#1 PRE-SEASON IS OVER
Over the years it has become clearer and clearer that attending pre-season friendlies is a waste of your life. That is, unless you incorporate it into a hilarious drunken trip abroad, paying over £500 for an overinflated short holiday in the hope of getting a selfie with Beram Kayal to impress your friends on Instagram. These trips can be enhanced massively when your Spanish speaking accomplices use another language to tell Calde that we love him or if a mid-match full blown squad dust-up causes a ‘friendly’ to be abandoned. But when the pre-season friendly is at Crawley - and nobody really cares about the result, not even the players - it really isn’t fun. Tonight’s visit of the Merry Men of Nottingham represents an end to the ‘are we any good? debate stoked by wasting time playing teams over the summer that bear little resemblance to Division 2 rivals.
#2 NEW SIGNINGS
Having completely exonerated myself from pre-season duties, I get to see the new players tonight for the first time. Will Niki Mäenpää be the most complete Finn since Hyypiä? Does he smoke Marlboro Lights? Could Tomer Hemed be a more lucrative striker than Chris O'Grady? Can Hemed and Kayal attack opposition teams like the IDF? Will Gaetan Bong live up to the legendary status his name inspires? Is Jack Harper the new Vitalijs Maksimento? Is Vahid Hambo (that hunk, above) really the new Ibrahimovic? Plus, not only could we find out some answers, we get to spend the whole match saying to our next seat neighbour, ‘who on earth is number 23?’ (Liam Rosenior, if anyone asks).
#3 FALMER STADIUM
When it was just a field, we all knew this place would be special. It had a special place in our hearts before a brick had been laid, quite simply because of the battle it took. It has since somehow embedded its way deeper into my heart. I only saw it once over the summer - on a dog walk at Stanmer Park - and even from afar, it was beautiful. Tonight I will immerse myself in its inner beauty for the first time in a couple of months and, right then, I’ll feel back at my rightful home. It was tarnished slightlyby that Play-Off match awhile back, but time is a great healer and I can’t wait to be back.
#4 SEEING OLD FRIENDS
Some of my best friends are Albion fans. And yet, despite them being amongst my best, there are a fair few who I only speak to from early August until early May (sometimes a little further into May but not often). It means that in most of May and all of June and July every year, these people barely exist. Tonight, they will re-enter my consciousness, and stay there until May. I love these guys, but do I care all summer? Nope.
#5 THE NEW LEGENDS WALL
Good design? Yep. Good selection of former Albion players? Yep. Some wonderful stories from Albion fans? Yep. Are we talking about a new issue of TSLR? Unfortunately not. We’re talking about the new legends wall at Falmer. Let’s be honest, it looks absolutely brilliant. It’s something done by the club that has two elements they have always struggled to deliver: a) decent design that you would actually fork out £20 for a t-shirt for and b) well publicised. I watched all the posters get unveiled on Twitter and was very impressed with the way the club maintained my interest on social media for the whole night. They should also be given credit for when Bobby Zamora almost broke the Internet last week (well, Twitter anyway).
I’m a big fan of professional cycling and can easily pass a few hours watching cricket or ice hockey, but football is the one. And don’t get me started on some of the tripe I’ve watched this summer. Tennis, golf, various racing (in water, on roads in EPO fuelled athletics tracks, on horse or dog tracks, with engines, without engines, basically it’s just who goes faster), hockey and even netball was on the news this morning. If sports were people, then football would be my wife. And I love her dearly. And she’s been on a business trip too long. And this analogy has gone too far now.
#7 STALKING PLAYERS
Don’t worry, I’m not actually stalking players in real life. No, I’m doing it online. That’s fine, right? I have spent far too much time going shopping with Danny Holla’s wife on Instagram (lovely though she and her friends appear to be in a carefully managed snapshot update that accounts for about 24 hours of their lives). Only last night I was watching our Israelis getting their haircuts together. I am so obsessed with the squad I was happy to watch them throughout the summer muddle on with their dull little lives. Maybe if we can all concentrate on football then I don’t have to get excited watching David Stockdale Tweet a link to buy his football gloves every night.
#8 HUGHTON’S NEW BRAND OF ATTACKING TIPPY-TAPPY FLOWING TOTAL FOOTBALL
OK, so I’m completely taking the Micky Adams now. But seriously, I am looking forward to seeing if Hughton’s actual brand of football dullness could possibly bore other teams into submission and give us an unlikely spot in the play-offs. It will certainly help that we’re not in the bottom three when he starts this time, and he does have a track record (so I’m told, I can’t be bothered to Google whether his Newcastle and Norwich sides won 1-0 a lot but I’m sure they did) of delivering results. Yes, the flair may not be there, but then we had ten years’ worth of excitement in this category during one magical Vicente season. It's time for cardigans now.
#9 THE CLUB SHOP
For us non-Brightonians - or the ones who only go to the town centre! - this is a chance to see whether all those t-shirts modelled online actually look that bad. A chance to buy two new away kits at even more ridiculously high prices than ever - even though you’ve only just bought an away kit last season. A chance to buy some overpriced cheap tat because it has an Albion logo on it and you know damn well we’re trying to get in line with FFP yet still want a goalscorers who can bag 20 goals a season. A chance to routinely waste my pocket money, like I did in in a Portakabin at the back of the Goldstone (though my pocket money is now referred to as ‘wages’) and love it. Perhaps I don’t know why it’s so golden but that opening match visit to the club shop is still special. And always will be. Though, if it’s fashion sense you’re after, best get along to the TSLR TAT BOUTIQUE.
Is there anything more that could be said about the return of the Chosen One? As my co-editor put it on Twitter the other night, a whole lot of Brighton fans ‘lost their shit’ after the late night announcement last week when Bobby Zamora trended on social media and I wet myself instead of going to bed. I always hoped this day would come and now it has. As someone on Twitter with a cleverer and wittier mind than mine said, even if Bobby is injured or rubbish all season it doesn’t matter because he came home. It’s the second best homecoming since that Nottingham Forest friendly at Withdean brought an end to Saturday forays into Kent. He is on the programme cover, he will be unveiled to teh crowd and I might just cry. Fatter and older. But Bobby just the same. For all our thoughts on the Bobby return, simply read this fabulous blog post on NSC. And the best thing about it all? This photo doing the rounds has MALCOLM STEWART in the background.