Brighton will play AEK Athens in their first-ever European game on Thursday, capping off a “incredible” journey from homeless exiles facing oblivion to their present position as Premier League trendsetters.
A generation of Brighton supporters would never have imagined that the team would make it this far in the Europa League group stage, when AEK would have visited the Amex Stadium.
Under coach Roberto De Zerbi, Brighton has transformed from a dilapidated beachside community to one with one of the most renowned business models in international football. The West Pier on the city’s pebble beach was destroyed by fire.
Teams want to imitate Brighton’s strategy of searching the world for unknown players like Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, and Marc Cucurella, who all grew into valuable assets that brought in enormous transfer fees compared to their original purchase price.
By finishing sixth in the Premier League the previous season, the Seagulls defied the odds thanks to their creative recipe.
They have gotten off to another impressive start this season, which included their humiliating 3-1 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.
“This project has been amazing. Brighton is undoubtedly more well-known today, according to Paul Barber, CEO of the Albion team.
“I spoke with a European club, and they feed all of our games to their coaching staff, who watch them Monday mornings through to the end.”
For a team that was on the verge of elimination from the English Football League 26 years ago and without a stadium of its own, this is an extraordinary position of strength.
In December 1996, Steve Gritt was appointed manager of Brighton, a side that was 11 points behind in the fourth division and facing certain relegation to non-league football.
They made the crucial breakthrough that allowed them to live, but Brighton’s problems had just begun.
In 1997, Brighton’s stadium, the Goldstone Ground, was sold to make way for new construction.
Brighton was banished and had to travel 150 miles each way by car for each “home” game, sharing Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium as their home field.
Throughout Brighton’s two seasons there, attendance fell as low as 1,025 and it seemed the team would not make it through the years of obscurity.
An important milestone was reached in 1999 when the team signed a lease to play at the Withdean Stadium, an athletics stadium transformed two miles north of the city center.
Withdean was scarcely a glamorous venue, with little covered seating and a small capacity, but the club was able to revive itself because to the passion surrounding Brighton’s homecoming home.
Tony Bloom, a professional poker player, purchased the team in 2009 with the hope that the team’s comeback would be accelerated by the opening of a newly constructed stadium on the outskirts of the city two years later.
The risk paid off handsomely, as Brighton returned to the Premier League in 2017 after a 34-year hiatus.