Sunday 20 November 2011

Seagulls Fall To Saints

Southampton 3, Albion 0
npower Championship, St Mary's, Saturday 19th November

Over 3,200 Seagulls fans made the relatively short trip along the A27 and M27 to Southampton to see if Albion could put a stop to table topping Saints impressive unbeaten home run. Manager Gus Poyet knew he had a tough task on his hands, especially as he had some of his first team squad out with injuries. His controversial interview the previous day on Talk Sport when he got himself involved in the current debate on racism in football probably didn't help make for a smooth start to the day and became something of a distraction as the press gathered in numbers around the dug out just prior to kick off.

Poyet decided to dispense with Inigo Calderon at full back and opted instead for his 38 year old assistant, the hugely experienced Mauricio Taricco. The first half was fairly even and relatively uneventful as Albion contained Saints and 0-0 at half time was probably a fair scoreline.

Saints started the second half far more brightly and pushed forward with conviction in the early stages. It was prolific striker Rikki Lambert who rose high above Noone and Taricco at the far post to head in an unstoppable header to give Saints the lead in the 49th minute.

However the game took a dramatic turn in the 58th minute as Saints were awarded a penalty when Lewis Dunk tangled with Jose Fonte on the edge of the area. Albion's players were incensed at the decision complaining that the offence was clearly committed outside the area, as TV coverage would later prove. The assistant running the line did not show that it was a penalty when he flagged, he just indicated a foul. After a lengthy discussion with his linesman (sorry, assistant referee) the referee pointed to the spot. Taricco, who really should have known better, showed clearly his outrage in a fairly blunt and direct manner to referee Peter Walton, who then showed the full back a straight red card for dissent. Taricco getting sent off was the last thing Albion needed. Lambert stepped up to despatch the penalty to make it 2-0 to the home side and the game was effectively over.

Some ten minutes later yet another debatable penalty decision was awarded to the home side. Lambert stepped up to score his hat trick giving Saints an unassailable three goal lead. The match moved towards it's predictable close as Saints ran out winners in a match where I can't remember Albion having more than one shot on target during the entire 90 minutes. The match was always going to be a tough one to win but going down to ten men made it an impossible task, no matter how much Albion tried they were never going to get anything out of this game. A full match report can be read here on the official Seagulls website.

So I and 3,236 fellow Seagull fans made our way home down the motorway back to Sussex. We were disappointed but perhaps not too surprised at the result given the strength of Southampton and the circumstances surrounding the penalty decisions and the subsequent sending off. I find it strange that someone with Taricco's vast experience should get himself sent off due to poor self discipline, hardly the example that the assistant manager should be setting to his players. Okay, the referee clearly made the wrong decision but Taricco getting himself sent off only made a bad situation even worse. I'm sorry to say that in my view he let himself and his team mates down, his behaviour in the heat of the moment was disappointing. No matter how bad or wrong the referee's decision is, players should try to keep their discipline and not give any referee an excuse to send them off.

Albion now need to bouce back this weekend when struggling Coventry City visit the Amex. Sadly manager Gus Poyet now has one less player that he can call upon as he tries to rally the troops.

Mauricio Taricco and Gus Poyet

NWSS Meeting

Head of NWSS Andy Stonestreet (left) & Albion coach Charlie Oatway

Thursday 17th November, 2011
Hare & Hounds, Cowfold

A well attended meeting was held by North West Sussex Seagulls at the Hare & Hounds in Cowfold last Thursday night. Fans got the opportunity to meet an Albion hero and exchange views whilst having a pint and some tasty pub grub.  The highlight of the evening was a question & answer session with Brighton & Hove Albion’s 1st team coach Charlie Oatway. The football club were also well represented by Richard Hebberd (Head of Operations), Paul Camillin (Press Officer) and Steve Gibbon (Player Liaison).

Andy Stonestreet from NWSS reported that there are now 150 members who have joined since the formation of the club in the summer, 48 of whom are coach season ticket holders. The primary aim of NWSS is to get Albion supporters to and from the new Amex Stadium by coach from the Horsham, Southwater, Cowfold and Henfield areas. Demand for seats is now at such a high level that a second coach is being considered to possibly run from the Billingshurst area and NWSS have also started running coaches to some Albion away matches.

