Small Screen Seagulls; Doncaster (H) 06/08/2011

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe 2011/2012 season was a landmark year for Brighton and Hove Albion. Fourteen years after beating Doncaster in the final match at the Goldstone Ground back in April 1997, Brighton were about to embark on a watershed moment for the Football Club. Saturday 6th August 2011 would welcome League football to Sussex in a permanent stadium the club could call their own; the magnificent American Express Community Stadium in Falmer. The opponents on that momentous day; of course, it had to be Doncaster Rovers. The fixture computer had thrown up a really pertinent tie to open life in the new ground. After a couple of test events over the summer, including hosting Premier League Spurs, the scene at long last was set.


Brighton 2-1 Doncaster, Championship; 3pm, Sat 6th Aug 2011

imageThe view from my seat ahead of kick-off

The first ever League match at The Amex opened Brighton’s 2011/2012 campaign in the Championship. The Albion won League One at a canter the previous season, spending over thirty weeks at the top of the table and amassing 95 points. Gus Poyet only arrived at the club in November 2009 yet secured promotion in his first full season as a manager. Doncaster Rovers would provide the opposition for this Saturday 3pm kick-off in the August sunshine. Tickets were like gold dust, it was surely going to be one of those “I was there” moments. We also had a brand new club crest to herald the new era. Here we take a look at the coverage of the match from Football League rights holders Sky Sports and the BBC.

Football League Weekend, Sky Sports 1 (5th August 2011)

FLW Titles FLW Gavin

Sky Sports previewed the return of the new season in their regular Friday evening magazine programme Football League Weekend hosted by George Gavin. Having began at Sky as a touchline reporter on the Football League and Premier League in the mid-90s, Gavin hosted their Live coverage of the three Divisions from 2002. As younger hosts started to emerge over the previous couple of seasons, his main role now was to host the preview and review programming in the studio. Alongside him for this edition was former Southampton, Wolves and Cardiff manager Dave Jones. He covered our Live broadcast of the Ipswich game on the final day of the season in 2005 when a draw secured survival in the Championship for another year. FLW used the same titles and graphics as the Live matches, with “You’ve Got the Love” as the theme tune and new-for-this-season sleek 3D red and black name straps. “Welcome to the start of the race for football’s richest prize and some clubs are better placed than others to hit the ground running”, said George Gavin as he introduced the programme.

FLW Studio FLW Jones

Gavin introduced the report on the new stadium by saying “After fourteen years of nomadic existence, the tune ‘Sussex by the Sea’ will ring out on Saturday at Brighton’s new stadium to welcome them into the Championship. These are sunshine days for the Seagulls, and one of their former stars Nicky Forster has been back to take the temperature.” Forster started working for Sky as an occasional Live match pundit and regular feature reporter for Football League Weekend following his retirement up the road at Brentford over the summer. Ahead of the Doncaster match he was sent to look around The Amex and chat with a few of the current crop. His report began by interviewing Albion coach and former midfield battler Charlie Oatway. “We’re still looking in certain areas just to give us that little bit of difference because every other side’s got it. We’re looking for that someone who can just turn a back four, or have that killer pass, we’re looking at that sort of thing. And you’re always looking for a man who’s gonna score more goals.”

FLW Stadium FLW Oatway

Forster then spoke with Brighton’s new record-signing Craig Mackail-Smith. The former Peterborough striker scored 35 goals on his way to being named in the PFA Team of the Year last season and inspired the Seagulls to splash out £2.5 million to bring him to the club. “It’s such a big game Saturday. I think it’s a full house, everyone’s gonna be right behind the team and hopefully if we can get that first goal quite early then that will take the roof off the stadium and get the fans rocking.” Mackail-Smith turned down bids from Premier League QPR amongst others, citing the ambitions from the chairman with the stadium being a high factor in deciding to join Brighton.

FLW Forster & CMS FLW CMS

Local born defender Tommy Elphick caught up with his former roommate in The Amex dressing room. He spoke highly of the new surroundings; “The club is being revolutionised by the gaffer and the chairman. I think you can see by this fantastic stadium that the club’s definitely going forward now.” After the report concluded, Dave Jones in the studio continued, “Moving into a new stadium is going to be absolutely fantastic for them. Good players, they’re playing some good football as well. They’ll be there or thereabouts, whether they do it this year or next year, that’s what they’re aiming for. You look at the facilities, they’re absolutely magnificent.” The team talked up Brighton’s chances of doing well this season and showed the goals from July’s friendly with Tottenham. The bookies had odds of 9/2 for the Seagulls to gain back to back promotions.

