Don’t Cry For Me Withdean

“Don’t cry for me Withdean
The truth is I never loved you
All through my away days
My nomad existence
I kept my promise
And kept my distance”

[With apologies now to Tim Rice]

Last Saturday against Tranmere I bade farewell to Withdean Stadium as the team turned out a day in the office performance.  In the first half the game was pedestrian at best, but in the end a penalty decision and moment of magic from Murray meant I left Withdean smiling.  I said goodbye with no tear in my eye.

Over the post-match pint in the Sportsman I mulled over my relationship with Withdean over the last twelve or so years.  I’ve probably averaged a game a year there.  I live in the Midlands now so distance and other commitments may make that understandable yet every season I’ve followed the club regularly across the country as a travelling supporter.  Happy and not so happy memories come flooding back – mid-week games at Hereford, Rotherham, Stoke and Peterborough.  Treks across the country to Lincoln, Grimsby, Cardiff, Swansea.  Even the words Friday night in Hull bring a strange smile to the face.  1-7 at Huddersfield on a Tuesday night was a long journey back.

So why not go home to Withdean as often?  It’s not that much further to travel.  I guess because it’s never felt like home.  From the word go it felt like we’d moved in to digs.  We never went out and bought the best furniture.  We never hung our own pictures on the wall, we kept them all in storage waiting for the proper home.  As fans, we’ve never become too emotionally attached as our real home was always just around the corner.  Like Del Trotter we’ve kept saying “This time next year we’ll be millionaires”.  And actually, this time in six months it’ll feel like we are…

Which is why like so many others I’ve emotionally invested in our travelling exploits – admiring the homes of others, and making myself comfortable there.  I’m not alone – I think so many other Seagulls fans have felt the same.  Over the years, I’ve taken a number of friends along to have the travelling Brighton experience and they’ve instantly remarked on our sense of humour, our joy in just being there and the affinity between fans and team.  In the late 90s and early 00s that joy of still existing and then finding glory again was irresistible.

Some friends have stayed on to adopt the Seagulls as their club for the last 10 years and more – I took two along on Saturday to say Hello Goodbye to Withdean. – they’ve followed the Seagulls as an adopted club for gone ten years now as dedicated as any true Brightonian but never visited Withdean.  I’d warned them all along that there would be disappointment, and sure enough there was.  Maybe we’d chosen a bad game to visit but there was no sense of the passion and joy in the stands that comes with travelling and so we said goodbye and look forward to the Amex.  Oh, and Oldham on Saturday and Rochdale a few weeks later…

As part of the weekend we went to visit the Amex.   “Don’t know whether I’ll know exactly where it is”, I said as we skirted Coldean and turned the corner on to the Lewes Road section.  But there was no missing it as it rose gracefully and impressively in to our sight above the A27, and suddenly I felt We’re Home.  We can start hanging up our pictures and if we’re lucky maybe there’ll be some silverware for the mantelpiece soon.

Other no81bob postings – music with football themes

Learning Italian with…Dean Martin…for a week

Living with…Madonna…for a week

Living with…Elton John…for a week

Living with…Nirvana…for a week