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Interview with an away fan: Brighton & Hove Albion

After a 3-0 win over nine man Bristol City, Neil Readfearn will once again be under the media spotlight as Leeds take on Brighton at Elland Road. To get a Brighton fans point of view I caught up with Stefan Swift who is the editor of the seagull love review. You can also follow their Twitter account here.

At the moment we're 9th and 10th in the league both on 45 points. Happy with that considering you got promoted last season?

We're jolly happy at the minute, we had a tough run when some fans started doubting (to be honest I think we all expected to happen at the start of the season) but 2012 has been just like the start of the season for us. Albion fans are quietly satisfied with the thought of getting just 5 more points for safety – and it's only February. Some of us are dreaming of the play-offs. But safety will certainly do. This season at least.

You started really well and then fizzled out with some poor results. It was always going to happen, are you confident you've learnt from this spell and can kick on now into the play-offs?

The start was far more impressive than any of us could have dreamed of in the summer but it raised all expectations. We were pretty shoddy in November and December in comparison to that bizarrely good start but January has seen us return to form and the play-offs are within touching distance - although we realistically are looking at them as a long shot. But the way Albion (well Will Buckley) keeps scoring late goals bodes well.

As you've probably heard Simon Grayson has gone. What are your thoughts from the outside, and can we have Gus Poyet back?

It's crazy seeing as you're, what, just one place above us and we're generally cock-a-hoop. Ken Bates should be the one leaving in my opinion, selling all your best players and expecting miracles from Grayson. I always have had anger over directors of several football clubs and Bates only adds to that - you only have to look at the utter dodginess of the others - Ridsdale you know all too well and Mandaric have all moved on to other clubs and they’re dodgy as fuck. It comes back to the best directors being supporters and we're very lucky to be in a position where that is the case at the moment. I thought Grayson did a great job and he always had the ability to wind me up when his side had beaten us - a sure sign of a good opposing manager. Gus? No chance I'm afraid. The Messiah is still ours and it'll take the top flight to make him leave I'd have thought.

Unbeaten in four, what has changed as you'd previously lost four before that?

Er, dare I say we gave Billy Paynter back. Seriously, I've no idea but think it may be to do with a couple of players staying fit for the first time this season and belief we can compete at this level becoming endemic within our squad. Will Buckley I've already mentioned and it's no coincidence that it's the first time since we signed him in the summer he's played four games in a row. Add to that a fleeting appearance from our Spanish superstar Vicente and a couple of loan signings means we have been good.

Right here we go the most important question of all. Why didn't you sign Billy Paynter...he looked to have played well when I watched him on the tele?

We always trust in Gus but a lot of fans were very dissatisfied after 9 games from your striking genius. It took us signing Sam (Berti) Vokes to realise that a big lump of a forward is actually allowed to jump in the air and try to win headers. I'm sure there's a decent player in Paynt’s somewhere but he has been lacking confidence for what, five years now? And it shows.

Half-way through the season how is the stadium going...has that affect warn off yet or are you still mesmerised by your own home?

It's amazing really, absolutely stunning. It took us so long to finally get there so its beauty will last at least a generation. We travel to Liverpool in the cup next weekend and they've given us 'restricted view' tickets. We have no idea what these are anymore. In fact, it has made supporting Albion away from home that bit more of a challenge – it used to be a wonderful break from the dreary monotony of a beer-less Withdean but now, we barely leave Falmer until the catering staff force us.

How do you see the Gulls lining up on Saturday?

Same team as the last few games I should think, although I suspect Matt Sparrow is suspended so it'll be interesting to see if Vicente is fit. We’ve played 4-5-1 turning into 4-3-3 all season and I doubt that will change tomorrow. Craig Mackail-Smith (CMS) hasn’t scored in ages and Vokes has looked half decent so there could be a change up front. I’m afraid Peter Brezovan will continue in goal so you won’t be able to reacquaint yourself with our favourite Marlborough Light smoking keeper – Casper Ankergren.

How many away fans are making it up to Elland Road, and what are the away support normally like?

The away support's usually pretty decent but it's that time of year when wallets get checked, we have a cracking new home and the Leeds game is the beginning of a series of northern games. I would imagine a small crowd from us at Elland compared to previous seasons but us who will be going are very much looking forward to being called gay and having cigarette butts flicked our way a la the last visit. It is great fun inYorkshire - we know that. The ones who do make the journey will very much be looking forward to the steward who looks very much like an anorexic former Albion manager Mark McGhee.

Who will be the main threat/s to the Leeds defence?

Will Buckley no doubt. And probably after 90 minutes when we haven’t played particularly well. CMS is industrious but can't buy a goal at the moment. It would be nice if someone other than Buckley scores but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

Do you fear a Billy Paynter hat-trick (he doesn't even get on the bench but you never know)?

We’re always fearful of an underachieving player for Albion coming back to fuck us over. Now that might be worth a quid at Ladbrokes.

Any Leeds player that has impressed you this season and you'd want at the Amex?

I’ve always rated Andy Lonergan since his time at Preston where I was at Uni and the obvious Becchio and Snodgrass but after Paynts I’m happy for us to sign none of the above at the moment. Ken Bates, on the other hand, probably wants us to sign all of the above. And then he can blame any poor performance in the new manager rather than the fact he sold all the best players.

Prediction for the match?

We’ll take a draw, but obviously if we could sneak it, it would firm up our play-off credentials. To be honest, I’ve never seen us win there so I’ll take a loss – a bit of a reality check for us probably wouldn’t do too much harm – and selling a hell of a lot of copies of our new issue – TSLR037 – will be a great result for us.

Big thanks to Stefan for giving his thoughts ahead of the game tomorrow.

Follow Leedstheoffside/Ciaran on Twitter and on Facebook.