“Pain heals, glory lasts forever.”
That is one of my favourite ever movie quotes and that is how I have been feeling ever since the final whistle on Sunday lunchtime.
Has a Monday morning ever felt as good as it did yesterday? Victory in the derby day game against Crystal Palace. Our first home victory in my Brighton-supporting lifetime!
Not only did we beat them, we battered them! There was almost a swagger about the team in the second half, peaking with that third goal. I think it was my favourite ever Brighton goal. The occasion, the passing in the build-up, the cross, Orlandi’s lay off, and Ulloa’s thumping volley was one of those moments that make me love football.
Those that know me, know how much I love ‘crossbar and in’ goals, so it says something about how good that third goal was, when our second goal was exactly that. Spanish Dave. Free-kick. Right foot. Over Speroni. Crossbar, goal line, roof of the net, 26,000 Brighton fans in the Amex euphoric! A majestic moment.
Going into the game, I seemed to be surrounded by negativity about our season, our style and the manager. Every little thing that you could imagine was questioned by friends and the mad world that is the internet. No one really had a good word to say. I think it stemmed from the fact we had three away games in eight days, returning just one point.
People were even billing Derby Day as Gus Poyet’s last game if it ended in defeat. I seemed to be fighting a losing battle trying to persuade everyone to be positive and go into the game not expecting defeat. I knew defeat would be a fairly high probability given our circumstances at the time with injuries, suspension, our form and their form, but I always believed we had a chance of winning, much to the amusement of many people.
The way people were going on about the game, I could only describe the way they felt about the match as ‘going to their own funeral’. So much doom and gloom, even though we were sitting just one point out of the play-off spots. I’ve always maintained that this is the most prosperous I have seen our club.
That’s in terms of finances, structure, management and position in the footballing heirachy. I’m in my 26th season watching and in my opinion, it has never been better. I think some people are confusing “being rubbish” with “being on the verge of greatness.”
We are so close to being a special team and I honestly believe the way to do that is under Poyet. The way I see it, he is taking us to where the rest of the footballing world were five, maybe 10 years ago. I remember the last European Championships when Spain were dubbed as boring, mainly because they kept the ball.
The English game is full of players and fans wanting the ball to get the ball forward as fast as possible. Look where that has got the national team. Quarter-final after quarter-final. Other teams’ fans see as lesser teams to England always do much better than us.
That is why I am grateful for having Poyet steering our ship, and to me it is going in the right direction. Just four years ago, our season depended on Gary Hart being fit to avoid relegation to League Two. Look at us now – we are seriously looking at Premier League football with a multi-talented squad.
Sunday 17 March 2013 was probably my happiest-ever day as a Brighton fan. A ridiculous 28,499 fans inside our magnificent home, three great goals, a clean sheet and our passing game back to taunt our rivals. The win was also a tremendous ‘in your face’ to all the doom-mongers and non-believers.
It is Tuesday and I am still beaming about the Palace result like it happened 10 minutes ago. We have ourselves a new hero too, not just because everyone tells me I look like him. Leonardo Ulloa has been having a goal party since his move from Spain in January.
Twelve games, yielding eight goals. Already overtaken Ashley Barnes, and just three behind Craig Mackail-Smith. He has been brilliant, God only knows how good he will be once he is fully fit and adjusted to the hectic pace and schedule of the English game. A bargain at £2million!
I will leave you with my favourite thing about Sunday. A record 18,678 pints were drunk at The Amex, 3,000 more than the previous record. When you factor in that this was a 12pm kick-off on a Sunday with the doors opening at 10am, that was as heroic an effort as the players on the pitch that glorious derby day!