Brighton nearly there, Bong still fuming

Can Brighton and Hove Albion make it to the safety zone? Their recent football results have included a draw and a loss, so they are stuttering their way a bit to the safety of Premier League shore. While the fans really should have nothing to worry about, because while the team can still be mathematically caught, the bottom placed teams have done nothing to suggest they can turn around their own problems with form.

So the summary if you are a Seagulls fan – don’t fret. The teams below us are running out of games to catch us. It is like the end of a marathon, if you are running at the same pace as the person behind you, you are both runnning short of distance to the finishing line – which is good for you.

The only worry for Brighton is that their remaining four games are against Burnley, followed by the top three teams, in the order of Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. Burnley at Turf Moor are a hard team to play against as their crowd gets well behind them. The Seagulls have to sneak for draws against United, who may be resting the first team for the FA Cup final, Manchester City, who may be coasting towards the Premier League title, and Liverpool, concerned with UEFA Cup glory.

A win against Burnley would really go a long way to calming Seagulls fans, instead of leaving things to chance against the big three.

Gaetan Bong’s allegation of racism against West Brom’s Jay Rodriguez was found not proven. Which is a little disappointing, to say the least.

I have nothing against Jay Rodriguez. I thought against Manchester United, he was outstanding in securing a 1-1 draw for his team. But maybe, as others say, the relegation period is the third transfer window; time for relegation bound players to display their wares, throw caution to the wind, to show what they can do. And Rodriguez was great in that game.

But when you pinch your nose, and waft it in front of a fellow professional, you are not exactly professional yourself, much less being a role model.

And everyone knows really why Rodriguez covered his mouth or pinched his nose. Managers do it all the time. In this age of lip-reading, leaving your lips for all to read is suicide.

So we could speculate that Rodriguez covered his mouth to say something racially abusive and then wafted his hands to add more insult to injury.

We see on video quite clearly Jay Rodriguez makes some gestures of some sort. So there is intent.

Let us remind ourselves that the charge made by Bong was not proven. In other words, if Gaetan Bong claimed the Baggies player said something racially abusive, the charge was not upheld only because the panel could not prove Rodriguez said racist words – only because his mouth was covered. But it does not mean that Rodriguez did not say something. What it means is what he said could not be proven.

Rodriguez could have said to Bong, “You farted and it smells.” Or “You should try using bodyspray.” The panel that found the charge “not proven” gave him the benefit of the doubt that was what he said. But he clearly said something that provoked.

So, not guilty, but not tasteful either.

Brighton captain re-signs; Seagulls draw

Brighton captain Bruno has signed a new one-year contract with the Premier League club until June 2019.

The 37-year-old right-back, who joined the Seagulls from Valencia in 2012, has made 21 league appearances this season.

“Bruno has been exemplary in my time as manager,” said Brighton boss Chris Hughton.

“Firstly, he has been an excellent right-back for the team, and secondly an excellent captain for the club over the past three seasons.”

The manager added: “The way he looks after himself on and off the pitch is an example to any player, and it is due to that lifestyle of professionalism that he is still playing at such a high level at this stage of his career.”

Brighton played Huddersfield last Saturday and were held to a 1-1 draw.

Huddersfield claimed a potentially crucial point in their battle against relegation as they drew with 10-man Brighton at the Amex Stadium in a game that saw both sides end their recent goal droughts.

The Seagulls and the Terriers are hoping to secure another season of top-flight football after they were promoted from the Championship last year and three points in this game would have gone a long way to making that a reality.

Brighton took the lead when the ball rebounded off Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl’s head after he had pushed Solly March’s shot onto the post.

Huddersfield responded almost immediately as Steve Mounie pounced on Shane Duffy’s terrible back pass to slot in.

The visitors’ hopes of snatching victory were then boosted when Brighton midfielder Davy Propper was sent off for a late challenge on Jonathan Hogg.

However, it was the hosts who could have taken the three points at the end when Jose Izquierdo was put through on goal – but the forward was superbly denied by Lossl.

The draw means Brighton are 13th, seven points above the relegation zone, while Huddersfield are 16th and four points above 18th-placed Southampton.

Neither of these sides have been the Premier League entertainers in recent weeks.

Brighton had gone a month without scoring while Huddersfield were approaching seven hours since their last goal.

It was, therefore, perhaps not surprising that their respective droughts were ended in somewhat fortuitous fashion.

Lossl can perhaps count himself unfortunate for Brighton’s opener as he pushed March’s shot onto the post and the ball rebounded back off his head and into the net.

Huddersfield had come back only once before this season to get a result after falling behind but they were on level terms just two minutes later.

Duffy inexplicably played the ball straight to Mounie and the Terriers’ top scorer kept his composure to round the keeper and slot in his ninth goal of the season.

