up for the fixture, tired legs and tired minds.

    The Match of the Day studio proposed its usual fare with the highlights package. Gary Lineker posing the question of Brighton's hopes of even obtaining Champions League football with the state of the team.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-hansenlawrenson.jpg
    Hansen. "Well you've really got to wonder haven't you, after the opening game of the season for them they've offered little to nothing beyond some lucky strikes. The triangles have gone, the wing play is terrible as no-one seems willing to take on and beat their man...the manager has a real job on his hands."

    Lawrenson. "The answer has got to be spending in the January transfer window. All the big clubs when they get into a tough situation by this stage of the season dip into the market and spend big, bring in a tried and tested goalscorer usually who will bag you a dozen or more before the campaign is done."

    Hansen. "Question there is, what funds do Brighton have? The manager went on record about the limited financial clout of the club beyond their winnings, which leaves loan strikers."

    Lineker. "Di Natale and Villa are on the books! Maybe a little reinvention is in order."

    Hansen. "Haha, not a bad idea when you look at how dire things are."

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brighton-snow-weather57.jpg

    January brought with it a meeting. A crisis meeting? Perhaps just a team meeting.

    “We’ve got to sort this mess out, and sort it out now, not later.” Growled the manager, his eyes searching the room of reluctant faces all watching on out of obligation.

    “I think we have it in us to climb the table quickly, get back where we belong” stated the Greek centre-back.

    “I made you captain Kyriakos to lead them on the pitch, you boss the hell out of the opposition and you see to it that our fella’s don’t get into trouble. Look to this man boys, he can’t do it on his own but he’s been our best player so far, and they’ll have to run him over to injure him like the rest.

    A small laugh went up, half out of respect for the boss, half because he was right; Papadopoulos was built like an absolute brick house.

    “Fabio is nearly fit, Honda will be back shortly, Caprari is healthy and Herrmann will learn to man up soon!”

    Another chuckle rose up “Hey! I vas attacked boss, dat schlampe vas die pussy”

    The manager let go a smile “Du bist wunderbar Patrick”

    “Yah; Yah I am aren’t I?”

    Snickering smiling faces beamed to one another, spirits really had been low.
    “Come on now lads, you know you’re the best in this damn league! We’ve won it twice in a row; you’re the god damn reigning league and European champions! You know you’re the best out there and I’ll be damned if you’re going to let this season just slip away!”

    “Yeah! No reason why we can’t get that juicy bonus again!” Cheered Butland.

    “Yah vell, you vill just buy your silly misses another dia-mond auw-tomobile vont you Jackie?”

    “Better than spending it all on sausage you fat git!”

    The laughter rose high. "Hey hey lads, go easy with the insults." He reached down to a stereo, hovering a second over the play button. "What do you think is my favourite film chaps?"

    "Cruel Intentions!" Clyne shouted

    "Pretty woman!" Everyone was a comedian. He pushed play.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-coolrunnings3.jpg
    "Cool Runnings! We could all take a thing or two from those Jamaican Heroes! Listen to the lyrics, and I'll see you all in training tomorrow."

    "Yo Sanka, ya dead man?" Was heard as the manager waved and departed from the room, cameras in tow.

    Laughter all that could be heard as they disappeared down the corridor. Job done.

    ((Cue comeback montage music if you fancy it: Days of Thunder OST - Rubbing is Racing - YouTube))

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brightonstoke.jpg A semi final first leg League Cup tie against Stoke was their first chance to show how attitudes had changed. The entire audience believing the potters would run out comfortable winners as they had gone on an inspired run that saw them in the Champions League spots.
    Creemers slotted two home early on, a late Peter Crouch goal and final Papadopoulos header gave Brighton a 3 – 1 lead to go to the Britannia stadium with. The boys looked fired up and ready to start winning games again, the belief was back, they had had a fire lit beneath them and the fans knew it.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion

    Wolverhampton away proved tough, the dogged rough tackles threatening to sideline yet more players. The manager pulled out those who were in danger of taking that one hit that did the damage, the chances were reluctant to arrive. But after many failed efforts, one slim chance fell to the Frenchman Pogba, angry at the treatment dolled out by Wolves he let fly a cry and rocketed a 35 yard monster into the net giving them the vital points.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brightongoalcel.jpg
    1 – 1 with Stoke in the return leg set up another Wembley final, Tottenham awaited.

