#60: Brighton 0-2 Watford 25/04/2015

#60 BRIGHTON 0-2 WATFORD Championship
Saturday 25th April 2015 Image result for

60WAT Titles.JPG

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Peter Beagrie
COMMENTATORS Daniel Mann & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
12.15pm Kick Off; The Amex     12-2.30pm FL72 Live on Sky Sports 1

60WAT Intro

CONTEXT OF THE MATCH

The Albion were back Live on television two weeks after their last appearance. Similar to that night, Brighton took on one of the promotion candidates in a crucial end of season match. This was the last game at The Amex in what had been a season to forget. Having had so much success over the past four years since leaving Withdean with the League One title, it was probably inevitable that at some point things would catch up with the club.

Three different manages had taken permanent charge of the club since this time last year; Oscar Garcia, Sami Hyypia and now Chris Hughton. A lack of quality investment meant a whole host of loan players were brought in and a clear imbalance was on display. Chris Hughton’s stock was extremely high in the Championship, having gained promotion with Newcastle and Norwich before. His task was to stabilise a side that weren’t keeping clean sheets and lacked potency up top. He managed the first part, but goals were proving much harder to come by.

As we headed into this final home game of a miserable campaign, Brighton were six points above the bottom three with two matches remaining. It would take a miracle for Millwall or Wigan to overtake the Seagulls at this late stage, which was handy as the final two opponents were Middlesbrough next week after Watford today. Both of those were still fighting for the title and expecting wins. Safety could have been mathematically secured earlier and looked likely after a crucial victory at Blackburn back in March. But Brighton’s Easter period was dreadful, defeat at home to Norwich was followed on Monday by a desperate loss at fellow strugglers Rotherham. Suddenly, sixteenth place became nineteenth and Hughton’s men were looking over their shoulders again. Further defeat at Wigan last time out kept alive the Latics hopes of staying up and made sure it wouldn’t be a comfortable end of season on the South Coast.

Today’s visitors Watford were at the tail end of a magnificent run which saw them top the table in the race for promotion, destiny was in their own hands. Since December, the Hornets had played twenty-five, won eighteen, drawn just two and lost five. They picked up fifty-six points from a possible seventy-five. This was serious promotion form and probably would have run away with the title had it not been for a turbulent opening couple of months off the field. Head coach Slavisa Jokanovic was appointed in early October and guided the club to top spot with win in his opening League game. They remained in the top seven for the rest of the season and were now guaranteed top four at worst.

But Jokanovic was their fourth head coach of the season! Beppe Sannino took over in January 2014 and won four of the opening five matches of this campaign but shocked everyone by resigning at the end of August, citing he had taken the club ‘as far as he could’. Former Albion boss Oscar Garcia then made a surprise return to English football just weeks after exiting Sussex. But he stepped down from Watford after less than four weeks, taking charge of the solitary match – a defeat to Charlton. He quit for health reasons, having been hospitalised for a week owing to chest pains. It was a worrying time for the Spaniard, but when he left there were apparently no further fears for his health. Billy McKinlay took over for a week before Deportivo and Chelsea midfielder Slovisa Jokanovic was brought in and McKinlay reverted to assistant. What an achievement it would be to gain promotion in his first months in charge and it could be secured if results went their way today. The Sky Sports cameras were back in town to witness it Live.

 

THE TEAMS

60WAT Brighton

Chris Hughton was looking ahead to next season and the changes he’d be making and needing for his first full campaign with the blue and white stripes. Amongst those he wouldn’t be needing were Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron Hughes, whose contracts were expiring and would not be offered a new one. Both were on the bench today for a farewell to The Amex. Also probably making his last bow was Mustapha Carayol. He moved on loan from next week’s opponents Middlesbrough at the end of March, the deadline for loan deals. He was moved up top alongside Chris O’Grady to provide more of an attacking threat. The lack of goals was probably the biggest weakness of the season; the tally of just forty-four was the fourth worst in the Division, only better than the bottom three. Of the strikers, Sam Baldock netted just four in all competitions whilst Chris O’Grady had three and Leon Best none. Departed pair Adrian Colunga had three and Darren Bent two. It was a huge let down in that department.

The club’s top scorer was centre back Lewis Dunk with seven in League and Cup. Going into this season he had never scored unless it was an own goal! He was part of a trial back three here, alongside captain Gordon Greer and Nottingham Forest’s Greg Halford. Regular full backs Bruno on the right and Joe Bennett on the left were pushed further forward to become wing backs in a three-five-two formation. Albion’s Young Player of the Year, Joao Teixeira, was missing from the middle after breaking his leg in the goalless draw with Huddersfield. The teenager impressed greatly, and it didn’t go unnoticed by parent club Liverpool, as he picked up their Academy Player of the Season for his performances on loan. The Seagulls Supporters Player of the Year was Inigo Calderon, who had enjoyed a new lease of life as a makeshift right midfielder. He was named on the bench today, as was Kazenga LuaLua and Rohan Ince. LuaLua missed two months of the season through injury, since returning to the squad in February he had only started three times was frequently utilised as a substitute.

60WAT Subs 60WAT Watford

Original Watford head coach for this season, Beppe Sannino, brought Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in from Tottenham on a free over the summer following the retirement of ex-Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia. Craig Cathcart transferred from Blackpool. Watford were owned by Giampaolo Pozzo, who was also involved with Italian club Udinese and Spanish side Granada. As a result, several of their players spent time switching between the clubs. Strikers Matej Vydra and Odion Ighalo joined on loan from the Italian club, with Ighalo making it permanent back in October. Winger Juan Carlos Paredes came in from Granada over the summer whilst Ikechi Anya moved from Spain to Hertfordshire back in 2012. Closer to home, midfielder Adlene Guedioura was on loan from Crystal Palace.

Ben Watson, the man who scored Wigan’s winner in the FA Cup Final against Manchester City two years ago, joined from the Latics in January. Defender Matthew Connolly left Cardiff for a loan spell at Vicarage Road from mid-March until the end of the season. Captain Troy Deeney began his professional career with four seasons at Walsall before moving down to London in 2010. In June 2012 he was sentenced to ten months in prison for affray when he and a friend attacked a group of students. He was released after serving three months inside and went straight back into the Watford squad for the rest of the 2012/13 season. Since then he was most famously involved in the incredible dramatics which saw Anthony Knockaert miss a penalty for Leicester in the Play Off Semi Final Second Leg, where Watford then broke up the other end for Deeney to score with the last kick off the game to secure their place in the Final. It’s one of the most incredible Play Off moments of all time. Refereeing this afternoon’s clash was boyhood Luton fan – Watford’s famous rivals – little Keith Stroud.

 

PRESENTATION TEAM & COVERAGE

60WAT Ident 60WAT Thomas

Sky’s main Football League Live match each weekend was scheduled in the 12.15pm Saturday lunchtime slot. This was in a bid to deter viewers away from BT Sport’s Live top flight offering, which was regularly Saturdays at 12.45pm. This was not something new for the Football League. Ever since Sky encountered a rival in the Premier League market with Setanta in 2007, the lower League broadcasts were positioned directly against them on Sky, often pettily kicking off just minutes before in order to gain that little edge. As of last season, Sky branded their coverage of the Championship, Leagues One and Two as FL72; using that across the seventy-five Live games per season and the regular Thursday and Monday afternoon magazine programmes. Graphics and music for today remained as it had been all season.

60WAT Pitchside 60WAT Beagrie

FL72’s number one host Simon Thomas presented this afternoon’s coverage from The Amex, opening up the show with build-up done pitchside in front of the West Stand. Thomas was joined by his regular first choice pundit Peter Beagrie. Since hanging up his boots in 2006, the former Scunthorpe, Bradford, Manchester City and Middlesbrough winger forged a successful career in the media. He was paired with host David Jones for the 2007/08 season as Sky went for a new look, younger Football League presentation team and remained a constant ever since. As a player, he appeared in all four Divisions of English football and was still lacing up his boots at the age of forty. As a pundit, Beagrie read the game well and was a natural communicator. His North East accent was a mainstay of Sky’s FL72 coverage in the studio.

60WAT Race for Promotion 60WAT Split screen interview

Today’s broadcast began at midday, fifteen minutes prior to kick-off. On the penultimate round of Championship fixtures, the main focus for Sky was on who would make it up to the Premier League with still so much to be decided; what Sky were labelling the ‘Race for Promotion’. With previous leaders Bournemouth not playing until Monday, also Live on Sky, this was a chance for Watford to widen the gap to four points over the Cherries with a win, and if results went their way in the 3pm games, promotion could be secured on this day. Naturally then, Sky’s coverage reflected this battle, with little mention pre-match of Brighton. The Albion weren’t mathematically secure of their place in the Division again for next season, but a six point gap with two to play made life more comfortable; a point today or next week on the final day at Middlesbrough would be enough. After Thomas and Beagrie had briefly set the scene, we heard from Watford’s fourth manager of the season; Slavisa Jokanovic, in conversation with the main Football League reporter Jonathan Oakes.

Following the advert break and with the teams about to run out onto the turf, Oakes spoke with the Albion’s Chris Hughton for his pre-match thoughts. With not much left to play for other than pride, Brighton would have a greater say in how things panned out at the top in these last two matches and Hughton knew the importance of putting in a professional performance. “We want to finish this season as strong as we can. We also have a responsibility to this club and, of course, to the League to field as strong a side as we can in both games and to get as good a result as we can in both games.” The teams then left the tunnel to a live performance of Sussex By the Sea from soprano singer Donna-Marie Hughes to mark the final home game of the season. And it was up to the commentary box where Daniel Mann and Don Goodman were waiting, just as they were two weeks earlier. A new addition to the FL72 coverage today was a quick thirty second commercial immediately before the kick-off, known as a ‘turbo break’. It was more familiar to the Premier League coverage, where typically a betting ad with live odds was shown.

60WAT Studio 60WAT Interviews

Sky were increasingly presenting the Football League build up from the touchline, soaking in that atmosphere ahead of kick off, before moving up to the studio box for the rest of the show. That’s exactly what happened here, as the usual presentation area up in the back of the North Stand was utilised by Simon Thomas and Peter Beagrie from half time onwards. They reviewed the first period, in which Brighton found themselves unlucky to be behind. The stats backed this up, with the Albion enjoying nearly two-thirds of the possession and the greater number of corners and attempts on goal. The early pressure from the home side was highlighted, passing the ball quicker and getting more numbers in the box when attacking.

When the final whistle sounded, the Watford players and fans were full of celebration. In the middle of the pitch was reporter Jonathan Oakes who grabbed a quick word with the captain, goal scorer and Man of the Match, Troy Deeney, alongside defender Matthew Connolly. Watford did their part of the bargain. If results for the two teams outside the automatic places went the Hornets way, they would be promoted come five o’clock. We wouldn’t see that on this Live broadcast of course, but results did go their way! Middlesbrough lost to Fulham whilst Norwich could only draw at Rotherham. Supporters of both Brighton and Watford stayed behind in the various bars at The Amex to watch Gillette Soccer Saturday as the scores came in, which then led to a big party after full time to share in the achievement of a place up to the top flight. Congratulations to Watford Football Club.

60WAT Fixtures 60WAT Coming Up

Rewinding back a couple of hours and to the end of today’s Live match broadcast; after the break Thomas and Beagrie had only six minutes or so left to wrap everything up before coming off-air at half two. Oakes spoke with victorious manager Jokanovic, treating today as the ‘semi-final’ and next week the ‘final’ in his quest for promotion. The studio team gave an overview of the situation, with Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Norwich all with two games remaining to chase Watford down. Sky were probably hoping things weren’t quite settled over this weekend, as the following Saturday they’d be showing two Live matches from the final day of the campaign, usually one of the highlights of the season. For Brighton, it was all pretty much done and dusted with six points clear of the drop zone and a superior goal difference. The team below, Rotherham, had been deducted three points for fielding an ineligible player, whilst the team in twenty-second, Millwall, had to work miracles. The bottom two – already relegated Blackpool and 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan – were too far away to catch the Albion. There was no time in the programme to hear the thoughts of Chris Hughton today but he knew that the primary task this season was to maintain Brighton’s Championship status, Big improvements were required next year to get the club back to where it ought to belong; competing for a place amongst England’s elite.

 

STORY OF THE MATCH

60WAT Kick Off 60WAT Comms

Prior to kick off, a minute’s silence was observed for the thirtieth anniversary of the tragic fire at Bradford’s Valley Parade, which killed fifty-six and injured many, many more. Football paid its respects to the victims of that dreadful incident on the 11th May 1985. The penultimate weekend of the Championship season then got underway at The Amex, with Watford shooting towards the North Stand in the first half.

