Brighton Away

It’s something so rare that it may be a sign that the end is nigh… there is absolutely nothing to complain about at NUFC. London based media is in despair as there is nothing at all that they can throw at us. The mackems have nothing to feed on either so they find themselves having to finally acknowledge their own plight. Our own social media meltdown warriors also find themselves venturing outside to breathe fresh air for the first time in years, as they have nothing to bash into their keyboards.

It’s one of the most positive times in recent history at United and whilst, yes, Mike Ashley still looms over us, capable of fucking it all up (and the damage may already be done as far as Rafa’s long term future is concerned) , it’s still hard to be anything other than excited for more football matches. Even if this season ends up being Rafa’s last it is still shaping up to be a special one, such is the man’s genius.

We go into this weekend’s fixture at Brighton looking for win number four on the bounce. With the improvement in performance we have shown with every game so far this season, our away record under Rafa, and the difference between the two sides’ starts to the season so far, three points here seems like a given.

Of course, it is not. This is the premier league. We battered Stoke last week and we could have still lost 2 points in the last minute. Winning matches in the Premier League requires 90 minutes of concentration and graft. Sometimes even that is not enough if the ref gets involved. Thankfully, we have been getting this level of effort from Rafa’s mags in every game so far this season. If we keep it up, we should win again.

Brighton & Hove Albion is a great story. They nearly dropped out of the football league twice in the nineties finishing second bottom in 1997 and 1998. Since 2007 they have had the backing of professional poker player and betting mogul Tony Bloom. He’s been to Brighton everything that Mike Ashley has not been to us. He secured the funding for their new stadium, a 30,000 seater built when they were in League 1. He’s invested £32million in their training ground which is considered one of the best in the world. The man has built a football club up from nothing and the reward was their overdue promotion last season. He’s also actually from Brighton, so is a fan.

Ignoring the fact that the media has taken issue with us winning ‘their title’ last season, I am happy to see an English club with a responsible owner who clearly only wants what’s best for the club and it’s fans. They also have a great bloke in the dugout. Chris Hughton will always be remembered fondly wherever he has managed because of the way he carries himself. No matter what the situation, his conduct and respect for those around him is impeccable and he fully deserves to be where he is today.

I do however think that we are seeing many of the same signs that cut his time at Newcastle short in 2010. Hughton is too cautious in the Premier League. Brighton fans are already concerned about the super defensive approach to fixtures in the top flight. He shows too much respect to his opponent and, sadly, I’m hoping he does the same this weekend. Hughton’s point of no return at Newcastle was when we played Blackpool at home in the PL. In April 2010 (a championship fixture), we battered them 4-1, in a really positive performance playing 442. Just five months later we had Blackpool at home as a Premier League fixture. We played a dead defensive 451 and got beat 2-0.

The bloke did an excellent job rejuvenating our side in the Championship in 2009-10 and should always be remembered fondly for that alone, but he cannot seem to step up to what is required in the Premier League. Rafa’s experience will be the difference this weekend.

In terms of team selection, I’d expect an unchanged eleven from the side that dominated Stoke. Everyone played well, we’ve had a week to recover, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t think Rafa rotates players for rotation sake. Players tend to keep their place on merit. If therefore we do see Jesus Gamez starting up front, there will be a good reason! Seriously though, I am really enjoying the feeling of when I do see unexpected names on the team sheet, I am intrigued and not furious (like when John Carver played Ryan Taylor in holding mid). Rafa always has a plan and I’m OK with it.

2-1 to Rafa’s mags again.

Simon Campbell


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