17 April 2015

HOW HIGHBROW: THE ALBION ON RADIO 4

Last week my work was interrupted by a phone call. The voice whispered down the line: ‘listen to Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 (whcih you can by clicking HERE)’. It wasn’t the most scary of phone calls I’ve received, to be honest, but it did leave me somewhat perplexed.

20 minutes later, it all made sense. It turns out that ‘Brighton and Hove Albion football club have been giving its players training in issues around sexual consent’. Radio 4 told me that the club is one of the first football teams to provide assistance around this issue, notably in the wake of ‘voyeurgate’ (though it wasn’t referred to as that). The club’s head of education and welfare is a woman called Sue Parris who spoke rather well about why we are doing this and how hard it can be for kids in professional football set-ups to grow up in an atmosphere surely plagued by the likes of Kemy Agustien. The Women’s Hour slot also heard from Chike Kandi - one of our youth teamers (previously of Chelsea, of course) - about the lessons.

Two things for me really stood out in hearing this, and both were a little surprising. Firstly, it is wonderful to see that we are addressing the problems that arose from our embarrassing 2013 court case, and looking to lead other clubs in this decent and strangely quite honourable move. Secondly, it is wonderful to see the club acting in a professional way - what with being interviewed on a national, highbrow radio station. Could the Withers-esque PR department finally be at an end?

On the first point, that shameful court case was the first real time in my life where I have hung my head in shame about the Albion (well, aside from losing to P****e, and perhaps a few choice games this season). Luckily for those Albion players (well, youth team players anyhow), they had each other as witnesses, and they had a decent well paid lawyer funded by the club, no doubt. The club could have looked even worse had the kids been proven guilty. But the whole case was one where, for perhaps the first time in my life, I didn’t shout to strangers about my blue and white blood.

I have never really spoken or thought about it since - or reflected on it for TSLR. In fact, I have spent the previous two years simply pretending it didn’t happen. Regardless of the verdict, the victim felt sufficiently upset to take her case to the high court, and she probably hasn’t had the luxury to spend the last two years simply forgetting about it. So to hear the club actively addressing this issue to prevent future incidences does make me slightly happier. This is not to say we didn’t make a mistake - only we appear to have begun to learn from it.

Secondly, one of the many jokes down the Falmer years has been that you can take the club out of Withdean, but you can’t take Withdean out of the club. We have lamented Albion’s backroom staff for years, from forgetting to install ticket office windows at the new ground to laughable customer service. But it actually appears to me that the club has at least begun to sort out its PR difficulties of the past. This was on actual national radio, and we were actually promoting a good initiative. I mean, all they have to do now is open the Club Museum to the public, and we can start using the word professional.

For one of the only times this season, well played the Albion.

14 April 2015

AN UNSCIENTIFIC SURVEY | £££'S PER GOALS

As yet another game passed by without an Albion goal this weekend, a figure was sent our way. Despite recent Tony Bloom protestations about it being Gus Poyet’s fault, nobody can deny that CMS has cost £119k per goal. This fact (and of course we haven’t checked it) was supplemented with another - that that figure is 83 times more than the cost of Bobby Zamora’s goals.

Now, this isn’t a fool proof way of analysing Albion striking performances of yesteryear. I mean, it doesn’t factor in that Bobby was really very reasonably priced due to the other attacking options available to Ian Holloway at Brizzle Rivers at the time. It also doesn’t factor in player wages because, quite frankly, football clubs don’t want you to know what players are actually paid (nor transfers really these days, ‘undisclosed’ has become a byword for ‘mind your own business’). Clubs especially don't want you to know how much has been wasted on the goalscorers who don’t even score.
So what of the other Albion forwards? Well, as I have done no research for this apart from being part of an inventively titled Albion WhatsApp group (you know who you are, Fitz Gandalf’s BantCartel), I’m relying on others and who they bothered to look up and do the maths on. We all very well know what a bargain Gary Hart was but his goals per pound ration was ridiculously good. In fact, each one of his goals was cheaper than a match ticket at Falmer - just £23.26.

Leon Knight's goals cost £3,125 apiece, but then it's much easier to score penalties, and that amount of money per goal may be decent - but was it worth dealing with his attitude? Looking further back, Jason Peake supposedly cost £120k for his only goal, so at least CMS isn't quite that bad.
 
