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Brighton suffered playoff hell last season – something that Brentford have been very used to having not won one of the eight playoffs they have been involved in. And as the battle of the two teams approaches, Brighton are still looking to get into their full stride – with the Bees looking for their first away victory. Billy Grant chatted to Brighton season ticket holder Jem Stone (@JemStone) who – 43 years on from his first Brighton game in 1973 – is looking for the seagulls to return to upper echelons of the football pyramid … 

Having suffered playoff heartache with Brentford on too many occasions, we understand the pain. The end of last season must have been a huge disappointment

2 bloody goals. 2 bloody goals. We’re all gutted but perhaps now pretty resigned to the pain. Last year was our 3rd play-off exit in 4 years. 89 points would have been enough virtually every year in the last decade but I don’t think we ever imagined it was nailed on at any point. Even when we were 21 games undefeated at the beginning of last year, I’m sure we always felt that eventually we were going to get caught out. And so it proved. Boro beat us 3-0 at home to bring the run to a miserable end. If we’d kept them to 2-0 we’d have gone up in their place…

Pre-Season preview

Who was your biggest villain?
Lewis Dunk. A class centre half with a red mist issue, cost us a few points and possibly promotion.

You’ve had an OK beginning but haven’t started the season flying – much like playoff buddies Sheffield Wednesday and Derby haven’t either. Actor Ralph Brown predicted in his pre-season preview that Brighton would finish the season 1st Is this a case of post-playoff hangover?

We’ve looked imperial in our only two home games so far v Forest and Rotherham rattling up two 3-0 victories. Yet we struggled against a poor Reading team giving away a 2-1 lead and Newcastle finally looked to have hit their stride thumping us 2-0 before the international break (although they were helped on their way with yet another suspicious sending off). Disappointingly, Sam Baldock will be suspended for Saturday afternoon which may play in your favour.

Most clubs say ‘every player has a price’. Oliver Norwood was impressed that Brighton were able to keep hold of their key players. Did this surprise you?

Yes. Tony Bloom showed his hand last summer handing key defender Lewis Dunk an expensive new 5 year contract to fend off Fulham. But nobody imagined we’d not only keep him,  but Dale Stephens, star winger Anthony Knockeart and well everyone else on Aug 31st.

Bloom turned down nearly £20m of offers. This was despite Stephens having an almighty sulk in the summer, handing in a transfer request on deadline day and then tweeting his hamfisted “explanation” to “Brighton fans” when his suitors Burnley had decided they’d rather spend 10m quid on Jeff Hendricks instead. This has had a rather mixed response down our way. If he plays, and Hughton has now revealed he’s suddenly fit again, then he will be doing well to just shrug this off and focus on what was – with Beram Kayal last season – the leading midfield duo in the Championship

Pre-Season Preview

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
Automatic promotion. We don’t really do the play-offs do we? Three out of the last four, and we’re not getting better at them but worse. No straight up – and we know what it takes.

Much has been made of Brentford’s use of statistical analysis to help discover new players to sign. There are parallels with Brighton who have been much more secretive with their use of stats. Your owner Tony Bloom is a professional gambler and an ex-business partner of Brentford owner Matt Benham . He is the owner of betting consultancy Star Lizard which is pretty much in the same business as Benham’s Smart Odds – using stats for betting purposes (and discovering players who have not been unearthed by the moneybags teams – as yet). Do you feel this out-the-box thinking helped you last season?

Moneyball alert !!!

Bloom’s wealth is staggering but also secretive. Its never clear in rich lists (he’s never in them), interviews (he never talks about it), how deep his pockets actually are. What is clear is that he’s stumped up nearly £250m in the last 10 years to utterly transform the club.

Perhaps his biggest bet in recent years, though was sacking both manager Sami Hyppia ( a disaster) and Head of Football Operations/head of recruitment David Burke (mostly a disaster) on Christmas Eve 2014. A duo whose mix of ill-suited loans and a wing back formation that nobody understood had left the club rooted in the bottom three.

Since then recruitment and league position – barring perhaps disappointing Dutch winger Elvis Manu – has been impressive. But Bloom and impressive CEO Paul Barber stress over and over that despite TB’s millions we can’t and won’t compete with the Derbys and Villas spending £10m+ adding a 5th striker to the bench, but will stick to FFP (does anyone else ??)  and have to seek value for money signings. This strategy often means looking abroad (Hemed, Knockeart, and bruising winger; Skalak), scouring the best of League 1’s young sensations (Baldock, Goldson, Murphy) or picking up discarded experienced Prem players with a few seasons left  (ex Brentford midfielder Sidwell, Murray, Rosenior).