Brighton are probably one win away from making sure of their Premier League status for another season and with tough games against Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool to come, this was arguably their most winnable fixture.

However, it would still take a big turnaround in form from the bottom three to see the Seagulls slip into trouble.

Any away point is an important one in the Premier League but this was the second time in their last four games Huddersfield had failed to take advantage of their opponents going down to 10 men by snatching victory.

But the Terriers have given themselves that extra bit of breathing space and this was a considerably improved performance after disappointing displays in defeats by Crystal Palace and Newcastle.

David Wagner’s side attacked with pace, created chances and finished with more shots on target – five – than they had in their previous two games combined, when they managed just two. That should give them hope ahead of upcoming home games against Watford and Everton.

Nearly there now …

This Saturday the Brighton and Hove Albion football team take on Leicester City at 3:00pm in a match, that for Albion, could go on towards solidifying their Premier League status.

The Seagulls are currently six points above Southampton, Leicester manager’s Claude Puel former team, who sacked him despite finishing respectably last season. The six point cushion equates to two games over a eight game period, which means that all the Seagulls have to do is match Southampton’s, or Stoke City’s record over the next six games to be able to safely celebrate.

Unfortunately at this stage it appears West Brom’s place in the lower divisions next year is already booked. With seven games left for them to play, the bottom-placed club need to win four of their next games and hope West Ham or Crystal Palace lose their next four, to even have a chance of sniffing survival. But bearing in mind what has happened to the club, with wages not being paid, club leaders behaving like idiots on a recent trip to Barcelona, the morale has already been drained from the club. Alan Pardew’s reputation as a saver may go down the drain.

Brighton are currently twelfth at the international break but there is good incentive to go for a good top ten result which would represent the south coast’s club’s best ever finish in the Premier League. It would be a long way away from the Southern League for the club started in 1901, and a further cry away from the team that nearly got relegated from the Championship in 2014-15 when they finished 20th.

Has it been a good January transfer window for Leonardo Ulloa? The Argentinian was the club’s best player in 2013-14, scoring sixteen goals en route to being the top scorer for the club, but then after winning the Premier League with Leicester City he was frozen out and unhappy. His return to the club continues to bode well.

Albion are slated for another season in the Premier League, but let’s not count our chickens for a few more weeks. And let’s hope they triumph this weekend, so we can all have a Happy Easter!

Seagulls focus on Premier League

Unfortunately it had all to end somewhere. Brighton’s magnificent run came to an end at Old Trafford, where they lost to Manchester United and went out of the FA Cup.

The Seagulls started brightly but unfortunately went behind to a goal by Romelo Lukaku, who had been unceremoniously dumped by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea before being picked up by the recently installed Manchester United manager. Another one of his ex-Chelsea stars, Nemanja Matic then added a second for the Reds later before Lukaku bracketed the goals with a third.

Much has been written about Jose Mourinho and his ex-Chelsea stars, especially Matic. The manager had been accused of trying to embarrass Matic while he was at Chelsea, taking him off once during a game after the latter had only come on as a second half substitute. But at United Matic has been in good form, fairly solid as a defensive midfielder, and appears to have no problems with working with his ex-boss. The ire of his ex-boss seems to have been directed at left-back Luke Shaw, who appears to be in bad books again.

Despite being knocked out of the FA Cup, the Seagulls can reflect on a good run this season, and now focus their efforts on preserving Premier League status. They have done well and are almost guaranteed safety, but perhaps a good performance in the next few games will mean relegation will be mathematically impossible, freeing them to play football without fear. Go Seagulls!

Manchester United in Albion sights

Can Brighton pull one off just like Sevilla? The Spanish conquerors arrived at Old Trafford last night and despite the uneviable record of never having won on English soil before, did just that, and of all places in the realm of Old Trafford, past European conquerors themselves. Remember Sheringham and Solsjkaer and company? The footage of them scoring injury time goals to win must surely have been repeated many times over, but now the ability to score late must be a distant memory of the past. Despite having Romelo Lukaku in the squad, Alexis Sanchez, and Paul Pogba, a total of nearly two hundred million invested in them, the Mancunians found it hard to break down the Spanish team of arguably less famous personnel. Well, perhaps until now.

So ahead of Brighton’s match at Old Trafford in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, the Seagulls must be fancying their chances. The Seagulls have won their last few games, including strong opposition like Arsenal. They have fought off their relegation worries and are can play confidently without the fear of not being in the Premier League next season. More importantly, they have gone to big places like the Emirates and won, and played credibly in games that perhaps they were unlucky to lose. So despite the fact that Sunday’s game is away, they must be thinking they could pull one off.

