David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Vicente’

A promising season beckons for Brighton

Monday, August 13th, 2012

What do the following players all have in common? Raul, Adrian Mutu, Michael Owen, Roque Santa Cruz, Jordan Rhodes, Glenn Murray, Wayne Bridge, Carlton Cole, Fabian Delph, Emmanuel Frimpong, Ross McCormack and Greg Bobkin.

The answer? They’ve all been rumoured to be joining Brighton & Hove Albion at some point this summer.

Obviously, most of these rumours are complete fabrication, a total nonsense. Of the names mentioned above, only Bridge has actually joined Albion. Stevenage ‘player’ Bobkin doesn’t even exist! There is a wider point to these rumours though. The mere fact that a sane person would even give the smallest consideration to a piece of speculation concerning Brighton signing Raul shows that this little club on the South Coast is really starting to become big.

Bridge’s capture on a season-long loan from Manchester City is further proof of Albion’s ever increasing power. With 36 England caps and hundreds of Premier League appearances, he really is a stunning signing, the sort that I feel gives us a genuine chance of gaining promotion to the so-called promised land this season.

Another man who gives us an excellent chance of promotion this season is Vicente. Regular readers of my blog last season will know I constantly waxed lyrical over the Spaniard, and with good reason. ‘The Dagger’ single-handedly won us several games last term, and may well have secured us a play-off spot is he had been fit all season. With his injury problems now apparently behind him, I simply cannot wait to see him tearing Championship defences to pieces for an entire campaign.

Should homesickness ever be a problem, Vicente has a friend to rely on this time around, after his former Valencia team-mate Bruno Saltor became Gus Poyet’s second summer capture. I have to be honest and say that I’ve seen very little of him in action so far, but all the reports I have heard have been extremely positive. He could also be the most attacking right-back I’ve ever seen – in the one game I have watched him play against Reading last week he appeared to spend more time as an attacking midfielder than he did in defence!

Poyet’s first summer action was to rectify the area that had been our biggest problem last season – the goalkeeper. With Peter Brezovan and Casper Ankergren both looking more like decent number two’s than quality number one’s, something needed to be done. Step forward Tomasz Kuszczak – the Manchester United goalkeeper whose name has probably been mis-spelt more times in this country than any other (before you ask, yes, I did just use Google to check the spelling myself!). Whilst he didn’t feature too heavily during his time at Old Trafford, you don’t a contract there without being a quality player, and I’m told he looked very good during a loan spell at Watford last season.

So, with Kuszczak bound to take the gloves this season, the futures of Brezovan and Ankergren seem less certain. Whilst neither deserve the number one jersey ahead of Kuszczak, neither deserves to be a number three either, which is the fate that awaits one of them. Whoever that is will surely need to move on to get a better chance of game time – if you’re reading this as a supporter of a League One team who needs a new goalkeeper, your answer could lie within the Amex’s home dressing room.

Albion’s final new face so far this summer is actually an old face. Andrew Crofts re-joined the club last week on a three year deal, two years after leaving for Norwich City. Crofts is an ideal replacement for the released Alan Navarro in the heart of Albion’s midfield, and will complement Vicente, Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley perfectly.

So, that’s the goalkeeper, defence and midfield sorted. All we need to do now is find a new striker to complete the jigsaw. After an injury plagued first season at Albion, Will Hoskins looked set to be the answer to our problems, until injury struck yet again. Of course, Craig Mackail-Smith is still here, but he disappointed last season, and talk of him leaving the club has barely stopped all summer. That just leaves Ashley Barnes and rookie Norwegian Torbjorn Agdestein as our firepower for tomorrow night’s League Cup opener at Swindon Town. I’m sure Poyet is on his phone trying to rectify this as I type!

For all of the player’s coming in, one significant name has left the Amex in the last few days. Defender Tommy Elphick made over 150 appearances in the stripes after coming through the club’s youth system, before moving along the coast to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday. It’s a great shame that Elphick never got to play for his hometown club at the Amex after missing the whole of last season with a knee injury, and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an Albion fan who doesn’t wish him well as he enters a new stage of his career.

