Saints & Seagulls!
The full list of new teams playing in the Championship next season has now been confirmed following Peterborough`s 3-0 win yesterday at Old Trafford in the League 1 play-offs final against Huddersfield. Posh are promoted along with League 1 champions, Brighton & Hove Albion and runners-up, Southampton. Coming down from the Premier League are of course West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham.
All that remains now is to find out who we will get shut of! Will it be Reading or Swansea joining QPR and Norwich City in the Premier League next season? We will find out today (Monday 30th May) following the Championship Play-Offs Final at Wembley (Kick-Off 3pm). Going in the other direction of course, Clarets fans will not need to travel to Deepdale, Bramall Lane or Glanford Park next season following the demise and relegation of Preston, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe. That is of course unless we draw the new League 1 clubs in the cup competitions.
Clarets fans though now potentially have some new grounds to visit for the first time next season and in one case, Brighton, a completely new ground! Apart from Blackpool though and Birmingham in the Midlands, most of the new clubs are based in the south or east, so there will certainly be a lot of travelling involved next season for the local Clarets faithful. London Clarets and those of us based in Cambridgeshire though probably have a wry smile on their face at the moment! :-)
With that in mind today we look at both the Saints and the Seagulls, two clubs who have had a topsy -turvy existence these past few seasons.
Brighton were perhaps the surprise League 1 package this season and have been superbly guided to become champions under manager Gus Poyet. Poyet replaced Russell Slade in November 2009 with Brighton staring relegation in the face. In the end he steered the ship to safety with the Seagulls finishing 10 points off the relegation zone by the end of the 2009-10 season! Survival is one thing, but to turn that round to become Champions the next season after is the stuff that dreams are made of! Brighton finished top with 95 points from their 46 games with a remarkable goal difference of plus 45.
Their leading hotshot with 22 goals was 27 year old striker, Glenn Murray but he won`t be facing the Clarets in a Brighton shirt next season after signing for Crystal Palace this month.
They also had another 20 goal man last season in the shape of Ashley Barnes. Barnes signed a two-year contract with Brighton & Hove Albion in July 2010 after transferring for an undisclosed fee from Plymouth Argyle. We will certainly have to be wary of the 21 year old striker when we play the Seagulls next season!
Brighton were formed in 1901 becoming a Football League club in 1920. They played at the Goldstone Ground for well-over 90 years until one day in 1997 the directors decided to sell their ground without a new facility to go to causing uproar amongst the fans! They finished up sharing Gillingham`s ground, the Priestfield Stadium, for two seasons between 1997 and 1999, before returning to Brighton. Since that time they have played at the infamous, ramshackle, athletic ground known as the Withdean Stadium.
Now though they have a new stadium to go to and from the start of the 2011-12 season will be playing at the Falmers Stadium (aka American Express Community Stadium), an arena holding 22,500 fans! What a relief that will be for all fans well-aware of the Withdean problems!
You would have to go back to the 2005-6 season for the last time we played Brighton. That season, Brighton were relegated after finishing bottom of the Championship table and since then have been playing League 1 football. The Clarets did not take much advantage in their two games against Brighton during 2005-6 only managing two draws despite the Seagulls lowly predicament. We played out a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor before going to the Withdean Stadium later that season and picking up yet another point in a goalless draw.
Southampton of course are another club who have had mixed fortunes over the last few seasons.
It was Burnley who sealed their fate at the end of our promotion season in April 2009. In our penultimate game of the season, we travelled to St Mary`s and came away with a point after a 2-2 draw. It left Clarets fans wondering if we would still make the play-offs and it would need a win against Bristol City at home to confirm that; a win that we thankfully got in style after trouncing the Robins 4-0. It was worse for the Saints fans though, they needed more than a point to ensure survival and one point in the end was not enough. They finished second from bottom and were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in 50 years. Their plight of course was not helped by the fact that the club`s parent company had gone into administration earlier in the season with the club being controversially docked 10 vital points. Their fall from grace was remarkable considering within the six previous years they had been FA Cup runners-up, played in the UEFA Cup participants and finished as high as 8th in the Premier League.
Southampton are back in the Championship now tough, so once again a club has proved that going into administration is not the end of the world.
They finished this season as League 1 runners-up gaining the second automatic promotion spot. The Saints amassed 92 points from their 46 league games and even had a better goal difference than champions, Brighton finishing the season on plus 48! Striker, Rickie Lambert was their top scorer with 21 goals. Lambert completed the move to Southampton from Bristol Rovers in August 2009; a deal worth in excess of £1 million.
Former Scunthorpe boss, Nigel Adkins is their current manager; he became Saints gaffer in September 2010 after agreeing a three year contract following the departure of Alan Pardew.
Let's hope that the Clarets will be 'coasting' to victory on the coast next season when we play these two newly promoted teams!