Sunday 31 July 2011

Opening Day Spurs On The Albion

Saturday 30th July 2011: Albion 2, Spurs 3
It was a perfect summer's day and 18,000 eager football fans turned up to witness the official grand opening of the brand new and magnificent American Express Community Stadium in Falmer (the Amex to you and me). Nestling into the Sussex countryside the stadium is a real gem, beautifully designed and just great to look at - especially if you're a long suffering Brighton fan who's only seen football played at the dreadful and roofless Withdean Stadium.

The afternoon got underway at 1.30pm with a marching band, opera singer Martin Toal singing his heart out and former Albion players and managers also putting in an appearance. The highlight for me was seeing the best Albion player ever to wear the number 8 shirt, the magical Peter Ward. Coming out onto the Amex pitch to thunderous applause he did what each and every one of us Brighton fans wanted to do...he kissed the turf. What a legend!

The friendly match itself was almost secondary but the Albion played some really good football against a very strong Spurs first team. The Seagulls were particularly strong in the opening thirty minutes. A well crafted pass from the hard working and impressive Craig Mackail-Smith was finished off clinically in the eleventh minute by the prolific Ashely Barnes. The crowd went wild and the noise was incredible. Brighton began to play their passing game and were definitely looking the better side, until two defensive errors late on in the first half gifted Spurs two soft goals.

When Albion came out for the second half they pressed early on and Kasenga Lua Lua does what he does best, scored a 20 yard scorcher then followed it up with his trademark celebration somersault tumble. Brighton fans (and possibly Gus) had their hearts in their mouths at that moment fearing he might damage his recently mended ankle, they needn't have worried as Lua Lua was in sparkling form all afternoon. Sadly for Brighton there was a terrible goalkeeping gaff by Albion substitute goalkeeper Peter Brezovan a few minutes later that meant Spurs took a 3-2 lead.

Albion brought on substitutes Will Buckley, the lively Craig Noone and Roland Bergkamp to try and get the goal back but in truth the game rather fizzled out as it wore on late into the second half. Spurs became a bit stronger and consolidated with the energetic Aaron Lennon being a constant thorn in Albion's defensive side. Nonetheless it was an extremely enjoyable and attractive game of football to watch, a very good performance by newly promoted Brighton against a top flight Premiership side. Albion looked particularly good going forward and at times were the better team on the pitch, if it wasn't for the three defensive errors then Albion would have come out winners. It bodes well for the future if they continue to play like this, as long as they cut out the mistakes at the back. There's a full write up here at the Seagulls website for anyone that wants to read a more detailed match report. 

Friday 29 July 2011

Dick's Bar at the Amex

I decided that it was time for the darling wife to see what all the fuss is about at the Amex so yesterday we took a drive over to Falmer so she could view the stadium for herself and see what I'm getting for my season ticket money. Whilst there we paid a visit to the newly opened Dick's Bar. Named after former chairman, and now life president, Dick Knight it offers an enjoyable and pleasant drinking and eating experience. The menu on offer was varied and reasonably priced with a good choice of decent beers. Their were lots of wall mounted TV screens to keep up to date with Sky Sports News and the seating was very comfortable.

It was great to see Dick himself sitting in there enjoying a sandwich and also see other Albion 'faces' like Martin Perry, Richard Hebbard and Paul Camilin in there as well. It just made us realise that the people that run our club do not sit in ivory towers, are in touch at 'ground level' and not afraid to mix and chat with us 'ordinary' fans (and not a prawn sandwich in sight). So well done to them for being there and actually using the facilty. The whole ambience of the place is wonderful, a relaxed atmosphere with well presented and attentive bar staff.

The decor is superb with Albion Legends etched into a large glass window. It was also terrific to see the magnificent Albion Fans Mosaic mounted on the far wall. This is a huge mosaic made up of thousands of photo's submitted by Brighton fans. I eventually found my ten photos after a fifteen minute hunt! 

