Harty on... Rebels’ 3G plans and the FA Cup

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WORTHING Football Club’s application to install a 3G pitch at Woodside Road is probably the most significant event at the football club since Barry Lloyd became manager back in the summer of 1981.

Without wishing to be the prophet of doom, if Rebels don’t get this facility, they will cease to exist in their current guise in less than five years.

On one hand, well-meaning, but ultimately misguided, while in other parts, in my opinion, gross mismanagement, has seen the club plunge from being the top non-league club in Sussex during the halcyon days of Lloyd, Rowley, Raynsford, Lelliott etc, to arguably the lower reaches of the county’s top ten. Rebels have been dwarfed by the achievements of the likes of Whitehawk, Bognor, Lewes, Eastbourne Borough, Peacehaven and Hastings.

Talk of a new stadium has always been constantly dogged by issues over the outright ownership of the existing ground and related covenants.

The bottom line is, at the optimum time when they possibly could have moved, they didn’t have the people of the likes of Worthing Rugby Club’s Bob Rogers and Charles Boughton-Leigh, who successfully oversaw that club’s move from Castle Road to Roundstone Lane in the late 1970s, to steer the project.

That is why the new pitch represents the only real way forward for the club at this time.

It also represents the creation of a great asset for the town, with both Worthing College and the youth football community in general, being heavily involved.

No doubt, there will be opposition to the plans. To those critics I would ask the question, do you want a housing estate on the site of where many great Worthing football sides have played the beautiful game, or a sporting facility that will be the envy of the rest of the county?

A hard-fought 1-0 win against, an albeit poor, Leeds United side on Tuesday night, put the Albion back in the play-off picture and set up Monday night’s home fifth-round FA Cup tie against Premier League side Hull City.

Younger readers would probably find it hard to comprehend, but on the way to the club’s only FA Cup final appearance, at this stage in the competition in 1983, in the days before live TV, the Albion went to Liverpool on a Sunday afternoon and won 2-1, having previously knocked out Manchester City 4-0 at the Goldstone in the fourth round.

The Seagulls again knocked Liverpool out the following year, this time 2-0 at the Goldstone, again on a Sunday and this time live on ITV, before an exit at Watford in the fifth round.

A day embossed on my mind for different reasons – I was accidentally bitten by a police dog that day, although we did stay in contact well into to his retirement!

One disappointing aspect of what could yet be a vintage Albion season is the amount of empty seats at the Amex, despite reported healthy attendances.

I’m not even going to attempt to fathom that one out, as I’ve heard numerous theories put forward.

All I do hope is that, with an attractive pricing structure and half-term school holidays, Monday’s attendance is at least 25,000 as I personally think the Albion have a real chance to progress to the last eight for the first time since 1986.

My prediction is a 2-1 victory for the Albion.