Ingrates Brighton Punching Above Their Weight Trying to Forge “Rivalry” With Leeds – by Rob Atkinson


Ben White – the time of his life

Some unlikely candidates have put themselves forward as “rivals” to Leeds United over the last decade and a half, as Yorkshire’s finest have languished in the middle two tiers of English football’s four division structure. Some, such as Barnsley and Huddersfield, have had few pretensions to be compared size or history wise with United, but feel a tribal enmity based on geographical proximity, which is understandable enough. The same might be said of the two Sheffield clubs, or even Bradford City.

All these local clubs, together with the likes of Reading, Millwall, Derby etc etc have sought to exploit the reduced circumstances of Leeds for as long as their top flight exile lasted, to suggest that genuine two-way rivalries were in place. That bubble of delusion popped with United’s overdue elevation to the Premier League, and the realisation that the traditional enmities would now be cordially resumed. In the hearts and minds of Leeds fans, it was always about the likes of man utd and Chelski, with those clubs reciprocating the extreme dislike, even during our long absence from actual competitive involvement.

But, even in the Premier League, there are lesser clubs who clearly yearn to carry the mantle of “Leeds United’s rivals”, however ridiculous such a claim seems in the absence of any reciprocal antipathy, or indeed any real interest on the part of the Leeds fan base. Still, that hasn’t stopped certain clubs from fondly imagining there’s a rivalry there, and one in particular is extremely reluctant to give up on even such an outlandish notion.

For Brighton and Hove Albion – not so much the club itself, more their fans and adherent local press – the time since the end of last season seems to have been a prolonged and unaccustomed spell in the spotlight, due entirely to Leeds United’s pursuit of Ben White, who spent a gloriously successful Championship campaign on loan at Elland Road and was now wanted by United on a permanent basis. The move never happened, despite repeated efforts on the part of Leeds, and despite the player himself being widely regarded as wanting a return to West Yorkshire. In the end, Brighton stood firm, and Leeds, after making three offers and having them all turned down, reluctantly looked elsewhere and signed a German international for around half what they’d been willing to pay for White, who lacks any experience at all of top flight football, let alone the international arena. So Brighton kept their player, Leeds got a more than adequate replacement in Robin Koch, and Ben himself, at long last, got a contract acceptable to him, given the value placed upon him by his parent club. Case closed, so you’d have thought.

But no. The Brighton support and the local press for the region were not willing to give up so much delicious attention, and set about trying to force an unlikely rivalry with a club and support base hundreds of miles to the north, both of which habitually looked west to the red quarter of Manchester for its chief object of dislike and derision.

For Brighton, the Ben White tranfer saga evidently represented their biggest day in the sun since a Cup Final appearance (coinciding with relegation) 37 years ago. Looking further back, their only other real mark on history was a Charity Shield triumph sometime prior to the Great War of 1914-18, so it’s reasonably understandable that their fans should wish to prolong any spell in the public eye. But the ridiculousness of their efforts to talk up a “rivalry” is to be found in the fact that such efforts persisted even after Leeds ended their interest in Ben White, with the local press tagging Leeds in any tweets relating to his eventual new contract, and the Brighton fans on Twitter eagerly attempting to troll bemused Leeds United fans, who remained preoccupied with more traditional rivals and only thought of Brighton when Quadrophenia was on the telly.

It was all most unedifying, and it’s a stark warning that we can’t expect much more by way of dignity and restraint in the Premier League than we ever found at lower levels. I got drawn into the slanging match myself at various points before it became clear that, despite his wishes in the matter (confirmed today by his agent), Ben White would not be sold to Leeds at any price. At that point, I stopped taking the mick about Bielsaball versus Potterball, and moved onto more pressing matters – such as how the EFL would survive without Leeds United. But the Brighton fans persisted, becoming more evidently needy and utterly ridiculous with each passing day. Abandoning any sense of irony or perspective, they’re vying with each other to label United a small club, heading straight back down, which is insolence if you like, and pretty foolhardy stuff to boot. But the relentless tagging of LUFC by the Brighton tweeters and the Sussex Bugle, or whatever it’s called, continues unabated. This is a club unused to such attention, and clearly its supporters are desperate to prolong the experience as far and as long as possible.

The whole thing reflects pretty poorly on the Brighton support, certainly of the online variety, which has been encouraged in its collective acts of self-ridicule by a local press clearly cottoning onto the fact that tagging Leeds in any published piece will increase the number of hits exponentially. Again, I’ll exclude the club itself from those remarks, due to their determination in resisting offers from a bigger club, which you have to applaud. They also showcased Ben White in a video allowing him to express his appreciation of his time at Leeds, and to thank the fans for the support and adulation he received here. That was classy stuff, and there was no real need for Brighton to do it, so fair play.

