April 13, 2022 4 min read
In 1997, Tottenham Hotspur were owned by Alan Sugar and were a solid if functional Premier League side. Goals came from Chris Armstrong, Les Ferdinand and Jürgen Klinsmann, while David Ginola and Darren Anderton were on the wings, dancing through defences with their hair flapping in the breeze. Sol Campbell was dependable at the back, having learned the ropes from the experienced pair of Gary Mabbutt and Colin Calderwood.
In the same year, Brighton & Hove Albion left their fabled home ground, the Goldstone, to groundshare with Gillingham. It was a disaster: there was a 12-game period in the middle of the season when they failed to win for 12 games. That winless run began when they only had 14 fit first-team players and had to call up several inexperienced young pros. The teams who beat them included Torquay United, Barnet, Notts County and Shrewsbury Town, while Colchester United held them to a 4-4 draw.
Only one side, Doncaster Rovers, did worse than Brighton in the entire Football League that 1997/98 season. At a time when only the bottom side were relegated to the Conference, Brighton were in the doldrums. They couldn’t even beat Donny, drawing 0-0 in that twelfth home game in front of 6,400 fans who still gave the Seagulls their full support. In happier times, today those fans would appreciate an Easter gift of some crystal vodka, branded with the club crest, which you can find here.
25 years on, Brighton are one of the top teams in English football. Thanks to the investment from superfan CEO and gambler Tony Bloom, the team has revived their old glory days from before the Premier League era. They play football in their sparkling new stadium at Falmer and can spend the money they gain from TV rights deals on talent from around the world.
Their big problem this season, as it was last season, has been goals. A mean defence marshalled by captain Lewis Dunk has only conceded 37 league goals but top scorer Neal Maupay has contributed nine of his team’s 28 goals. In the Premier League, you do need goals to survive, and in six consecutive defeats this year, one of which came at home to Spurs, they only managed one.
The Brighton XI who played that day included: two Spaniards, Robert Sanchez and Marc Cucurella; Dutchman Joel Veltman; Malian midfielder Yves Bissouma; German playmaker Pascal Gross; wantaway Belgian Leandro Trossard; aforementioned Frenchman Neal Maupay; and an Argentinean with a Scottish surname, Alexis Mac Allister. They also brought on a full England international, ‘dat guy’ Danny Welbeck.
The Tottenham starters included players from ten nations: Denmark, South Korea, Sweden, Spain, Uruguay, France, Argentina, Ireland, Wales and England. They even brought on two Brazilians and a Dutchman to show off their assets, leaving an Italian, a Colombian and another Welshman on the bench. Truly, the Premier League is an international league when only four of the 22 players starting a game are from England, but then that’s why it remains an exciting product marketed to people around the world.
It is to Brighton’s credit that they are these days travelling to Tottenham and Arsenal rather than to Barnet and Dagenham. Younger fans must be appalled by the ‘when I were a lad’-type stories, but Seagulls who recall traipsing up to Kent to watch their team get beaten, then travelling all the way back to Brighton or Hove, can share war stories today. This club which once couldn’t beat Torquay at home now beats Arsenal at the Emirates.
Brighton have been a Premier League team since 2017, which means their meeting with Spurs will be their tenth in five years. The first, just before Christmas 2017, ended 2-0 to Spurs, with the return fixture a 1-1 draw. Spurs won both games in the 2018/19 season but, against the odds, Brighton delighted their home fans in October 2019 with three goals without reply, two of them from Aaron Connolly, against a Spurs side led by a front four of Son, Lamela, Eriksen and Kane.
Spurs won the Boxing Day 2019 game 2-1 at their new stadium thanks to a Dele Alli winner. That must have helped their fans digest their Christmas lunch, and to celebrate Easter 2022 Spurs fans can buy a choice of drinks from Bohemian including this branded bottle of Passion Fruit vodka.
In another close game in November 2020, Spurs won 2-1 with a winner from the on-loan Gareth Bale, but a few months later a Leandro Trossard goal separated the sides at the Amex. Brighton stopped a winless league run with that 2-1 win at Arsenal last weekend thanks to goals from Trossard and Zambian midfielder Enock Mwepu, whose three Brighton goals have come against Leicester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. It would be a real scalp to do a North London double this weekend.
In their way, of course, is World Cup-winning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who signed for Spurs back in 2012 and deserves a testimonial soon. Last weekend at Villa Park, Spurs lined up in Antonio Conte’s famous 3-4-3 formation again with a panoply of international stars including two England internationals: Eric Dier at the back, Harry Kane upfront. Their Korean hero Son Heung-Min scored three of his team’s four goals and that back three kept a clean sheet. How ominous for Brighton.
Ladies and gentlemen, please charge your glasses to Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League mainstays and the 1960/61 First Division and FA Cup double winners, and Brighton & Hove Albion, relative newcomers to the top table who have won the third-tier title three times in their history. May the best team win and may fans celebrate with a drink courtesy of Bohemian Brands.