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…
“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.