Brighton, one of those clubs looking for a better place to live, have settled impressively in the meantime following relegation last season and the loss of their manager, Steve Coppell, in midweek. They boosted their lead in the Second Division to four points yesterday with a comfortable win over Grimsby.
It was an all-ticket match, but then they invariably are at Withdean Stadium, an athletics complex holding 7,000 where Brighton are now into their fifth season of residence. This, according to the Brighton chairman, Dick Knight, is why he keeps losing his managers, and certainly why the latest, Coppell, decided to take the Reading job.
"If we get a new stadium I am 90 per cent certain Coppell would have stayed," said Knight, a Ken Bates lookalike with amiability added. "But Steve has opted for the here and now of Reading rather than us in the long term. I have now lost four managers, Brian Horton, Peter Taylor, Micky Adams and Coppell, because of this. They all tell me I'm a great chairman to work with, but goodbye. It's because of the stadium. It's pretty bloody infuriating, to be honest."
Knight claims he has had some "very interesting" applications for the managerial vacancy, "including two Europeans, one of them with Champions' League experience, which indicates what a high-profile club we are. But the type of person I want is not someone who wants to reinvent the wheel. The team is doing well, nothing's broke, so don't try to fix it."
Knight confirmed that the stand-in manager, Bob Booker, is in the running and that he would not be seeking someone who already had a contract at another club. "We are in this situation because of the chain reaction caused by West Ham sacking their manager two weeks into the season, Alan Pardew leaving Reading to take the job and us losing Steve to Reading. To curb this sort of thing it's time there was a transfer window for managers as well as players. It would give clubs, as well as managers, more time to work things out."
The public inquiry into the proposed new stadium at Falmer, able to seat 22,000, is due to wind up next week, when the report will be forwarded to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, for a decision in his role as minister for the Department of the Environment and the Regions. "This is what our supporters deserve," Knight said. "We would be packed to the rafters at Withdean except there are no rafters. With a new stadium we can compete at the top. But realistically, even if we get permission to develop, it will be about two and a half years before we could move in because the site needs a lot of work before we start building on it."
Withdean's modest, if attractive, setting did nothing to deter Grimsby, who had much the better of the opening half. The Brighton keeper, Michel Kuipers, threw himself to his right to thrust away Tony Crane's header from a Stuart Campbell free-kick, and Des Hamilton thundered one just past a post. Brighton's best chance was Grimsby-inspired too, as Jason Crowe almost chested a Chris McPhee cross into his own goal.
All was transformed in the first 10 minutes after the restart. First, Aidan Davison did well to turn Leon Knight's shot round the post. From the corner, Knight laid the ball into the scoring swing of Zesh Rehman. Ninety seconds later Knight added a second from close in and a margin of defeat Grimsby did not deserve was completed in injury time as Knight converted a penalty awarded when the substitute, Greg Young, brought down McPhee.
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Grimsby Town 0
Rehman 53, Knight 55, pen 90
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 6,286