Is this Brighton and Hove Albion’s year?

Now, before I get carried away, I just want to briefly share my position as a Brighton and Hove Albion fan and reinforce my excitement in what I believe could be the year that we seriously challenge for a spot in England’s elite; the Premier League.

At the age of 8, I received a gift from the local lollipop man in the shape of two tickets to a Brighton game against Blackpool. I didn’t think much of it as although I was keen on football, I had never really considered actually going to a live game. My dad, being an Irishman, was more interested in Hurling than football so it was up to my uncle (an avid Manchester United fan) to take me to the game at somewhere called ‘Withdean’.

A misty evening with next-to-no atmosphere in the same place that my school held their annual sports day isn’t the idea of fun for most 8 year olds, but as soon as I felt the celebrations of the crowd after a Charlie Oatway goal, I was hooked.

I continued to attend regularly and as soon as I was old enough I saved up and purchased a season ticket with a group of friends in the absolute shambles that we called our home, but it was our shambles and we had to make the most of it. We had our ups and downs at Withdean, but as the seasons passed and the football gradually got worse, I was left to wonder if my team would ever be a serious contender to reach the Premier League.

Say hello to Tony Bloom.

A man that has single-handedly changed the direction of Brighton and Hove Albion since taking over as chairman, the life-long fan of the club put his money where his mouth is and has delivered to us a place of worship, a footballing Mecca, somewhere so beautiful that it brought tears to the eyes of supporters who thought they would never be so lucky to be part of the stunning new ground after the continuous years of struggle, as well as a thought for those that weren’t fortunate enough to see it. Before we could embark on our new chapter with our sparkling new stadium, we still had to climb out of League One, something which we would eventually do in some style.

Bloom appointed one of the most exciting young managers in the game when he opted to designate Gus Poyet as manager. Poyet came into the club and instantly branded his mark, setting up a new ‘Tika-Taka’ philosophy and re-structuring the club from top to bottom so that the youth teams were playing in the same silky way as first team.

With an aura like no other and the colossal amount of greatness that oozed out of the Uruguayan, seagulls everywhere knew that this sleeping giant was about to be woken with immediate effect. In his first full season in management, he and his assistant Mauricio Taricco lead the club to the League One title, having remained at the top since the eighth game of the season.

Our first season back in the Championship was a huge success, and definitely something to build on. A finish of 10th, along with an average attendance of over 20,000 people was such a humongous gap from just a few years previous, that even Jo Brand and her nauseating oversized jelly-belly would have struggled to fill it.

Over the summer, Gus and his merry team of backroom staff have moulded a squad that look to have both incredible ability and understanding, but also the impeccable mental toughness that is needed to attempt an escape from the ‘most tenacious league in the world’.

Poyet stood by his word of giving his League One winning players a crack at England’s second tier, and whilst some of them flourished and extended the number of reasons to be included in the first eleven, some didn’t quite manage to measure up in the higher division and were quickly shown the door.

Tomasz Kuszczak was snapped up on a free transfer after his release from Manchester United, and has proved he has the capabilities to be one of the best keepers ever to occupy the sticks for the club. A Huge frame and a determination to powerfully claim any ball floating around his box, combined with his lightning reflexes when shots are fired at him are just two big contributors to him making a name for himself in Sussex.

One of the most flair-filled full backs I have ever laid eyes upon was also drafted in from Valencia; Bruno Saltor. He has had us on our feet since the moment he pulled on the stripes and is another Spaniard to join the array of talent we already hold from Europe’s capital of sunshine, along with Inigo Calderon, Vicente and now David Lopez, who has played over 100 games for Athletic Bilbao after originally signing for the club from Osasuna for around €6m. Along with loanee Wayne Bridge and the defensive pairing of Gordon Greer and Adam El-Abd, our back four is looking as strong as I ever remember.

We also added to our midfield options by re-signing the familiar faces of Andrew Crofts and Dean Hammond, both of which had previously captained the Albion, along with former Swansea City play maker Andrea Orlandi, who is yet another Spanish addition. When you consider the amount of talent we already possessed in the middle of the field in the shape of Liam Bridcutt and arguably Gary Dicker, with the likes of Will Buckley and Kazenga LuaLua supporting the wider positions, it is no wonder Craig Mackail-Smith and Ashley Barnes are currently bagging goals for fun.

We are currently sitting pretty at the top of the league (albeit still very early days), scoring hatfuls of goals and conceding very little at the back. The players are being supported by 25,000 fans every other week and are thriving under each minute of it, whilst showcasing some of the sexiest football the league has to offer. We hold the solidity at the back and the manager to lead us to glory, backed by a minted owner whose love of the club is bigger than his monumental bank balance.

Excuse me for being a little bit more than positive.