21 January 2011


Here's a thought for non-season ticket holding fans of Brighton and Hove Albion.  How on earth are we going to get tickets for the last match at Withdean?

Withers is the sort of place where one can afford the arrogance to presume a ticket can always be procured.  There's always a mate of a mate who's on holiday, or a last minute bout of influenza that knocks out one regular from his green plastic seat.

Hell, you can even go to the swanky club shop and buy a ticket over the counter, I mean what's 25 quid between friends?

But the Huddersfield match, oh no no.  This match is the big one.  There will be arguments as to what was the most important match at Withdean; some might say the Mansfield match, some might drop in Swindon or Chesterfield.  Let's be honest though, the last hurrah will be epic.  There's no uncertain future here, there's potentially a promotion as well.  Start queuing now, tickets for this one will be certified gold dust, the hottest ticket in town, the show to end all shows.

Thinking back about sell-outs at Withers, there hasn't been many.  Manchester City was the biggest crowd for sure, but who can think back to that first season in 1999?

The first match was quite an experience.  Two years under the permanent grey shroud that enveloped Gillingham made way for brilliant sunshine, a full house and Dick and Micky's BHAFC 2.0.

Sitting on the back row of G block that day I was well aware that not everybody could get a ticket for the game.  Among the chitter chatter of excited fans, the cackle of Nicky Keig-Shevlin and the endless verses of Atilla's poetry over the tannoy there was the constant sound of leaves crunching and branches breaking. 

What beasts lived in the Withdean woods, maybe we had underestimated the numbers of Badgers in there after all?

Suddenly you could here voices and then, through the deep green folliage a Kappa-branded arm would appear, then a scruffy Reebok Classic, then centre-parted haircuts surrounding a forehead in a curtain shape.  This was 1999 and these were the Withdean Tree Monkeys.

It was all clear now, hundreds of kids scamperring up the old trunks like the most adept Lemurs of Madagascar.  The South stand is pretty tall remember, these juveniles had no fear.  They wanted to see the match so bad they didn't care if they fell 30 feet (and they did, often).

On that first match Martin Perry had to walk up and shout at the fans to climb down.  He said the game wouldn't go ahead unless they retreated.  Fluorescent jacketed minions walked through the woods trying to find the Tree Monkeys but with little luck.

The trend soon died down.  The woods was blocked off and green sheets were erected on the back of the stand to stop anyone peering in.  Withdean became Fort Knox and the Monkeys moved on.

It dawned on me today, where once 11 years ago I looked on at these climbers and felt so lucky to be sat in the relative comfort of G Block, I now have to face up to the fact that I may have to learn the art of these Withdean Tree Monkeys for the last game at the stadium.  I'd have to be sharper, stronger and smarter than my previous incumbents, but the desire is there, I will watch that game, somehow, I'll get into the party.

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