After another summer of heartache of not only watching England suffering and going out of a major championships once again on penalties, we all had to endure the same fate for our men’s GB squad in the London Olympics. After the usual summer of headlines and penalty defeats now is the time to bring back the real side of the beautiful game. Yes it’s that time of year again where we all turn our attentions back to our club sides… mine being Brighton & Hove Albion FC.
With a strange start to this year’s campaigns for so many football league sides as our first competitive fixtures will be held in the Capital One Cup, formerly known as the Carling Cup. We’ve been drawn a tricky televised game away against Paolo Di Canio’’s Swindon Town. This fixture is sure to entertain the neutrals from all over, not just for the attractive passing styles both sides attempt to play but also for the touchline battle between Gus Poyet and Mr Di Canio – neither one known for keeping their thoughts to themselves.
This summer has seen Gus Poyet bring in four new faces; the first and most important arrival in many Albion supporters’ opinions was the signing of Tomasz Kuszczak, the vastly experienced Goalkeeper from Manchester United. Second through the door was Bruno Saltor from Valencia with his strong physical approach, and the third player in was a season-long loan signing of experienced left back Wayne Bridge from Manchester City. After these three very experienced professionals had joined the ranks and the Brighton rear guard, surely last season’s calamitous defending at times will be avoided… Time shall certainly tell in that respect! The fourth signing was the recapture of central midfielder Andrew Crofts back from Norwich. Crofty now returns with not only Premier League experience but also experience of helping a side to gain promotion from the Championship to the Promised Land.
Gus Poyet has been after a target man all summer but who knows if it’s now a case of waiting until January or awaiting the chance of capturing someone on loan instead of an outright transfer?
Pre-season started off with a 5-0 demolition of Maidstone United with Ashley Barnes grabbing himself a hattrick on a rain soaked afternoon in Kent; this was followed up with a 3-0 victory over Lewes but a narrow 3-2 defeat to Hasting United ended Brighton unbeaten pre-season. Onto a Spanish tour, another 5-0 hammering – this time over a very sorry Portsmouth outfit but as the saying goes… you can only beat what’s in front of you and comprehensively so on this occasion. Our last fixture in Spain saw a 0-0 draw with a Spanish side by the name of Cordoba still another opportunity for the squad to get some much needed match sharpness.
August started at Woodside Road on once again a very wet evening which Brighton won 3-0 before the match of pre-season the game we’d all be talking about and waiting for our return back to our awesome home to welcome European Champions Chelsea! We conceded around the half hour mark to a well worked Chelsea break away with Frank Lampard rounding their slick break away off but where Messi and Barcelona failed Brighton and Vicente delivered with three great strikes in reply from Vicente, Barnes and then Crofty (welcome home!).
Reading followed and after being on such a high from the Chelsea game you could have excused the players for taking their foot off the gas. But credit where credit’s due and with thanks to a superb save on his testimonial appearance at the Amex for the former Dutch Marine, we drew 1-1 with the newly promoted side after a penalty from Vicente was converted close to half time but conceding late on which used to be a club trait before Poyet took charge. Pre-season drew to a close with a 2-2 draw at Crawley Town with all eyes now firmly focused on Tuesday evening’s fixture in the Capital One Cup and that away trip to Swindon Town.
After a positive pre-season on a whole and some superb signings being made by Gus Poyet bringing in players that fit our style and match his and the clubs ambition is superb for all to see. The club’s lack of options up front is something of a concern especially not being able to bring in a target man could hinder our promotion push but who knows…? Pre-season has brought out the best in quite a few of Brighton’s first team players so hopefully they manage to continue to impress throughout the campaign! My prediction for this season is much like last season: I think we will surprise many sides in this Championship with how well we play and keep the ball on the floor; but I think like last season we may just fade away once again. This said, if we manage to acquire the services of a target man, and in my opinion a strong battling midfielder, then you just never know what might well happen… BRING ON THE NEW SEASON!