Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 1

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe 2011/2012 campaign was a landmark season for Brighton and Hove Albion. After a seemingly never-ending battle to secure planning permission for a new stadium, that dream was finally realised when the American Express Community Stadium in Falmer was opened in the summer of 2011. Brighton had come home to a stadium they could call their own for the first time since the Goldstone Ground was sold and demolished in 1997. The ‘temporary’ abode of the Withdean Stadium, complete with athletics track and unsheltered seating, ended up being home for eleven seasons! As successful as the team were during that period, with three titles and a Play Off Final victory, this new stadium would be the catalyst for even greater success.

Here are snippets of some of the features and coverage of the Albion during that homecoming season. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC Sport and Sky Sports. This is part one, the second part is HERE.


Away Days visit to Brighton

Soccer AM, Sky Sports 1 (20th August 2011)

SAM Soccer AM titles SAM Away Days

Sky Sports long-running Saturday morning entertainment show Soccer AM, hosted by Max Rushden and Helen Chamberlain, had a popular comedy feature called Away Days. In this, crew member Adam Smith played the part of ‘Franky Fryer’, a Danny Dyer spoof character who visited a new stadium each time and took in some of the local sights and sounds as if a visiting supporter on a day away. The mannerisms and language used parodied Dyer’s presenting style on football hooligan documentaries such as The Real Football Factories. The character aped Dyer’s use of cockney rhyming slang and exaggerated speech, with a trademark catchphrase “Keep me nut down!”

SAM Pier SAM Sealife centre SAM Laughter therapy SAM Stadium

In Franky Fryer’s visit to Brighton, he arrived at the station to learn that the new stadium isn’t technically in Brighton, but instead nearby Falmer. He moved down to see the famous Palace Pier, “standing for over one hundred years man and boy”, and along the seafront and pebble beach. A quick visit to the Sealife Centre followed, apparently “the world’s oldest operating aquarium”. Fryer liked to take in the weird and wonderful parts of a city so a trip to the Laughter Centre for some laughter therapy was in order. How very Brighton. Before long he had stumbled across the fields adjacent to the stadium in Falmer.

SAM Dicks Bar SAM In the stands

The supporter’s bar, named Dick’s Bar after former chairman Dick Knight, located at the back of the North Stand and adjacent to the club shop was “my sort of place” according to Fryer. He made his way round to the other side of the ground for the culmination of the piece; the South Stand away end.  He remarked upon the padded seats in all four stands of the magnificent stadium as we saw the view visiting supporters are treated to. The final shot panned out to reveal the entire South Stand, sat to the right of the impressive three-tiered West Stand and opposite the vocal home support from the North Stand. The stadium had only been open a matter of weeks by the time of Soccer AM’s visit, so it was all shiny and new. Away fans as well as, of course, Brighton fans were in for a treat when they visited England’s newest Football League ground upon opening in the summer of 2011.


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Quiz Show from The Amex for Brighton 2-2 Blackpool

Take It Like A Fan, Sky Sports 1 (26th August 2011)

TILAF Titles TILAF Hosts

Sky Sports Friday night football quiz show Take It Like A Fan returned for a second season during 2011/2012. Presented by former Soccer AM crew member and Soccer Saturday interviewer John Fendley, AKA Fenners, and Bianca Westwood, current Soccer Saturday reporter. Westwood became a permanent fixture on the show this season having covered last year when previous co-host Charlotte Jackson was absent. The programme was presented entirely on location at a football stadium around the country with the premise of giving away cash for correct answers to a range of football-based questions and games. The show visited Withdean Stadium back in January, as chronicled on the blog post In the Spotlight. Today, the seaside special was the centrepiece, as Blackpool were the visitors to The Amex.

TILAF The Possession Game TILAF Home or Away

The first feature was called ‘The Possession Game’. In this, one fan would answer a quiz question, get it correct he kept ‘possession’ of the £500 cash prize. Get it wrong however, and he’d hand the money over to his opponent. The person in possession after the fifth and final question would then go on to take a penalty at half-time in the Blackpool match where if successful would keep that £500. Albion supporters Simon and Danny took on the game. Questions included “What nationality is Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko?” and “Who’s won more FA Cups – Manchester United or Arsenal?” The all-important poser (shown in the screenshot above, left) was answered incorrectly by Danny, giving Simon the opportunity to win the cash at half-time, shown later in the show.

The next game was the more familiar ‘Home or Away’ premise; home questions would be about Brighton and win you a tenner, or for fifty pounds you could choose an away question on Blackpool. Brighton fan Richie maximised his earnings by selecting to go away for all three questions. Questions here included, “As a player, which of these clubs didn’t Blackpool boss Ian Holloway have a spell at – Wimbledon, Luton or Brentford?”, and “Who was Blackpool’s top scorer in the Premier League last season?” He answered two of the three correctly and decided to choose the double or quits option (shown in the screenshot above, right). Answering incorrectly, he lost the one-hundred pounds he accumulated.

TILAF Birds Eye View TILAF Brighton players

Another Brighton fan competing was Ben, who previously appeared on MasterChef. For today’s TV appearance he took part in the game ‘Bird’s Eye View’, where you had to identify football stadiums from an aerial shot. Each correct answer was rewarded with ten pounds. Helped along the way by Fenners, Ben scored eleven earning him £110 in sixty seconds. He too took the double or quits option but fared better than Richie by guessing the home of Liverpool correctly.

Brighton trio Gary Dicker, Craig Noone and Steve Cook took part in a special round of ‘Fenners’ Tenners’, answering as many questions correctly inside half-a-minute as possible. First team coach Charlie Oatway was on stopwatch duty. Questions included, “What is Ashley Barnes’ squad number at Brighton?”, “Who did Brighton sign Craig Mackail-Smith from?” and “Who play their home games at Roots Hall?” The boys achieved nine correct, largely thanks to Gary Dicker. Their question to double the pot to £180 was as follows; “Which player committed the most fouls in the Premier League last season – Kevin Davies or Cheick Tiote?” Watch the video below to see how they got on.

TILAF Poyet TILAF Full Time

With kick off approaching and the players warming up, Bianca Westwood chatted to manager Gus Poyet in the dugout. He gave his thoughts on the excellent unbeaten start to the season as well as the magnificent new surroundings. “It’s been great, difficult to keep everybody calm!” the Uruguayan began. On the stadium and new League this season he added, “It’s perfect. We need it, it was the aim last year. It wasn’t easy but we are here and now we are enjoying the Championship and doing well.” She also spoke with veteran Blackpool striker Kevin Phillips before and after the match, as he entered the final spell of his playing career.

The goals and key chances from the afternoon’s match were shown, set to music. Craig Mackail-Smith opened the scoring with a header on half an hour. Ashley Barnes tapped home a second goal five minutes into the second period as Albion enjoyed the summer sunshine. But Kevin Phillips headed one back after the hour mark to ensure a nervy finish. And in stoppage time the goalscoring great bagged a great goal to equalise and rescue a point with a superbly executed volley on the turn.

TILAF Half Time TILAF Penalty

During the half-time interval, Simon from earlier on in the show faced goalkeeper Dan in a penalty kick. Score it and Simon would pocket the £500 from ‘The Possession Game’ but miss and he’d go away empty handed. Simon kept his cool and slotted the penalty away well, in front of the North Stand crowd.

The final game of the programme was with Blackpool fan and the godson of Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan, Liam. He played ‘Fenners’ Tenners’, scoring an impressive thirteen correct in the minute. He also managed to answer in full sentences rather than just the right answer! To double up to £260, he had to answer the following; “Which stadium has the smallest capacity in the Premier League – Loftus Road or Liberty Stadium?” The West London ground earned him the big money to cap off a very fun show.