Inside the opening minute Brighton twice went close to getting on the scoresheet, both times just unable to pull the trigger. Firstly, Chris O’Grady caught the Watford defence napping. Joe Bennett found the target man in space but his touch took him to the left where the covering defender was. That opportunity went begging but in the away team’s panic to clear, the ball broke for Dale Stephens on the edge of the penalty area. He dribbled past one then tried to take it beyond a second, the men in yellow were not having that and they kicked to safety. A frantic start to the match, backed by a vocal Seagulls support. Brighton had the lion’s share of the possession and enjoyed success with long, diagonal passes from the back to the wing, enabling the wide players to drive forward in this 3-5-2 formation. As a consequence, Watford brought off Ikechi Anya and replaced him with Daniel Tozser in a diamond midfield. That enabled others to realign to make a more solid back four shape, as opposed to the three, after twenty-five minutes.

Whether these adjustments had any bearing on the deadlock being broken just three minutes later, I don’t know. But that’s exactly what Watford did, as Troy Deeney pounced to make it one-nil. The ball came in from the left from Matthew Connolly, Greg Halford met with the header but mistimed it, sending the ball straight up in the air. Gordon Greer then tried to trap the dropping ball as it fell but only seemed to knock it into the path of his own goal. Ighalo picked it up with his back to goal six-yards out to flick it over to Deeney. His first touch took it past the despairing lunge of Greer before firing a shot past Stockdale and three Albion bodies into the back of the net from twelve yards. Of all the people for the ball to drop to in that position, Troy Deeney is amongst the last you’d want. It was a goal from almost nothing, Brighton had ample opportunity to clear their lines but failed to do so and fell behind in a match they had had the better of to that point.

Five minutes after the goal, Brighton had their first shot on target forcing Gomes into a good save. Chris O’Grady’s strength and power had caused Watford problems earlier in the half but here it was the strength of his shot that almost nabbed an equaliser. His effort from twenty-odd yards was bending and swerving but the Brazilian ‘keeper watched to slap behind. He almost went from hero to villain straight after when he flapped at a cross. but Brighton couldn’t quite force the ball home. The sides went into the break with Deeney’s strike separating them.

60WAT Deeney goal 60WAT Analysis

Watford began the second half well and almost doubled the lead within ten minutes. Again, Brighton failed to clear their lines, allowing Guedioura to try some trickery on the edge of the box. The ball found its way through to an unmarked Odion Ighalo six yards out. He tried to round Stockdale, in doing so Guedioura took over with the first time finish – the goalkeeper dived at his feet excellently to block for a corner. The Albion attempted to address this by bringing on a player for his Amex farewell, replacing one likely to be doing the same. Craig Mackail-Smith arrived with half an hour remaining to a fantastic reception, coming on for Middlesbrough loanee Mustapha Carayol. Watford, perhaps looking for a counter attacking opportunity, introduced the pace of striker Matej Vydra on for Ighalo with the result not yet secure.

The changes made some difference, with Brighton pushing for an equaliser. But they just weren’t getting enough bodies into the box. Substitute Inigo Calderon, on for the injured Bruno, produced a very good cross for Chris O’Grady. His powerful header landed just wide of the post. The replays showed it actually bobbled up off a bit of sand patching up the pitch in the goalmouth, causing the ball to head wide instead of in! One for the groundsman to reconsider. In previous games, the diagonal ball to switch play worked a treat for Brighton but was finding it harder to come by today. As the game approached the final few minutes, Lewis Dunk clipped a terrific pass out wide to Calderon. His cut back saw Dale Stephens free on the edge, but he didn’t quite catch the low shot right and Gomes was able to get down to collect the tame effort.

But Albion’s best chance fell to Mackail-Smith in stoppage time. With bodies in the box, Brighton’s cross was cleared out as far as sub LuaLua. He headed it up to Calderon on the edge, who cleverly chested the ball beyond the Hornets defence to find the striker. Mackail-Smith just waited that fraction too long as the ball wouldn’t settle, allowing Gomes to rush out of goal and bravely punch away as he was ready to pull the trigger, whilst the rebound came to nothing.

In the fifth of five minutes of injury time, Watford sealed the three points with a terrific counter attacking goal. With the Seagulls upfield chasing that equaliser, the visitors managed to clear the ball to the half way line. The pace and determination of Troy Deeney saw him gather the loose ball on the near touchline. Dribbling it forward, he looked up to see Matej Vydra the only person in the middle with no defender anywhere near him. Deeney found him with a good pass, Vydra controlled well with his chest as Gordon Greer sprinted back. It was to no avail though as Vydra’s second touch was a terrific finish into the bottom left-hand corner of Stockdale’s net. Co-commentator Don Goodman called it when Vydra was brought on, saying they’d be looking to counter with his pace. Watford secured all three points to put them within touching distance of the Premier League again.

60WAT Table top 60WAT Table bottom

BRIGHTON 0 WATFORD 2
Deeney, Vydra

60WAT Replay.JPG

PREVIOUS; #59 BRIGHTON 0-2 BOURNEMOUTH 10/04/2015

NEXT; #61 BRIGHTON 1-0 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 07/08/2015

#59: Brighton 0-2 Bournemouth 10/04/2015

#59 BRIGHTON 0-2 BOURNEMOUTH Championship
Friday 10th April 2015 Image result for

59BOU Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Darren Anderton
COMMENTATORS Daniel Mann & Don Goodman REPORTER David Craig
7.45pm Kick Off; The Amex     7.30-10pm FL72 Live on Sky Sports 1

59BOU Ident 59BOU Sponsor 59BOU Intro

CONTEXT OF THE MATCH

Chris Hughton had been in charge of the Albion for three months by the time this televised clash at The Amex came around in early April. In that time he had made leaps in stabilising a hugely misfiring Brighton side. Hughton achieved six League victories, two more than Sami Hyypia did in the opening five months of the campaign.

On the back of the FA Cup Third Round win at Brentford in Hughton’s first match in charge, he followed it up with three points in the capital at Charlton the following Saturday. A first home win in six arrived when promotion chasing Ipswich were left empty handed towards the end of January. Form dipped after the televised Cup defeat at home to Arsenal, with two defeats and two draws, and the club found themselves back just one place above the Championship drop zone.

Back-to-back wins at The Amex with the first Saturday-Tuesday six points arrived as February drew to a close. Birmingham were edged by the odd goal in seven thanks to braces from Inigo Calderon and Joao Teixeira for a massive win. Three days later, Leeds were sent back to Yorkshire with their tails between their legs, losing two-nil to the Albion for the second time this season. This double celebration lifted Brighton to eighteenth, their highest position since September.

Defeat in a crunch game at the bottom at Bolton was swiftly forgotten with revenge over Derby, our conquerors in the Play Off Semis the year before. Two more vital points were picked up with draws at home to Wolves and away at Millwall in mid-November kept things ticking along. Then an absolutely vital win away at Blackburn thanks to a Matt Kilgallon own goal rocketed Brighton up to sixteenth ahead of the Easter period. More importantly, it put clear daylight between the club and the relegation zone with only a handful of matches to play.

Tonight’s visitors Bournemouth were enjoying one of their best ever seasons. They were firmly in the promotion picture having sat in the top four since October, following their record high eight-nil success at Birmingham. Now, they were going every step of the way with Norwich, Watford and Middlesbrough for the title. Bournemouth hadn’t lost since February, with just eight defeats all season. Between October and November, the Cherries went on an unbeaten sixteen match run – thirteen of which were victories. Eddie Howe was on the verge of guiding Bournemouth up to the Premier League for the very first time. The Sky cameras were in town to witness the next leg of their fantastic march from the bottom to the top. This was the one-hundredth League meeting between the two Meridian region clubs.

 

THE TEAMS

59BOU Brighton

A couple of new faces were brought in to the Albion during the January transfer window. The most notable addition was Israeli international midfielder Beram Kayal from Celtic. He spent four-and-a-half-years in Glasgow with mixed results. His debut got off to a cracker, winning Man of the Match and assisting one of the goals. But injury cost him three months of the season before it had barely got going. He went on to captain the Hoops for the occasional game, nabbed the League’s Player of the Month award for January 2011 and won the Premiership title in his first full season. But the following season was again blighted by injury, ankle ligaments ruling him out for the second half of the campaign. He lifted the SPL title a further three times before the move down South for an undisclosed fee.

Another addition to the line-up was Gambian winger Mustapha Carayol. He signed on loan from Middlesbrough at the end of March, making his first appearance in the disappointing defeat at Rotherham the following day. Tonight was his home debut. A ruptured ankle ligament a year earlier had kept him out of action and joined the Seagulls to gain match practice. Carayol joined ‘Boro in 2012 having previously been on the books of Torquay, Lincoln and Bristol Rovers. He was no stranger to Sussex, spending two-thirds of a season on loan at Crawley early in his career.

Alongside the new recruits in the midfield was the flair and excitement of Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira, the club’s top scorer this season in the League with six. Dale Stephens was fully on the comeback trail having missed the first half of the campaign through injury sustained this time last year. Inigo Calderon continued to be deployed on the right wing, joining the attack as well as supporting fellow Spaniard Bruno behind him at full back. There was no Gordon Greer available so Greg Halford, on loan from Nottingham Forest, partnered one of our own, Lewis Dunk, at the heart of the defence.

Goals were still hard to come by and, having tried various options and combinations, a new face was being tried to see out the season. Leon Best transferred on loan to the Seagulls from the end of January. Himself a former Cherry, Best joined Brighton from Blackburn but also had a loan spell earlier in the year at Derby County. He was yet to score a goal for either us or Derby in almost thirty appearances. Whilst Darren Bent flourished on loan earlier on, Leon Best was really struggling. Options on the bench included goal scorer against Arsenal in the Cup, Chris O’Grady, and a man more used to coming off the bench this season than starting, Craig Mackail-Smith. Veteran Northern Irish defender Aaron Hughes was there if the back line needed shoring up.

59BOU Subs 59BOU Bournemouth

Championship Manager of the Month Eddie Howe was on the brink of guiding Bournemouth from the bottom Division in 2009/10 all the way up to the very top just five seasons later, with an eighteen-month break managing Burnley in the middle. He made one change from their Easter Monday win as Marc Pugh returned following an ankle knock. Pugh was amongst the scorers when Bournemouth won against Brighton in November. This was pretty much Howe’s strongest eleven. Only Yann Kermorgant didn’t begin the reverse fixture, but he did come off the bench to score the decisive penalty.

The heart of the defence was very much ‘made in Brighton’, with captain Tommy Elphick playing over a hundred-and-fifty League appearances for the Albion over a seven-year period after coming up through the youth system at his hometown club. Had it not been for injury in the final match of the League One title winning campaign of 2010/11, which sidelined him for the entirety of the following season, he could have been leading the Seagulls out now. Fellow centre-half Steve Cook too came up through the academy at Brighton, having been born in nearby Hastings. His first team career in Sussex was much less successful, beginning just seven matches for the Albion over a four-year period, four of which came in Cup competitions. After various loan spells with lower and non-League teams, he moved to Dean Court permanently in January 2012 for £150,000. Both Elphick and Cook played every match of this season.

They weren’t just solid at the back; Bournemouth were also the Division’s top scorers. Callum Wilson, in his first season at the club, scored in all three competitions totalling twenty to date. Strike partner Yann Kermorgant netted a further fifteen in his first full season on the South Coast. If they weren’t firing, options on the bench included Kenwyne Jones, signed a couple of weeks earlier on loan from Cardiff, and Brett Pitman, himself with fourteen goals to his name in League and Cup. Tonight’s referee was Mr Craig Pawson.

 

THE COVERAGE & PRESENTATION TEAM

59BOU Thomas 59BOU Anderton

Sky Sports’ Friday night presentation came on-air fifteen minutes before the usual 7.45pm kick off. Going under the FL72 branding and sponsored by Screwfix, Sky’s Football League programming used the same style graphics as the Premier League, but with a red background instead of a blue one. The theme tune was provided by Woodkid, with their track Run Boy Run. Number one FL72 host Simon Thomas anchored proceedings alongside his guest Darren Anderton. Thomas had been hosting Live League matches for Sky since for over five years, graduating from Sky Sports News and stepping up to be main host for 2011/12. Darren Anderton enjoyed success with Tottenham and England but was present tonight for his connection to Bournemouth, where he spent two seasons to see out his career. He was also the guest for the televised reverse fixture back in November, where he was alongside second choice host Natalie Sawyer.

59BOU Pitchside 59BOU Hughton split screen

Thomas and Anderton presented tonight’s build up from pitchside in front of the West Stand towards the South side of the stadium and were accompanied by the magnificent Championship trophy; the prize Bournemouth had firmly set their sights on. The Cherries were the main focus, understandably, what with them having probably their best ever season. They topped the table, a point above both Norwich in second and Watford in third. Middlesbrough came next, two points adrift. The most important point was it was all in their own hands now for Bournemouth. The pitchside team talked through their remarkable fightback from two-nil down at home to Birmingham on Easter Monday to turn it around with four goals. Reporter David Craig, a regular in the Championship this season and last, spoke with their manager Eddie Howe in the first portion of the show.

