Updated: January 2012
In August 2011, after 14 years without a proper ground, 2 planning
enquiries, a huge amount of campaigning by a dedicated bunch of fans and
even a Top 40 hit
(I never thought I'd
get to No 17 in the charts..) my beloved Brighton and Hove Albion FC finally
moved into our new home at Falmer. For the previous 14 years, while the
club played at Gillingham and then at Withdean, I was DJ and PA Announcer,
operating a Phil Collins ban and playing loads of punk and ska!
I've now retired from that role. But I am still Poet in Residence and am
happy to say that two of my poems now adorn the walls at Dick's Bar, our new
supporters' bar, where I also put on gigs from time to time and where we
serve Dark Star Hophead and Harvey's best - as we do all round the ground,
the very first Football league club to serve real ale all over the stadium,
and one of the few who do anywhere on the premises.....
There are two great books 'Build a Bonfire' and 'Build a Stadium' available
about our massive 17 year fans' campaign, first to kick out the people who
were destroying our club, then to get a new stadium built - have a look here
Many of the poems below were written during our long campaign.
(a new song)
His forebears were the butchers on the field at Peterloo
They led the charge and cut the people down
They ruled the mill, starved weavers out, beat Chartists black and blue
Made millions in some hellish sweatshop town
I'm sure he cursed his countrymen in '84 and '5
His queen called them 'the enemy within'
He's the overseer, the usurer, drone within the hive
Whose wallet is his god, his kith and kin
and don't tell me it's only football
His system defines 'ownership' - a mess of paper shares
A slick deal, a commodity acquired
He pulls the strings and works the law so he controls the 'wares'
Then laughs at all the anguish he's inspired
Now we are many thousands, and he is only one
But law and state hold him in their embrace
What kind of law, what kind of state condones what he has done?
A state where social justice has no place
So don't tell me it's only football
And above all, friends, don't tell me please
That it's nothing to do with years of sleaze
The shattered lives and the corporate trough
Don't tell me it's just a sad one-off
That it's nothing to do with politics
That politics and sport don't mix
Don't tell me it's just bad luck
Because it isn't only football
Our grounds rose up near stations in old Victorian times
Most urban centres then were barely towns
Built for our teams, then left in trust to us across the years
By people who loved football, not just pounds
The vulture sees the soaring price of inner city land
An ailing club which he can desecrate
To us it's pride and history, the story of our lives
To him it's just some prime site real estate
Our culture has been colonised, our heritage is sold
And moneymen control our national game
It's devil take the hindmost, all hail the Premier League
And if you can't compete, well, that's a shame
There's a superstore development and it's coming to your ground
A pinstriped butcher's waiting with his knife
Brighton, Wrexham, anywhere - the message is the same
Let's kick him out - of football, and of life!
The opponents of Brighton's new stadium at Falmer are constantly telling us that the site is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - an idyllic village
with a beautiful pond. In fact it's bisected by a motorway-sized road, the A27! And as for the pond - one evening Robina and I decided to go and have a
look at it. It was half dried up, full of noxious algae, and there was a prominent sign -
'Don't feed the ducks, it encourages the rats.'
That visit inspired the following poem!
Upon approach, the stench of foetid mud.
If, undeterred, you head towards this place
Mosquito clouds fly up into your face:
A vampire squadron, hungry for your blood.
And then you see the rats. Their gimlet eyes
Bore through you, as if sizing up their prey.
But they are full: they have a meal today.
A local dog has just met its demise.
It decomposes while they gnaw its flesh.
Diseased and dying ducks are all around
Choking on the used condoms that they've found
Their scab-encrusted feet caught in a mesh
Of rusting supermarket trolleys. Worse!
A host of bats (protected species, these)
Each carrying a different foul disease
Rises on stinking wings to spread a curse
Across the innocent East Sussex sky.
A chill runs down your spine, the message clear.
Abandon hope, all those who enter here:
This is a place where creatures come to die.
Then, from the shadows, awful shapes lurch forth.
Pale, hideous forms, by putrefaction scarred:
With querulous moans of 'Not In My Back Yard!'
The zombie hordes of Falmer Village North......!
But, Mr. Prescott, you are stout of heart.
You knocked that deadly Welsh egg thrower down
And didn't let the crap canoeist drown.
