Brighton v Cardiff, 7.45pm
21 August ~ The fortunes of Brighton and Hove Albion and Cardiff City, who meet tonight, have run in parallel over the last decade. In May 2001 the Seagulls were champions of the fourth tier, with Cardiff City also promoted as runners-up. For both clubs this was a turning point in previously traumatic times. Neither has returned to that level, though Brighton did come within a game of it in 2009. Now promotion to the Premier League is a shared aim. The Seagulls have moved into a brand new home on the edge of their city and invested heavily in both the management and playing squad.
The arrivals of Tomasz Kuszczak in goal and Wayne Bridge at the back indicate the owners' ambition. It is believed that Brighton are paying only £10,000 – about 11 per cent – of Bridge's weekly wage, the rest being met by Manchester City.
This situation is not dissimilar to the arrangements made by Cardiff over recent years to secure Craig Bellamy's skills. Like Brighton, the Welsh club have a new ground and Premier League ambitions, though their adventures in last season's League Cup won respect. More controversial is the recent decision to change their traditional blue home kit to red, with the supposed aim of tapping into the wider Welsh and East Asian markets.
Each club represents an affluent, growing city. Brighton have always been more of a regional team than a city one. Although the recent rise of Crawley Town may disrupt this, the whole of Sussex has historically got behind Brighton, as evinced by their club anthem Sussex by the Sea. With their kit change, it seems Cardiff are pursuing a similarly coherent, if wider, audience in Wales.
Despite beating a full-strength Chelsea side 3-1 in pre-season, Brighton's competitive start has been disappointing, with defeat to Swindon in the League Cup followed by a late 1-0 loss to Hull in the first Championship game. Cardiff beat Huddersfield by the same score last Friday night.
So tight are the margins in the second tier this season that a further defeat for Brighton may well set alarm bells ringing even at this early stage. Maybe both clubs will eventually complete their rise from the bottom tier to the top but whether both will do so this season remains to be seen. Drew Whitworth