It was Neil Warnock and Tommy Johnson who spoilt the would-be Premiership party in 1991. Well, technically it was a would-be Division 1 party. A not-all-that-talented Albion side had forced itself into the play-offs, demolished Millwall in a one-sided semi (that second-leg at the Old Den remains one of the most exhilarating and initimidating football atmospheres I’ve ever experienced) and, somewhat against the odds, found ourselves at Wembley one game away from the big time. It wasn’t the great day out we’d hoped for. The Brighton aces did not perform like aces and we were not at the Brighton races, even if everything was blue and white.
At the risk of jinxing the 2012-13 season, we’re as close as I ever dared think about since then to the holy land, to the Premier League, to regular visits to the Amex by the Uniteds, Arsenals, Chelseas and, erm, Wigans, to appearances on Super Sunday, to financial security, to seeing Messrs Bloom and Knight fulfill the dreams that their vision has allowed us all to have. Has there ever been a better time to be a Brighton fan? Shiny new stadium. 25,000 fans a game. A big name manager. Sexy football. And of course, after last Sunday, we are all very much *clap clap* #GladUlloa (go on, watch it).
This Easter Saturday morning feels like the beginning of its own mini-season. Eight huge games ahead to see if we can buy ourselves the right to play two more matches, where we’ll be trying to earn the right for one more match beneath (for old time’s sake) the twin towers (beneath the Wembley arch just doesn’t have the same ring to it). When of course, anything can happen in what they say is the potential most lucrative 90 minutes of any football match.
Yesterday, Good Friday became Great Friday (HT @thickblueline) as play-off rivals Palace and Leicester lost to supposedly inferior opposition. My twitter feed proved that plenty of Albion loyalists were following those games as keenly as we might follow an Albion match. I’m not sure I’ve followed the results of other clubs so closely since the season of the great escape ended in Hereford. At the risk of this becoming an egg-on-face blog post, after the glorious seaside stroll against the Palace of last Sunday and the events of Great Friday, dare we hope that the fates are slowly beginning to align?
As Albion fans we must know better than to assume all will go smoothly between now and the 4th of May. We must also be respectful to the other teams in the mix. If we’re honest, Watford and (much as it pains me to say it), P****e, are more deserving promotion contenders this season. But we’re in the mix and this is beginning to get more than exciting. May the Gus naysayers consider their mid-season doubting comments more carefully. We’ll miss Him when He’s gone.
Today is the first match of this mini-season run-in. Away at play-off hopefuls Forest. A proper football club, albeit one that must be pinching itself to find itself in the play-off positions after a season of inconsistency. Let us hope that we find the Forest of the early-half of the season rather than the last-third of the season. More importantly, let us hope that we find the clinical Albion of last Sunday and not the profligate Albion of so many drawn matches this season. And let us hope that we leave the banks of the Trent feeling *clap clap* #GladUlloa.
If we don’t make the play-offs, then on 5th May all Albion fans should remember the elation of last Sunday and the pre-match excitement we feel today. If we don’t make them, then whilst the season will end in disappointment, this season’s ride on the Gus Bus will have given us hope and optimism that seemed unimaginable a few years ago. If the season ends on a low, we should celebrate the highs we’ve had and the highs to come, not wallow in the what-might-have-been.
Safe travels to the travelling 3,000 or so today. May we turn the Forest blue, out-sing the Trent End, win 3 points and enjoy the day. All that remains is to say, If You’re All Going To Forest, All Going To Forest, All Going To Forest, clap your hands (or at least add your name to the roll-call).