FLW Elphick FLW Odds


Football Focus, BBC One (6th August 2011)

Long-running BBC Saturday lunchtime preview programme Football Focus marked our momentous day by broadcasting the entire show Live from The Amex. There were reports that they wanted to show the Doncaster match Live as one of ten Championship broadcasts this season but the club turned the TV requests down, wanting it preserved as Saturday at 3pm. So the Beeb opted for the next best option to kick off a new season of football. They were into their third and final season covering the Football League Live. They also held highlights rights which would continue for a further three-year contract after this season. Football Focus had been running since 1974, with current host Dan Walker taking over the reigns in 2009. Walker was born not far away in Crawley and had been part of various big sporting events on the BBC since around 2008 before landing the Focus gig.

FF Titles FF Field

After Dan Walker had done his introductions from the fields outside the ground, and the car park by the stadium, broadcasting great and famous Seagulls supporter Des Lynam narrated a potted history of the club to provide context as to what we’ve achieved just to get to this point today. He talked about the foundation, the Goldstone, Brian Clough, the Cup Final, that match with Hereford before going up to the present day with Gus Poyet’s Champions, via Gillingham and Withdean Stadium. Walker had made his way round to the legends banners outside of the West Stand and hospitality entrances, where he was joined by BBC Sport pundit and former Albion defender Mark Lawrenson. Lawro spent four years at the Goldstone, making 152 appearances before going on to join Liverpool in 1981 where he enjoyed the most success of his career. Since retirement he’s been a pundit primarily for the BBC and Match of the Day forging a long-standing partnership with ex-teammate Alan Hansen. He combined studio work with a place on the gantry as their lead co-commentator, most recently covering the 2010 World Cup.

FF VT FF Lawrenson

Today’s edition was pleasingly very Brighton centric, with multiple features from around the stadium and about the club. Even both pundits had connections to the Albion. The host was making good use of his access all areas pass, as he visited the home dressing room, where the Albion players were already sitting around reading the matchday programme ahead of kick off less than three hours later. Waiting for us there was Robbie Savage, newly-retired from the game and hoping to forge a career as a pundit with the BBC. Savage played six times on-loan at Brighton where, by his own admission, he was not very good back in October 2008 under Micky Adams. Alan Navarro in the changing room shouted across to make sure he hadn’t forgotten; “He had a stinker in every game!”

FF Dressing Room FF Savage

After a quick summer Championship round-up VT from reporter Mark Clemmit, Dan Walker went out the tunnel and to the side of the pitch where Lawrenson and Savage were standing alongside Chairman Tony Bloom; without whom this stadium would not have been possible. “It’s a hugely emotional time for all of our fans, they’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Over fourteen years since the last game at the Goldstone ground against Doncaster, funnily enough, in April ’97 and that was a massive game for us which we needed to win to give ourselves a chance of staying in the Football League. Which goes to show how far we’ve gone in that time” he began. Bloom pointed out that the expectations of other teams will be higher than his but to see where we are after a few games and assess the situation from there. The pundits believed one of the biggest tasks would be to keep hold of manager Gus Poyet after such a successful first couple of years in management.

FF Tony Bloom FF Bloom

First team coach Charlie Oatway is never one to shy away from the cameras, as he sat in the car-seat style chairs in the dugout for a chat alongside Walker and his two pundits. The full eleven name introduction was given, with Oatway famously being named after the entire 1973 Queens Park Rangers team, the year he was born. Oatway played 224 matches for the Albion during those successful Withdean years, leaving in 2007 but returning as coach when Poyet arrived two seasons after. Walker asked Oatway about Poyet’s request to have the pitch as wide as possible to encourage the team’s passing philosophy; “We’ve got the best intentions of the way we wanna play football and the stature of this football club and what we wanna achieve and have our own identity. He’s adamant about that and that shows with the way that we try to play.” Their chat closed with a little plug for Oatway’s autobiography “Tackling Life”, charting his story out of trouble to captain the Albion as well as having to learn to read and write as an adult.

FF Oatway FF Dugout

The away end was Walker’s next port of call as he walked through the concourse highlighting some of the little touches the club would be putting on for visiting fans. We saw the television screens informing of next train times, the barrels of beer brought in locally from the visiting area and he spoke of how the lighting would be adapted to that club’s colours each match too. We saw the view from the away end, hoping “in the not too distant future there’ll be Premier League fans watching their team here at this great new stadium.” He also brought up the slight change from an earlier design of the seat colours which did have a couple of white seats ‘deposited’ underneath the giant seagull in the West Stand. That idea was poo-pooed.

