DCSIMG

Still missing the Goldstone Ground

THIS Saturday, although not the exact date — 19 days out, if my memory serves me correctly — is the 10th anniversary of the last game at the much-missed Goldstone Ground.

Albion meet Doncaster Rovers, who were the last team to occupy the away dressing room at the old stadium.

Much is being made of this game, and so it should be.

A lot has gone in the last 10 years: two championships, a play-off final, two relegations and, at the end of it all, survival — just.

Had I written this column 10 years ago, I would have said what I believed to be, up until then, the definitive story of what had happened over the Goldstone Ground.

Those 10 years have taught me that, while I had a comprehensive understanding of the situation, it was merely the tip of the iceberg.

For the uninitiated, Greg Stanley, local millionaire and wannabee Oliver Reed, pulled the Albion out of the mire in 1987 with an interest-free loan.

The Albion continued to lurch from one financial crisis to another and Stanley decided to bring in his business oppo Bill Archer, a former paint salesman who made Victor Kiam look like Martin Fowler.

Archer and Stanley took control of the Albion and the freehold of the ground for little over 50, and by the summer of 1995 the writing was on the wall.

With debts of a little over 4million, the ground was sold to a company for 7million, to be sold in less than two years later for a 16 million profit.

Whichever way you dress it up, the supporters of Brighton & Hove Albion were sold up the river — but 10 years on, this is where time has given me a different perspective on the situation.

While I can never forgive or forget what the "dynamic duo" did to my beloved Albion, the local council also has to shoulder a lot of the blame for what happened to the club.

They could have changed the whole situation by adopting a perfectly legal stance, for which a precedent had already been set with Charlton Athletic in the mid-1980s.

When The Valley was bought by developers and Charlton were kicked out, the Greenwich council played with a straight bat, gave the developer the planning permission, but ring-fenced The Valley the same time.

They told the builders they could build whatever they wished but not until the Addicks had played their first league fixture in their new stadium, obviously never built, in the same borough.

The ground stood derelict for a number of years while Charlton played at Palace and West Ham, before the developers realised they had been outfoxed and sold the ground back to a now solvent club.

So why didn't Hove Council do the same thing? It was all legal and above board, yet not one local political figure even suggested such a move.

I'm assured one day it will all come out.

All I can say is that people who have for many years purported to be supporters of the Albion will be painted in a different light and possibly end up as reviled as Archer, Stanley, and — sorry I almost forgot — David Bellotti.

Things may not be too good on the pitch at the moment but full marks to Worthing Football Club for trying to attract the next generation of supporters.

For the Leyton game on Saturday, all children under 16 will be let into Woodside Road free of charge with their accompanying parent or guardian being charged a mere 5.

On the footballing front, while nothing should ever be ruled out, it looks like the Fat Lady has arrived and given her music to the pianist.

But on a positive front, with the emerging youngsters at the club, it bodes well for next season.

 
 
 

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