Seagulls Over Burwash Article – August 2021

The great thing about It’s Coming Home! But Not Just Yet…….

football World Cups and European Championships is that they unify the whole nation behind the England team. People who would normally not follow football get swept up in the media hype and the general hysteria of the competition. Such was the case with the recent Euro 2020 international championship. As the England team progressed through the group stages to the knock-out rounds, the enthusiasm of the population gathered momentum. When England conquered their 55 year hoodoo by beating Germany in a major competition the press went overboard and even those most ambivalent towards football couldn’t help but be a little pleased. The dominant display and 4-0 victory against Ukraine in the quarter finals fuelled the belief of the supporters that, this time, football really was coming home. With Italy already through to the final, a tense semi-final against an excellent Denmark side ended in a 2-1 England victory after extra time. England in a final for the first time since the ’66 World Cup. And we all know what happened then! What could possibly go wrong?

The build-up to the Euro 2020 Final entailed wall-to-wall press, radio and TV coverage. Pundits came crawling out of the woodwork to give their opinions on the team, the tactics and the likely result, whether they be informed opinions or otherwise. Former school teachers of the players had their moments in the sun by telling reporters how great their former charges were as kids and how they could see their potential at the age of four and a half. Even the Queen got involved and wrote to Gareth Southgate expressing her best wishes. As kick-off approached, the country was gripped with anticipation. An incredible 31 million people tuned in to watch the game on television, many of whom were watching their first football match since, well, 1966 probably.

The final could not have started better. Within two minutes, England’s first attack, a sweeping move from their own half, resulted in Luke Shaw half volleying a shot past the Italian ‘keeper. The country went berserk with joy! England continued to dominate through the first half although they could not find a second goal. As the second half started, England were not so assured and Italy dominated possession. 31 million knots of anxiety formed in 31 million English stomachs. With just over 20 minutes to play, those knots of anxiety twisted further as Italy equalised via a goal mouth scramble. One apiece after 90 minutes. The 30 minutes of extra time produced half chances for both sides but soon the dreaded scenario of penalties came to pass. For those of us old enough to recall Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince and David Batty, the thought of a penalty shoot-out filled us with nothing but foreboding and the knot of anxiety developed into a cannon ball of dread weighing heavily in the abdomen. Despite England ‘keeper Jordan Pickford saving two of the Italians’ first five efforts, the inevitable happened and three England players failed to score. Silent stares of disbelief filled the Wheel Inn and, I expect, most pubs, clubs and sitting rooms throughout the country. Another gallant loss. Another ‘so close but so far’. Another English assault on an international football trophy that ended in the agonisingly cruel arena of a penalty shootout. Another three more names added to the aforementioned list of infamous ‘penalty missers’.

And to those who, until the culmination of Euro 2020, had not experienced the ecstatic highs and gut-wrenching lows of football I would like to say one thing….. now you know how Brighton and Hove Albion supporters feel every week of the season! If you liked that unique blend of pleasure and pain, come and join us at the Amex stadium! 

Now that the Euro’s are over, the crazy business of the football transfer market has taken centre stage. Manchester United have bought 21 year old Jaden (‘Penalty Misser’) Sancho from German club Borussia Dortmund for a mere £73 million. I’m sure Jaden’s agent had to work really hard for his 10%! Brighton’s England defender Ben White has been valued by the club at a rumoured £50 million with Arsenal amongst those keen to snap him up. Similarly eye-watering values have been put on Albion players Yves Bissouma, Tarik Lamptey as well as captain, Lewis Dunk. Whilst the sale of any of these players would be a financial boost for the club, it would be a loss in football terms. However, there are a number of very promising youngsters on the fringe of the first team who will have the opportunity to step up and prove themselves as Premier League players if more experienced players move on. Brighton have an established pathway that allows talented young players to progress from the academy and the Under 23s to the first team, much as was the case with Dunk, White and, more recently, Jakub Moder. Indeed, talented young players are attracted to the club for that very reason. Tarik Lamptey chose Brighton over Chelsea because he knew his chances of breaking into the Chelsea first team were slim, whereas at Brighton, young players are trusted and played. This attitude bodes well for the future of the club from both a financial perspective and for success on the pitch. 

With liberal use of the term ‘at the time of writing’ and acknowledging that, by the time you read this, Boris and Sajid may have changed their minds, it looks like the 2021-2022 football will start on August 14th in front of full stadia. For the first time since March 2020, capacity crowds will watch English club football and I for one can’t wait. And it appears I am not the only one. Even though the match capacity details have not been confirmed, the Seagulls Over Burwash coaches that run to the home games are full. Over 100 supporters will be heading off from the Heathfield and Burwash area to the Amex Stadium once a fortnight to see Graham Potter’s side play the like of Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal as well as, of course, the not so glamorous Crystal Palace. Like every season, hopes and expectations will be high and, like every England campaign, there will be some fantastic results as well as dreadful disappointments. But that is all part of football and why we love it.

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 dear Chairman, Mr Teskey O’Neil, on 01435 884344 or tesbar80@btinternet.com. Poor old Teskey did not take the trauma of the Euros Final penalty shoot out well. Immediately after the final miss, he ceremoniously folded up his lucky string vest and returned it to its plastic bag under the stairs. For a full fortnight he dressed in black, covered the clocks and bemoaned the injustice of it all. It all changed, however, when his wife, Barbara, informed him that it was less than 20 sleeps until Brighton kick-off against Burnley for the first game of the new season. His little eyes lit up, he ran upstairs, put his blue and white Brighton top on and starting practicing his keepie-uppies in preparation. Bless ‘im.

Simon Forster