Harty on Rebels’ Fans’ Day and the Albion

DESPITE the horrendous weather, Fans’ Day at Woodside Road on Saturday was a resounding success.

The second biggest crowd of the season witnessed a thrilling match, where the Rebels, at one point 3-1 down, made a comeback that Frank Sinatra would have been proud of. And, at 3-3, they should have really finished the game with all three points.

But, as mentioned in last week’s column, football-related events away from the pitch could have serious consequences for some of our local non-league sides.

Never mind the fact that the Albion will probably end up with 15,000 season ticket holders at the Amex, with possibly 20,000-plus home crowds every week. If the Sky issue also pans out and a number of our local pubs and clubs end up showing live Premiership football at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, how many people will go and watch a local game?

Over the years, crowds have fallen. Just over 15 years ago, I went to watch Shoreham against Southwick on a Friday night in Division 2 of the County League and there were nearly 700 people there. Now, looking at the official crowds in the County League, some clubs struggle to get three figures most weeks.

I love watching the Albion but, as Saturday proved, a cracking non-league game certainly has an appeal. Maybe, thinking back to that night at Middle Road, clubs may have to look at going away from the conventional Saturday 3pm kick-off, in order to get people through the turnstiles.

There has long been a school of thought that the County League has too many clubs, perhaps these developments could act as a catalyst for a number of clubs merging or, sadly, even folding?

As for the Albion, what a difference a couple of days can make. Defeat at MK Dons had all the doubters crawling out of the woodwork, but then another win on the road at Yeovil and the top of League One still looks as exciting as ever.

When a manager like Gus Poyet is performing as he is, there will always be a high level of speculation, but for the record I think he’s here for the long haul.

To go to the Amex in the Championship and then plot a path to the Premiership against the back drop of a full house every week is a serious managerial challenge, and one I believe that Poyet will relish.

Having said that, at some point, hopefully with Albion already in the top flight, I think both Chelsea and Spurs would see Gus as a prime managerial candidate. That day is still a few years off but, rest assured, Poyet will one day manage at the top of our domestic game. I’d love it to be with the Albion, but even some things are beyond the Seagulls.

And, finally, Mrs H gets in on the act this weekend when she goes up to watch Worthing Rugby Club with a group of friends as part of the club’s special charity day in aid of Cancer Research UK.

I’m sure it will be another great day up at Roundstone Lane. I just hope the weather holds and the Pinot Grigio doesn’t run out!