Small Screen Seagulls; The Record Unbeaten Run 2015

Small Screen Seagulls LogoAs a dismal season was drawing to a close, which included a change of manager half way through, little did any Albion supporter know about what the following campaign had in store. We set off for home after the final match of the season; a long, tiring journey from Middlesbrough for a 12.15pm kick off in May 2015 having witnessed a dull goalless draw. Approaching Christmas some twenty-one games later, the Seagulls had set a new club record having incredibly not lost a League match in that time, since before that ‘Boro trip. Chris Hughton had brought Brighton back into contention again in his first full season. Here is the lowdown of that run, including some of the key matches detailed through clips from new rights holder Channel 5.

FLT Unbeaten BrightonSaturday 2nd May 2015 saw the end of the BBC’s tenure as highlights partners, bringing the curtain down on six seasons of The Football League Show with Manish Bhasin. The best of the action from the three Divisions was moving to Channel 5 and with it a primetime Saturday evening slot. Brighton bid farewell to the Beeb signing off with a nil-nil draw at Middlesbrough. The result saw ‘Boro drop from third to fourth in the Championship, sending them to Brentford in the Play Offs.

GAME H/A DATE FIXTURE RESULT
#1 AWAY SAT 2ND MAY MIDDLESBROUGH DRAW 0-0

Whilst Albion had already stuttered to Championship survival, the stalemate saw them close the 2014/15 campaign in twentieth position, six points above the relegation zone. By some weird twist of fate, this unbeaten run would start and end with Middlesbrough. But before all that, I’ll detail how the 2015/16 season unfolded, after Channel 5 are put in the spotlight with the launch of their new highlights programme.

FLT Titles

Channel 5 wrestled rights to Football League highlights away from the BBC, with the promise of a primetime 9pm Saturday night slot believed to be part of the decision to sway. When the channel launched in 1997, to a blaze of Spice Girls publicity with Tim Vine fronting programming, they nabbed any football they could get their hands on, from pre-season friendlies, the Confederations Cup, Scottish League Cup and even a handful of England away internationals. It was their long-standing relationship with the UEFA Cup that was the most consistent pull but after losing those rights in 2012, Football on 5 came to an end after fifteen seasons. Three years later, the Football League highlights contract was won and the brand was revitalised.

Under the programme title of Football League Tonight, Channel 5 opted for a studio-based programme like their BBC predecessors. But instead of sticking it on after Match of the Day around midnight, they broadcast before it. The show went out Live in a ninety-minute slot from 9pm each week. There was a studio audience present to give it the Saturday night feeling, using Sky Studios as the initial location. The theme tune was provided by a band called Childcare with their single Diesel Therapy. It was appropriate that the Albion performed well during Channel 5’s tenure, as part of the title sequence was filmed at The Amex. The stadiums shots where the fans had been making their way to during the early seconds of the sequence was Falmer dressed down without the Brighton branding! See if you can spot specific areas in the clips below.

Upon the show’s launch, it drew criticism for gimmicks and pointless use of an audience and underwent a relaunch after Christmas 2015 to drop much of the early stuff, becoming a more straight programme. And it changed presenter line up with each season! But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, this piece is specifically about the Albion’s unbeaten run in 2015 and Channel 5 covered those highlights.

FLT Presenters

Presenting Football League Tonight’s debut season were Kelly Cates and George Riley. Cates was already a well-known figure and vastly experienced. She began her telly life with the launch of Sky Sports News in the late 1990s where she became a key presenter. She joined Setanta in 2007 to be pitchside reporter on their new English Premier League and FA Cup rights before moving to ESPN when they took over two years later. In 2010 she went to the World Cup in South Africa reporting for ITV and kept links with the channel the following season on the Champions League coverage. She also covered the hugely successful 2012 London Paralympics on Channel 4 as their breakfast presenter.

George Riley was better known for his radio work with BBC 5 Live, where he first began in 2004. He was the Breakfast show’s sports correspondent from 2011 and covered a variety of sports including Rugby League, snooker and darts as well as football. He also covered these on television, hosting the BBC’s Super League Show and presented Late Kick Off in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire region in 2013.

