Can Hughton’s class of 2019 do what Adams’ motley crew did in 2009? - Scott McCarthy

Once the dust had settled and everybody had absorbed just how abysmal Brighton’s performance on Saturday against Southampton had been, the almost inevitable comparisons to what happened in the Seagulls’ 2008-09 season began.

Friday, 5th April 2019, 5:04 pm
Updated Friday, 5th April 2019, 5:17 pm
Brighton celebrate beating Manchester City on penalties in the League Cup in 2008. Picture by Getty Images

Look back a decade and you’ll see an abject 1-0 home defeat was followed by a cup game with Manchester City. For Southampton in 2019, read Walsall in 2008. And it wasn’t any old Walsall either, but a Saddlers side that played for over an hour – and took the lead – with only nine men on the pitch.

As a result of that embarrassing display, nobody in their right mind gave the Albion a hope when Mark Hughes brought the richest club in the world to the south coast in the League Cup.

Yet in one of the more ‘Typical Brighton’ moments of recent times, Micky Adams’ side managed to go from being beaten at home by nine-man Walsall to pulling off one of the greatest shocks in the competition’s history by knocking out City on penalties inside of four days.

Can history repeat itself? Will Chris Hughton’s class of 2019 do what Adams’ motley crew of 2009 did and follow up their worst performance of the season with one of their best?

Let’s be honest, it’s unlikely. City may have had their Abu Dhabi billions back then, but their side still contained the likes of Richard Dunne, Michael Ball and Stephen Ireland. For the Albion to win at Wembley on Saturday, it will take a combination of City giving a horrific underperformance and Brighton being at their very, very best. We need to be luckier than that bloke who made a bet about the Superbowl with Eugenie Bouchard, won it and then ended up going on a date with her.

That makes comparisons to the Walsall-City double header a tad pointless. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the 2008-09 season for inspiration. Instead of that famous night at the Theatre of Trees, I want to take you back to a game that occurred two months later, on Tuesday 18th November.

If you had to make a list of places you don’t want to spend a Tuesday night in November, where would you include on it? Caracas probably isn’t much fun, what with the Venezuelan economy having collapsed and toilet roll costing 2,600,000 bolivars. Anywhere that is currently an active warzone wouldn’t be great and Siberia is probably pretty cold that time of year too.

Hartlepool would also be high on the list, yet that is the hand that the FA Cup dealt us 10 seasons ago. After a thrilling 3-3 draw at Withdean featuring one of the best own goals you’ll ever see from Colin Hawkins, the Albion were forced into a 660-mile trip to take on Hartlepool United in a first round replay.

Only 116 fans made the journey to Victoria Park that night and doing so was quite comfortably one of the worst decisions of my life. Remarkably, we actually managed to fill a car for the trip and so myself and four other Albion supporters who were quite clearly clinically insane rocked up on the North Sea coast after a six-hour car journey for what turned out to be a terrible evening of football as Albion lost 2-1.

Hawkins, clearly not satisfied with having scored the own goal which caused the replay in the first place, played his part again by giving away a stonewall penalty. It was freezing cold, the football was dire and we didn’t get home until 4.30am.

If you’d said to any of the brave souls who trekked to Hartlepool that a decade later we’d be playing in the semi-final, you’d have been locked up very quickly. And that’s the real reason to look at the 2008-09 season for inspiration – to see how far we’ve come. No matter what happens on Saturday, we can all be proud of that.

Wembley on Saturday will be about as far removed from that night in County Durham as you can get. There will be 30,000 more Albion fans there for starters and in opposition won’t be the likes of Gary Liddle, Ritchie Humphreys and Andy Monkhouse but Sergio Aguero, Kevin Du Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

If you’d said to any of the brave souls who trekked to Hartlepool in the FA Cup that a decade later we’d be playing in the semi-final, you’d have been locked up very quickly.

And that’s the real reason to look at the 2008-09 season for inspiration – to see how far we’ve come. No matter what happens on Saturday, we can all be proud of that.

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