FF Concourse FF Clipping

Superstar DJ Fatboy Slim, AKA Norman Cook, gave his considerable support to the campaign to bring home the Albion down the years and deserves credit for the publicity that brought, as well as the Skint shirt sponsorship which served the kits at Withdean so well for nine years. He joined the team pitchside for a natter and perhaps putting it best when he said, “We’ve lived through a difficult fourteen years and now we have our field of dreams. If you build it they will come.” It’s difficult for Mark Lawrenson to get through any broadcast without some attempt at a joke so when the good ones land you can’t help but admire his efforts; “They were sponsored by Skint, now they should be sponsored by Loaded! He’s got loads of money, the chairman.” And that was just about all we had time for this afternoon. This programme was a wonderful build up to one of the most anticipated days the Brighton supporters had seen for a generation. It was great seeing our stadium on television, exploring all the different areas and having nothing but praise for it. It set the scene perfectly for the match to come later that afternoon.

FF Goal FF Fatboy Slim


The Football League Show, BBC One (6th August 2011)

FLS Titles FLS Bhasin

BBC Saturday night highlights have been a staple of the British football diet going back to the times before England had even won the World Cup. Match of the Day launched on Saturday evening in 1964 and has continued on-air in some form on the weekends every season ever since. From 2009 this was supplemented by more action in the post-MOTD slot; The Football League Show. Not the most imaginatively titled programme, with largely forgettable (and barely audible) theme music, but it gave fans of lower league clubs the chance to see their team’s goals on a Saturday night after the Premier League games had been wrapped up. It was hosted from their London studio by Manish Bhasin, formerly of Football Focus. Bhasin would be joined by a guest pundit each week – the likes of Steve Claridge, Leroy Rosenior, Dave Kitson as well as current players and managers. Genial reporter Mark Clemmit – or Clem – would visit a match each Saturday to file an extended report from, interviewing players and managers and giving a bit of context to one of the 72 clubs in the Leagues. A club history section would often also be hosted by him to break up the flow of goals, goals, goals. For the first couple of seasons there would also be a chance for viewers to interact with the show sending comments and questions to be read out by reporters such as Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and Jacqui Oatley. There would be longer highlights of one or two featured games from the Championship, with voiceover reports in the round-ups for the rest of the matches across the Three Divisions. On this opening day, Brighton’s debut home fixture was the chosen star match here.

FLS Brighton FLS Doncaster

Brighton’s side included Craig Mackail-Smith, the club’s new record-signing from Peterborough, up front. He partnered Ashley Barnes. Glenn Murray rejected the club’s offers of a new contract and left as a free agent in the summer, only to join bitter rivals Crystal Palace. Winger Kazenga LuaLua had repeatedly been on loan with us over the previous season and a half and signed another six-month loan deal for the start of this campaign, with a view to a permanent deal. The solid back-line of Casper Ankergren in-goal, full-backs Inigo Calderon and Marcos Painter, and captain Gordon Greer kept twenty clean-sheets in the League last season and continued as starters here. Tommy Elphick was stretchered off injured in the final day draw at Notts County and would be a long-term casualty this time round. This gave another local youngster a start in his place; Lewis Dunk, who had made a handful of appearances for the Albion prior to today. The midfield core of Irishman Gary Dicker, Matt Sparrow and former Chelsea youth captain Liam Bridcutt all started. Winger Craig Noone had impressed since joining the side for the second half of last season but began on the bench. He was accompanied by unfamiliar Albion faces in new signings Will Buckley, temporarily our record signing at £1 million when the winger joined from Watford, and Romain Vincelot, a utility player brought in from Dagenham & Redbridge. Doncaster had a tough pre-season and were without seven of their squad due to injury. Billy Sharp and James Hayter were the target men, James Coppinger a potential danger in the middle with Ryan Mason, and at the back was captain George Friend. The referee was Eddie Ilderton.

