Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 1

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sThe media spotlight didn’t often shine on the Albion. Outside of the glorious run to the FA Cup Final, and Replay, in 1983, appearances on the television were rare. Goal clips were shown on the news and, if you were lucky, the Brighton game might have been selected for extended highlights on Match of the Day or The Big Match. Live games were even rarer, with the Seagulls on screen just three times in the 1980s and four in the 1990s. The satellite television boom didn’t really reach the South Coast until the 21st Century. The story of the club’s homelessness, two-year exile to Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium and twelve year stay at Withdean did garner some attention. Television helped play its part in this. This piece remembers some of the milestone matches Brighton played at their temporary abode. Our story begins on a sunny Saturday afternoon back in August 1999.

SUN Commentary Box

OPENING IN STYLE (7th August 1999) Division Three

Soccer Extra, Sky Sports 2; Brighton 6-0 Mansfield 

Mansfield Titles Mansfield Lorenzo

The long-awaited first League match back in Sussex could not have gone any better for Brighton and Hove Albion and their supporters. The two years sharing with Gillingham saw a continuation of the poor performances on the pitch, finishing 23rd and 17th at the foot of the English League structure. There was hope upon moving to Withdean that this would galvanise the fans and the team and finally start to turn the fortunes around. This six-nil thumping of Mansfield poured fuel to those fires. In the 1999/2000 season, lower League highlights were shown in the middle of Monday night on ITV’s Nationwide Football League Extra, regionally on the local ITV station on Sunday afternoons and on the Saturday evening news bulletins depending on how quick they could turn it around. Sky Sports held the exclusive Live rights, and with that they could show goals from all the other matches too. This took the shape of a weekly Football League Review studio show and Sunday morning goals round-up Soccer Extra, essentially the forerunner to what became the Chris Kamara-fronted Goals on Sunday. In this clip we have the goals from Soccer Extra presented by former ITV World Cup anchorman Matt Lorenzo, back on Sky fronting all sorts of magazine shows and the odd Live match, having rejoined in 1997. Nick London voiced the goals report.

Mansfield Intro Mansfield Lynam Mansfield Freeman first Mansfield Thomas

New ITV signing Des Lynam was in attendance (above, top right). His transfer away from Match of the Day meant he could now attend more Albion games with his Saturday afternoons freed up. The visiting team got off to a dreadful start when David Kerr was sent off after eleven minutes for use of the elbow in a challenge with Jamie Campbell. The rest of the day’s headlines were stolen by new boy Darren Freeman, who would forever be remembered for this debut hat-trick. His first came two minutes after the red, when the ball dropped nicely for him on the edge of the six-yard box following a free kick. He lashed it into the roof of the net from close range (above, bottom left). His second goal six minutes later came after a defensive mix up enabled him to nick the ball and get behind them. He rounded the goalkeeper for a cool finish. Into the second half, Rod Thomas made it three with a superb strike just inside the area (above, bottom right). The winger was signed ten months earlier from Chester after fans contributed money towards a ‘Buy a Player’ fundraiser.

Mansfield Freeman hat trick Mansfield Six

Freeman got his hat-trick after a neat through ball left him one-on-one with goalie Richardson. As he came rushing out, Freeman kept his nerve to slide it past him and hurdle the challenge. The covering defenders could only run back and watch as the ball rolled into the far corner for four-nil (above, left). The scoring didn’t end when Freeman was replaced, as substitute Aidan Newhouse bagged a brace in the final quarter of an hour. Newhouse joined from Swansea in the week of the game on a monthly rolling contract and wasted no time in opening his account. David Cameron battled on the far touchline to win the ball back and burst into the box. His cut back was hit first time into the roof of the goal for five. And the rout was complete when the same pair combined for Newhouse’s header to loop up over the goalkeeper and in. Six-nil! What an incredible result for Micky Adams and his men. They went on to finish eleventh in Division Three that season, the highest since relegation to this level in 1996. It was dubbed ‘the season that ended too soon’ though, as a push for the Play Offs was left just too late. As the profile grew, fans of many other clubs soon got to see for themselves the charms that Withdean had to offer during a march up the Divisions.