Craig Maskell was £1,818 per goal, but those were in much leaner times for the football club. Maskell's would have been well worth the money we ended up saving by not being relegated to the Conference in 1997. One wise member of the group suggested that Maskell’s goals would have become far cheaper had they ‘moved the goal into the car park’. Ashley Barnes’ goals cost £2,040 a piece and he has scored eight times since his move to Burnley (for £400k) so even his current goals per pound cost of £50k a pop is a bargain compared with CMS. But then, nobody was sniffing around CMS in the January before his Albion contract expired.

Someone made the point about Mr Barnes that we also got £400k back to make his goals cheaper, but then you could apply that logic to Zamora, and then the whole goals per pounds race would be over. Or would it? Leo Ulloa looks expensive on the face of it – £76,923 per goal. But then his sale price would have blown Bobby Z out of the water, maybe, if I could be bothered to do the maths. Plus can you really use this logic when that headed moment Ulloa delivered at Nottingham Forest last season was priceless? Glenn Murray’s goal tally cost £9,433 each, though that will never tell you quite how many times he had to get offside to pick up 53 club goals – his offside to goals ration was probably around 9:1.

So there we have it. Yes, perhaps we can’t score many goals at the moment. But then, Gary Hart aside, goals have never really been that cheap. And you could fill in a comment at the bottom telling me how cheap the goals were from every player who turned up at the Goldstone / Priestfield / Withers / Falmer on a free. And basically, none of it matters if you don’t account for wages. So, hopefully we’ll score tonight - then someone else’s goals might just get cheaper.

28 January 2015

POLICING HOMOPHOBIA AT THE ALBION: AN UPDATE

Last year, I wrote a brief piece about how Sussex Police appeared to have changed their attitude towards the prosecution of homophobic offences at The Amex. It appears now, after the Brentford game on 17 January 2015, that perhaps that has changed again.

An Albion supporter in the South-West Stand was aware of repeated homophobic gestures made at the Brighton fans and had the presence of mind to not just notify the stewards, but to take photos and (according to their messages on Twitter) video of the event. They also commented that there were children in the area witnessing the abuse.

The two photos posted on Twitter are reproduced here:
According to the Twitter feed of the Albion's link officer to Sussex Police, the individual concerned was interviewed and 'dealt with' in custody. I queried what 'dealt with' meant and then reminded myself what the current Police, Crown Prosecution Service and FA standards are in this area.

The first document I found was from the Crown Prosecution Service, and was issued in conjunction with the Police, the FA, Stonewall, and 'Kick It Out'.

It clearly states: "there is no room in the eyes of the law for racist or homophobic abuse on the pitch or in the stands."

The second document I went to was the 'Prosecution Policy for Football Related Offences', again issued by the Crown Prosecution Service.

This document clearly states: "there will be a presumption of prosecution whenever there is sufficient evidence to bring offenders before a court on appropriate criminal charges," and: "where the line between humour and offensive behaviour is crossed then positive action will be taken."

I was therefore surprised to find that despite the clear evidence to prove what had happened, and despite the policy changes and messages of robust action, 'dealt with' meant that the outcome of this individual's 'banter' was a Section 5 Public Order Fixed Penalty Fine (usually a £60-90 fine). This was, according to Sussex Police, considered the most appropriate punishment based upon the individual's criminal history (NFD) and whether they admitted the offence (NFD). 

The guidance on Section 5 offences - claims that these penalties are to be used when 'low-level, anti-social and nuisance offending' has occurred. It is also used at the discretion of a constable, and does not require a referral to the Crown Prosecution Service, thereby rendering the CPS entirely ignorant of what has taken place, and unable to use their own policy to prosecute homophobic abuse, as per the terms of their own agreement with the Police.

In other words, Sussex Police exercised their discretion and decided that this offence wasn't serious enough to notify the CPS so as to allow them to consider whether they should prosecute the offender, and presumably without any reference to those who felt so offended as to report the event in the first place, exactly as Kick It Out and Football v Homophobia are encouraging us to do.

The battle to remove racism has come a long way and if the Brentford supporter had been using racially offensive language, would Sussex Police have used the same discretion? I don't know, but I doubt it.

If Sussex Police continue to exercise their own judgement in NOT referring homophobia to the Crown Prosecution Service, then the assumptions about the attitudes held by the decision-makers in Sussex Police will start to become uncomfortable."

Thanks to Dan Aitch again for this insightful article.

