Ground Hopping The Road to Wembley: The American Express Family Stadium: Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United 05th January 2013

For my first game of 2013, I had the misfortune to go to see Brighton v Newcastle in the FA Cup. It seems a long time since I went to see Barkingside v Great Yarmouth on 10th august in the FA Cup. That was in the Extra Preliminary Round, since then there has been seven other rounds before we get to the Third Round Proper when the Premiership and Championship sides enter the competition.

For the second season running, Newcastle were drawn away at Brighton in the Third Round. I missed the game last season, so took the opportunity this time to visit Brighton’s new ground. I have seen them play at their old Goldstone Ground and also at their temporary home at the athletics stadium at Withdean. The latter was where I completed visiting all 92 Premiership & Football League Grounds. Thus I needed to visit their new ground.

A friend arranged to get me a ticket for the game, and then I secured a ticket for Tom from another source. We were to travel down from London with a friend. We have a friend who lives in Brighton, so we were to meet him for a drink as well. A good day was in store.surely?

Well the day got off to a good start with a return ticket from London to Brighton only costing £10, but it did restrict us to First Capital Connect Trains (more on this later), which was ok, as they run from Farringdon. We even got a slightly earlier train than planned, so arrived in Brighton for 10:15 and met up with Chris who took up for a quick drink before going to the game (which was a 12:30 kick off for the benefit of TV- certainly not for the benefit of those travelling from Newcastle!)

So, 4 or 5 pints later we left to get a taxi to the ground as the train would be too busy.[The ground is a few miles out of Brighton at Falmer. The trains are free if you have a match ticket]. Whilst queuing for a taxi at the station, we saw there was no queue for the train, so took that to the ground.

The station at Falmer is immediately adjacent to the ground, but the away turnstiles are as far away from the station as it is possible to get. The ground is also built into the hillside, so it was an uphill walk around the ground to the away turnstiles. The friendly and welcoming stewards made the act of scanning the tickets quick and simple. The foyer area housed food and drink concessions with a pie and a pint being advertised for the bargain price of £7. Still, Chris had said the pies were rather good and worth the cost.

By now it was kick off, so we went to our seats rather than feeding our faces.The seats are wide enough for even this fat backside, but as is usual at Newcastle away games, we stood the whole time. So we never got to sample the padded seats. Yes, every seat in the ground is padded. A rare luxury in a football ground away from the posh seats.

I had hear lots of good things about the ground from those who had been and from reading reviews of the same, but my overall impression was of a ground that looked distinctly odd. To our right was the main stand, it was a 3 tier affair with a curved roof like at many newish grounds, e.g. at Huddersfield.

Brighton and Hove-20130105-00096Brighton and Hove-20130105-00100

You will note the addition of lots of empty blue seats. Was it the early kick off, or the apathy of the folks from Brighton?

The stand opposite the main stand was a 2 tier stand built again with a curved roof

Brighton and Hove-20130105-00094

So far so good on the ground design you say? Well the main issue for me was behind the goals. The home end at the opposite end of the ground was a single tier with an oddly sloping roof.

Brighton and Hove-20130105-00095

It looked distinctly small when compared to the 3 tier main stand. In my view it would have been better to have built the whole ground as a 2 tier stand.

Brighton are in the process of infilling the corners of the ground to increase the seating capacity. So presumably they feel the need, although given today’s crowd, there were enough seats available without the extra seating

Brighton and Hove-20130105-00097Brighton and Hove-20130105-00098Brighton and Hove-20130105-00099Brighton and Hove-20130105-00101

The atmosphere in the ground was awful. Brighton fans made no noise before their team scored. This is not unusual  these days with a lack of atmosphere from home fans. it is usually left to the away fans to create the atmosphere and Newcastle fans are amongst the best at this. Sadly not today. It was like the game was being played in a library.

Perhaps the Newcastle fans were reacting to the effort put in by the team. It was clear that very few Newcastle players were bothered about the game or were trying. It came as no surprise that Brighton took the lead in the first half. This prompted Tom to go to use the facilities- we thought he was at the toilet, but instead he was having the pie and pint which was £6.50 not the advertised £7. His verdict was that both were rather good.

The good points in the ground were the generously proportioned and padded seats. The 2 big TV screens showing replays of all the action. The friendly stewards.