2

SECURING THE LEAGUE TITLE (1st May 2001) Division Three

Football League Review, Sky Sports 1; Brighton 1-0 Chesterfield

Chesterfield Intro Chesterfield aston

In Brighton’s second Withdean season, the club kicked on from the good end to the last campaign to surpass even the most optimistic of supporter’s expectations. After an indifferent opening month, a six-two victory over Torquay was the catalyst for a ten match unbeaten run. In fact, the only defeat in nineteen matches came at the hands of Chesterfield when a last minute goal sunk ten-man Albion. Form in the New Year continued well, with just one defeat in each of February and March, and the club found themselves in with a shout of one of three automatic promotion places available at the top of Division Three. Chesterfield and Cardiff were also going very well. Promotion was secured on Easter Saturday with a two-nil victory at Plymouth, now the Seagulls set their sights on the title. Brighton and Chesterfield had battled it out all season at the summit, forming a rivalry this campaign. However the Spireites were docked nine points and fined £20,000 for breaching financial regulations over the transfer of striker Luke Beckett from Chester. The deduction was applied in late April, taking them off the top of the table to be replaced by Brighton. On the Tuesday before the final weekend of fixtures, the top two met at Withdean in a match which would decide, once and for all, the destiny of this year’s Division Three championship. The Albion also wanted to prove a principle that they didn’t require the points removal in order to win the trophy, they wanted that gap to be more than nine points. Going into this clash, the final match of the year at Withdean, Brighton sat top on 88 points with three games left whilst Chesterfield were second on 86 and two to play, but that would go down to 77 points when the penalty’s taken into consideration.

Chesterfield Goal Chesterfield Scoreline Chesterfield trophy Chesterfield celebrations

Rights holder Sky Sports rounded up all the final midweek action with their Thursday night magazine programme Football League Review, which was voiced out-of-vision by number one Live match host Marcus Buckland. The reporter for Brighton versus Chesterfield was Nick London. Brighton were romping home, unbeaten in ten with seven of those as wins, and on course for more than ninety points. Stark contrast to just three years earlier when consecutive 23rd placed finishes made for drab viewing and on the verge of going out the League at the other end. They found things a little tougher up against Chesterfield in this match, with Bobby Zamora unable to take a couple of decent chances. Kerry Mayo also went close to a collector’s item goal after a mazy run from the halfway line. Step forward Danny Cullip to secure the win when his powerful header went in (above, top left), via a deflection off Chesterfield’s David Reeves, with twelve minutes left on the clock. They’d done it, Micky Adams and his men could celebrate promotion and the League title to boot. The trophy was presented there and then on the Withdean pitch, our first silverware since winning the equivalent Division in 1965! What a fantastic achievement for the Seagulls, flying high once again.

Chesterfield Adams Chesterfield Goalscorers chart Chesterfield final table

Micky Adams was full of praise for his squad afterwards, telling Football League Review; “Give them the credit they deserve because they’ve worked their socks off.” Bobby Zamora in particular did, ending up the Division’s top goal scorer with thirty-one in League and Cup. The final League table the following Saturday confirmed Albion’s place at the very top of the League for all the history books to show, and they did finish more than those nine deducted points ahead of Chesterfield, legitimising the win further. They ended up third some twelve points back, with Cardiff sandwiched in the middle. An average of exactly two points per game for the Albion is a phenomenal record and a real confidence booster for the players and supporters who were languishing around the mid-to-lower half of the table for the previous few years. Perhaps this temporary home was going to be alright. The momentum gained from this outstanding season was carried over to the 2001/2002 campaign where back to back championships were secured. Even a change of manager, with Micky Adams departing for Premiership Leicester early on to swap the South Coast with the departing Foxes boss Peter Taylor, couldn’t hamper the Albion’s rise up the Leagues. Extended highlights of the match with Swindon, and the subsequent title party, when the Division Two title was secured twelve months later is covered in a separate post. Within three Withdean years, Brighton had jumped from fourth tier to second and a place in Division One awaited in the 2002/03 season. The next aim was to stay up there.