Brighton’s position was this; nine points clear of the relegation zone. The club sat in nineteenth ahead of this match, with Fulham and Rotherham below and Millwall, Wigan and Blackpool occupying the three danger positions at the foot. Blackpool were already down, that was confirmed. Wigan were eight points off safety with five games to play, Millwall fared slightly better – seven points behind Rotherham and with a game in hand over the rest of the bottom six. The Albion’s position was looking alright for now, but it was still all to play for especially as tough fixtures against teams vying for promotion were still to come.

After the pre-match advert break and with the teams waiting in the tunnel, we heard Chris Hughton’s thoughts in conversation with David Craig. Sky used the split-screen facility in order to show both, a feature of their FL72 coverage immediately before the kick off. Hughton was aware of Bournemouth’s attacking prowess but wanted his side to aim for similar; “We’ve gotta be a threat ourselves. We’ve been decent here, we’re on the back of a decent performance against Norwich. If you give away too much possession, you know they’re gonna hurt you.” Looking ahead beyond this season, he wanted the squad to use these final five matches to be positive, keep the gap between themselves and the relegation zone and make it a comfortable end rather than scrabbling around for points. As the teams emerged onto the field, it was time to hand up to the commentary pairing of Daniel Mann, second choice Football League voice, and Don Goodman, long serving analyst and ex-Wolves and Walsall forward.

59BOU Carayol 59BOU Studio

In the moments before the start, the commentary team picked out a couple of players to watch out for. For the Albion, Mustapha Carayol was fighting for a future as parent club Middlesbrough were unlikely to be offering him a new deal once it runs out in the summer. During the half time break, the presentation team moved up from pitchside to the usual studio box within the right side of the North Stand. Thankfully, the Championship trophy went with them as there was little else to talk about at the interval as neither side had mustered a shot on target! It was one of those halves. Having to talk over replays of a Brighton corner which nobody touched in the box spoke volumes.

As usual, after the full time whistle we heard some immediate reaction on the pitch from a couple of the key men speaking with reporter David Craig; tonight, Tommy Elphick and Man of the Match Yann Kermorgant from Bournemouth. The studio team moved back to their pitchside position for the ten minutes or so left of post-match analysis, where they were joined for the majority of it by winning manager Eddie Howe. He was rather disappointed with his side’s effort, perhaps credit to Brighton for neutralising their threats for such a long time. The trio reviewed the second half goals, with two very good finishes the difference. The season’s achievements were touched upon, with tonight’s goals taking Bournemouth’s tally to eighty-nine, overtaking their previous best in the old Division Three South back in 1956/57.

59BOU Match Stats 59BOU Coming Up

The match stats showed that Brighton created a few chances, more than their opponents, but just a solitary effort on target summed up the failures of the season. Bournemouth’s tally of two shots on target was “their joint lowest this season”, according to host Simon Thomas. Crucially though, they scored with both. When Eddie Howe was done playing the pundit role, we heard from his opposite number Chris Hughton, in conversation with reporter David Craig. Hughton said the result was “hard to take” given the performance up until the opening goal. “We’re playing a team that’s in great form, that are not top of the Division by coincidence. And I thought in most aspects of that seventy minutes I thought we were the better side. But that’s why they are where they are – because they’ve got that little bit of quality when it counts.” He acknowledged mistakes were made, both in not taking chances up front and errors leading to opportunities at the back. The areas for improvement over next season were obvious. One other result came from the evening, affecting the bottom of the table, as Fulham and Wigan drew. That kept Fulham below the Albion in the table, now just on goal difference, whilst Wigan leapfrogged Millwall into twenty-second, still seven points from safety. With just four matches remaining for Brighton, safety looked pretty secure if not yet mathematically. As the clock approached 10pm, it was time to say goodbye as another Live broadcast concluded.

 

STORY OF THE MATCH

59BOU Kick Off 59BOU Comms

The Championship title hunters kicked off tonight’s clash at The Amex, shooting towards the North Stand in the first half. Brighton had proved to be a more solid outfit under Chris Hughton than before and the game plan here was more than likely to be about cancelling Bournemouth’s threat above providing our own attacking impetus. Midfielder Dale Stephens set the early tempo with a crunching tackle six minutes in, lunging to win the loose ball against Matt Ritchie. Upon further inspection on the replay, he was fortunate to get away with it. His studs were showing, sliding through Ritchie to send the ball spinning elsewhere. Referee Craig Pawson was right on the spot just yards away with a perfect view and gave nothing, so the game continued but it was a dangerous challenge that really should have been punished with a yellow. Brighton didn’t allow their visitors to settle down in the opening exchanges, winning the ball back quickly and moving forward with more of a purpose than we had seen for patches this season.

The Albion pushed forward, earning a couple of corners. The presence of top scorer Lewis Dunk and six-foot defender Greg Halford were the target men from set pieces, but they couldn’t quite be found. Joao Teixeira had an opportunity when he created a couple of yards of space in the box, his strike firing just too high from a difficult angle. But this was exactly what the Seagulls supporters were crying out for, taking the game to their opponents. Co-commentator Don Goodman though summed up the situation when he said; “The only thing missing is that goal, really. For all of the good play and all of the good work they’ve done, Artur Boruc in the goal hasn’t had a save to make.” The key stat showed Brighton with more first half attempts but none of them on target. The sides went into the break goalless. A creditable, if not memorable, first forty-five for the Albion.

59BOU Kermorgant goal 59BOU Wilson goal

The second half began with a familiar pattern, as Brighton were urged forward by the supporters. Dale Stephens, in the thick of things once more, had a decent opportunity when the ball was won back just outside the Bournemouth box. Joao Teixeira tried to trick his way past the defence, they stood firm and the loose ball was latched onto by Stephens. His first-time shot flew just too high. A similar chance fell his way minutes later. This time on his weaker left with bodies charging him down. The result went the same way as before. Spells such as this needed to be capitalised on. Leon Best got the game’s first shot on target just before the hour mark, though in truth it was weaker than a backpass. The sort of effort from a man lacking in confidence and without a goal all season for two different clubs.

With around twenty minutes remaining, Bournemouth had their first shot on target. And what a shot, it provided the breakthrough to give the visitors the lead. Lewis Dunk’s late challenge gave Bournemouth a free kick twenty-five yards out, providing Dunk with his eleventh booking of the season. Co-commentator Goodman prophesised before the kick, “On a night where it hasn’t flowed for them, they are capable of the spectacular from situations like this.” Yann Kermorgant took the free kick with his right, as David Stockdale took two mini-steps to his left. That little movement was crucial as the goalkeeper was then committed one way before having to dive the other. Stockdale at full stretch couldn’t get there and the ball curled into the top right-hand corner of his net for a wonderful goal.

The result was sealed with ten minutes remaining as Bournemouth doubled their lead through Callum Wilson. Yann Kermorgant won the ball back in the middle of the park and played a terrific lobbed through ball from the centre circle towards Wilson just outside the box. He brought the ball down on the turn, managing to get behind his marker Greg Halford. Wilson tried to cut inside on his left by which time Halford was back in position. The striker patiently held it up, this time cutting the other way and skipping past his man. Before left back Joe Bennett could charge in the way, Wilson unleashed his strike past Stockdale and in for two-nil. Brighton had to make them wait for a long time, but two clinical finishes for Bournemouth’s only two shots on target in the match ensured the three points were heading back up along the Coast.

59BOU Top 59BOU Bottom

BRIGHTON 0 BOURNEMOUTH 2
Kermorgant, Wilson

59BOU Replay

PREVIOUS; #58 BRIGHTON 2-3 ARSENAL 25/01/2015

NEXT; #60 BRIGHTON 0-2 WATFORD 25/04/2015

#58: Brighton 2-3 Arsenal 25/01/2015

#58 BRIGHTON 2-3 ARSENAL FA Cup Round Four
Sunday 25th January 2015 Image result for bt sport logo

58ARS Titles.JPG

PRESENTER Jake Humphrey GUESTS Adam Virgo, Ian Wright & Steve McManaman
COMMENTATORS Ian Darke & Robbie Savage REPORTER Ray Stubbs
4pm Kick Off; The Amex     3.30-6.30pm FA Cup Live on BT Sport 1

58ARS Intro

CONTEXT OF THE MATCH

Sami Hyypia resigned from his position as Brighton and Hove Albion manager on Monday 22nd December 2014, with the club four points adrift in the Championship relegation zone.

Hyypia was in charge for just twenty-five first team matches. With a win ratio of just 24%, he achieved victory in just six games, half of which came in the League Cup. In fact, the Capital One Cup was probably the only success of his time on the South Coast, as the Seagulls went through to the Fourth Round for just the fifth time in the history of the competition, and the first since the 1979-80 season. Wins came against lower League opposition; defeating Cheltenham at The Amex before overcoming Swindon and Burton Albion on their travels. The run came to an end at White Hart Lane when Tottenham knocked Brighton out by two goals to nil.

Of the three League victories, two came back in August when Leeds and Bolton were dispatched back-to-back. The defeat of Wigan back on 4th November ended a run of eleven without success in the Championship. The team that had overachieved to reach the Play Offs in each of the previous two years were now sat in the drop zone at the halfway point in the campaign. Head of football operations, David Burke, followed Hyypia out two days later, indicating that it was recruitment as well as performances that the club struggled with.

Assistant manager and former Albion winger Nathan Jones took temporary charge and brought an immediate upturn in fortunes over the Christmas period. Boxing Day saw an entertaining two-all draw with Reading as Glenn Murray frustrated his former employers by scoring twice for the Royals. This was followed up three days later with an outstanding two-nil win away at Fulham to give the supporters some end of year cheer.

58ARS Hughton

On New Year’s Eve, former Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich boss Chris Hughton was appointed manager on a three-and-a-half-year deal. As a player, Hughton spent thirteen years with Tottenham before a couple of years with West Ham and then Brentford took him into the early 1990s. He played over fifty times for the Republic of Ireland, making the squads for Euro ’88 and World Cup ’90. At Spurs, he lifted the FA Cup twice and the UEFA Cup in a successful start to the 1980s. He returned to the Lane coaching straight after retirement in 1993, where he moved up the rankings from being in charge of the under-21s, then the reserves before coaching the first team over a fourteen-year period.

Hughton first made the step up to manager at Newcastle United in 2009 and achieved promotion from the Championship at the first time of asking. Despite this, he was surprisingly sacked in December of the following season in a move which was condemned by players, fans and pundits alike. After a six-month break, he was back in management at Championship side Birmingham. He guided them to fourth place but lost in the Play Off Semi Finals to Blackpool. On the back of this, top flight Norwich City came calling. Tasked with keeping the Canaries up, he achieved an eleventh placed finish in his first season. Things didn’t go quite as well during the second year, but the club pulled the trigger somewhat at an odd time, with just a month left. They were in seventeenth and a point above relegation when Hughton was dismissed but were relegated a few weeks later under replacement Neil Adams. In the eight months that passed, Hughton was reportedly approached by other clubs but did not accept.

He cited the infrastructure at Brighton as being a deciding factor in choosing this one. Hughton’s first game in charge saw the Albion progress past his old club Brentford in the Third Round of the FA Cup with two late goals. That was followed with a one-nil victory at Charlton before Brentford got a revenge win at The Amex in the League. In midweek, another victory arrived as Ipswich were edged out three-two to ease the pressure and move the club up into nineteenth.

Today’s opponents Arsenal were enjoying much more consistency under Arsene Wenger. They won the FA Cup last season to end a run of nine years without a trophy and began this 2014/15 campaign well. They sat fifth in the Premier League, losing just five matches. To reach the Fourth Round they defeated Hull in a rematch of that Final. The Gunners defeated Brighton at this stage of the competition back in 2013, would they repeat the feat this time round with the added spotlight of Live television coverage?

 

THE TEAMS

58ARS Brighton

This was the fifth match of Chris Hughton’s reign at Brighton, beginning with the Brentford victory in the previous round. Captain Gordon Greer and makeshift right midfielder Inigo Calderon had started every game under the new boss and were also the only two Brighton survivors from this fixture two years ago. Goalkeeper David Stockdale signed from Fulham in the summer and played the first three months of the season before picking up an injury. That forced a ‘keeper crisis which saw Ali Al-Habsi drafted in on an emergency loan for one match and teenager Christian Walton start away at Tottenham in the Capital One Cup followed by two unbeaten Championship appearances in November. Since returning at Norwich later that month, Stockdale had played every minute. Lewis Dunk’s red card in the League loss to Brentford saw him miss the Ipswich game this week but was straight back in the eleven here.

