Issue An Oily Stage

As told by Michael Wood

As I wandered to work listening to the odd tune it struck me that this weekend at Brighton Bradford City’s time in out of the basement of English football could – for all intents – come to an end.

Having only briefly gone to City in the early 1980s Division Four period I shuddered at the idea that having started this decade in the Premiership City could end up playing at a level of football so low that a large chunk of the Bantams support were probably not born when last it was seen at Valley Parade.

What does League Two/Division Four football look like? Is it entertaining? Is it bullish? Which skills are required to win in a league that is one step off not being professional? Is the gap between here and there similar in scope to the Premiership/Championship jump?

One hopes we do not have to find out but should we lose at Brighton’s Withdean Stadium it will be likely we will.

If it does all but mathematically end on Saturday then what better place than the athletic track stadium which most ironically represents the problems of the majority of modern football clubs.

Brighton and Hove Albion have some passionate supporters who struggle manfully to try get the club into a new stadium in the City. At the moment attendences average at around 6,200 in a City of 155,919 people and an area of just under half a million.

The 6,200 of Brighton struggle against the same sort of massive disinterest in the struggling club that most fans find. The majority of people in places like Brighton and Bradford do not give much of a damn about the football club and certainly are not about to pay taxes to support it or see it given preferential treatment for planning applications and the like.

Of course were Brighton and Hove Albion to get to Wembley – or as we did up the Leagues – one can be sure that more than 6,200 would be in attendance.

The Brighton stadium plans are a microcosm of most of footballs problems. A small passionate group looking to enhance something that when working well is a massive civic institution – and when badly still a significant one – against a face of at best indifference and at worse nimby hostility.