I finally found me on the back of Wardy's shirt
The magnificent giant Albion Fans Mosaic
I understand that the bar is open to the public on non-match days between 8am-7pm and open to Albion ticket holders only from 1pm on matchdays, closing two hours after the final whistle. Be warned though, the capacity is limited to 200 people so do get there early on match days. The bar is located under the North Stand and entry is via a grey signed door between the club shop and the North side reception entrance to the right of the shop. If the grey door is closed just wander up through the North side reception area and up the first flight of stairs. It's well worth a visit.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Brighton 'Til I Die

Theatre Royal, Brighton - Wed 27th July 2011:
I went to see ‘Brighton Til I Die’ at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. Tony Bloom and Martin Perry were there along with a few other familiar Withdean faces (hello Tim, Merv, Penny and Chris) plus a packed house of Albion fans. We were sat behind Albion’s poet in residence John Baine (aka Attila The Stockbroker) and the voice of Withdean, Paul Samrah. The show tells the history and story of the Albion including the fans long fourteen year battle to get new ownership of the club and a new home.

A fantastic, entertaining show with lots of humour and audience participation, it was so great to see loads of Brighton fans in Albion colours chanting ‘Seeeeagulls’ at the end as blue and white balloons came down from up above. Everyone had a great time and the show has been brought right up to date with reference to the new Amex Stadium at the beginning and end of the performance. A technical glitch right at the very end of the show meant that the time lapse slide show showing the building of the Amex on the stage backdrop wasn’t seen but it didn’t matter as we all know it’s there, we’ve seen it, believe it and love it.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Albion Fans Forum - Amex Stadium, Tuesday 26th July

Ken Brown, Gus Poyet, Jonny Cantor, Tony Bloom & Martin Perry
Albion held their annual Fans Forum tonight in the plush new surroundings of the BUPA lounge at the Amex Stadium. Broadcast live on BBC Radio Sussex the event was well attended with over 400 invited fans along with players, directors & staff from the club. On the panel were chairman Tony Bloom, manager Gus Poyet and directors Martin Perry & Ken Brown.

Amongst topics discussed were new players, the forthcoming friendly with Spurs, the manager's expectations for the new season at Championship level, the issue of reduced numbers on the subs bench and the consequences that follow as a direct result of that rule change (Gus was particularly vocal about this subject and not at all happy with having his substitutes being reduced from seven to five players), away ticket allocation and parking places for disabled fans.

This last issue surprisingly raised some fairly heated discussion at times. It appears that some disabled fans are unhappy at the amount of allocated parking spaces for them and implied that they were being treated somewhat unfairly. Martin Perry responded to the questions regarding the points raised explaining that the club have acted in a fair and proper way, and that they had 78 allocated disabled parking spaces and that was considered to be sufficient. Unfortunately the issue seemed to get a little laboured and threatened to dominate proceedings until host Jonny Cantor moved things along.

The club's loyalty points scheme also came in for close scrutiny from fans who attend away games but do not hold hold season tickets. Ken Brown explained that season ticket holders got priority as they were the lifeblood of the club and needed to be rewarded for their loyalty to the club since the move away from the Goldstone.

Gus Poyet was as humorous as ever with some very witty comments. He also urged fans to be very vocal in their support of the team at the new Amex stadium for the full ninety minutes of every match. He said if the team played rubbish then by all means let the team know how you feel, but not until after the final whistle.

As always it was a fairly lively affair but everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion and certainly preferred the new venue compared to the portacabin previously used at the Withdean. There was lots of discussion between fans in the bar after the radio broadcast went off air, followed by what appeared to be a very appreciative nod of approval to the tasty pies and Harvey's ale on offer. An enjoyable evening with an opportunity to meet and chat with fellow Seagull fans in the glorious surroundings of the wonderful new American Express Community Stadium.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Good Lord, Tom's A Winner!

Lord Sugar & winner Tom Pellereau
So good guys do sometimes win then. In the Final of Sunday night's The Apprentice it was gentleman Tom Pellereau who beat clever Helen, smarmy Jim and elegant Susie to win the top prize of a £250,000 business partnership with Lord Sugar. Well deserved I say. Highlight of the programme? Oh that's easy, when Jim was asked to say something about himself that was not a cliche the Irishman's bright response was "I am what it says on the tin". Jeez, no wonder he didn't win. Tom's intelligence, polite manner, eccentric ideas and innovation are what saw him to victory. That and his charming habit of raising his arm like a schoolboy in class when he wanted to say something, just don't ask him what part of England Christopher Columbus came from.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Oh Gary Hart, Gary Gary Hart...

