Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seagulls take flight again

An English football result caught my attention this week.
Well, they all catch my attention, don't they? I mean one result *really* caught my attention.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION defeated DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE, 4-3, Tuesday to clinch promotion from LEAGUE ONE to the CHAMPIONSHIP (English football's second-highest level of competition) with five matches remaining.

It marks a revival of a club that first caught my fancy in my youth, thanks to a thrilling but ultimately bittersweet encounter in the F.A. CUP.

The 1983 F.A. Cup Final was one of the first that I closely followed. Brighton had already been relegated from the old First Division but had made it to the cup final, where they faced favorites MANCHESTER UNITED.

In the match on May 21, Gary Stevens scored a late equaliser for Brighton, and the club nearly won in extra time of a 2-2 draw. The beleaguered underdogs of Brighton had forced a replay against mighty United.

The teams replayed the final five days later, on May 26.

This match saw the fairytale end, with Bryan Robson scoring twice, teenager Norman Whiteside adding a goal and Arnold Muhren scoring a penalty to give United a 4-0 victory and the Cup.

I remember being spellbound by the promise of a Brighton upset, only for the might of the bigger club to carry the day.

Brighton's loss marked the beginning of a sad and turbulent period for the club, which found itself homeless for a time -- their Goldstone Ground was sold out from under them -- forcing Albion to play "home" matches in Gillingham.

All was not lost, however, and a Fans United series of protests brought the plight of smaller clubs to wider attention.

These days, former Chelsea and Tottenham star Gus Poyet has guided the club into the Championship.

Feeling nostalgic, I hope it marks the return of good times for the club called the Seagulls.


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