IT will be 39 years next month, April 23, to be exact, since the first time I saw the Albion play live – a 1-1 draw at the Goldstone on Easter Monday against Portsmouth.
As speculated in last week’s column, I sadly think that on Saturday I witnessed the last ever fixture between the two clubs in their current guise – a sad fact whichever way you look at it.
Years of mismanagement and ineptitude will, in my opinion, result in Portsmouth being the first club to go to the wall and out of existence since Aldershot in the early 1990s.
As their badge depicts, the Shots rose like a phoenix and, with the added bonus of the new club taking over the existing ground, have climbed the leagues and got back into professional football.
Like the Albion endured with the sale of the Goldstone, I think any “new” Portsmouth FC will have to start away from Fratton Park, given the level of debt being bandied around.
If they have a Hampshire-version of Tony Bloom, then they have half a chance. But, putting your trust in foreign owners, clearly, is not the long-term solution.
It’s quite ironic that the man currently being bandied around as the saviour of English football is someone who clearly should shoulder some blame for Portsmouth.
The Pompey fans were singing on Saturday about the day they won the FA Cup, but at what cost did that triumph come at?
They also taunted their Albion counterparts about how Brighton had never won anything of note (or words to that effect). Could I just point out to any Pompey fans reading this that, over the last decade, the Albion have been one of the most successful domestic teams outside the Premier League with three titles and a play-off win. Yes, I concede Portsmouth did win the First Division Championship but it was that long ago, Elvis Presley was singing soprano.
Which is my point, it’s the supporters’ banter and the on-pitch rivalry between the clubs that we will miss the most. And you wonder when individuals were spending money that clearly Pompey didn’t have, if that was ever given a second thought?
As for the Albion, a touch of class from Vicente sealed the points on Saturday and set up an exciting end to the season.
With 10 games left, the Albion find themselves in the play-off places, still having to play at least five of the current top eight teams.
Basically, it’s in our hands. And anyone who says it’s too early for the play-offs or even promotion is talking out of their bobble hat.
Ask any Norwich City fan if back-to-back promotions found them punching above their weight?
Like thousands of others, having lived through the dark days of Archer, Stanley, Bellotti, Gillingham, etc; I’m just going to enjoy the next few weeks.
If the Albion fall short, it won’t be the end of the world. At least we’re not Pompey, and it will certainly give the club and the fans added impetus for next season.
If things do work out the other way, let’s enjoy the moment in the knowledge that, unlike others, we have a chairman, board and manager who have a grip on reality.