Whether you’ll be visiting the Amex for a lucrative away game in hope that you’re team can come away as victors, or for just a mild bit of ground hopping, it’s probably crossed your mind what a matchday is like down on the south coast. Charlie Wright gives us a detailed description on what a trip to Sussex entails.
An away game to a coastal City/Town always fills football fans with high anticipation. Drinks along the beach, pub after pub, however the weather can play a huge factor in how your day goes. Obviously if you’re Wolves fan making the trip down in January, unarguably sitting in a beer garden is the last thing you’ll be doing. None the less, a trip to the cosmopolitan seaside city of Brighton & Hove makes a great day out, unless your team suffers defeat of course. I made the trip down in August to catch the seagulls against out of form Blackburn Rovers, in a big game where Gary Bowyer desperately needed a result. With an anonymous friend of mine, we caught the 2:08 train from Brighton station to the small tedious village of Falmer, where of course the magnificent 30,000 capacity American Express Community Stadium lies. Among hundreds of Albion supporters in one of the most crowded queues I’ve ever been stuck in, there was a sense of real optimism and a great atmosphere as we pedantically waited for our train to arrive in blistering heat. Catching a train to the ground was always a better option than parking due to the mediocre sized car park Brighton have to offer and it’s generally a better experience to add to the day.
Despite it being a short 10 minute journey, it felt like an hour due to the amount of people crammed onto the train which really added to the struggle of the 24 degree heat. The placement of the ground is in perfect walking distance of the station, which is a 60 second walk until you’re in the vicinity of the stadium, so transport wise it’s brilliant. A quick walk over the bridge and you could see the thousands of loud Albion fans, a long with hundreds of bewildered Blackburn fans who had just come of the back of 2 1-1 stalemates. It was unquestionable to see which set of fans had more confidence with less than 25 minutes until kick off. Hydration was key, so a quick drink and we headed to the turnstiles which have to be the most modern set of turnstiles i think I’ve been through in my life. They’re similar to the ones at fancy toilets in London where they charge a quid to use, never the less in this context they were smart looking. East Stand was the destination, as we frantically jogged up the flights of stairs eager to take a glimpse at the Amex, a ground of which i had been wanting to visit in quite some time, our judgement was wrong. The Concourse was elegant, completely different to the Identikit ground’s image i had in my head. On a sour subject, the pricing of football food always rattles some peoples cages, however i found them reasonable and the quality wasn’t too shabby. Kick off was 5 minutes away so we took our seats.
First impressions of the ground were great ones. Neat, Modern & Stylish are the best 3 words i could use to describe the look of the stadium, as i said it’s completely the opposite of a ground like Leicester’s or Southampton’s St Marys. I knew i could watch the game in comfort due to the extremely padded seats, much different in comparison to when you visit Luton’s Kenilworth Road. Brighton were coming into the game unbeaten in their opening 3 league games, so the Seagull’s fans were superb as the whistle blew for kick off. As an away fan, if you’re lacking in numbers it could be quite a challenge to make yourself heard as the Brighton supporters behind the North stand were feeling up for it, as i’m sure they always are. Unlike most teams, they made noise no matter what was occurring on field, whether they were on the back foot for a 10 minute period or a player’s down getting treatment, hats of to them. From a personal perspective, the 520 Blackburn fans who made the 280 mile journey down didn’t seem up for it, despite their team needing the support as they were simply awful. Even when they tried to turn up, again the Albion loyal’s chants rang around the ground, even the family stand where we were sitting got involved
The game ended 1-0, with in form LuaLua netting after 30 minutes. Overall the game itself was comfortably all Brighton, with Blackburn having shots few and far between. With glimpses of brilliance, the Seagulls maintained their unbeaten streak which put them top of the Championship.
Going back to the real point of what a matchday is like, all depends on your point of view. An away fan coming down in high numbers could make a real difference, however if you’re in your couple of hundreds then the 21,000 or so Albion supporters could really make your day a struggle. If you’re a ground hopper and just want your fix of football inside a new ground then The Amex is the one. Yes it’s a modern ground without 4 separate stands, but in reality it doesn’t matter as the atmosphere makes up for it. Honestly, big hats of the the Brighton supporters; and the Blackburn fans who had to put up with their team’s sub average performance. In my opinion, i recommend a trip down to the south coast, lots to do in the city, the people are friendly and all in all it’s a great football ground to visit.