Midfielder Dale Stephens remained a long-term absentee, having been forced off last April with an ankle problem. Impressive loanee Joao Teixeira was missing through illness. Dutchman Danny Holla and young Englishman Jake Forster-Caskey took two of the spots in the middle. Rohan Ince joined last season in mind for the development squad but quickly became a part of the first team. He scored a wonder volley at Swindon in the League Cup tie back in August, which earned him the Seagulls 2014 Goal of the Season accolade.

Around £2million was spent on striker Sam Baldock from Bristol City. He returned just two goals to date, including the opener in midweek. Chris O’Grady scored in stoppage time at Brentford in Round Three, his first for the Albion. Despite only joining in July, he struggled to get into the first team under Sami Hyypia and spent a month on loan at Sheffield United before being recalled on the day of the Fulham victory after Christmas. Adrian Colunga was an attacking presence on the bench, alongside Craig Mackail-Smith and Solly March. Defender Glen Rea was yet to play for the Seagulls but did make his Republic of Ireland under-21 debut in November. The contrast between Sami Hyypia’s squad and this one was clear; only one loanee started today – Aston Villa’s Joe Bennett. In the last televised starting eleven, at Millwall in December, Brighton fielded the maximum of five loan players.

58ARS Arsenal

Arsene Wenger made seven changes from their crucial two-nil victory at Manchester City in the Premier League. This included a return for goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, his first start since New Year’s Day. Defender Calum Chambers won the fans Player of the Month award for August, having joined from Southampton in the summer. Left-back Kieran Gibbs represented England at under-19, 20, 21 and senior level all since signing pro terms with Arsenal in 2007.

Theo Walcott scored in this fixture in 2013 but suffered FA Cup heartbreak the following season when he ruptured knee ligaments. That kept him out of the 2014 World Cup and on the sidelines for ten months before returning in November. Fellow midfielder Aaron Ramsey began life at Cardiff before transferring to London in 2008. He became a key part of Wales core and played in all four of Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic matches. Three-time Czech Republic Player of the Year Tomas Rosicky won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund.

Striker Olivier Giroud netted twice at The Amex last time out. Mesut Ozil started for the first time since early October. Among the substitutes included talisman Alexis Sanchez, signed from Barcelona for £30million this season, and Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla won the European Championships in both 2008 and 2012. Also on the bench was England under-19 striker Chuba Akpom. The match referee was the Premier League’s Michael Oliver.

58ARS Formations

 

PRESENTATION TEAM

58ARS Humphrey 58ARS Virgo

The face of football on BT Sport was their star presenter Jake Humphrey. He was one of BBC Sport’s rising stars, hosting Olympic and Commonwealth Games, NFL Superbowl and BBC Sports Personality of the Year coverage, amongst other big events. He first came to prominence on children’s television, hosting programmes such as Bamzooki and the Fame Academy spin-off. After serving his apprenticeship with CBBC, he was keen to move into sports broadcasting and hosted all sorts of lower profile events that didn’t have a regular core team. He provided holiday cover on Football Focus and Final Score. Undoubtedly, the biggest sporting break came in 2009 when the BBC won back rights to Formula One, naming Humphrey as anchor. His profile grew, playing a part of Euro 2012 and both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. When the call came from BT Sport to front their Live football, he made the switch to launch this new venture.

Joining Humphrey pitchside at The Amex were pundits Ian Wright, Steve McManaman and Adam Virgo. Wright and McManaman were both key regulars on BT’s Premier League coverage, whilst Virgo was their co-commentator on the National League. Former Albion defender Virgo needs little introduction on here, having already played, scored, pundited and commentated on previous televised Brighton matches! He spent seven seasons playing for the Seagulls, over two spells, having graduated from the youth system. Spells at Celtic, Yeovil and Colchester followed before bringing his playing career to a close at Bristol Rovers. Following retirement in July 2013, he made the move into the media having previously appeared on Sky Sports and BBC Radio Sussex. In the Autumn of 2013, Virgo made his television co-commentary debut on BT Sport’s coverage of the National League alongside Steve Bower, a position he instantly made his own and became a BT regular.

58ARS Wright 58ARS McManaman

Ian Wright was very much the one that got away as far as Brighton were concerned. In November 1983, recently appointed Albion boss Chris Cattlin had nineteen-year-old Wright on trial at the Goldstone. The striker played twice for the reserves, scoring in the first match but was not taken on full-time, much to his surprise and disappointment. The Albion’s loss was Crystal Palace’s gain, as he joined Steve Coppell’s lot in 1985 where he began banging in the goals in a six-year spell at Selhurst. His big move was to join Arsenal in 1991 for £2.5million where he went on to earn legendary status, becoming the club’s all-time record goalscorer (which he held until 2005) and bagging the League title in the process. He also lifted two FA Cups, a League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup at Highbury. Post-Arsenal, he played for West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and Burnley before calling it a day in 2000. Since even before then, he forged a hugely successful television and radio career as both a pundit and an entertainment presenter. He joined BT from launch in 2013 to work across their domestic football, as well as being in the unusual position of doing BBC Match of the Day and international football for ITV.

Steve McManaman’s playing career was most associated with nine years at Liverpool before joining Spanish giants Real Madrid in 1999. He lifted the UEFA Champions League in his first season, scoring in the three-nil Final victory over Valencia. Subsequent seasons saw two La Liga titles and a further Champions League victory before he returned to England in 2003 with Manchester City. He won thirty-seven England caps, scoring three goals including the crashing strike to go two-nil up against Portugal in Euro 2000. He hung up his boots in 2005 upon his release by City and subsequently became a leading television pundit, firstly for Setanta Sports between 2007 and 2009. He teamed up in the commentary box with Ian Darke for America television with ESPN before joining BT in 2013.

58ARS Studio

His old sparring partner was on The Amex gantry here, as Ian Darke was joined by Robbie Savage. Darke covered boxing and football for BBC Radio for more than a decade before joining Sky Sports ahead of their Premier League launch in 1992. Teaming up with Andy Gray on the first three seasons of Monday Night Football, Darke then moved across to be the voice of boxing for a generation. He combined this back with Live football again from 2005 but was soon back behind Martin Tyler and Rob Hawthorne in the pecking order. In 2010 he made the move to the States with ESPN, covering the pick for the English top flight, before returning to UK screens to lead BT’s commentaries in 2013.

Robbie Savage worked hard to forge a career as a battling midfielder in the Premier League for the likes of Leicester, Birmingham and Blackburn having been released from Manchester United’s phenomenally successful youth side of the early 1990s. He switched to Derby in January 2008 but couldn’t force his way into the side for the start of the next campaign. He somehow ended up joining Brighton under Micky Adams, whom he worked with at Leicester. His one-month loan was hardly a success but, crucially for Savage, at least he was back playing in the first team again. After linking back up with Derby, and following a managerial change, Savage was a regular fixture in the midfield a renaissance in the East Midlands for another two seasons before retiring in 2011. His niggly, irritating playing style earned him a bad reputation amongst supporters of all clubs, often being the butt of jokes or the designated ‘boo-boy’. Despite this, he enjoyed a post-playing career in the media, starting with the BBC and ESPN before being taken on by BT as an analyst and co-commentator. From this season, along with BT commentator Darren Fletcher, he hosted two-hour Saturday morning preview programme Fletch and Sav ahead of the Live Premier League match.

One of the on-air mistakes Setanta made when joining the English football market was with their pitchside reporter. Alex Hayes, a fine print journalist at The Independent on Sunday, struggled to ask fluent questions of managers and players with the microphone, making for an awkward watch, before being dumped a few weeks in for Kelly Cates and Dan Roan. BT made no such mistake with their interviewer, employing a man with thirty years’ experience at the BBC and ESPN; Ray Stubbs. He joined BT as number one reporter from launch, covering the Premier League and FA Cup. Previously, he was front and centre hosting ESPN’s Live coverage of the same competitions, as well as a whole raft of high-profile events on the BBC. This included Match of the Day, Sportsnight, Grandstand, Football Focus and Final Score, as well as three Summer Olympics, the 1998 Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games. He reported from the England camp in both Euro ’96 and World Cup ’98 and interviewed at various FA Cup Finals throughout the 1990s. Stubbs brought an authority and gravitas to BT amongst a largely younger approach.

 

THE COVERAGE

58ARS Promo 58ARS Sponsor

The newest players on the British football broadcasting scene, BT Sport, were in their second season following launch in August 2013. Built on the foundation of thirty-eight exclusively Live Premier League matches having outbid previous holders ESPN, they then acquired the channel – in the process obtaining their key rights such as Premiership Rugby and American sports. This also included the final season of their FA Cup deal, which expired last season. From the start of this campaign, the Cup switched hands from ITV to BBC, whilst BT Sport retained their position as the satellite broadcaster. Under the new contract, BT would air up to thirty matches Live throughout the competition, including sharing the Final. Which brings us to this Fourth Round weekend as January drew to a close. BT’s three Live picks kicked off with Liverpool versus Bolton on the Saturday evening and concluded with Rochdale against Stoke on Monday night. Sandwiched in the middle was the Albion, who were drawn to host holders Arsenal in this Sunday afternoon clash.

58ARS Drone shots 58ARS Withdean

Coverage was sponsored by William Hill, yet another gambling firm to get involved in football broadcasting. BT Sport didn’t really do title sequences. The intros last season consisted of the BT globe logo spinning from the centre into the bottom left hand corner, with a short burst of music. That was retained for League coverage this year, but the FA Cup was given a makeover with an animated trophy and block bars listing the two clubs. The music was specially composed for BT to use on their Cup broadcasts, in use for its second season. Build up began thirty minutes before the 4pm kick-off, with beautiful aerial drone shots hovering over the Pier, seafront, the site of the former Goldstone stadium, now a retail park, and Withdean. This was all to highlight the contrast in where Brighton were from the glory days of the 1983 FA Cup Final through to the dark days of the 1990s. The graphics had been used since BT’s launch, nicely animating in and out from the channel logo position in the bottom right corner of the screen.

The presentation team of Jake Humphrey with pundits Adam Virgo, Ian Wright and Steve McManaman were situated pitchside at The Amex in front of the West Stand. Pitchside presentation was very much BT’s go-to position, allowing Humphrey the freedom to move around and explore the stadium in similar fashion when he successfully fronted the BBC’s F1 broadcasts. With Ian Wright very much an Arsenal man, McManaman assumed the role of neutral, whilst Virgo was clearly present to talk eloquently and knowledgeably about the Albion. The FA Cup trophy itself was on display alongside the team, on the back of three of the Premier League’s top four crashing out the previous day. Some of the goals and incidents from the key games played thus far on Fourth Round weekend were shown, with the pundits talking us through the action. Manchester United could only muster a goalless draw at Cambridge, League One Bradford ran riot at Chelsea scoring four, Spurs crashed out and Manchester City were upset by Middlesbrough.

58ARS Gordon Smith 58ARS Jimmy Case

The focus of the VT package in the pre-match coverage was around the Seagulls 1983 FA Cup campaign. Of course. Two members of the Cup Final starting line-up – Gordon Smith and Jimmy Case – both recounted their tales from that memorable run. Striker – and often forgotten as a Final goalscorer – Smith outlined the Albion thought process; “We had this plan, let’s be really relaxed and see how the Man United boys cope with that. We’ll come in the tunnel laughing and joking.” Tough tackling midfielder Case spoke about getting stuck into Manchester United’s Ray Wilkins early on; “I clattered Wilkins a couple of times. I used to love some of them tackles what you used to throw in every now and again!” Physio Malcolm Yaxley was also interviewed, as he tried to repair Chris Ramsey on the pitch following a hard challenge by Norman Whiteside. It was to no avail as Ramsey was just a yard short of Frank Stapleton who netted United’s equaliser after Smith put Brighton in front. Then came the famous Gordon Smith moment. In the last minute of Extra Time, with the scores level at two-all, he was put through on goal. Cue Peter Jones’ BBC Radio commentary line, with the commentator not missing a beat, “And Smith must score. And he hasn’t scored. And Bailey has saved it. And there goes the whistle for the end of Extra Time.” Of that chance, Smith honestly and bluntly admitted; “My decision I made was wrong, and I cost Brighton the Cup.”

58ARS Last meeting 58ARS Dunk

Attention then turned back to this afternoon’s clash. The two sides met at this stage two years earlier, with the Gunners edging a five-goal thriller. Humphrey asked Virgo if Brighton had a similar performance in them now to that day. “Well they have now, under the new manager Chris Hughton”, Virgo began. “I must admit if Sami was still here then you’d be slightly worried about the performance.” They picked out defender Lewis Dunk to preview, with Humphrey saying, “lots of clubs were sniffing around him.” As a former defender, Adam Virgo was well placed to praise the current Albion centre half, highlighting his ability on the ball as a particular strength on top of the threat he posed from set pieces in attack.