FLS Commentator FLS Yellow Card

Commentary on the ten-minute highlight edit came from Martin Fisher. He joined the BBC when Match of the Day regained highlights to Premier League matches and began deploying commentators to every single game in 2004. Since then he’s regularly covered top-flight action and, from 2009, dipped down into the Football Leagues for this programme. Prior to that he was a reporter for Sky Sports News based in the midlands. The opening chance of the highlights fell to Billy Sharp whose curled effort inside the area narrowly missed the post. Kazenga LuaLua was causing all sorts of problems for the Donny defence, with Tommy Spurr getting booked for a foul. LuaLua himself was then booked for a dive when it seemed like he had surely been fouled for a penalty. Manager Poyet was incensed on the touchline, living up to his fiery nature, and received his invitation to sit in the stands courtesy of the referee. Ashley Barnes had the Albion’s first good chance after a flick on saw him one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Woods stood his ground and blocked Barnes’ effort with the defence helping out to clear a yard off the line. It all wasn’t quite going to plan for Brighton and it was made worse five minutes before half-time. Dicker was dispossessed on the half-way line by Ryan Mason, who continued his run to the edge of the box. His shot deflected off Dunk into the path of Billy Sharp to steer goalwards a first-time shot through Ankergren, already scrambling around way off his goalline, who managed to deflect the effort onto the post but to no avail. It trickled in to give Rovers the lead.

FLS Poyet Sent Off FLS Doncaster Goal

In the second half a wild lunge from Lewis Dunk earned himself a yellow card and brought an end to Sharp’s afternoon, having to be stretchered off to add to the away side’s injury woes. Substitute Craig Noone was in behind the Doncaster defence after Barnes flicked on Sparrow’s nice through ball. Noone opened his body up but saw the effort fly past the wrong side of the post, the shot lacking the required curl on it. The highlights were now all Brighton’s; with Craig Mackail-Smith forcing Woods into action again. The Albion breakthrough finally came through another sub, Will Buckley, who thundered in a goal from the corner of the area. Bridcutt’s floated free-kick was headed out by the defence who twice couldn’t clear sufficiently. The ball eventually fell to Buckley who smashed it on the half-volley twenty yards out low and hard past the ‘keeper to level with seven minutes remaining. Both sides had chances to win it, with Mackail-Smith going close for us, whilst Hayter had a volley blocked for Rovers. He got injured in the process, leaving Sean O’Driscoll with no option but to play the final few minutes with just ten men having already made three substitutions. A lot of stoppage time was going to be played here, Brighton had a man advantage now, could they get the goal advantage?

FLS Equaliser FLS One all

Into the 98th minute of the match, Craig Noone showed off some lovely footwork on half-way to spin one defender and skip past a second. With the outside of the left boot he stabbed a defence-splitting ball forward for Will Buckley to run through on goal. The pass was perfect, Buckley didn’t even need to take a touch he just ran wide to give himself the best possible angle to shoot and then bam! He curled it into the bottom-right corner of the goal to seal his place in Albion folklore forever. “It’s Buckley in againnn, TWO-ONE BRIGHTON!” cried commentator Martin Fisher. A fantastically cool finish from the debutant to complete the comeback and secure a very special victory on a very special day. Brighton had won it with virtually the last kick of the match. I hope you were expecting drama, it’s never plain sailing being a football fan!

FLS Winner FLS Celebration

In his post-match interview Gus Poyet was still fathomed by the referees decision to book LuaLua instead of award a penalty. Acknowledging his fiery temper he said “It’s me, you like me or you don’t. You take me how I am or I go home and I play golf.” We also heard from double-goalscoring hero Will Buckley. Questioned about how pleasing it was to go down in the record books he answered “I think everyone was trying to get that but it’s more importantly about the team win today and that’s what we needed, a good start, and we got it.” The standard footballer answer given, playing down his own achievements to focus on the three points and the team aspect. I could watch those two goals over and over again. I was so fortunate to have been there for this match and to enjoy the incredible surroundings our new abode had to offer.

FLS Full Time FLS Poyet

Manish Bhasin was joined by Steve Claridge in the studio to review the action. The retired striker had a short six game loan spell with Brighton under Mark McGhee in 2004. Upon analysing today’s match Claridge loved the atmosphere the fans created with the flags waving pre-match creating a sea of blue and white. He agreed with Poyet that the penalty should have been given for the foul on Kazenga LuaLua and praised the manager for making game-changing substitutions, with Noone and Buckley coming on. On the first goal, Claridge believed it to be “a fantastic strike, that’s a difficult skill and a great technique” before remarking about the winner “This is a fantastic run, teams can’t defend against this because it’s players running from deep, no-one can run with him.” No-one did run with him and consequently Brighton ran out winners by two goals to one completing the fairytale story in this brand new place we are very lucky to call home. This day will be forever remembered as the day the fans brought their football club back.

FLS Claridge FLS Studio

 

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

2 Responses to Small Screen Seagulls; Doncaster (H) 06/08/2011

  1. Pingback: Small Screen Seagulls; The Rise and Fall of Gus Poyet | Mark O'MEARA

  2. Pingback: Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 1 | Mark O'MEARA

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