Harty on... the Albion and Rebels’ under-21s

Football
Football

DESPITE what appears to be an on-going black cloud over the legendary Yorkshire club, a 2-0 win at Elland Road is still a win against the mighty Leeds United and again highlights that a week in football is a long time.

I’ve been criticised in certain quarters over the recent tone of some of my comments in this column and elsewhere regarding the Albion.

After a decade of writing in this newspaper about the Albion and having actively been involved in both broadcasting and the fanzine movement for over 25 years, all feedback, good or bad, is always welcome. For a start, it proves that people are either reading what you write or listening to what you broadcast.

I was back on BBC Sussex the Monday after the Sheffield Wednesday home defeat, sharing air time with a female Albion fan, who stated that she would be happy with a season of mid-table mediocrity.

I deemed my response not negative but more one of concern. You cannot change what has gone before and, since arriving at the Amex, the Albion have constantly raised the bar – culminating in, for the last two seasons, reaching a point at the end of the season being a mere 270 minutes away from the prospect of Premier League football.

They’ve set a standard, that, along with being the best-supported club outside the top flight, fuels the expectation of supporters.

There’s no way of dressing it up, things have been difficult this season. With the virtual dismantling of last year’s team, eight of the starting 11 against Derby in the home play-off leg have now left the club, so this transfer window was always going to be the acid test.

It’s not over yet and in between now and the window closing, the Albion have back-to-back home games against Bolton and Charlton respectively.

Six points will put a different perspective on the Championship table, not to mention victory in the League Cup at Swindon and advancing into the next round. Along with some serious acquisitions in the transfer market, the majority of supporters will be far happier going into September.

To repeat what I said to the lady on the radio, Albion, with their current fan base and state-of-the-art stadium, are the envy of everyone outside the Premier League, but mid-table mediocrity cannot be on the agenda.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, with mid-table mediocrity on offer at the Amex, 27,000 would soon turn into 22,000, closely followed by 18,000 and, before long, you have a near half empty stadium, no longer the envy of our footballing peers.

Be careful what you wish for . . .

n And, finally, it will be another landmark for Worthing Football Club on Saturday, when its newly-created under-21 team has its first fixture in the Ryman League, with a home game against Faversham.

The under-21s, managed by Bob Paine, had their final pre-season friendly on Tuesday night with an in-house fixture against the Rebels Youth team, which produced an extremely entertaining 2-2 draw.

I was especially buoyed by the fact that out of the 17 strong under-21 squad on duty at Woodside, 14 of them had come through the youth system at Worthing. It would have been 15 had James Lelliott not been so proficient at golf.

But it again proves how important both the under-18 and under-21 levels are in the development of local young players.