    They won, and won, and finally the Seagulls season had looked to have started. The games in hand thanks to their many commitments weighed heavy on the minds of their rivals as the goals began to pour in. The walking wounded returned to full fitness and back into the starting line-up.
    The kids played an F.A Cup tie against Newport County, 1 – 1 at home was unacceptable, but the same kids won the return without any worries, fear of the manager’s fury perhaps incentive enough.

    Douglas Maximo felt that rage unfortunately though when Manchester City came calling in the 4th round. Sent off inside 20 minutes for a cynical foul, the Sheikh billionaire’s toy team were rampant, the final scoreline of 2 – 1 flattering.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-yaya-toure1.jpg

    The F.A Cup couldn't matter in such a season though, with again immediate silverware to be had.
    Papadopoulos lifted the League Cup getting the only goal himself in a 1 – 0 against Spurs. Dull football, but a trophy, a guarantee of some form of European football, and some more momentum.

    Any fan with a brain could see the league was already heading to Manchester without a citywide meltdown as both sides were looking further and further out of Brighton’s reach, so the Champions League became the focus. 1st Knockout stage, Brighton were drawn against PSG, it was obvious they would have to seriously rise to the challenge against the best teams to do the impossible of retaining the trophy.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brightonrun.jpg
    1 – 0 at the Amex, the play was beautiful, the one twos between the Italians dazzling as the young Menichini was given the nod to play on the big stage with his compatriots Caprari and Borini.

    4 – 1 against Everton at home, with a 1 – 1 draw against Man City good platforms to take into the second leg.

    Paris flew out of the blocks, shots coming at Butland so quickly he was making double saves repeatedly. The tactics had been right; just every loose ball fell to the rich French side. It wasn’t long before they scored, Pastore rounding the English keeper to celebrate with his colleagues.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-38-javier-pastore.jpg

    It was looking like they would be heading out early this year, one shot on target all they had to give in the first 40 minutes, an easy take for the goalie. That was until Radja Nainggolan made a second reckless challenge and earned himself an early bath.

    They came out for the second half, the English travelling faithful chanted religiously
    "Attack! Attack! Attack-attack-attack!!!"

    Brighton crashed forward, the wingbacks overlapping the wingers, the triangles were back, Paris were up against it. Ancelotti screamed his instructions from the sideline, players in the deep blue shirts pulled back, the back line was doubled up into what looked like most of the time two banks of four camped inside their own area.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-ancelottishout.jpg
    With no opportunities to counter it was suicide by the French to sit back and hope for penalities...yet they blocked shot after shot, tackling like pros as frustrated attackers in the Brighton colours thumped the ground with increasing intensity.

    The whistle blew for 90 minutes.

    "Come on lads! Kill them out there!!!"

    Tired legs were tempered with adrenaline filled heads, Brighton wanted this, they wanted it more. The extra man had to count.

    Creemers picked up the ball just inside the Paris half and darted past his man, two more players were onto him, he laid it off, burst again and took it back. An excellent first touch, and he was brought to the deck.

    Honda stepped up full of purpose. His eyes seared a hole beyond the wall into the back of the net, the keeper didn't stand a chance. He dashed to the ball upon the whistle and put his foot right through it, a cannon shot exploded through the wall, one useless individual jumping off his mark leaving a precious gap. The keeper wrongfooted, 108 minutes the ball crashed into the PSG net.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brunojump.jpg
    Paris Saint-Germain fell apart, they would need to score twice to take the tie. Able to make the numbers count, Borini slipped in on 114 to make it 3 - 1. A priceless victory, and only at the expense of a few years shaved off the manager's life through stress.