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Brighton 0-0 Sunderland (1-0 AET) Highlights

The League Cup Show, BBC One (24th August 2011); Carling Cup Round Two

CCUP Titles CCUP Comms

The games came thick and fast in the opening weeks of the Football League season and by the end of August we were already at the second stage of the League Cup. BBC held highlight broadcast rights to the competition, producing a midweek round up show on the Wednesday night. Imaginatively titled The League Cup Show, the studio and set up was the same as Saturday night highlights programme The Football League Show that began for the 2009/10 season. It was hosted by former Football Focus presenter Manish Bhasin. Joining him for this edition was pundit and former West Ham and Fulham striker Leroy Rosenior. One of the featured matches tonight was the Albion’s clash with Sunderland. Commentary was provided by Match of the Day regular Martin Fisher.

CCUP Teams

Brighton reached the Second Round of the Carling Cup by defeating their old landlord, Gillingham, in Round One. Ashley Barnes from the penalty spot was the decider that night. It set up a clash with Premier League side Sunderland at The Amex. Steve Bruce’s team were yet to win either of their top flight matches; drawing one and losing the other. By contrast, the Albion were unbeaten in their opening five games, winning all but one – the two-two draw with Blackpool last time out. Victory in these opening three matches was the club’s best start since the 1953/54 season.

Gus Poyet made two changes for tonight’s clash, as midfielders Gary Dicker and Romain Vincelot dropped out, replaced by Alan Navarro and Ryan Harley. The latter was making his debut having signed from Swansea the previous day. Steve Bruce swapped out three of his Sunderland players that lost to rivals Newcastle at the weekend. In came new goalkeeper Kieran Westwood for his Black Cats debut, and midfielders David Vaughan and Craig Gardner; all summer signings. The referee was Andy D’Urso.

CCUP Post CCUP Dive incident

The five-minute highlights edit began with a great chance for Sunderland after Kazenga LuaLua was caught out in his own penalty area. Thankfully, Stephane Sessegnon couldn’t provide a finish. He was also denied from long range by Casper Ankergren later in the half. Craig Mackail-Smith was at the heart of all Brighton’s attacking play at the other end, with two efforts on goal causing problems. He was denied by Westwood with the first and shot over for the second. It was goalless at the break.

The best chance arrived in the second half when Mackail-Smith was sent clear through an excellent long-range pass from Liam Bridcutt. The striker sprung the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with Westwood (above, left). Unfortunately, the shot bounced onto the post, back across the goal line and out. So close! The big talking point came when Inigo Calderon of all people found himself galloping into the area. Goalie Kieran Westwood raced out and appeared to bring the Spaniard down for a penalty (above right). The referee blew his whistle but signalled the other way, booking Calderon for a dive. It looked like a close call, with commentator Martin Fisher adamant there was contact; “The right boot of Westwood on the left boot of Calderon. It’s a huge escape for Westwood and Sunderland.” Sunderland too had a couple of half-chances but Ankergren stood firm and it finished after ninety minutes at nil-nil.

CCUP Goal CCUP Full Time

The match had to be decided on the night so on to Extra Time we went. Within six minutes, Brighton had the breakthrough and it was the tireless Craig Mackail-Smith who notched it. Scouse duo Craig Noone and Alan Navarro linked up on the near side to send the latter on down the right-hand side of the box. He hit an instinctive cross up towards the back post which was perfect for Mackail-Smith. Last season’s highest goalscorer in the country added another to his new club’s tally with a header back across from inside the six-yard area. There was nothing Sunderland could do about that one and you couldn’t say the Seagulls didn’t deserve it. The Black Cats found no answer and suffered an early exit to the competition as the stripes of Brighton went marching on.

CCUP Mackail-Smith CCUP Studio

In his post-match interview, Gus Poyet believed Brighton to have been good enough to win this close match and praised the efforts of the goalscorer, whilst Sunderland’s Steve Bruce was gracious in defeat; “they were terrific on the night, they played some really good stuff.” Match winner Mackail-Smith spoke of the club’s positive attitude; “We just believe in the way we play football and we feel that whoever we play we can go out and beat.” Back in the studio, pundit Leroy Rosenior believed this Cup upset to be no shock to Seagulls supporters, loving life in their new home; “It’s no surprise to them, they just carried on where they left off. Nobody fancies playing Brighton at the moment.” If only that were to continue! Round Three saw even more prestigious opponents descending on the South Coast; Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool.


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Southampton 3-0 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (19th November 2011); Championship

SOU FL Show titles SOU Comm

The Championship returned after the international break and we welcomed back the BBC’s highlights programme The Football League Show late on Saturday night to round up the day’s play. Hosted by Manish Bhasin with pundit Steve Claridge, the featured match for this mid-November edition was a South Coast clash as Southampton took on Brighton. The Saints sat top of the Championship table, a position the Albion occupied briefly in September before a dip in form saw them slide out of the top six and into tenth. After an unbeaten first half a dozen League games, Brighton won just one of the following ten, ending a terrible run with a two-nil victory over Barnsley last time out. Commentating on the action was Martin Fisher, who also covered our opening day dramatic victory over Doncaster for the show.

SOU Southampton SOU Brighton

Brighton wore their change kit of green and black for the visit to St Mary’s. Southampton’s home form was remarkable; they’d won their previous nineteen matches in a row at this stadium. In the line ups, Dean Hammond captained the home side and returned to the first team in place of Morgan Schneiderlin. Midfielder Adam Lallana had been in the senior squad since 2006 having come up through the youth system. Rickie Lambert was the club’s top scorer but failed to find the target in the previous five. For the Albion, just one change was made from the side that beat Barnsley two weeks ago. Left-back Marcos Painter was preferred to Inigo Calderon. Goals had dried up for record signing Craig Mackail-Smith, his last came in the disappointing home defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of September. Strike partner Billy Paynter was on loan from Leeds until January but was yet to register a goal for the Seagulls. Half the midfield was Scouse, in Navarro and Noone. The referee in charge was Peter Walton.

Southampton complained of two penalty shouts early on, neither given by referee Peter Walton. The first was a definite no, when a shot from close range struck Gordon Greer on the arm. There was nothing the Scotsman could have done from such a short distance to get out of the way. The second saw Ricky Lambert’s shirt being held by Marcos Painter. The striker still outmuscled his man and headed goalwards regardless. Chances were few and far between in the first half as the sides went into the break goalless.

SOU Lambert goal SOU Incorrect Penalty decision SOU Penalty award SOU Full Time

It took the Saints just four minutes into the second half before the took the lead through Rickie Lambert. Richardson crossed from the near side, cutting back on his left foot and swinging a delivery towards the back post. Lambert outjumped both Craig Noone and Mauricio Taricco to win the header and power it past Steve Harper in goal. Brighton rightly avoided giving away a penalty when Dean Hammond went down under Harper’s challenge. The referee didn’t buy it and booked the ex-Albion midfielder for diving. But Southampton were awarded a penalty soon after when the linesman flagged for a foul by Dunk on Jose Fonte. If they got the Hammond decision correct, the officials lost all credibility when giving this one as the contact clearly took place outside the box. Taricco went mad and got sent off for presumably something he said to the referee. From nothing, Brighton were about to lose all hope of getting something from this crunch clash. Lambert tucked away the spot kick sending Harper the other way for two-nil just before the hour mark.

Alan Navarro went close to joining Taricco for the proverbial early bath when he lunged into a challenge with his studs showing. He connected full on with the calf of substitute Morgan Schneiderlin. Navarro was awarded a yellow card when it could easily have been more. The resulting free kick towards Lambert then should have been a penalty for a push by Painter but wasn’t given. They say these things even themselves out. It capped off a pretty bad day for the officials. Yet another shout for a penalty came when Lambert appeared to be felled by the foot of Inigo Calderon. This was more difficult to judge as first glance it appeared to be a foul but the replay showed contact was minimal and, if anything, Lambert just lost his footing. Either way, it was given and Lambert completed his hat-trick with another superbly taken kick into the roof of the net twenty minutes before the end. They could have had even more but for Harper and some tame efforts, but it finished three-nil to the home side at St Mary’s.