The Manchester squad appears to be infighting at the moment. Alexis Sanchez’s arrival at Old Trafford has seemingly soured relations with his team mates, with Paul Pogba questioning his own lack of influence on his team’s game. Pogba’s assists and minutes have gone down since the arrival of the Chilean, and Jose Mourinho appears to be finding problems to include both in his team. He must find a way to integrate both into the squad, or it would seem like he has traded Mkhitaryan and Pogba for Sanchez. And has the curse of Alexis Sanchez hit Mancunian shores? He seemed to sour relations between his team mates when he was at Arsenal, maybe the same is happening with Manchester United.

United’s problems, Brighton’s advantage. The Seagulls are on a winning run, and United, fresh off a win at Liverpool before being bundled out by Sevilla last night, must regroup fast (but hopefully not too fast). If Albion progress, they will most likely face Tottenham who are favourites against Swansea. But let’s take it one step at a time first.

Nearly there now!

Are things looking up in the sunny south coast? The Seagulls appear to be doing well in the Premier League, and having entertained Stoke a couple of weeks ago in a relegation fight that would benefit the winners, they have gone on to bigger things, such as a win over Arsenal, which has pushed them further away from the bottom.

Brighton are currently lying in twelfth place but have a two-game buffer over the bottom three teams with only nine games left to play for. Essentially, if the bottom half of the table win their next games, and everyone moves in a similar motion, that would mean that the bottom three teams still have to find a way to claw out better results by a margin of seven points for Brighton to land back in the relegation zone. Of course, that it is a simplistic way of looking at it, but the reality is that for the Seagulls to end back in the bottom two, they need to lose three games, while those in the bottom three win at least two and draw one. And with only nine games to spare, that is not a lot of time for that to happen.

Could we assume the team are safe? You never assume anything, but with already three quarters of the season gone, and with the points spread in the bottom three, this is starting to look like a possibility. Brighton have had a run of good results and the team has worked hard, and the confidence of the team position will certainly only result in a positive attitude towards games, approaching the attacking side of things naturally, instead of playing defensively and hoping not to lose.

This time last year, Sunderland were well in the relegation zone, and the team bosses were looking to sell Jordan Pickford and Jermaine Defoe in order to raise funds already. The bottom-placed teams almost seem like a dead certainty for the drop, which is not good news for West Brom. Maybe we will start seeing their best players being sold off as well.

And what about Brighton? Perhaps in the weeks to come, as the team continues to solidify its safety, perhaps it might be a good idea to tie key players down to new contracts, make loan players permanent, and start trading up.

The future is bright if you are a Brighton fan!

Seagulls into the next round

Are things on the up for the Brighton football club? The Seagulls scored a 3-1 win over Coventry in the FA Cup to progress to the quarter finals. The progress to that stage is the club’s first since the 1980s – 1986, to be exact.

And what a dream debut for Jurgen Locadia. The record signing from PSV Eindhoven joined in January and made a dream appearance, scoring just inside a quarter of an hour to edge his club in front. Brighton’s dominance was never really much in doubt with Connor Goldson scoring with a header twenty minutes later to put the Seagulls further in front. And went old boy Leonardo Ulloa, on loan from Leicester scored in the 61st minute, the fans by this time realised they were on the verge of a quarter-final trip. The consolation goal by Coventry did not dent the joy at reaching the last eight, although it must have been a bit of a downer for Netherlands and former Newcastle stopper Tim Krul not to have kept a clean sheet.

Locadia had several chances to add to his debut and had he been able to convert them he would have had an even greater debut with a hat-trick. But the forward is only just recovering from a hamstring injury which delayed his debut, and his combination with Solly March and Anthony Knockaert is promising for Albion.

Brighton boss Chris Hughton was delighted with the performance and felt the team carried themselves well even though Coventry were in the lower leagues. He had reason to be pleased with the performance of March, who looked like a threat whenever he received the ball. March was voted man of the match and his performance and tireless running created chances for his teammates.

The result is a good one for the Seagulls before they meet relegation-threatened Swansea on Saturday, followed by Arsenal the week after. If they build on the positive performance and a run of good results, they might view the weeks leading to the close of the season more positively.

Brighton fills up Stoke stadium

Could it be the magic of Brighton rubbing off on their northern neighbours? Stoke City’s next home match against Albion could be their biggest home match this season. Albion have already sold out of their 3200-ticket allocation, so the Potters had better beware of some good visiting support!

Albion currently sit three points above Stoke and new manager Paul Lambert in the table. A few weeks ago, a six point gap was all that separated the eleventh-placed team and the bottom, but with the developments of the recent weeks, that six-point gap is now limited to the fifteenth-placed team. What does that important stat mean? It puts more pressure for teams to win, because now not even six points are enough if you want to sleep easy. Those teams above the relegation zone can afford to plod on for draws, and hope to marginalise their goal difference, but those teams at the bottom really have to make a difference, an attempt to win, in Oder to lift themselves out. Perhaps when they have traded places with a team in fifteenth place or lower, they can afford to play for draws.

