A Century of Seagulls on the Small Screen

d286abd2-a714-4082-be70-ea951db75053The FA Cup match against arch rivals Crystal Palace on Monday 8th January 2018 marked a hundred live Brighton and Hove Albion games broadcast in the UK. In these televised matches, a total of 263 goals have been scored, live on 5 different television companies, playing on every day of the week in every division. We’ve seen relegations, revivals, promotions and survival. Cup shocks, bad knocks, a pitch invasion and pure elation. Late, late drama with Ulloa or Virgo, Sidwell from the half-way line and Smith must… oh no! Lua Lua, future stars, beating Palace and VAR. Gaining leads, beating Leeds, a ‘derby’ with Bournemouth and the Premier League. The television cameras have seen everything! Plus five nil-nil draws thrown in for good measure. To borrow from our own Fatboy Slim, we’ve come a long, long way together!

1983 tunnel

Jimmy Melia and Ron Atkinson leading the 1983 FA Cup Final teams out

When Jimmy Melia led the Albion team out at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 21st May 1983, it was a landmark day for so many reasons. Whilst the result wasn’t quite to go our way in that FA Cup Final against Manchester United, it set the ball rolling with the club’s first live UK televised game. Almost 35 years later, the century of live broadcasts is up.

 

Since Melia in 1983, fifteen different managers have taken charge of matches live in front of an expectant nation. During promotion campaigns with Peter Taylor and Mark McGhee, through survival under Steve Gritt, kick-starting Gus Poyet and Oscar Garcia’s new eras, right up to current boss Chris Hughton; who’s taken charge of the club in an impressive 43 of the 100 live matches so far.

 

The Albion has been particularly popular with broadcasters in recent seasons thanks to the excellent form of the team and the fantastic facilities the American Express Community Stadium has to offer. A club on the up, a Premier League outfit-in-waiting for so long, this was perhaps recognised early on as Brighton has been chosen for live coverage every season since 2001. In this time we’ve seen a relentless fight for a home, having to make ends meet in a temporary athletics stadium, proving ourselves against higher league opposition in the Cup and, finally, the dream move to a permanent abode and plying trade in the top flight for the first time since our live coverage began.

 

It took a while to get going before Paul Kitson’s late winner at Reading in April 2003 saw the first televised league win. The likes of Bobby Zamora, Danny Cullip, ‘Coca-Cola Kid’ Colin Kazim-Richards, Vicente and Glenn Murray have all got their name on the scoresheet in front of the live cameras since. Nicky Forster and Steve Sidwell have scored both for and against us on TV. Who could forget Michel Kuipers memorable double-save at Wolves in 2002, or Adam Virgo’s last-gasp diving header in extra time of the 2004 play-off semi-final 2nd leg at Withdean to ensure the game against Swindon went to penalties? We all know how that finished. Leon Knight etched his name into the club’s history in the Division Two Play-off Final by converting the penalty kick at the Millennium Stadium to fire Brighton’s promotion dream. The following season a one-all draw with Ipswich on the final day saw Virgo again net to stave off relegation, to the relief of the fans following on the small screen at home. Final day drama was repeated in 2014 as Leo Ulloa’s injury-time header from a Craig Mackail-Smith cross won the game at Nottingham Forest to catapult the Albion into the Championship play-offs at the expense of the prematurely-celebrating Reading in a game many fans will always cherish.

 

Brighton has also played a part on momentous days for the opposition. Peter Shilton’s 1000th league match was shown live, as he kept a clean sheet for Leyton Orient in their two-nil victory in 1996. Watford’s win in an early kick off at the Amex in April 2015 saw them promoted to the Premier League that day. During a season in which a record-breaking unbeaten start to the league campaign came to an end live on Sky at home to Middlesbrough in December 2015, the final game of the season was the reverse fixture. This was also televised, an effective play-off match for automatic promotion. It wasn’t to be that season for the Seagulls, but this was rectified in an incredible ride the following year.

 

As the fanbase of the club has grown, so has the popularity with the broadcasters. More matches than ever before were afforded live coverage during the promotion campaign of 2016/2017; a total of 17 in fact. Whilst this can sometimes be an inconvenience for supporters, the stats show the club doesn’t fare too badly on TV. Of the first century of games, 32 have been won, with another 32 draws and 36 defeats. 15 of the 100 have been in the FA Cup, where we have a win ratio of 40%, including knocking out then-higher division opponents in Newcastle twice (2012 and 2013) and Liverpool (1984). Having been featured live on all seven days of the week, data proves the most successful is by far a Friday, winning 11 of the 23 live fixtures. Beware the Albion curse of a Thursday night though, having failed to win in all six matches to be televised, including the 1983 FA Cup Final replay, and shipping a total of 16 goals.

Bournemouth protest

Fans invade the pitch to protest for the first time publicly against the sale of the Goldstone Ground

Bournemouth has provided the on-screen test the most often, with seven live head-to-heads. The Albion is yet to beat the team from along the South Coast in any of these. The first opportunity came in September 1995 in a game more remembered for Seagulls fans protests on the pitch against the then-owner’s plan to sell the Goldstone ground. Using the live TV opportunity ITV Meridian provided, supporters highlighted the struggles publicly for the first real time. Both clubs are unrecognisable from that day, rising to the top division to battle it out most recently in an entertaining two-all draw on New Year’s Day in front of the watching world.

VAR

Live match #100 vs Crystal Palace was the first club game in England in which VAR (Video Assistant Referee) could be used

So as the Seagulls reach a century on the small screen, here’s hoping to more excitement and drama in the next 100.

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

One Response to A Century of Seagulls on the Small Screen

  1. Pingback: BHAFC Premier League Commentaries 2017/18 | Mark O'MEARA

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