As well as Cates and Riley, regular guest pundits would appear on the programme. Ex-Albion man Adam Virgo was used most weeks in the show’s first season and would often appear alongside less experienced pundits such as Clinton Morrison and Chris Iwelumo. And current players would pop-in to the Live studio after playing locally, as we’ll see a guest appearance from our old favourite Craig Mackail-Smith later on. A couple of key games received commentary edits each week, with the rest being rounded up by voiceover reports. The early format of the show saw the running order flip between the three Divisions but as it progressed, they settled more with the traditional Championship followed by League One then League Two way of reviewing the day. Here we go then, season 2015/16 starts now.

FLT Studio


#2 HOME FRI 7 AUG NOTTINGHAM FOREST WIN 1-0
#3 AWAY SAT 15 AUG FULHAM WIN 2-1

The Seagulls kick started the entire SkyBet Football League season with a Friday night match at The Amex, Live on Sky Sports. Nottingham Forest were defeated one-nil thanks to a Kazenga LuaLua strike early in the second half. The following week saw a trip to the capital as Fulham awaited. Sam Baldock’s goal on the half-hour mark was cancelled out just before half time by Tom Cairney for the hosts. But, deep into second half injury time, the Albion were awarded a penalty. Up stepped summer signing from Almeria, Israel international Tomer Hemed, to tuck away the spot kick to give the visitors all three points and seal another memorable win at Craven Cottage.

#4 AWAY TUE 18 AUG HUDDERSFIELD TOWN DRAW 1-1
#5 HOME SAT 22 AUG BLACKBURN ROVERS WIN 1-0

The first midweek fixture of the campaign was a long trip up to Huddersfield. It took midfielder Beram Kayal just fourteen seconds to break the deadlock and put Brighton in the lead. Jacob Butterfield’s second half goal earned the Yorkshire side a point, bringing our 100% start to an end. Next up at The Amex were Blackburn Rovers. Like Forest on the opening day, they were dispatched one-nil thanks to a LuaLua goal to make it three wins and a draw from the opening four. Our overall unbeaten run stretched to five matches.


#6 AWAY SAT 29 AUG IPSWICH TOWN WIN 3-2

IPS Tribute IPS Fixture

The top two went head-to-head at Portman Road in the final match before the first international break of the season. Ipswich led the way thanks to a better goal difference, with the experienced head of Mick McCarthy taking on his former Republic of Ireland teammate Chris Hughton.

Whilst things were looking great on the pitch, off it the club was affected the previous week by the Shoreham Air disaster; a plane crash which took the lives of eleven people. Amongst the victims were Seagulls supporters Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, two young footballers for Worthing United who were on the way to their match. Grimstone had also worked as a groundsman for the Albion in recent years. Before the Ipswich game, Albion ‘keeper David Stockdale wore a top bearing their names in tribute and the players donned black armbands.

IPS LuaLua IPS Hemed goal

Brighton wore this season’s luminous yellow away kit against the blue of Ipswich. Highlights were shown as the main game on Football League Tonight with commentary by Paul Walker. The Seagulls again got off to a flyer, with Kazenga LuaLua firing home in the tenth minute on a beautiful sunny day in East Anglia. A long ball chipped over the top from new left back Gaetan Bong sent LuaLua on the chase. Outrunning two Ipswich defenders, he hit a fierce left foot shot low and hard into the far corner. Cue his trademark gymnastic celebration.

Albion made it two-nil just two minutes later when Tomer Hemed got the faintest of flicks with his head from a teasing free kick by Dale Stephens. It was a dream start which could have got even better when another long ball from Bong caught out the home defence. Sam Baldock at the stretch couldn’t quite get the angle right and his shot trickled a foot wide of the far post.

IPS Hemed second IPS Hemed interview

The attacking threat continued into the second half, with Dale Stephens crashing his shot against the post from the edge of the box. Ipswich should have been cut adrift by now but instead the clawed their way back into the match. Freddie Sears tapped home a rebound after Brett Pitman hit the post nine minutes into the second period. And they equalised from the penalty spot with twenty-five to play after Bruno clashed legs with Ryan Fraser. David McGoldrick squeezed the kick past Stockdale to level things up.

