As a season ticket holder, I am a regular visitor to The AMEX Stadium to watch Brighton and Hove Albion play. When ticket availability and finances allow I often take the kids too. Normally for some one on one time with any one of them.
For some, the FA Cup has lost its magic and numbers for these games have dwindled. So for the latest cup game the club announced they would reduce the ticket price to enable more fans to come and enjoy the experience. Which in turn resulted in almost 30,000 people turning up to watch.
I have fond memories of watching the FA Cup as a child. I am even old enough to remember the magical moment in 1983, when Sussex, in its entirety turned blue and white for the day. During the FA Cup final that year, we matched Manchester United at Wembley, only to lose at the replay six days later. A strange year all round for Brighton fans. Drawing 2-2 with Manchester United in the FA Cup final, while at the same time being relegated from the old Division 1.
With all these memories at the forefront of my mind, I went online and grabbed tickets for the three kids and I, for the upcoming game against West Bromwich Albion.
£15 for the adult ticket and £5 for each of the kids represents great value for money. It isn’t just the hour and a half of football. There is the atmosphere, the match day experience and memories being created. For us, it was going to be a full afternoon of fun. Unusually for cup games, the club offered subsidised travel with the ticket. This includes travel on buses and trains. Or, if preferred you could use one of the three park and ride schemes. With three kids and knowing what the queues after the game could be like, I opted for the other option of reserving a parking space at one of the many match day carparks. £15 at one of the University of Sussex Carparks offered genuine value for money.
The kids were up early on match day and the atmosphere had started to build. They were keen to get involved in what is my normal match day routine. Watching the build up on the morning TV sports programs, followed by a cooked breakfast before wrapping up warm and heading out the door at just gone 1pm.
The journey over to the stadium flew by, in a car full of chants, singing and remembering past trips to games and a panicked sounding daughter checking that I had my lucky pants on. Together with an even more panicked sounding me, reminding them ‘what they hear at football, stays at football!’.
Having not driven to a game before, the parking was easy to find. The club stewards were friendly and helpful. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and after a 5-10 minute walk, were at the stadium itself. I even managed to navigate them all away from the club shop and we headed into the stadium through the North Stand entrance.
This is where my normal match day experience changed. The quick nip to the toilet followed by a swift pint vanished from my normal routine and was speedily replaced by a long nip to the toilet, followed by heading to the sweet-cart to purchase some blue bon-bons. Which have become as much of a match day routine to the kids as my lucky pants had become to me. Next up the swift pint was replaced with four bottles of soft drinks.
Rather than mingle in a cold, internal concourse the kids were keen to head out into the open and find our seats for the next few hours. Because I needed to buy tickets in bulk this time, I had moved from my normal seat. I still remained in the North Stand just a little closer to the pitch and goal.
Normally, I’m with my football buddies and enjoy a drink prior to kick off. Instead, I enjoyed the pre match entertainment, met ‘Gully’ the club mascot and thoroughly enjoyed watching the teams warm up. We even got a wave from David Button the goalkeeper for the day. This made the two youngest of my group extremely happy. Time flew by as the stadium filled and the match began.
Having been several times with the kids individually, I was already braced for the questions. I hadn’t really anticipated the 3x level of questions though. The little lady also needed the off-side rule explained on more than one occasion. All three of them enjoyed the singing and banter. The eldest especially enjoyed hearing what some of our neighbouring fans thought of the referee.
Half time and then the final whistle came around quickly. As we made our way back to the car, we were still chatting, laughing and joking about the afternoon. I used this opportunity to remind them (threatening would be far to a strong word),
‘what they heard at the football must stay at the football’.
A win at the replay will be needed to progress any further in the competition. It turned out to be a 0-0 draw. Brighton never really managed to break down the back line and the final balls in were just off, for much of the game.
However for me on this occasion. The fun and entertaining family afternoon out was a winner and will be repeated as soon as we can.