Small Screen Seagulls; Sunderland (H) 19/02/2005

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sAfter achieving promotion to the second tier via a fantastic Play Off Final victory in May 2004, beating Bristol City by one goal to nil in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the Seagulls had a tough task on their hands for the 2004/2005 season. The primary objective, after four seasons of bouncing around the Divisions, was simply to remain in the newly-rebranded Championship and avoid the drop. A tricky start saw the Albion lose three of the first four before back to back wins over Preston and Live on television at Leicester got them off the mark. Two away victories in September was followed by a winless October, including a two-nil scoreline at promotion-chasing Sunderland. Just ten more points were gained by the turn of the year but an unbeaten January gave Brighton real hope of staying in the Division. ITV’s highlights programme The Championship popped down to Withdean when Sunderland were in town towards the end of February in a crucial match at both ends of the table.


Brighton 2-1 Sunderland, Championship; 3pm, Sat 19th Feb ’05

SUN Titles

A new addition to the televised football schedules from the start of the 2004/2005 season arrived on ITV1 nationally as The Championship debuted on Sunday 8th August 2004. The Football League rebranded its three Divisions from this campaign onwards; out went Division One, Two and Three to be replaced by the Championship, League One and League Two. Alongside this was a contract for a new national highlights programme focussing on the second tier Championship Division, which would go out every Sunday morning for forty-five minutes from 10.30am on ITV1. This replaced ITV’s previous efforts stretching back the previous ten years; late night round-up show Football League Extra. Also on the move were the regular Sunday afternoon regional magazine programmes, now going out on Thursday evenings around 11pm. In Brighton’s region, The Meridian Match would now be called Meridian Soccer Night. Andy Steggall remained at the helm for that. Back on the networked show, Matt Smith was the regular Championship host, with reports and analysis from the likes of ITV’s regular football correspondents Andy Townsend, Ally McCoist, Robbie Earle, Gabriel Clarke and Dave Beckett. The format of the show was simple; one featured match from where the programme was hosted from, two featured reports from other Football League games and voiceovers rounding up the rest of the action from the Championship, As the programme went on, in later seasons it increased to an hour’s duration and included Leagues One and Two action. Here I take a look back at the one and only time the programme was presented from Brighton and Hove Albion’s (temporary) home Withdean Stadium as Mick McCarthy’s Sunderland provided the opposition.


The Championship, ITV1, 10.30am (Sunday 20th February 2005)

SUN Ident SUN Sponsor SUN ITV Sport Ident

The Sunday 20th February edition of ITV’s highlights programme The Championship was broadcast from Withdean Stadium. The programme was in its first season and rotated from a different stadium around the country each week, from which the featured match was being played. It was sponsored by Pukka Pies, a staple of the Football League stadium food selection. The ITV Sport ident followed. Having held exclusive highlight rights for the top flight for the preceding three seasons, ITV’s main action now came from the lower Leagues as well as sharing Live midweek European Champions League action with Sky Sports.

SUN Lynam SUN Intro 1 SUN Intro 2 SUN Intro 3

Before the title sequence, legendary sports presenter Des Lynam made a cameo appearance to have a joking dig at today’s presenter; “Good morning, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me on ITV Sport. The trouble is they’re letting almost anybody present the programmes these days.” The camera then panned across to Andy Townsend standing alongside Lynam to introduce the programme; “Welcome to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and all the weekend action from the Championship.” Des retired from Live sport in the summer of 2004 following the European Championships Final in Portugal and was enjoying supporting his team Brighton from the stands for this match. The titles played after, with the familiar sounds of U2’s Beautiful Day playing over the action. This music was retained as ITV’s theme tune following its use on The Premiership between 2001 and its ending in 2004. The Championship intro featured people playing football in the park and in the workplace interspersed with match footage from previous games. It also set the scene for what was to come over the next forty-five minutes. First up was the main match; Brighton versus Sunderland. Then pundit Ally McCoist went to visit his old boss Bobby Williamson, the manager of Plymouth, ahead of his next match. And finally reporter Gabriel Clarke was in Bradford to chat to their striker Dean Windass.