    Elsewhere Real Madrid gave last years finalists an apocalyptic thrashing, 9 - 0 at the Bernabau. It was such a victory that almost every fan of every team couldn't begin to look past the Spaniards for the ultimate prize this year.

    Yet the mood about the Brighton offices was an optimistic one. Sure the league had all but fallen away, but they were on course to climb and achieve their target of Champions League qualification, and were still in the competition proper awaiting the draw for the next few rounds.

    "Brighton and Hove Albion will play.......sorry about this......" Everyone waited on tenderhooks ".....Manchester City"

    Cruyff immediately pulled the young passionate manager's head to his shoulder, letting him act out the cry he so badly wanted to have. A few laughed at the scene, Charlie Oatway the only remaining long serving coach at the club and former player boistrously sprung from his seat "When do Man City ever win any trophies?" All eyes turned to him "Once in a blue moon!"

    The groans sounded out, he persisted "I was roleplaying with my girlfriend last night~" A few of the ladies began to leave for their desks "~She asked me if I could pretend to be Man City. I asked her why, she replied 'because I want you to be on top for most of the time, but then come second' "

    "Yeah lets get back to work"
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-charlie-oatway.jpg
    A galaxy chocolate quick read, high praise indeed. Available at all good retailers.

    As if that draw couldn't get worse, the semi finals would see them play either Arsenal who had seen them off frequently this year yet somehow had failed repeatedly against other sides and sat in a substandard mid-table; or the ultra dominant Real Madrid side.

    ((Kele - Tenderoni - YouTube))

    Before they would take on the sky blues in the big boys cup there were a few key league ties; against Guardiola's Manchester United and Bielsa's Gunners.
    The red devils had quickly recovered from their opening day defeat in Sussex to make second place their own, and were the only team in the hunt for the leaders.

    The media had hoped it would happen earlier in the season, to no avail as Honda had been injured. Fit as he was now, the matchup became the battle of the two Japanese stars shaping up on opposite sides. The pacific nation tuned in and turned up for the fixture, the game seen as more important than their domestic league offerings the way the hype had sold the event.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-japanese-fan-001.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-shinji-kagawa.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-hondaconfetti.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-japanesefansf.jpg
    The younger Shinji Kagawa had been playing catchup with Honda for years, Keisuke still Japan's number 1 star.

    The advertising boards read as much in the Japanese alphabets as they did English, and unfamiliar chants sounded out from pockets within the stands. As they shuffled into positions for the kick off the manager cupped his hands.

    "Honda!" he turned to see his boss at the edge of his technical area "Keisuke wa nihonjin no sa-ka no pu-rei-ya ichiban sekai desu!!" The crudely spoken incorrect sentence eliciting the wanted smile and a small shake of the head out of disbelief.

    United started as the better side. Cameroon expensive signing Nicolas N'koulou was a tank at the back, shutting down each and every Brighton and setting up something promising. Cryuff started writing things down, the ball had to stay on the floor to beat the African, anything that drifted in the air towards the Manchester defence was being controlled by the dreadlock covered head.

    Herrmann tried an early cross, whipping it into the air. N'koulou latched onto it, with one head sending it up to Rooney who got the best of Clyne in an instant. Darting with the ball close to his feet the dreamworks icon bore down on the goal looking threatening as he sized up whether to strike it from the edge or take another touch. Clyne refusing to be beaten came in with a sundering blow on the English forward, just inside the edge of the Brighton box.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-howardwebbpenalty.jpg
    Howard Webb pointed to the spot without hesitation

    Wayne recovered the ball as Brighton players feebly protested the blatant foul, lucky not to garner any further yellows beyond that of Nathanial's.
    As the crowd began a mixture of holding their breath and jeering at the scenes unfolding, Kagawa stepped up, a few words with Rooney and somehow he convinced him to give up the spot kick, clearly eager to impress upon the occassion.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-butlandpenalty.png Butland poised himself, mimicking his England superior Joe Hart in tactics for the play. Kagawa drew his breath, eyes shutting for a moment.