We know your courage: you will play your part.
Outstanding Natural Beauty there will be
Next to that awful breeding place for flies.
So give the word, and we will claim our prize:
A Stadium for the City by the Sea.
I'd like to think that the chorus of this song may one day make its way into the opposing fans' repertoire when they are playing the Chelski
ABRAMOVITCH'S DONKEY SANCTUARY
Most of the time you'll find these places quietly tucked away
Run by a bunch of crusties or the RSPCA
But when you see the latest one I'm sure you will agree
That every creature in it has a Premier pedigree.......
It's funded by the billions leeched by private profiteers
From Soviet oil resources built up over the years
So take a walk to Stamford Bridge and soon you'll plainly see
The universe's most exclusive donkey sanctuary!
Donkey sanctuary, donkey sanctuary
Hey Mr Abramovitch, will you buy one from me?
Donkey sanctuary, donkey sanctuary
They're overpriced, they're over here, they're playing for Chelsea!
He wants a new one every day so he puts in a bid
And each new one costs double the amount the last one did
That's twenty times more than they would have cost a week ago
The Price is Right for Roman however high you go
And all the while most of our clubs are fighting to survive
With buckets and collections just to help them stay alive
Some call this 'market forces' but we call it right wing shit
In football, and in life, we've had far too much of it!
So hate Man U for ever - but hate Chelsea even more
Phone up Stanford Bridge and ask 'What's Russian for Ee-aw?'
Rejoice each time they lose a game, abuse them when they win
Cos they're a plastic football club, a profiteer's plaything
That money is the people's cash - in Russia it should stay
A curse upon the traitors who gave Soviet wealth away
A few clubs get the millions, the rest go to the wall
So let's kick out the usurers - and let's take back the ball!
For Bobby Zamora. The best player I've ever seen at the Albion - and he'll
be in the England team soon........Spurs got him on the cheap because in
football now the elite can simply dictate terms to smaller clubs like Brighton: and players' agents make damned sure that their golden boys go up the corporate ladder as fast and cheaply as possible, with no thought for the people who developed and nurtured their skills. Bastards all of them. CAPITALISM IS KILLING FOOTBALL!!
After the war years and exile in Kent
He came to thrill us all, our just reward:
A name to rank in Albion's Hall of Fame
Beside the likes of Lawrenson and Ward.
Right from the first we knew he'd be a star.
A spell on loan - we thought he'd soon be gone.
Sharp as a razor, strong and fleet of foot.
Then Bristol let us have him for a song....
And what a song we sang those first two years!
A deadly marksman in an awesome team.
Two Championships, and over sixty goals.
Division One! Now we could really dream...
Seagulls drowned out the home crowds everywhere.
Our unsung heroes did their very best.
We nearly made our second great escape.
Then money talked. An agent did the rest.
Players will come and go: we are the fans.
So thank you, Bobby, thank you and goodbye.
We wish you lots of goals and lots of fun
At that great corporate Hotspur in the Sky.
But oh, the price they paid just makes me sick.
And thousands like me will be hopping mad.
Spurs are not Skint. We sold him on the cheap.
Perhaps the greatest player we ever had.
For Bobby - stolen by Spurs from us for £1.5 million
(It didn't work out at Spurs, and he's not doing well at West Ham either - but we still love him, and I still think he'll play for England one day..)
Inspired by all the hand-wringing after the much publicised recent collapse
into the sea of part of Brighton's long-derelict West Pier
And so, fed up with the delay
The hot air and bureaucracy
The poor old thing has had its say
And gently flopped into the sea.
While talking shops talked on and on
The rotting corpse spoke loud and clear:
'Look. All my bits are falling off.
I am a stiff. An Ex-West Pier!
I had a good and happy life.
Gave many people loads of fun.
I've decomposed for long enough.
Please let me go! My time has come!'
Let's have the funeral right away.
Cart off the bits, and let it be.
Give it a fitting resting place:
Just time and tide, and memory.
The building Brighton really needs
(We need it more each year, and how!)
Looks to the future, not the past.
A STADIUM AT FALMER. NOW!
I dedicate this poem to all the fans who are fighting to save their clubs
from the clutches of greedy moneymen - while the FA do precisely that for
anyone outside the pampered echelons of the Premiership. Especially to
everyone at AFC Wimbledon (well done!!) and York City, whose chairman
inspired this poem when, confronted with the demonstrations of angry fans,
he said 'It's a symptom of modern society..'