58ARS Cool people 58ARS Walcott

After the break, we saw a Brighton-made video spoofing one of the latest adverts BT used to promote their coverage. In BT’s ad, a few of their star names were shown walking slow-motion down the touchline with the strapline “The cool people to watch football with”, which Humphrey insisted was “completely tongue in cheek!” So a few Albion fans followed suit, with Albion Roar radio hosts Alan Wares and Ady Packham amongst the contingent. Wares then briefly chatted to Humphrey pitchside to explain “the mickey take of a mickey take”.

Back to the more serious business, reporter Ray Stubbs spoke with both managers; Chris Hughton and Arsene Wenger. Hughton explained the absence of star midfielder Joao Teixeira, missing through illness. It was a tough blow, particularly after another impressive performance in the midweek Ipswich win. Asked about his early impressions of the Albion’s potential, Hughton was quick to talk the club up; “Everyone will see today the stadium that we have here, which I think is a record crowd for the stadium. The training facility is excellent. But we’re not in the best position in the League and that’s certainly our priority.” After this, we heard the final thoughts of the studio team as they picked out returning stars Walcott and Ozil among Arsenal’s danger men, before another quick break. After which, we headed up to the gantry where commentators Ian Darke and Robbie Savage were waiting to take over.

58ARS BT Box 58ARS Coming Up

A feature of the channel’s coverage was their picture-in-picture split-screen, dubbed the ‘BT Box’. This was utilised, especially on replays, to show the Live action in the box and the replayed passage on the main screen. The box would also be used to show the bench or a different part of the action during play. At half-time, still presenting from pitchside, the team reviewed the two Arsenal goals. For the opener, Wright and Virgo were critical of Sam Baldock’s lack of challenge on the wing to allow Calum Chambers a crossing opportunity. They were impressed by Walcott’s finish and cited the difference in quality between the two Divisions as the difference. McManaman described Brighton’s half as “very, very poor”, allowing Arsenal too much space to play their football and showing a lack of adventure going forward.

58ARS Sub 58ARS European Football Show

After the final whistle and the advert break, there was around half an hour left before James Richardson and his journalistic experts took over for the usual Sunday evening European Football Show, rounding up the events on the continent before hosting Live coverage of a top match; tonight Fiorentina versus Roma. Reporter Ray Stubbs was busy in the tunnel gathering interviews with all the key men. He spoke first with two of Arsenal’s goalscorers; Theo Walcott and Man of the Match Tomas Rosicky, then latterly the manager Arsene Wenger. The studio team repositioned themselves slightly, in front of the dugouts by the tunnel, to wrap things up.

For Brighton’s first goal by Chris O’Grady, Adam Virgo dismissed talk of a foul on Chambers before the strike. Ian Wright questioned why Brighton didn’t make more use of O’Grady’s strength and power in the second period, seconded by Steve McManaman. On Arsenal’s third, it was of Brighton’s own making by giving away possession cheaply and dangerously. The finish though, real quality. Baldock’s goal to make it two-three was labelled “a great finish” by Virgo, with the assist from Holla also garnering praise. He also was pleased to see Brighton “passing with a purpose”, rather than just keeping the ball for the sake of it. Some of Arsenal’s defensive play caused concern for Wright.

Chris Hughton’s post-match thoughts were gathered by Ray Stubbs, particularly pleased with the response after the break. “Too often in that first half period we were too deep, not allowing ourselves to get out of trouble but I thought we stretched the game better in that second half. We certainly made more of a game of it and close in the end.” The final portion of the programme centred around the FA Cup weekend as a whole, with a glossy report reviewing some of the key incidents, goals and upsets from the previous day. This included a Leonardo Ulloa goal for Leicester in their surprise win at Tottenham. Back pitchside, the pundits talked through the goals from Sunday’s other ties as West Ham and Aston Villa both progressed. And with that it was time to go as another Live Albion broadcast came to a close.

 

STORY OF THE MATCH

58ARS Kick Off 58ARS Comms

In front of a record crowd at The Amex of 30,278 supporters, Arsenal kicked the game off shooting from right to left using the Cup’s salmon pink ball. And they got the breakthrough after just eighty-nine seconds thanks to that man again, Theo Walcott. Calum Chambers did well on the far touchline to skip past Sam Baldock’s challenge and gain a bit of space. His cross found Walcott twelve yards out on the right of the penalty area. The touch to control allowed him to quickly adapt his feet and suddenly a shooting opportunity arrived. Walcott drove the ball low and hard across the goal into the corner of the net for the perfect start. Arsenal executed their game plan well in the first period, dominating the ball and attacking with threat. When Brighton were in possession, Arsenal allowed them to play it round the back and keep it in their own half. The two strikers switched over from their starting positions, with O’Grady moving from centre to the left wing to allow Baldock a chance to lead the line and try to get more joy. The two swapped and changed throughout.

Arsenal’s superior quality showed, particularly when in attack, with frightening pace and better decision making. With a quarter of the match played, they made it two-nil. It was all thanks to some patient build up play and Brighton standing off their top flight opponents. Tomas Rosicky was allowed the time to dribble the ball in acres of space from the wing to the middle, waiting for the right moment to make the pass. He picked it out superbly, cutting out four Albion defenders in the process, to find Mesut Ozil inside the penalty box. Before Lewis Dunk could slide across to attempt to block, Ozil got his shot off. Around twelve yards out, his left foot effort nestled in the left-hand corner of Stockdale’s net for another well taken goal. “Carved apart like precision surgeons there,” cried commentator Ian Darke. Co-commentator Robbie Savage had harsher words for the Albion play; “They’re giving top quality players too much space, they’re not winning second balls, they’re not getting the ball in the final third, Szczesny’s yet to be tested. We’re twenty-five minutes in, Darkie!”

Brighton’s first real chance came just before the half-hour point, when Sam Baldock curled an effort just high and wide. The ball broke to him free at the back post after Laurent Koscielny was caught dithering in the area by Calderon. Baldock’s right-foot aimed for the top corner but just couldn’t quite achieve the desired accuracy. The rest of the half was an improvement for Brighton but they could not penetrate the back line of the team in yellow. At the break it was two-nil to the Arsenal.

58ARS OGrady goal 58ARS Baldock goal

As the second period began, Robbie Savage was urging Brighton on to give it a go, totally unimpressed by their efforts thus far. Within five minutes, the deficit was halved through Chris O’Grady. Albion’s attack wasn’t cleared properly by Arsenal, with Rosicky booting the ball high up in the air instead of away from goal. Baldock outjumped Chambers to win the challenge as it dropped from the sky. The ball rolled off Chambers to the feet of O’Grady with his back to goal just inside the box. He cleverly let the ball run to his right foot on the half-turn, rolling his marker Mathieu Flamini in the process. O’Grady unleashed a fierce low drive into the near corner, through Koscielny’s legs en route, to give the Seagulls hope. The goalkeeper had no chance and the crowd roared, scoring with their first shot on target. Game on. “Ooh we’ve got a Cup tie now!” enthused Savage.

The bright spell continued for the next five minutes or so but you could sense Arsenal had more of a killer instinct. And if he didn’t cover himself in glory for the Brighton goal, Tomas Rosicky certainly made up for it just before the hour mark to restore their two-goal margin. Rosicky won the ball back off Holla in a dangerous area and provided a no-look pass to Giroud on the left of the penalty area. The striker chipped up a return pass to the Czech international on the edge of the box who volleyed it into the back of the net. What a strike. But again, no Albion shirts within five yards of him, allowing so much space and time to pick his target. Brighton’s response was to bring on Solly March to add another body going forward. Arsenal didn’t rest on their laurels, perhaps wary of another Brighton resurgence, bringing on strikers Chuba Akpom and Alexis Sanchez for the final twenty minutes.

However, Brighton did force their way back into it. Sam Baldock was the man to finish off a neat move to bring Albion back to within one of Arsenal. Lewis Dunk brought the ball forward from the half way line, allowed the freedom to stroll out of defence with no Arsenal man in sight. He found Danny Holla in space between the Gunners midfield and defensive lines. He guided it on to Baldock who latched onto the through ball. As Szczesny rushed out of his goal, Baldock gently lifted it over him to nestle nicely into the back of the net. A very well worked goal gave the Seagulls renewed hope into the final quarter of an hour.

If the first half was a disappointment for Brighton, the second was much better. It was more determined, more spirited and they showed more fight than before. But ultimately, as in 2013, it was not to be. Arsenal’s quality just too much to handle and the Gunners took the tie by three goals to two. The performance grew and gave Hughton and the supporters enough belief to believe they could do much better than the current League position of nineteenth showed. The rest of the season was now all about proving that and moving away from the Championship relegation zone. Arsenal would go on to lift the Cup for a second successive season.

58ARS 5th Round.JPG

BRIGHTON 2 ARSENAL 3
O’Grady, Baldock Walcott, Ozil, Rosicky

58ARS Replay

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NEXT; #59 BRIGHTON 0-2 BOURNEMOUTH 10/04/2015

Small Screen Seagulls; The Dignity and Class of Chris Hughton

Small Screen Seagulls LogoChris Hughton is often referred to as one of the nicest characters in football, and rightly so. His pre and post-match interviews are conducted with honesty, respect and always amiable. In an industry increasingly full of loud, brash, soundbite-grabbers, Hughton is a charming contrast. He is a quiet, intelligent thinker and as such doesn’t tend to be at the forefront of media coverage. Punditry appearances are rare, long-form magazine programme interviews infrequent. His television opportunities are largely centred around press conferences and matchdays. That’s not to say that he didn’t feature from time to time. During his tenure as Brighton manager he became an ambassador figure for the city, particularly as the achievements on the pitch began to mount. He was bestowed the freedom of the city by the Council following promotion to the Premier League in May 2017. The University of Sussex awarded him an honorary degree in January 2019, citing ‘considerable success in his field despite barriers’. This was in reference to being one of a very select few managers in the English game at the time coming from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, for whom Hughton could be seen as a role model. This post takes a look back at some of the features the boss was a part of around his time at the Albion. The two stand-out themes throughout were dignity and class.


Chris Hughton, Brighton Manager 31st Dec 2014-13th May 2019

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton with Ciaran Moynan and myself in 2015

The morning after Brighton and Hove Albion’s second Premier League season in succession came to a close, with Manchester City clinching the title at The Amex in front of the watching world, our manager Chris Hughton was relieved of his duties after four and a half years at the helm. I think ‘relieved’ is an appropriate word in this story. After a catastrophic collapse which saw the Albion freefall from mid-table at Christmas down to just two points off the drop come the final day, there was huge relief for the fans that nearest survival rivals Cardiff were not good enough to claim the necessary points to overtake. Brighton survived due to others incompetence as opposed to hauling themselves out of danger. There was relief from the Owner and Chairman Tony Bloom that his team would still be in the top-flight next season when at times it looked precarious. And perhaps there may even be a modicum of relief for Chris Hughton himself, that he exits the club as one of the most successful managers the Seagulls have ever seen, having done the jobs he set out to do upon appointment on New Year’s Eve 2014.

It’s debatable how much further he could have taken the club and, unlike his time at Norwich, he departed on good terms with the fans. He was able to see out the full season and achieve the primary objective of staying up. It’s very unfortunate that it had to end in this way – he couldn’t finish it on his own terms – because Hughton conducted himself admirably at all times and got the results on the field. His tenure will never be forgotten by the Albion faithful and we will always owe him a huge debt of gratitude for salvaging a bit of a mess under Sami Hyypia, rousing the troops to keep an underperforming squad in the Championship when a place in League One was calling. In his first full season the transformation was underway; the club started the season with a record unbeaten run which saw the Seagulls sit amongst the top three or four clubs from the beginning to the end. It wasn’t quite to be, missing out on automatic promotion on goal difference to Middlesbrough, but that did not halt the charge. The following season the promised land of the Premier League was reached in style, Brighton blew away the rest of the chasing pack and finished behind only his former side Newcastle to take their place amongst the country’s elite. The honour had alluded the club for thirty-four years. The achievement in itself was huge, perhaps no better day was had under Hughton than when it was finally secured on Easter Monday against Wigan at The Amex. The manner of the victories, with exciting attacking football and high-scoring victories, brought about excitement and interest from the rest of the country.

