Indie-pop sensations The Kooks are set to return to the fold with their breezily melodic third album Junk of the Heart, so Football Burp caught up with drummer Paul Garred – recently returned from nerve damage in his arm – for a ruddy good natter about his beloved Brighton and Hove Albion. And, with Gus Poyet’s side sitting in pole position in the Championship in their plush new Amex Stadium and having just added former Spain international Vicente Rodríguez to their ranks, what a time it is to be a Seagulls fan…
Yeah, I did. A little disappointing, I think! You have to wonder about up front. The ‘keeper’s brilliant, I think Joe Hart’s phenomenal, and it seems like the back four are really getting it together – I love Gary Cahill and I’m surprised none of the big teams took a punt on him, to be honest. It’s just further up top, really – Rooney’s looking like the player we remember, which is good, but you need someone to complement him properly. Bent’s a really good player and Crouch has got a phenomenal goal-scoring record for England. But then you look at some of the other players, like [Adam] Johnson, who can’t even get on the bench for Manchester City at the moment. Capello was quoted a couple of years ago as saying he’d pick in-form players, so it’s a questionable decision.
Milner as well…
Yes, that’s very true. Both players are quality but they’re not getting a run in the Premier League, and that’s kind of what you want, really. You want players who are completely in-form. That’s what went wrong for us at the World Cup – Capello says one thing then does another and it’s very frustrating for all of us to go, “Hang on a sec, half of these players are completely out-of-form! What makes you think they’re going to gel on the big stage?”
Is there anyone you’d like to see as England manager who you think could make a difference?
I have to be honest, I don’t think Capello’s doing a bad job. I read somewhere earlier someone saying that, given the tools, Capello’s probably doing the best job that he can at the moment. He’s a quality manager, we know that, and I don’t think if you put someone like Harry Redknapp in there that he could do any more than Capello’s doing now – it would just be a different face. We have a well-documented problem with salaries in football at the moment and I sometimes wonder whether that affects some players’ love for the game.
Onto more cheerful matters – can the Seagulls go all the way?
Well, I’ve been a Brighton fan since 1991 and it was just downhill for years (laughs). Then the ground went, so me and my dad went to Gillingham all the time to see Brighton play, which was a bit weird, and then we went to the Withdean, which had no atmosphere, and now we’re at this beautiful stadium – going there feels a bit like going to the theatre! It’s just wonderful and I do think we’ve got a good squad. Gus Poyet is an absolutely brilliant manager and I do expect him to take us to the Premier League, but then he’ll probably inevitably go to someone big. Alex Ferguson won’t go on forever and Gustavo Poyet wouldn’t be a bad replacement.
Your owners seem to have invested more into the club’s infrastructure than on the pitch. Do you think that this is more conducive to long-term success?
Well, the ground had to be sorted and that took fourteen years. Our two most recent chairman are both big Brighton fans and I think that makes a big difference. They probably look at the spreadsheet a bit differently and let their heart rule their head at times – “oh, go on then, let’s get that player in” – but yeah, all the interests are in the possibility of growing a club with huge potential and I wish there were more owners like that out there. Fans would be a lot happier.
Your signing of Vicente seems to have passed by relatively unnoticed by those outside Brighton…
He looks stunning – I don’t know quite how we got him! It has gone completely under the radar, hasn’t it? To be fair, I didn’t know who he was until he signed for us. It was only when it was being mentioned that I looked up on him and he looks incredible.
How do you see him fitting in to the team?
Well, because we have such a big pitch and we use wingers a hell of a lot, which tires out the opposition, I think he’ll fit in marvellously. We’ve got three or four wingers now – Craig Noone, who’s exceptional, Will Buckley, who’s brilliant and can score goals as well, [Kazenga] LuaLua on loan and we’ve just bought a guy from Swansea called Ryan Harley who can play across the midfield. I think Vicente can play on the left or in the middle, a creative player, so between him and Harley I think there could be some fun.
