#6: Leyton Orient 2-0 Brighton 22/12/1996

#6 LEYTON ORIENT 2-0 BRIGHTON Division Three
Sunday 22nd December 1996 Sky 1995

Orient 1996 ident Orient 1996 christmas Titlecard

PRESENTER Russ Williams GUESTS Ray Clemence & Pat Holland
COMMENTATORS Rob Hawthorne & Alan Brazil REPORTER George Gavin
12pm Kick Off; Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient      11.30am-3pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 3

IntroRuss Williams Ray Clemence Pat Holland Studio

Context of the Match: The sole reason this Division Three match between two strugglers was switched to a Sunday lunchtime kick off for Live television coverage by Sky Sports was because it would be former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s 1000th League match, at the ripe old age of 47. Brighton were the opponents tasked with playing along to the Shilton beat at Brisbane Road. The Albion sat rock-bottom of the entire Football League, as they had done since early October, with just four League wins all season as we approached the halfway point of the season. One of those wins however had come in the previous League game at home to Hull. The club also had a new manager in Steve Gritt, appointed earlier this month after Gerry Ryan was sacked. Leyton Orient weren’t faring much better, just a handful of places higher in the table and with their own manager having only been in charge for half a dozen matches before today.

Teams Emerge Orient Team Brighton Team Brighton Formation

The Teams: The standout name from Orient’s starting XI was of course Peter Shilton in goal for the 1000th time, a true legend of the game for club and country. Only four of the other 21 starting players were born when Shilton made his debut in 1966! One of whom was West Ham legend Alvin Martin, running out for the O’s for his one and only season away from Upton Park, also his final year before moving into management. Scott McGleish featured, as did Martin Ling in midfield who would later go on to play for Brighton to end his professional playing career. The Albion line up included young local lad Kerry Mayo in midfield alongside George Parris and Stuart Storer (before he wrote himself into club folklore scoring the last ever goal at the Goldstone in 1997). Regulars Peter Smith and Brighton-born Stuart Tuck provided the stability in the defence. Midfielder Paul McDonald had Premiership scouts looking at him today according to co-commentator Alan Brazil, though nothing came of this as he went to his native Scotland the following year.

Kick Off CommsCommentators

Presentation Team: Russ Williams anchored proceedings from a festively-decorated Sky Studios, complete with Christmas tree and tinsel by his side for this high-noon showdown. He was joined by England goalkeeping coach, and tenth on the all-time League appearances record with 758 games, Ray Clemence. Clemence was a rival to Shilton during their National Team days in the 1970s so was brought in as he knew ‘Shilts’ as well as anybody. The other guest was Pat Holland, who was Leyton Orient manager until just a few weeks before today. Holland only played for three teams during his career; West Ham, Bournemouth and, amazingly, Team Hawaii. He was in charge of the O’s for the past two years until Tommy Taylor took over this season. Reporting on the match was George Gavin, Sky’s number two on the touchline behind Nick Collins. Collins did England, FA Cup and Premiership whilst Gavin was left to pick up the rest. Completing Sky’s line-up were Alan Brazil and Rob Hawthorne up on the commentary gantry. Co-commentator Alan Brazil started his broadcasting career as sports expert on GMTV, the ITV breakfast company, until he joined Andy Gray on Sky Sports for The Boot Room. This led to being utilised on commentary when Sky signed up the Football League rights this season, a role in which he stayed as number one throughout the first four years of the contract, as did lead commentator Rob Hawthorne.

Appearance table S Files S Files Shilton S Files 2 Shilton

The Coverage: Sky gained the rights to broadcast the Football League Live from the beginning of this 1996/97 season, breaking ITV’s long held Live grip going back consecutive years to 1983. A new channel was launched to house the extra football content from this competition as well as the League Cup; Sky Sports 3 came on air on 16th August 1996. They assembled a new team including presenter and face of the launch promo Russ Williams, who was brought in after hosting the first incarnation of Soccer AM (alongside Jane Hoffen and Gary Stevens in 1995 before Tim Lovejoy took over at the start of this season) whilst Rob Hawthorne moved from Monday Night Football to commentate on almost every Football League Live match between 1996 and 2001. Also joining were Alan Brazil as first choice co-commentator/pundit and George Gavin as pitchside reporter, later replaced by Alan Bentley from 1997 when Gavin was moved up to the Premiership. Coverage was usually based in Isleworth and regular Live games shown on Friday night and Sunday lunchtime, with the broadcast normally incorporating the week’s goals and previews/reviews of the entire Division. Fresh off the back of England’s successful staging of Euro 96, one of the unofficial songs was Black Grape – England’s Irie, which Sky used as their Football League theme tune from 1996 until 2000. I thought it was an inspired choice and look back fondly on that title sequence. As this match took place just three days before Christmas, seasonal idents were used by Sky, a long held tradition of the broadcaster.

Peter Shilton Shilton entrance

The pre-match build up was dominated, as you’d expect, by talk of Peter Shilton for what was an historic achievement that will probably never be surpassed. Studio guests Clemence and Holland both had personal connections with the goalkeeper and were able to give their own insight. A regular feature of the early season Football League coverage was VT insert ‘The S-Files’; borrowing elements from acclaimed 90s drama The X-Files. This entailed the theme tune playing as a mysterious man crept around a darkened office and logged onto an early incarnation of a PC, giving the impression it’s all very secretive. There then followed an interview with none other than Peter Shilton who would answer questions displayed on the screen complete with picture-in-picture shots before ending when ‘time was up’ and we were automatically logged out. It was all very Sky in the 90s. Cameras followed him seemingly all morning as we saw him arrive at the ground and get out his car. He then had a chat with George Gavin, where he was keen to stress it’s not about him it’s about getting the win for the team; ever the ultimate professional. In a bizarre moment we saw him sitting in his underpants in the dressing room as if it was the most normal thing in the world, as we witnessed the preparations. The only mentions of Brighton from the studio came from Ray Clemence noting “Brighton always have a good travelling support anyway, even considering the problems that they’ve had,” referencing the ongoing battle against the board and a points deduction for a pitch invasion at the Goldstone a few weeks earlier. We also got a shout-out when the League table was shown, rock-bottom Brighton.