Hughton Promotion

Ahead of his Premier League challenge, the squad was strengthened significantly. Home form was crucial as Fortress Falmer stopped all but the biggest teams from claiming victory. A win over Manchester United had fans pinching themselves as another season in the big League was clinched with time to spare. The second season in the Premier League began with more expectation but double the pressure as big spending teams came up from the Division below. The first half of that campaign saw similar results, home form claiming wins over Everton, West Ham and – once again – Manchester United. But the tide turned after Christmas. Certain sections of the home support were getting restless about a negative approach that was adopted in order to counter the undoubted superiority many top flight teams had over us. Goals were hard to come by, players were under-performing and Chris Hughton changed tactics in a bid to improve. The change in formation from a flexible 4-4-1-1 in 2017 to a rigid 4-5-1/4-3-3 this time was plainly not producing the desired effect. The lone striker was isolated, as support from the wing was restricted due to a defensive, negative set up. The dreadful run of form in 2019 saw Brighton freefall down the table to the point where, for the first time, questions were raised about the security of his job. The lowest moment of his time in charge came when Bournemouth put five past us on the Saturday followed by the team hot on our heels – Cardiff – striking a further two goals without reply just three days later. Morale had hit rock-bottom but Hughton remained calm and managed to steer the ship to safety with two games of the season still to play. Despite this and reaching a first FA Cup Semi Final since 1983, Tony Bloom’s mind was made up and the parting of the ways came on Monday 13th May 2019.

Hughton Manager of the Month

Chris Hughton’s level-headed, conservative nature was in step with his solid, defend-from-the-front football. He was extremely likeable, had time to stop and chat to everybody and was always an absolute credit in the way he conducted himself at the Albion. His achievements surpass any manager the club has had in the modern era; only Jimmy Melia had taken Albion to a Wembley in the Cup before, and only Alan Mullery had won promotion to the top flight some, forty years ago. Hughton became the first BAME boss to win the Premier League’s Manager of the Month Award when he picked up the honour in February 2018. And he created a family atmosphere and togetherness within the club which was never more abundant than when the entire squad flew to France for the funeral of Anthony Knockaert’s father in November 2016. The win ratio of 41% under Hughton is particularly impressive given almost half of that time was spent in the Premier League, highlighting just how good a job he did. Let’s take a look at some of the standout appearances he made on our television screens, beginning with his reaction to being linked to the job in the week that Sami Hyypia left.

 

Goals on Sunday, Sky Sports 1 (28th December 2014)

GOS Studio GOS Hughton

Chris Hughton was a guest on Sky Sports long-running morning review show Goals on Sunday just after Christmas in 2014 alongside fellow job seeking manager Uwe Rosler. Hughton had been out of work since being dismissed by Norwich back in April, with the club in seventeenth position coming towards the end of their second Premier League season. In the period since, he was offered jobs as an assistant to other top flight clubs but was holding out for the main job. With Crystal Palace sacking Neil Warnock the day before this programme, Hughton was linked with that as well as being named by some bookmakers as the favourite for the Brighton job. When hosts Ben Shephard and Chris Kamara put this to Hughton, he replied “The good thing for myself is when a job becomes available, I’m still getting linked with these positions.” He went on to explain that when in situations such as this, he believed it to be the club that should make any further comment and drive the negotiations forward; “If you’ve been linked and have spoken to a club, then I think the onus is on them to make that known as opposed to yourself. So yes I want to get back in at the best level possible.” When pressed which of Palace and the Albion he’d prefer, Hughton remained ever the diplomat; “I think on their own merits they’re both very good jobs.” He did, though, point out the great facilities in Sussex; “Brighton have a wonderful structure, a wonderful stadium, new training facility and, of course, they are a side that have been very close to the Play Offs in two previous seasons.” And three days later, Chris Hughton was appointed the permanent manager of Brighton and Hove Albion on an initial three-and-a-half-year contract with the club twenty-first in the Championship table.

GOS Presenters GOS Guests


My Icon: Chris Hughton, Sky Sports Mix (13th October 2017)

My Icon 2017 ICON Hughton

During every day of October 2017, Sky Sports released a new episode of the series My Icon, which was a collection of short ten to fifteen minute films interviewing stars from the world of sport of a BAME background. Such participants included the likes of Thierry Henry, Rachel Yankey, Anthony Joshua and Maggie Alphonsi. The fourteenth episode of the series was with our very own Chris Hughton, with the programme synopsis stating he “discusses the individuals that have inspired him during his life and career.” Hughton enjoyed a successful playing career, especially at Tottenham where he won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup. He became the first full international player for the Republic of Ireland to come from a black background. In this film he spoke of the racism that he and other players had to endure on an all-too frequent basis from opposition supporters during his playing days; “It was something that we, and I, experienced on a regular basis… I don’t think any black footballer growing up and playing in the late ’70s and ’80s would not have experienced it.” At the time of the interview, Hughton was one of a very tiny few managers in the English game of black origin and repeated calls were made to change that to make coaching and jobs of authority in the game more inclusive. Hughton explained; “I don’t think that there’s anybody in football that doesn’t want to see a diverse game. A diverse game means not only of course on the football pitch where the makeup of what plays on a football pitch, that means in managerial level, that means in boardroom level, that means in other aspects of football in higher positions.” He called for people already representing the sport to use their platform to encourage others; “I think it’s the responsibility of us in the game, for the stakeholders in the game, to not only show enthusiasm, but to put that enthusiasm into action.”  Chris Hughton is a fantastic role model for all footballers, not just minorities, with what he has achieved as a player, an assistant coach at Tottenham and Newcastle and of course his three Premier League promotions thus far as the gaffer. The manner in which he conducts himself should be seen as a blueprint for others. He speaks with authority, passion and decency on sensitive issues like race and diversity, as demonstrated during this film.

ICON Interview ICON Dressing Room


The Premier League Show, BBC Two (27th September 2018)

Premier League Show titles PLShow Training ground

To coincide with a new broadcast rights deal, the BBC launched an additional regular weekly magazine programme called The Premier League Show at the start of the 2016/17 season, focussing on all matter top flight. It gave them an extra flexibility to discuss matters off the pitch in greater detail and in longer form. When Brighton gained promotion to the elite League in 2017, a report was shown about the club’s journey. And the BBC Sport cameras returned during the opening weeks of the 2018/19 campaign as Match of the Day host, and former Tottenham colleague, went to the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing (AKA the training ground to you and I) for his first visit to discuss a whole host of topics with Chris Hughton as he embarked upon his second Premier League season with the Albion. The report began with Lineker and Hughton embracing in his office whilst various members of the club, such as captain Bruno and Chief Executive Paul Barber, gave glowing reports of the manager’s characteristics. “Chris’s stock is as high as any manager that we’ve had here in the club’s history and long may that continue” Barber noted. A glowing tribute was also paid by the club’s Football Admin Manager Suzi Swadling, saying “He’s very personable with all of us. He knows everyone by name from everyone he works close with down to the cleaners.” This would’ve come as little surprise to any Albion fan, he made time for the lot of us. Lineker asked Hughton if he was ‘too nice’ to be a football manager; “In as many situations as possible I’m fair, that’s what I’d like to think. But you can’t be nice all the time… We have to make so many tough decisions.”

PLShow Interview PLShow Hughton

Along with Sean Dyche of Burnley and Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, Chris Hughton was amongst the longest serving British and Irish managers in the Division. When asked if he would prefer to be managing the Champions League teams, he responded “I generally only think of the job where I am at the moment. My ambitions are not to manage at the top clubs, my ambitions are to do the very best job that I can in the job that I’m doing.” Many others would have used that question to berate his lack of opportunities for himself or British managers, like Sam Allardyce has in the past, or use it to launch a personal bid to get a bigger job, in the way Jose Mourinho has. That wasn’t on Hughton’s radar. The question of race naturally came up, as it did during his appearance on My Icon. The progress slowly being made, with conversations at the very least being had, encouraged Hughton; “We are at a different phase at the moment. There’s no doubt there’s a huge imbalance… [In the past] Black players were seen as good athletes, good forward players but not captain material, not managerial material. I think it persisted because of society.” Similar subjects to the previous film were touched upon here, as he told of having to put up with racist abuse from opposition players and fans; “You had to work through it really on your own. Although you had a supportive team behind you, you generally didn’t talk about these issues.” Looking at his own club Brighton, Hughton saw changes at the grass roots level where lots of players from all backgrounds would be training and progressing but the changes weren’t replicated at the highest levels of the game.

PLShow Barber PLShow Embrace

The report concluded by discussing Hughton the coach. “I like a team that’s organised and prepared to work hard for each other. If you are able to bring in gifted players, it’s more about making sure them gifted players fit in to what we do here.” When mentioning teams that played a more expansive style, Lineker asked if that would be a recipe for disaster for Brighton. “For us, yes. I think for those that do play that way with the players that they’ve got it’s wonderful to see… At this moment we’re playing in the top League, we’re playing against teams that have spent more money, have better players than us so they’re great challenges.” So, when the time comes around and he beats a team like Manchester United, as the Albion did a few weeks before this interview, it’s all the more special for Hughton; “It’s what you work for and for a club like this, that feeling lasts for a while.” An extended version of the broadcast interview can be viewed below.


BBC South East Today, BBC One South (13th May 2019)

SET Titles SET Presenters

On the early evening of Monday 13th May, local BBC news programme South East Today reported on the news that Chris Hughton had been dismissed from Brighton after four-and-a-half-years in charge. The feature was the second story of the bulletin hosted by regular presenters Rob Smith and Natalie Graham. As of the digital switchover in 2012, BBC viewers in Brighton and Hove began receiving the South East version of the programme, replacing the old South Today which would continue to serve West Sussex and beyond. Our hosts introduced the report by listing a number of achievements – good and bad – during Hughton’s reign; “In total he was in charge for 215 games and had a win rate of almost 41%. But this season the Seagulls fell rather flat, winning just three of their last twenty-three games in the League.” They also cited chairman Tony Bloom’s comment about it being “undoubtedly the most difficult decision” he’s had to take before playing out Ian Palmer’s report. This began with footage from the previous day’s final match of the season, with Hughton speaking with the Match of the Day reporter in the tunnel. He spoke of the year ahead and how the job was getting increasingly tougher, clearly unaware of the news to come. “We want to be better next season and we will need to be because, if anything, this Division is getting more demanding”.

SET Studio SET Hughton

Palmer’s report outlined the season just gone, with the positive mid-table start deteriorating after the New Year particularly away from home before narrowly surviving ahead of the nearest rivals. Journalist and club website contributor Nick Szczepanik was interviewed with the stadium in the horizon. He told how close the relegation battle ended up being; “The actual margin of safety ended up being only two points over Cardiff City in the end. That all hinged on one result which was out of Brighton’s hands – Crystal Palace winning at Cardiff.” We then heard brief soundbites from local residents, perhaps fans, who gave the usual mixed reactions of ‘disappointed’, ‘shock’, ‘a shame’ and ‘maybe it’s time for a change?’ As insightful as any vox-pop has ever been. The report concluded with shots of departing captain Bruno now being followed out the door by the manager. Reporter Ian Palmer remained nearby to The Amex in the blinding sunshine for a Live link-up with the studio. He was able to give further context to the recent reactions of some supporters stating; “There has been a lot of disquiet amongst some fans for quite some time, particularly on social media. A lot saying that Chris Hughton’s tactics were negative, they were defensive and frankly some had become rather tired of watching that style of football.” Whilst this was true, I think there were still large sections of the support who were behind Hughton, but this wasn’t really covered. He ended by shoehorning in a bizarre and quite unrelated comparison to the leadership of the Conservative Party, whereby changing the person at the top doesn’t necessarily change the numbers of the vote or something along those lines – basically suggesting a lot of money would be required on players over the summer and the right appointment would be crucial. It didn’t quite work but you could kind of see what he was hinting at. Little was made of the togetherness, overall record and fantastic times Hughton brought to the club, instead concentrating on the poor run of form in recent months. Perhaps if the story was covered by the dedicated sports reporter more would have been made of this as Hughton deserved plaudits for the fantastic job he did.

SET Szczepanik SET Reporter


BT Hughton

Whilst Hughton’s personal appearances in the mainstream national media were all too sparse, he was in charge when Live match exposure had never been greater for the Seagulls on the small screen. Of the 215 matches he was at the helm for, 66 of them were broadcast Live in the UK with even more made available around the globe. His televised win ratio was just shy of his overall record – with 34.85% or just over one-in-three. A quarter of them were draws, as his safety first approach at the top level paid dividends. Some of his highest highs were in front of the cameras, with back-to-back victories over Manchester United, beating Crystal Palace home and away, a penalty shoot-out win at Millwall to set up a Cup Semi at the National Stadium, comprehensive Championship triumphs over Leeds, QPR, Nottingham Forest and Brentford amongst others, whilst crucial points were picked up twice versus Arsenal, at home to Spurs and the goal that all but secured survival second time around against Newcastle in his penultimate Amex match. The club goals of the season from Knockaert at Palace in 2019 and Steve Sidwell from the half-way line in Bristol back in 2016 were both Live and the rarity of a match having to switch channels occurred when the West Brom Cup Replay went into Extra Time on BBC One then Two! Chris Hughton’s calm, measured interviews were a staple of these broadcasts. He never got too carried away or ahead of himself, he maintained the quiet dignity and class for which the title of this post is all about. The Chris Hughton we saw week in, week out on the touchline came across well on the screen. He brought tremendous success to the South Coast at a tricky time. He leaves with his head held high as he no doubt walks quickly into another job. He restored immense pride to the city. For all that and much, much more, I cannot thank the gentleman enough. There’s only one Chrissy Hughton.