SOU Poyet SOU Studio

In Gus Poyet’s post-match interview he, understandably, spoke out about the refereeing performance. “We respect the referees a lot and we give them credit for the job they do and how difficult it is nowadays in football to give a penalty or not… And when it’s so embarrassing, if you want the players just to accept it and clap their hands and go home and just relax and forget about that. They took everything we done in fifty-five minutes away just because… who knows what went through the head of the referee and the linesman today?”

In the studio, Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge also began by discussing the decisions of the officials. For the penalty that should have been a free kick on Fonte, Claridge called it an “incredible decision. I don’t think Jose Fonte actually gets any part of his body at any time into the box apart from when he falls over eventually.” They emphasised that the right team did still win the game, but they were helped along the way by Peter Walton and Brighton’s challenge ended with the award of that first penalty. The studio team reviewed five big penalty decisions Walton had to make and judged that he got four of them wrong. The one correct decision was to book Hammond for his dive. Claridge’s assessment of Brighton was that although they were in the game for the first fifty-five minutes, he didn’t think they ever looked like they were going to win it, whilst Southampton’s start to the campaign was better at this stage than the previous two winners of the Division. Bit of a turnaround from the two sides competing together last season in League One.


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Amex Stadium Report from an away perspective, Brighton 2-0 Bristol City

Late Kick Off, BBC One South (16th January 2012)

LKO1 Titles LKO1 Studio

The BBC’s regional Football League magazine show, Late Kick Off, returned for a new series on Monday 16th January 2012 until the end of the season. In the South and South West, the programme was presented by James Richardson with regular pundits Graeme Murty, formerly of Reading and Southampton, and Leroy Rosenior, ex-West Ham and Bristol City striker. It was the second season running with this trio at the helm, having taken over from original host Jonathan Pearce. The show covered the Albion as well as Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Swindon, Aldershot, Plymouth, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham, Crawley, Exeter, Oxford and Yeovil.

The lead feature of this edition centred around stadiums; with Brighton having moved into their new home ahead of this season, meanwhile Bristol City were fighting their own battle with the powers that be to secure their new one. The two sides met on Saturday at The Amex in the Championship. The Albion board made their visitors feel very welcome, sympathetic to their cause. As host Richardson explained in the show, “A judge has today ruled that a full review is necessary on City’s bid to build their new stadium.” Andy Steggall (below left), better known as the face of sport on ITV Meridian during the 1990s, reported on the story for Late Kick Off. He also co-owned the production company that made the programme, along with Match of the Day commentator John Roder.

LKO1 Steggall LKO Bristol ale

Steggall’s report began with Brighton’s two goals to secure the victory; a fantastic long ranger from Inigo Calderon, an unlikely goalscorer, plus Will Buckley rounding the goalkeeper. He then moved into the away concourse to showcase the efforts Brighton made to feel visiting supporters feel at home, treating them with respect rather than contempt. It’s a lesson a lot of other clubs could learn from. Little touches included lighting in the colours of the away club, this time being red, selling a guest ale from their local area and decorating the television screens with images of the opposing players. “When The Amex was designed, serious consideration was given to making away fans feel welcome”, Steggall explained. He spoke with a few of the travelling support to gauge their opinions of the away fan experience at Falmer. Some of them had clearly been enjoying the hospitality of the local ales! “Brighton’s an example to all teams” one fan slurred, as the tributes were all glowing.

LKO1 Touring LKO1 Martin Perry and Guy Price

In addition to some two-thousand away fans, Bristol City directors and board members were welcomed to The Amex to have a look around. “Before kick-off, Albion had welcomed every door to all of their opponent’s heads of department, from the rooftop to the tunnel. Happy to give them every war story, every helpful hint about planning success and stadium building”, Steggall added. In the director’s lounge, the suits of both clubs were in discussion. Guy Price, Bristol City’s CEO, asked about the defining lessons Brighton learned that City could take away. The reply explained the experience for the fans had been thought of in every last detail.

Price also spoke to Martin Perry, Brighton’s chief executive and a huge figure in the club’s success off the field in obtaining this stadium. Perry had lent his support to Bristol City’s bid for a new stadium at Ashton Vale, arguing their case and attending their planning committees. “It was important that we demonstrated that when they talk about the benefits to the community, we’d already begun to deliver them. So this wasn’t just talk, this was real”, Perry told us as he expressed how we’re all part of the wider football family.

LKO1 Doncaster game LKO1 Lynam

Steggall’s report continued by explaining the situation from a Bristol City point of view; “The judge’s decision now means further delays, further cost for club and council.” Perry’s final words of advice? “Never give up.” We also heard from broadcasting great and Seagulls supporter Desmond Lynam who spoke about the emotions when that first League game against Doncaster came about back in August 2011. “We were so moved in the directors’ box we were shedding a tear… It had taken so long, so much heartache and all the rest of it… This isn’t the biggest and it’s probably not the best, but it’s ours. It’s for us.” Hear, hear.


This is the first part looking back at Season 2011/2012. The second part is available HERE.

Small Screen Seagulls; Play Off Final v Bristol City, 30/05/2004

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sThe story of Brighton and Hove Albion around the turn of the Millennium was of a club finally on the rise again. After a disastrous decade in the 1990s – losing at Wembley in a Play Off Final, embarrassing exits in the FA Cup to non-League teams, almost becoming one of those non-League teams but for the skin of our teeth at Hereford and, of course, corruption in the boardroom leading to the sale of the Goldstone and nowhere to call home – the 2000s began with back-to-back titles flying up the Football League. By May 2004, still homeless and fighting, Brighton had the chance to enjoy a moment in the spotlight in the Nationwide Division Two Play Off Final. It was the opportunity for the Seagulls to take flight into the second tier, win a trophy, play at a National Stadium and, most importantly, champion the Albion cause in public. The match was Live on Sky but for those at the game or who didn’t have digital telly, ITV in the Meridian region broadcast a full thirty minute highlight programme.


Brighton 1-0 Bristol City, Play Off Final; 3pm, Sun 30th May ’04

POFHL Titles

Meridian Broadcasting gained the ITV franchise for the South and South East from 1st January 1993, taking over from Television South (TVS). Since then the ITV regional programmes for that part of the country fell under the Meridian (or ITV Meridian) branding. What this meant in terms of the football coverage, not much changed initially. TVS did not have their own production for the Live matches involving the regions Football League teams once ITV lost top flight rights in 1992. Instead they showed the networked or LWT (London) productions. When Meridian took over this continued until the beginning of the 1994/95 season, when weekly highlights show The Meridian Match was brought in. Every Sunday afternoon, Andy Steggall would round up the weekend’s action from our local Football League teams; Portsmouth, Reading, Bournemouth and Brighton as well as Southend and Swindon who were on the edges and also covered by other regions. Southampton were predominantly a Premiership club during this period but would often be spoken about and featured whenever rights permitted. The Meridian Match would also feature occasional Live matches up until 1997 and then again in 2001/02, where highlights of the other teams would fit around. When Sky gained exclusive Live Football League rights, the regional programme would continue with half-hour highlights shows instead. Supplementing The Meridian Match on Sundays would be a midweek version; Meridian Soccer Night, also usually hosted by Steggall. This afforded the regions clubs regular exposure and highlights on the main commercial network and was how the majority of fans would view their team goals. For matches of significance, a special edition of the programme would air. When Reading reached the Play Offs in 2001 this was the case, and it was repeated in May 2004 when Brighton and Hove Albion travelled to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to take on Bristol City. At stake was a place in the second tier – to be renamed the Championship from August. Having followed Albion closely all season on Sunday afternoons, it was only right that Meridian got their chance in the Cardiff sunshine to see how it all ended.


