One of the more intriguing side effects of Brighton & Hove Albion’s dire league form since the start of 2019 has been the increasing number of supporters who have begun talking as though relegation to the Championship might actually be a good thing.
The theory goes something along the lines of we aren’t going to win many games in the top flight and even if we have a really good season then we can realistically never go higher than seventh, so it’s probably better for us to be in the second tier where we can win more matches. Oh, and it’s less expensive to be a supporter in the Championship too.
The financial part of that reasoning can be disproved straight away. Those saying it is cheaper either have short memories or weren’t there when Leeds United or Ipswich Town were performing open wallet surgery by charging nearly £40 for a ticket.
One of the unexpected positives of being in the Premier League is that it is actually cheaper for away fans thanks to the £30 cap on tickets and the fact that the division is much more southern based. Seven train fares to London this season compared with 17 trips to the Midlands or further north in the Championship. You do the maths.
And whilst the on-the-pitch theory about winning more games might stand up a little more to examination, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that going down won’t guarantee more wins or an Albion side that is more competitive – especially when the squad would almost certainly be dismantled with the likes of Maty Ryan, Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy certain to attract offers from top flight clubs.
Thinking we’d be challenging at the top of the Championship straight away is quite arrogant. Of the three teams relegated last season, only West Bromwich Albion are on course to finish in the top 10. In fact, just 10 teams in the past 20 years have won an immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
We could end up having a repeat of Sami Hyypia’s reign of terror, and what then? Are people going to say they wouldn’t mind us getting relegated to League One so we can win a few games?
But the biggest argument for staying in the Premier League took place last Tuesday night when the Albion made the trip to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Personally, I’ve only been to one, possibly two grounds better than it (the Stade Velodrome in Marseille and Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund for those interested). There we were, watching little old Brighton go toe-to-toe with one of the finest sides in Europe in one of the greatest stadiums in the world.
How could anybody in their right mind want to swap that for a trip to Blackburn or Luton, just in the hope that we win a few games?
I’ve been in a pub in Blackburn at midday on a Saturday where there are people sat around in their dressing gowns watching Jeremy Kyle on the big screen rather than the televised lunchtime kick-off. I’ve been given food poisoning, coined and got stuck in a turnstile at Luton because it was built when children were still cleaning chimneys.
A trip to Stoke next season instead of a brilliant day out in Manchester (twice) would be like deciding to have a root canal done over dinner with Jennifer Lawrence. Going to Middlesbrough is like stepping into a programme shown on UK Gold and anyone who wants to go to Hull and Back instead of a night at the London Stadium needs to lay off the cooking sherry.
The Albion waited 35 long years to play top flight football again and because of one bad run of form, people want to give all that up already. Supporting a team capable of being complete rubbish from time-to-time is the territory that comes with being a Brighton fan and it’s what makes the good times that much better.
Just because we aren’t very good at the moment, it doesn’t mean relegation would be a good thing. Let’s hope that we can hang onto Premier League survival, do what needs to be done in the summer and then keep pushing on. You can keep the Championship, thanks.
HAVE YOU READ?