For the second year in a row Chris Hughton’s side are pushing for promotion on the back of the division’s best defensive record
9 December ~ According to accounts released this week, Brighton and Hove Albion made a loss of £26 million in the 2015-16 season. All that amount, and much more, would have been repaid at a stroke had the Seagulls nicked a goal at the end of the final game at Middlesbrough, but a 1-1 draw meant their hosts went up instead and Brighton, for the third time in the last four seasons, went out in the play-off semi-finals.
Still, any fears that they might suffer a hangover have been comprehensively allayed by another excellent start to the season and they look comfortable in second place. Indeed, they should really be top, having missed their chance to overtake Newcastle with a rather disappointing 0-0 draw at struggling Cardiff last time out.
The Albion are certainly ready for Premier League football. The stadium is excellent — although this is no thanks to Southern Rail, who compounded their recent reputation as the most inept train company in Britain by cancelling most services back to Brighton while a crowd of 30,000 was enjoying the previous Friday night game against Aston Villa. More importantly, the club have managed to keep together most of the squad that came so close last time, bolstered by the crucial addition of Glenn Murray in attack. But the real success story this season is their defence: they have conceded fewer goals than any team in the league other than Spurs, who have played five games fewer. In David Stockdale Brighton probably have the best goalkeeper in the Championship.
But should they begin to slip, the pack is not far behind, and this year it includes Leeds, tonight’s visitors to the south coast. Brighton’s record against their opponents is a good one, with eight wins in the last ten. Their only defeat in this run was on the opening day of the 2013-14 season at Elland Road. The scorer of the winner that day, Ross McCormack, was later transferred to Fulham, a transfer that now may or may not lead to further censure for Leeds’ owner, Massimo Cellino. But despite the relative chaos that seems to regularly subsume Leeds off the pitch, they are having one of their best seasons in years, currently sitting in fourth, seven points behind Brighton but having won five of their last six.
All signs point to an exciting game, a real six-pointer. And as a Brighton fan resident these last twenty-five years in Yorkshire (eight of them in Leeds itself), it’s the one I most want us to win. Drew Whitworth