28 December 2014

TOILET ROLLS AND TICKER TAPE

Compared to pieces of colour-coded card that clap for you or outlawed flares, toilet rolls streaming on to the hallowed turf at any football match are, quite simply, more fun, less rehearsed and look bloody good. So imagine our disappointment when a TSLRite was recently prevented from taking a few toilet rolls into Falmer to decorate the pitch.

When I was 13 or thereabouts and the central part of the North Stand was my standing area of choice at the Goldstone, one toilet roll moment will live with me forever. The opposition eludes me but one particularly well targeted toile roll launched out of my hand and seemingly wrapped itself around the leg of the opposing ‘keeper. In my memory it took him minutes to disentangle himself from the offending paper. In reality, it was probably seconds. The ‘keeper cursed me and, for a few minutes at least, I was known as the youf who’d succeeded in beating the away ‘keeper.

But more than that, a stream of toilet roll at any football match is a sight to behold. Take the photo atop this blog. This was when Standard Liege managed to actually hold up a match. Though this was partly due to a fire having started in the stand - we're genuinely not encouraging that, just a bit of paper.

Of course, I personally think that a flare is the best thing to get any stadia rocking. During our seriously memorable penalty shoot-out FA Cup win at Woking a few seasons back, the pre-kick off flare was as electric as anything we saw on the pitch. Flares are outlawed and it’s a shame. But unfortunately we don’t live in South America and are instead dull fools that would rather not risk it. So very English, and so very embarrassing. But until the law changes on that front, we’ll just have to make do with toilet paper.

Come on Albion, I know the cleaners probably don’t like it, and I know it might annoy some players on the pitch, but let us please have some tissue paper.

23 December 2014

OH SAMI, SAMI: HYYPIA CALLS TIME ON HIS SPELL AS ALBION MANAGER

And so it ends. Sami Hyypia has fallen on his sword and the Seagulls are looking for their fourth manager since landing at the Amex.

Hyypia becomes the third manager in succession to ask to leave Brighton and Hove Albion and the process of finding a new head honcho begins again. Gus Poyet, Oscar Garcia and Hyypia all asked for an out for a variety of reasons, and yet supporters will wonder why the club seem to haemorrhage managers at such an alarming rate.

Not that Hyypia’s departure will cause as widespread upset as those of his two predecessors. The former Finland international has suffered an appalling start to the season – winning just 13.6% of his 22 league games in charge of the Seagulls. In fact, the majority of Albion fans felt the one-time Liverpool defensive lynchpin had already overstayed his welcome.

Read the full article on the Not Worth That website HERE

22 December 2014

LETTER TO SAMI...

https://dub113.mail.live.com/ol/clear.gifI wrote this for the now probably never to be published TSLR059 - The (online only downloadable festive) Seabird (roast) Love Review. We asked for articles earlier this month from all of our contributors and, needless to say, they all pretty much focused on one thing, our Finnish(ed) manager. With today’s news this article is therefore out of date. So I thought I better publish it. Quick. Read it.

As I flicked through Twitter after yet another unmemorable and interchangeable defeat earlier this season, I saw Sami Hyypiä’s win percentage compared to Albion managers of yesteryear. The Finn sits below the reign(deer) of the returning Micky Adams. He is even close to Martin Hinshelwood’s horrific division 2 run of the early 2000s. To make Hyypiä’s brand of bland a little more palatable for all of us in the second half of the season, I have penned a letter to Sami Claus: The Ten Avoid the Sack Commandments with some poorly executed festive puns.

1. Pretend to care. This is the easiest one. The next time Albion score, charge down the touchline to join the players in a ‘bundle’ in front of some Albion fans. High five a couple of fans as you head back to the technical area. When (or perhaps if?) we next win a game (an away draw will do), walk towards the Albion fans upon the final whistle whilst simultaneously pumping your fist to your chest (the more your chest is bruised the following day, the better). Kiss the Albion badge. Be careful not to kiss the kit manufacturers badge - they have a poor worker’s rights record and this will prove you don’t care about underpaid children in Malaysian factories so how could you possibly care about a football team?

For more detailed instructions on how to look like you have an appetite for desire, watch the Saints 1 Albion 3 DVD - Gus Poyet’s first match in charge. You don’t actually have to care, just look like you might. Gus did it for years. That DVD might also give you a few hints as to how football is allowed to be played (warning: footage does include a now rare Albion victory). It might additionally help to stop denying you lack passion (of the Christ) in EVERY SINGLE post match interview. Just stop bringing up the subject of passion until you have carried out at least one of the above instructions.

