Former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Danny Cullip enjoyed three promotions with the Seagulls during his playing days at the Withdean Stadium — a ground he believes was pivotal in the team’s success after the Millennium.
Albion twice gained promotion to the second tier of English football during Cullip’s time on the south coast, and he stressed how the team used playing at the athletics stadium to their advantage.
He said, “The Withdean Stadium was nothing but a positive for us. As long as there was grass on the pitch, it didn’t really matter to the group of players we had.
“We were hungry for success and wanted to play for the manager. He put belief in us, and once you know the manager has belief in you, you run through brick walls for him, which we did.
“The first season we finished with quite a lot of draws, and if we had of turned those into better results, we might have gone up a season earlier. But we took that positive mood into the following season, with the same nucleus of players, and we progressed from there.
“Teams didn’t enjoy coming to the Withdean, but Micky knew what characters he had and it wasn’t an issue whatsoever. There can be times in football where you have bad results and things aren’t going great for you, but that was the beauty of our changing room - it was good fun.
“We looked forward to training and there were always pranks going on. Putting the laughing and joking to one side, though, everyone expected to win - we were all winners. It was a big thing for us.”
One of Cullip’s finest moments in an Albion shirt came against Chesterfield over 18 years ago, when he scored the winning goal to seal three points against the Spireites, who were deducted nine points by the Football League.
Cullip spoke about the fierce contest against Chesterfield at the Withdean, saying, “Nicky Law [Chesterfield manager] was a very passionate fella on the touchline.
“Micky [Adams] drilled it into us that we needed to win and be clear of them, without having to worry about any point deductions.
“We wanted to win the league on merit, not because another club had points deducted.
“When you have an opposition manager that’s lively on the touchline, with the players we had, that was music to our ears.
“With the group of characters we had, considering their backgrounds and where they grew up, we weren't people that you could intimidate. We enjoyed that type of thing, whether it was opposition fans or players.
“I scored and it was a memorable goal because of what it meant. I didn’t get loads of them during my career, so it was handy to see that one go in.”
Finally, Cullip spoke about former team-mate Bobby Zamora, whose goals spearheaded Albion’s charge from the fourth tier into the second, as the club won back-to-back championships.
“Bobby [Zamora] was absolutely different class in most categories. You could see the natural ability and how pressure situations just didn’t effect him.
“The biggest compliment I can give Bobby is that he’s still the same person he was when he was 18, even after all the success he’s had. That’s testament to the boy, he’s a great fella.
“We made ourselves hard to play against and didn’t give too much away. We had a strong midfield that won the battles, with Dodge, Chippy and Charlie in there, so we weren’t nice to play against.
“We were strong at the back, so when you’ve got someone like Bobby, who has that natural ability to score goals, it’s great for a defender because you know you won’t always be under the cosh.
“We had someone who would run the line, chase lost causes and hold the ball up, which allows the defenders to get up the park. He was different class and maintained that over a number of years."