Sports Comment: Brighton’s Withdean Dream Team

Brighton & Hove Albion‘s first game at their new AMEX Community Stadium has been announced for Saturday 30 July against this season’s Champion’s League Quarter-Finalists, Tottenham Hotspur.

Here, Tom Stewart picks his team to take on Spurs from the best players to feature for Albion during the Withdean era:

Goalkeeper: Ben Roberts

Roberts in action in the Play-Off Semi-Final shootout against Swindon in 2004 (Lee Mills)

Many Albion fans would go with crowd favourite Michel Kuipers, who played almost 250 games for the Seagulls at the Withdean. However, I am going for a player who played just one season for Brighton: Ben Roberts.

After being signed by Steve Coppell in 2004, he excelled between the posts and helped Albion gain promotion to Division One via the play-offs. His career was cruelly cut short by a back injury the next season, causing him to retire at just 29.

Right-Back: Iñigo Calderón

Calderón arrived at the Withdean from Spanish side Alavés having not played for over six months. He was one of Gus Poyet’s first signings and he quickly impressed with his rampaging runs up the right wing.

He further endeared himself to Seagulls fans when he stayed with the club this Summer, rather than join rivals Southampton. The decision paid off, as he contributed to the title-winning campaign with solid defending and an impressive eight goals.

Left- Back: Marcos Painter

Painter has been ever-present in the Albion side which has dominated League One this season, having arrived on a free transfer from Swansea City. He was initially signed on loan last season as cover for the injured Jimmy McNulty and his solid defensive play quickly impressed fans and management alike.

Centre Backs: Simon Morgan and Gordon Greer(c)

Albion's club captain and defensive stalwart Gordon Greer (Paul Hazelwood)

Simon Morgan played his final season with the Albion, during the Division Two (League One) championship-winning season of 2001-2002.

Morgan’s experience and superb defensive ability alongside captain Danny Cullip was key that season and he is, in my opinion, the most gifted defender of the Withdean era.

His partner, is this season’s captain- Gordon Greer. Greer was the type of player that manager Gus Poyet always wanted for his side: a natural leader. Since his signing, Brighton’s defence has transformed from a shambles into the tightest in the division.

Greer’s experience, leadership and aerial ability have been vital this season, and make him the ideal captain for this team.

Right Midfield: Elliot Bennett

Bennett was signed from Wolves in 2009 by former Albion manager, Russell Slade, and has established himself as one of Albion’s key players this season, topping the assists chart with 19 and contributing eight goals.

That form won him FourFourTwo’s League One Player of the Season and Poyet has said that Bennett would cause problems for defenders at any level.

Gary Dicker celebrates after playing a vital role in Albion's promotion this season (Paul Hazelwood)

Central Midfield: Richard Carpenter and           Gary Dicker

In my opinion, any of the central midfielders who have played for Albion this season could be included in this side, but I’ve gone for Gary Dicker for his combination of determined defending and silky smooth passing.

Dicker has typified the ‘Gus Poyet’ style of play that has won Albion so many plaudits this season.

Richard Carpenter played over 250 games for the Albion between 2000 and 2007 and was a vital player in three promotion seasons at the Withdean.

Carpenter was the perfect lower league central midfielder, adding solidity to the side and combined with Charlie Oatway and Paul Rogers to create a midfield that terrorised Divisions Two and Three.

Left- Midfield: Paul Brooker

A player who is perhaps the forgotten man of Albion’s past glories, and a player who always divided fans opinion. But for me Paul Brooker was more important to the Seagulls successes than the likes of Darren Currie and Kazenga Lua-Lua.

Brooker was the creative force behind Brighton’s back-to-back promotion winning teams of 2000-02. Even though he could be frustratingly inconsistent and lacked work rate, on his day he was out of this world.

Strikers: Bobby Zamora and Glenn Murray

Zamora returned to the Withdean this season and brought an England cap with him (Hazelwood)

Bobby Zamora was signed for just £100k by Micky Adams in 2000 after a successful loan spell.

He scored 83 times for the club in 136 appearances, helping Brighton win two successive championships as the team won promotion into what became the Championship.

Zamora left Brighton and Hove Albion as the club’s sixth highest-ever goalscorer and remains, to this day, one of the most revered Brighton players of all time.

After a somewhat nomadic existence, taking in six clubs including Workington Reds and Wilmington Hammerheads, Glenn Murray was signed in 2008, by Dean Wilkins, for £300k.

It is hard to argue with his scoring record at Albion. For a striker who is not considered to be an out-and-out goalscorer, and has had several injury problems, 52 goals in 116 games is more than impressive, and his 22 goals this season have been crucial to claiming the League One title.

Poyet celebrates bringing the League One trophy to the South Coast (Hazelwood)

Manager- Gus Poyet

Who better to lead this side than Gus Poyet?

Poyet is the fourth manager to win promotion at the Withdean, after Micky Adams, Peter Taylor and Mark McGhee, but none of those did so with the style and flair of Poyet.

Taking over from Russell Slade in the 2009-10 season,

Poyet guided the Albion away from relegation danger and into mid-table security.

With a pre-season behind him, and with the opportunity to bring in his own players, the Seagulls have dominated League One this season, leading since October.

Poyet admitted he had to win over some doubters earlier this season but now Albion play with a level of style, patience and steel that has drawn comparisons to Barcelona.

Thanks to this style, Brighton will start their first season at the AMEX Community Stadium in the Championship.

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One thought on “Sports Comment: Brighton’s Withdean Dream Team

  1. Thanks for writing this. I really feel as though I know so much more about this than I did before. Your blog really brought some things to light that I never would have thought about before reading it. You should continue this, Im sure most people would agree youve got a gift.

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