When Charlie Oatway took to the floor to answer questions from fans it was a real delight. This Shepherds Bush lad has an openness and honesty that was so very refreshing to hear. He was also very funny. He gave lots of little anecdotes that had his audience roaring with laughter on occasions. He’s a real hero to Albion fans, a former player whose work rate and commitment to the cause could never be questioned. Hard as nails and tough as old boots, you crossed Charlie at your peril on the field of play. You never received less than 100% from him on the pitch and it was no different at the meeting. He didn’t duck a single question, be it about racism in football, poppies, the development squad, player injuries, North Stand Chat, the 5 sub rule or the prevalence of Twitter amongst footballers. He said that Gus Poyet was, without doubt, the best manager he had ever worked under. A very clever tactician and good motivator was his verdict. He was also very complimentary about club chairman Tony Bloom whom he said was always approachable and a genuine die hard Albion fan with a deep knowledge of the game and many of the players within it. He reassured the fans that their club is safe in the hands of Bloom and Poyet and with the arrival of the new stadium along with 18,000 season ticket holders the future looks bright.

NWSS are a non profit making organisation and any funds left over at the end of the season will be ploughed back into charitable causes such as the ‘Albion in the Community’ scheme (AITC). Charlie Oatway was very vocal in his support of such local charity schemes which are close to his heart and applauded the contribution that NWSS will be making. He spoke a little about his book ‘Tackling Life’ and was somewhat sombre for a brief period as he spoke about how difficult a personal journey it had been for him.  There were also many logistical and operational questions from the fans that Richard Hebberd answered. Transport seemed to be the topic of the night. Apparently the expectation from the club had been that around 18% of fans would use the railway network to get to the Amex but in fact it is nearer 46%. There are 47 park & ride buses and around 55 coaches in use on match days. This is highly commendable as the club aim to be as green as possible in their transport arrangements and encourage fans to use public transport wherever possible. Richard said that the club had received great support from Network Rail and all the local bus companies. He informed fans that a planning application was being made in December to bring the Amex seating capacity up to around 30,000 and hopefully most of this additional capacity will be in place within the next 18 months.

After a few photo opportunities and the inevitable raffle the evening drew to a close with discussion about a Christmas get together. Everyone agreed that the evening had been a huge success and thanked their guests from the Albion for taking the time to attend and answer all the questions thrown at them.  If you are an Albion fan and would be interested in joining NWSS then go to for more information. NWSS can get you to & from the Amex from as little as £4.00 per game.

Andy gets himself a bite to eat after the meeting
Charlie Oatway (right) with a Horsham Seagull

Friday 11 November 2011

Charlie's Gonna Get Ya...

Albion legend Charlie Oatway will be appearing at the next meeting of the North West Sussex Seagulls. The meeting is due to take place at the Hare & Hounds in Cowfold at 7.30pm on Thursday 17th November.

If you want to find out more about this North West Sussex based Brighton & Hove Albion supporters club why not come along, grab a pint and have a chat with like minded Albion fans and meet Charlie - all in one fun packed evening. NWSS arrange coach transport to all of Albion's home games at the Amex along with some away trips and 'specials' like the recent England under 19's international. Just turn up and ask for Andy or myself, you'll be made to feel very welcome.

The Theatre Of Screams?

England under 19's International
Amex Stadium, Thursday 10th November
England 1, Denmark 0

Well, it was quite an experience looking after a coach load of enthusiastic and very excited young football fans for last night's England under 19's match at the Amex. We packed the NWSS flags along with a few parents and lots of kids into our two coaches as we made our way to the first ever international to be held at the Amex Stadium, which is now fondly known as our theatre of screams after all the shouting and hollering from the footie mad youngsters. I ask you, how's a man supposed to get any sleep in row B of the west stand upper with all that racket going on for goodness sake.

Highlight of the evening? Well, it wasn't the half time streaker where coincidentally everyone suddenly seemed to have a mobile phone camera in their hand at just the right (or wrong) time! However, we did experience our first ever Mexican wave at the Amex, right on kids. A decent match with a classy England goal late on to give the England youngsters a 1-0 victory. We all went home happy. After negotiating the coach park a headcount took place just before the home bound coach trip which was a nightmare as some of the lovely little blighters took great delight in hiding under their seats, God bless 'em all. A really enjoyable trip and hopefully the first of many 'specials' that the NWSS supporters club will hold in the future. I've now managed to see a match at the Amex on every day of the week and it's not even December, that's got to be a first hasn't it?

