I do know what you made from it

Posted: February 8, 2012 in Rants in my Pants

I like my anniversaries, but a strange shudder went down my spine just now when I  realised it’s 15 years to the day since I squashed into the Goldstone Ground with eight and half thousand others to watch the team lying 92nd in the football league, 11 points behind anyone else in fact. And thanks to a very special atmosphere, they won 5-0. That was the first big gathering of the “Fans United” movement, and the start of an amazing run which saw Brighton and Hove Albion gain a virtually 100% home record on the run-in and save themselves from doom by the slimmest of margins. If “Fans United” and that fantastic atmosphere hadn’t happened, Hartlepool surely wouldn’t have collapsed that day, Craig Maskell would not have got that hat-trick and who knows where Brighton and Hove Albion would be now.

I can't find a clearer image of the scarves of dozens of different teams on the terrace at the Goldstone Ground that day

We, supporters from every corner of the country, were there to support Brighton fans in their protest campaign against their owner, the Focus DIY chain’s Bill Archer, who was intent on asset-stripping and who  had sold the ground for a retail park development. This was a development which was  eventually to include a huge JJB superstore. Ironically, Wigan Athletic, owned by Dave Whelan, JJB sports mogul, gained promotion from the same division that year, though they were pipped for the title on goal difference by Mohamed Al Fayed’s (i.e. Harrod’s) very own Fulham. Quite a retail-themed division, all in all.

Hull and Swansea are other clubs who were in that division that season, and all  of those other clubs prove how quickly fortunes can change in football with a bit of investment  After recent seasons of well-backed, well-managed revival, Brighton supporters too surely deserve their chance in the Premiership before too long. As for me, I’m just waiting for my chance to watch a game at their palatial new ground, after their 14 long seasons without a proper home.

Bill Archer, who sold off the Goldstone Ground at the end of that season, was surely one of the worst ever rogues in the all-time rogues gallery of unscrupulous football chairmen, and every time I pass his monument, the could-be-anywhere retail park that stands where the Goldstone used to be,  I carry on composing  a little unfinished protest rhyme that has been bubbling around my angry mind for years.  The chorus goes:

“I don’t know why you bought B&HFC,

But I do know what you made from it:

There’s a DFS, a Burger King, a JJB,

There’s  a Toys ‘R’ Us  and a  Comet.”

The Goldstone Ground RIP
(Retail Investment Portfolio)

Our football grounds should surely be protected like other important cultural heritage sites, and protected from the likes of Bill Archer until and as long as the community and supporters decide it’s time to move on.  Yes, of course the new Brighton ground (I can’t bring myself to use its corporate name) is infinitely better, but those 14 years of homelessness were an unforgivable price to have to pay.  Congratulations to everyone who fought for Brighton to survive through those years.  I’d like to say “Never again!” But we all know it’s just a matter of time before another club suffers a similar purgatory.

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