30 October ~ A year ago Brighton sat towards the bottom of League One. Having flirted seriously with relegation in 2008-09 after Mickey Adams's disastrous return to the club, 2009-10 under the next manager Russell Slade was looking no better, a 7-1 defeat at Huddersfield being the biggest loss in a generation. Now the Seagulls are six points clear at the top of the same division. Arguably it should be at least eight, dreadful refereeing having robbed them of a win against a crude Bournemouth team. What's happened?
The obvious answer is the arrival of Gus Poyet following Slade's dismissal. The Uruguayan announced his appointment with a brilliant win at Southampton and although the team did not catch fire immediately after that, in 2010 the Albion have risen inexorably. Today's match at Peterborough, who are themselves playing well, is a stern test, but no more so than the last away game at Charlton, and that saw a 4-0 demolition of the home side.
Although they’ve drawn too many games, Brighton have not looked like losing since August and must be favourites for promotion even at this stage. With the new stadium due in summer 2011 there seems a genuine possibility that it will see Championship football in its inaugural season.
However, this is not just a story of picking the right manager at the right time. Poyet is on a healthy salary, as are key players such as the Spaniard Inigo Calderon and goalkeeper Casper Ankergren who, apart from a howler against Rochdale, has been solid enough to earn the first Player of the Month title of the League One season.
These costs are certainly not being met by the limited crowds at the picturesque but otherwise inadequate Withdean stadium. The real driver of Brighton's current success is chairman Tony Bloom, whose £80 million investment turned the Seagulls overnight from one of the poorest clubs in the division to one of the richest in May 2009.
Many people seem to like Brighton – Palace fans excepted, of course – and they are playing entertaining, attractive football, with a photogenic, intelligent manager. Yet pleasing as it is, really this just reflects an increased budget: albeit one that has been invested very well so far. Brighton fans hope that it continues into the Championship and the new American Express stadium in 2011-12 – and they hope that Poyet stays. Drew Whitworth