Sunday 20 November 2011

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

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