2. Play to the team’s strengths. A lot of focus following the Derby defeat was placed upon your decision to play Rohan (M)Ince (pies) only after we were 3-0 down. Don’t be too concerned with the result - we lost by three goals at the Old Pride Park only last season - but do be concerned by not playing AS MANY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS AS POSSIBLE away at league leaders who have had the beating of us in recent seasons. That tactical error isn’t the first…

There was the early season 2-5-3 formation that tended to backfire despite my initial all out attacking excitement. There was the not playing a holding defender since Danny Holly (and the Ivy) lost his form, and despite us being in the year 4AD (Anno Defensive Midfielder) - an era when the whole world plays holding midfielders (if not two). There is the continuing reluctance to play any creative players when we are CRYING OUT FOR (Christmas time) CREATIVITY. All these tactical naiveties (nativities?) relate to each other. A holding midfielder can allow more freedom for players to attack elsewhere - counter intuitive, perhaps, but give it a go. You current tactical nous makes no frankinsense. Chris O’Grady is not a striker.

3. Wear the flair. Of the three foreign born managers who have been in charge of an Albion team at Falmer, you, Sami, are quite simply the dullest of all of them. Where is the flair? Gus had it off the pitch and created it on it, Oscar dressed flair (chinos!) and still managed to sort of entertain us. Compared to you, even Garcia was fantastically exciting. You are lacking in flair. You have no song (even Chris O’Gravy has three, although two are less than complimentary because of his regular donkey pantomime act).

You also seem to be rehearsing for THE SAME PRE-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE EVERY GAME. Don’t tell us that form doesn’t matter because you once won at Bayern Munich with Bayer Leverkusen. Again. We don’t care. We are all prepared to go along with you being flairless but in return you have to deliver more than three wins in five months. If you can’t deliver wins, punch a referee, square up to an opposition manager, throw a strop, grow a ponytail or take you pet dog in the dugout for yet another home defeat. Do something.

4. Build some hypothetical bridges. There is no doubt that at least 75% of Albion fans have now lost the faith in your management skill or perhaps just your personality. Either way it’s time to take drastic action. Follow the lead of Paul Beirne, Albion's new commercial manager. This bloke works for Paul Barber yet has managed to get Albion fans onside. He seems human, he responds to people directly on Twitter, he posts on North Stand Chat in non-official club led threads and he would probably share a beer with any one of us.

If you want to be liked again without winning, Sami, you have to do something extraordinary like Beirne. Let those keyboard warriors know that your management technique is inept. Post a thread about which Albion players might do well on Strictly Come Dancing. Join a thread that talks highly of you as a manager (dated June 2014 but you can still add to it). Act human, have a beer. What have you got to lose?

5. Insist on inappropriate fancy dress at the club Christmas party. I haven’t seen any team bonding session photographs laden across the club website since you became manager. In fact, the highest placed go karter still at the club was Lewis Dunk in seventh. It’s time to reinvigorate our low IQ footballers teambuilding. But, seeing it’s not quite the weather for paintballing, and Christmas party season is upon us, why not unite the players in a show of defiance against decency? It’s fancy dress time.

Convince Gordon Greer to turn up as Fred West by threatening him with the loss of the captaincy. Perhaps two youth teamers could turn up as Holly and Jessica (blonde wigs, Manchester United shirts, easy). Bruno could come as Rolf Harris. Stockdale as Jimmy Savile. Or maybe CMS could come with a cricket ball stuck to his neck pretending to be Phillip Hughes? OK so the last one is probably too soon, but the disgrace that the non-football world will heap on the club if just one of those costumes is used will work in our favour. It will finally bring that togetherness we’ve all been looking for since May as the players are forced to stick together against a common enemy.

6. Do some defensive training. An obvious one really. For such a long-serving (and actually quite good) defender when you were a player, your Albion team looks horrifically vulnerable to conceding at ALMOST ALL MOMENTS OF EVERY GAME. Even when we attack, opposition teams look most likely to score. The only thing the defence has consistently got right this season is scoring goals. This is some weird reversal of how football is played. I’m all for new methods, and exciting new ways of playing football, but if a defender is playing they need to primarily defend. The same goes for attackers and attacking. Some are called strikers because they strike the ball towards goal, though there are none currently in your squad. The clue is in their titles.

