New season, same Albion: Fans told not to worry too much
It appears that every summer irks Albion fans.
With some fans grumbling about pretty much everything Albion-related, Brighton and Hove Independent asked the editors of popular fanzine TSLR to provide a more balanced appraisal. The message seems to be: Try not to let things bother you too much.
It appears that every summer irks Albion fans. This time, we've got a new manager, again unproven in the Championship. Like so many seasons of yesteryear, we will begin the season tomorrow without our best player and top scorer from last season. We again failed to sign some of the players we chased.
But as you take your seat in the new Withdean tomorrow, don't you worry about any of those things - this is how Albion have been, pretty much, since 1901.
It's not just at the Albion that these issues arise: it generally affects teams that finish in the top six and who subsequently don't make the top flight. We've done that two seasons running, remember.
So when you put those elements together - the almost being good enough and the inherent feeder club status - we will always struggle to retain our best players, however nice the stadium, training ground, city may actually be.
Is that then, our identity? Gus Poyet somewhat reinvented the club as a slick, passing side - almost happy to lose "the right way". Some might believe in the ruthless pragmatism of win- at-all-costs, if it means we can play their second team in the Premier League. Some probably can't quite put their finger on our identity, since the club has changed so dramatically in the 20 years. But, ultimately, more inbuilt within the club's psyche than anything else, is the fact we sell our best players, and almost always have done - Ward, Lawrenson, Zamora, Bennett, Ulloa. This constant continues.
And as for missing out on players, who knows? Sure, we might be sore that that bloke from Huddersfield snubbed us for Middlesbrough, but that's mainly because he has a decent beard, not because he's necessarily a decent Championship player. When it comes to transfer targets, who really knows? Yes, some player's agent's brother's dog- walker may have posted something online, but that doesn't mean Albion - or Sami - even wanted him in the first place.
There's an information overload around the club sometimes, and it just means that people get annoyed about things that might not have even happened. Clubs still operate under a cloak of secrecy that fails to sit comfortably in the digital age. Pre-season just amplifies that.
So what does all that mean for the new season?
It means we haven't got Leo, but we have got someone who scored more goals than him last season.
We haven't got that 'keeper whose name we couldn't spell ,but we do have a decent one with top-flight experience who seems dead nice.
We might not have Upson or Ward - our two best defenders last season - but then we have replaced them with one ageing centre back. We've recovered from players leaving before, and we'll do so again. As we have done for the last 113 years and probably will do for the next few too.
So what can we hope for?
Sixth would be nice again, really nice, but not essential.
Do the parachute payments and supposed allure of the top flight really attract us anymore? We used to think it would be good to go up from this division. But if Southampton's rise is the model of clubs like ours, then do we really want it? Southampton remain a feeder club with big debts.
FFP is a necessary glass ceiling for Albion, but we may start to see the negative short-term effects of the policy this season. With another year of giant crowds and unprecedented monetisation of simply "going to the game", fans will have to bite their tongues before critiquing our responsible stance amid mediocre football.
The best we can hope for is some solid home wins, the odd away-day classic, and another challenge for the top that will probably end in heroic failure.
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