Message from Tony Bloom

Albion chairman reflects on a record-breaking season.

01 June 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Chairman Tony Bloom with men's first team coach Roberto De Zerbi.

It goes without saying that we have had a season to remember; a season where we have recorded our highest ever Premier League points tally, our highest ever finish, and a first season playing in European competition the reward for all our efforts. Huge credit goes to the players and the backroom team for their superb efforts this season, and also to our entire staff, both at the stadium and the training ground, for their professionalism and hard work throughout the campaign.

It’s a season that, of course, has seen change, with Graham Potter and his coaching staff leaving for Chelsea in early September. Graham departed with our men’s team in a very good place after significant progress in his three-year tenure.

Succession planning is always key, and Roberto De Zerbi was someone who we were aware of for some time and, crucially, was available at a time in the season when it is often difficult to bring in head coaches from other clubs. Roberto is an excellent fit for our club with the style of football he adopts, his passion, desire and determination to succeed, and his enthusiasm and abilities to improve players.

It’s never easy for any squad when they experience a change of head coach and coaching staff, even more so when the season is already underway, so full credit to our players, who adapted remarkably well to the transition. From the initial conversations I had with the senior players, they were fully on board with Roberto’s philosophy and methods from day one. I know that they continue to be enthused and motivated by his sessions, enlightened even, and that feel-good factor has spread right through the squad.

We are seeing the results on the pitch, and in all my years following Brighton & Hove Albion, I’ve never seen us play football of such quality and style. We are undoubtedly watching the best Albion team we have ever had, and it gives me such pleasure to make that statement. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing on the eye, we are also playing with a real purpose, a real desire to take the game to the opposition, and we are dominating games. There’s a new dimension to the way we play and it’s been a joy to watch.

By Paul Hazlewood
Scenes on the bench after Kaoru Mitoma's late FA Cup winner against Liverpool.

We’ve had so many standout games this season. Taking into account the opposition, I believe the best game we have ever played was the 3-0 win over Liverpool at the Amex in January. The tone of the season was set with our first ever win at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season, while our victory against Manchester United at the Amex recently was another memorable occasion. The noise that greeted Alexis Mac Allister’s successful late penalty and the celebrations that followed, both in the stands and on the pitch, will remain in the memory banks for a long time. The two wins against Chelsea and our scintillating away win recently at Arsenal are other significant highlights of our wonderful season.

Our FA Cup run took us back to Wembley for a semi-final, this time against Manchester United, and despite being the better team on the day, football again taught us that you don’t always get what you deserve. Penalty shoot-outs are a horrible way to be knocked out and we all felt for Solly March as he left the pitch. He has since continued his outstanding season – one of a number of players who will be in the running when it comes to our end-of-season awards.

Talking of home-grown players, Roberto has ensured the pathway from our U21s to the first team is more open than ever. We have seen Evan Ferguson make a remarkable transition to the senior side this season, becoming our youngest ever Premier League goalscorer, while a further eight academy graduates have featured in the first team this season. That speaks volumes for the superb efforts of our academy set-up that is led by Ian Buckman and his academy staff, Shannon Ruth and Gary Dicker with our U21s, Arthur Brammer at U18 level, and all our coaches throughout the age groups. Well done to you all.

Add to that, the likes of Julio Enciso, Yasin Ayari and Facundo Buonanotte brought into the club this season and it really does augur well for the future.

By Paul Hazlewood
Facundo Buonanotte puts pressure on Bernardo Silva during the 1-1 draw against Manchester City.

While these young players will hopefully have long and successful careers ahead of them, one of our players had those dreams cut short earlier in the season when Enock Mwepu was forced to retire from the game on medical grounds. It was a devastating blow to Enock, his family, and also our dressing room, given his warm character and his undoubted ability on the pitch. Rest assured, we will continue to support Enock in the weeks and months ahead.

It’s been a difficult season for our Women’s Super League team and we said goodbye to head coach Hope Powell in October. Nobody will forget the input Hope made in her time at the club, taking us into the WSL for the first time, and we also thank Amy Merricks for her own contribution as coach and interim head coach. I wish Amy every success with the England U19 squad, which helps create a pathway to the senior Lionesses’ squad that our own Katie Robinson has broken into this season. Congrats, Katie!

I am delighted that Melissa Phillips has settled in as our head coach so well, and that has been reflected in the upturn in results and performances in recent weeks. Our vision remains to become a top-four WSL club, and we know how tough a target that is. We are working really hard over the summer to significantly close the gap on the current top four. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our fans who travel so loyally to Crawley for our WSL home games. Our attendances, in what has been a difficult season on the pitch, have been excellent and I know the players have really appreciated your support.

By Kyle Hemsley
Crowds at our WSL games at the Broadfield Stadium have gone up this season.

Elsewhere around the club, it’s been another wonderful year for Albion in the Community, whose work continues to make a real impact in the city and throughout Sussex. It didn’t surprise me to hear that AITC had been nominated for Best Football Community Scheme at last Friday's Football Business Awards for the eighth year in a row. The club has also made the shortlist for Best Fan Engagement, the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Award, and the Sustainability Award, so we hope for a successful night.

Many of you would have noted that we had a 40th anniversary dinner recently for our 1983 FA Cup Final squad. A great evening was had by all as we remembered one of the most famous days in the club’s history. It was also time for reflection, recognition and appreciation of the 40 years since, the journey we’ve been on and how we’ve come such a long, long way together.

We will never forget the contribution of so many people to get to where we are now – a Premier League club playing European football next season. I would like to thank Paul Barber for his immense work in helping us reach this point, and congratulate him for being voted best Premier League CEO by his peers to go with his richly deserved OBE for services to football.

Finally, I want to thank you – our fans. Your support is unwavering and greatly appreciated by us all. We’ve witnessed many sell-out games at the Amex again this season, you’ve travelled in huge numbers on the road, while our season tickets for 2023/24 recently sold out in record-quick time. And all this with the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis.

You are the lifeblood of our club, at the heart of everything we do, and I hope you’re enjoying the ride as much as I am.

Enjoy the summer break, and we look forward to seeing you all again at the Amex in August.