2014-15 Season: Antagonists and Acclaim
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.
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.
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..."
Former Chelsea Physio Eva refuses to treat groin injuries after her time at Stamford Bridge.
That 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tireless 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.
After signing, the greek's reaction was stark when he learned from teammates what Brighton was also famous for:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mario Gotze showed just why he is Dortmund's golden egg
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.
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.
Defender Lewis Dunk enjoyed opportunities as a sub, bagging a few goals from set pieces in the processWith 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.
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?
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.
The only difference was the teams and the corner it nestledThe 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.
3 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 player who could easily fit into any side the world overLionel 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.
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.
Brighton 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.
Borini, 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.
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.
Barcelona 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.
Rafinha pushed up, Pogba and Ademilson stripped off, replacing the instrumental Honda and Borini, their ovation well deserved.
The onslaught continued, a free 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.
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 picked, 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 delirious celebrations of the English on the final whistle.
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 league...it was a precursor to the biggest prize of all.
2 - 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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