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Withdean and I

Submitted by on November 25, 2010 – 9:31 amNo Comment

Atkinson will make it '83

Due to a combination of time constraints, other commitments and listening to Lazy-itus, we haven’t got anything original to contribute ahead of FC United’s biggest game of all time. The reds travel to Brighton tomorrow to face the Seagulls at one of the worst football grounds in the civilised world. It’s the FA Cup second round on Saturday and it’s kicking off at 3pm. Wahey.

Brighton and Hove Albion have embarrassed themselves with their arrogance regarding FC’s woeful ticket allocation of 800-odd, despite only 3-4,000 home fans expected at the Withdean Athletics Stadium. It’s got the feel of Middlesbrough away in the cup a few years ago when they gave reds 2,000 ish tickets and there were about 16,000 fans present at the Riverside.

The FA haven’t helped us, because we’re in a position to highlight their failings in the running of the game. They will beat us down, whenever they get the chance.

Brighton’s good on the ale though, so all is not lost. Just remember your binoculars.

Here’s a preview from fc-utd.co.uk:

FC United make their first ever trip to the south coast this weekend as the Reds take on League One leaders Brighton & Hove Albion in the second round of the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON, knowing they are potentially 90 minutes away from an unthinkable tie with Premier League opposition. Craig Phillips provides this preview…

The Reds come into the tie full of confidence knowing that they can take on and beat League One opposition. Rochdale were disposed of in the first round proper with Mike Norton’s hard fought, if controversial, winner coming with virtually the last kick of the ball in what will always be an unforgettable night for all those associated with the club.

Since that night of heroics though, FC United have lost four straight games going down in the league at Northwich Victoria and Colwyn Bay, before losing out in the FA Carlsberg Trophy last weekend to Hinckley United, and then a much changed United side were beaten at Ashton on Monday evening in the League Challenge Cup.

Inevitably, United have now also lost their element of surprise since their shock win at Spotland so Gus Poyet’s team won’t be underestimating their Manchester visitors after undoubtedly watching the tapes of the Reds’ victory.

One thing that could work in United’s favour is that Poyet has set his sights firmly on promotion to the Championship and used the previous round of the FA Cup to rotate his squad.

And despite leading League One, the Seagulls, just like FC United, are suffering from a loss of recent form. Albion are now without a win in normal time from their last five matches with the only victory in their last five needing a replay and penalties to see off Conference South side Woking

In the other dugout, FC United manager Karl Marginson knows anything can happen in the FA Cup. Margy will definitely opt to field his strongest side although a few players will be missing through injury.

As well as the long-term injuries such as Ludovic Quistin and Steve Torpey, left-back Lee Neville will be out due to a stress fracture injury to the foot and the Reds will wait for news on the extent of right-back Kyle Jacobs’ injury sustained at Northwich. The good news is Ben Deegan came through 45 minutes in Monday’s game at Ashton meaning he should be available for the trip to the Withdean Stadium.

For the past two rounds Margy has had one word to say before the games, ‘enjoyment’. No doubt that’s a message he will be reiterating to his team before this game. It’s about taking in the occasion and representing this club of ours on a national scale and most importantly having a good time.

We now turn to Saturday’s opponents; Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit at the top of League One four points clear of second placed Charlton Athletic, and to put the task into perspective 15 points clear of Rochdale.

Founded in 1901 The Seagull’s were members of the Southern League until they were elected into the Football League in 1920. Since then the club have had a bright history with their best spell coming in the late 70’s early 80’s when they played in the first division.

The Seagull’s also have good FA Cup pedigree and just like our opponents in the last round have encountered Manchester United in the competition, taking them to a replay in the 1983 final before losing 4-0 with the United goals coming from Norman Whiteside, Arnold Muhren and a brace from the original ‘captain marvel’ Bryan Robson.

For over a decade now, the Seagulls have been fighting battles off the pitch. Despite protests, the club’s board controversially decided to sell the Goldstone Ground in 1997 which left the club ground-sharing with Gillingham, some 70 miles away, for two years.

In 1999, Albion moved back to the local area at least but have been playing their home games at the Withdean Stadium, an athletics venue and even a former zoo. Things got worse before they got better for the club though as they announced debts of £9.5million in 2004.

The Seagulls fans rallied around the club and managed to raise £2.5million towards paying off the debt with fundraising schemes from a charity single to nude Christmas cards – a potential idea for the Development Fund!

During this time the club managed to win promotion to the Championship although they were relegated in 2006 but off the field developments saw the start of building work on their new 22,500 seater Falmer Stadium, which is set to be completed in May 2011.

Former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur player Gus Poyet took over the reigns of the club in 2009 and while the club only managed to finish 13th last season they made a much brighter start to this season.

Undoubtedly The Seagulls team will be full of danger but Margy’s men will have to look to negate the threat of top scorer Ashley Barnes who has netted seven times this season, and at the other end of the pitch the experience of former Tottenham and West Ham defender Mauricio Taricco could prove difficult to beat.

The Reds enter the game as 9-1 underdogs with the bookies but with absolutely no pressure on them, Margy’s side will thrive off the lowly status and the chance to pull-off the unexpected once more as the club is thrust into the national media spotlight.

Saturday’s game is an all ticket affair, with United’s allocation completely sold out. There will be coverage on FCUM Radio and extended highlights on ITV1 that evening, so no matter where you are on Saturday, be it at the Withdean, surrounding the laptop with your mates listening to Swampy or even doing weekend chores, get behind the lads and let’s make it another memorable day for our club.

And here is a statement from the FC United board on Brighton’s pathetic allocation policy, that’s made them a laughing stock throughout football (Brighton not our board…):

FC United can confirm that despite the best efforts of the club, Saturday’s ticket allocation at Brighton remains 845 and the game will be closely policed. Brighton have asked us to inform supporters that the match is all-ticket and that no tickets will be available on the day.

The board takes this situation very seriously and shares supporters’ frustration and concern about these decisions. We are continuing to make representations to the various authorities about the reasons for these decisions as we believe they are unfair and unrepresentative of our club.

A fuller statement will be made by the board at the appropriate time, once we have taken these representations as far as we can, and responses from the different authorities have been considered. We will not shy from defending the reputation of our supporters where necessary but nor will we neglect our responsibilities as a football club.

It also needs noting that our club will be under the microscope more so than ever this weekend. Our undoubted strength is that we are a ‘club’ in the truest sense. There is no separation between ‘club’ and ‘supporters’, we are all FC United. As such we all hold collective responsibility for the actions of those who attend our games. We all know what is acceptable and we know what is not, what is permitted and what is prohibited. Let our actions before, during and after the match on Saturday reflect our good name.

We hope all supporters who are travelling to Brighton enjoy the trip and get behind the team in what remains the biggest match in our short history. Brighton fans have campaigned hard over a number of years to ensure the survival of their club and there is a strong tradition of supporting fans at other clubs doing likewise. Everyone at FC United is looking forward to meeting old friends, renewing acquaintances and highlighting common fans’ causes with Brighton supporters.

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