THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Possible Cup return for ex-manager

17 February ~ Last week, Brighton & Hove Albion announced a loss of £14.7 million for the 2012-13 season, despite the club having the highest average home crowd in the Championship last year. Though the loss is a concern rather than disastrous, it shows how heavily former manager Gus Poyet was backed in the attempt to win promotion, and how big a blow was the play-off semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace. The clash of egos between Poyet and Albion chief executive Paul Barber exploded in the immediate aftermath of that night in May.

Despite the summer turmoil, budget cuts and an early-season injury crisis, Brighton remain in touch with the play-offs. The Amex’s crowds are still the Championship’s highest, at 26,632 per match, ahead of Leeds’ 26,034. The style has changed, in more than one way. Poyet’s teams were graceful and fluent, brilliant at times, but they put in too many poor performances in big games and the manager eventually alienated fans due to his courting of the media.

His replacement, Oscar Garcia, ghosted into English football unnoticed, having taken Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Israeli title and worked with Barcelona’s youth team. He team is much more dour than Poyet's – conservative, without being negative or cynical. When on form they have registered some excellent results. The last four home games have all been won 1-0, they have beaten runaway leaders Leicester at the Amex and taken four points off second-placed Burnley, without conceding a goal.

Brighton have recently done well in the FA Cup. This is the third year out of four they have reached the last 16, and they were unlucky not to last time after an undeserved defeat to Arsenal in the fourth round. Newcastle have lost to Brighton in both the last two seasons and Hull will not travel down as favourites tonight, despite being a division higher.

Expect a good, even game – but not a high scoring one. And for Brighton fans – and surely several players and the owner, too – tonight’s tie has been made all the more interesting by the winners drawing of Sunderland at home in the quarter-finals. Poyet and Liam Bridcutt (whom he signed in January) back in Brighton before the season was out? Call it fate, call it chance – either way it will motivate everyone associated with the club. Drew Whitworth

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