3

AVOIDING AN UNWANTED CLUB RECORD (2nd November 2002) Division One

Football League Extra, ITV1; Brighton 3-2 Bradford City

Bradford Titles Bradford Division One

Following a season of exclusive Football League rights belonging to ITV Digital, it all ended rather sour. The company went into administration at the end of the first of a three-year deal, meaning emergency contingencies had to be put in place. This hugely impacted the finances of many lower League clubs who were banking on the vast amounts of money ITV had promised but would never materialise. Consequently on the broadcasting side, Live rights transferred back to Sky Sports and we were without a highlights deal for the first three months of the 2002/03 campaign. Brighton had won back to back League titles to rise from Division Three to Division One here but got off to a disastrous start. After a fantastic opening day win away at Burnley, things went from bad to worse to the verge of an unwanted milestone. A draw in the first home match of the season was followed by an incredible twelve League defeats in succession, culminating with the worst of the lot – a five-nil scoreline at arch rivals Crystal Palace in midweek, the first meeting for thirteen and a half years. Saturday 2nd November saw the visit of Bradford City to Withdean, where another defeat would be a club record. Manager Martin Hinshelwood paid the price for the poor form early on, with former Palace and Manchester United boss Steve Coppell now in charge at the Albion on a one-year contract. This was his third game at the helm.

Bradford Scoreline Bradford Penalty  Bradford Rodger Bradford Foul

This match marked the start of a new highlights deal which saw the welcome return of ITV’s middle-of-the-night goals programme Nationwide Football League Extra, which had covered the best of the action in a concise forty-minute slot since 1994. For this return, Tom Skippings led the voiceover round ups of our match and the rest of the second tier; assisted by Tony Jones and Trevor Harris each taking one of the other two Divisions. Brighton made a dream start when Bobby Zamora tucked away a penalty in the tenth minute. Gus Uhlenbeek tripped Paul Brooker in the box, allowing Zamora to convert low to the goalkeeper’s right (above, top right). Albion raced into a two-goal lead three minutes before the break. Zamora laid the ball off for midfielder Simon Rodger to hit a scorcher from twenty-five yards (above, bottom left) which flew into the top corner of the goal. Into the second half, the dream start got a bit nervier when Andy Gray halved the deficit with a stooping header from Paul Evans’ inswinger. Just six minutes later the two-goal cushion was restored, courtesy of Wayne Jacobs’ foul on Albion’s on-loan striker Graham Barrett (above, bottom right).

Bradford Kuipers Bradford table

Up stepped Zamora to convert another spot kick for three-one. This was the sixth penalty Bradford had conceded in their last six games, with ‘keeper Steve Banks saving one in each of the previous two games. He had no chance with this one, Zamora sent him the wrong way. In the final minute of the match, the man between the Albion posts rushed out of his goal all the way to the edge of the box and upended Stephen Warnock to give Bradford a penalty (above left). Kuipers received his marching orders from referee Brian Curson, with Andy Petterson coming on to keep goal. He couldn’t stop Andy Gray’s penalty to make it three-two. The Seagulls survived stoppage time to finally put that record behind them and begin to pick up Division One points again. Further joy came against Preston, Derby and Live on Sky against Wolves as the gap at the bottom started to close. However, by the end of the season it was just a little too much to do and the club were relegated back to Division Two on the final day following a draw at Grimsby, also Live on Sky. It was a topsy-turvy few years for the club as we yo-yoed around the Divisions but it was certainly never dull!