A SYMPTOM OF MODERN SOCIETY....
It's a symptom of modern society.
When our team's getting stuffed, we complain!
When our history's sold for developers' gold
We protest again and again!
When we're told we're 'half-wits' who 'make trouble
We get angry and filled with suspicion.
'Cos behind talk like that there's quite often a rat
Abusing a hallowed position....
We're no longer just dumb cannon fodder.
We're the fans, it's our club, and we care.
We want participation, not patronisation!
Let us in - we'll do more than our share.
Please don't tell us to 'mind our own business'.
It's our 'business' as much as it's yours!
We've been there since the start, we're the lifeblood, the heart.
Ever played a match behind closed doors?
It's a symptom of modern society.
We supporters have got off our knees!
It's a symptom we're going to encourage -
Until it becomes a disease!
AND SMITH MUST SCORE
(Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United, FA Cup Final, 1983....our finest hour)
Five yards out, an open goal
and not a man in sight
The memory of that awful miss
still haunts me late at night...
Ten seconds left in extra time
and history in the making
but Smith's shot hit the goalie's legs
and now our hearts are breaking...
A paralytic lemming
with the skill of a dead cat
and the finesse of a hamster
could have done better than that...
A decomposing dogfish
wrapped in bondage head to toe
could have stuck that ball into the net...
but Gordon Smith? Oh no!
When Robinson broke down the left
and stuck the ball across
we knew for sure the Seagulls' win
was Man United's loss
and as old Smithy shaped to shoot
a mighty roar went up...
The impossible had happened!
We'd won the FA Cup!
A fleeting glimpse of glory -
alas, 'twas not to be...
we lost the replay 4-0
went down to Division Three.
The one chance of a lifetime
so cruelly snatched away
But till the white coats come for me
I'll never forget that day!
(Written on the occasion of the last ever match at the Goldstone Ground, Saturday April 26 1997. Our stadium was sold to moneymen by then chairman Bill Archer in one of the most disgraceful carve ups in football history. But as you will read here we fought, we saved our football club (in a brilliant example of community direct action at work!) and now we are on the way back......)
As bulldozers close in upon our old, beloved home
and those who stand to profit rub their hands
so we gather here together in sad, angry disbelief
and for one last time our voices fill the stands.
This is no happy parting, but a battle-scarred farewell
though victory hopes are mingled with the tears
And I, like you, will stand here as the final whistle blows
with memories which echo down the years.....
The Chelsea fans threw pennies. Old ones. Sharpened. I was eight.
A target in the South Stand with my dad
And he got rather battered as he held me close and tight
and confirmed my view that Chelsea fans were mad!
And there, on those old wooden seats, I learned to love the game.
The sights and sounds exploded in my head.
My dad was proud to have a son with football in his blood -
but two short years later, he was dead.
Eleven. I went on my own. (My friends liked chess and stuff.)
'Now don't go in the North Stand!' said my mum.
But soon I did. Kit Napier's corner curled into the net.
Oh god. The Bournemouth Boot Boys! Better run....
Then Villa in the big crunch game. A thirty thousand crowd.
Bald Lochhead scored, but we still won the day.
Then up, and straight back down again. Brian Powney, brave and squat.
T.Rex, DMs and scarf on wrist, OK?
And then the world was wonderful. Punk rock and Peter Ward!
And sidekick 'Spider' Mellor, tall and lean.
The legendary Walsall game. Promotion. Riding high.
Southampton-Spurs: that stitch-up was obscene.
The final glorious victory. Division One at last!
Arsenal, first game, midst fevered expectation.
Those Highbury gods tore us to shreds; we learned the lesson well.
Steve Foster was our soul and inspiration!
Man City came, and Gerry Ryan waltzed through them to score
And mighty Man United bit the dust.
Notts Forest, and that Williams screamer nearly broke the net.
The Norwich quarter-final: win or bust!
And after Wembley, Liverpool were toppled one last time.
The final curtain on those happy days.
And then the years of gradual, inexorable decline -
sadly for some, the parting of the ways.
But we stayed true, as glory days turned into donkeys' years.
Young, Trusson, Tiltman, Farrington. Ee-aw!