Soccer Night, ITV1 Meridian, 11.45pm (Monday 31st May 2004)

POFHL Ident

A thirty minute highlight programme in the Meridian region was slotted into the late night Bank Holiday Monday ITV1 schedule to cover Brighton’s Division Two Play Off Final with Bristol City. Monday nights were football nights on ITV that season, with the regular edition of The Premiership on Monday chaired by Matt Smith and his panel of experts from 11pm. This was followed into the early hours of Tuesday morning by Nationwide Football League Extra, ITV’s weekly round up of all the goals from the three lower Leagues and voiced by the trio of Tom Skippings, Trevor Harris and Tony Jones on a whistlestop tour of goals and features. UEFA Champions League Weekly was also part of the late night/early morning three course football feast, as the best of the action from the continent’s premier competition got an airing. But on this particular Monday night, with the regular League seasons done and dusted, it was here where ITV1 Meridian could broadcast Soccer Night, showcasing the action and reaction from the Albion’s final match of a long season, complete with the regional ident featuring long-serving Meridian Tonight news presenters Debbie Thrower and Fred Dinenage.

POFHL Semi Final 1 POFHL Bristol Semi POFHL Semi Final 2

The programme began by having a quick recap of the Semi Final matches for both Brighton and Bristol City, seeing how they got to this stage. Fourth placed Brighton’s journey began away at fifth in the table Swindon Town on a very sunny Sunday afternoon in mid May. Richard Carpenter’s deflected goal the difference as the Albion claimed a one-nil victory. Bristol City, the highest placed side in third, secured a one-all draw away at Hartlepool in their first leg thanks to Tony Rougier’s opener after just five minutes. In the second leg it took two late, late goals to overturn the ‘Pool lead given to them midway through the second half. First Goodfellow in the 88th, then Christian Roberts in stoppage time saw the Robins of Bristol progress to the Final in dramatic circumstances. However, the Seagulls showed them what drama really was the following evening in their second leg! Sam Parkin’s goal ten minutes before the end of the ninety meant Extra Time was required. Rory Fallon then gave Swindon the advantage overall until that Adam Virgo header in the last minute of Extra Time dragged the Albion level once more and headed for a penalty shoot-out. With Mooney missing, Virgo put Brighton in the ascendancy meaning Andy Gurney had to score or Swindon were out. The crash of the ball against the crossbar sent Brighton fans running onto the pitch, boss Mark McGhee sprinting for his safety to avoid a mobbing and, most importantly, set up this Final clash with Bristol City at Cardiff’s magnificent Millennium Stadium.

POFHL Steggall

Familiar face to the Meridian region for ten years, Andy Steggall presented from pitchside at the Millennium Stadium. Steggall’s career in broadcasting began in local radio for the BBC in Leicestershire having studied at university there before moving to Southern Sound – the precursor to Southern FM in Sussex. He transferred into sports television in the local area with TVS for eight years from 1984 as well as working for Channel 4 on their daily breakfast show at the start of the 1990s. After a year doing the sport for GMTV, in 1994 he moved into the role he’s had to this point; presenting the sport for Meridian. This incorporated news programme Meridian Tonight as well as weekly highlights show The Meridian Match. During the early part of his time with Meridian he presented Live Football League matches when ITV held the rights from the studio in Southampton. The region’s highlights show has seen him travel the country following the exploits of the likes of Reading, Bournemouth, Pompey and the Albion through real highs and desperate lows. He introduced this programme before handing straight up to the action with our match commentator.

POFHL Kick Off POFHL Commentator

Voicing the best of the action from the gantry was Phil Duffell. He had long been ITV’s voice of football in the West (HTV) region, commentating on their version of Soccer Sunday (The West Match) regularly from around 1995. These commentaries would then be heard across other regions on occasions, and even the main networked highlights show Football League Extra. During the 2001/02 season, he got the opportunity to commentate on a Live match for HTV West, as Bristol Rovers took on Plymouth, when the various ITV regions were able to broadcast occasional Football League matches as part of Soccer Sunday Live. For today’s Play Off Final, he was primarily there commentating for HTV covering Bristol City, with Meridian opting to use the commentary too. During the regular campaign this season on Meridian, the usual commentator was Ross Dyer. If he wasn’t around, Andy Ford would voice the goals. The pair took over from John Roder who had been a mainstay of The Meridian Match since 1997, including the couple of Live outings in 2001/02. Roder benefitted during the 2003/04 season from British Eurosport having the Live rights to Serie A, meaning his association on the South Coast came to an end. With Premiership highlights returining to the BBC from the upcoming 2004/05 season, Roder would become one of the new voices on the programme.

POFHL Brighton

Mark McGhee made one change from the last Brighton match; the topsy-turvy Semi Final Second Leg with Swindon. In came Gary Hart as Paul Reid made way. Captain Danny Cullip was named in the PFA Division Two Team of the Season whilst centre-back partner Guy Butters was voted the fans Player of the Year. Hero of that Swindon night Adam Virgo took his place at right-back with another local lad on the left; Dan Harding. Welshman Nathan Jones joined Englishmen Richard Carpenter and Charlie Oatway in the middle of the park. Club top scorer Leon Knight wanted to add to his tally of twenty-five goals. The big man/little man striking combination was completed by Chris Iwelumo. His victory in this game for Stoke two seasons ago made the big Scotsman the only Albion player to have featured on this Millennium Stadium surface before today.

POFHL Bristol City

Ex-Albion midfielder Danny Wilson brought his Bristol City side back to this Cardiff pitch for the second time having secured the LDV Vans Trophy last season. Three of his starting eleven were named in the PFA Divisional Team this term; Steve Phillips in goal, Louis Carey at the back and Brian Tinnion in the middle. Striker Tony Rougier made a handful of appearances for Brighton towards the end of the last campaign. Scottish forward Lee Miller played in the majority of the club’s matches but had only netted eight goals thus far. Christian Roberts was born in the host city. Refereeing the clash was Richard Beeby.


POFHL Roberts flap POFHL City chance

Story of the Match: The prize was spelled out by commentator Phil Duffell right at the start of the match. “It’s five years since Bristol City last played in Division One. Brighton’s exile at present stands at just one season. In ninety minutes time, maybe more, one of these teams will be mixing it with the likes of Leeds, Sunderland, West Ham and Wolves. It’s a cast they all want to join.” The first action shown was a nervy moment for Albion ‘keeper Ben Roberts, who flapped at a cross as he dropped it onto Guy Butters before bravely throwing himself in the way of any follow up as the stripes were able to clear. Moments later he again failed to clear danger from a ball into the area, as big City centre half Tony Butler got in his way. The ball dropped to Butler who blazed way over, with the linesman’s flag only slightly sparing his blushes. It wasn’t the brightest of starts for the man who had performed so well between the posts all season. Bristol City were considered by many as favourites for this match and they began accordingly.

POFHL Knight crossbar POFHL Half Time

Brighton’s first chance of note came when Leon Knight took a free kick from just outside the box. Welsh winger Nathan Jones, playing in the National Stadium of his home country for the first time, was tripped at speed by the smallest of contacts to earn the foul. Up stepped Brighton’s top scorer to curl the set piece towards the goal. It had Steve Phillips scrambling on his line to get there but he was assisted by the crossbar. It was a terrific effort to get it up over the wall and back down from a relatively short distance but just didn’t quite have enough to sneak in. But it was a warning shot that the Albion weren’t here for a day out. The first half lacked quality from either side as the tension of the occasion perhaps got the better of one or two, and the first half highlights came to a close with the score goalless.

POFHL Iwelumo shot POFHL Caught in possession

The match continued to be too close to call, with nothing able to separate them as the second half wore on. Both were restricted to half chances at best, with long range efforts and weak attempts on goal. As soon as one team had the ball, the other would win it back shortly after but not able to do much with it before being dispossessed. It would not be one of the famous Play Off classics, that’s for sure! An excellent crossfield pass from Semi Final hero Adam Virgo found Chris Iwelumo who took it on his chest. He created space and had time, more time than he perhaps realised as he rushed into a volley some thirty yards out which skipped off the turf and bounced well wide. Brighton almost created a problem for themselves out of nothing at the other end when Butters was caught in possession on the edge of his own penalty area. The ball was being casually played around the back line and goalkeeper when the former Gillingham defender was guilty of being too relaxed. Tony Rougier charged him down but the dispossession took the ball flying out behind for a goal kick towards the corner flag. One mistake was probably going to be all it took to decide this, as the ninety minutes drew closer and Extra Time loomed large.

