Even for a man who’s been to seven Olympic games, numerous Wimbeldons and has travelled to World Cups and European Championships, October is going to feel like a busy month for Des Lynam. Not only does he begin a new career in the Countdown chair, he also has a new book to plug (which he was eager to do in the course of this short interview and which, incidentally, is a remarkably honest, warm and funny account of Des’ career and is available in all good bookshops for just £18.99). Most importantly, this month he will hear the fate of his beloved Brighton and Hove Albion, and whether, after eight years of waiting, they will finally have a stadium to call their own. It is one of the longest running, and most significant sagas of recent football history, but, among the hyperbole of the Premiership it is a story that has fallen out of the national spotlight. For fans of Brighton and Hove, however, it is an issue that cannot go away. Without a favourable resolution Brighton could join the likes of Accrington and Aldershot on the list of towns who have lost clubs to the commercially driven world of football. In sport generally, and particularly football, exaggerated fears of impending disaster are all too common, but in this case all too real. The club is forced to play in a shockingly inadequate stadium while the government drags its heels, and the future of the club, not to mention the livelihood of the players and the lifeblood of the fans, is left hanging by a thread. Lynam has been at the forefront of a four year campaign to persuade John Prescott to provide planning permission for a much needed 22,000 seater stadium for the city. Last week he was one of 10,000 Brighton fans who marched through the city in a last desperate attempt to influence the Deputy Prime Minister. Even now, however, with the final verdict less than a month away, he seems more hopeful than assured.“The chairman of the club is optimistic and if he’s optimistic so am I, because he knows more about the details of it than I do. I’m trying to be optimistic because if they can’t get a new proper football ground I suspect the club will gradually fade. I would ask him [Prescott] seriously to give the go-ahead. But I suspect that won’t matter because I suspect he’s decided now one way or the other and he’s just waiting to make the announcement.” Lynam attributes his success as a broadcaster to his ability to sympathise with the viewer and be “the barometer of what the average person was thinking.” It is in the same mould of passionate sports fan that Lynam now speaks, a supporter like any other, desperate to see the continued existence of his adored club. It is a passion that has taken him on numerous marches and to the front door of 10 Downing Street. Not even his famously pristine moustache was too good for the campaign as fellow Brighton fans poured bucket-loads of water over him. “The city needs a new football ground, it’s as simple as that. Prescott comes from Hull and he’s seen the benefit of the new football ground for his own city and what it has done for the club. He knows the benefits, he knows how it matters to a community when they’ve got a long standing football club with the heritage that club has got.“It’s a beautifully supported club, the fan base is terrific. Of course at the present time only 6,000 of them can see the home games because it’s a tight little ground. The home games are now played in an athletics stadium where it’s most unsatisfactory. The club has been going for a hundred-plus years and its part of a proper city nowadays and so it needs a proper football ground.”For a presenter renowned for his imperturbable style such fervour is refreshing. The position of the football club in his life is clearly central. The ease with which he talks about the club, particularly when he has his own agenda to promote, is admirable and should be a lesson to the Premiership snobs, myself included, who complain with tireless banality on phone-in shows whilst looking down on the lower leagues with disdain. Lynam’s reaction to people who couldn’t give two prawn sandwiches for the plight of a club like Brighton or Nottingham Forest sees his voice alter slightly from the demure, so familiar to Grandstand viewers and so much-loved by house-wives across the land. When I raise Peter Kenyon’s argument that lower-league clubs should go part-time in order to maintain their place in the football league Lynam’s animated response leaves me embarassed for raising the point: “A football club like Brighton has a vital position. So much of the community love it and get great satisfaction from it whether they can get to the game or not. I’m on this book tour at the moment (he couldn’t resist that plug) and everywhere I go I get Brighton football supporters coming up to me. They seem to be everywhere. They love the club. It’s so much a part of the community: what else in a community like Brighton and Hove attracts so many people and gets so many people worked up about it?”But such passion also breeds a sense of injustice at the plight of his football club and the nature in which the ordeal has been dragged out. “I do feel that if we’d been in the Premiership this would have been dealt with a lot quicker. The city council voted 11 to 1 for this new ground, and I think you’ll find that when Arsenal were going for their new ground the local council squeezed it through just about 8 to 7. But nobody felt the need to investigate any further. If we were Arsenal I suspect it would have gone through by now. It doesn’t help that they’re not in the Premiership.“They’re not so high profile, it’s as simple as that. I don’t think there’s anything personal in the decision as far as Prescott is concerned but for those of us who are connected with the club, we cannot see any real, valid reasons for that site not being allowed to be a football ground. And it’s for the community as well, not just the football club. Nothing happens on that site at the moment, its just a field. It’s part of Brighton University land which was given to Brighton University by the council in the first place.” Despite the injustice of it all he remains enthusiastic about the sport as a whole. He cannot agree, perhaps with the perspective brought by his own club’s position, with those who argue the game is in crisis.“When you get a club like Chelsea who look to be utterly dominant at the moment, and the other clubs are struggling to compete with them, suddenly everyone goes ‘ah, it’s boring.’ I don’t think the Premiership is boring. I think the Premiership is alive and well and happy. I think it has got more sophisticated, the coaches are tactically more aware, the technique of the players is much higher than it was a few years ago and so defence is paramount. You don’t see so many goals anymore. But generally speaking I think the quality of the play is very fine.”Lynam’s zeal for Brighton leaves us little time to discuss other matters, and we do not get the same enthusiastic response when we arrive belatedly at his own achievements and, for those daytime television watchers, his appointment as the successor to Richard Whitely as presenter of Countdown.He demonstrates his customary dry wit when I call him ‘the face of British sport’ but becomes slightly prickly when asked about his infamous ‘defection’ from BBC to ITV.“It created a lot of ructions at the time, some of my old colleagues were very unhappy with me and it created a lot of misery around the place for them. It was a difficult situation. If you are asking me ‘would I make the same decision again’, knowing everything that I do now, maybe I wouldn’t. I don’t know but I was certainly happy to have made it at the time and I had a very happy five years there.” Fortunately, however, he is much more accessible when I enquire of his latest career move to Channel 4. Self-derogatively he states it was Carol Vorderman who persuaded him to take the position and that his appearance on a celebrity edition proved that “not only was I not good at the Conundrum but I wasn’t much good at the show. You play along at home, that’s part of the game, and sometimes you outdo the people on the show, but very rarely.”It is to be hoped that Brighton, or more specifically John Prescott, can find a solution to their own conundrum and save a proud and historic football club. If not, you feel Carol Vorderman will not be greeted by the predictably composed Des Lynam the nation has come to know and respect so well.                 ARCHIVE: 2nd week Mt 2005