We marched to seafront in pa­rade of joy

Life­long fan and FLP on­line writer Matt Bishop re­flects on a memorable day in Brighton & Hove Al­bion’s his­tory…

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP -

“WE’VE come a long, long way to­gether.”

Those are the lyrics from the song Praise You by fa­mous Brighton fan Fat­boy Slim, played af­ter ev­ery home vic­tory, and they couldn’t be more apt af­ter the Al­bion fi­nally reached the top flight again.

Thirty-four years af­ter we ex­ited the old First Divi­sion, and 20 years af­ter the club came within a whisker of ex­tinc­tion, the Seag­ulls soared into the Premier League on Easter Mon­day – a day that will never be for­got­ten by the fans.

Af­ter 93 min­utes of end­less singing, cheer­ing and some ex­cru­ci­at­ing late ten­sion, pro­mo­tion was all but achieved with a 2-1 win against Wi­gan. And 29,620 Al­bion fans in­side the Amex, the high­est gath­er­ing of home fans ever seen at the stun­ning Sus­sex sta­dium, be­gan to spill ju­bi­lantly onto the pitch.

With thou­sands on the turf their he­roes have graced since 2011, the spe­cial crop of cur­rent play­ers greeted their ador­ing fans from the press box, arms aloft and shirts scat­tered, while chair­man and life­long fan Tony Bloom was above them, swirling a blue and white scarf above his head.

The throng re­sponded with a roar­ing ren­di­tion of ‘Sweet Car­o­line’.

The party con­tin­ued on the con­courses, as many stayed to cel­e­brate, and there were scenes of de­light when Ja­cob Butterfield’s late equaliser for Derby de­nied Huddersfield three points and math­e­mat­i­cally se­cured Premier League foot­ball.

When the full-time whis­tle sounded at Derby, we all went back on to the pitch, with the play­ers also emerg­ing from their lounge, hav­ing wit­nessed what we had.

More singing, more cheer­ing, more un­for­get­table hap­pi­ness. When man­ager Chris Hughton fi­nally ap­peared, his speech could hardly be heard above the adu­la­tion. With the party now in full swing, some three hours af­ter our game had fin­ished, fans be­gan to fil­ter to­wards the sta­tion where trains awaited them back to­wards the city cen­tre.

And the play­ers had sim­i­lar plans.

Packed trains were full of sup­port­ers but also mem­bers of the squad, with amaz­ing scenes of Sam Bal­dock, Jamie Mur­phy and Oliver Nor­wood all be­ing hoisted high and crowd­surf­ing down trains that were ba­si­cally bounc­ing with noise and ex­cite­ment. The at­mos­phere con­tin­ued into the city.

With play­ers on sup­port­ers’ shoul­ders and masses of fans get­ting off the trains, a huge, im­promptu pro­mo­tion pa­rade be­gan along the main road down to­wards the sea, bring­ing the traf­fic to a stand­still.

Ev­ery­where you turned, an­other joyous Brighton player ap­peared, be­fore we reached the end of the road with the squad lead­ing hun­dreds of us in song and dance.

It was an un­for­get­table end­ing to an un­for­get­table day. At 22, I’m not old enough to re­mem­ber the Gold­stone days, but I have lis­tened and read enough to know that, with­out many peo­ple, the club I have loved since I was six wouldn’t be here to­day.

Play­ing foot­ball 70 miles away in Gilling­ham, be­fore 12 sea­sons at Withdean, where I first be­gan watch­ing, makes this pro­mo­tion even more spe­cial.

With­out ded­i­cated sup­port­ers, for­mer chair­man Dick Knight and cur­rent owner Tony Bloom, none of this would have been pos­si­ble. Nor would it have hap­pened with­out the amaz­ing play­ers we have and the bril­liant Chris Hughton.

Who knows what the fu­ture holds, or where it will take us, but one thing is for sure: we will never for­get the day we got pro­moted – and we will never for­get where we have come from.

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