POFHL Sub POFHL Iwelumo header

It’s never a good sign on a highlights programme when a substitution being made is shown in full. That’s how light we were on match action I’m afraid! But John Piercy came on to replace Jones, who had enjoyed a little bit of rare success on the day and was unlucky not to last the full ninety. Piercy was involved straight away and it was his cross from the left which saw an Iwelumo glancing header drop just wide of the far post as Phillips gathered before it fell behind the line. The Seagulls supporters sensed an opportunity and sung loudly to galvanise the side to get it done within the regulation time. And they were right to lift those spirits as, with time running out approaching the final five minutes, Brighton rewarded them with the crucial breakthrough.

POFHL Foul POFHL Penalty

Adam Virgo gathered a loose ball on the half way line and chipped it down the line for Iwelumo to chase. The big Scotsman held it up whilst support moved ahead of him. He shrugged off one challenge before dribbling the ball forward towards the area. Faced with two red shirts he pushed it through for Leon Knight. The diminutive striker couldn’t quite collect the pass under the challenge of Danny Coles but Iwelumo had continued his run. Just as he got his foot to the ball and looked like he was about to unleash an effort to trouble Phillips, Coles took a big swipe in an attempt to hoof the ball away but Iwelumo was too quick for him and ended up being scythed down. It was a definite penalty, for which referee Richard Beeby had no doubt. Up stepped Knight to coolly slot the spot kick home and Brighton had the lead! “One nil Brighton and Hove Albion! Who else but Leon Knight has the goal which has Brighton one step nearer to Division One. The shirt’s off, the celebrations have started,” was the call from our commentator Phil Duffell. The seconds ticked away before the full time whistle had blown. Brighton were back in the second tier at the first time of asking.

POFHL Scoreline


“There goes the final whistle. Brighton and Hove Albion are back from whence they came last season. It’s Division One for the Seagulls thanks to Leon Knight’s penalty. It’s Knight’s day in Cardiff,” commentator Duffell exclaimed. The twelve minutes or so of match highlights that ITV Meridian had managed to scrape together during a tight, turgid affair had came to an end and the result was that it would be Brighton going up, with Bristol City suffering Play Off heartache for the second successive season. Before the interviews and celebrations could begin, it was time for the advert break so the final ten minutes of the programme could be spent basking in Albion’s jubilation.

POFHL Full Time POFHL Medal POFHL Trophy Lift

The celebrations began with the trophy lift. Manager Mark McGhee led the players up the platform on the pitch to collect their winners medals, followed by everybody involved from Nathan Jones and Chris Iwelumo through Gary Hart and Charlie Oatway right up to Adam Virgo and, of course, captain and Man of the Match Danny Cullip. A sea of blue and white remained in the Albion end, with the contrast shown over in the City side where the pain was very real once more. Cullip lifted that lovely looking trophy to signify once and for all that the Seagulls were soaring up to Division One!

POFHL McGhee POFHL Knight

Andy Steggall conducted the interviews with the winning team, beginning with the gaffer. McGhee began by stating the importance of the victory in the wider context; “It means so much to us not just about playing in the 1st Division, about playing at Molineux, The Den and Walkers Stadium, the Stadium of Light instead of some of the places we’ve been this year, but also about our own stadium. This is a demonstration to anybody why we need a ground.” Goalscorer Leon Knight was up next, who admitted his penalty didn’t need anything special just do the job. “It weren’t well hit but it was in the corner and that’s the main point and it went in the back of the net”, having described it as the best penalty of all his.

POFHL Dick Knight POFHL Fans

The chairman was just an important role in the recent successful years at Withdean as much as any of the playing staff. Dick Knight heaped praise on the squad as well as sending out the rallying cry in the need for Falmer’s permanent home. “A wonderful achievement by our players and Mark McGhee. But it also makes such a strong statement about the incredible support that we have. We brought nearly 30,000 people here today so, frankly, they’re chanting behind me ‘We want Falmer’, they deserve Falmer.” Nobody had featured more or done more in the campaign for the new site than Mr Knight himself; always there, always ready with a soundbite and fought the Albion cause so, so well.

POFHL Virgo POFHL Oatway

Sussex born Adam Virgo held the trophy in his hands as he was interviewed by Steggall. We’ll gloss over the fact Meridian captioned him as Gary Hart though! With the backdrop of the ecstatic fans over his shoulder, Virgo gave credit to his fellow players for their efforts and talked about the emotions of the day. “I was in the hotel room, so excited to get out it was like Christmas Eve! I just wanted to get out and play and if I wanna play at the top I’ve got to play under the biggest pressure.” Midfielder Charlie Oatway, who had been in and out of the side all season, discussed his part in it all. “You can’t bottle what this club has got. For me personally it’s been up and down, but I’m so pleased it’s finished up with a high.” The interviews were interspersed with shots of the crowd celebrating and the other players lifting the trophy. It was a joy to watch all connected with the Albion having the day out they deserved. Danny Cullip had the Nationwide promotion flags wrapped around him and a big blue and white soft hat on, beaming with his winners medal around his neck.

POFHL Goodbyes POFHL Endboard

And with that, presenter Andy Steggall stood pitchside and rounded off the final programme of the season for Brighton and indeed the other clubs in the Meridian region. “As Fatboy Slim nearly said,” he began to close, “First Division football starts right here, right now. And what of the future? Well, on a personal basis thankyou for all your support, your letters, your questions – no, this isn’t a perm! Thankyou to all of your teams who’ve supported me so well throughout this season. On behalf of all the production team, we couldn’t do it without you, we wouldn’t want to. From all of us, for another season goodbye.” The credits rolled to an Oasis cover of David Bowie’s classic “Heroes” and the curtain came down on a successful season for Brighton and Hove Albion – going back to the big time.

POFHL Celebrations

Full report on the Sky Sports Live programme covering this Play Off Final is available HERE.

#18: Brighton 1-0 Bristol City 30/05/2004

#18 BRIGHTON 1-0 BRISTOL CITY Division Two Play Off FINAL
Sunday 30th May 2004 Image result for

POF Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUESTS Chris Kamara & Gordon Strachan
COMMENTATORS Ian Crocker & Garry Birtles REPORTERS Fraser Robertson & Guy Havord
3pm Kick Off; Millennium Stadium, Cardiff     2-6pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

swi ident sky bet sponsor POF Intro

Context of the Match: The big day had arrived. Sunday 30th May 2004 saw the teams of Brighton and Bristol City meet in a one-off match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to determine who would be joining Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth in gaining promotion to the second tier of English football. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in the Welsh capital for the Division Two Play Off Final. The end of season Play Offs were introduced in 1987 and have become one of the highlights of the domestic calendar, with nerves, tension, excitement, glory and despair all rolled into one. Brighton’s only prior foray into this stage came in 1991 when they were ninety minutes away from the top flight. Having defeated Millwall in the Semi Finals that year home and away, a Wembley showdown with Notts County ended with the Magpies victorious by three goals to one. The Albion’s fate had plummeted since then, dropping down the Divisions to almost slipping out of the League altogether a couple of times in the nineties. More recently, back to back title wins in 2001 and 2002 saw the club rise to the second tier, only to be relegated on the final day last season. An immediate bounce back up was on the cards today if the Seagulls could beat the Robins. During the regular season, City got the better of Brighton, winning four-one at Withdean in November and holding us to a stalemate at Ashton Gate five weeks ago. To reach this point, the Albion finished in fourth place in the Second Division. They were six points off the automatic promotion places and five behind today’s opponents who ended in third. After a forgettable Semi Final First Leg at the County Ground where Richard Carpenter’s goal separated Brighton and Swindon, the Second Leg was an incredible spectacle of drama as Swindon scored late to level on aggregate and force Extra Time. When Rory Fallon put them two up it looked like being all over, but for Adam Virgo’s last-minute diving header to take it to penalties. The Albion converted all four of their spot-kicks and when Andy Gurney struck the post it was all over; Brighton were going to the Final! Bristol City avoided having to go into overtime however their two-legged affair with Hartlepool also contained much drama. The first match at Victoria Park ended all square, with Pool equalising late in the second half. The rematch in Bristol was going the way of the away side after the hour mark when Antony Sweeney put them ahead. But Bristol City would not suffer Play Off Semi Final heartbreak for the second season running, as two goals in the final two minutes of the match overturned that advantage and sent the Robins down the M4 and over the border into Cardiff. Both teams enjoyed some late fortune in their respective matches and this Final would be decided on the day; with the potential for Extra Time and Penalties if required. Indeed, four of the last five Second Division Finals had gone beyond the ninety minutes, the exception being Stoke City in 2002. Sky Sports broadcast all three Divisional Play Off Finals Live from the Millennium Stadium across this weekend. After Crystal Palace’s victory over West Ham on the Saturday, could the Seagulls follow the Eagles in gaining promotion?

