It’s all in the timing for Colchester and Brighton

As Colchester United host champions Brighton in League One today, STUART WATSON looks at how timing has played a big part in the recent histories if the respective clubs.

TIMING, as they say, is everything.

While on-field success, a stadium move and a change of ownership crossed like ships in the night for Colchester United, everything has come together like the perfect master plan for their opponents today – Brighton & Hove Albion (12.15pm ko).

The move from the intimidating but out-dated Layer Road to their brand new 10,000 capacity Weston Homes Community Stadium, sadly, came one season too late for the U’s.

They had just been relegated from the Championship following two memorable seasons in the second tier which left one agonising question.

Would the club have significantly improved their fan base and cemented their place in the second tier had their new home been available that little bit earlier? Possibly, but the frustrating thing is we will never know.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but the same thing could be said for the change in ownership at the Essex club.

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By the time wealthy businessman Robbie Cowling came along and bought a majority share in the club in 2006 it was just months too late. Predecessor Peter Heard’s strict wage structure had already seen the dream team dismantled as the likes of Jamie Cureton, Chris Iwelumo and Richard Garcia left on free transfers.

Relegation ensued and now, three years on, Colchester are finally look to stabilise themselves in League One again following Cowling’s failed attempts to quickly buy the club’s way back into the Championship.

By contrast, Brighton have managed to perfectly dovetail winning the League One title with moving into their own new purpose built home – the 22,500 Falmer Stadium.

Just like Phil Parkinson did at Colchester, Gus Poyet has put together an exciting side that plays attractive football on its way to promotion.

The result is that Brighton, who have had 4,000 season ticket holders at The Withdean Stadium this season, have already gone past the 16,500 mark for next season.

Genuine football fans will certainly not begrudge Seagulls supporters these exciting times. They certainly deserve it having seen their club almost drop out of the Football League and go into liquidation in the late 90s, before then suffering 14 seasons without their own permanent home (the club ground-shared with Gillingham for two seasons and has spent the last 12 playing at an athletics venue).

However, you could forgive U’s fans for feeling just a little bit envious today as they wonder just what could have been for own their club had the timings been right.

A brief history of Brighton & Hove Albion

– Founded in 1901 they played in non-league before being elected to the Football League in 1920.

– The club’s most successful era was between 1979 and 1983 when they played in the top-flight and reached the 1983 FA Cup final where they lost to Manchester United after a replay.

– They were relegated that same season though and quickly dropped down the leagues.

– The club controversially sold its Goldstone Ground to raise money and embarked on a ground-share with Gillingham (70 miles away).

– During that time based in Kent, they narrowly avoided relegation from the Football League in 1997 (staying up on goals scored) before a boardroom takeover saved the club from liquidation,

– In 1999 they moved to the Withdean Stadium, the athletics venue only meant to be a temporary home.

– Successive promotions saw them reach League One in 2002, but due to a lack of funds, the club have been stuck at the Withdean for 14 seasons.

– The appointment of management duo Gus Poyet and Mauricio Taricco has seen the club win League One this season just in time for their long-awaited move to the 22,500 purpose built Falmer Stadium.

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