Harty on Albion’s promotion

DURING the 1979 FA Cup final, while co-commentating for ITV, Brian Clough commented on the fact that Liam Brady had allegedly given away his 1978 loser’s medal.

He said: “The young man is wrong, he needs to keep it, because how can you really savour winning until you know what losing is like.”

I don’t know why but these words came back to me on Tuesday night as I stood by the dug-out at Withdean waiting for the ref to blow up for full-time and the fact that Albion were back in the Championship.

Next Saturday, April 23, will be 38 years to the very day that my dad took me to the Goldstone. It was actually Easter Monday, back in 1973, and the team were all but relegated from the old Division 2 and played out a 1-1 draw with south coast rivals Portsmouth.

In that time I, like thousands of others, have witnessed highs and lows. The Albion in the top flight, one kick away from winning the FA Cup, then as the years went by, another relegation, with a promotion straight after, another Wembley final and then more relegation.

Culminating in 1995, when the club was effectively asset stripped and left homeless, how many teams and their fans would have bounced back from this?

I remember half-time at Edgar Street in May, 1997, the Albion one down and facing relegation out of the Football League. Had we not equalised in that second half, what would have happened?

The romantic in me says we would have bounced back, the realist perhaps different, but we didn’t and with Dick Knight at the helm after the two years at Gillingham, the club came home to Withdean.

Withdean gets a lot of stick and I think in some ways unfairly. The lack of atmosphere is a criticism often levelled at it but, at the end of the day, it’s in Brighton and has provided over the 12-year tenancy an unrivalled degree of success in the club’s history.

In my own 11 years at the BBC, I had many verbal jousts with Dick Knight, but while our opinions may have on occasions differed, our mutual love of the Albion remained a constant.

Dick Knight did a lot for the Albion which will never be forgotten, but perhaps the most imporantat he did was to stand aside as chairman for Tony Bloom when he did.

As has been said before on numerous occasions, without Tony Bloom there would be no Gus Poyet, no Amex Stadium and no future for the club.

As I stood waiting for the final whistle on Tuesday, I hoped the people behind me, waiting to embark on an elated but ultimately harmless pitch invasion, included the fans who had suffered that half-time at Hereford, who had travelled to Gillingham and watched some of the worst football played in the club’s history, who travelled to Selhurst Park in 2002 and watched the Albion humiliated 5-0 by Palace, because for all his faults and his “big ead,” Cloughie was right – if you’ve been to the depths, reaching the heights is all the more pleasurable.

So thank you, Dick, Tony, Gus and everyone else responsible, and now it’s on to Walsall and the small matter of another championship trophy.