If there is a common theme occurring in League One this season it is inconsistency. The division is more competitive than ever with a whole host of teams challenging for promotion – just 7 points separate 2nd placed Charlton from 13th placed Brentford. One team has really impressed so far and appear to have found the formula for success. Brighton have lost just two of their opening 18 games and have emerged as early league leaders following some brilliant results.
Tipped as dark-horses, Brighton were expected to challenge for a play-off spot. No-one would have predicted this though. 4 points clear after 18 games, they proudly sit top of the League One table. They have even trailed off recently – the South coast side had an 8 point gap from their nearest challenger at one point.
Credited for their success is Gus Poyet. The Uruguayan manager has brought the continental game to the Withdean. He has brought a style of football that isn’t associated with this level to Brighton. The Seagull’s look dangerous in attack, whilst solid in defence and currently have the best goal difference in the division. Full-backs Inigo Calderon, who has been a revelation since signing in the summer, and Marcos Painter, who has said that he is in the best form of his career, are expected to provide width whilst Radostin Kishishev has been given a new lease of life in the defensive midfield position. Going forward much has been made of the talented Kazenga Lua Lua, who joined on loan from Newcastle, but often overlooked are the likes of Matt Sparrow and Elliot Bennett who are equally as dangerous. Indeed, Lua Lua often doesn’t start in away games. Key to Brighton’s system though is their passing game which is fitting of a far higher division than League One. Happy to maintain possession for lengthy periods of time Brighton look a team filled with class, poise and grace. Poyet’s influence and background is certainly shining through.
The fans have certainly got excited by it. Sizable followings have been taken to Peterborough, Southampton and Charlton and they have made themselves heard. The chants, flares and banners brought by the supporters have continued the continental style off the pitch. They are used to away wins now. Last season Brighton’s away form was good. Their home form was awful though and it ultimately cost them a chance in the play-offs. However, both at home and away they have been outstanding this season and their Withdean jitters appear to have been rectified.
The home form of the 2009-2010 campaign could be blamed on the stadium. The Withdean is a horrible place. Soulless, with an athletic track surrounding the pitch, supporters are a long way back from the playing surface and it is not a nice place to be playing football at. It hardly has the makings of a “fortress”. Arguably the most exciting news on the horizon for Brighton fans is the arrival of Falmer. A new, modern, stadium is on the way. Falmer is the complete opposite of the Withdean. A 22,500 all seater ground with state-of-the-art facilities, Brighton fans may finally have a stadium to be proud of. A stadium which fits the brand of football they play.
If Brighton continue to play in this manner it is hard to look past them for promotion this season. They have transformed from dark-horses to early favourites for the title. Championship football will be exciting. Falmer will be even more. People forget that 30 years ago Brighton were a very big club. A club reaching the F.A Cup final and playing in the top tier of English football. They have still kept the fan-base. They are another “fallen giant” in League One. They may not be “fallen” for much longer though. The Seagulls are flying high and, with what looks like a promising future ahead of them, they may not have reached the top of their ascent yet.