Seagulls Over Burwash Article – January 2022

New Year, Draws, Missing Players and a Singer

Christmas is over, the New Year has been welcomed in, decorations are coming down, resolutions are in place…. for now….. and we are all looking forward to a happy, healthy and successful 2022. From a footballing perspective, the outlook is far more appealing than the empty stadia that greeted the new year of 2021 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Capacity crowds are once again filling grounds, the roar of cheering supporters can be heard the length and breadth of the country and the match-day atmosphere that was sorely missed during last season is back to its former glory. The supporters and clubs alike were confident that the frustrations of the Covid restrictions were behind them. Confident, that is, until the Omicron variant raised its ugly head. With the prospect of this latest incarnation of the coronavirus proliferating throughout the UK, hope remains that the vaccinations and boosters program will be as effective at preventing serious illness due to the Omicron variant as it was with the Delta version. If that is the case, life in general and football in particular, should remain unaffected. I am sure we will all keep our fingers crossed that that is the case and bans on large gathering such as football crowds, or even full lockdowns, are not required during 2022.

After winning four of the first five Premier League matches of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion commenced a ten-match run without a victory. Whilst this may seem like a reversal of fortunes, the performance level remained, for the most part, high and only two of these games were lost. It seems the Seagulls have become the draw specialists of the league with a total of eight even score lines from 15 matches so far this season. These have included very credible results against Liverpool, Arsenal and West Ham as well as frustrating draws against more lowly opposition such as Crystal Palace, Norwich and Newcastle. However, despite the failure to win recent games, as I write this, the Albion are still in the top half of the Premier League table with 20 points from 15 games. If you had offered any Brighton supporter that at the beginning of the season, they would have bitten your hand off!

Another curiosity of the current season has been the performances of the Brighton striker, Neil Maupay. Maupay is the Seagulls’ top scorer so far this season having bagged six goals in 14 games, a scoring rate bettered only by five players in the league. However, he does have a tendency to miss a few sitters and has the second worse conversion rate of Premier League forwards. But perhaps the most startling aspect of his play this season is his ability to score in the dying moments of matches. At the end of September, Brighton were losing to arch rivals Crystal Palace until Maupay scored in the fourth minute of extra time. Similarly, after missing some relatively straightforward chances, Maupay levelled the score at West Ham with a ridiculously spectacular overhead kick in the last minute of normal time. Five days later, he broke Southampton hearts by scoring in the last of eight minutes of injury time. Whilst each of these games were drawn, for the supporters watching, the matches felt like victories. All we need now is for Maupay to score winners, rather than levellers, with the last kick of the game and the Albion will rise to the upper echelons of the Premier League table.

The Christmas and New Year always sees a lot of football matches played over a short period of time. Due to the delayed start of the season caused by the knock-on effects of the previous Covid disrupted season. This year even more games have been squeezed in to the festive period. Brighton and Hove Albion, for example, were scheduled to play eight matches between 1st December and 2 January. Such a relentless run of matches places an immense physical strain on the players and player rotation is essential to keep the players fit and injury free. Whilst Brighton have much greater strength in depth than during previous seasons, the squad was hit by a series of injuries that depleted the playing staff significantly. During the first two games of December, six players were forced to leave the field with injuries, leaving the team to finish the games with only ten players on the pitch. With key players such as striker Danny Welbeck already on the side lines with long term problems, a total of eight first team players were absent for the match again Tottenham Hotspur on the 12th December. However, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity and the fringe players will have had their chance to perform and impress the manager. How did they get on? I have no idea. There were six games scheduled for the time between me writing this and you reading it, but, being the eternal optimist, I am sure we will be in the top four by now!

January and February sees the African Cup of Nations take place in Cameroon. This competition between African national teams was initially scheduled for last year but, as with many events, was delayed for a year due to the Covid 19 pandemic. As a result of this, many Premier League clubs will lose their African players for up to six weeks, with some of the biggest stars, such as Liverpool’s Mo Salah, leaving for the tournament. Brighton may lose key midfielder Yves Bissouma if he is selected by Mali. Other Premier League teams could be missing a number of players with struggling Watford potentially losing six players being the worst effected. The loss of the African players will inevitably impact the results of matches and, therefore, the final Premier League positions. Despite loss of Bissouma, Brighton may benefit overall as they play Leicester City and Crystal Palace in January, both of which could have four first team players away on international duty. This included the Albion’s nemesis, Wilfried Zaha, the Palace winger who has a knack of raising his game and scoring against the Seagulls. He won’t be missed!

For further information on joining Seagulls Over Burwash and details of forthcoming events, meetings or coach travel, please visit our website at www.seagullsoverburwash.co.uk or email me at simon.forster@seagullsoverburwash.co.uk. Alternatively, please feel free to contact our esteemed Chairman, Mr Teskey O’Neil, on 01435 884344 or tesbar80@btinternet.com. Once again, Teskey was delighted with the array of Albion-related Christmas gifts he received from friends and family. His favourite this year was the Seagulls Karaoke CD which provides musical accompaniment to an array of Brighton chants and songs, including the huge 1982 FA Cup Final hit “In Brighton” (oh my, it was awful!). Teskey is very excited by the prospect of using the CD and the coach PA system to entertain the Seagulls over Burwash members on the long drive to and from the Amex Stadium. Strangely enough, Teskey’s wife, Barbara, has insisted that she is needed on the other coach and can’t be present for her dear husband’s debut performance. I don’t suppose there is a spare seat on your coach is there Barbara? Just one? Please!

Simon Forster