Withdean Stadium, Brighton
Championship League v Coventry City
Saturday, September 17th 2005, 3pm
By Lori Kilpatrick
Brighton are obviously notorious for an unfortunate reason, having one of the worst grounds in the entire League. However, I was looking forward to going because I wanted to know whether it was as bad as I had heard and also because it was an early season fixture and a day by the seaside in the sun would be welcome.
I took the train as normal and considering recommendations from this website I arrived at Preston park via London Victoria. The train journey was fine apart from a slight admin hitch where the screen at Paddington said we were not stopping at Preston park, however we did stop there and I embarked on the 20 minute walk to the ground. The train station is slightly odd in that it seems to be at the end of a very upmarket street and you would never guess it was there. The walk to the ground is very simple, walking straight out of the ground you go straight on and then left following the main road for 15 minutes until turning left again under a bridge to see the less than intimidating stadium looming in front of you. On the note of car parking there seems to be a sign on every corner reminding you not to park there due to restrictions placed on the club in moving to the Withdean.
I was slightly behind time so I went straight into the ground (wearing colours) and encountered no problems at all with the home fans. It seems like a very family oriented club and there was no tension whatsoever between the groups of supporters.
The ground itself is very quaint with only the far side having any kind of size. The away fans are in a temporary stand with no roof and quite far from the pitch as well due to the athletics track. The only stand with a roof is to the right of the away end which mainly consists of the prawn sandwich eaters purely judging on the amount of noise generated. When I visited they were also in the process of constructing another temporary stand at the far end of the ground which will slightly enhance the capacity. In my opinion, basked in sunshine the ground looked spectacularly picturesque and an excellent place to watch football if not the most atmospheric.
The game itself was of low quality but high drama, Coventry twice taking the lead but Brighton equalising twice, the second a stunning goal from their energetic winger. To be fair to the Brighton fans they attempted to make some noise in the far stand but in the open air it is very difficult. At one stage of the game hardly anyone was watching the game due to the baiting of a steward who was adjudged to have a slightly unfortunate moustache, he did not take kindly to this and eventually it went too far and stopped. The other stewards all had regular facial hair and did not cause any trouble! The food was good and the queues did not get too out of hand. However the toilets were pathetic and not even sufficient for an away following of around 800 which is all they can offer.
After the game the crowds bottlenecked at the bridge but it wasn't very serious and I made it back to Preston park in perfect time to my train to London Victoria. The train staff were very helpful and all the Brighton fans on the train were very friendly
Overall Brighton was a good day out and the access to the ground is good, however they do need a new stadium as they definitely have the support and will not remain in the championship if they don't get the extra revenue. It is not as bad as some have said and I will be going again next season.
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