Now though, the time has come for me to predict our league finish this season, a prediction that could potentially look ridiculous come May. All bias aside, I honestly think we are going to have a fantastic season, so I’m predicting a 5th place finish. I’m not saying a word about how we might do in the play-offs though!

Here’s to a great season!

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger

An excellent first season at the Amex

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Well, the play-off dream didn’t happen after all. After tempting fate by checking the play-off dates ahead of my last blog, Albion failed to win another game all season, ending the campaign in 10th place, nine points adrift of that elusive sixth place.

Despite tailing away during the last month of the season, 2011/12 has been a season to remember for everyone involved at Brighton & Hove Albion. The opening of the Amex Stadium has, of course, been the biggest change of all, and has changed the club beyond all recognition.

I’ve watched about 30 games there now, yet I still get goosebumps every time I go through the turnstiles. As someone who remembers all the protests and petitions required to get the planning permission in the first place, it still seems barely believable that the place really is ours. To say it is a different match day experience to Withdean would be an understatement!

The club could never be accused of sitting on its laurels though, proven by the application to expand the Amex’s capacity to over 30,000. The proposal was granted planning permission by Brighton & Hove City Council less than two weeks ago, yet work is already well underway. An extra 5,000 seats will be ready for use by the start of the new season, with the rest completed by the start of 2013. If the Amex is great now, I can only imagine how good it will be when 30,000 fans are packed inside.

It isn’t just the new stadium that has made this season so special though. Our 10th place finish is the highest the club has achieved in over two decades, further proof that the club is moving in the right direction at a rapid pace. We’ve also finished above arch-rivals Crystal Palace for the first time in just as long, which is particularly pleasing for those of a blue and white persuasion!

On the pitch, Albion has signed players of staggering quality. Inevitably, that leads me onto Vicente – a man who has graced the Champions League on a regular basis, and won 38 caps for Spain during a glittering career.

It is no understatement to say the Spaniard has been a revelation on the south coast. The way he can run past opponents with such ease, always have that extra yard of pace, and see passes that no-one else can is a pleasure to watch. Chuck in the stunning goals he has scored as well, and that is some player.

Naturally, all the talk now concerns whether Vicente will sign a new contract with the club, or decide to head back to Spain. My head says he’ll choose the latter option, but then again, I never thought he’d join us in the first place! If it turns out he has appeared in an Albion shirt for the final time, he will leave us with dozens of brilliant memories, including his spectacular solo strike at Ipswich and his match winning strikes against Portsmouth. I feel honoured to have been around to witness him play for my club, as I will constantly remind my grandchildren in about 50 years time!

As well as Vicente, other players more than warrant a mention for a superb season, particularly Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley. Despite going own goal crazy during our 6-1 FA Cup defeat to Liverpool, Bridcutt has been a rock in our midfield this season, culminating in him being named Player of the Season by the fans. Aside from trying to tempt Vicente into signing a new deal, tying Bridcutt to a long term contract is Gus Poyet’s main objective this summer. It is only a matter of time before bigger fish come sniffing otherwise.

Buckley couldn’t have started the season better when he scored both goals in a 2-1 win against Doncaster in the first ever league game at the Amex. His performances during the rest of the campaign were hardly shabby either, particularly in the FA Cup win over Newcastle where he virtually beat the Premier League high flyers on his own.

For all of the players that have had great seasons, some have slipped below the standard expected, including £2.5m signing Craig Mackail-Smith. Maybe the huge price tag weighed him down, or maybe he hasn’t managed to adapt to our style of play yet – either way, I’m sure scoring just 11 times this season and ending the campaign as an impact sub isn’t what he hoped for when signing from Peterborough.

With the season now completed, attention has turned to who Poyet plans to keep for the 2012/13 assault on promotion. Poyet has already played tough in that department with the surprise release of midfielder Alan Navarro. The Liverpudlian had been a virtual ever present since the turn of the year, so would have been forgiven for being confident over a new deal.

Poyet clearly has his own ideas though, and obviously feels he can bring in players of a better calibre than the likable Navarro. If that is the case, we are set to enjoy another thrilling season in 2012/13. Roll on August!

