Saturday July 15th
Albion are close to netting Neto. Little more than a year after struggling to entice players destined for Norwich’s bench, the club is on the brink of its first Brazilian, who presumably senses more than a whiff of the Copacabana about Lancing, where he arrives to sign for a record-rupturing fee from Gent.
A new midfielder would be timely: “There’s no point in thinking the worst,” soothes the Hughmeister, trying to ignore the idea of being relegated by November if the injury Anthony Knockaert sustained the previous night, in a 2-0 win against Fortuna Dusseldorf in Austria, turns out to be as much of a Knockaert blow as the case AK’s foot is now enshrined in suggests.
Hughton sounds an admirably restrained analysis of the game which, you suspect, likely diametrically opposes his annoyance during the match itself. "There were some tackles flying in that could have been deemed as reckless challenges,” he concludes with typical diplomacy.
“But these are the things that you have to be able to cope with.” Probably not in the first friendly back against a team in the German second tier, mind.
Sunday July 16th
The net result is we’ve net got Neto. Turns out one of the Brazil-via-Belgium budget-buster’s knees is as reliable as a toothpick in a swordfight. The club, in characteristic “we don’t comment on speculation” style, say nothing, but the player’s agent is believed to have left Lancing in a sweary flurry, furiously waving a photo of Paul Kitson in Albion colours.
Neto could find solace in the Instagram advice offered by one midfielder who almost definitely is incoming: Mathias Normann, Fotballspiller and proponent of the phrase “you have to fight through the bad days in order to earn the best days”. Normann's a Norwegian from Bodø/Glimt, a second tier side whose supporters occasionally demonstrate their loyalty by carrying giant yellow toothbrushes into games.
Will he clean up or merely become another flossed soul among the myriad promising spillers to have never emerged from the development squad? There’s Norway of knowing, really.
Monday July 17th
Not content with being massively better at defending than the average chump, Connor Goldson also had a slightly bigger aorta than most people, he reveals.
In easily the best news we could have wished for on a Monday, the most indie-dressing member of the Albion squad reflects on the operation which, essentially, saw his chest carved open in an operation ending any risk of the 24-year-old facing serious heart problems.
“I thought the world had ended,” he admits, speaking of the day in the middle of last season when he was told about the defect. “If something did happen you wouldn’t be able to tell what was going on and it would have been death straight away on a football pitch.” A long and promising career lies in wait.
Jamie Murphy, scorer of Albion’s opener against Fortuna following his recall to the Scotland squad, is linked with Fulham. Ticket sales for the only pre-season friendly at the Theatre of Broken Dreams, against Atletico Madrid, have topped 23,000, the club announces.
Tuesday July 18th
Tickets for Albion’s first away game, at Leicester in mid-August, go on sale to the privileged mob deemed to have accrued sufficient points under the terms of the club’s faintly mystifying new loyalty points system.
In scenes not witnessed since tickets for Bury away went up for grabs in 2001, the online queueing technology informs some fans there are more than 1,000 fans in front of them in the queue, evoking memories of Mark McGhee shimmying around the snaking lines shirking work in pursuit of a golden ticket to the Millennium Stadium all those moons ago.
A club spokesman laughs at rumours that the system could be altered to restrict tickets to fans who can pass a basic grammar test and resist tweeting to announce the news within seconds of blowing their moolah on a ticket.
“To get the balls out on the first day is a big thing,” Jamie Murphy announces to the official website, playing a magnificent round of innuendo bingo while discussing the joys of pre-season training.
Wednesday July 19th
“It will be good to test ourselves against the best players in the country and the world,” says Dale Stephens, yet again clearly referencing Burnley, his dreams of finally sidling up to Sean Dyche materialising a year later than he would have liked. “You look at Burnley and Bournemouth – they’ve kept the core of the squad that got them there. It will be nice to see everybody get a chance to play at this level.”
Bam Baldock is sidelined with what is expected to be a short-term calf injury, and two former Albion right-backs – one more legendary than the other – are united in the most unexpected of places.