Gary Hart and Steve Cook with the trophy (photo Simon Dack)

Sussex Senior Cup Final, Amex Stadium, 15th July 2011
Albion 2 - Eastbourne Borough 0

How fitting that the player to score the first ever goal at the new American Express Community Stadium should be Gary Hary. At 34 the man is a legend to Albion fans and although released at the end of last season he was made captain for the day in his last ever game in a Brighton shirt. Hart scored the first ever goal at the Withdean and is the only Albion player ever to have played at the temporary Priestfield home in Gillingham, Withdean and the Amex and the only one to have scored in all three stadiums. Gary Hart has created Albion history and no one deserves it more. The fans were absolutely delighted for him when he popped up in the 70th minute to score and give Albion a 1-0 lead. Up came the now familiar chorus of "Oh Gary Hart, Gary Gary Hart" for one last time. Thirteen minutes later the impressive Steve Cook heads in the winner and Brighton have won their first trophy of the season. This was effectively the Albion's reserve team/development squad playing to win the Sussex Senior Cup and although Eastbourne Borough put up a spirited defence I have to say that in my opinion the better team won.

The Amex - How Was It For You?
This was the first ever football match at the Amex and as such was a 'ramp up' event with the crowd limited to under 10,000 to see how effectively the people and traffic management systems that were in place were actually going to work. Generally quite good would be my opinion, particularly the traffic and rail management.

However, there were issues with the refreshment service from the food kiosks in the Upper West Stand and it wasn't long before huge queues were forming for the pies and pints (and I mean seriously long queues). I believe that these refreshment problems weren't just restricted to the Upper West Stand either.

Standing outside in a deluge of rain whilst waiting for the turnstiles to open meant that we probably got as wet as we ever did at Withdean before we could finally get inside the stadium and into the dry. I understand that there were ticketing issues with some fans not getting tickets in time and consequently large queues started forming outside the Amex club shop whilst people waited to get in to collect tickets, or perhaps just to get shelter from the pouring rain. Maybe signage around the ground and on roads leading up to it could be improved and surely a clock inside the stadium itself is a neccessity? I'm not moaning here you understand, they're just my observations.

So some lessons can be learnt from the day but that is what a ramp up event is for after all so we shouldn't get too concerned at this stage as I'm sure the club will iron out some of these issues for the next ramp up event, the friendly against Spurs in two weeks time. We look forward to that game when a near full house will test management systems to the max.

Albion Finally Get Their Man

Albion have finally landed their man with the six month loan signing of Kasenga Lua Lua. The club have an option to buy the player in January and subject to his fitness being proved will become a permanent Brighton player in 2012. This on/off transfer saga has gone on for weeks with lots of speculation and rumour about the player's fitness after breaking his ankle last season whilst on loan at Brighton. Seagulls fans and Gus Poyet will be delighted as the pacey winger was terrific for Albion last time out and if fully fit will be a real asset to the squad. His speed down the flanks can leave opposition defenders standing in his wake and he is a player that can get you goals, a real match winner (as long as he is fit). Another one of Gus's top targets signed up.

Romain Vincelot
The club have also signed highly rated Daggenham & Redbridge French defender/midfielder Romain Vincelot who Gus has been keeping an eye on for some time. Other clubs were reputedly interested in the player but Albion's bid of £100,000 and the attraction of a new stadium and ambitious manager appear to have secured the player's services for the next two years.

Oh So Sweet Baby James

JAMES TAYLOR, Bournemouth BIC, 14th July 2011:
I was really looking forward to this gig, and it didn't disappoint. It would be hard to find a more amiable entertainer to spend an evening with than James Taylor. The legendary singer-songwriter with the unchanging beautiful voice sings with a smile you can hear and creates an intimate, friendly atmosphere. He’s like a fine wine that just matures and grows better with age. This show is a trip down memory lane for James, and we're all more than happy to be taken along. Most songs are familiar, some more obscure, but every one's a winner, delivered with a story that puts them in context. His band of excellent musicians and backing vocalists were note perfect throughout including pianist Larry Goldings, backing vocalist & fiddle player Andrea Zonn, lead guitarist Michael Landau and an extra special word here for the relatively unknown but appropriately named drummer Chad Wackerman who sat quietly at the back of the stage but who was superb and right on the money for the whole evening, playing an understated but nailed on perfect set.