SUN Townsend

With regular Matt Smith away for this episode, Andy Townsend was the host for a rare frontman appearance. Smith presented the vast majority of editions from the beginning, having previously been the face of the Football League during the 2001/2002 season when the ITV Sport Channel held exclusive Live rights. When that folded he moved over to the main channel to chair The Premiership on Monday weekly discussion and highlights show from the studio. Andy Townsend joined ITV after retiring from football in 2000 and quickly became a regular pundit. He worked across Champions League, UEFA Cup, Football League and FA Cup coverage and was given his own analysis slot when The Premiership launched. However his ‘Tactics Truck’, which invited a player into the outside broadcast vehicle after the match to discuss the tactics of their performance, was ridiculed and quickly dropped after a few weeks. When Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV in April 2004 it was Townsend who filled the role of number one co-commentator on the channel with immediate effect, covering that year’s Champions League and European Championship Final alongside Clive Tyldesley. His work on The Championship has featured reporting on a secondary match and occasional hosting.

SUN Hospitality SUN Hammer throw SUN Trackside SUN Tunnel

Townsend opened the programme with a quick look around the below-par surroundings Brighton have to put up with at Withdean whilst the fight for a new stadium site in Falmer dragged on. He visited the portacabins which doubled up as VIP hospitality areas, where he was pelted with bread rolls upon his arrival. He then moved to the goal area, behind which was a hammer throwing area netting as part of the athletics equipment for the stadium. He described it as “certainly the most unusual ground that a Championship side will visit this season.” The public inquiry into Falmer was briefly mentioned whilst walking trackside in front of the North Stand. The initial plan had been for the stadium to be opened for the beginning of the 2005/2006 campaign but that was thwarted by Lewes District Council, later in 2005 MP John Prescott would reveal his decision to approve or reject the stadium proposals. Townsend concluded his visit around Withdean in the tunnel area with the players ready to make their way onto the pitch. He highlighted the Albion’s status in the League, just four places above the drop zone.

SUN Jon ChampionSUN Commentary Box SUN Comm

Our host then handed over to our commentator, “up in the crow’s nest”, who was Jon Champion. He joined ITV in the summer of 2001 to work on Premiership highlights and the launch of the ITV Sport Channel. He covered Football League and Champions League games Live and went to the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 as third choice commentator behind Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury. He also got to cover the 2002 Worthington Cup Final Live for the channel. Prior to joining ITV, Champion spent five years on BBC Match of the Day where he covered Premiership and FA Cup highlights as well as going to the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He memorably got to call Michael Owen’s wonder goal for England against Argentina in ’98 for the highlights, with his commentary living long in the memory; “It’s still Michael Owen.. he’s scored a wonderful goal!” Champion has a class and wit about him which make for the ideal candidate to be a lead commentator for a broadcaster. Outside of football he also covered cricket and rugby. We saw him in-vision at the start of this highlights package, with the temporary scaffolding commentary box at the back of the open-air South Stand proving an unusual sight for clubs at this level.

SUN Brighton

The team news for the Albion saw Dan Harding come in at left-back in place of Kerry Mayo. Striker Leon Knight began in a wide-left position in midfield as manager Mark McGhee opted for Adam Virgo, continuing his makeshift striker role this year, and Mark McCammon up top. McCammon joined from Millwall in December initially on loan before making the signing permanent at the beginning of February. He netted his first Brighton goals shortly after, scoring both in the three-two defeat at home to Derby. Swedish goalkeeper Rami Shaaban came in for his debut having been brought in on a short-term deal until the end of the season the previous night. This was to cover the places of the injured Ben Roberts and Michel Kuipers. Among his previous clubs included Arsenal where he was plagued with injuries and only started a handful of times. Defender Danny Cullip and midfielder Darren Currie, who only joined in August, had both been sold since our last big television appearance a few months earlier. Chairman Dick Knight could barely afford to turn down decent money for players with budgetary constraints tight as the fight for Falmer continued. Guy Butters was on target when we last picked up a point, three games ago at Leeds. He partnered Adam Hinshelwood at the heart of the defence, with the academy graduate now a regular fixture in the starting eleven. Midfielder Alexis Nicolas joined from Chelsea and made his move a permanent one in October.