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger

Back to reality at the Amex

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Well, it had to go wrong sometime. After spending eight consecutive months at the top of League One last season, and starting this season in much the same style, everyone at Brighton & Hove Albion have finally had to take a reality check.

Defeat at Leicester four weeks ago was disappointing – any defeat is of course – but realistically there aren’t many teams that are going to get anything at the King Power Stadium this season. Things could have been very different had Craig Mackail-Smith not missed a complete sitter during the second half, but he more than made up for his error in Brighton’s next league game against Leeds United.

Two-nil down at half time, and with the team being booed off the pitch (those who did boo really need to remember that just over two years ago the team were playing in the worst stadium in the Football League and on the verge of dropping into League Two), it looked like we were going to lose two games in a week for the first time in as long as most fans can remember.

That was until CMS decided he was going to pay back a large chunk of his £2.5million transfer fee. First, a superb turn and shot halved the arrears; he then won the penalty from which Ashley Barnes equalised, before scoring his second of the night to complete a stunning turnaround.

Ross McCormack’s stoppage time goal for Leeds meant we couldn’t quite hang on for a stunning win, but we’d have certainly taken a point at half time!

Forty-eight hours earlier, glamourous Liverpool was in town. I am never more popular than when high profile games like these come along, as everyone I have ever met suddenly wants me to get them tickets. Those who were lucky enough to get in might have wondered why they bothered after a poor first half Albion performance, which saw us extremely fortunate to go in just one goal behind.

The second half was a different story altogether. We more than matched the five time European Cup winners – in fact, we were better than them. Forget Gerrard, Suarez and Carragher, we had Bridcutt, Barnes and Greer!

It was unfortunate that we conceded a second late on as Gus Poyet went more and more attacking, but at least we got the goal we deserved when Ashley Barnes converted an injury time penalty. It was the very least we warranted.

The third of three home games in seven hectic days came the following Tuesday, and this was the biggest of them all. Arch-rivals Crystal Palace was in town, and this meeting had even more spice than usual. Not only was it the first meeting between the sides in six years, but it also marked the return of a certain Glenn Murray.

Murray, it is worth remembering, is a player that I was far from complimentary about back in the summer, when he rejected Albion’s new contract offer, and then pitched up in south London for what appears to be purely financial reasons.

All seemed to be going to plan early on – CMS paid back a bit more of his record fee by giving us an early lead, and despite heavy pressure as the game wore on, we were still in front with ten minutes to go.

Then, it all went horribly, horribly wrong. Wilfried Zaha got the equaliser that Palace’s pressure deserved, before Darren Ambrose delivered the sucker punch with just one minute left on the clock.

That wasn’t it though. With the Amex’s home ends rapidly emptying, Mr Murray decided to rub salt into very open wounds by adding a third. You’ve probably figured by now that Glenn isn’t going to be on my Christmas card anytime soon, but I will give the guy some credit where it’s due. First of all, the goal was a peach – right into the corner from 25 yards out. Secondly, his lack of celebration was very sensible – an Adebayor-esque reaction could have started a riot, but instead he just trotted back into his own half. Fair play.

The chance to repair those wounds came at Ipswich four days later. On a scorching afternoon, we were more than holding our own until Vicente produced a moment of magic to give us the lead. The run from inside his own half was brilliant, but to then turn Jimmy Bullard inside out and curl the ball into the corner from 25 yards as well – that is special.

I dared to think that the sticky patch might have been coming to end. It hadn’t. Minutes later, we were pegged back. Before we knew it, we were behind and the player’s confidence was visibly shot to pieces. For the third game in a row we had taken the lead, and for the third time we had blown it.

Despite all the doom and gloom of the last month, the table still reads well. We’re in fifth ahead of Saturday evening’s visit of Hull City, and that can’t be bad for a team that has just been promoted. Five games without a win is alarming though, and it will be interesting how Poyet deals with the slump. A couple of wins against Hull and Millwall are surely a must, ahead of two tough looking games against West Ham United and Birmingham City in late October.