POF Brighton POF Bristol City POF Formation

The Teams: Mark McGhee’s Brighton made one change from the starting line-up from the Second Leg of the Semi Final at Withdean. Gary Hart was favoured over Paul Reid on the right of midfield. Hart was infamously signed for £1000 and a set of tracksuits from non-League Stansted in 1998 and had seen two promotions already at his time here. Originally a striker, Hart became more of a utility player as his career progressed – filling in at the back as well as in midfield. Reid joined from Bradford with a few games to go before the end of the season and started both legs of the Semi Finals. In goal, former Middlesbrough ‘keeper Ben Roberts was the first choice. He played the majority of this campaign having joined last year and previously started for Boro in FA and League Cup Finals at Wembley, losing on both occasions. Captain Danny Cullip – named in the PFA Division Two Team of the Year – partnered the fans Player of the Year Guy Butters in the centre of defence, with Second Leg hero Adam Virgo on the right and academy graduate Dan Harding on the left. The midfield core of Carpenter, Oatway and Jones had been with the Seagulls since the start of the Withdean era. Carpenter had won five promotions in his career and hoping for a sixth. The striking options were top-scorer Leon Knight – twenty-five goals thus far, the join best in the Division earning himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year – and Scotsman Chris Iwelumo. He was in the Stoke side that won this match two years ago and joined us from them on loan back in March. He was the only Albion player to have featured at the Millennium Stadium before, whilst he and Guy Butters had won this Final previously. With a lack of forward options in the squad, no strikers were on the bench. Former Tottenham youth midfielder John Piercy was named as substitute, with Reid, Adam Hinshelwood, goalkeeper Michel Kuipers and longest serving current player Kerry Mayo. Mayo scored the own goal in the draw at Hereford which kept Albion in the Football League seven years ago but had since gone on to play regularly at left-back. Bristol City manager Danny Wilson had the longest spell of his playing career at Brighton, in the heart of the midfield for four years. He named a side which included three players named in the PFA Team of the Year. Goalkeeper Steve Phillips, defender Louis Carey and midfielder Brian Tinnion, getting the accolade for the second time in four seasons. Tony Rougier had a short loan spell with the Albion at the back end of last season, starting five times and scoring twice. Striker Cristian Roberts was born in the host city Cardiff and began his career in the Welsh capital. This was Bristol City’s second appearance at the Millennium Stadium, having won the LDV Vans Trophy Final in 2003 beating Carlisle with goals from Lee Peacock and Liam Rosenior; neither of whom were involved today, the latter having left the club after that match. The attacking option on the bench was Scott Murray, who rejoined the club in March after less than a season away. He previously spent six years at City. Refereeing was Richard Beeby.

POF Gavin POF Kamara POF Strachan POF Studio

Presentation Team: This was host George Gavin’s second season presenting the Play Off Finals and his second match this weekend following the Division One Final the previous day. That saw Crystal Palace defeat West Ham during a mammoth five hour Live broadcast. Gavin had been at the helm during the regular season, travelling the length and breadth of the country to bring us Live Football League games, other than the Saturday lunchtime kick offs that Ian Payne covered this year. During the Play Off Semi Finals he was based at Sky’s Isleworth studio in order to cover the lot but was back in the stadium for the Finals. Keeping Gavin company in the studio was regular Football League number one co-commentator and co-host of Sunday morning review programme Goals on Sunday, Chris Kamara. Kamara would be involved in all three Finals this weekend, having commentated on yesterday’s match, in the studio today and reporting on tomorrow’s Division Three clash. And this is the third Play Off Finals campaign that Kamara has covered for Sky, having taken over from Alan Brazil as co-commentator on the 2001 Division One Final, reprising his role when the rights were regained from ITV last year. Kammy was joined in the studio, eventually, by Gordon Strachan. I say eventually, as he missed the first part of the programme due to being stuck in traffic! Strachan had been out of work since leaving Southampton back in February, somewhat earlier than anticipated. He was due to quit the club when his contract concluded this summer, wanting to take a break from the game having been in permanent employment as a manager for more than eight years on the back of a successful playing career. However, news of his plan was leaked and the club took action to replace him immediately. It was clear Strachan’s next move during this ‘break’ would be in the media and his appearance in the studio today was an indication of that. He would be signed up by BBC Sport to lead their revamped Premiership highlights punditry when rights returned for next season, joining Adrian Chiles on the new Match of the Day 2 on Sunday nights. Strachan’s humour and straight-talking won him plaudits from supporters during press conferences and interviews, known for answering silly questions with silly answers, so his presence on television would be a welcomed addition.

POF Robertson POF Havord

In the commentary box were the regular partnership of Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles. Crocker had been the voice of Sky’s Football League games since the beginning of last season and combined this with Scotland international matches. With today’s Final taking place just weeks before a major tournament, international fixtures took place across the same weekend and thus meant Crocker had to miss his first Scottish international for many years in order to commentate in Cardiff. Rob Hawthorne took his place in Edinburgh. Commentating with Crocker was Garry Birtles who was working on his first Play Off Final for Sky having joined at the beginning of the campaign, taking over from Alvin Martin who did this fixture a year ago. Birtles quickly established himself as a key part of Sky’s coverage of the Football League and Champions League, with his distinctive Nottingham accent and strong opinions. Prior to Sky he worked for local radio in his hometown for many years. As is tradition for major Finals, Sky deployed two pitchside reporters; broadly covering one team each although this wasn’t strictly adhered to 100%. Generally, Guy Havord was with the Bristol City team whilst Fraser Robertson interviewed Brighton. Havord and Robertson would do all three Finals this weekend, just as they did last year. Robertson covered the majority of the Division One matches this season, whilst Havord was Sky’s man on the sidelines for the ten Division Two and Three broadcasts as well as deputising for Robertson in the big League.