“I am sure the Indian players will get to learn a lot from him,” says boss John Gregory, who has gone a long way from Crawley to the managerial hotseat at Super League club Chennaiyin, where his opening video message to the fans managed to be marginally more awkward than Bobby Zamora’s “I’m back” broadcast. The new signing he is referring to, naturally, is king among mortals Inigo Calderon.
The Albion club shop staff are no strangers to such exoticism, having apparently processed demand from New Zealand and Qatar among a record-breaking round of orders for the staggeringly beautiful, modestly-priced new home shirt.
In a major coup for the Albion, Hope Powell, who spent 15 years as England manager, will lead the women's challenge for promotion to Super League 1. “Shows our intent going forward,” tweets captain Sophie Perry, who’ll hope Powell is less perturbed by managing at Withdean than the last former England boss to lead Albion there, Peter Taylor. “We mean business.”
Thursday July 20th
Mathias Normann’s chiselled cheekbones and solid six-pack make the brickwork at Falmer appear relatively unsculpted as the midfielder poses outside everyone’s favourite spaceship stadium, having signed a three-year deal.
A youth-teamer for Norway, he’s immediately given the proverbial kiss of death by Chrissy Hugh, who pronounces him the 500th development squad player with a long-term goal of reaching the first team. Or heading straight back from whence he came.
Knockaert, who has been pictured hobbling around on crutches, has a chance of making the heroic opening day defeat to Man City, although he’s reported to be “utterly crestfallen” at missing Saturday's big one at the Checkatrade.com stadium in Crawley, where Aussie custodian Matty Ryan is expected to make his debut.
Knockaert will have to sit and watch the mercurial magic of former Withdean heartthrob and pool-playing firecracker Dean Cox, who lavishes praise upon Crawley’s pre-season thus far by telling The Argus that new boss Harry Kewell has been “trying to get his ideas across” alongside a lot of “hard running”.
Another mysterious next-best thing, Luis García, departs the developmental merry-go-round for Seville, taking with him a set of tracksuits branded with his own logo and the usual sense of enigmatic, Ali Dia-style regret/relief.
Friday July 21st
Call the cops, dust off your Sussex Senior Cup blu-ray showreel, set the satnav to negotiate innumerable grey roundabouts – it’s almost time for the big one at the Checkatrade.com Coliseum.
Championship scouts are evidently eyeing up Albion’s pre-season friendlies, because Murph’s fellow scorer in the tussle with Dusseldorf, Tomer Hemed, is also the subject of a transfer bid: Reading offer £4 million.
“We need to keep working hard and improve in every game so that we are ready for that first game of the season against Manchester City,” he responds, calling the Crawley clash a chance to “get used to the type of football the gaffer wants us to play.”
Given that HemHem and Glenn are the only fit current options upfront, that plan could conceivably involve a back six. “We have new players coming into the squad, but they have all integrated very well and have been made really welcome by us all,” says Hemed, reflecting on the imminent loan move of our new Norwegian.
“I’d rather exfoliate my beautiful face with an industrial grater than play at the MadStad again.”
Quote of the week: “We were sitting in his conservatory late one night and wanted a drink. Micky thought there was a keg of beer in the utility room, so we started drinking it but it was a bit warm so he told me to get some ice out of the freezer.
"I put the ice into the glasses and it started frothing up as we drank the beer. It tasted a bit odd, but we finished it and went to bed. We were sharing a bed, so Claire, who had just given birth to their son, Mitchel, could get some uninterrupted sleep – it’s a manager/assistant manager thing.
"In the morning we both felt awful and Claire burst into the room and asked, ‘Where is all the ice?’ ‘We used it in the beer,’ replied Micky. ‘That was my frozen breast milk.’
"We looked at each other and he said, ‘that’s the closest you will ever get to her breasts.’ We laughed our heads off. Claire eventually saw the funny side.” – Bob Booker on life as assistant to mini-marvel Micky Adams. The autobiography, Ooh-Ah Bob Booker, is expected to be published in August.