What awesome news for Brighton and Hove Albion and their long suffering fans. Boss Chris Hughton has led them to the promised land and the Premier League and its riches for the very first time. It's their second time in the top flight in their 116 year existence and they can go up as champions with a 6th straight win at Norwich City on Friday evening.
It has not always been a bed of roses. Three out of the last four seasons they have failed in the play-offs , while almost 20 years to the day their very existence was in doubt. They were losing 1-0 at Hereford United and facing a drop into non league football until they equalized and Hereford went down and went bust. My only visit to the old Goldstone Stadium was in August 1983 when I took a group to watch a pre season friendly at home to Manchester United. A police escort met our bus outside town to see that we arrived safely, and the same escort after the match.
Earlier in the year on 21 May in the FA Cup Final the two teams had tied 2-2 at Wembley Stadium in front of 99,000 fans. Albion had been relegated the previous season and had never before reached the final. Five days later at the same stadium in the replay United prevailed 4-0. Jimmy Melia was the Seagulls manager and Ron Atkinson for The Red Devils.
After the match at Hereford the club were still in the wilderness. For two years they had to travel 150 miles round trip to Priestfield Stadium in Gillingham in Kent after their Goldstone Ground had to be sold to pay debts in 1997 and then many seasons at the Withdeamn athletics stadium before the new era at the custom built 30,000 capacity AMEX stadium and a training ground. The sweet 2-1 victory over Wigan will give the club at least a 200 million pound windfall. Thousands stayed behind to watch the later match between Derby County and Huddersfield Town on the big screen. When Butterfield made it 1-1 for the Rams in the 88th minute, and Newcastle United were beaten at Ipswich Town, Brighton's promotion was assured. Proud owner Tony Bloom, a fan for 40 years, took over 8 years ago and has invested 250 million pounds into the club since.
Rotherham United are relegated and with only 18 points so far, twenty two behind Wigan Athletic who seem destined to join them. It looks like either Blackburn Rovers or Nottingham Forest will join them in League One. Sheffield United are already going up and its a battle between Bolton Wanderers and Fleetwood Town for the other automatic spot. Doncaster Rovers, Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle have achieved automatic promotion from League Two, the fourth tier of the pyramid.
Still time for more battles for going up and down in all divisions, and of course the Premier League and four Champions League places still up for grabs with Spurs giving Chelsea a run for their money.
Gianfranco Zola is a really nice guy.. BUT ...having won just two out of twenty eight matches in his short four month reign at Birmingham City, he fired himself after a 2-0 home defeat to Burton Albion at St. Andrews. The strange thing is that the incompetent owners Trillion Trophy Asia fired Gary Rowett when the Blues were in 7th place in The Championship in December, and only 3 points off third place. NOW THEY ARE TWENTIETH.. Wait for it...the new manager...less than 24 hours later is Harry 'Houdini' Redknapp. With just 3 matches remaining, including Sundays visit to nearby Aston Villa, Harry will have to perform magic tricks and pull points out of the hat.