POF Graphic POF Crests

Pre-Match Coverage: This four hour broadcast would be the most comprehensively covered match the Albion had enjoyed since the first Live game back in 1983. Whilst we didn’t quite get build up from 11am today like at Wembley, we did receive Sky’s full treatment of this Division Two Play Off Final at the Millennium Stadium. Coverage came on-air at 2pm, an hour before kick-off, as the stadium began to fill up. Host George Gavin and pundit Chris Kamara were based in the corner of the ground in their glass box, a familiar location for Sky viewers over the past three seasons for showpiece events. The title sequence was a specially adapted Play Offs edition, with the usual theme tune of The Skids’ Into the Valley accompanying shots of classic action from yesteryear including the likes of Martin O’Neill and Peter Reid managing, and Paul Dickov and Steve Fletcher scoring, in past Finals. The introduction VT was very dramatic, the usual set piece from Sky’s top level coverage, in which the voice of the channel Bruce Hammal threw out emotive language to stir the emotions. “Fear me, my foe, for I know the ways of this chequered battle field!” This was followed by shots of the players arriving at the ground, making their way up the famous Millennium Stadium corridor, before we saw huge crowds gathering outside waiting for the gates to open in the glorious sunshine. “Brighton have sold more than 25,000 tickets. Their temporary home is the 7,000 capacity Withdean. They’re making a huge point about the need for a new stadium by arriving in so many numbers here today,” commented host Gavin. The stadium campaign was a huge part of today for the supporters and was long a feature of the television coverage which would continue in years to come. Sky Sports adopted flashy new 3D graphics for their Premiership and Cup coverage back in February but so far that hadn’t filtered down to the Football League which continued with last season’s set. However, an exception was made for this Finals weekend, which meant we got the full animations and flying name astons which were a marked improvement on the basic graphics of old. The blue and red backgrounds remained but didn’t quite cover up the entire length of the screen, instead animating in and out via a whooshing laser-like line. The trophy accompanied our hosts in the studio for the first part of the show.

POF Oatway POF Suits

As the players were taking a walk round the pitch to check out the conditions, reporters Fraser Robertson and Guy Havord caught up with a few of the players. Charlie Oatway told of how he was present this time last season as a fan, watching the club after he was named; QPR. They lost that day and he was hoping to be a bit luckier this time with the Albion. We also saw shots of Danny Cullip and Richard Carpenter getting fitted for their Cup Final suits in town, with the Albion opting for the smart wear in contrast to Bristol City’s tracksuits. A recap of the Semi Finals followed, with plenty of late drama across both ties as City overcame Hartlepool and the Seagulls swooped on Swindon via the shoot-out. Fraser Robertson brought us the team line up for the Albion whilst Guy Havord delivered the Bristol City news, which was dissected by Kamara in the studio. Of Leon Knight his criticism centred around the lack of consistency and enthusiasm, saying if he was up for it more often he’d still have been playing at the higher level where his career began. After the break, our other studio guest was able to make it through the crowds as Gordon Strachan joined the team. He opened with stating this is “the most exciting weekend of the season, ‘cos the League’s been boring, Arsenal won that… even the Cup Final last week, that was boring!” He started as he meant to go on.

POF Two Shot POF Little and Large

Brighton’s striking duo, Leon Knight and Chris Iwelumo, were granted a VT feature together sat on the beach as they discussed their ‘little and large’ partnership, each other’s strengths and the Albion in general. Iwelumo, on loan from Stoke, was keen on extending his stay; “It’s been brilliant, it’s been such a good time for me just to play first team football again… Great bunch of lads, accepted me from the minute I walked in and I’d love to stay here.” To really emphasise the height difference, they pair went head to head on the seafront basketball court; Knight emerging the victor. Gordon Strachan is good friends with Mark McGhee and has kept an eye out for the club in recent times. “Speaking to him this morning, I got a hint of why they play the way they do. First of all, the two strikers are good so get the ball up to them. I think the midfield as a unit defensively are great, but as an attacking unit not that great at all.” He told of how his other teams have been more passing based and attractive due to the better players they had in midfield. We then heard from the man himself, Mark McGhee in conversation with Fraser Robertson in the tunnel. He emphasised the importance of concentration during this match after a hard slog of a year; “We’ve got young players who have had a long season, been introduced at this level, and they’re gonna be tested in that respect. They’re gonna be asked questions of their concentration, I think, that they’ve not been asked so far.”

POF Iwelumo Stats POF Coming Up POF Albion Support POF Tunnel

After the break the attention turned to Bristol City, whose fans were interviewed outside the ground in very confident mood. Their striker Christian Roberts recorded a VT in and around Cardiff, as he looked back on their LDV Vans Trophy Final victory at the Millennium Stadium last season and, perched in front of the castle, reviewed his winning goal in the Semi Finals a couple of weeks ago. He had to choose club or country for today’s fixture, with Wales facing Canada in Wrexham at the same time. Club won out and he started up front for Bristol City, particularly important for them given the absence of Lee Peacock through injury. Former Albion midfielder Danny Wilson was in charge of City, spending four years with us and now in his fourth year as their manager. We heard from him in the tunnel with Guy Havord. As we neared closer to kick off, the crowd filtered in and created an excellent pre-match atmosphere. The studio team commented on how good the stadium looked and what a great set of supporters both sides brought along with them. Host George Gavin asked for his pundits’ final predictions. Kamara went with Bristol City as they’re “the best footballing side and if Brighton play too direct, they’ll lose.” Strachan was more cautious, hoping for “a tight game, hopefully exciting and I don’t know what to say because they’re too terrific fellas.” He then joked “I’d like to get Mark through obviously, but I’m scared for his weight ‘cos every time he gets successful his weight balloons up!” And the scene was set, after the adverts the teams would emerge from the tunnel to the theme tune from Kill Bill and it would be time for our commentary team of Ian Crocker and Garry Birtles to take the reins.

POF National Anthem POF Referee POF Kick Off POF Comms

Story of the Match: With a sea of blue and white to the left of camera, the Albion supporters made themselves heard. The players were introduced to the dignitaries consisting of Football League Chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney, and representatives of the outgoing title sponsors Nationwide. The National Anthem was performed by Laurence Robinson. Brighton got the match off and underway kicking from right to left in the first half in their traditional blue and white stripes up against the red of Bristol City. “Stand up if you want Falmer!” rang around the ground in the early stages of the match, the Seagulls supporters aware they had their own job to do today in front of the cameras; to really hammer home that need for planning permission to be granted by John Prescott MP. Nathan Jones showed he was up for the match taking place in his home country, as he burst half the length of the pitch after some neat skill to drive the Albion forward. His frustrations at the lack of end product got him involved in a shoving match with opposition defender Louis Carey, with the City man raising his hands towards Jones and perhaps fortunate to escape a card. In goal Ben Roberts enjoyed a couple of early routine catches to give him confidence and get a feel for the match. He was present when City put four past us at Withdean back in November. The sun had the potential to cause problems for him and the players on the far side of the pitch, with the near side covered by the shadow of the retractable roof. “It takes a while for teams to settle in these games”, remarked commentator Ian Crocker inside the opening quarter of an hour. The opening half was marred by several late sliding tackles which culminated in Adam Virgo receiving the first yellow card of the match thirty-three minutes in. The resulting free kick came to nothing and this was typical of the football as a whole; extremely little in terms of goalmouth action with chances even rarer. It was tense, it was fraught and it was too close to call. The lack of quality was typified when Tony Butler, City’s defender up for a set piece, hooked his shot high and wide from just a few yards out. Even though it wouldn’t have stood due to a foul on Ben Roberts, it was still a terrible miss. Shortly before the whistle, the breakthrough so nearly came with the first real bit of quality. Leon Knight struck a superb free kick from the far edge outside the penalty box which cannoned off the crossbar and had the goalkeeper scrambling all ends up. Brighton couldn’t muster much with the follow up but what an effort from Knight, who had been quiet thus far. The teams went in goalless. The stats during the half-time coverage showed Bristol City to have edged it, with 56% possession, but perhaps with that warning sign from Knight, Brighton were in the ascendancy.