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger

Vicente signing fires Premier League push

Monday, September 5th, 2011

In my first blog for WAGU back in July, I spoke about a rumour concerning Michael Owen signing for the Albion. I described this as ‘farcical’, because anyone with any sense could see that Owen was far too good to even consider joining us. Had there been a similar rumour at the same time regarding Vicente Rodríguez, I would have said exactly the same.

Nothing at this football club surprises me now though. Frankly, I have no idea how Gus Poyet and Tony Bloom have managed it, but the Valencia legend will be in our squad at Bristol City this Saturday, having signed a one-year contract last Friday.

The more you look at facts and figures, the more extraordinary the move appears. Ten years ago, when Vicente made his international debut for Spain in a friendly against then world champions France, Brighton had recently drawn 1-1 at home to York City. A few months earlier, Kidderminster Harriers triumphed in front of a few thousand die hard fans at the Withdean in a game that saw the Seagulls nearly hit the bottom of the Football League. Injuries may have blighted his last few seasons at Los Che, but we are told that he is now fully fit, and he still managed to make sixteen appearances in La Liga and the Champions League last term. He would regularly rotate with Juan Mata, who has just joined Chelsea in a multi-million pound deal.

So, what on earth possessed a player with such a glittering CV to join a side that was in English football’s third tier last season, ahead of other interested clubs such as Blackburn, Everton and Leicester? Well, as we have already seen with the signing of Craig Mackail-Smith in the summer, Poyet and Bloom are masters at their craft when it comes to selling Brighton and Hove Albion to potential signings. Their intent seems perfectly clear – they want the club to reach the Premier League, and they don’t intend on hanging about.

Vicente has only been here a matter of days, but already he has spoken about playing for the club at the highest level. You suspect that he wouldn’t have signed for us if he didn’t genuinely believe this was possible. For the first time, I’m starting to believe it really can happen too.

In that blog back in July, I predicted a 12th place finish, and said this would represent success for Poyet. I’m not so sure about that anymore. A near perfect start to the season, coupled with the Vicente signing, has pushed expectation levels through the roof. The 3-1 win at Cardiff was spectacular, and was possibly the most complete Albion performance I have ever witnessed. I can’t remember a better individual performance than what I saw that evening from Mackail-Smith. I have never seen a player run in the way he does – the pièce de résistance came when he chased a lost cause for 50 yards, pinched the ball from under Mark Hudson’s nose and then drew a foul to earn the penalty from which we scored our second. No wonder Peterborough fans nicknamed him the Energiser Bunny!

The 2-2 draw at home to Blackpool was a mere blip, before a comfortable 2-0 win against Peterborough sent us to the summit of the Championship, and to our highest league position in 28 years. It feels just like last season all over again, with Nigel Adkins’ Southampton trying to keep up with us!

Away from our league exploits, we had the small matter of a Carling Cup encounter with Premier League Sunderland. It is saying something when a win against a side from the top tier feels so routine, but that’s exactly what it was. Mackail-Smith’s extra time winner gave us the win we richly deserved, and set up a dream tie with Liverpool.

It is at this point that I have to make a confession. As a young boy, Liverpool were my ‘Premiership team’. With my Dad supporting Brighton and my Mum a staunch Liverpool fan, I was torn. Mum tried her best (there is a family photo on our mantelpiece at home where I am wearing a Liverpool training top), but thankfully Dad won the battle, and I’ve been completely dedicated to the Albion from about the age of nine. Ever since then, I’ve dreamed of this fixture.

Kenny Dalglish will be sure to put a strong side out – with no European action for the Reds this season, this competition represents one of their main hopes for some silverware and it promises to be one of the best nights in the Amex’s short history. With games against Leeds and Crystal Palace also within the same week, it is going to be some few days at our sparkling new home.

Now all that remains to be seen is how Poyet manages to fit all of our attacking strength into his line-ups. With Vicente, Mackail-Smith, Ashley Barnes, Will Hoskins, Kazenga LuaLua, Will Buckley, Ryan Harley and Craig Noone all jostling for positions, there are going to be some disappointed players sooner or later. That’s unless Poyet’s next masterplan is to play a 2-4-4 formation!

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger