Seagulls Over Burwash Article – February 2024

Redundant Trophy Cabinets, Lost Legends and Half Way

Following the completion of the Amex Stadium in 2011, Brighton and Hove Albion offered their supporters stadium tours. These remain extremely popular with the fan-base and include all the interesting areas of the stadium including both dressing rooms, the directors lounge, the media conference suite, the tunnel, the dug-outs and pitch-side. Throughout, the knowledgeable tour guides provide an insight into the running of the club, it’s history and numerous amusing anecdotes. If you are a fan, or just interested in sport generally, the stadium tour should definitely be on your bucket list. There is, however, one aspect of the tour that, for the time being, remains a little underwhelming……. the trophy room. Well, it’s actually just a cabinet in the director’s lounge, and not a very big cabinet either. In all honesty, there is no need for a larger cabinet for the simple reason that there is not much to put in it. Perhaps the Albions most prestigious achievement was winning the 1910 Charity Shield, then played between the  Football League First Division champions (Aston Villa) and the Southern League champions (Brighton). Since then, Brighton’s trophies have been achieved by winning the lower leagues, such as the League One in 2011 or the old Fourth Division in 1965. The closest Brighton have got to furnishing their cabinet with a major piece of silverware was in 1983, when they were the width of Gary Bailey’s leg away from winning the FA Cup….. “and Smith must score”, you know the story. So, the wait for a major trophy, i.e. Premier League Champions, FA or League Cup winners or a European competition victory, goes on. 

Brighton and Hove Albion is not the only club in the Premier League never to have won a major trophy. I am delighted to say that the ‘lovely lads’ from the other end of the M23, Crystal Palace, have an equally bare trophy cabinet. Just like the Albion, Palace were so close (yet so far) from winning the FA Cup. In fact, they were seven minutes away. In the 1990 final Palace were leading 3-2 against Manchester United with seven minutes of extra time left to play. Then Mark Hughes stuck the ball into the Palace net to force a replay. How I laughed! As they did against Brighton seven years earlier, United won the replay and lifted the Cup. Fulham also have an empty cabinet. They reached and lost the FA Cup final in 1975, as they did the Europa League final more recently in 2010. Brentford and Bournemouth are the two other Premier League clubs that have yet to achieve a major competition win but, unlike Brighton, Palace and Fulham, they have never even been close.

With trophies in mind, the question is, which of the empty-handed Premier League clubs are most likely to break their trophy duck?  I think we can discard the possibility that any of these clubs have a chance of winning the Premier League. Yes, yes, I know Leicester did in 2016 at odds of 500-1 but that will surely never happen again. Fulham have sneaked their way to this year’s League Cup semi-final. However, a two-legged semi-final against Liverpool is a daunting task. If they do pull off a shock result, they will be rewarded with a cup final against either Middlesbrough or Chelsea, a

scenario that gives Fulham a good chance at a title. By the time this is published, the League Cup final two will be decided. Is Fulham one of them? Crystal Palace and Brentford need to get through a replay to get to the 4th Round of the FA Cup, whilst Brighton, Bournemouth and Fulham successfully negotiated potential 3rd Round banana skins without too much drama. So all of these clubs have a potential FA Cup run to look forward to and, for Palace, Brentford and Bournemouth, the FA Cup is their only chance of a trophy. The Albion, however, have another string to their bow. Having finished 6th in the Premier League last season, they qualified for the Europa League, have won their group and have qualified for the last 16. The last 16 draw is not made until late February and the matches are played in March. Hopefully by then, the walking wounded of the Brighton team will be back to full fitness and the squad will be at full strength to progress to the quarter finals. So, as I write, both Brighton and Fulham have two shots at glory left this season and have the best chance of finally winning something significant. I am hoping that it will be the Seagulls who need a larger cabinet come May!

In recent weeks, the football world has lost two of only three people who have won the men’s World Cup both as a player and a manager. Brazilian forward, Mario Zagallo, won the World Cup as a player in 1958 and 1962 and as a manager in 1970 and as assistant manager in 1994. Zagallo died on 5th January aged 92. Forty eight hours later, the great German defender, Franz Beckenbauer passed away aged 78. Beckenbauer played against England in the 1966 World Cup final, which, of course, England won in extra time. He subsequently captained the German side to victory during the 1974 World Cup before winning the trophy again as a manager in 1990. During the 1966 final, Beckenbauer was given the unenviable task of man-marking England’s best player, Bobby Charlton. Coincidently, Charlton was also told by his manager, Alf Ramsey, to man-mark Beckenbauer. The result was that they successfully cancelled each other out. Sir Bobby died just 78 days before Beckenbauer and this prompted comedian and football fanatic David Baddiel to suggest that “maybe this is a very profound example of man-to-man marking”. And, in case you are wondering, the only other person to have achieved World Cup success as both a player and manager is Didier Deschamps, who lifted the trophy in 1998 as captain and 2018 as coach of France. 

With 20 games of the season played, the league tables have settled down and it is becoming clear which teams have a chance of challenging at the top of the league and which will become embroiled in a battle against relegation. It is perhaps no surprise that, given the gulf in financial clout and footballing standards between the Premier League and the Championship, that the teams promoted last season occupy the bottom three positions of the Premier League table at the half way stage. Luton, Burnley and Sheffield look likely to be battling to avoid an immediate relegation with Everton, who sit one place and one point above Luton. At the top it is very tight with Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Arsenal separated by only 5 points, but in the end, as usual, it will probably be Manchester City winning again. The Seagulls were 7th, in the final European qualification place, after 20 games, nicely positioned for a push for the top six, or even the top four and Champions League qualification. Who knows? It will be an exciting second half of the season!

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Simon Forster