This blend of experience is a tried and trusted approach for getting out of this division. Hardly out of the box stuff. But new recruitment boss Paul Winstanley either watches a lot of football or has access to some great data when recommending smart finds over and over.

Perhaps our director passes it on after all.

Brentford come down the The Amex losing all three away games this season .. but with hard core Crystal Palace fan Sullay Kaikai newly installed on our wing. Does that strike fear into your bones?

I’m looking forward to a resounding chorus of “Palace reject” to be ringing around the Amex then.  Always a joy. Actually there were rumours we were also in for Rico Henry this summer who looks a clever signing for you lot. But we have little fear that anyone at the moment can nullify Anthony Knockeart. Our only player for whom we actually have a song. The Achy Breaky Heart one.

To be honest we’re just looking to get things back on track after 2 disappointing away games and amazed and shocked because after months of Sky shenanigans this will be our first Saturday home 3pm kick off for 30 long weeks.

Give us a score prediction

1-1

Pubs In Brighton and Lewes

For many football fans – particularly following teams who have not performed particularly well over the years – the away-day has become more about the day out than the 90 minutes on the pitch.

There are some places more than others that are seeked out by away-dayers because either the friendliess of the locals .. or the quality of local establishments to hang out pre and post match.

Brighton is one of those away days which not only has quality local establishments. But quantity. Pubs. And loads of them.

We rarely do away day pub recommendations on mass. But because there are over 900 pubs in Brighton (ne’er mind Lewes), we thought it would be rude to at not at least point you in the right direction of where to drink before and after the match at the weekend. This is just a fraction of the selection. If you are feeling brave, venture out into vibrant Kemp Town and deeper into the North Lanes to get a real taste of what Brighton has to offer.

Amex Stadium Area

Swan Inn, Falmer
The closest pub to the stadium. In fact the only pub close to the stadium. 10 minutes walk from the away end. Lively with a beer garden and decent ales

The Hop Bar, Withdean Stadium
Brighton actually have a real ale bar outside the stadium – the Harveys brewery Hop Bar. It’s meant to be decent and fairly busy.

Brighton Station Area

The Prince Albert
Trafalgar Street
Cool little pub just below the station. Probably have bouncers on the door (never been there on matchdays) but you should be OK if you get there early enough. Needless to say, gets busy

The Queens Head
Queen Street
This is the pub just outside the station that many away fans pop into on the way home to get one last pint before their train back to London.

The Cyclist
Inside Brighton Station
This pub did not exist the last time we visited The Withdean. Decent choice for a swift half before jumping on your train home

The Sussex Yeoman
Guildford St
Small boozer – slightly upmarket while still maintain a traditional feel. Went here before the game last season. Friendly bar staff. Good food.

The Evening Star
Surrey Street
If you want a proper real ale boozer a short hop from the station, this is your joint

The Lord Nelson
Trafalgar Street
This was always a spit n sawdust pub used to be frequented by yer Norman Cooks and yer Fash Show Mark Williams from and yer Camberwell Carrots Ralph Browns before matches. Decent Harvey ales. Its had a refurb so not sure how its scrubbed up

The Basketmakers
Gloucester Road
Another pub recommended by Brighton locals

King and Queen
13-17 Marlborough Place
A huge pub 10 mins walk from the station. Big screen showing the football.

The Buccaneer
186 Kings Arches
If you fancy a drink smack bang on the seafront, there is no other place to hang than this boozer

Lewes Pubs

Quite a few Bees and Brighton fans prefer to hang in Lewes pre-match. It’s only one stop from Falmer and has some great pubs too. Plus it also doesn’t have the queuing madness that you get at Brighton station on the way to the game. Here’s just a selection.

The Landsdown Arms
36 Landsdowne Place
The first pub you’ll come to after coming out of the station and heading into town

The Lewes Arms
Mount Place
A busy Fullers pub right in he middle of Harveys country. Busy. Again a short hop from the station

John Harvey Tavern
Bear Yard, Cliffe High Street
A Harveys pub of course. 10 mins walk from the station. A must visit. Great beer. Reasonable food. Right in the middle of town

Gardeners Arms
46 Cliffe High Street
Dedicated ale house sort of micro-pub type establishment

 

 Billy Grant
@BillytheBee