The concert opened with the Buddy Holly song Everyday and during the rest of the evening we heard other classic Taylor songs such as Blossom, Something In The Way She Moves Me, Mexico, the Carole King penned Up On The Roof, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, Line ‘Em Up, How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, Copperline and the popular Your Smiling Face. We also listened to Jump Up Behind Me, about the time his father drove to New York to rescue a teenage James after a failed band project, Angry Blues, written in the throes of a hangover, one of my personal favourites the beautifully crafted and well written The Secret Of Life and perhaps the stand-out song of the evening was My Travelling Star (one of many variations he's written on the theme of being torn between home and the open road). There was a raunchy version of Steamroller Blues which always sounds so different every time Taylor performs it and a beautiful rendition of the charming Shower The People that highlighted just how good the backing singers were.

And when the long-awaited favourites take their turn - Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain, Carolina In My Mind and the encore song You've Got a Friend - they're delivered faithfully and with the same feeling as when they were first recorded, to a pin-drop silent audience appreciating every word and note.

Taylor never leaves the stage, even spending the entire interval perched on the edge shaking hands and signing anything and everything that's put his way. At the end he thanks us for allowing him and the band to take another turn through town. And the warmth he shows his audience is sent right back. James, you've indeed got a lot of friends in this part of the world.

With grateful thanks to Debbie Moore of the Bournemouth Echo whose contribution is also included in this review.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Rockin' All Over The World

This day in 1985...Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 13th July:
Twenty six years ago today I was at Wembley watching the Live Aid concert. I remember Staus Quo opening the show with 'Rockin' All Over The World' (how appropriate), that moment when Bob Geldof paused in the middle of 'I Don't Like Mondays' to great effect ('and the lesson today is how to die') and then later thumping the table and demanding money from people "NOW!", that heart wrenching famine video made by CBC with Drive by The Cars that brought a tear to everyone's eye, Freddie & Queen stealing the show (of course), Bono dancing with that lady in the crowd while Jagger & Bowie danced in the street, finally getting to see The Who perform live for the first time in my life, Macca's microphone breaking down and 90,000 people helping him out by singing 'Let It Be' and the finale where everyone sung the Christmas hit 'Feed The World' in the middle of the summer. What a day!

Freddie had us right in the palm of his hand

Monday 11 July 2011

Home At Last!

Me and my three footballing pals went along to the Amex Stadium tonight for what was called a "familiarisation evening". My first real close up look at Albion's new home. We arrived at 6.30pm, got our tickets from the impressive new mega store (the portacabin shop at Withdean now a fading memory) and joined the queue in eager anticipation of what we were about to witness. At last 7.00pm arrived and the turnstiles opened. Now we are about to embark on a journey for the very first time to the West Stand Upper tier, be prepared because this is no easy task.

After several flights of stairs (I counted at least seven) we finally arrive at our destination and get to see what all the fuss is about. We head for daylight through the Block C entrance and there it is before our very eyes. It's truly magnificent, it's brilliant, it's stunning and it's certainly worth the oxygen sapping walk up all those blooming stairs. This is a wonderfully designed stadium, it's impressive in all it's glory and most importantly of has padded seats! We go to Row L and I find seat 80, my seat, my very own blue seat. Even better, I am sitting next to a white seat that nestles under the Seagulls wing in the upper tier. Yep, I'm next to the big white Seagull, it's unbelievable. I take a photo. 

The view from my seat is just brilliant
I take lots and lots of photos.

Four Stay Dry In The Amex
We meet more familiar faces and friends from the Withdean that are sitting close by and then introduce ourselves to Adrian and his family, new neighbours in Row M, just behind us. We then notice something above our heads, what is this strange thing? Could it be? Nah, surely not. Yes, it really's a roof! Throw away the poncho's boys, there will be no more getting drenched on a Saturday afternoon from this moment on.

The next bit of exploration takes us back down the steps to sample the delights of the Amex refreshments. Just when you think it can't get any better you suddenly see the magic words...Harvey's Real Ale. Okay, now I think I've died and gone to heaven. The pies are eaten and 'meat' with our approval, we take in the magnificent panoramic view from the West Stand Upper concourse and Martin Perry strolls over for a chat. We thank him for our new home, tell him how impressed we are and get given some good advice regarding the challenging stairway. The trick is to use the right hand side stairway rather than the left, as apparently this has fewer stairs. Now I didn't know that. We thank Martin, finish our pints and then  it's off to see if we can find Paul's brick. Back down the shorter stairway to the ground level (goodness me, it is a long way down) and we approach the front reception area of the stadium. Click, click, even more photos are taken.

