Hart on The Albion and his pre-season predictions

The pre-season preparation had been going well, including an emphatic 3-1 victory against European Champions Chelsea, so much so that when I returned from holiday at the weekend, speaking to a number of local Albion fans, expectations for the upcoming campaign were extremely high.

Clearly, Tuesday’s reverse has somewhat dampened these expectations, which, in some ways, is possibly a good thing.

We still await the alleged “marquee” signing, whether history will repeat itself and, as in August, 2000, when Bobby Zamora arrived permanently the night before the first league fixture, remains to be seen.

To be fair, with the Albion at Hull, and almost certainly leaving first thing Friday, if we’re going to see any serious transfer developments, I would imagine it would be today (Thursday), rather than as it turned out 12 years ago.

So, can the Albion mount a serious promotion challenge?

The Championship is possibly one of the most unique leagues in the world. Go around the globe and most domestic divisions will have two, three or perhaps four legitimate contenders at the start of a season, except that is, for the Championship.

While every team’s fans blindly think they can win in the league, there are, in my opinion, at least 10 sets of supporters in the Championship who know that, come 3pm this Saturday, they are in serious contention to win the league.

Realistically, I firmly believe Brighton are in that crop of 10 clubs. With the addition of a proven goalscorer at this level, I seriously believe we can mount an assault of the footballing holy grail that is the Premier League.

At this time of year, I do make a series of predictions, I think the winner of the Championship will come from a group of Blackpool, Birmingham, Leicester, Bolton or Brighton, with the other two promoted teams coming from the same group, but in what order?

Well, that’s the beauty of the Championship. Sadly, at the other end, I think time will run out for both Peterborough and Palace, the other relegated side is anyone from about six teams.

As for the Premier League, much of the same as last year, with City pipping United in a very close race. At the bottom, Swansea will encounter second season syndrome, Wigan’s luck will finally run out and Southampton might not be the real deal everyone is talking about.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting few months . . .

We had a situation at Worthing this week which clearly highlighted how Chris White’s vision of an ongoing youth policy is actually working.

Monday night’s Ryman League youth home fixture against Crawley Down has had to be moved to Wednesday, as three of the youth team, Brad Lewis, Nat Hubert and Harvey Sparks, are in contention for the first team’s opening home game on Tuesday night against Three Bridges.

So, the Woodside faithful get a chance for a double dose of Rebels action on both Tuesday and Wednesday – 7.45pm kick-off for both matches.

WHILE I never like to see the Albion lose any competitive fixture, the early exit from this season’s League Cup on Tuesday night – as a result of a 3-0 defeat at Swindon (Mr Bob Reynolds and Mr Andrew Hawes, enjoy), could yet prove to be a blessing in disguise.