Photo's of the NWSS flags can be found on the North West Sussex Seagulls Facebook page here.

The NWSS Flag makes it's debut in the West Stand Upper

Friday 4 November 2011

Thank You & Goodbye

Glen Campbell In Concert
Brighton Dome 
Thursday 3rd November

Glen Campbell received one of the warmest welcomes I have ever witnessed at a concert hall. The recent announcement that he is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's meant that this would indeed be his final tour and the audience came in their numbers to bid him and his music a fond and loving farewell. It was a heartwarming evening tinged with sadness and regret that we would not be seeing this wonderful singer and musician on our shores again. Our hearts go out to him and his family and we wish him well.

Glen Campbell was well looked after on stage as his daughter and two sons formed part of his very talented backing band. They have clearly inherited his musical talent as they and long term friend and musical director T.J. Kuenster ably supported him throughout as they embarked on an evening of wonderful music and warm memories.

Glen's musical journey began way back in the early sixties when he was a much sought after session musician. He was a guitar player with real ability who was in demand and played with Phil Spector's legendary Wrecking Crew and at one point was even playing in the Beach Boys as a replacement for the gifted Brian Wilson who had quit touring in late 1964. His solo career got off to a somewhat stuttering start until Gentle On My Mind became his first major hit. Then he really struck gold and found Worldwide fame when he recorded the Jimmy Webb classic Wichita Lineman. He struck up a long and lasting friendship with the songwriter that was to be the making of his career as a solo artist and he became the greatest exponent and interpreter of Jimmy Webb's beautifully written songs.

The concert opened with Gentle On My Mind and was followed by the classic Galveston. The show continued with more of his greatest hits like Try A Little Kindness and It's Only Make Believe but it was the Jimmy Webb songs that really showed him at his best and resonated with his enthralled audience. Songs like Where's The Playground Suzie and Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife were well performed but he finally got to me with the heart wrenching and moving By The Time I Get To Phoenix. We also heard some new material from his excellent recently released album Ghost On The Canvas. We listened to the title track followed by  Your Amazing Grace and Any Trouble. All excellent songs well sung. 

We even had time for Duelling Banjos when he and his daughter Ashley duetted on their musical instruments at a great pace, all very enjoyable. There weren't many obvious signs of his illness although he did have his lyrics prompted by autocue, given the circumstances this was understandable and did not detract from his performance, vocally he sounded great, especially for someone who is unbelievably in his seventies. The audience were certainly happy just to be there in his company as we heard a sparse and simple arrangement for yet another Webb composition, The Moon's A Harsh Mistress, which was beautifully sung with just his MD on keyboards whilst his three children sat on stage watching their dad sing. Very touching.

He finally had my bottom lip quivering when we heard my personal favourite Wichita Lineman as the evening headed to a close and the show ended with the whole audience singing along to Rhinestone Cowboy. The audience demanded an encore and inevitably it followed as we heard In My Arms and the perfect show closer A Better Place, where we got to hear that Glen Campbell's religious beliefs will help him and his family as they move along the difficult road that lies ahead.

It's hard not to get emotional when a musical legend eventually has to stop performing and I'm sure there was a tear in many a fan's eye as he finally walked off stage in Brighton. We can only say thank you and goodbye, it was a privilege and a pleasure to see and hear you one last time Mr. Campbell.

Set list (as I remember it):
Gentle On My Mind
Try A Little Kindness
It’s Only Make Believe
Where’s The Playground Susie?
Dreams of the Everyday Housewife
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Lovesick Blues
Guitar / banjo duet with Ashley Campbell (Duelling Banjos)
Hey Little One – Ashley Campbell & Shannon Campbell

Ghost On The Canvas
Your Amazing Grace
Any Trouble
Southern Nights
The Moon's A Harsh Mistress
Wichita Lineman
Rhinestone Cowboy

In My Arms
A Better Place