We pass through another weekend without a game at 3pm on Saturday, only to be met on Monday evening by 4th place Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls have had an epic turnaround from last season, rising 16 places up the table in one season, and we're jealous... of Brighton. All of the curse words.
Thankfully, for our third in the series "Leeds Against The World," Jason Thackeray of Brighton But Only At Home was willing to sit down with us and answer some questions. I'd love for his prediction to come true, he was more generous with our team than most of us are. We'll see on Monday night.
Leeds Against The World: Brighton
Hey, Jason. Thanks for being up for this. Last season you finished 20th, just 6 points shy of relegation. This season, you sit in 4th, just three points shy of the top. What on earth did you put in the water in Brighton last summer?
It’s more what we did over Christmas and New Year in the middle of last season. Though we had finished in the playoffs in the two previous seasons, things were slowly going downhill. Firstly there was the messy divorce with Poyet, and then his successor, Oscar Garcia, left after one season, citing recruitment issues. We soon saw why. Players such as Vicente, Wayne Bridge and Leo Ulloa were being replaced by the likes of John Obika, Gary Gardner and Joe Bennett.
Once Oscar left he was replaced with the totally hapless Sami Hyypia who set about putting these very small square pegs in to enormous round holes – enormous holes were certainly what we had in our defence. In fact our only decent performance was at Elland Road! Second from bottom and having just given the worst performance of the season against sodding Millwall, Hyypia finally went and David Burke, the head of player recruitment, was fired. It has been uphill since then believe it or not.
Chris Hughton came in, but with us in relegation trouble we were unable to attract quality players, with the notable exception of Beram Kayal. Kayal and Hughton kept us up but only just.
While this was going on Hughton was busy convincing Tony Bloom that we were not Barcelona and that we needed a more pragmatic playing strategy for the Championship, along with bringing in experienced players like Liam Rosenior, internationals like Hemed and Bong and young, pacy players like Jamie Murphy and Connor Goldson. They combined with players who had been here under Gus and Oscar and were therefore very comfortable on the ball. Our league position reflects the best case scenario out of these changes.
You've won five of your last seven, where do you think you’ll end up?
From where we are now we should finish in the playoffs. I’ve actually got a tenner on us to win the league at 25-1 but it’s not a bet I believe in – I’m merely hedging against season ticket price increases! Boro and Hull should go up automatically. We have a simple 4-1 chance of going up in the playoffs if we stay there. I don’t think we are better or worse than Derby, Burnley or Sheffield Wednesday.
Do you have a favorite Brighton-Leeds memory?
The 3-3 in 2011, our first season at the Amex was a brilliant advert for football but ultimately I was too gutted you equalised in the last minute for it to be a favourite. Last season’s 2-0 win therefore stands out as the best. It was easily our best home performance of a turgid season and we never looked in doubt. Some drinks had been taken before. When we got the second (we sit right at the top of the Upper West) my mate lost his balance celebrating, went in to the row in front and started a human domino chain. It must have been one of those nights because when we got back to the station we saw a Leeds fan who was too inebriated to get his 20p in to the barrier at the Gents.
I will say I always enjoy home games against Leeds. They’re never on a Saturday but you always bring loads and it’s normally the best atmosphere of the season. With no Palace, Pompey or Southampton in the division any more it can be hard to get banter going against a lot of other sides. I’d love to play you on a Saturday at 3 but Sky seem set to ruin that forever more.
What’s one matchup we should watch for on Monday?
Assuming they’re playing then it’s Liam Bridcutt versus Beram Kayal. Bridcutt was our most important player under Poyet but he left under a huge cloud of sulk and there’s no doubt he’ll get booed. Most players raise their game when that happens and he’ll need to against Kayal who is our new most important player, box to box with lovely feet and a real leader’s attitude.
Give us a reason you’ll win:
Attacking flair and pace on the wings. If Kayal sorts out Bridcutt and allows our wingers to play you won’t live with us.
Give us a reason you’ll lose:
We’ll get overconfident, attack too much without having established a base and be two down in the first ten minutes.
What’s your predicted result?
Having lost 4-1 and won 4-0 in the last two this is almost impossible. I’d take another easy 2-0 just to give my nerves the night off but my head says it will be a draw. Let’s say 1-1.
Big thanks to Jason for helping with our third Leeds Against The World Q&A. You can read more of his work over at his personal blog, Brighton But Only At Home. Good luck to his Seagulls... after Monday night of course.