A Wilkins free-kick nearly brought us hope. 'Twas not to be.
The rot was deep and spreading to the core.
We found our voice and Lloyd was gone. Hooray! But worse to come.
Though just how awful we were yet to know.
Dissent turned to rebellion and then to open war
as on the terrace weeds began to grow.
The Goldstone sold behind our backs! Enraged, we rose as one
against a stony northern businessman.
We drew a line, and said: ENOUGH! And as the nation watched
the final battle for our club began.
We fought him to a standstill. Fans United. All for one.
A nation's colours joined: a glorious sight.
And, finally, the stubborn, stony Archer moved his ground
and made way for our own collective Knight.
The battle's only just begun, but we have won the war.
Our club, though torn asunder, will survive.
And I salute each one of you who stood up and said NO!
And fought to keep the Albion alive.
And one day, when our new home's built, and we are storming back
A bunch of happy fans without a care
We'll look back on our darkest hour and raise our glasses high
and say with satisfaction: we were there.
But first we have to face today. The hardest day of all.
Don't worry if you can't hold back the tears!
We must look to the future, in dignity and peace
as well as mourn our home of ninety years.
For me the Goldstone has an extra special memory
of the football soulmate I so briefly had.
He christened me John Charles and taught me to love the game.
This one's for Bill. A poet. And my dad.
They say that he's greedy, corrupt, and a liar -
and they wouldn't pass water on him if afire.
They've disowned him, they hate him, and he is to blame
And everywhere headlines scream out 'Archer's Shame!'
So strangely familiar, this rage and this fuss.
Such memories for each and every one of us
And so right and so fitting that Jeffrey should pay.
But I still can't help thinking, as he's banged away,
though an Archer in prison is justice well done,
that, as foul as he is, they've locked up the wrong one.
for June 16, 2001
We follow, as we say, o'er land and sea
And Palace. Today, now, it's back in time.
The one place even Seagulls fans can't go.
So think upon our founders in their prime
In old Victorian England's final year.
The customs, voices different in their day.
But love of football deep and strong as ours.
So gratitude to those who paved the way.
A hundred years: that's longer than a life.
I've seen a third, and you, some more, some less.
We've crossed it more times than this poet knows:
that line 'twixt abject gloom and joyousness.
We started off as fans, became a team.
In Brighton's darkest days we showed our power.
And as we did, we earned our special bond,
Our Championship, and this Centenary hour.
The Albion, a century from now?
Football will change, as life and time and place.
We think Carlisle's a long, long way to go
But they'll be playing teams from outer space!
We've seen it all. Yet so much more to see......
Through all the smiles and heartaches, hopes and fears
Let's stand upon this moment and give thanks
For our great club. Another hundred years!
ANOTHER FOOTBALL OBSCENITY
(Written for my Northwich wife, Robina, and for her much loved home town
club, the Vics. Perhaps the best and most poignant example of the disgusting gulf between
rich and poor which now exists in football.)
At the end of this season
the oldest football ground of them all
around which whole lives have been built
for a century and a quarter
replete with history
haunted by the ghosts of the past
will be concreted over by soulless moneymen
to save a debt-crippled club from extinction.
The Drill Field.
Home of Northwich Victoria FC.
Football played continuously there since 1874.
of the greatest game the world has ever known
- a game which England gave to the world.
It should be cherished.
Preserved for posterity.
The pride of the Football Association.
There is no history.
Just Champions League. Premiership. Sky TV.
Southerners in Man.U shirts
soulless, overpriced all-seater stadia
and more dull tabloid headlines
as another rootless mercenary changes masters for twenty million pounds.
For the rest...
Market forces rule, they say.
Let the bulldozers come.
We know how that feels.
For the record:
Northwich Vics have debts
Seven week's wages
for Roy Keane.
(Albion v Aldershot Town FA Cup 1st Round, 18/11/2000)
(The FA Cup match at Aldershot was an absolute inspiration - and not just
because we won 6-2! As many of you will know, Aldershot were expelled from
the Football League due to 'financial irregularities' several years ago,
wound up, reconstituted and cast into the lowest reaches of Ryman League
football under a new name, Aldershot Town. It is an enormous credit to
their several thousand fans, so unjustly and hideously betrayed by the
custodians of their club, that they stayed loyal and swamped tiny amateur
suburban grounds in numbers unseen in non-league history.
