Day 31 – Brighton-Portsmouth-Southampton-Bournemouth
So, Brighton and Hove Albion. Fort Knox, Area 52 if you like. In Southampton now, you can go for a pint and watch the football in a titty bar, but in Brighton, you can’t go withing 1,000 feet of the stadium. Its all blocked off massively.
Approaching it i expected to see a bloody T-Rex being fed a goat like on Jurassic Park its that caged off. So, I apologise if you were expecting a huge round up of the American Express Arena, or the AMEX if you’re one of them lazy gits.
The Seagulls as they are known are managed by Graham Potter and play in this big cauldron of a stadium. Its a big imposing stadium, yet only holds 30,750. Which means they must have made the roof extra big and fancy.
To put it into perspective, its only the 15th largest stadium in the Premier League.
Delving more deeper into the facts and figures of the club, they actually use hawks to scare away seagulls and pigeons. Ironic considering their nickname. If they wanted to scare birds away I could have just taken my mask off. Its basically a way to use nature to stop people being shat on by pigeons whilst watching a game. Due to not having many photos of the stadium as I could have been 2 miles away and I’d feel like intruding, I googled why they do this as filler and I’m not gonna lie, pigeon poo doesn’t seem so bad as a hawks
So I think someone’s cocked up a bit here. A bit more astute was the guy who approached the other side of the fence on a golf cart with the attitude of step away from the stadium. Especially after hearing my accent wasn’t that of a native Brightoner. It reminded me of this.
This is a local club for local people, there’s nothing for you here Welshy. I never did get to find out what was on the other side of the forbidden fence. So I just took some photos of Brighton instead.
What a place.
So, let’s get our mucky fingers all over the south coast, all the way to Bournemouth.
Cycling through this cycleway would have been amazing. Had it been in a post apocalyptic world with just me in it.
When people weren’t checking their phones, looking at the sky or wondering where they were, it was a gorgeous ride. Flatter than a pint in wetherspoons. All 52 miles of it. Ill take that all day. Bellissima. The views were stunning. I stopped to have a coffee on the beach somewhere around Littlehampton which was lush. Well until I realised it was just made of pebbles and after having a bike seat up my arse for 20 miles already today, I had to bloody stand.
So, onto Pompey.
a ground that don’t let you take in various items such as explosives, clothes with swearing on, selfie sticks and ticker tape.
Or pets. If you were thinking of taking your bloody hamster to a game. In fact there’s warning signs everywhere telling you off before you potentially do something naughty.
Holding my breath incase breathing was against the rules, I made my way to the famous Pompey front of house.
Where they pay homage to those people who wouldn’t let the club die when they were in financial trouble.
Further homage is paid to the ‘Pompey Pals’ who volunteered to serve in World War 1 and former player Captain Edward Bell MC and Bar. Whats interesting here is that he actually played for Southampton. Putting aside football rivalries after he had a trial with Pompey, they decided to commemorate him. I like that, Pompey that shows class fair play. A player who only made a handful of first team appearances due to being needed in the war, he unfortunately fell at the Somme in the last year of the war. Such a legend he was he was actually awarded the military cross in 1916. RIP Captain Edward. Nice to see football taking a back seat to celebrate such a gentleman.
Proper old school features round the back, grand stature at the front.
Pompeys biggest achievement is beating Cardiff City in the FA Cup final in 2008 so moving swiftly on i peddled my way over very bloody fast to Portsmouths rivals, Southampton FC. Where my mate Bob was waiting for me with some Dairylea Dunkers and Lucozade, champion.
Home to the club that allegedly invented football as it happens. I tried to look for an actual clarification on the details but the first suggested question on Google was how many trophies have Southampton won? Which I’m sure Pompey fans have ben googling to push it to the top of the list. Awkward. Home to one of the Premier leagues greatest ever footballers and goalscorers, Matt LeTissier, the ‘Saints’ as they are known for their association obviously with their own ground, named St Mary’s, but their origin as a club actually came about when members of StMarys Church Young Mens Association started playing all over Southampton until they settled at former ground, the Dell.
Its a gorgeous ground to be fair.
Outside the ground a statue is adorned of Ted Bates MBE, known as ‘Mr Southampton’. Now this is a proper sporting man from a proper sporting family. Son of Eddie Bates who played cricket for Glamorgan and football for Bolton and Leeds, Ted played 202 times for Southampton in a 16 year period before becoming coach, then manager in 1955. Promotion from the 3rd division happened in 1960 with club legend Derek Reeves smashing out 39 goals in the process. Thats quite an incredible haul. 6 years later, boom they are in the first division producing talent such as Mick Channel and Ron Davies and in 1969 they qualified for Europe. If you imagine that now that’s bloody incredible. As a fitting tribute to the man, in 2003 the club created the Ted Bates trophy, inaugurated with a match against the legendary Bayern Munich. A fitting tribute when you are a club legend.
Southampton have had one of those important impacts on football in recent times too. Nurturing youth players is a bit of a Forté to the club. Names like Theo Walcott and the worlds greatest player Gareth Bale came through the club. Not a bad pedigree that. The club is synonymous with legendary players though. Ive already mentioned the best finisher the Premier League has ever seen, Matt LeTissier.
You can also add Alan Shearer, Peter Shilton, Alan Ball, Virgil Van Dyke, Sadie Mané and about 400 other players who have played for Liverpool in the last 4 years. That would do my head in. Its like losing several bloody girlfriends to the same bloke.