4

BEATING YOUR RELEGATION RIVALS (4th December 2004) Division One

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 1-0 Rotherham

Rotherham titles Rotherham Intro

Mark McGhee took over as manager in October 2003 after Steve Coppell’s departure to Reading. In that season McGhee guided the club up via the Play Offs with a Final victory over Bristol City Live on Sky to gain entry to the newly rebranded Championship. The new name brought with it a new highlights programme to accompany Sky’s Live coverage, with ITV again the broadcaster. Their programme, imaginatively named The Championship, was broadcast at 10.30am on Sunday mornings and consisted of one featured match, usually two additional reports and a goals round up of the rest of the Leagues at the end. Brighton started life back in the second tier much better than when we were last at this stage in 2003, with four wins in the opening two months. Form in October and November had dipped and the club found themselves in the (realistic) position in the bottom third of the table. We would be in for another relegation battle this season but with that bit more experience, things were hopeful of turning out differently. And they didn’t come much more experienced than thirty-eight-year-old striker Steve Claridge, who joined the Albion on a month’s contract. Prior to this he had been player-manager at non-League Weymouth after a long playing career which dated all the way back to 1983 and Fareham Town. He enjoyed spells at Cambridge, Birmingham and Portsmouth as well as linking up with McGhee at Millwall where they missed out on Premiership promotion in the Play Off Semi Finals in 2002. His move to Sussex garnered the interest of ITV’s highlights show, which sent Andy Townsend down to Withdean for his first visit. Regular presenter Matt Smith hosted the show from the main game at the Stadium of Light – for Sunderland against West Ham – and linked to our report after highlights of that clash.

Rotherham Townsend Rotherham Claridge Rotherham McGhee Rotherham Claridge playing

Townsend’s report began in the temporary stand behind the goal at Withdean as he introduced the piece before zooming out to reveal just a handful of fans dotted around him. The main focus was on Steve Claridge, whom he interviewed first in the tunnel. The pair had a chuckle at the surroundings before Townsend asked Claridge if he still felt the same about the game or if it had started to wane; “I don’t see how it ever does if you’re fit and you can play and can do a job, just take the enthusiasm for granted because I don’t think that ever goes.” Manager McGhee told Townsend that Claridge was “one of the fittest players you’ve ever seen, either as a player or as a manager… He’s made a big difference.” They touched upon the contract situation, with him only signed up for a month which was due to expire after the match the following week. McGhee stated he wanted to extend it but the club may say otherwise due to the costs and the financial constraints the stadium situation placed upon them all. Before showing the best of the action, we returned to Claridge who outlined the importance of this match; “We’ve lost a couple recently, it just puts a bit of difference between us and the bottom three if we can win today.” You have to beat the teams around you in relegation battles and failure to do that cost the Albion last time in this League.

Rotherham Harding Rotherham scoreline

Rotherham were right down at the foot of the table, with just one win in the last twenty-one matches. That came in the previous game so were in buoyant mood ahead of this crucial clash. Townsend voiced the footage which used pitch-level cameras and jaunty angles, a trademark of this type of report on The Championship. Townsend highlighted Claridge’s first half performance as the biggest threat, constantly looking lively and dangerous as we saw two of his shots saved by goalkeeper Mike Pollitt. Into the second period it was Leon Knight who looked liveliest now, having an effort cleared almost off the line by Ronnie Moore’s defence. The clock ticked away quickly with neither side quite doing enough. That was until the 82nd minute when left-back Dan Harding netted his first for the club (above left). A free kick bounced around the area before dropping to Harding on the left of the box to strike from seven yards. It crept into the far corner for a priceless goal and all three points. The VT ended with Claridge explaining his final match for Brighton was due to be in the upcoming Millwall trip but he was on his way in to see the manager now for clarity. It turned out that his contract wasn’t extended. But that was not the end of his Football League career as, remarkably, he went on to play for a further seven League clubs over the course of the next three years! The result sent the Seagulls seven points clear of the drop zone, now a few games past the half way stage of the season.

5

AND AGAIN (26th December 2004) Division One

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 2-1 Gillingham

Gillingham titles Gillingham Smith

Three weeks after the victory over bottom of the table Rotherham came another crucial clash in the relegation battle; Gillingham were the visitors to an icy Withdean on Boxing Day 2004. The Gills were below the Albion in the standings but Brighton suffered back to back defeats following that Rotherham win. A two-nil loss at Millwall was followed by Stoke claiming all three points on the South Coast. As the country suffered another cold wintery Christmas period, Withdean was usually one to fare particularly badly. A number of games had been postponed since arriving at the athletics track in 1999 due to the weather, with rain causing waterlogs and ice or snow taking its time to clear. Presenter Matt Smith was wrapped up warm with a big coat and scarf as he introduced the day’s festive football from the featured match Coventry versus Sheffield United. Voicing the goals and incidents in our match was fellow Brighton fan Dave Beckett, who sounded a little bunged up no doubt due to the weather.