The Amex Reception Area
I go inside the reception and meet the gorgeous, beautiful, charming and delightful Camilla behind the desk. I think I'm in love. Hmm, now I see what the 1901 club get for their money. I turn to leave and there it is, on the wall behind me, the most exciting player ever to wear the Blue & White stripes, he's shot he's scored, it's the legend that is Peter Ward. Time for another photo opportunity I think. Click...

Me and Wardy
We make our way outside to find lots of bricks (and I mean lots). These are the engraved heritage stones that Albion fans have paid to have laid outside the main entrance. We start on the journey to find Paul's brick. 20 minutes later, we find it. It's there on the ground right in front of us, Paul's actual brick. "Paul Mitchell, Living The Dream".

Paul's heritage stone - finally found it's home
The evening's journey is almost over as we leave the Amex and the sun sets over Brighton & Hove Albion's magnificent new home. We feel proud to have been a small part of it's history.

We will never forget the 10 year struggle to get a new ground of our own...that last ever game at the Goldstone, the demonstrations, the battles with those that opposed us and those that nearly ruined us, the half time pitch invasions, the chants, the songs, the poems, the Fans Reunited day, the demolition of a football ground leaving the club homeless, the two year exile to Gillingham, the move back to Sussex by the Sea to a roofless athletics stadium at Withdean (gone but not forgotten), the postcards and flowers to politicians and the long and expensive court battle to win the right to build a stadium at Falmer.

We owe huge thanks to the dedication and determination of former chairman Dick Knight (always a hero), the unbelievable generosity of a true Brighton fan in Tony Bloom who has made the move to a new stadium possible, the hard work of Martin Perry and the board of Directors, the players and managers whose desire to win brought them back to back championships and finally a League One title in the one year it was really needed.

However, the most important contribution was the passion of the Brighton fans and many other ordinary football fans up and down the country who helped the Albion and it's supporters through it's darkest days, the fans who were not prepared to see this club die, the survival of Brighton & Hove Albion was everything to them. Their reward for such belief, passion, belonging and commitment was to be seen right in front of our very own eyes tonight...the stunning American Express Community Stadium, our new home. So here we are after all those years, home at last.

Thursday 7 July 2011

North West Sussex Seagulls Meeting

NWSS Supporters Club - 2nd Meeting
Shots Bar, Horsham
Wednesday 6th July 2011

Yet another well attended meeting of the NWSS supporters club was held at Shots Bar in Horsham this evening. Andy Stonestreet reported that he had interest from around 100 people and the membership was now standing at 70 fans with 34 confirmed and paid for coach bookings already made to date. It was anticipated that the club would reach their target break even figure of around 45 seat bookings fairly soon and with ad-hoc bookings the club was confident that numbers would be sufficient. The largest coach can seat up to 59 passengers with a smaller coach option of a 45 seater. It was unclear on the night if there would be enough members with match tickets for the forthcoming Sussex Senior Cup Final to warrant hiring a coach as this was the first Amex 'ramp up' event with the crowd capacity limited to 10,000. Those that wanted to book seats for the Eastbourne Borough, Spurs and Gillingham games were asked to email Andy with requests for the number of coach seats required so the club could determine the need and viability of booking a coach.
Paul  Chandler spoke about the social side of the club and invited members to come forward with any ideas or suggestions they may have for social gatherings. Amongst Paul’s suggestions for the club social events were a bowling evening, an Amex stadium tour (particularly well received), a Dark Star brewery tour (yes please) and a possible tour of Wembley stadium. He also outlined the route the coach would be taking.
Special guest for the evening was PC Darren Balkham who is the full time police officer attached to Brighton & Hove Albion FC. He gave an interesting talk on policing policy at the Amex. It was good to get an insight into how Sussex Police will be meeting the challenge of managing 22,000 football fans and the associated traffic that comes with them on match days. It would seem that the local Bobbies will be taking a mature and sensible view to policing and will not be too heavy handed in their approach.  Darren Balkham clearly has an understanding of what methods work best in dealing with the modern football fan in today’s society which is somewhat different to the way football crowds were managed 30 years ago. He seems to have a forward thinking attitude and approach and wants to treat supporters in a sympathetic and grown up way. Both sets of supporters will be encouraged to mix and behave sensibly on a match day but should there be any troublemakers they will be dealt with promptly and effectively. With CCTV all around the stadium the Sussex Police will be able to respond very quickly at the first signs of any unrest around the ground. 
Simon Oakley and Dan Smith from Seagulls Over Burwash attended the meeting and put forward a suggestion to form a Federation of Independent Supporters Clubs which would be an affiliation of all Brighton & Hove Albion Independent Supporters Clubs. This would then give Albion fans a voice and any concerns or recommendations could possibly be aired at regular meetings with Albion club officials and Sussex Police. This was well received and will be investigated further by Simon and the NWSS committee to see the feasibility of such a project.
NWSS Membership cards were handed out on the evening and Russ the manager of the Shots Bar offered special discounts on drinks, bowling and other in house facilities to NWSS members who produce their cards when visiting. Shots will also be showing any live televised Albion matches on their big screen TV. The Shots bar staff and Russ looked after us really well during the evening and kept us fed and watered which was very much appreciated.
Okay everyone, get out of your seats for the photo!