POF Virgo Yellow POF Substitution

Bristol City were slightly delayed making their way out for the second period as captain Tommy Doherty was being sick in the dressing room. He continued to play on. And Leon Knight wasn’t feeling too bright within the opening couple of minutes after a very heavy collision with Danny Coles left him requiring treatment from physio Malcolm Stuart. He too played on. The Robins were the first to make a change, as Scott Murray replaced Lee Miller up top on the hour mark. This was followed by an Albion substitution as Australian Paul Reid took Richard Carpenter’s place after a knock. Brighton were trying to push forward with Iwelumo leading various charges, but the final ball was really lacking from the Scotsman. A free kick from the half way line almost went all the way through but for the hands of City’s ‘keeper. The flick on nearly found Iwelumo in its path but the pace just beat him on. A further change for the Albion was made for the final quarter of an hour as Nathan Jones came off slightly surprisingly, and on ran John Piercy, a former Tottenham graduate. Piercy had been in and out of the side all season due to injury but was there when it mattered, scoring in the shoot-out win against Swindon to get to this point. He almost made an immediate impact in this match, floating in a cross from the left touchline. Iwelumo’s head met it but the power was lacking and the effort landed just the wrong side of the post. The crowd made their voices heard again and could sense Brighton grow in confidence and belief. With seven minutes remaining they were proved correct. Chris Iwelumo held the ball up on the right wing but with few options close to him he decided to attack the space in front. A ten yard dribble took him past one City defender before playing it on towards Knight, which displaced two more. Last man Danny Coles was vying for the loose ball with Knight, with neither able to get it under control. It left an opportunity for Iwelumo to pick it back up as he charged into the box. As Coles got up off the turf he swung a leg to boot the ball away but in doing so only whacked the leg of the striker and clipped his heels to bring him down. Penalty! Referee Richard Beeby was right on the spot, giving the signal for the foul. The pressure kick fell to top scorer Leon Knight. He did his familiar stutter before taking the kick, which was very well placed into Phillips’ bottom-right hand corner of the net. Goal for the Albion! Commentator Crocker called it; “Here he comes… and Leon Knight fires Brighton in front and fires the dream! The dream of promotion to Division One!” Summariser Birtles praised the striker; “As cool as you like there… Tremendous penalty.” It was penalties that got us to this point and it was now a penalty which looked like taking us up, Knight’s eighth successful spot kick out of eight this season – a remarkable record. The crowd of 65,167 watched on as the final few minutes ticked by all too quickly from the red side’s point of view. And they ticked by without incident, which meant Brighton were the winners. Brighton had won promotion to Division One. Brighton had done it via the Play Offs for the first time. It was a Knight to remember!

POF Goal POF Knight aston POF Goal Replay

BRIGHTON 1 BRISTOL CITY 0
Knight

POF Replay 1 POF Replay 2

Post Match Coverage: “They’ve got what they hoped for. They’ve got what they prayed for. They’ve got what they came for. Brighton are promoted to the First Division, up, up and away!” were the words from Ian Crocker upon hearing the full time whistle. It was the cue for the players and coaching staff to rush onto the pitch to celebrate and congratulate the men in blue and white. They say promotion via the Play Offs is the best way to do it, and at that moment nobody with any connection to Brighton and Hove Albion would disagree with you. Just shy of an hour remained of the programme after full time, which gave plenty of opportunity to hear from the squad, analyse the key moments and bask in the Albion’s glory. The first player up for questioning was Chris Iwelumo with reporter Guy Havord. The striker was in his element; “Just look at this. This is what it’s all about. This is why you play football, for days like this. Unbelievable, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.” Up next was the goalscorer, with reporter Fraser Robertson, in a humble mood; “I’m not a hero, it took eleven men out there plus the subs, the backroom staff. There’s no heroes in this team, we’re all heroes today!” Charlie Oatway was high on emotions but remembered the key message about Falmer; “It just shows you what we can get and it’s a shame that we haven’t got the ground and hopefully the decision’ll go for us and we’ll get this regularly, I’m sure we will.” The manager was collared by Havord for a brief chat before he had to be called away to collect the trophy. “It’s not a day for me,” he began, “it’s a day for the players, for the supporters. I’m thrilled for them, delighted obviously for myself, they’ve worked hard for it.” Whilst all this was going on, the stage was being set on the pitch for the presentation of the prize, with no steps to climb like at the old Wembley it was all done on the field of play.

POF Iwelumo POF McGhee POF Man of the Match POF Going Up

Mark McGhee led the squad up to collect their winners medals, each and every one of them. There are no losers medals in the Play Offs, only losers. With everybody in place, it was just left for captain Danny Cullip to go last and collect his before moving across to be front and centre for the big moment. “On the wings of a Seagull, Brighton are promoted to Division One!” The fireworks began to go off, the music started to blare out and the celebrations with the trophy could really get going. Champagne all round soundtracked by Sussex by the Sea. Ian Crocker once again summed it up perfectly by saying, “By no means a classic match, but a classic day and a day that will go down in Brighton and Hove Albion’s history.” The skipper Cullip was named the Man of the Match and made a direct appeal to John Prescott to listen to the people and grant planning permission for the stadium, with centre back partner Guy Butters following suit. Chairman Dick Knight was in amongst all the celebrations, getting his hands on the trophy as Havord interviewed him. Knight was an old pro at getting the message across in impassioned speeches and creative campaigning; “I feel so proud to be the chairman, what a wonderful day. Our fans have been brilliant, 30,000 people here today, the team were even better. They fought and they won the game and they deserved to win the game.” He continued “Brighton is on the football map, Brighton should have a stadium.” Nathan Jones’ interview was interrupted by jubilant players jumping in to celebrate with a very proud Welshman in Cardiff. What an incredible day to be a Seagulls supporter.

POF Trophy Lift POF Crowd POF Knight Trophy POF Chairman Trophy

Full credit to Sky for staying with the extended celebrations and not rushing off for an advert break, having gone uninterrupted from the start of the second half some seventy-odd minutes earlier. The scenes were unique for the Albion and those of us in the stadium wanted to savour every second of it and try to translate that back to the watching world. Voicing the pictures were now the studio team of George Gavin, Chris Kamara and Gordon Strachan. The latter was fully supportive of the Albion’s stadium bid in his own inimitable way; “You’re there to serve the community and the community are shouting ‘Give us a stadium’. OK there’s fifty people that might wanna save the greenback frog or whatever it is, or a couple of weeds, you know, for the green belt. But who cares about two frogs and a couple of weeds?!” And as the players inched towards the tunnel area on their half-lap of honour, it was time for Sky to take that advert break. Upon our return, cameras followed Mark McGhee and co into the dressing room whilst the players tucked into pizza and plenty of alcohol. An attempt was made to speak with Adam Virgo inside the dressing room but that was only ever going to begin one way; covered in champagne and food! When it had calmed down slightly, Fraser Robertson noticed the trophy had been slightly bent out of shape! Virgo saying, “I think Guy [Butters] sat on it, to be honest.”

POF Dressing Room POF Bent Trophy POF Link Up

The closing portion of the programme was largely studio based, as the trio analysed the goal and got further reaction from both clubs. Praise was heaped on the supporters with Kamara saying; “The fans were the winners today, we were sat out there and it was a really great atmosphere.” The stats scrawled across the bottom of the screen to highlight just how tight the match was, with just a single shot on target for each side and possession shaded by the defeated team 53% to 47%. Gordon Strachan told of the huge importance of set pieces and good set piece takers. He praised Knight’s coolness and technique for the winning penalty as well as his free kick which crashed the crossbar. Mark McGhee joined the boys via an earpiece link-up from the tunnel, all in good spirits. The gaffer spoke highly of Iwelumo’s performance; “As a centre forward, Chris Iwelumo gives us something that we didn’t have all season. I said I think if we had had Chris, we’d be up automatically because I think we have a lot more to come.” He revealed the tactics used in the dressing room before the match to inspire the players, with a list of desired venues next season in Division One – Stadium of Light, Molineux, Upton Park – alongside a list of other names that were less desirable, and it was up to them as to where they would end up next year. After the final advert break of the day, attention turned to the Play Off Finals as a whole, with Mansfield against Huddersfield to come the following afternoon. We also heard from Danny Wilson, ever gracious in defeat but clearly heartbroken that he’s been denied in the Play Offs for the second year in a row and would go on to leave the club over the summer. And so, it was also time for us to leave as this fantastic programme concluded. This day, the memories, the penalty and the celebrations would live forever in the minds of Seagulls fans. How does flying high in the second tier again sound?

POF Trophy Winners

EXTRA; For coverage of the ITV Meridian Soccer Night Play Off Final highlights programme click HERE

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