WHILE still mathematically possible, I really think all talk of Albion still being in the relegation mix is wide of the mark.
So much so, that I’m prepared to put on record that, if Brighton go down this season, I will wear a Palace shirt for the entirety of the Splash FM Garden Party at Steyne Gardens in July.
Having said that, recent performances by Chris Hughton’s men have seen a number of rumblings from within the Albion support.
Hughton is really between a rock and a hard place. He inherited a squad who seemed relegation certainties before Christmas and has steadied the ship but I don’t think he can be judged on his record this season. He steered us away from relegation which, at the turn of the year, is all as supporters we could have asked.
As the General Election campaign will throw up a number of empty promises, Albion chairman Tony Bloom was back in the news last week, declaring a targeted top-six finish next season.
Tony Bloom or Tony Blair?
Talk is cheap and, while the Albion support will be eternally grateful to Bloom, for not only rescuing the club from near extinction but also delivering the Amex and the Lancing training complex, rightly or wrongly, even that gratitude could eventually wane amongst some supporters.
Ever the poker player, Bloom simply cannot bluff this time. Hughton needs a competitive budget and, with a complete pre-season, unlike the previous two managers, it really could be the Albion’s best chance to chase the Premier League dream successfully.
On Friday, the Amex gets to see what can happen if you do get it right, with the visit of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
While the Cherries aren’t quite there yet, their on-going success proves what can be done by a club, arguably on the face of it, nowhere near as big as the Albion.
Envy is probably a strong word, but I look at both them and the on-going progress of the mob from Selhurst Park, and think now must be the time, in year five at the Amex, for the Albion to finally step up to the plate.
Clearly, with a reported 90 per cent season ticket renewal, fans are still buying into the dream. This time next year, with all the corporate boxes and 1901 membership up for renewal, the events of next season could have far reaching consequences on the future of the club.
n From what could have panned out to be the season that Worthing Football Club went out of existence, this campaign could yet possibly become a watershed/benchmark in Sussex football.
The local non-league scene has been littered with instances down the years of clubs stopping budgets and subsequently managers and entire squads leaving mid-season.
Clearly, when the Worthing board of directors took the decision at Christmas, individuals away from the football club were quick to speculate that Adam Hinshelwood would be on his way, closely followed by the majority of his squad.
This never materialised, in fact the complete opposite happened, with the side almost galvanised by the club’s misfortune and pushing for a Ryman South play-off place.
Hopefully, when other clubs in the future realise that unsustainable budgets don’t work and have to make drastic decisions over finances, the Worthing example – and the non-walkout at Woodside – will not be an isolated incident.