Gillingham intro Gillingham Crofts Gillingham Carpenter equaliser Gillingham Virgo winner  

The report began by mentioning Stan Ternant’s Gillingham side’s cause for concern about the state of the pitch, with a white sheen present brought about ice. But it was they who broke the deadlock thanks to future Seagull Andrew Crofts. He latched onto Nicky Southall’s cross, appearing to burst in from nowhere and more determined than anyone. His header burst the net and flew through goalkeeper Kuipers, Crofts leaving his marker Paul Reid flat footed (above, top right). It looked like it was going to be a frustrating Christmas for Seagulls supporters all the way until the 78th minute when up stepped Richard Carpenter. As a headed clearance fell to him, he took one touch to set himself before hitting a divine half-volley from almost thirty yards (above, bottom left) which skipped off the turf and slid right into the bottom left hand corner of the net. A fantastic way to equalise but more was still to come. A Mark McCammon header was saved well by Paul Gallacher. But he wasn’t to deny Adam Virgo, who turned home the winner three minutes from time. A long throw in was flicked on by McCammon with Virgo arriving in the centre. He made connection before his marker and struck past Gallacher, who managed fingertips to it (above, bottom right).

Gillingham scoreline

Another terrific result for Brighton who were managing to get the better of the teams around them at the bottom. This ensured they did the double over the Gills and entered the New Year a whole seven points clear of the drop zone. The form continued into January taking ten more points from the next six unbeaten matches. A fantastic victory over leaders Sunderland followed in February, as featured as the main game on The Championship, and come the final day of the season just a point was required to maintain their Championship status. That’s exactly what happened when Adam Virgo netted in a Sky Live one-all draw with Ipswich in May. Brighton would remain in the second tier for another season under Mark McGhee. Though the 2005/06 campaign fared much worse and Brighton were relegated finishing bottom of the table, the more important result came off the field when permission for the new stadium site in Falmer was initially given the go-ahead by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott in October 2005 and, after another legal challenge delaying the saga further, the stadium finally could at last begin building work in the latter half of the noughties with the club consolidating in League One.


This look back over Albion’s tenure at Withdean Stadium continues with part two which can be accessed HERE.

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

 

FA Cup Final : ITV Coverage 2014

“We’d like to throw him up but not catch him” [Roy Keane, ITV pundit, on Sir Alex Ferguson, 2014]

Remembering the past is part of the human DNA. It enables moments to become great memories, creates the foundations for lasting friendship and sows the seeds for important life lessons. Some Northern comedians even make a living out of remembering things; “Bullseye eh, what was all that about?!”

The FA Cup has a long and proud tradition as the oldest cup competition in the world. It’s a cup which, let’s face it, has sunk to the level of ‘just another match’ in recent seasons yet once was the biggest single game of domestic soccer in the country. Before satellite dishes, before the Premier League, even before the great day of my birth the FA Cup final was the only live televised club match in England. The build ups were lavish, the fans all gave a toss and it was the hottest ticket in town. TV companies went potty for it. So you can understand why nowadays the broadcasters love looking back at the ‘good old days’ when coverage started at 11am and celebrities clambered to be a part of the previews.

FA Cup Final

Cup Final replay graphic

A nice feature of ITV’s two hour pre match programming for the 2014 Cup final involved reporter Ned Boulting trawl through the Big Match archives to dig out clips of terrible haircuts, a topless Andy Gray reading a newspaper and a who’s who of Operation Yewtree’s ‘Starr’ names. The opening of the whole broadcast began with soundbites of all the big name hosts from ITV Cup finals past introducing the Big Match from Wembley; there was Dickie Davies and Brian Moore through Bob Wilson and Des Lynam right up to Steve Rider and the present day of Adrian Chiles. Nostalgia was prevalent from start to finish.