7. Renounce your nationality. Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not xenophobic. Albion’s foreign managers down the years have been jolly successful. It’s not like we have some English complex in which as soon as things start to go wrong we blame your nationality. We’re not like many of our comPATRIOTS who sounded like (Saint) Nick Griffin just as soon as Sven had an affair with his secretary or Fabio presided over abject failure. Brighton is hardly a UKIP hotbed - it’s basically in France anyway.

You haven’t got lost, we’re not in Rochester, but we are talking about social media. Seeing as how #BinTheFinn has become such a hit (it’s probably trending worldwide because the Albion are so important) then maybe it’s time to change nationality. It is nigh on impossible to find a nationality that fits a rhyming hashtag so well. Avoid Bosnia because #ScrapTheBosniak has a nice ring to it. Equally avoid Mexico for #CanTheMexican references. But almost all other nationalities are un-rhymable. Unfortunately for you, nothing can prevent #DumpTheChump.

8. Listen to yourself. Your post match comments are gold. If by gold you mean meh (myrrh). After the Derby match, you promised we will be ‘working on our defensive side’ and we will ‘tighten up a little bit’. Following the Fulham match you suggested ‘everyone has to toughen up and be more concentrated’. We proved how much the squad listened to that piece of advice in the first 25 minutes at Derby. ‘We were guilty of lapses in concentration and they cost us. It's just a case now of analysing the game and seeing how we can do better.’ Which game you ask? Those words fell out of your mouth, Sami, after conceding three at Norwich. What reaction the following week? Nothing but a home defeat by Fulham.

Be honest with yourself, you are just saying words, they don’t actually mean anything. Actually perhaps there’s a career for you yet: in politics. And your Scandinavian, it could be like BBC4’s Borgen. Sorry, I digress. Don’t get me wrong, Sami, Gus would utter whole mouthfuls of tripe nothing too but he would then spend the week making sure each player knew exactly where they had gone wrong and, more often than not, it would be rectified the following week. One thing you will probably never have the opportunity to say at Albion is what you uttered after Leverkusen played PSG: ‘I’m very proud of the way my lads played. You said after a defeat. Pride in defeat would actually be preferable to bland defeat.

9. Buy you and your family TSLR t-shirts. This will back up points 1 and 4 as well as shamelessly make us a few quid in the process. You see, wearing a North Stand Social Club t-shirt will allow you to a) pretend to care about the club and b) show you can laugh about yourself. Humility is a (Santa’s) helper when you need to buy affection from people that deride and loathe you. All our t-shirts will also suit the eminent Scandinavian style of your WAG too so why not dress the whole family for around £10 (plus postage and packing) per head? If you want to go the whole hog then why not pop in after another dreadful home performance for a Harveys in the North Stand Social Club? Wear your brand new TSLR t-shirt and at least two Albionites might not spit on you.

OK so perhaps number 9 was just a marketing exercise for us. But Sami, t-shirts are available to purchase from the TSLR shop (www.theseagulllovereview.com) - we have a sleigh load of new stock for all the family to enjoy - as is the sole remaining official TSLR mouse mat that we have had in stock since 2011.

10. Don’t get sacked before the TSLR Xmas Special is published. Sami, we know this special Xmas fanzine is only in PDF format but you really will save the editors a load of time if you hold on until Boxing Day. Otherwise all the jibes that come your way, like the ones in this article, will be rendered redundant. And Christmas will be ruined. If you somehow manage to do all the above in January, we will almost certainly survive relegation to our spiritual and traditional home in Division 3. We all know you probably won’t make it that far and as such I’ve got a joke for your cracker this year. Why did Santa not have his sack on Christmas Eve 2014? He gave it to Sami.

19 December 2014

MASCOT MADNESS?

This morning my heart sank. As I picked up the Guardian another photo of C***** P***** was emblazoned across the front of the Sport section. Since they stole our top scorer, ruined our home record at Falmer and ultimately shat on us in the play offs, too many national newspapers have constantly reminded us of what they did by promoting the dirty red and blue concoction across their pages. We know, we get it, they beat us again and arrived in the top flight.

But this morning was different. The picture accompanied a story about the cost of taking kids to football, most notably to pay for them to be mascots. The tone? How outrageous it is that some top flight clubs should charge up to £600 (West Ham) for children to be mascots. It’s a bit hard on the scum up the A23 in using their photo to be honest, their mascot packages can cost as little £150 - amongst the cheaper of those who charge kids in the top flight and certainly below the level of the Albion’s cheapest package. Some of the ‘bigger’ top flight teams don’t charge for mascots at all.