Monday 4 July 2011

Albion Make Record Signing!

Record signing Craig Mackail-Smith

Brighton & Hove Albion today smashed their previous transfer record with the £2.5 million pound signing of former Peterborough striker Craig Mackail-Smith. The 27 year old won 'League One Player of the Year' last season and scored 35 goals for his former club. Astonishingly he has signed a four year deal which will delight Albion fans. I really rate Mackail-Smith who is the perfect replacement for Crystal Palace bound Glenn Murray, in my view CMS is a better all round player than Murray and I think our style of play will suit him perfectly. I assume that the player could probably have got higher wages at the other clubs showing an interest but it seems that he places a higher importance on the footballing reasons for joining a club rather than the financial reasons and he probably will want a guarantee of first team football which Albion will give him. Great, a player that actually wants to play for us for the right reasons - he's going to be a real favourite with the Albion fans.

He was Gus Poyet's number one target and Gus will be very pleased to have got his man. This is a stunning piece of business and shows that the Albion manager obviously has a persuasive way with words as he beat Leicester, West Ham and Premier League outfit QPR to sign up the much sought after player. The fee is rumoured to increase to £3.25 million after appearances and shows that the club are serious about becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Championship this season.

The signing of Mackail-Smith will doubtless attract other players to join the Gus bus for what looks like becoming a very exciting journey through 2011-12. The new stadium, the style of football and most importantly the manager are what players will find irresistible. Albion just have to keep an eye on the wage bill to make sure they don't let things run away with them too much but at the moment the future looks very interesting. Albion fans will be delighted that such an exciting prospect is joining the squad and will be impressed that the board of directors are showing their intent with the record investment they have made. The Seagull fans now can't wait for the season to start.

Craig Mackail-Smith at the Amex

Saturday 2 July 2011

Ticket & Travel Arrangements for the Amex are announced

Match Tickets: Tickets will be on sale to former Withdean season ticket holders from 10.00am next Wednesday 6th July for the Sussex Senior Cup Final, the Spurs friendly and the home League Cup match against former landlords Gillingham. Go to the posh looking, brand spanking new Seagulls ticketing website here and log in to see your loyalty points (there’s 1,250 points for me).

Loyalty Scheme: The recently introduced loyalty points scheme means the more points you have the more chance you have to purchase your tickets early. Current Amex season ticket holders who last year held Withdean season tickets would have got a 250 loyalty point bonus so they will have priority when wanting to purchase cup tickets, away tickets or season tickets for car parking. This scheme was always going to be a tricky one for the club to organise and introduce as they were never going to please everyone and it's a complex and sensitive issue with fans. When tickets will be in such high demand the club have to be seen to do things in the fairest way possible and reward their long term season ticket holders who have stuck with the club through thick and thin, I believe they have got it just about right. As a fan who travelled to Gillingham for two seasons I would have perhaps liked a few more loyalty points for that but I musn't grumble, after all I've got a roof and have at last been able to throw the £1 poncho in the dustbin!