Back to Ned’s feature though and one thing seemed clear about final shows of yesteryear – there was quite a bit of flesh on show. Amongst the ‘thigh lights’, if you’ll forgive the dreadful and inaccurate pun, were Glenn Hoddle receiving a massage and Jim Rosenthal treated to what can only be described as a naked foam bath. In a very macho world it’s all a bit homo-erotic. We saw glimpses of all the famous faces or, more accurately, voices that would become synonymous with football on the telly; Martin Tyler, Brian Clough, Saint and Greavsie. The players weren’t afraid of embarrassing themselves, as the great Bobby Moore showed when dressed fully as a pearly king. Innovations which seem old hat now were wonders of their time; the helicopter shots, relaxed player interviews, teammates talking about teammates, cameras on the coaches; they did it all. But mostly it seemed it was done with fun and excitement.

Which brings me on to our ITV host Adrian Chiles. Adrian’s style of hosting isn’t everyone’s FA cup of tea but he is a genuine fan in an industry full of chancers. You know he really is impressed by the condition of the pitch and the grand occasion. With longer build ups like this he’s given more time to shine and talk at length, which he excelled at during his MOTD2 and international tournament stints. He showed his disdain for bland, clichéd answers from his guests too by, on more than one occasion, coaxing fuller answers out. His reaction to pundit Lee Dixon’s comment that Wenger’s final pre match words would be to go and win to take the pressure off was rightly met with “I could’ve told em that!” And above all he tries to have a laugh with us. Comedy and football go all the way back and it’s easy to take it too seriously now. Growing up football was all about the enjoyment of being able to run around, chasing a size 5 plastic or sponge sphere with your mates. It was about recreating those brilliant moments you’d seen at the weekend or on the TV. It wasn’t about the winning or the money. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that in the modern era.

Tim Vine

Tim Vine at Wembley

Comedian Tim Vine, king of the one-liners, cropped up every now and then with his usual job lot of puns and tomfoolery. He reminded us of some of the stories of this season’s competition, which on reflection seemed quite low on headlines. He also got a chance to chat with Chiles and co-commentator and walking, talking cliché Andy Townsend on the pitch. This gave him the opportunity to have fun with the typical questions asked of pundits over shots of the team bus arriving at the ground; “He can’t be playing, he’s about 60”. Vine’s been somewhat of a regular in recent seasons on Cup final day. He reminded us of the time he was a steward at the ’88 final at the Liverpool end when massive underdogs Wimbledon upset them to win 1-0. He was having to hide his joy at supporting the underdog that day and thought he may have to do the same this one as he was wanting Hull to win but sat amongst Gooners. The sort of omen TV folk love on these days.

After fleeting chats with Vine and then golfer Ian Poulter, reporter Gabriel Clarke did his trademark eerie, arty football insert – this time on Arsene Wenger. We were promised ‘fresh material’ by Chiles. What we saw was a man clinging on to past glories with a hint of insanity. “The trees laugh as I go by” said Wenger on his daily commute across the capital. Set in his ways. Refusing to let go and delegate. “The Nutty Professor?” questioned Clarke, amidst clips of disgruntled fans. They weren’t so unhappy at the end of extra time. Neither was Wenger, who was tossed in the air by his team, oblivious to the fact he’s approaching pensionable age and is so slender he could hide behind the goalpost. The highlight of the broadcast followed when Roy Keane made the comment quoted at the top of this article.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger about to be thrown into the sunny sky

With a nod to the ‘lols’ witnessed during the Ned Boulting piece earlier, Hull captain Curtis Davies and midfielder Jake Livermore took part in a ‘Meet the Team’ style interview. Basically a chance for them to show off their best banter. I get the feeling the players enjoy these more than the viewers. I don’t really feel like I know anything more about Matty Fryatt now than I did before Livermore described him as ‘sawdust’. Good with hamsters?