SUN Sunderland

The Black Cats were playing in the Championship for the second successive season, having lost out to Crystal Palace on penalties in the Play Off Semi Finals last time round. Mick McCarthy named an unchanged side from the win over Watford a week ago. Hat-trick hero Marcus Stewart was the club’s top scorer this year and last. Strike partner Stephen Elliott was a summer transfer from Manchester City. Also coming in for this campaign were midfielders Carl Robinson and Dean Whitehead, the latter the only one of the line-up not to have played in the Premiership so far. Winger Julio Arca was named in the PFA Team of the Season last year. At the back, the experience of Republic of Ireland international Gary Breen was crucial as captain. His central defensive partner Steven Caldwell, vice-captain, joined from fierce rivals Newcastle having been released. Left back George McCartney was a key part of Sunderland’s excellent defence and started his professional career at the club.


SUN Yellow Card SUN 1st Goal SUN Carpenter celebration SUN Scoreline 1

Story of the Match: This was the first time Sunderland had travelled down to Sussex to face the Seagulls in a League fixture since the 1991/92 campaign, with that match ending in a two-all draw in a year when Brighton were relegated. The referee in charge today was Dermot Gallagher. The first incident on the highlights showed a late, aggressive shoulder challenge from Adam Virgo on Steven Caldwell rewarded with a yellow card from referee Gallagher. It wasn’t long until Brighton had the ball in the back of the net after some decent intentions shown by Mark McCammon. Right-back Paul Reid passed the ball up the line towards the forward where the ball wouldn’t quite settle at his feet. He regained possession of the loose ball to lay it off to Reid on the far touchline. His deflected cross was headed away only as far the edge of the penalty area. Richard Carpenter was waiting unmarked and with a lot of space and time. He struck a fierce first-time volley which took a nick off Stephen Wright on the way in. Brighton took a surprise lead much to the crowd’s, and Des Lynam’s, delight twenty-six minutes in!

SUN Red Card SUN Red offence

The dream start soon turned to a nightmare when, after just half an hour’s play, Virgo received his second yellow card and his marching orders. Sunderland were playing it about in midfield when a pass went astray from Jeff Whitley in the centre circle. Virgo lunged in and took the loose ball but the follow through with both feet caught Whitley on the ankle. The referee was no more than ten yards away and believed he got a clear view of the challenge, which was pretty reckless and deserving of a yellow card. Unfortunately for the Albion man it meant his second and his match was over more than an hour early. Clearly receiving gestures and words from the Sunderland supporters in the North East corner of Withdean, Virgo held up his hands to show the scoreline as still being one-nil as he headed for the tunnel. “And now Brighton are up against it,” claimed commentator Champion.

SUN 2nd Goal SUN McGhee grin SUN Crowd cheers SUN Half Time

However the man disadvantage didn’t seem to do Brighton any harm in the immediate aftermath as the Seagulls doubled their lead with two minutes to go in the first half. Leon Knight won a corner after a tussle with Stephen Wright. Carpenter’s kick was swung in from the left high up to the centre of the goal six yards out. Mark McCammon rose highest to gently glance his header into goalkeeper’s bottom-left hand post for two-nil. He out-jumped his marker Gary Breen who could only turn round and watch as the ball sailed home. Mark McGhee greeted it with a cheeky grin to camera. It was the perfect response to losing a player as Brighton went into the half-time break with a two-goal advantage. All ten wins so far this season had been by a single goal margin so a tough second half was surely to be expected.

SUN Double sub SUN Thornton chance

Into the second period, Sunderland made a couple of changes in a bid to get back into this match. Sean Thornton and Chris Brown came on to provide a bit more of a goal threat, with Whitehead and Whitley making way. And Thornton almost provided the early breakthrough after a neat passing move that began at the back. A lay off in the box by Arca found the on running Thornton but his shot, under pressure from a combination of Carpenter and Hinshelwood, was blazed over. The Irish midfielder was involved again soon after, with a well-struck half-volley on the corner of the penalty area stinging the palms of Shaaban, who could merely punch the ball up and back out. The chances were slowly stacking up.