This is not new news in Albion circles. In fact, at some point during our 55 odd issues (around 550,000 words) we complained bitterly about how Albion charge mascots. But is it such a con?

Albion do offer two mascots each home match the chance to hold a player’s hand for free. They are chosen at random from the club’s database of Seagull Club youfs (and unfortunately that doesn’t include 30 year old me). One lucky kid also gets picked at random to represent the club at away matches for free too, this is chosen from whoever has booked an away ticket and has joined the Seagull Club for free. And Seagull Club membership guarantees a wealth of luxuries, including a free replica shirt on your seventh birthday.

But then we get into the pricing. Any other mascots for home matches ‘are available priced from £250, and £350 for the captain’s package’. £350 for a chance to get near Gordon Greer’s package doesn’t sound too bad. Seriously though, the commercialisation of being a club mascot is a new thing but it doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.

Sure, I was lucky enough to be a free mascot at Hartlepool away in 1993. It was a magical moment for me - warming up with John Byrne will forever be etched on my memory. And there were disappointments, I was meant to be given an away strip (that famous chewit wrapper inspired wonder) but the club had run out of them in my size by that point of the season. It was however a wonderful experience. Especially when I won the toss - my little self-indulgent contribution to the cause. It was all we won that day, and pretty much all that season.

It is these rose-tinted nostalgic football moments of yesteryear that means we collectively despair at change, and especially in the monetisation of things like mascots. But clubs must be profit driven to keep up with ridiculously expensive wage levels (£70k a week for Darren Bent anyone). In the words of the excellent new commercial head bloke, Paul Beirne, in his interview with @NotWorthThat, posted yesterday, ‘why is “maximizing revenue streams” a dirty phrase? Of COURSE we need to do that.’

It is also worth noting that some of the richest clubs - Arsenal, the Manchesters - don’t charge any fee at all. They go on the very valid argument that mascots are a key marketing opportunity. A chance to turn impressionable potential young Albionites into fully fledged supporters. The ones who will turn into big pound signs for the rest of their lives. It’s not being nice to young kids to offer free mascot places. It’s developing cash machines for any club for life. It’s corporate trickery the likes of McDonald’s would be proud of. But, you know what? If some ex-Chelsea supporting, Wadhurst living oil magnate now wants to take his pampered son to Falmer and thinks that a £350 mascot package might do the trick, why not take the money? I think I’d rather we do that than put kids match ticket prices up.

4 November 2014

THE TELFORD TIGER RETURNS

Tonight we have the pleasure of watching Elliott Bennett in the blue and white of the Albion for the first time at Falmer. Back in our monochrome days in April 2010 - the fanzine’s second season - TSLR019 spoke to The Telford Tiger after he had just been awarded our coveted player of the season prize. That interview is replicated below for your general amusement. It should be noted that one of our favourite TSLRites - @fragglemiller had the pleasure of meeting Mr Bennett.

You’re TSLR’s Player of the Season. Is this the greatest moment of your life?
Yeah, one of them, it’s a good achievement. I didn’t even know. Thank you.

Do you know if you’ve won any other awards this season yet?
Not this season, but I won Young Player of the Year at Wolves two seasons ago and then I won Young Player of the Season at Bury when I was on loan last year.

Does it feel like a long way from the dark days at the start of the season when you first arrived?
Yeah definitely, everything’s changed a lot. The new gaffer’s come in and he’s really stamped a way of football he wants us to play. We’re starting to play that way now. The fans seem to be enjoying the style of football we’re playing, and hopefully we can get the three points we need against Carlisle now to be safe.

At the training ground at Poyet’s first session, several players said they could see the impact he had straight away. Was that true for you?
Definitely. He’d obviously watched a few games before he got the job and found out what we needed to do to get better. We weren’t defending well as a team at all.

How does that translate in terms of training sessions?
Training’s just training really, but I think he’s instilled more of a confidence in the boys to pass the ball to each other and not be afraid if someone’s marked to give it to them. It’s just knowing your players really - some players are technically better than others, so if you’re in certain situations you can give it to them.

After the game on Monday, Hartlepool’s Chris Turner said we play in a continental style. Are Poyet’s methods very different to the ones you’ve experienced in the English game?
Yeah, with a lot of the training sessions I’ve experienced it’s all in and you can take as many touches as you want - you know, it’s very rare that the gaffer asks you to play three-touch football. That encourages you to pass the ball and move to create an angle to get the ball back.

