We've the reached the penultimate stage in our series of guest articles. On The Ponty End has been speaking to supporters of the clubs making an appearance in the Championship this year - either as a result of promotion or relegation last season.

Our aim is to provide you with just a small insight in to the expectations and inside track on the fresh opposition that Barnsley FC will face this season. On this occasion, we're delighted to introduce our readers to Brighton and Hove Albion fan Stefan Swift from The Seagull Love Review

You can also follow The Seagull Love Review on Twitter: @tslr

Howdy to the Barnsley fans of the world. I have to begin by stating what a pleasure it is to be rubbing shoulders with teams of Championship ilk this coming season. Unlike the last two occasions we were in this League, there is actual belief we can survive more than two seasons up here. Which is odd. Yet awfully exciting.

There are all sorts of unknowns going in to the new season which I will address fully later: what will the new stadium be like? How will we get there? Where will we drink? Will we simply cry into our locally produced ale? Where are all these exotic places such as Barnsley we must travel to? Will we survive at this level? Who will buy the new hideous away shirt? Will we flog any fanzines?

For the majority of us here at The Seagull Love Review, supporting the club has hardly been emphatic. The biggest crowds we have ever witnessed (other than top flight teams in the Milk Cup) were in the final five months of the Goldstone Ground that had been sold by the dastardly dictatorial directorship of yesteryear (for more on that struggle, check out the newly reprinted book by friends of TSLR, Build a Bonfire). That was followed by an indescribably awful exile in the back end of Kent – groundsharing with Gillingham. The last twelve years at Withdean, our temporary athletics stadium, were only made bearable by early and late successes. None more staggeringly beautiful than last season.

The only thing worth talking about in Brighton at the moment is the new stadium – Falmer (or the American Express Community Stadium, Amex or Falmex in TSLR Towers). A recent trip to the new stadium club offices reveals a new sense of professionalism that is as unnerving as it is exciting. The new stadium currently basks in the glow of a mirage – so magical and fantastical it will take the opening game of the season at home to Doncaster (the side who played us at the Goldstone that last time in 1997) to confirm that the bricks and mortar do actually exist outside of our collective imagination.

Is it worth a historical lesson? I’ll make it brief. Champions of All England in 1909/10 (Charity Shield winners gave that title then) and nothing from then until 1958 and a Division Three title. Then two relegations followed before we were crowned Division Four champions in 1965. Apart from losing the FA Cup Final in 1983 (the culmination of our only four years in the top flight) and becoming beaten play-off finalists in 1991, the next silverware came in 2000 (Div 4); 2001 (Div 3); 2004 (Div 3 Play-Off Champions); and, of course, last year under the Gus Poyet revolution.

Gus has made his flair filled sides perform in a dream like trance to ensure that the Albion will be playing Championship football in a glorious new stadium. His management has been near perfect (although he should have kept Fran Sandaza for comical fanzine reasons) to the point where the biggest success of our summer transfer activity was in Poyet’s future commitment.

Bizarrely, this wasn’t enough for our top scorer from last season – Glenn Mu**ay – to piss off up the road to Crystal Pa**ce. The rivalry between the two sides grew from the 1970s and was reignited throughout the 2000s. This latest bit of business only adds to the two games we’ve all been waiting for since 2005. How did Sir Tony Bloom – our chairman – react? He smashed the club’s transfer record (for the second time this summer) in signing the only striker to outscore Mu**ay in Division Three last season, Craig Mackail-Smith. CMS, it is claimed, turned down bigger money from West Ham and Leicester because the club feels right. If the Albion doesn’t feel right now, then it never will.

We’ve signed some others that might be good but might not be – that’s football – but one we have signed (only on loan until January unfortunately) is Kazenga LuaLua. The Newcastle player has been awesome in two previous loan spells for us and is sure to give full backs a torrid time with his pace alone (although his crossing may still need improving). It’s another signing of real intent from our club.

So, the unknowns…

The new stadium will be amazing. Sure, nobody knows the best route to get there on public transport; the pubs might not allow us in; the tears in our eyes will obscure the pitch whilst dripping into our ale and the superb initial season ticket sales (around 18k apparently – up from 5k at Withdean) may tail off. But, it took 14 odd years to get built and nothing will ruin it for me. Not even a Pa**ce win come 27 September.

We may not have played many teams from the Championship for a few years but they have these things called maps which offer you location details. That and we have a number of friends that tell you which train to get at the right time. To be honest, the easiest of my questions to answer.

With the money spent over the summer and the new stadium, it would be a travesty if we couldn’t survive in the Championship. However, avoiding relegation is enough to keep all Albion happy through next summer. If Gus stays the season, then it should be no trouble, and we can even dream of a top six finish. If you can’t dream of a top six finish before the season actually starts then what the hell are we watching football for? There’s no answer to that question – I mean, I’ve had summers where I couldn’t even dream of the top half.

I started this blog before purchasing the garish new green and black away shirt. So that question is irrelevant now. Maybe the question should be: can I get away with wearing the hideous new away shirt?

Will we flog any fanzines? Well, hopefully you’ll buy one when you visit our utopia.

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Ian Wilkinson

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