The bad points included the rather cramped foyer under the stand that could not cope with the number of people wanting to use it as we left the ground at half time ( along with several others!). The lack of visibility of the programme sellers. I saw not a single person selling programmes at the ground, inside or outside. The programme kiosks were unmanned before the game as we arrived.

The worse points were the lack of atmosphere from either sets of fans and the lack of effort from a woeful Newcastle team.

Come half time we decided that rather than watch the rest of the game that the team were not bothered about, we would head back to Brighton for a few beers and for Greg to meet up for his appointment with Choccy Wocky! Given the reputation of Brighton as the Gay Capital of England, I was a little worried about this desire Greg had to meet Choccy Wocky.

It turns out Choccy Wocky was not someone in a seedy back street establishment, but was a chocolate shop where he spent a few pounds to try to keep his beloved sweet. He ignored our suggestion that a mars bar and a bar of dairy milk would do as well. Probably quite sensible.

After visiting a few more licenced premises and chatting to the mother and daughter heading to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, in full outfits, we made our way back to the bar by the station for a last drink. By this stage we were well into double figures for the day, so being a seasoned football traveller I went and bought a bottle of water to drink on the train & stop the dehydration. Once I was back in the pub, Tom took the water off me for some reason, but well if he wants to carry it, I’d let him.

We said goodbye to Chris and Tom, Greg & I walked to the station, all of 10 yards away. Tom was immediately behind me, but he never got on the train. I held the doors until the train was leaving some 5 minutes later, but Tom failed to get to the train.

I rang him as the train left and he said he was on the platform getting on the train at 1840 to London Victoria! Quite why he was getting that one and not the 1835, he could not explain. Frantic texting to try to ensure Tom got to London Bridge instead of Victoria as his ticket was not valid on the trains to Victoria as they are not First Capital Connect trains. I suggested where Tom could change trains and gave him advice to get round the Train Guard.

now the swift thinking amongst you will realise I did not have my bottle of water so spent an hour and a quarter dehydrating. Bloody Tom – why did he take my water?

Eventually we agreed Tom would get to London Bridge and i got off there. Tom arrived at London Bridge on the next First Capital Connect Train after mine. I asked him where he had changed train. He then said he had not changed at all. Thus meaning he was not on a Southern Train nor was it a London Victoria train. Bl**dy useless students, can’t even get on the right wrong train!

Oh and to make matters worse he said he just dumped the bottle of water as he didn’t want any!

We made our way home from London Bridge and discussed what we were going to do and eat. Tom insisted we went to O’Malley’s Irish Bar  which he insisted was at the end of my street. When I pointed out there was no such bar, but there was an O’Grady’s Bar there, Tom said that was the one and that he wanted to go to the O’Neill’s Bar at the end of the street before getting a Chicken shop takeaway for supper. I again reminded him it was O’Grady’s, but I suppose I can forgive him as he is a student and we know students lack common sense.

Now, I would have rather got a pizza and gone home, but Tom insisted on more drink before we got the food. We had another couple of pints, neither of which was a radioactive orangey yellow like the pint of cider he had in Brighton. The colour of that drink was a warning that he failed to heed.

So, beers drunk, takeaway sorted and it was time to walk home. Tom chose to decorate the gardens of a couple of neighbours with something that glowed in the dark as it projected from his mouth.

Into the house, Tom laid down and fell asleep on the sofa without eating his chicken supper. So, after insisting on more drink and then a chicken supper, Tom managed to recycle the drink and not eat the chicken. I knew we should have had a pizza and not gone to the pub.

Being such a good parent, I left the drunkard on the sofa and went to bed! He’s big enough to fend for himself, and he was in a position that he was not at risk if he was sick again.

To be fair to him, he did surface relatively early in the morning and was even capable of getting out to get the papers! He seemed to recover well from the day before.

Overall, a good day out was ruined by leaving the pub ad heading to the ground. We should have stayed on the drink all day. Brighton has some great bars and is a wonderful place to visit. I have had some great days out in Brighton and apart from the football this was another one.

The £28.50 for a match ticket was money wasted. What makes it worse was I bought Tom his match ticket as part of his Christmas present. Sorry for such a cr*p present Tom.

The lack of passion and effort on the part of the Newcastle team is such a contrast to that at Spennymoor and the other Northern League some 8 levels below Newcastle and earning  a fraction of one per cent of the wages many Newcastle players earn.

One thought on “Ground Hopping The Road to Wembley: The American Express Family Stadium: Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United 05th January 2013

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