    The ball sailed high into the roof of the net, straight down the centre. United had the lead.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-shin-kagawagoal.jpg

    Kyriakos slung an arm around Clyne and shouted encouragement to the team as they prepared to kick off. It didn't make a difference, the reds came on again, slicing up the midfield and threading in the frontmen as Papadopoulos and Maximo made last ditch tackle after tackle.
    Inevitable rang around the press box, it was coming.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-kagawarun.jpg
    Kagawa was on form, collecting the ball on the wing he floated one high into the area, Rooney headed down, Welbeck stuck a foot out. Butland was beaten.

    Half time saw puffed out cheeks, the red shirts began to bay for more Brighton blood to be spilled as they had threatened constantly.
    But it had been seen time and again, the Seagulls emerged looking dangerous as the fear had been instilled.

    Back fours were resolute, and each time they collected the ball and fed it up the line it was sprinted in a searching run, players piling forward at the smallest hint of an attack. The match had quickly become end to end stuff, radio commentators having trouble keeping up whenever the likes of N'koulou or Papadopoulos' names were required for the coverage.

    Kagawa still looking a threat received the ball with his back to Brighton in the middle of the park, turning he saw only Honda as the fellow national dispossessed him in a flash. Keisuke didn't run with it nor dally, looking up with a snap movement of his head, he slapped it with the side of his boot sending a piercing pass along the ground, Borini using the fake run of Caprari to draw N'koulou away and find himself in a scoring position at last.

    He shaped up, looking as if he was about to round David De Gea. A feint, with his weight left, his right foot stroked the ball beyond the keeper and into the United net. A lifeline for the Albion! Honda turned with a grin, receiving an incredulous look from United's Shinji as he waggled his index finger arrogantly.

    Anyone could have scored the way the play was unfolding; Rooney screwed it wide when the goal was beckoning him, Tradito nearly broke the bar with a long range effort, reminiscent of a John Arne Riise thunderbolt in his Liverpool days.
    The board went up with a bright 2 on it, not a lot of time. The manager sat with his assistant in the seats, unable to keep his feet still as he watched the tense encounter.

    Caprari finding himself in some space went at the defence, twisting one side of the backpedaling fullback he shifted the other way generating the gap he desired. The ball propelled toward the goal, De Gea flung himself, an outstretched glove pushing it onto the post where it rebounded into the box. Honda squeezed beyond the Cameroonian centre back with a dip of his shoulder, looked at the ball, and slid it calmly into the open net with the side of his boot.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-hondabadgekiss.jpg

    A precious point, and a thrilling game for the fans and neutrals alike. The Japanese top dogs had outdone themselves, coming together after the restart and immediate final whistle to share a friendly hug and few words; well aware that all lenses were trained upon them.

    Eighth place Arsenal came next. A few changes from the encounter at Old Trafford and they were away.
    Griezmann fired a beauty for Arsenal into the top corner in only the second minute of the game, just what Arsenal had wanted. Yet heads didn't dip, the 2016 Brighton side were unlike that at the end of the previous year. 10 minutes Caprari scored; 14 minutes Tradito added himself to the scoresheet. 19 minutes, Honda struck a sumptuous freekick beyond the Arsenal goalie.

    Tradito then missed a penalty; it would have seemed alright with a two goal lead if not for what happened just after. Simao came in late on Ramsey, a rash challenge and a straight red card. Brighton held on till the break.

    As the second half started, Honda dropped back from the attack to fill the void, Tradito taking on the ball winning duties of Simao. They looked comfortable still, so much so that Ademilson added insult to the Gunners with a slick finish in the 63rd minute. 4 - 1.
    Arsenal looked to have no answer, yet the drama wasn't done. A bad challenge on Pogba with 15 minutes to go had the French youngster on his feet and in the face of the culprit. Heads met, the Arsenal boy went down as if shot with a magnum. Pogba joined Simao in the red card club. The Albion had only 9 men.