Perhaps – just perhaps – Brighton & Hove Albion still remember that Leeds United helped save them financially when they were enduring hard times, by signing goalkeeper Mark Beeney for a significant sum, which went a long way towards alleviating a threatening situation at the time. That’s a factor that the local press down there, and the eager-beaver online fans might do well to take into account before bringing down even more ridicule upon themselves. However recent Leeds United’s elevation to the top level, it’s an undeniable fact that the Elland Road outfit is by far and away a bigger club than Brighton could ever dream of being, with a far more illustrious history, a fan base that spans the globe and (let’s face it) a much better coach and the makings of a squad that will compare well even with such an – ahem – established Premier League force as Brighton.

The moral of this tale is probably: choose your rivals well, and don’t punch above your weight – something the over-enthusiastic Brighton fans have flouted, thereby making themselves look several shades of daft. There’s a perfectly good south coast rival in Southampton, not an incongruously bigger beast as Leeds are, and therefore much less likely to reflect poorly on and embarrass the Brighton club. From here on in, it’s to be hoped that the Seagulls, fans and hacks alike, will conduct themselves in a more seemly and less cringeworthy manner – but I suppose we’d better not hold our breath.

Marching On Together.

12 responses to “Ingrates Brighton Punching Above Their Weight Trying to Forge “Rivalry” With Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Another enthralling take on an interesting subject Rob though i would expect that the Manchester Reds would probably say the same about we Leeds Loiners. I guess it all comes down to football snobbery; i look at teams like the modern era Blackburns, Boltons, Leicesters,Watfords,Hulls, Sheffields and Brightons etc who have had, or still have, stints in the premiership and in my mind they don’t belong there because they aren’t of the right stock and pedigree and thus have no qualification to gain that right of significant rivals- That qualification comes from club history and fanbase size: any team in the premiership who can’t regularly fill 20,000-25,000 seats on a weekly basis shouldn’t be allowed in the top league let alone class themselves as historic rivals. Now that is pure football snobbery

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    • It is that, but I love it. I’ll love it even more when dear old Elland Road is back up to a 50,000 capacity! As for man utd, or the Pride of Devon as they’re not so fondly referred to here at Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything Tower, they’ve sung their dislike of us on a weekly basis during our long exile, so it’s difficult for them to deny that our rivalry, mutual antipathy, call it what you will, is anything but a two way street. That’s an argument I’m always happy to have with “that lot ovver t’hills”!

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      • David Byrne

        We in Brighton are so grateful to you in Leeds for being prepared to utter our name in the same breath as the once mighty Leeds.

        We are not your rivals and never sort to be. You left yourselves without options at CB and seemed desperate to sign our player. We had a development plan mapped out since we signed him at 16, but of course that year at Leeds made him. Brighton have a plan, Leeds a past.

        A tale of two cities. One is inclusive open and a place where anyone regardless of gender sexuality or creed can feel comfortable. The other lives in the 70’s.

        Maybe when it comes down to it that is why he decided to stay on the south coast

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      • Nice try, but he didn’t decide. He was given little choice. We feel sorry for the lad “oop ‘ere”

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  2. Riley LUFC

    Great article Rob! It’s annoying, after all this time waiting to play fellow big boys in the Prem, that we have to put up with Granny’s favourites, little Brighton. But having said that we will need to pick up points from the smaller, insignificant clubs like Brighton, Burnley, Southampton and Tottenham. Those little clubs might, initially, be our bread and butter – though I’m hoping we haven’t been promoted just to dick around for survival – a la Villa, Newcastle and daft little Norwich.

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  3. Mark Beeney, wow, they should not only be grateful but also apologising.

    We are Leeds United, every team is our rival. The msm tells them so.

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  4. John Bennett

    Agree with above up to a point – Brighton chairman seems to have a reputation for playing the big “I Am” and I just hope Ben White doesn’t suffer for all his posturing.

    Having said that I don’t see why a healthy Soton/ Brighton rivalry shouldn’t be fostered – both clubs look to be buying sensibly and could have good seasons.

    As for me I cant look past the scum, scum reserves, scum ladies etc. to direct my real loathing!

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  5. Uncle Dave

    Good read Rob. I just hope that Ben doesn’t feel pressure to play better than Robin Koch to prove anything? I think Brian Potter probably feels a bit of resentment that it only took one season under Bielsa to get the best out of White? As for Brighton making the most of all the ‘ Headlines and rivalry?’ I seem to remember a certain kung fu french fella rambling on about seagulls following trawlers ? How right was he?

    Like

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