Sky Hughton

BHAFC Premier League Commentaries 2018/19

img_1598Brighton kept their top flight status with a win against Manchester United in May 2017. As with last season, every Premier League game received a full commentary for the world feed and also for the BBC Highlights show Match of the Day, in addition to the separate commentaries used on the live matches selected by UK rights holders Sky Sports and BT Sport. The world feed commentaries are used by international broadcasters showing the games live, and are also deployed on the extended delayed coverage on Sky; 30 minute highlights of every non-live UK match as well as the best Saturday 3pm kick-off shown again in full at 8.30pm as ‘Game of the Day’. Sky Sports viewers in the Republic of Ireland have a bonus live Saturday 3pm match, so the opportunity to see, here and around the world, the Albion fight for another season amongst the country’s elite had never been greater.

Here are the full commentary details of Brighton’s second Premier League season.

# Date Fixture H/A UK TV Live / World Feed Match of the Day
1 Sat 11th Aug Watford (L2-0) A Guy Havord & Don Goodman John Roder
2 Sun 19th Aug Manchester United (W3-2) H Sky; Martin Tyler & Gary Neville Jonathan Pearce
3 Sat 25th Aug Liverpool (L1-0) A BT; Darren Fletcher & Steve McManaman Martin Fisher
4 Sat 1st Sep Fulham (D2-2) H Jonathan Beck & Efan Ekoku Mark Scott
5 Mon 17th Sep Southampton (D2-2) A Sky; Alan Parry & Alan Smith No highlights
6 Sat 22nd Sep Tottenham Hotspur (L2-1) H BT; Darren Fletcher & Glenn Hoddle Jonathan Pearce
7 Sat 29th Sep Manchester City (L2-0) A David Stowell & Keith Andrews Alistair Mann
8 Fri 5th Oct West Ham United (W1-0) H Sky; Bill Leslie & Jamie Carragher Simon Brotherton
9 Sat 20th Oct Newcastle United (W1-0) A Tony Jones & Andy Walker Guy Mowbray
10 Sat 27th Oct Wolves (W1-0) H Gary Taphouse & David Phillips Steve Wilson
11 Sat 3rd Nov Everton (L3-1) A Tony Jones & Iain Dowie Guy Mowbray
12 Sat 10th Nov Cardiff City (L2-1) A Sky; Bill Leslie & Alan Smith Alistair Mann
13 Sat 24th Nov Leicester City (D1-1) H Guy Havord & David Phillips John Roder
14 Sat 1st Dec Huddersfield Town (W2-1) A Gary Taphouse & Garry Birtles Steve Wilson
15 Tue 4th Dec Crystal Palace (W3-1) H Tony Jones & Keith Andrews Alistair Bruce-Ball
16 Sat 8th Dec Burnley (L1-0) A David Stowell & Keith Andrews Martin Fisher
17 Sun 16th Dec Chelsea (L2-1) H Phil Blacker & Garry Birtles Jonathan Pearce
18 Sat 22nd Dec Bournemouth (L2-0) A Guy Havord & Terry Gibson Tony Husband
19 Wed 26th Dec Arsenal (D1-1) H Sky; Rob Hawthorne & Alan Smith Steve Wilson
20 Sat 29th Dec Everton (W1-0) H Guy Havord & David Phillips Jonathan Pearce
21 Wed 2nd Jan West Ham United (D2-2) A Paul Gilmour & Davie Provan Simon Brotherton
22 Sat 12th Jan Liverpool (L1-0) H Alan Parry & Davie Provan Jonathan Pearce
23 Sat 19th Jan Manchester United (L2-1) A Ian Crocker & Davie Provan Steve Bower
24 Tue 29th Jan Fulham (L4-2) A Jonathan Beck & David Phillips Mark Scott
25 Sat 2nd Feb Watford (D0-0) H Tony Jones & Garry Birtles Steve Wilson
26 Sat 9th Feb Burnley (L3-1) H BT; Darren Fletcher & Steve McManaman Simon Brotherton
27 Tue 26th Feb Leicester City (L2-1) A Jonathan Beck & Don Goodman Steve Bower
28 Sat 2nd Mar Huddersfield Town (W1-0) H Guy Havord & Tony Gale John Roder
29 Sat 9th Mar Crystal Palace (W2-1) A Sky; Bill Leslie & Andy Hinchcliffe Jonathan Pearce
30 Sat 30th Mar Southampton (L1-0) H Gary Taphouse & Tony Gale Conor McNamara
31 Wed 3rd Apr Chelsea (L3-0) A David Stowell & Keith Andrews No highlights
32 Sat 13th Apr Bournemouth (L5-0) H Ian Crocker & Andy Walker Jonathan Pearce
33 Tue 16th Apr Cardiff City (L2-0) H David Stowell & Efan Ekoku No highlights
34 Sat 20th Apr Wolves (D0-0) A Alan Parry & Davie Provan Steve Bower
35 Tue 23rd Apr Tottenham (L1-0) A Sky; Rob Hawthorne & Alan Smith No highlights
36 Sat 27th Apr Newcastle United (D1-1) H BT; Darren Fletcher & Steve McManaman Jonathan Pearce
37 Sun 5th May Arsenal (D1-1) A Sky; Rob Hawthorne & Alan Smith Simon Brotherton 
38 Sun 12th May Manchester City (L4-1) H Sky; Martin Tyler & Gary Neville Guy Mowbray

Matches 22, 23 & 34 were shown live on Sky in the Republic of Ireland only.

Matches 4, 22 & 38 were shown delayed in full as the Game of the Day.

The 13 Live Premier League matches broadcast this season earned the Albion a whopping £15.7 million in TV income.

Final Premier League position; 17th                       [Key; WIN, DRAW, LOSE]

MNF 2018 Brighton

 

Sky Sports Match Choice 2018/19

img_7105 img_7069-1

Match Choice provided 30 minute highlights of every single non-live Premier League game throughout the season. The title sequence again was the same as the Live Super Sunday, Friday Night Football and Premier League Live intro, using Tom Grennan’s “Found What I’ve Been Looking For” as the theme tune for the second season running. The programme was now sponsored by Renault, replacing Nissan. The titles feature each of the twenty Premier League teams with a stat, nickname or line of info about the club along with a player to represent them. Replacing Brighton’s “Premier League Debut” of last year was simply “The Seagulls”, with Anthony Knockaert remaining the main man for the Albion. The programme itself just uses commentary, with no host or voiceover linking in and out. Graphics were the same as the Live Sky Sports set. Game of the Day followed the same pattern.

BBC Match of the Day 2018/19

MOTD 17-18 MOTD 18-19

The Match of the Day titles used this season again were similar to the previous season, with a few minor tweaks with updated players and teams. Each Premier League club featured in the intro sequence, and each of the day’s fixtures were incorporated in text form. Brighton were represented by last season’s key provider Pascal Gross and grouped together with the two other South Coast teams Bournemouth and Southampton. The theme tune, as ever, was the regular MotD theme.

MOTD Studio img_7229

The studio design was kept the same as the previous few seasons, with Gary Lineker hosting on the left and his two pundits on the right. Above are Danny Murphy and Ian Wright; other regulars used throughout the season included Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas, Phil Neville, Ian Wright, Kevin Kilbane and Martin Keown. As with last season, Match of the Day 2 on Sundays was hosted by Mark Chapman sat centre of his two pundits. Graphics were the same as the previous season and World Cup 2018. As with last year, team line ups used images of the players and were laid out in formation.

img_7228 img_7230 BHA team

BBC Match of the Day 2 2018/19

MOTD2 titles 2018 MOTD2 Murray

Highlights of Sunday matches were broadcast on Match of the Day 2, shown on BBC One around 10.30pm each matchweek. The titles were a slightly modified version of the main show’s, with many clubs having a different player representing them on Sunday to Saturday. This season, Glenn Murray was the Brighton man featured in the MotD2 opening sequence. Once again, Mark Chapman was the regular host in the studio. He was sat in the middle of his two pundits, with the studio design adopting blue colours to contrast it with the orange on the main show. In the screenshot below, Chapman was joined by Ian Wright and Jermaine Jenas. The show utilised the regular pool of BBC pundits but also included guests from the world of football such as current and former managers, current players and footballers recently out of retirement such as Stephen Warnock and Matt Upson. The rest of the programme followed the familiar pattern with round ups of the previous day and a lighter look at the weekend. Graphics were the same as used on MotD.

MOTD2 Studio MOTD2 Stat

 

Due to the Albion’s progress to Wembley in the FA Cup, here are the commentary details of that Cup run. BBC Match of the Day broadcast highlights and goals from the FA Cup this season, many with full commentary edits. *However during our Round 3 & 4 matches, a voiceover report covered the limited highlights of the game whilst a longer edit featuring commentary was available on the BBC Sport website.

FA Cup 2017

R3 Sat 5th Jan Bournemouth (W3-1)

A

*World Feed; Gary Taphouse
R4 Sat 26th Jan West Brom (D0-0)

H

*BBC Online Highlights; John Roder
R4R Wed 6th Feb West Brom (1-1, W3-1 AET)

A

BBC Live; Steve Wilson & Kevin Kilbane
R5 Sat 16th Feb Derby (W2-1)

H

BT Live; Darren Fletcher & Adam Virgo MOTD Highlights; Robyn Cowen
QF Sun 17th Mar Millwall (2-2 AET, Win 5-4 on pens)

A

BBC Live; Jonathan Pearce & Jermaine Jenas
SF Sat 6th Apr Manchester City (L1-0)

N

BBC Live; Steve Wilson & Martin Keown

 

BHAFC Premier League Commentaries 2017/18

img_1598Brighton made their Premier League debut – and first top flight campaign for 34 years – in the 2017/2018 season. With this step up in opponents came a step up in television coverage. Every Premier League game receives a full commentary for the world feed and also for the BBC Highlights show Match of the Day, in addition to the separate commentaries used on the live matches selected by UK rights holders Sky Sports and BT Sport. The world feed commentaries are used by international broadcasters showing the games live, and are also deployed on the extended delayed coverage on Sky; 30 minute highlights of every non-live UK match as well as the best Saturday 3pm kick-off shown again in full at 8.30pm as ‘Game of the Day’. Sky Sports viewers in the Republic of Ireland have a bonus live Saturday 3pm match, so the opportunity to see the Albion in action here and around the world had never been greater.

Here are the full commentary details of Brighton’s debut Premier League season.

