Harty on... the Albion and Poyet’s ‘wooden acting’

IT’S nearly 25 years since that fateful Saturday in September, 1988, when, minutes before Barry Lloyd was due to hand in the team sheet to the ref as the Albion took on Bournemouth at the Goldstone, it became apparent that, due to a misunderstanding, Brighton goalkeeper Perry Digweed was sitting in his flat in Fulham.

He was unaware that he had been picked to play in place of the injured John Keeley.

In the days before mobile phones, the hunt went out for Keeley, who was tracked down playing pool in the Stadium pub along the Old Shoreham Road.

He arrived with minutes to spare, undefeated on the green baize, but, having originally thought he was not required that Saturday.

The Albion lost 2-1, and, to be fair to John, Gordon Banks wouldn’t have stopped the long-range winner from the Cherries.

My reason for bringing up this amusing episode from yesteryear was that, at the time, on the outside, Brighton were dubbed by sections of the press Micky Mouse FC.

How could a manager forget to tell a player he was picked?

Years later, I spoke to both Messrs Lloyd and Digweed about it, and it was nothing sinister, just a combination of crossed purposes and a misunderstanding. But, on the face of it, for a short time, the Albion, from the outside, looked bad.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and it was much of the same as Gus Poyet appeared, on the face of it, to be sacked by the Albion live on the BBC, during the Match of the Day Confederations Cup special.

I’ve made no secret from the outset that I’ve been on the ‘Gus Bus’ throughout this whole sorry episode.

However, his wooden acting, which would have been more at home on an episode of Hollyoaks, on Sunday evening when the subject of him and the Albion was brought up by host Mark Chapman, didn’t really do himself any favours in the grand scheme of things.

Then again, given the acrimonious nature of the ongoing dispute, like Butch and Sundance going through the bank doors in Bolivia, in Poyet’s position, with effectively nothing to lose, would any of us have done any different?

The old adage of never let the truth get in the way of a good story came to the fore again Monday morning, a bit like with Kilo in the pub all those years ago.

Was Poyet effectively sacked on air?

In my opinion, no. While there is clearly blame on both sides, I firmly believe Gus knew the game was up when he arrived at the BBC in Salford.

The last four weeks have been a fusion of footballing déjà vu and cracked record syndrome. In hindsight, that wonderful thing, I believe the die was cast long before that – it was in fact the day chief executive Paul Barber arrived at the Amex.

He and Poyet had ‘history’ and in life, not just football, there are situations where two people will never be able to work with each other successfully.

Déjà Vu or cracked record, you decide but I return to my words of a month ago, Gus Poyet to leave by mutual consent, let Charlie Oatway have his testimonial game (still a pre-requisite to my mind) and get a new manager and we can all move on.

From that day to this, 28 days wasted, and a month of preparation the club will never get back . . .