Dressing Room Awards Gathered press Scott McCarthy

As kick-off approached and Williams handed over to our commentary team, we witnessed a series of grand presentations and fanfare to welcome the star of the show onto the pitch. The centre circle was full of photographers and press (there must have been about 50 people on there) eager to get their shot of Shilton. A band played the teams out, dressed to imitate the London Beefeaters, onto the red carpet laid out. As conditions were so blustery this actually blew away and had to be rescued! A thousand balloons were released and a guard of honour was formed by the two line-ups for Shilton to run through. He was then presented with a silver salver by secretary of the Football League David Dent, and former World Cup referee Jack Taylor. Dent is probably most renowned for being the man in charge of the infamous League Cup draw that Donald Trump did in 1991 on ITV magazine show Saint & Greavsie. Orient chairman Barry Hearn gave Shilton the ‘Carling No.1 Award’ for his services to football. Then it was Brighton’s turn, with mascot Scott McCarthy (now one half of fan website WeAreBrighton.com) handing over something akin to the souvenir from darts quiz Bullseye on behalf of the Albion Supporters Club; “9-year-old Scott McCarthy, who’s giving him the tankard and he’s a budding young goalkeeper himself. He plays for the Seagulls Under-10 team” remarked Rob Hawthorne at the time. And lastly the 1000-game man was gifted a Guinness World Records certificate before finally he could get on with actually playing. A good ten minutes were taken up with getting the ceremonies completed!

George Gavin Straight after the final whistle we were able to hear from that man again; Mr P. Shilton MBE/OBE. He really deserved a credit at the end of the broadcast for his contributions to Sky’s programme. Never one to shy away from the camera, head of Matchroom Sport and chairman of the home side, Barry Hearn gave his thoughts on the day, including crediting the supporters of both teams. There was a bumper crowd of nearly 8,000, several thousand more than normal. The post match coverage did discuss Brighton in a bit more detail once the talk of the goalkeeper had concluded. Both managers were interviewed, including Steve Gritt confirming that he despite all the off-field problems he was being allowed to manage the team in his own way. Both pundits believed it would be an incredibly tough job for him to keep Brighton in the Division, with Holland noting even more so because Gritt had been out of the game for eighteen months. The Brighton boss was scathing about the performance, saying Shilton (him again!) probably hadn’t had an easier game in his 999 previous appearances. The fans stayed long after the final whistle to protest and display banners in the stand, with Gritt prefering to stay out of the politics and concentrate on the football. After around twenty minutes or so, the focus of the programme turned to the rest of the Football League with a goals round-up of the weekend’s action filling much of the remainder of the broadcast before saying goodbye just in time for viewers to switch over to Sky Sports 1 for the Live Super Sunday match from the Premiership; Aston Villa v Wimbledon.

Table Steve Gritt

Story of the Match: Leyton Orient dominated and were by far the better side. It took 23 minutes before Shilton even had to come off his line to gather the ball from a header back. He couldn’t have wished for an easier day to celebrate his millennium milestone, in doing so keeping his 333rd career clean-sheet. His opposite number for Brighton Nicky Rust, 25 years Shilton’s junior, was far busier and kept Albion in the game in the first half. Brighton settled into the game more after the half hour mark, in seriously windy and bitterly cold conditions, but Orient were the more dangerous throughout. The deadlock broke after the break when full-back Dominic Naylor played a neat one-two before finishing the move off from just inside the box despite Rust getting a hand to it. The result was sealed when Naylor again ventured into the penalty area and, after panic in the Brighton defence, was tripped by George Parris for a spot kick. Naylor got up to take it himself and sent Rust the wrong way for two-nil. Both incidents happened within seven minutes of each other and left the away team with a mountain to climb in a game in which they were always going to be the afterthought. The impressively vocal and numerous away supporters could be heard throughout chanting the club cause; “Archer out!” and “Sack the board”. Albion remained bottom of Division Three and would have to go some to survive in the final season at the Goldstone Ground. The rest is history. Peter Shilton went on to play five more times for Orient before finally, and definitely, calling it a day in 1997.

Naylor (2)

Replay Goal


NEXT; #7 CHESTER 1-1 BRIGHTON 15/01/1999

EXTRA; This season was Brighton’s final one at their home of 96 years – the Goldstone Ground. The off-pitch battles were fierce, difficult and extremely fraught. Excellent articles and books, such as Build a Bonfire, have been written documenting the entire battle to save the ground, save the club, oust the board and keep Brighton in Brighton, which I won’t go into on here. Instead, brief snippets from the media coverage of the 96/97 season are provided in a separate post linked HERE and HERE.

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

2 Responses to #6: Leyton Orient 2-0 Brighton 22/12/1996

  1. Pingback: #5: Brighton 0-0 Fulham 14/12/1995 | Mark O'MEARA

  2. Pingback: #7: Chester 1-1 Brighton 15/01/1999 | Mark O'MEARA

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