SUN Diving SUN Arca

The away team’s final throw of the dice saw another striker added to the mix as Michael Bridges replaced Stephen Elliott. He had a shot which bounced just wide from outside the area. With time running out and just a quarter of an hour left to play, Sunderland resorted to slightly desperate measures when Thornton appeared to dive under no challenge from a Brighton player. The referee was right on the spot and correctly did not award a penalty but also brandished a card for the cheating. But the ten men couldn’t hold out for the clean sheet as Julio Arca got one back for Sunderland with ten minutes to play. The tricky winger picked the ball up just outside the centre circle before embarking on an unchallenged run through the middle of the pitch. By the time any Brighton defenders were in sight he got his shot off. It was struck left-footed and low into the corner of the net, grazing the post upon entry, as Shaaban couldn’t quite stretch far enough.

SUN Hit the post SUN No penalty

Sunderland kept pushing for that equaliser in the closing stages. George McCartney’s run on the left wing delivered a great ball in but there wasn’t quite a red and white striped player close enough. Dan Harding booted the ball clear. It was gathered by Thornton around thirty yards out who went for goal. His effort bounced once on the way through as it struck the face of the post and away, thankfully from an Albion perspective. Shaaban would not have got there if it was on target and it was a let off for Brighton, who seemed to have very little in this second period. The final moments saw scrambles to get the ball out of the box and away from danger as the Seagulls dug deep. Further appeals for a penalty were dismissed after the ball hit Alexis Nicolas on the arm from point blank range. “Brighton hearts in Brighton mouths for a moment”, was how Jon Champion called it. And then the final whistle blew, to the relief and sheer joy of the 6,647 spectators inside Withdean Stadium. “Brighton’s best win of the season and maybe, given the circumstances, Sunderland’s worst defeat. One of the most endearing features of the Championship is that any one team can beat any other, whatever their relative status on a given day.” Perfectly summed up by our commentator.

SUN Final Score


After the match, Champion spoke with players and managers to get their immediate reaction to the result. Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy gave Brighton credit for the work rate and desire, calling his own team’s performance not great. Champion joked with Carpenter that the first was “obviously a Stephen Wright own goal?” Carpenter responded with “I don’t know about that! It took a bit of a deflection on the way through but I think I’ll definitely claim that one.” He thought the second yellow card for Virgo baffled him and was a bit harsh. Debutant goalkeeper Rami Shaaban was also interviewed, with reference being made to his last Arsenal appearance before he broke his leg and was out of action long term. He played in front of 67,000 against Manchester United that day compared to 6,000 here but was keen to point out it’s all still football; “For me this was a little bit more nervous even because before the United game I knew where I was standing and now I’ve been away for a while and playing in some reserve games but this is a totally different game.”

SUN Carpenter SUN Shaaban SUN McGhee

Mark McGhee didn’t hold back when it came to the ongoing stadium saga. “It’s embarrassing for us, it’s embarrassing for our supporters, having away supporters coming and sitting in this dump of a place. We do the best we can but it is a dump in terms of modern football and the quicker they give us permission for a stadium the better for everyone in Brighton.” And with that the programme took its first advert break having devoted the entire first third to the main match. Andy Townsend continued to review the rest of the Championship action linking in and out of round-ups from various spots around Withdean. Peter Drury voiced brief highlights of Preston versus Ipswich from the Friday and Wolves against Gillingham from Saturday, whilst Ned Boulting and Dave Beckett voiced the goals from the rest of the Division. As well as the reports from Plymouth and Bradford mentioned at the top of the show, the final five minutes were devoted to rounding up the best of the rest in Leagues One and Two, as a couple of selected goal highlights were broadcast to close the show before the off-air time of 11.15am.

SUN Round Ups 1 SUN Endboard

The win for Brighton saw them climb three places to fifteenth and, crucially, ten points clear of the relegation zone. Sunderland weren’t able to close the gap on the top two automatic places and now faced a fight to overtake one or both of Ipswich and Wigan to gain that all important spot back in the big time of the Premiership. The season would go down to the wire.

 SUN Table topSUN Table bottom

 

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

One Response to Small Screen Seagulls; Sunderland (H) 19/02/2005

  1. Pingback: Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part one | Mark O'MEARA

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