A gap of six points DOES separate the eleventh-placed and the nineteenth-placed team, though – meaning Stoke, on eighteenth, could in theory vault themselves to safety with two wins, while Albion may slide uncomfortably towards the relegation zone. It is not a situation Brighton would want!

How will Chris Hughton set up the Brighton team? It is likely they will set up with a defensive line up knowing that the Potters will want to attack, and then try to burn them out of energy over the course of the game – and then hope to win it in the final stages. And as for Stoke, they will probably line up against Brighton in an attacking formation. Maybe Peter Crouch will start? Watch for the Brighton midfield to try to nullify Xherdan Shaqiri, as many of Stoke’s opponents have done – they realise he drives most of the Stoke offensive.

Brighton and Stoke promises to bring in more changes and twists to the relegation tale. Watch the match this weekend; it’s not one to miss! Can Brighton pull away further to safety?

Return to the Seaside

If you like football, you may be heartened at the fact that Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa has rejoined Brighton on loan until the end of the season.

The striker was formerly a Brighton player prior to leaving for Leicester and is still popular among the fans here. Three and a half years ago he played for the club before signing for the Foxes, and his return provides the club with a good physical striker, with plenty of Premier League experience, and more importantly, gives him a chance to play.

At Leicester, Ulloa played a huge part in the run to being Premier League champions. Remember the penalty he took, with Vardy and Mahrez off and Leicester trailing? He showed no sign of nerves and buried the penalty. Having the striker makes the Brighton frontline a lot stronger and gives manager Chris Hughton more alternatives. Ulloa was ofter behind the pecking order with Jamie Vardy, Riyadh Mahrez, Islam Slimani in front of him, but with the move he can expect a lot more football – and Brighton have a strong weapon in the fight to stay up!

Extinct Bears in Brighton

Brighton’s basketball team was formed in 1973 by Dave Goss, with a squad of part-time players; the team’s fixtures were in the County League. The team were known as the Brighton Bears until 1984, when they became the Worthing Bears, before returning to their original name in 1999. They played in the British Basketball League and their home venue was the Brighton Centre.

The Bears started playing in the National League Division Two in the 1977-78 season and signed their first overseas players — Americans Kevin Kallaugher, Fritz Mayer and Pete Durgerian. By the 1981-82 season, they were playing in Division One but finished it bottom of the league.

In 1983-84, a new head coach, Bill Sheridan, improved the team and they finished that season in 8th place. However, financial problems meant they had to leave the Brighton Arena and play home games in arenas all over the south, including Bognor, Eastleigh and Hastings. Eventually, the settled in Worthing, based at the Leisure Centre there, and began the 1984/85 season as the Worthing Bears.

In November 1984, the club secured a sponsorship package with Nissan and became known as Nissan Bears of Worthing. This sponsorship ended at the conclusion of the 1985-86 season and, failing to secure new sponsors, the club did not play for over a year.

Eventually, the Bears were resurrected in time for the National League Division One 1987/88 season; they won the league, with an unbeaten record. The club went on to beat Brixton to become Division One Play-off Champions.

In 1989, they gained another American player, Herman Harried; he top-scored in 21 of his 26 games that season, and his statistics read 31 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4.5 steals and 3 blocks per game. In 1990/91, the Bears entered the Premiership and won the Club of the Year award.

Despite all their success, the club was always plagued by financial problem and, in 1995, it was put up for sale; Brighton Council saved the day with a £30,000 grant. However, a year later, the council withdrew an agreed £25,000 grant after the club put its franchise up for sale without informing councillors. In August 1997, American multi-millionaire Greg Fullerton bought the franchise; by November, he had pulled out, without explanation. Unsurprisingly, the club finished bottom of the league that year.

The following season came the announcement that the Bears were returning to the Brighton Centre for the 1999/2000 season, in the hope that increased revenue and media exposure would give them a secure financial future. Initially, this proved to be the case, but attendances fell the following year.

In 2002/2003, coach Nick Hurse became sole owner of the club and All Stars Rico Alderson and Ralph Blalock were signed; the Bears won their first 11 games of the season. In 2005/2006, NBA legend Dennis Rodman played for the club for three games, fresh from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, and he drew huge audiences for the Bears. It later transpired that the Bears had broken player eligibility rules by playing Rodman alongside their three permitted work-permit players. In the summer of 2006, the Bears announced that they would be taking a year off from the BBL ‘in the interests of the long term viability of the franchise’.

Nick Nurse was explored the possibility for club into an NBA Development League or the proposed rival British Basketball Association (BBA), but nothing came of these plans. Nurse moved back to the US, and club was dissolved. The Brighton Bears played their last game in the British Basketball League on April 14 2006.