Describing Brighton’s first season in the top flight since 1983 as memorable for the club’s fans would be an understatement.
Since our last stint in the big time, we have seen our home ground turned into a ‘Toys R Us’ and spent 14 years in exile, including 12 playing at an athletics stadium. The emotion in the stands at the Amex ahead of our season opener against Manchester City was understandable, given how close the club came to extinction in 1997.
Our 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford in November was the first time Brighton had played Manchester United in my lifetime and this is the first time we have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in that time. That says it all about just how special this year has been and an extra trip to the Theatre of Dreams this Saturday will be relished.
United 1 Brighton 0Video
Whenever this fixture comes around, Brighton fans instantly think of Gordon Smith’s chance to win the FA Cup final in 1983. The striker was one on one in the closing stages and it looked like he could not miss, but his shot thudded into Gary Bailey's legs.
The game finished 2-2 but we had blown our chance and the replay proved to be a disappointing 4-0 drubbing. That was the closest we have ever come to a major trophy and we have not been back to Wembley since.
Although that defeat still stings to this day, it is a good time to be supporting Brighton. We are by no means safe from the drop but we've not been in the relegation zone all season and took our first points off a top-six club two weeks ago with a 2-1 win against Arsenal.
Despite coming into Saturday’s tie on the back of a disappointing performance at Everton, you can expect Chris Hughton to have his players fully motivated. The Albion fans, undeterred by the scoreline at Goodison Park, were tremendous, as they have been on every trip this season, so be prepared for plenty of noise from the away end.
We will be without Anthony Knockaert after his petulant second-half challenge on Leighton Baines leaves him serving a three-match suspension, while Dale Stephens and Gaetan Bong are touch and go to be fit, according to Hughton. Steve Sidwell also remains sidelined.
Seven great quarter-final goalsVideo
Glenn Murray is the focus of the media recently but I would not be surprised to see him rested for £14million January signing Jurgen Locadia. The Dutchman has already scored twice in his limited opportunities since recovering from a hamstring injury that he arrived with.
The 24-year-old striker said last June that he dreams of playing for United, although he admitted he might need to play for a smaller club first, so he is definitely one to keep an eye on this weekend.
Predicted team: Krul, Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, March, Kayal, Propper, Izquierdo, Gross, Locadia.