Other bits before the 5pm kick off included Matt Smith, who reunited Dixon and Seaman in the Wembley changing rooms for a reminisce and a moan about the club they love. It’s a shame Smith has only ever hosted one FA Cup final in his time as he’s an excellent host but always overlooked. He’s probably the most consistent all-round sports broadcaster we have currently and can apply himself well to most, shown by his work on darts, snooker and cricket as well as the footy.

ITV studio

The ITV Final line up

With 45 minutes to kick off Chiles and Dixon moved up to the familiar glass box alongside Keane and freshly-sacked from Spurs Tim Sherwood for the rest of the show. A lengthy report on Hull ‘s recent rise was next featuring, who else, but Dean Windass talking about his play off goal six years ago. Followed by the inevitable mention of the failed bid to change the name to Hull City tigers. Grrrr. Let’s hope it’s never mentioned again from this day forth. Windass and Ian Ashbee were also on the pitch during the  first parts of the programme with Adrian. The rest of the build up was the bog-standard studio stuff really before Leona Lewis took over with the singing back where she started; live on ITV on a Saturday night.

Clive Tyldesley partnered Townsend in the commentary box for his ninth FA Cup final on ITV and their last for a while at least. Next season the terrestrial rights transfer across to the BBC. It’s a shame the last six seasons of Cup coverage will be marred by bad decisions – with the ITV Tic Tac goal, nudity and swearing, two broadcast partners losing their rights (sort of, as ESPN’s transferred to BT and of course Setanta are in the big broken telly in the clouds) and the end of the 3pm kick off – as some of the coverage really has been top notch. What I’d love now is for this occasion to regain its status as, truly, the Match of the Day under the Beeb’s guidance next season.

Watch the ITV FA Cup final promo
Read the blog on BT Sport’s Cup final 2014 coverage

World Cup 2014 : #1 TV Preview

“Our aim is for this to be the first truly 24/7 World Cup” [Barbara Slater, BBC Sport director, 2014] 

Every four years thirty-two countries compete in sixty-four matches to prove once and for all who is the best footballing nation on the planet. It’s a time when all fans put aside club bias and come together as one to cheer on the Three Lions of England in a bid to blur the desperate close-season blues. Football in June is a God send to us fans so enthralled by the sport that we get up at silly o’clock every weekend, boarding coaches and trains, spending thousands of pounds, consuming pint after stomach-stretching pint, watching ordinary people do extraordinary things. In order to keep that buzz over the summer, contests between Ecuador and Honduras on a Thursday afternoon for two hours suddenly feel like the only thing that matters. Yes the World Cup is nearly upon us!

This week the squads were announced and as usual there were a couple of surprises, some familiar faces and some downright odd choices. I’m not talking about Roy Hodgson’s England squad – I’ll mention that in a separate blog post – but the on-air teams assembled by our broadcasters BBC and ITV. The full press releases can be found here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/worldcup2014

http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-packs/2014-fifa-world-cup#.U3QBj9q9KSM 

As with every major international tournament the race is on to add to the broadcaster’s own line up of existing pundits and commentators with top names from the international game. BBC announced the signing of Thierry Henry a number of months ago and he should be an interesting one. His only experience of UK TV punditry is with Sky Sports on their Champions League coverage earlier this season and he did a good job, if somewhat casual. Clarence Seedorf will be another cool character but is untested on our screens, likewise Brazilian Ex-Middlesbrough star Juninho. Rio Ferdinand adds the English flavour and has already done a couple of stints for BT Sport this season. Predictably he’s drawn criticism for this but from what I’ve seen of him on camera he’s got the basics of being a natural broadcaster and can add some much needed insight into an England camp which undoubtedly will dominate the discussions in the build up.

ITV’s international line up is very interesting. They too have gone for the tried and untested. Former Brighton boss Gus Poyet, so ubiquitous last summer and the early stages of the season on our screens, has been signed presumably to give the Uruguayan angle when England face them in their second group game. He also happens to be opinionated, intelligent and loves the limelight. He’ll be a great pundit and has bags of experience of it. Fabio Cannavaro has not. He’s a huge name to be able to bring in. I’m not sure how good his English is but I suspect he’s there more to attract attention rather than freshen up the analysis.