No one can take away Le Tiss’ goals though and with that I was off to Bournemouth.
And it rained. Torrentially. Full on for the last 3 hours of the journey. Which was actually nice. If you’ve ever cycled through the new forest, you’d know how gorgeous it is.
Heres another photo I managed to take in the split second it wasn’t raining so you can fantasise that this journey is a cute one.
Thats what I’ll tell my future children if Cheryl Cole/Charlotte Church/Helen Flanagan finally return the faxes i sent them. Yeah it was beautiful, incredible. Full of horses, sunny weather and the most beautiful sunsets.
I won’t mention the fact it rains a lot or I got arse cheeks now like an elephant’s eyelids from that saddle. But on we go to where I currently live. (Bournemouth, not the Vitality Stadium).
And what a welcome I had.
I say that, this is probably what One Directions reunion tour promotional poster will look like in 20 years when they’ve hit on really hard times and have to tour stadiums again.
I call us Wrong Direction.
Lush stadium. Even in the rain. Turbulent times for the club though. Relegation meant an end to one of the most recent incredible journeys behind Leicester City.
OK, strap in. Heres another footballing journey.
Let’s start at the top.
The club, formed as Boscombe FC, which is a suburb of Bournemouth itself as thats where they play at Kings Park, started their journey in 1899. Nicknamed ‘The Cherries’ owing to the nearby cooper depan estate which was home to a load of cherry orchards. Sweet. About time we came across a team with a fruitful past.
Tiny is the vitality. Have a guess. For what was a premier league club.
In fact, if you want to go further, only Luton towns stadium which I previously visited at Kenilworth has a lower capacity as the next one along. Luton by the way are newcomers to the championship.
If you took away 11,364 seats from from Old Trafford, it would still hold more than the Tottenham stadium, Emirates, London Stadium, oh and Anfield and Man City.
But, that’s where it gets the atmosphere from. Seen so many grounds I’d like to go to watch football on this trip and my favourite is Accrington Stanley. Wales now play at the Cardiff City stadium instead of the millennium stadium, a 41,220 difference in capacity.
But, take this in music terms, when you got enough crowd on top of you, an intimate gig can be more appealing for the artist.
And some would say thats where artists really get to play.
Moving into the vitality in 1910, renovated in 2001 they were happy with their lot obviously. Although they did play their games at the start of that season in Dorchester. Which is all downhill, I know I’ve cycled there, it was lush.
Not downhill for the Cherries though as they went from strength to strength. Because the story prior to them kitting out original stadium Dean Court is quite bleak.
Involved in a bizarre love triangle with the third and fourth divisions. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, heres the cold, hard facts,
1987-Promoted to division 2 for 3 years before getting relegated again.
1997-Go into administration
2002-Relegated to division 4
Sorry Bournemouth fans but that reads like my lovelife.
But then, this man took over.
Eddie Howe, as close to a club legend as you can get. After playing 253 games for the cherries, he ended up managing them in the 2008/09 season.
OK, heres an incredible stat. Howe, rescued Bournemouth from relegation that season, even after they started the season on minus 17 points, a gift from the administrators for telling porkies about the accounts.
Impressive stuff eh. Oh and the next season? Only went and got them promoted. Incredible. Then, with his stock rising, he moved to Burnley. As manager obviously, no one wants that commute. Bit like when your partner has an affair this but realises you ain’t so bad after all as Howe was back in charge of Bournemouth just a year later. A brief fling we shall call it. The Cherries couldn’t be happier too. 2 promotions in 3 seasons saw them in the promised land, the Premier league 🥳 🎊🏆
So good was Eddie at his job, he won the Inaugural Football League Manager of the Year Award in 2015 and went on to be the longest serving manager at a club when Arsene Wenger decided he had had a gutsful and left. He also has the freedom of Bournemouth. I still don’t actually know what that entitles you to. I assume he can just walk into Greggs and get a free steak bake or if its raining like today and he’s out walking the dog he can just pop into your house to chill for 5, no questions asked.
Unfortunately for all concerned he left the club by mutual consent. He was probably bloody knackered mind you. Eddie, well done chief.
If you’re confused as to the end of the video, my flatmate Joe said he knew the quickest route to get back to tow. Half hour later, we were back at the Vitality Stadium. After several wrong turns. An extra 5 miles was just what I needed after cycling the last 18 miles dripping wet from the torrential rain so cheers mate 👍
Only one way to warm yourself up though and I found the time to squeeze in a 1-on-1 with my boxing coach Marc Plunkett at Bodysnatchers gym, also in Boscombe.
Kudos to this man. A man who’s gyms ethos is ‘knives down, gloves up’ and ‘your behaviour away from the gym decides whether you train in the gym’. Incredible insight into what its like to train there and the brilliant mentality that the place leaves you with. Not only has he been raising awareness of this whole trip, training with him every day got me properly ready for it. Oh and he made me a cup of coffee too 👌 So cheers mate and I’m proud to call you that, this journey would have been much harder without you 👌
To everyone whos made a hell of an effort, further congratulations to you. And even bigger thank yous. This journey would not be where it is without you.
So now, its time to put this to bed and head to Devon.
A hellish journey on the last leg. Wait for tomorrow.
This, Mindrushers, is going to get ugly….