    Every available body bar Ademilson alone upfront fell back and dug their trenches. Arsenal came on hard, and effort after effort looped into the crowd as the londoners fluffed their lines. By the time Lewandowski scored in the 88th minute, it was all but too late, a 4 - 2 win to Brighton, Caprari man of the match with his goal and two assists.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-kellycates.jpg
    Q. "A brilliant win today and with some terrible circumstances to deal with, what are your thoughts on the red cards Simao and Pogba received?"

    A. "They were entirely justified and we will be disciplining them in the way we do with all red cards. They know not to dive in or react to any foul play directed toward them, if they let the red mist descend then they are asking for a week or two in the stands."

    Q. "And what do you think to the news that in the wake of the defeat Arsenal have decided to sack Marcelo with immediate effect?"

    A. "What?! You must be joking; already?!" He released a long breath with wide eyes "Poor man is all I can say; sure the league results haven't been too kind but my lads who kept their cool today were out of this world, no team on the planet could have stopped them. I mean they (Arsenal) have a quarter final tie with Real Madrid in a few days! Ridiculous!"

    And that match went 3 - 0 to Madrid in Spain. It seemed whoever triumphed from the Sky Blues and the Seagulls would be doing their best against the Spanish captial's finest.

    The rivals faced up for their own massive fixture.
    3 - 0 to Brighton at home. Simao getting the first, his inclusion some playing time as he would be missing the next few games in the league. Creemers and Borini bagged the others, yet the play itself hadn't been great. Yellow cards were galore, and both managers exchanged the odd worried glance everytime a player was branished with the punishment, fearful that their options might be limited should they collect anymore of the unwelcome repercusions.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-luciano_spalletti_zenit_01.jpg
    Arsenal then announced that they had lured Luciano Spaletti away from Zenit, likely another hefty compensation fee for their second manager of the season. He had a few days to prepare, his face plastered on the television screens as he decided to attend the Al Mubarek second leg, ever the optimist.

    As both Man City and Brighton began the play, the football looked nervy. Challenges were less forthcoming as clearly both managers had told them to tone it down, don't risk the 50 50's so much else risk ruling themselves out of the next round. Getting to the end of 45 minutes, the only incident had been Yaya Toure pulling up with a problem, and it was looking more and more like Brighton would cruise through without much of a battle to be had.

    Mancini armed his team with some strong words for after the break, the soft approach with belief they would get something in the first half had gone, and with the hard tackling came the abandonment of looking after the back.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-aguerocelebration.jpg
    Jay Rodriguez didn't take long to get City the lead, a second following 15 minutes later with Sergio Aguero ramping up the temperature inside the stadium as they reduced the aggregate to only 1 goal seperating the sides.
    It looked as if it would be going to extra-time as Manchester left only Joe Hart to guard the net, every player in a light blue shirt making runs wherever they saw an opportunity, no regard for their defensive duties.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mancitychampleaguedefeat.jpg There was no fairytail comeback for the mancunians, Brighton progressed.

    A day later the bookmakers were laughing all the way. At the Emirates; Arsenal 6, Real Madrid 1. Spaletti was an instant Gunners hero, they knew little about him so far, but whoever he was he was a damned miracle worker.

    The manager began to watch the videos, analyse the tactics and philosophy of the former Roma and Zenit man.

    By the time the great theme was being played in the stadium for the all English semi, he felt ready.

    Home: Brighton 1 - 0 Arsenal. Creemers 19 minutes.
    Away: Arsenal 1 - 2 Brighton. Honda 25 minutes, Antonio Valencia 38, Tradito 52.

    The Champions League final again. Barcelona again.

    Results in the league were brilliant, the new year charge had given them the chance to finally get third place and automatic Champions League football provided the final went sour. Anfield and Liverpool, they needed a win to see off Stoke and Chelsea for the spot. 1 - 0 to the Albion and third place.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mancitychampions.jpg Manchester City pipped United for the title.