# Date Fixture H/A UK TV Live / World Feed Match of the Day
1 Sat 12th Aug Manchester City (L2-0) H BT; Darren Fletcher, Steve McManaman & Glenn Hoddle Jonathan Pearce
2 Sat 19th Aug Leicester City (L2-0) A Tony Jones & Don Goodman Steve Wilson
3 Sat 26th Aug Watford (D0-0) A Jonathan Beck & Tony Gale Guy Mowbray
4 Sat 9th Sept West Brom (W3-1) H Tony Jones & Don Goodman John Motson
5 Fri 15th Sept Bournemouth (L2-1) A Sky; Bill Leslie & Jamie Carragher John Roder
6 Sun 24th Sept Newcastle United (W1-0) H Sky; Rob Hawthorne & Andy Hinchcliffe Jonathan Pearce
7 Sun 1st Oct Arsenal (L2-0) A BT; Ian Darke & Martin Keown Simon Brotherton
8 Sun 15th Oct Everton (D1-1) H Tony Jones & Keith Andrews Jonathan Pearce
9 Fri 20th Oct West Ham United (W3-0) A Sky; Bill Leslie & Jamie Carragher Mark Scott
10 Sun 29th Oct Southampton (D1-1) H Sky; Bill Leslie & Alan Smith Steve Wilson
11 Sat 4th Nov Swansea City (W1-0) A Phil Blacker & Garry Birtles Conor McNamara
12 Mon 20th Nov Stoke City (D2-2) H Sky; Alan Parry & Andy Hinchcliffe No highlights
13 Sat 25th Nov Manchester United (L1-0) A Ian Crocker & Davie Provan Steve Bower
14 Tue 28th Nov Crystal Palace (D0-0) H Bill Leslie & Tony Gale Tony Husband
15 Sat 2nd Dec Liverpool (L5-1) H Alan Parry & Davie Provan Martin Fisher
16 Sat 9th Dec Huddersfield Town (L2-0) A Jonathan Beck & Keith Andrews Guy Mowbray
17 Wed 13th Dec Tottenham Hotspur (L2-0) A Martin Tyler & Tony Gale Simon Brotherton
18 Sat 16th Dec Burnley (D0-0) H Gary Taphouse & Garry Birtles Steve Wilson
19 Sat 23rd Dec Watford (W1-0) H Tony Jones & Keith Andrews Jonathan Pearce
20 Tue 26th Dec Chelsea (L2-0) A Gary Taphouse & Andy Walker Jonathan Pearce
21 Sat 30th Dec Newcastle United (D0-0) A David Stowell & Davie Provan Alistair Mann
22 Mon 1st Jan Bournemouth (D2-2) H Sky; Bill Leslie & Andy Hinchcliffe Jonathan Pearce
23 Sat 15th Jan West Brom (L2-0) A Daniel Mann & Garry Birtles Conor McNamara
24 Sat 20th Jan Chelsea (L4-0) H Sky; Alan Parry & Alan Smith Simon Brotherton
25 Wed 31st Jan Southampton (D1-1) A Tony Jones & Efan Ekoku John Roder
26 Sat 3rd Feb West Ham United (W3-1) H Ian Crocker & Davie Provan Jonathan Pearce
27 Sat 10th Feb Stoke City (D1-1) A Rob Palmer & Tony Gale Martin Fisher
28 Sat 24th Feb Swansea City (W4-1) H Phil Blacker & Iain Dowie Steve Wilson
29 Sun 4th Mar Arsenal (W2-1) H Sky; Alan Parry & Alan Smith Steve Wilson
30 Sat 10th Mar Everton (L2-0) A Gary Weaver & Davie Provan Steve Bower
31 Sat 31st Mar Leicester City (L2-0) H Gary Taphouse & Keith Andrews Tony Husband
32 Sat 7th Apr Huddersfield Town (D1-1) H Phil Blacker & Garry Birtles Steve Wilson
33 Sat 14th Apr Crystal Palace (L3-2) A Rob Hawthorne & Andy Hinchcliffe Jonathan Pearce
34 Tue 17th Apr Tottenham Hotspur (D1-1) H Sky; Martin Tyler & Davie Provan No highlights
35 Sat 28th Apr Burnley (D0-0) A Jonathan Beck & Keith Andrews John  Motson
36 Fri 4th May Manchester United (W1-0) H Sky; Rob Hawthorne & Gary Neville Jonathan Pearce
37 Wed 9th May Manchester City (L3-1) A Ian Crocker & Keith Andrews No highlights
38 Sun 13th May Liverpool (L4-0) A Sky; Martin Tyler & Gary Neville Steve Wilson

Matches 13, 15, 26, 30 & 33 were shown live on Sky in the Republic of Ireland only.

Matches 11, 13, 15 were shown delayed in full as the Game of the Day.

Final Premier League position; 15th [Key; WIN, DRAW, LOSE]

MNF 2017 Brighton

 

Sky Sports Match Choice 2017/18

Match Choice 17-18 img_7357

Match Choice provided 30 minute highlights of every single non-live Premier League game throughout the season. The title sequence was the same as the Live Super Sunday, Friday Night Football and Premier League Live intro, using Tom Grennan’s “Found What I’ve Been Looking For” as the theme tune. The titles feature each of the twenty Premier League teams with a stat, nickname or line of info about the club along with a player to represent them. This season Anthony Knockaert was the main man for the Albion. The programme itself just uses commentary, with no host or voiceover linking in and out. Graphics were the same as the Live Sky Sports set. Game of the Day followed the same pattern.

BBC Match of the Day 2017/18

MOTD 17-18 MOTD 17

The Match of the Day titles used this season were similar to the set introduced in the previous season, with a few minor tweaks with updated players and teams. Each Premier League club featured in the intro sequence, and each of the day’s fixtures were incorporated in text form. Brighton were represented by club captain Bruno and grouped together with the two other South Coast teams Bournemouth and Southampton. The theme tune, as ever, was the regular MotD theme.

MOTD Studio 17-18 MOTD Studio 17

The studio design had been the same for the previous couple of seasons, with Gary Lineker hosting on the left and his two pundits on the right. The red coloured panels behind the presentation team last season replaced the previous gold scheme retained after the show’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 2014/15. Above are Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy; other regulars used throughout the season included Alan Shearer, Ruud Gullit, Phil Neville, Ian Wright, Martin Keown, Kevin Kilbane and Frank Lampard. Graphics were tweaked for the new season with a yellow and white background and a sleeker wipe animation, with augmented reality providing virtual graphics all over the studio. These were used across the BBC Sport output.

img_9552 img_9551

Match of the Day 2 on Sunday nights used the same studio and set, but with host Mark Chapman now sat in the middle with his two pundits either side of him. The titles were broadly the same as the main show, except Bruno was replaced by Anthony Knockaert, as most of the teams had a different representative for MotD2.

 

As an aside, due to the Albion’s progress in the FA Cup to the quarter final stage, here are the commentary details of that Cup run featuring two live games and two matches chosen for extended highlights.

FA Cup 2017

R3 Mon 8th Jan Crystal Palace (W2-1) H BT Live; Ian Darke & Adam Virgo
R4 Sat 27th Jan Middlesbrough (W1-0) A MOTD highlights; Vicki Sparks
R5 Sat 17th Feb Coventry City (W3-1) H MOTD highlights; Jonathan Pearce
QF Sat 17th Mar Manchester United (L2-0) A BT Live; Ian Darke & Steve McManaman. MOTD Steve Bower

 

The 2017/2018 season saw another 15 live matches for Brighton, in the process taking the historic total to more than 100 live UK televised games. A win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup saw the first time VAR could be called upon if necessary for the club, for the stadium and the competition. The best away performance of the season was televised, courtesy of an outstanding, comprehensive victory over West Ham at the London Stadium. A big defeat of Arsenal in March goes down as a highlight. But the moment of the season was a famous victory over Manchester United in May, courtesy of Pascal Gross’ goal-line-technology-approved winner, ensuring the club’s Premier League status for a second season. Which means we get to do this all over again next year!

The Pre-Season Training Camp 2015

The end credits of a television programme in 2015 will whizz by without most people taking any bit of notice. Continuity announcers will talk all over them. Promos will pop up telling you what to watch next before you’ve even finished this programme. There is barely time to breathe before being force-fed your next bite of the telly pie. You are constantly ‘consuming’, whether consensual or not. This is not exclusive to the small screen, this is now our way of modern life. We are always looking at what is next.

There was a time when football was reserved for August until May and that was that. Every four summers there would be a wonderful feast called the World Cup in between seasons. Then along came a treat of a European-only competition. The gap between one campaign and the next has steadily been closing. This summer it possibly has reached its nadir. My last game of the old campaign was on Sunday 7th June. My first game of this campaign began just 26 days later. That’s only if you take into account games I’ve attended, as during those lean days there was still a whole host of live football broadcast including the UEFA Under-21 tournament which England crashed out in the group stages, the Under-20 tournament in Toulon, and the Women’s World Cup in Canada. I enjoy the women’s game, I make no qualms about that. I went to the Cup final in 2011 in Coventry and regularly tune into the WSL on BT Sport. England achieved the unthinkable; performing well at a major tournament. Mark Sampson and his Lionessses went all the way to the semi final, losing agonizingly in the last minute through Laura Bassett’s unfortunate own goal. They went on to beat Germany in the Third Place Play-Off And secure a fantastic bronze medal and become overnight stars. It somewhat captured the nations attention, mainly through hard work, teamwork and a terrific ethic. It was a joy to watch.

#1 West Ham v FC Lusitans

My 2015/2016 season began in East London on Thursday 2nd July with a Europa League 1st round 1st leg qualifier. West Ham beat FC Lusitans 3-0. The Hammers qualified for this through the Fair Play league so understandably have the hardest path through to the proper competition. They would ultimately crash out in the third qualifying round before the league season had even started. When I was there there was pretty much a full house. It showed a great appetite for European football, indeed summer football. I had a seat at the very back with a great view of the Bobby Moore stand to my right and a lovely skyline to my left. This is the final season at Upton Park before moving to the Olympic Stadium so I wanted to revisit this old ground one more time.

#2 Arsenal v Liverpool Ladies

Ten days later I was back with further live football. With the Women’s World Cup done and dusted a few days earlier, and the heroics of England still fresh in people’s minds, I went along to Borehamwood to see Arsenal v Liverpool. Some of the national stars were in action, including Alex Scott and Fara Williams. The crowd was more than double the average attendance, and this was replicated across the country. The ground is easy enough to get to, having been in the area before for TV recordings of Room 101 and A League of Their Own. The ground is a short 10 minute walk from the station and easily accessible on a warm Sunday summer evening. The match itself was nothing to write home about, with Liverpool winning 2-1 to go top of the table. It was surprising that it had taken me this long to attend a women’s league match but I was glad I had and have pencilled in another here for next month.

The BrewDog pub

Despite the off-season becoming increasingly shorter, games are still not quite thick and fast so my final match in July came two weeks later on Sunday 26th July in Scotland. Aberdeen, to be precise, as Brighton played in a testimonial match for the home side goalkeeper Jamie Langfield. I’d never heard of him either but a new ground and an exciting trip was too good to turn down. Myself, Ciaran, Dean and Mark Raven (all now regulars on the England away trips) got a taxi in the early hours of the morning up to Gatwick to board the easyJet flight to Aberdeen and arrive nice and safe for just after 9am. We were inside the Wetherspoon for breakfast for half nine but were met with gasps when we were told they didn’t serve any alcohol until 11am! After a quick food break we, alongside several members of the famous GDC who arrived at similar times, were off on a pub crawl round many fine local pubs including the famous BrewDog.

#3 Aberdeen v Brighton

The game was a drab, dull one-nil defeat with nothing to write home about despite me doing that very thing now. It was an extremely cold and windy day and being on the coast amplified this. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a colder ground than that, with the wind swirling in off the North Sea through the big gaps between the stands. Of course on reflection it was a fantastic one to tick off but at the time the game was getting in the way of a very nice day round the city. The trip was made all the more adventurous when we arrived at the airport as our 9.05pm flight home was delayed by a couple of hours. They kept the airport bar open to serve us dinner and further drinks and we also managed to grab a quick word with Albion boss Chris Hughton, as the squad were also flying home that night. Sensibly they were on a different flight to us so we waved them goodbye without controversy. Although assistant manager Nathan Jones did have to suffer the embarrassment of a full bag search.

Albion boss Chris Hughton

After landing around half-past midnight we then had a long wait to get a bus across form one side of the airport to the other, before heading onto the train home. Ciaran and the others headed down south, I went back up to London. I made it home to Ealing via a night bus just after 4am. It was a long, tiring, drunk day but a fantastic experience to really whet the appetite ahead of the rapidly-approaching new season.

Waiting for our delayed plane

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a quick glance round some other sports. I’ve tried several times to replicate what I go through during football with something else but ultimately nothing can replace it. Darts is probably my second favourite sport, closely followed by athletics, cricket and rugby. Honorary mentions for snooker, pool, boxing and the occasional tennis match too. Next summer there is the Olympics, of which I adore. Ahead of that I went to the British Championship Athletics in Birmingham for my first trip to the Alexander Stadium. It’s a fine venue and very easy to get to via a bus from the New Street train station. The days was beautiful, the crowd was enthusiastic and the overall experience was a very good one for my first UK Athletics meet.

Birmingham’s Alexander athletics Stadium

I then attended the Anniversary Games and Diamond League meeting at the Olympic Stadium for my first visit back there since my Gamesmaker stint during London 2012. I do love that place. Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis Hill and Mo Farah were all in action despite a horrible downpour for much of the afternoon and early part of the night. The two men both won their races and showed why they are so loved in a London. It’s still a bit of a nightmare to get away from the stadium but it will forever hold such incredible memories that I’ll overlook that aspect.

Back at the centre of the London 2012 Olympics

With The Ashes currently moving towards its climax, and with England going great guns, I decided to go back to live cricket. I made my first venture to The Oval where Surrey destroyed Northants in a One Day Cup match. I made the mistake of not bringing much cash so I had to forego the expensive beer and food for just a solitary burger all day. I also booked a trip to Edgbaston for the fourth day of the third test. However, England had such an incredible time the match finished on day three so I was left with just a refund rather than a great day out! I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted that.

A small crowd at The Oval, Surrey

My summer break from football incorporated going to cricket and athletics, as well as being glued to an excellent Tour De France (and outstanding coverage on itv4 from Gary Imlach and Ned Boulting) on TV, but the focus was always on football. Signings, transfers, fixtures, new shirts; it ultimately never really stops. The new season is nearly upon us and we’re opening the show live on Sky on the Friday night against Forest. It’s high time we started booking these trips and planning these weekends. I barely had time to read through the name credits of the editor and production assistant before the executive producer and Roman numeric year info appeared. The next programme is just days away now.