You were signed by Russell Slade, who presumably didn’t sell the club to you on a passing game and total football…
He just said that he wanted me to come and play. I’d been on loan for a year and a half with Crewe. I just needed to break away and become my own person. I’d been there all that time as a young lad and I needed to become a man I think. I was miles away from breaking into the first team there. In pre-season I knew I wasn’t going to play but I didn’t feel detached, I just focussed on staying professional, not causing trouble about the place and staying fit for a loan or permanent move, so I could take it when it came. I didn’t think I’d play as many games as I have done to be honest, but Russell said that I’d play some games and I’m obviously delighted to have played as many as I have. I’ve had to move away from what I’ve known - it’s a completely new place, I’ve had to grow up on and off the pitch so it’s helped me personally.

What do you remember about Poyet’s first game in charge at Southampton? That was the first game where we saw you really playing defensively and helping double mark men.
It was a bit different, but I’d played right-back before Gus came in with Russell Slade. I played half a game when we had someone sent off against Stockport. I don’t mind doing my fair share of defending. But the Southampton game was a weird one for me because it was one of those games where we were on the telly and I had my family and friends watching, so you want to show what you can do. It was weird really because we hadn’t had much time with Gus so that was a bit strange. He just told us to go and play, that’s what he’s done all season, to be confident. It’s really worked, because some players weren’t feeling confident before games.

Had it been quite a heavy time for you all before that, with the end of Russell Slade’s time here?
It was just disappointing. The last game he was here we battered Hartlepool but didn’t win. That’s the way it was happening. Gus has come in and that’s what he’s changed - if we score a goal and go 1-0 up, go two or 3-0, keep going.

Did you have a lack of confidence before Russell Slade left?
Personally I didn’t, I try to stay as confident as I can. When you lose that you’re struggling. I think it was more that as a team we were thinking ‘if a team scores, we’re not getting back in it’. Obviously that’s not a good way to think, but that was the sort of mentality really.

How do you find playing with Calderon? Did you know anything about him before he signed?
Very good - he’s a top player. I’d never seen him, never heard of him, I’d just seen his locks coming into the changing room. He’s had to learn the language while he’s been over here as well and his English is getting a lot better. He knows the game, he’s played at a good level in Spain. He’s a joy to watch for the fans and a joy to play with as well.

We’ve all noticed that you switch wings during games. Did you do that much before Gus came in?
Not really, but I like it. The gaffer says if you’re not beating your man on one side and you’re both not getting the ball just choose between yourselves. It gives us the responsibility to know when and when not to change.

You looked like you didn’t have a celebration for that goal at Oldham.
That’s ‘cos I don’t score very often, so when it went in I didn’t know what to do. I tried to run around in circles.

What do you remember about the Charlton game?
It was great - maybe not our best performance, because I think the Southampton game here was very good, but there we played well, passed them off the park at their place, won the game, scored goals and they only scored in the 90th minute I think. That was a great day, the fans were brilliant as well.

If you had to pick a Player of the Season for yourself…
…who would I pick? Since Gus has come in I’d say Calde, but for the whole season, just for consistency and what he brings to the team I’d say Crofty. People might say Gary Dicker takes people on and looks glamorous in the centre of the field, but I think what Crofty does is brilliant for the team. He keeps the ball, tackles, scores goals and allows others to play as well.

All the players were very confident about this season…
(Laughs) Yeah…

Are you cautious about being confident for next season? When you came here we were still talking about making the play-offs…
I’m not cautious, no, because I think you should always be confident when you start the season, otherwise there’s no point in playing. I think if we believe in the brand of football the gaffer wants us to play and we play the way we know we can, the play-offs and automatic promotion are not unrealistic at all, especially given the performance against Southampton [at Withdean]. It was top drawer.

It’s fair to say that we’ve been outclassed by a few of the top teams like Leeds. What do you think we have to do to get up to their standard, or do you think we’re really approaching that now?
I think it’s all about confidence. I know I keep saying that, but when they came here Leeds had been on a good run, they were at the top of the league, flying. Things change – people would say they’re not that good now.

Have you felt a kind of momentum building since January?
Definitely, I think our results have shown that as well. We haven’t been losing many games and there’s a steady confidence growing within the team for next season.