Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Brighton will teach Ipswich some lessons on and off the pitch tonight

Some very intellegent comparisons have been made today between Ipswich and their opponents tonight: Brighton Hove Albion.

Over the years I've heard of Brighton's fight up the leagues, their struggle to rebuild after being forced out of their stadium and the loyal fan base that pulled together for the sake of their club.

The hard work was richly rewarded last year when their first season in the Championship saw them storm up the table during the first half of the year: much like this year, they were top of the table in September. During the second half of the year they dropped momentarily out of the top half, before flirtating briefly with the play offs but finishing in a very respectable 10th place.

By comparison: Ipswich Town, the club with a rich history of success who most football fans expect to be doing well, are stumbling from one mediocre year to the next. The long term plan that has lead to Brighton's recent success seems like a dream to Town fans, who see player's contracts running out, loan players in and out of the side and a severe lack of youth players coming through from our once renowned academy.

Whether we like it or not our club currently bares more resemblance to our previous opponents, Barnsley. The Tykes are a club facing year after year of midtable finishes and a slow build towards a challenge for the Play-Offs.

Is it time to accept this may now be our own destiny? Or should we be fighting for a vision and plan that has given Albion their bright future?

Of course, before that we need rescuing from the very real scrape we find ourselves in at the moment. Until Saturday it felt too early to be worrying about our position in the league, but I'm afraid when the full time whistle blew at Oakwell on Saturday, I found myself thinking for the first time: 'I don't see how we'll get out of this'.

It seems there's always some drama taking place of the pitch at Portman Road nowadays, none more so than this week with Paul Jewell remaining absent from the Under 21's match on Sunday and the press interviews yesterday.

When it comes to match-day though, the only thing that really matters is the result. We (the manager, players and fans) must focus on that tonight.

To help prepare us for what lies ahead, I've been speaking to Brighton fan Brett Mendoza ahead of the match:

1. Last year, was it exciting to do so well as a newly promoted side or disappointing to not be able to carry on the good form enough to go up? 

Going up, I was always going to be happy as long as we didn't get relegated. When we got within touching distance, I started to believe the impossible would happen, but in reality we were an over achieving League One team in the division above. I'm glad it fizzled out with a few games to go. If we had missed out on the last game or in play offs, it would have been much harder to take.

2. Clearly been an amazing start to this year though, can you sum up the season so far?
The season has gone far better than I expected. We have added some real quality to our team. We've signed players from Manchester United, Manchester City and Valencia. The experience we have been lacking from last season has been added. Most importantly a goal keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak who has been (I think) our best signing of the summer. Ipswich nearly took him off our hands too.

3. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a team? 
Weakness: maybe a lack of height and strength in the team. Maybe you could say we don't have a plan B, if our "pass pass pass" game isn't working.
Strengths: we have pace all over the pitch and can create and score goals from any number of players.

4. What are you expecting from Ipswich?
We are at home and have been playing well. We should win comfortably with Ipswich being out of form of late, but football has a habit of throwing up strange things. Ipswich have some great players on paper, so will give us a decent game.

5. We play you at Portman Road on New Years Day... do you expect both sides to still be in the same position at that point in the season?
I'd be amazed if we were still top in January, but I would like to be in the play off mix. Ipswich should have improved by then, so maybe both teams will be in the top 10, but Brighton higher up.

6. A lot is being said at the moment that Ipswich could learn a lot from Brighton's 'long term planning' compared to our own apparent lack of vision for the future. What would you say to that?
The long term planning is the way forward. However it needs a chairman with a great vision and him to find the right person to implement it and stick to the plan. It started off rocky for us, it took Poyet 18 months to sort us out, but we are almost 3 years into his reign and things have never looked better for us in my life time. Not all fans bought into it straight away, but with our chairman and manager I believe we have a very bright future.

7. One thing we do have in common is the lovely Mauriccio Taurrico, is he as popular at The Amex as he was at Portman Road? 
What's not to love? Tano is like a silent assassin, we don't see or hear much from him, but we all know that without him, Poyet's reign would not be as successful as he is now. He even played for us last season and his flair on the pitch as a defender at his age was a joy to behold. The fans definitely love him!

Finally, can I please get a score prediction and a 'player to watch from your side'?
Brighton 2 - 0 Ipswich
Player to watch: Bruno (our right back). He is way too good to be playing in the second tier of English football. Why he is at Brighton I have no idea, but watch out for his bombarding runs forward and Spanish flair.
Every game at the moment seems to be 'must win' for us, it's become a bit of a cliche that starts to mean very little. What we must do is our very best and the fans must continue to support the boys in the way they have.
I was very proud of those that attended Barnsley on Saturday, I'm sure I will be of those wonderful souls making the trip to to The Amex again tonight.
Have a great night and may this finally be the game we start to turn things around.

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