Ahead of tomorrow's live game against Brighton, I got the chance to speak to Naz, who's extremely happy with the current season and is looking forward to the game.
How long have you been a Brighton fan?
Probably since about 1995/1996, Was born and raised there and lived not far from the Goldstone Ground, however as my parents weren’t fans I never actually went to a game until 2004 when I was 17 – my first ever game was actually the Playoff Final in Cardiff back in Division 2 against Bristol City, where Leon Knight scored a late penalty to take us up!
Who has been your favourite player this season and in history?
This season there’s been many, Bruno and Glenn Murray have been great but I have some serious man love for Anthony Knockaert (as many of us do!). The guy is pure flair and how Leicester didn’t give him a chance in the PL I’ll never know. In my history, Vicente is probably the best player we’ve had but we didn’t see enough of him, and although Bobby Zamora took many headlines with us for his happy habit of scoring goals, I’ll say my favourite ever was Danny Cullip. An absolute rock at the back for us in his prime, and was often the reason for the ‘nil’ part of our many one-nil wins in the lower divisions in the early 2000’s.
Any memorable moments against Leeds?
The 3-3 draw a few seasons ago stands out as it was such a fantastic game of football, although we didn’t get what we wanted from it. Aside from that, we have a really good recent history against them, the 2-0 away a couple of seasons ago also stands out as we even managed a win despite Sami Hyypia not being very much up to the task as our manager. I don’t expect the 4-0 from last season to be repeated at all though!
Chris Hughton has been a revelation since becoming your boss, do you think he’s the man to bring Premier League football to the seaside?
Yes, 100%. I wasn’t sure when we announced him, as I wasn’t a fan of how Norwich played under him in the Premier League, and I’ve been completely mind-blown by the football we’ve played in the last couple of years. We were very one-dimensional under Poyet and Garcia, playing ‘attractive keep-ball’ football, however Hughton has combined the defensive solidarity we had under those two with some sublime counter-attacking football, with proper wingers and proper strikers in a 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1) and long may it continue. We’ve somehow continued to keep the attractiveness at home, with more cutting edge, while playing more pragmatic football when needed especially away or late in games. Aside from that, he never throws his toys out of the pram – seems like a genuinely likeable fellow and a real leader. His signings have also been excellent.
With a promotion race on your hands, who would you like to see join in January?
I would like to see Alexis Sanchez. Can I say that? Realistically our main aim is to keep our key players, and get Dale Stephens to join Kayal in signing a new deal rather than us lose him for pittance to the likes of Burnley. Even a 1 year extension with a ‘non-promotion release clause’ would be best for both sides. Possibly another ‘support striker’ to give competition to Baldock would be great. No need to pull up any trees, stick with what we have, add one or two if we can maybe and keep pushing. If we can replicate last Jan when we signed Knockaert and Skalak i’ll be very happy. We genuinely have 2 players for every position so unless an injury crisis hits or the vultures come calling, we should be ok.
Do you think the automatic spot could be yours this year?
Yes. I say that cautiously because we’re in an almost identical position to last year and we all remember how that panned out as we missed out by 1 goal, and we also need to keep an eye out because Reading, Villa, Norwich and Leeds are also in with a shout. I’d fear Villa the most out of those sides, they have the perfect manager to take them up. But I hate the playoffs, they’re not magical at all and I cannot us face it if we lose in the playoffs again for the 4th season out of 5.
How do you feel about the recent news of Shelvey and Lascelles having their red cards rescinded last week?
Wasn’t it Dummett? I actually haven’t seen the incident with Shelvey but I did think Dummett was a nailed on red, he was all over the back of him. But I’m not particularly fussed what happens with other sides getting suspensions or not, any team can beat anyone in this league with or without key players, We’re only a point behind them despite them supposedly having a superior squad. I’ll take that.
Will you be watching the match with a pint at home or will you be at The Amex?
Neither, I’ll be at my fiance’s work Christmas Party watching on Sky Go on the sly! I generally dislike The Amex, or rather the train situation to get fans home after the evening games. Saturday afternoon games are fine, but evening games are a no-go for me. I live in Surrey so it’s bad enough to get back to anyway. I haven’t actually been to a home game this season, however I’ve been to Reading, Newcastle and Cardiff away. Surprisingly even Newcastle was less hassle to get to than Brighton, and a cheaper night out too!
Who will be your main threat on Friday?
Glenn Murray or Knockaert. Murray is on fire at the moment and Knockaert is just a beautiful beautiful man. Have I mentioned the man-love I have for him? Please don’t hurt him! Murray vs Jansson should be a good battle, very physical I’d expect.
Prediction and Scorers?
2-1, Dunk and Murray with the goals for us (Dunk because I usually have him as first scorer and that would be nice in the lead up to Christmas). Chris Wood will probably get one against us (from the spot of course) after Hadi Sacko outpaces us on the counter and Dunk brings him down. I worry about the pace of Sacko on the counter, and I do think that’ll be your main threat and best way to get at us. I think it’ll be quite an open game, and 2-1 probably won’t justify the chances both sides can create. I think it’ll be a great watch.
We'd like to thank Naz for taking the time to do our interview and wish him the best for what could a very close season.
By Ryan Ingham