by Ryan Adsett

Finding out that Roberto De Zerbi would be departing the club, just over 12 hours before the final time he would take charge of an Albion match, was always going to be very difficult for most fans to take in.

After an incredible, mind-blowing couple of years at the helm, he had captured the hearts and minds of all Brighton fans.

In the words of not just fans, but players who had played under him, he has taught us a whole new way of viewing football.

It all started back at Anfield, sat in a rather warm away end on an early October afternoon, not quite sure what to expect, and still hurting massively after the departure of Graham Potter and the mass exodus of staff.

Potter was a tough act to follow, with great football and a team high in the league, but instantly the football on display was eye-catching.

With Leandro Trossard scoring a hat-trick, and Albion looking like scoring nearly every time they came forward that day; a 3-3 draw effectively set the tone for De Zerbi’s tenure.

A lot of goals scored, a lot of goals conceded.

But it was De Zerbi’s character and charisma that captured the fans like never truly before at Brighton.

From a personal perspective, it was an attribute that had been desperately lacking, despite some incredible football under Potter.

The feeling of succeeding, but also being allowed to dream beyond what we once thought was possible.

In that time, the players and staff at the club grew rapidly closer to the fans.

‘Freed from Desire’ became a regular party anthem at the Amex throughout the final months of 2022-23.

From tough days like Everton’s 5-1 thumping, to Alexis Mac Allister’s 99th minute winner against Manchester United emphasised a beautiful inconsistency that Brighton fans grew to love.

The passion on these nights, good and bad, was clear to see. Throwing iPads and running down touchlines let out a shared feeling across the fanbase that we had found our man.

Securing Europa League football is the highest achievement that Brighton have reached in their history so far, and the manner in which it was done was admirable.

Julio Enciso’s Puskas Award runners-up against Manchester City sealed a party down at the South Coast.

Brighton would travel to Athens, Rome, Marseille, and Amsterdam to watch their team play football. We could never have thought of it.

De Zerbi guided the club here, we cannot, and will not, ever forget that.

Now, an emotional ending. RDZ left incredibly gracefully.

An emotional tribute on the pitch meeting the fans, songs of “Roberto De Zerbi, we want you to stay” echoed from the North Stand.

De Zerbi was notably sad, and the same in the tunnel after the game.

Individual goodbyes with beyond players, to backroom staff, and the media.

Moments like this will be memorable for not just De Zerbi, but the fans too. Very, very rarely in the recent history of Albion has a tenure quite like this.

Thank you, Roberto. It has been spectacular.