Brief Encounter #9

Brighton badgeBrighton and Hove Albion

THERE is nothing quite like having a pee with your heroes!

And it was so unexpected.

I have been an avid fan of my home town football team Brighton and Hove Albion since I was a small child… 46 years to be precise. I have watched their victories and defeats over those years and the club’s near extinction in 1997.

My baptism as an 11-year-old was standing in the North Stand at the much missed Goldstone Ground on a sunny Saturday 2nd September 1967 to see this team in blue and white beat Bury 1-0.

The chanting, bustle and atmosphere immersed me. I was hooked and had my first childhood heroes: the effervescent Kit Napier and the midfield maestro Charlie Livesey.

I can still smell the Bovril and cigarette soaked air of my first evening game one year later and the pride and disappointment of the 1983 FA Cup Final.

So I cheered on my heroes from the legendary Peter Ward to icons such as Brian Horton, Steve Foster, Bobby Zamora and Jimmy Case.

Yes, Brighton and Hove Albion are an integral part of my life.

But nothing prepared me for that moment on Friday 28th March 2008.

My dear Aunt Val had passed away and I had driven down to her home in North London to sort out arrangements for her funeral. Her death was unexpected and I guess my mind was focussed on getting everything right for her.

So after dealing with formalities with her solicitor and the funeral celebrant I hopped in my car to make the long journey back home – then in North Wales – via the M1 motorway.

I stopped at Toddington Services, just north of Luton, for petrol, a coffee and a toilet break.

I was vaguely aware of a smart coach pulling in next to me in the car park.

The loo called first, so I made my way to the gents. I stood by the urinal trough and was just about to relieve myself when more than a dozen guys in dark blue tracksuits walked in. They assembled in various positions to answer the call of nature. As I started to pee I looked up at the guy next to me. He had a Brighton and Hove Albion badge on his tracksuit top. I silently gasped and looked along at the rest of the guys… it was the entire Brighton first team squad.

That was the OMG moment and I got instant water retention. I was peeing with my heroes… or in my case not. I had to stop looking or they might get the wrong impression!

As I exited the service station toilets I turned to the player next to me – our full back Andrew Whing – and politely asked: “What are you guys doing in Luton?”

“We are on our way to Leeds, we play them tomorrow,” was the reply.

“Do we?” I answered stupidly, still desperate for a wee!