Seagulls Flying Low After Coppell Departure

Last updated : 09 October 2003 By Rob Cooper

The Seagulls chairman has today spoken for the first time in depth about losing manager Steve Coppell to the Royals.

Knight and the merry band of Brighton fans would have been feeling pretty pleased with themselves right now. After all, the Seagulls have soared to the top of the Second Division and look odds-on for an immediate promotion back to the First Division.

However, the club face the gloomy prospect of hunting for a new manager as current boss Steve Coppell has walked out on the club to join First Division Reading.

Coppell's departure puts a less rosy tint on the club's proposed move to a new stadium at Falmer. The clubs application for planning permission is at a critical stage. Should the Government block the clubs ambitious plans to build a new ground another hammer blow will be dealt to Brighton's now somewhat precarious future.

Knight this morning revealed that Coppell's departure was largely down to the lack of assurances he could give to the 48-year-old regarding the club's proposed new ground.

"I am extremely disappointed that Steve has decided to take the Reading job. We talked long and hard over the past two weeks about his aspirations and this club's potential," said Knight, speaking to the Brighton's official site.

"Our discussions inevitably focused on Falmer. And sadly, once again this club is facing the reality of losing another high-profile manager - people whose careers we have revived and who have flourished with the Albion - because of our new stadium, or the lack of it."

In a blunt statement, the chairman added: "This club will never realise its full potential until we get to Falmer."

However, new stadium or no new stadium the Seagulls must now find themselves a new manager. They will dearly hope to appoint a new boss in double quick time so as to avoid the on-pitch shambles that Reading fans have had to endure.

The Berkshire side have had an atrocious run under caretaker managership which has severely dented the club's promotion prospects. Sussex-based Brighton cannot afford a similar run of bad results.

However, Brighton's coffers have been filled by a large compensation fee that Reading had to pay to acquire Coppell's services. The former Crystal Palace boss was under contract at the Withdean Stadium so Brighton effectively were able to name their price when Reading came a-knocking.

Indeed, the Seagulls received more than £150,000 package that the Royals had reportedly been prepared to pay it has been revealed.

The Seagulls chairman said: "In the chain reaction started by West Ham sacking their manager, Reading made a big stand against losing their manager alan pardew, which put me in a strong position to protect our interests in the event of them taking Steve Coppell from us."

Despite having good reason to be downbeat, in a final statement Dick Knight offered a cheery farewell to the club's manager. His smile was by no means made through gritted teeth as John Madejski's was when he offered his fare'wells' to pardew.

"Steve Coppell has done a tremendous job for us, he gave us back our pride, and he leaves with our respect and thanks for the contribution he has made to this club," concluded the Brighton chairman.