Mark Brailsford looks forward to the new season
As our amazing Olympians are stirring the nation’s soul it is much easier to convey to those who don’t ‘get’ football just how exciting watching sport can be. This coming season promises to hold the same excitement for Albion fans as they contemplate a new season at an expanded Amex Stadium in the Championship.
The clean slate of August will soon give way to the gun-metal skies of winter, with the desperate charge to the finish for those with enough points and energy to push for promotion in the spring. For the more circumspect fans, there are the worries about when, or if, the mooted big new striker is going to be added to the squad.
However, Spain played in the Euro’s without a recognised striker and it didn’t do them any harm. Will Craig Mackail-Smith be able score goals in this team? Will Vicente stay fit and hungry? How is the Amex pitch going to play after last season’s injuries? As most of you who follow this column will know, this correspondent is a glass half full breed of scribe, so these concerns are not troublesome when you consider the facts. Mackail-Smith has had a season to adjust and may find he gets luckier than last season. Ashley Barnes is looking in great form judging from pre-season. Vicente is fit which could be the crucial piece of the puzzle. As for the new signings, Wayne Bridge may not start the first game due to injury but this is a very astute signing, as is Bruno at right back who I predict will quickly become a firm crowd favourite. The most significant signing of all though, surely has to be Tomasz Kuszczak in goal. For Brighton and Hove Albion to be signing a Manchester United goalkeeper who has Champions League experience is a fantastic statement of intent.
Finally, the return of Andrew Crofts is a turbo boost to the firepower of the midfield. This player has exactly what was missing last year, a powerful midfield presence, able to link the forward play from a more mobile and advanced position and weigh in with some goals. The nearest example to this type of player is perhaps Kevin Nolan at West Ham, who more than any other ‘Hammers player, drove them on to promotion.
It’s early days of course, and who knows, the Albion might struggle to counteract the tactical knowledge of Championship teams more familiar with Poyet’s pattern of play. However, as I drain my half empty glass and smack my lips in anticipation of the new season, it is possible to envisage a memorable campaign in a newly expanded stadium that will look and sound amazing when it’s full.
One final thought: last season Gus Poyet pointed out that he just wanted to concentrate on the football and seemed concerned that the emotion of the momentous move to the Amex would affect his team. He was right, but the Albion still had a great season. The team has settled into their fabulous stadium and become a firmly established Championship side. Who would bet against the Albion emulating our Olympians by having medals around their necks come May 2013?
Photo: copyright Paul Hazlewood