Travel to the Amex: Albion today announced their travel arrangements for getting to and from the new American Express Community Stadium at Falmer. Click here to find all the latest detailed information from the official Seagulls website. Public transport is the preferred option (if available) but if you would rather use your car then the club are suggesting that fans use one of the three park and ride sites and car share wherever possible. There will be no on street parking in the area and there will be patrolled street parking restriction zones with the possiblity of your car being towed away - you have been warned! The park and ride facility was free last year but this season it will cost you £30 for a book of park & ride vouchers that will cover all 23 home Championship league games and up to 7 cup games. These Park & Ride voucher booklets can only be purchased by telephoning the club on 0845 496 1901 or 0845 873 0251. They are not available online. All park and ride tickets must be booked in advance, you can't just turn up and pay on the day.

Season Ticket Car Parking: For normal season ticket holders there is the option to purchase reserved parking at the Amex. There are 700 'near site' car parking spaces plus 46 disabled parking spaces that are available to buy on a season ticket basis only at a cost of £360 (plus the usual obligatory £2 booking fee) per year. This seems a little steep if you're driving on your own so a car share would make good economic sense. Parking will be on site at the Sussex University so is right on the doorstep of the Amex. These new car parking season tickets will go sale this Wednesday 6th July to current Amex season ticket holders who held Withdean season tickets last year, if you're a new Amex season ticket holder only then you have to wait a further week before you can make your purchase (if there are any left!). Like the Park & Ride vouchers the season tickets for car parking can only be purchased by telephoning the club on 0845 496 1901 or 0845 873 0251. They are not available online.

Coach travel: If you live in the Horsham/Southwater/Henfield area then why not consider travelling on the luxury coach that the North West Sussex Seagulls are organising for Albion supporters on match days. Travel to the Amex and back for only £6 per person (even less if you're over 60 or under 16 at just £4 per head). It's cheaper than driving your car and paying to park, you can also have a couple of pints of Harveys real ale in the supporters bar at the Amex without having to worry about the drive home. You know it makes sense. Go to the NWSS website here for more details on how to book your seat.

Friday 1 July 2011

Liza Minnelli at the Royal Albert Hall

I saw Liza with a Z in concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 29th June. Now I will be honest with you here, I wasn't sure how this was going to go as it's my lady who's really a Liza fan and I was just going along for the ride. Okay, Liza Minnelli is 65, has two false hips, a dodgy knee and struggles a bit to reach those high notes like she used to but there was something special about seeing her perform live on a London stage that sent a tingle down the old spine. She has that 'thing', you know, it's that wow factor thing, that magical presence and charisma thing that you just can't describe unless you see it and hear it. You can't buy it, you can't earn it, you just have it...and Liza with a Z has it in bucketloads. The audience absolutely adored her from the moment she came on stage to the moment she left it. True, she's not the singer she once was in her younger days but old don't mean bad, it means she's been there, done it all, got the tee shirt, has nothing left to prove and knows how to put on a spectacular show that will dazzle you and have you out of your seat clapping like crazy and shouting for more. A unique event from a unique performer at a unique venue. What a show!

Albion Go Dutch With New Arrival

Roland Bergkamp shows off an Albion shirt

Albion have signed Roland Bergkamp from Dutch Eredivisie side Excelsior. The 20 year old nephew of former Arsenal star Dennis Bergkamp was out of contract at his club in Holland and has signed a two year contract with the the Seagulls. Hopefully the youngster will be given time to develop under the guidance of Gus Poyet and in time could become a real prospect. Let's not expect too much too soon though, I feel that Gus is building for the future with this signing. Next up, the signing of Lua Lua (will it ever happen?)

Amex video: For those of you that haven't seen it go here to view a recent video of the Amex. There's also a great time lapse video here. Enjoy.

Parking for the Amex: It looks like there now might be some limited pre-bookable parking at the new stadium for ordinary season ticket holders and the club have also been given pemission by the local council for a third park & ride site at Brighton racecourse for match days. I think  it's still better to consider public transport or supporters club coach if you can though.

Training Ground: A site near Shoreham/Lancing has been identified as the new training facility and youth development academy. With eight football pitches, an indoor pitch, 3G astroturf pitch and residential courses it looks like it's going to a brilliant facility for the players. Something the club have desperately needed for years. It all seems to be coming on stream. 

NWSS: For those of you interested, the next meeting of the newly formed North West Sussex Seagulls is next Wednesday 6th July at the Horsham Superbowl and Shots Bar (7.30pm). Go here to visit the NWSS supporters club website.

SEE YOU ALL UNDER THE NEW ROOF NEAR THE WHITE SEAGULL (no need to bring a poncho). Up the Albion!