Harty on the Albion and their best-ever player

SO, at the time of going to press, the Albion lie fourth in the Championship, with only Saturday’s conquerors, Blackpool, with a chance to leapfrog them last night.

Maybe the 3-1 one reverse in the Las Vegas of the North was the wake-up call that Gus Poyet’s men needed, as Tuesday night’s performance was the perfect answer to any doubters.

Granted, Derby were poor, offered little in the first half, perhaps a bit more in the second, but you can only play against what is put in front of you.

The Albion played well, created chances, and Vicente has opened up yet another debate among supporters.

Is the Spanish midfielder the best player to ever play for the Albion in the last 50 years?

Make no bones, all this talk of the play-offs being a year too early and the Albion not ready to go up is just speculation. If Vicente stays fit and on form, the Albion are contenders. And, if they get into a play-off scenario, as we effectively know in a knock-out competition, they will have as much chance as the other three teams.

The Albion’s greatest-ever debate is sometimes coated in sentiment. Coming back in the car on Tuesday night, a friend sat in the front and stated that, in his opinion, Peter Ward is the greatest player to ever pull on the blue and white stripes.

Sentiment? In my opinion, yes. Wardie was a great player, but the greatest? I’m not so sure. At the level of the then 2nd and 3rd Divisions, he was prolific, but did he cut it in the top flight?

Bobby Zamora has played, and consistently performed in all four divisions of domestic football. I would put him above Wardie in the all-time Albion rankings.

And, he still wouldn’t top them as I firmly believe, in my lifetime, the greatest-ever Seagull was Mark Lawrenson, who, but for injury in his later career at Liverpool, would have played for Ireland and on the world stage and, possibly, would have been deemed world class.

As things stand, Vicente still has a bit to do to equal Lawrenson’s mantle. However, being the architect of the Albion’s possible rise to the Premier League would certainly go a long way to achieving that.

Major changes off the pitch at the Amex last week with the immediate departure of managing director Ken Brown and news of the impending, and frankly well-deserved retirement of Martin Perry in the next couple of years.

Ken Brown’s contribution to the development of the club over the last four years cannot be understated, and I wish him well in his future career.

On a personal note, I’m sorry to see him go, because I class him as friend.

There is never a truer word said about not knowing who your friends are until you are truly up against it.

When I was sacked by the BBC in October, 2008, one of the first phone calls I received was from Ken offering the club’s support and stating that my employment with the club was not affected. He went as far as putting that in print in a programme editorial at the following home game.

Real loyalty does not have a price, and it’s personally something I will never forget.

And, finally, on a lighter note, happy 60th birthday to Albion secretary Derek Allan, a true Seagulls legend in every sense of the word.

Perhaps his finest hour for me was when he allowed Nigel Erskine, at 39 years and 239 days, to be the oldest mascot in the club’s history.

As Steve Foster walked hand-in-hand with Nigel out on to the pitch, Fozzie quipped to the ref: “This has to be a first, captain and mascot with a combined age of 77!”