WELL, the Amex certainly didn’t disappoint and I’m not ashamed to say that when the two teams came out on Saturday, it was all very emotional for what was the end of a very long and eventful journey stretching back to 1995.
I think it’s probably an understatement to say the Albion have moved on to the next level. Having already had the chairman with the funding and the manager with the ability in place, and the move from the Withdean to the Amex, the club has, in some ways, had to change overnight.
Since the first day I telephoned the club, almost 30 years ago to complain about Alan Mullery’s departure, the process has been simple. I’ve dialled the number, it’s either been engaged or been answered fairly quickly, and as the years have passed, more often than not, they have known the person at the other end of the phone.
Last Friday, we had an issue with Harty Junior’s season ticket. I phoned the Amex and was 17th in the queue, given the nature of the enquiry I had to hang on, 24 minutes later I was 10th in the rankings and had to go out on a work matter. I phoned back later, another 25 minutes in total, but when I eventually got through they were very helpful and sorted everything out.
And, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a moan. To go from crowds of 7,000-8,000 at the Withdean to more than 20,000 each week is huge sea change. It will take time and however frustrated I got, although the call waiting music was pleasant, perhaps we all have to be a little bit patient.
Tuesday night’s Carling Cup clash with Gillingham was a case in point, with a crowd of just over 16,000 (which frankly disappointed me, really, given the discounted ticket prices and the time of year).
You would have thought that our departure from the car park would have been easier than Saturday’s, when, with a full house, it took us 20 minutes to get out, when we left the East Stand lounge at around 5.35pm. On Tuesday night, we left the East Stand at 10.10pm, and left the car park at 10.54pm!
It goes back to the culture shock and the changes from the Withdean. When I retired from BBC SCR, I could leave the Withdean and be back in my front room at 5.15/5.20pm.
That will never happen again all the time the Albion are playing at the Amex. Therefore, to reiterate, we all have be a little bit patient, but when everything is ironed out it, I’m sure it will run like clockwork*. (Perhaps closing the bar at 10.30pm, rather than 10, might keep some people in the lounge a little longer and in turn make things a bit easier outside).
*Although perhaps a couple of the newer stewards outside the ground should appreciate that anyone coming to the stadium is a paying customer, rather than a WW2 POW).
As for the football, no complaints, as with off the field, on the pitch the Albion have moved up a level and things will take time.
On Saturday, I was sitting near former Worthing FC legend Ray Knight and his lovely wife, and at half-time I predicted that, despite being a goal down, the Albion would win through 2-1. They left it late, but they did it.
Finally, down the years, I’ve heard more rumours than the Fleetwood Mac fan club but talk of further transfer activity at the Amex before the window shuts could have us all buzzing even more, it’s that possible . . .