David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Bridge’

Poyet needs time to finish Project Brighton

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

In December 2009, Brighton & Hove Albion slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Colchester United. The attendance on that freezing night in a stadium more suited to javelin throwing than professional football was less than 6,000, and the result saw Albion cement their place in the League One relegation zone. A few weeks earlier, a Uruguayan called Gus Poyet had been appointed the club’s new manager, replacing the sacked Russell Slade following a nightmare start to the new campaign.

Three years’ later, the club could hardly be more different. The dire surroundings of Withdean Stadium has been replaced by the spectacular American Express Community Stadium, and attendances have quadruped. The playing squad has also changed beyond all recognition – of the 18 players named in the squad for that game against Colchester, only four are still on the club’s books, and only Adam El-Abd and Andrew Crofts are first team regulars.

Within one year, Poyet transformed a team that was 21st in League One into one that led the division by three points, and ultimately won it with four matches to spare. Into the Championship we went, finishing a highly commendable 10th in our first season back in the second tier. As I type, we now sit just two points outside the play-offs in 8th position. However, despite such an amazing transformation, there are a growing number of supporters beginning to call for Poyet’s head.

As Poyet’s good friend Roberto Di Matteo will testify, football management is a very cut-throat profession in which to earn your living. Pressure from fans who demand instant success can lead to chairmen getting trigger happy, but that is the last thing Brighton need now. Gus’ name and powers of persuasion have brought top quality names to the Amex that his rival managers could only dream of, and embedded a style of football which is the envy of the division. I cannot think of another Championship manager that could have lured Wayne Bridge and Bruno to their club, and it’s signings like those which are propelling the club forward at a rate of knots.

The pressure on Gus has hardly been helped by last Saturday’s defeat to arch rivals Crystal Palace. The rivalry may be unfathomable to anyone outside Sussex and south-east London, but it is very real and very passionate. Losing is simply not an option when it comes to this fixture. Losing 3-0 is barely comprehensible.

It’s hard to see how blame for the defeat can be put at the manager’s door though. It is not Gus’ fault that Lewis Dunk mis-controlled a pass 25 yards from his own goal and was sent-off for denying Yannick Bolassie a clear goal scoring opportunity. It is also not his fault that makeshift left-back Andrea Orlandi broke his rib at the end of the first half, leaving his 10 men with only three defenders against the attacking excellence of Bolassie, Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray.

If Poyet can be blamed for anything that led to the loss at Selhurst Park, it is his failure to convince Murray to stay at the club 18 months ago, meaning he was scoring against us rather than for us last weekend. But again, is it Poyet’s fault that Murray wanted more money than the club was prepared to pay him? It isn’t, and you only have to look 50 miles along the A27 to see what happens when a football club spends beyond its means. We are very lucky to have a chairman who is sensible with the club’s finances – rather than one that will risk everything for a chance of securing a Premier League berth – even if it did make me want to string myself up from the nearest lamppost at 4.50pm last Saturday!

The defensive crisis we now have as a result of Dunk’s red card, plus injuries to Orlandi, Bridge, Marcos Painter, El-Abd and Bruno, brings me onto our ever increasing habit of conceding late goals. It has happened three times in the last month – against Wolves, Huddersfield and Bolton – and has the potential to ruin our chances of making the play-offs come May. Whilst we still managed to escape with all three points at Huddersfield, we weren’t so lucky against Wolves and Bolton, dropping a total of four vital points. If we had held onto those points we’d currently be fourth, and even defeat at Palace would have seen Poyet under little pressure from those on the terraces.

Margins in football can be extremely slim. Those who want Poyet sacked may crave instant success, but axing him would put us further away from the promised land, not closer. He has already taken us from League One relegation fodder to Championship play-off contenders in three years. If he is here for another three years, who knows where we could end up.

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

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