14 February 2013


I was thinking about a previous time when Albion were pretty good but still not good enough for the play-offs.

Cast your mind back to the Spring of 2008. Albion were in League One and getting a bit bored of it all, there was no Falmer on the horizon and the Dean Wilkins Sussex 11 were starting to disband.

None the less, there was talent in our ranks, yet in typical Albion style it was all too inconsistent. You would go to a match and not really know which mood Albion would come out in. Sometimes we were excellent, especially on the road, but sometimes we looked like a pub team, especially at home.

We had never really been in the play-off positions, but hovered around 7th or 8th for large parts of the season. With a bit of momentum building as April came upon us, just like today, we were hoping for two things to happen; a) Albion would finally click and come into imperious form for the last 6 weeks and b) one of the teams above us would lose their heads and fall like a stone.

So, on a balmy day at Withdean, with positivity in the air and a feeling that this could be a famous season, we welcomed bottom of the table Port Vale to Tongdean Lane. Vale were having a forgettable season, it seemed like they had collected about 5 points by Christmas and had been pretty much written off by everybody. Albion, in a bit of form and with an opportunity to maybe sneak into the top 6 would take these lambs to the slaughter, right?


Vale were 2-0 up in 18 minutes. Albion were playing in their pub team guise, and Withdean was overcome by a deathly silence. Remember those games where you could really hear the shouts of the players on the pitch? Well this game you could hear the bench, the ref, the hot dogs sellers, a guy in Surrenden Fields on his phone ... it was crap. This was when people really started turning on Withdean, 8 years in and the club seemingly going nowhere.

Dean Cox got a goal back but Danny Whittaker (pictured) got a third on 87 minutes, a howitzer from 30 yards, one of the greats of the Withdean era. This wasn't a fluky result for Vale either; they dominated the game hitting the bar 4 times along with their 3 goals.  Murray got a second for Albion in stoppage time, plus we had a goal disallowed in the last few seconds, but don't let that cloud your judgement as to how poor we were that day.

Against Blackburn on Tuesday there was a similar feel to, at least, the result. While we may have played well, we weren't good enough.  In 2008 we finished 1 place outside the play-offs but 10 points adrift of 6th place.  The summer saw changes that were, in a way, the start of this adventure we're on now. Wilkins was sacked controversially and replaced by the returning Mickey Adams. A year and a half later, and in consequence to that move, new Chairman Tony Bloom brought in Gus Poyet, ground was broken on The Amex, and we won that bloody league (eventually) with a swagger that made that team one of the best in Third Division history.  Vale did go down and have had a rough time of it since, but we hope a corner has been turned for the Burslem club.

On a side note, the team that escaped relegation that year were Crewe Alexandra, who we played on the first game of the 08/09 season, a game where we launched TSLR for the first time. We also gave Colin Hawkins a debut that day too.

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