A warm welcome to the American Express Community Stadium for our final Premier League game of the season against West Ham United.
It’s certainly been a season to remember, with the highlight being our highest points tally as a Premier League club.
I’d like to begin by praising you, our wonderful fans, for your fantastic support this season. It’s been a difficult couple of years, given the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected so many of us in so many ways, but following the easing of restrictions, you’ve returned to watch us in your numbers – both here at the Amex Stadium and on our travels.
For the club to have hosted a number of sell-out crowds at the Amex this season is testament to your loyalty and also to the direction in which the team is moving.
To be sitting on 48 points and 10th in the table with one game still to play is a superb achievement, and I’d like to place on record my thanks to Graham Potter, his coaching and backroom staff, and, of course, the players for their efforts and achievements this season.
On the pitch, it’s been a season of plenty of ups… and, as always in football, a few downs too. Overall though, the style of play adopted by Graham, and the way the players have applied themselves, have brought us many memorable moments along the way.
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My highlight of the season, our finest ever performance at the Amex, was our 4-0 victory against Man United. Back-to-back wins in north London against Champions League-chasing Arsenal and Tottenham, and our last-gasp equaliser against European champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge are also standout moments. The fact that we remained unbeaten on our visits to London this season is also a great achievement, and owes much to our travelling fans, who were consistently very loud, which lifted the players.
With this being our fifth season of Premier League football, we’ve managed, through our professionalism on and off the pitch, to comfortably consolidate our position in the top flight – and we certainly won’t be resting on our laurels. While we understand just how difficult it is to compete at this level, we’ve stated before that our longer-term aim is to establish ourselves as a top-ten club – and we will continue to work extremely hard to make that happen.
Away from the Men’s First Team, it’s been another season of progress for Hope Powell’s squad in the Women’s Super League. There can be no doubt that the league this season is the most competitive it’s ever been, so we can be satisfied with our points tally and final position. We also appreciate that there is still some way to go to close the gap on the top clubs in the WSL, which is why we recently launched our ‘pathway towards top four’ strategy, to give ourselves the best possible chance of becoming even more competitive in the longer term.
The wheels are already in motion and a big step forward has been the opening of the women’s facility at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre at Lancing. It has really benefitted the players and we hope that it will enhance the prospects of attracting even more players to the club.
Elsewhere, our under-18s side reached the quarter-finals of The FA Youth Cup for only the second time in the club’s history. The team also took the scalp of Manchester City along the way, which was a tremendous result, and I wish the players all the best as they aim to step up to our under-23 squad and beyond.
From our under-23 squad this season, seven players have made their senior debuts – Evan Ferguson, Marc Leonard, Andy Moran, Odel Offiah, Jeremy Sarmiento, Antef Tsoungui and Ed Turns – which speaks volumes for the excellent work done inside our academy by our coaches and staff. It also reiterates the belief that Graham Potter has in our younger players. The pathway is there for them and I look forward to seeing how the aforementioned players progress – as well as seeing more young talent breaking through next season.
Across all areas of the club, our staff are professional and highly driven, and I’d like to thank them all for their efforts this season. Ultimately, what the teams achieve on the pitch is how we’re judged as a club, but we should always remember that it’s the staff behind the scenes who work so hard to help the players be in the best possible position to play come kickoff time. We’ve long had the ‘Together’ ethos at the club – and that remains as important as ever.
We are very proud of Albion in the Community – who are now returning to normality, post-pandemic – with the wonderful work they do in the city and throughout Sussex. They have again been nominated for the Best Football Community Scheme award later this month at the Football Business Awards, so good luck to them all.
Finally, as we celebrated the recent 25th anniversary of our game at Hereford United, which secured our Football League status, it was an opportune moment to reflect on the progress we’ve made as a club since that time. When you think we were 45 minutes away from dropping into the Conference, to now having reached our highest points tally in the Premier League while playing in this wonderful stadium, it’s an achievement we can all be proud of.
We will never forget the contribution of so many individuals back then, and we are honoured to have taken on the baton – Paul Barber, the board and myself – to ensure we continue to grow as a progressive and community-led football club.
Our fans are at the heart of everything we do, so once again, thanks for your wonderful support. Enjoy today’s game, enjoy the summer, and we look forward to seeing you back at the Amex in August.