Are you disappointed you didn’t bring in a centre-forward, perhaps Billy Paynter?
He scored a few goals with Swindon in the league below but he’s never quite made it up in the Championship. However, as the old saying goes, “in Gus we trust!” He fancies a player like that and we all go hmmm, then inevitably Gus will turn them into a more cultured player, or a player who does something specific that we didn’t have before. He’s phenomenal, Gus Poyet, absolutely phenomenal.
Which of the other new boys have impressed you so far?
Every one that’s played in the first team! Mackail-Smith runs forever and he can put it in the back of the net – David Pleat called him an irritant and he really is. Central defenders get in bit of a tizz when he’s playing, which opens space up for the wide players to cut inside and get a shot off. We’re top of the league so all the players have done brilliantly so far, and the fact that we can’t put LuaLua in all the time just shows how far we’ve come.
What do you think of the Brighton fans’ campaign to help Plymouth?
It’s brilliant. It was well documented in the lower leagues that a Plymouth fan devised Fans United – I was there, loads of people were there, at the Goldstone when we nearly went out of business. For us it’s a thank you, a “you helped us, so now we’ll help you”. Brighton’s a good club for that – as fans, we go against the grain. There’s always stuff on forums saying “what if it was Palace?” – but, bloody hell, you want to keep your rivals! It’s good camaraderie, you know? It’s a sad situation at Plymouth – it’s taken them a year-and-a-half to two years to work out what the problem is, whereas at Brighton, for instance, it was very obvious what the problem was. I feel sorry for all Plymouth fans at the moment and I hope it works out.
It’s scary but look at the likes of us, Swansea, Hull and Doncaster – they all had a board who worked on their club’s infrastructure and gave them good, solid ground to move forward. It sounds simple but it’s good that lower league clubs are starting to realise that they can’t spend more than they get coming in, that they need to do things probably, and hopefully that ethos will build back up to the Premier League. Apart from the entertainment side of it, there’s a business which has to be catered for. As fans, we kind of get caught up in the euphoria of Ronaldo going for £80m or Kaka for £55m and think it’s normal, but we’re not paying the money! (Laughs) We just get caught up in it, don’t we?
Would you be able to name the first, best and worst games you ever went to?
The first game I ever went to was a 2-0 friendly defeat against Palace at the Goldstone around ’92. I can’t really remember too much about it.
The best game? There are so many! There was a game against Bristol City at the Withdean where Lee Steele scored in the 96th minute and it was pretty much the turning point in terms of us getting promoted, so I’ll probably say that.
The worst game was also against Bristol City – we had Mark McGhee in charge and we lost 4-1 at home. You just couldn’t see us scoring, sitting in a stand with no roof and no atmosphere, watching goal after goal go in. In fact, I can rival that with a game at Gillingham where we lost 4-1 against Torquay. It was one of them – you travel all the way up to Gillingham, which is a 175-mile round trip for us, maybe more, and you’ve got players like Rodney Jack pinging them in from everywhere. I thought, “Why did I come? I’ve got to go home now!” (Laughs) There’s nothing worse.
Finally, would you be able to name your top five favourite Albion players from your time watching them?
Absolutely. Bobby Zamora is obvious. Leon Knight was phenomenal during the 2004 season before he lost his way – he had real talent, I don’t know what went wrong with him. More recently, Craig Noone looks very good. In the past, Paul Brooker was phenomenal. Then someone at the back – I’m trying to think of more Goldstone-era players but it wasn’t good back then! I’ll go with Michel Kuipers – brilliant goalkeeper, great shot-stopper. He’s at Crawley now.
You recently signed his son, didn’t you?
Yeah, Duke Kuipers! To be honest, I could name so many players but I’ll go with those five off the top of my head.
Paul, thank you.
New album ‘Junk Of The Heart’ is released on September 12th. Check out the website for more details: www.thekooks.com