17 December 2013


Last night the excellent Brighton and Hove Albion Collectors and Historians Society (BHACHS) invited TSLR to the opening of the new Albion museum on a rainy evening at the back of Dick's Bar. We were treated to mince pies, Albion royalty, mulled wine, a couple of speeches, and a misty eyed trip down the old Goldstone Lane.

Uncle Tony gave a speech welcoming 'distinguished guests' (and us, presumably) whilst offering an unlikely comparison - somehow linking the struggle for an Albion museum with that of the struggles of Mahatma Gandhi. I think TB was referring to the wider Albion struggle for a stadium, which is much more like Gandhi's struggle for an independent India, right? But it suited the moment and, in that instance, I bought whatever Mr Bloom was selling, and I saw perhaps for the first time some of the charm that has helped him become so rich. TB praised curator Tim Carder, who also gave a speech (and who by putting the museum together is, in my opinion, allowed to compare himself with Gandhi). During the ribbon cutting, TB looked slightly demonic standing so close to Dick Knight with a pair of scissors.

The showpiece area of the place is situated in the middle and effectively features three major works of art. Replica (and immensely calculated) miniature models of the Goldstone and Withdean are triangulated by an actual working turnstile - taken from the West Stand side of the Goldstone. The turnstile looks a picture of historical splendour, and far more majestic than it would have done during its dying days in the old ground. You can feel its historical importance and, for the first time in over 16 years, it looks at home. It is at home (though we can't use it downstairs, it hasn't got a fancy barcode reader).

There's actual art too, famous players, old football shirts, a bit about programmes and fanzines (where somehow TSLR got used on a seemingly permanent display board), a few old medals plus interactivity for the kids who hate books. The toys include a video room where, I must confess, I did get distracted for far too long by a video of former Albion players offering their hind-sighted insight from our sacrifice in that piss pot trophy semi-final defeat at Luton. I don't even need a museum for that pain, I still feel it!
There's another exhibit containing almost all the official Albion merchandise tat that exists in all of our lives, somehow made less tacky by the romanticism of time. I can only think that the duvet cover, circa 1992, was frozen to preserve its printed on white Albion logo on its slightly incorrectly blue single cover (mine was but a mess in the summer of 1995). Another nice little touch is a series of Albion songs - past and present - that are featured as part of the ceiling in the section leading towards the turnstile. It includes 'oh Lord, PC Beard' - a hymn of sorts that accompanied my early existence in the North Stand, something that was fast becoming simply a figment of my imagination.

Preserving the history of the club is important and thanks to Carder we know more about this football club than ever before. So how do you condense 113-odd years of history into one museum? You can't get every wonderful Albion story in there, but you can get a real sense of the club, and that is what they have done. Partly, this is due to the distinct lack of trophies.

Were the rumours of Bill Archer and David Bellotti melting down our Sussex Senior Cups for cash true? Surely there's a Jewish Chronicle Cup from the early 1980s somewhere? And what about those four trophies over the last 12 years? Did bloody Poyet take them? Did Gus say he'd won them? I take it that means that the Charity Shield from the 1900s is not making a reappearance any time soon. There are some winning medals, and international caps but the museum is missing a centre piece trophy. It could do with a 1926 FA Cup trophy - the finest piece of silverware I have ever seen - but we didn't win that one, I don't think.

And therein the museum typifies the Albion perfectly: a lot of wonderful memories, but not enough trophies. Can you ever have enough trophies? I suppose not.

Ultimately, what goes in the museum doesn't really matter. What the Albion means to you is all that matters. This new museum is there to whet the appetite, to give the next generation of Albion kids the chance to be inspired at the end of a Falmer tour. A chance that we never had, and a chance the next generation always tends to throw back in their elders faces. But at least we tried, and we even gave them a quiz machine. Well, BHACHS did. And we're pleased they did.

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