Ian Hart: All the years of hurt disappeared in 90 minutes

Albion players celebrate promotion. Picture by Steve Bailey
Albion players celebrate promotion. Picture by Steve Bailey

T he American’s call it water cooler moments, I doubt there were many conversations in Sussex on Tuesday which involved the question “do much at the weekend?”

Even with a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus to hand, you’d struggle to do the Easter Weekend of 2017 justice when it comes to the Albion. Good Friday set the scene, and even before a ball was kicked in the tea-time clash at Molineux, Sky Sports hooked us in. The caption flashed up on the screen “20 years ago Brighton were homeless”, followed by a montage of newspaper cuttings.

Cue lump in the throat, then we get “and they were 30 minutes from going out of the Football League”, followed by Robbie Reinelt’s goal at Hereford, then I’ve clearly got something in my eye because they’re now watering.

And so, it began, 44 years of elation, disappointment, despair, joy, laughter, tears, encapsulated in one weekend.

A comfortable win against a Wolves side already looking at holiday brochures, set up Monday, the day so many of us thought 20 years ago might never come.

From the moment I got on the train on Monday morning I was buzzing, with the commander-in chief and Harty Junior, this was to be THE DAY, all the years of hurt would disappear in 90 minutes

In Dick’s Bar at 11.45am, the atmosphere already building, I met up with the legendary Brighton Bill Arnold, a man still in love with his football team despite living in Bradford for nearly 30 years.

When I meet Bill, aside from the initial man hug, I remind him of one of his classic sorties into the crazy world of the phone -in. Picture the scene, 2005/06, Mark McGhee’s side are fighting relegation, it’s a desperate battle and after yet another below-par performance Bill rings in.

“Harty, it’s Brighton Bill, something’s got to be done”

“But what Bill?”

“I don’t know, but something’s got to be done”

Only at the Albion.

And so, it began, a spirited Wigan certainly didn’t come to the Amex like lambs to the slaughter, but there was only going to be one winner and despite the mathematical chance Huddersfield still had, everyone knew at full-time with the Albion 2-1 winners, the Terriers would have needed snookers to go up automatically.

A good natured and emotional pitch invasion was closely followed by marvellous scenes all around the ground, I think I hugged and kissed more people on Monday than Warren Beatty on a night out in the 1970s

With Derby’s late equaliser against Huddersfield, what we knew 100 minutes earlier was confirmed.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but when we lost at Leeds, were humbled at Huddersfield and mugged by Newcastle at home, all the panic merchants, the doom and gloomers, wrote us off. But we are Brighton, we’ve been through far worse and I never doubted for a second we would come out on top.

Just think, if Newcastle hadn’t nicked six points off us home and away, we’d be 19 points clear, how boring would that be!

Now for the Championship, apt if it is clinched at Norwich City, a club who didn’t appreciate Chris Hughton, and then did the dirty on us and turned Alex Pritchard’s head last summer, perhaps Sky should get Jim Bowen in for the game on Friday to say “Come and look at what you could have won!”?

In the last few days I’ve had memories that will live with me for the rest of my life and that are all the sweeter for all the bad times and dark days we’ve lived through at the Albion.

Enjoy everyone, and never forget how we all did it together.

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