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Reinelt hails promotion 20 years after keeping Brighton in Football League

Date Posted,April 18, 2017

When promotion was officially confirmed, and the players headed into town to celebrate, their feet didn’t touch the ground.

On the nine-minute train ride from Falmer into Brighton, they were crowd-surfing through the carriages like suitcases along a baggage carousel as giddy supporters gave their heroes the full rock-star treatment.

In a hospitality suite back at the Amex, manager Chris Hughton marked his stunning achievement in the wonderfully understated way they used to celebrate goals 50 years ago: Simple handshakes and pats on the back.

Hughton was a lift engineer in a previous incarnation. Now, after a 34-year absence, Albion are finally taking his elevator back up to the penthouse.

But after more heartbreaks than a hospital cardiology unit could handle, Brighton and Hove Albion’s Easter resurrection was 20 years in the making.

This swipe of Reinelt’s left boot kept Brighton afloat in 1997 (Photo: EMPICS Sport)

Back in 1997 the Seagulls came within minutes of dropping out of the Football League – and probable oblivion.

It took a priceless equaliser by a man now employed by Network Rail as a track maintenance engineer to save Brighton from veering off the rails altogether.

In a shoot-out for survival on the last day of term, substitute Robbie Reinelt sprang from the bench to make it 1-1 against Hereford, which sent the Bulls down instead.

Brighton will play Premier League football next season

“To see Brighton back in the top flight, 20 years after that goal kept us in the league, is going to be amazing,” said Reinelt.

“And to see all the hard work, sacrifice and financial backing pay off is very rewarding for those of us who were at Hereford that day.

“The club should never have been backed into a corner, and left to struggle, the way they were. That goal, and the celebrations that followed, will always be top of my list, along with my first goal in professional football, which happened to be against Brighton (for Gillingham). I hope they forgive me now.”

For Reinelt, the gut-wrenching tension had been tempered by frustration at first before manager Steve Gritt sent him on with a licence to deliver the ultimate happy ending.

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