    Cornered amidst the celebrations, a wayward question found a cheerful Mancini happy to answer for a change.
    Q. "The Champions League final is just over a week away, who do you want to win it?"

    A. "Errr....well I think Brighton to win this match, because errrr, they beat us in the Quarter finals, so aaaa- I hope they can prove that if we were still in it we would be the ones lifting the trophy."
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-mancinitrophy.jpg

    ((Halo - Covenant Dance - YouTube))

    All that remained was the biggest club game of all. The lights of Milan lit up for the spectacle, the San Siro's 80,000 seats all taken eagerly. 21st of May 2016.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-stadio-giuseppe-meazza-night-lights.jpg

    Barcelona wern't the out and out favourites. Brighton had not only got the better of them before, but the Catalan giants were without some of their major stars. Eden Hazard, the £40 million+ signing from Chelsea and Sergio Busquets were injured a few weeks prior, but far more importantly, Lionel Messi had ruled himself out with an injury just a week before.

    There was no denying that the most recognisable club in the world had the better of the sides though, their bench teeming with game changers. Coaches David Villa and Xavi both delighted in the reunion with their former teammates, handshakes and hugs aplenty.

    The major threat came from Cesc Fabregas, who had torn up the competition for his colours. Gearing up for the final as the players filed out he looked as if he had the killer instinct with him.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-cesc-fabregas-barcelona-fc-2013-wallpaper.jpg

    Play started smartly as the cheers went up in a vie for supremacy of the audio from the fans. Barcelona were sharp, the tika-taka football easy on the eye and smoothly grasping the control of the game.
    5 minutes in and a cross came flying into the Brighton box; Fabregas launched himself, flung his head at it and hit the back of the net.

    Heads went into hands. The whistle blew, a flag was up and it was disallowed! That looked dubious, a little pushing in the area but no offside and no elbows. They'd take it regardless; it was the first touch of the ball for Brighton.

    They went on the attack, the manager had decided they couldn't just shut up shop and nick just the one, they would have to get out there and outplay the Spanish. Tradito pushed it to Simao, the Mozambique player shrugging off an attempt at a foul by Pedro as he sped up, looking like the imposing Yaya Toure on one of his demolition runs. Iniesta stuck his foot out, Simao weaved, sidestepping him with a piece of footwork that looked alien to a man of his build.
    Gerard Pique measured up to the tank, neither had control of it as they pushed heavily with outreaching arms. Simao with his back to the Barcelona goal bashed his heel on it, past Pique it went.

    Borini found it. With one touch to set himself, his right boot kissed the leather. 1 - 0.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-simaofakelualua.jpg
    Simao's involvement didn't go unrecognised

    Pedro and Fabregas kicked off, a quick touch back to the midfield and both players pushed forward. The ball found them in a few seconds, and wrong footing Brazilian Maximo - Pedro clipped the outside of the post. So close to an instant reply.

    Then the fouls returned. Barca began upending Brighton players whenever they got the chance it seemed, the Albion getting drawn into doing the same back. The yellow card went up for 5 or 6 faces, play slowed with the free kicks breaking up the flow.

    It looked as if Barcelona might gain the edge in the scrappy affair, as their antics drew fouls closer to the Brighton area a free kick effort on goal looked the way they would find a route back into the tie. 25 yards out, Fabregas went down.

    The referee rushed over, the Brighton manager incensed at what was unfolding, he went down far too softly. The spaniard got to his feet. A yellow card for diving, his second! The red card came out, and Barcelona were down to 10 men.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-fabregassentoff.jpg

    Albion tried to push the advantage and get forward, add another goal and put the tie well and truly in their hands, but the fouls and loathsome play remained the galvanising force. 45+1 minutes; Honda clipped the heel of Alba, arms flailed as he launched into the air, his face a picture of contorted lines drawn from the apparent stab wound he had been dealt. As he rolled on the floor clutching his boot, Honda received his second yellow, and his marching orders along with it.