Now they are in the Ryman Premier League and challenging for promotion to
the Conference with an average home attendance of well over 2000.
Unaffected by Football League stipulations due to the Shots' dramatic and
unjust decline, the Recreation Ground has been left more or less exactly as
it was around twenty-five years ago when I went there for the first of
several visits with the Albion. The atmosphere at this match was
unbelievable and the memories came flooding back. The 'modernisers', the
all-seater enthusiasts and the pampered elites might disagree, but for
Robina, myself and, I suspect, for many others who were there, it was
However, this match celebrated the future, not the past. Here were two
clubs who had seen the very worst times. And two sets of fans who had
stayed true, through thick and thin, and could see the light at the end of
the tunnel at last.
How fitting that Aldershot's new crest is a phoenix. I look forward to the
day when they regain their rightful Football League place.)
Packed in the stand, the rival choirs compete.
The pylons bathe the pitch in eerie light.
I feel the concrete hard beneath my feet.
It doesn't feel 'outdated'. It feels right.
Seconds till kick-off now. A long-lost sound:
Expectant hum. Then acclamatory cheers!
Anticipation echoes round the ground.
I feel myself transported through the years.
This is the game I loved, the game I learned.
Not censored, sanitised for corporate gain.
Each watching eye ablaze, each penny earned.
We stand here singing in the pouring rain.
They tell us that such times are past and dead.
But Shots and Seagulls heard that talk before.
We stood together till the vultures fled.
Now damn them all, and hear the terrace roar!
The Shots reborn, the Albion on a roll.
Two sets of fans victorious in our strife.
We battled long and hard for football's soul.
Today we brought its spirit back to life.
Schadenfreude: noun malicious pleasure in the misfortunes of others. 19c: German. from Schade hurt and Freude joy (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
Remember Paul Hardcastle's crap disco hit 'N-n-n-nineteen..?'
(The Paul Hardcastle Remix!)
(For the uninitiated...Brighton fans don't like Crystal Palace!)
Tuesday September 8th 1989 began like any other day in the footballing calendar, with newly-discovered Team of the 80s, Crystal Palace, travelling to Anfield to test their Colditz-like defensive qualities and mesmerising attacking skills against the sacrificial lemmings of Liverpool. Now football is a funny game, as the utterly retarded cliche goes, and on this particular evening it proved to be a very funny game indeed, in fact a positively hilarious, side-splittingly humourous one, even more mirth-inducing than David Beckham trying to define existentialism or Bill Archer attempting coitus with a paper-shredding machine. For while Palace's much-feared rivals Brighton and Hove Albion were thrashing Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-2, at Anfield the final score was Liverpool 9, Crystal Palace 0. Liverpool 9, Crystal Palace 0. N-n-n-nine nil, nine nil. N-n-n-nine nil, nine nil. And following those fateful n-n-n-ninety minutes on that hilarious Tuesday night the hapless halibuts from Selhurst Park were subjected to fierce and merciless ridicule from the rest of the football world and many of them are still living out their experiences to this day. Even now the South London branch of the Samaritans receive mysterious phone calls where the only audible sounds are donkey-like voices braying bewilderedly 'Nine nil. N-n-n-nine nil. Ee-aw! Nine nil. N-n-n-nine nil. Ee-aw! And when the Palace players got home, obviously in need of moral support and counselling following their torrid n-n-n-nine nil experience, none of them received a hero's welcome. None of them. None of them received a hero's welcome. N-n-n-none of them. The long term effects of such an unbelievable n-n-n-nine nil annihilation are hard to predict, but it seems likely that many of the Crystal Palace squad may have been be so demoralised that they may have been forced to leave professional football and sign on. S-s-s-sign on. Sign on. S-s-s-sign on. S-s-s-sign on, sign on. S-s-s-sign on, sign on. A worse fate even than this may well have befallen the Palace goalkeeper Perry Suckling, a man who, rather like the Queen Mother, wears gloves for no apparent reason, for his intense feelings of humiliation may well have led him to emigrate, and sign on in Vietnam. V-v-v-Vietnam. S-s-s-sign on. V-v-v-Vietnam. S-s-s-sign on...........(repeat ad nauseam)
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