ITV World Cup 2014 ITV’s World Cup core

Alongside the new faces there are many more familiar ones that will dominate the schedules over the course of June and July. ITV have called upon several ex-BBC World Cup men in the form of Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill to fit in next to Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. The English viewpoint is provided by current international Andros Townsend and ’98 World Cup coach Glenn Hoddle. In addition to this summer, Hoddle will continue with ITV for the Euro qualifiers over the next few years. He’s someone highly regarded as amongst the best Sky use after Neville, Carragher and Souness; all of whom have been used in the past by ITV for international tournaments.

The Beeb regulars Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy and Robbie Savage will work with Alan Hansen for the final time as he retires at the end of the summer. He will be missed, if not only for nostalgic reasons, but in recent tournaments his disdain for some of the lesser countries has been all too prevalent and probably is the right time to call it a day. There’s no doubting he’s a very knowledgeable pundit and does offer the viewer something not immediately obvious. The criticism that recently he’s been phoning in his analysis is a valid one though. Many of the BBC pundits will be combining studio roles with co-commentary so the likes of Lawrenson, Keown and Kilbane will be very busy. The positive is there’s no Mark Bright this time, ditched after a bafflingly-long time as number two (in every sense).  The BBC look to be stronger in the commentary box than their rivals for the first time in a long time.

BBC World Cup 2014 BBC’s World Cup band

Guy Mowbray will continue to cover the England games and the final in his role as number one. The rest of the matches will be shared out as equally as possible with Steve Wilson, Jonathan Pearce, Simon Brotherton and Steve Bower certainly clocking up the miles across the vast areas of Brazil. The latter trio have all benefitted from regular live games on BT Sport this past season and go into the tournament much sharper than two years ago, where their main regular gig was restricted to solo highlights only. Phil Neville is a new addition to the gantry and will work with Mowbray for England games, of which we hope there’ll be more than just the three. He’s done a couple of unbroadcast practice pilots with him and I’m interested to see if he’s anything like his brother Gary. If he’s half as good we’re in for a treat.

ITV look bare in comparison. Only the regular number one pairing of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend (not to be confused with the aforementioned Andros, who sounds as if he’s the Greek equivalent) survive from the Euros two years ago. So stalwarts Peter Drury, Jon Champion and Jim Beglin are all elsewhere this time. As is Craig Burley, who unexpectedly found himself doing the final in South Africa when Beglin was struck down by illness. Champion was initially supposed to go with ITV but opted for a more lucrative ESPN America gig so Sam Matterface and Clarke Carlisle are promoted to second choice pairing. Completing the regular commentary line up will be Joe Speight, for his first international tournament, and, combining studio role with co-comms, Lee Dixon. He’s been a regular for American network NBC all season and will be interesting to hear. There will also be others but as yet they haven’t been named.

Anchoring the coverage will be the ones we all expected; Gary Lineker for the fourth consecutive World Cup on the BBC, and Adrian Chiles for his second on ITV. In doing so Chiles becomes the first ITV host to lead consecutive World Cups since Brian Moore in the seventies! A quite remarkable statistic which even the great Des Lynam couldn’t break. Support provided by the excellent Matt Smith for his fourth and Mark Chapman for his first TV World Cup. Gabby Logan, Dan Walker, Jason Mohammed and Gabriel Clarke will all be on the plane as well as others who’ll no doubt crop up here and there.

The promos are beginning to air, the countdown is gaining interest and the soap fans are starting to fret about their beloved Coronation Street being shunted all over the schedules like it’s a Ben Elton sitcom. The focus is gearing up now the regular seasons are pretty much done and dusted. I don’t know where I’ll be watching the games yet, but one thing’s for sure; I cannot wait for it to all get going. I don’t wanna miss a thing.

See the first BBC World Cup promo here
watch the itv World Cup ’emotions’ promo