    10 men apiece, the referee was doing a superb job handling the dirty proceedings it was agreed upon as the replays cycled the major talking points.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-titovilanova.jpg Guardiola's replacement Tito Vilanova had been doing a brilliant job at the Catalans, and looked to have earnt his wage packet when the teams re-emerged; changes to the formation and lineup taking place.
    Cryuff leant to the manager in the dugout; smiles exchanged, they had called it perfectly.

    As Brighton resumed the action, short passing play and closing down like both teams were used to took the place of the filth on show before. They cancelled one another out, no forwards could break past the rear guard, Papadopoulos and Pique both storming their tasks like beasts.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-messibench.jpg Messi watched from the bench with his teammates, the obvious frustration and wishing he was out there evident and agonising to look at.

    The giant screen's clock skipped each time the fans looked to it, the play without goals, yet fast and sugar-coated. A rainbow flick from Dutch wonderkid Creemers; roulettes from Iniesta. A simple Cryuff turn had the cameras on the footballing great and his smile of appriciation.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-danialves.jpg
    88 minutes. Creemers saw Dani Alves out of position, pushed up too far in search of the equaliser. Dashing into the channel, the Brazilian spotted his mistake too late, the Dutchman received the looping ball with a wonderous first touch to bring it under his spell. The crowd grew with excitement, camera flashes started to blitz the stadium as the left foot of David sent the ball toward the penalty spot.

    Step in, Simao, man of the match.

    2 - 0.

    They saw out the clock, and the celebrations started.

    ((36 - Going Home (STARGATE THE DELUXE EDITION O.S.T.) - YouTube))

    The Manager looked around him as the stands went nuts, the players tore back and forth with arms held out in sheer unadulterated joy. Flags passed from the fans to the heroes on the pitch, great clusters of staff and players danced as the Barcelona boys lay crashed out on the turf, sobbing and staring at the stars.
    There was nothing but relief inside of him, a look of pure stun. No sorrow to be had from the gut wrenching feeling of a nearly, they really had done it despite the horrendous odds thanks to their beleaguered start to the season.

    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-brighton-celebrate.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-confetti.jpg The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-playerspile.jpg

    A look into the stands saw the screaming faces of ectasy and pride, hugging one another as they could do nothing but bounce around and shake the hand of any person not looking like they wanted the ground to open up.

    He turned to his assistant, embracing the old man as they each refused to cease grinning from ear to ear. Cryuff held him back at arms length a moment before walking shoulder to shoulder to join the chorus of jumping 'Champione Champione Ole Ole Ole!'

    With a silent drum roll, Papadopoulos savoured the power he had over the thousands desperately wanting the prize to be thrown up to them. Up pumped his arms, the greatest club trophy was theirs once again! The streamers fired their payload over the fantasy-feeling display. They would be welcomed as gods in their city.

    2 days later, Johan Cruyff retired from professional football.
    The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-cruyffleaving.jpg

    Premier League Winners: Manchester City 86 pts.
    Champions League: Brighton 73 pts (winners), Manchester United 85 pts, Stoke 72 pts.
    Europa League: Everton 58 pts (FA Cup Winners), Chelsea 72 pts, Tottenham 61 pts.
    Relagated: Wigan 31 pts, Aston Villa 28 pts, Fulham 23 pts.
    League Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney 22 goals.

    F.A. Cup Winners: Everton, Runners-up: Swansea
    Captial One Cup Winners: Brighton, Runners-up: Tottenham
    Europa League Winners: Spartak Moscow, Runners-up: Bayer Leverkusen
    Champions League Winners: Brighton, Runners-up: Barcelona
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-davidvillaspain.jpeg   The English Riviera - Brighton and Hove Albion FC-xavi.jpg  
    Last edited by Slimchap; 15/05/2013 at 03:32 PM.

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