But Brighton didn’t let heads drop and just two minutes later were back in the lead through Tomer Hemed again. LuaLua’s deflected cross from the left looped up and Hemed jumped highest to get his head to it and take it past Dean Gerken in the net. A thrilling game ended Ipswich two, Brighton three and the Seagulls sat atop the Championship table. In his post-match interview, Hemed confirmed that he did touch the ball for his first goal from Stephens’ cross, though he would of course say that!


#7 HOME SAT 12 SEP HULL CITY WIN 1-0
#8 HOME TUE 15 SEP ROTHERHAM UNITED WIN 2-1
#9 AWAY SAT 22 SEP WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS DRAW 0-0

Tomer Hemed was back on the scoresheet for the Albion after the international break, netting the only goal of the game in a one-nil win over Hull. His strike five minutes in downed the Tigers who themselves had begun the season brightly and sat second ahead of the match. It was four wins in a row the following Tuesday when Hemed and Dale Stephens scored against Rotherham, Jonson Clarke-Harris getting the visitors consolation in a two-one result. A further point was added to the tally in a goalless draw at Wolves.

#10 AWAY SAT 26 SEP BOLTON WANDERERS DRAW 2-2
#11 HOME SAT 3 OCT CARDIFF CITY DRAW 1-1

Such was Albion’s fine start, that two more draws were enough to keep the Seagulls at the top of the table going into the next international break in October. An eventful two-two at Bolton saw Dale Stephens add another to his tally, but it was a mixed day for Jamie Murphy. The Scottish winger joined from Sheffield United in August and scored his first goal to put Brighton two up. Neil Danns pulled one back before half-time but Murphy was involved again with a quarter of an hour left. He received a red card for a heavy tackle on Danns. Ten-man Albion conceded the equaliser four minutes into stoppage time when Gary Madine rescued a point for the struggling side.

The following week at home to Cardiff, Brighton fell behind for the first time this season when Joe Mason scored after five minutes. Dale Stephens leveller seven minutes before the break ensured Brighton remained the only unbeaten side left in English football’s top four Leagues.


#12 AWAY SAT 17 OCT LEEDS UNITED WIN 2-1

LEE Fixture LEE March goal

Next up was a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds. Football League Tonight opened the show with the highlights, commentated on by Paul Walker. The first meaningful attack brought about the opening goal for Solly March on fourteen minutes, with the Albion again sporting that hi-vis shirt. Beram Kayal burst through a couple of challenges in the middle of the park and played a neat ball through for March to chase. His pace was no match for defender Scott Wootton, and March calmly slotted the ball across Marco Silvestri and into the goal.

Leeds were only behind for around eight minutes before Liam Cooper equalised. He glanced on Alex Mowatt’s cracking free kick delivery after Lewis Dunk’s foul on one-time Albion forward Chris Wood. Speaking of which, Wood had a terrific chance to nod Leeds ahead from a similar free kick position, instead putting it wide from close range and unmarked. In the second half, former Leeds season ticket holder David Stockdale in the Brighton net almost gifted his boyhood team a goal. Alex Mowatt charged down his kick only to see it bounce just wide of the post. A couple of let offs for the visitors.

LEE Zamora goal LEE Zamora interview

Solly March looked in good form, not afraid to cut in from the flank. He did so on one occasion which resulted in his shot from just inside the box thumping against the crossbar. An injury to Leeds scorer Liam Cooper left them no option but to play the final ten minutes or so with just ten men, having made all three subs. And Brighton capitalised with one left of the ninety, as returning hero Bobby Zamora scored a sublime dinked finish over the onrushing goalkeeper to steal three points at the death.

Zamora, signed on a free from QPR at the start of August, scored his first Albion goal in 4549 days having left for Tottenham back in July 2003. His previous goal was in a televised match at Grimsby where a point wasn’t enough to avoid Division One relegation. Today, it was enough to keep top spot in the Championship with another victory. Zamora was interviewed in the tunnel afterwards, delighted to have provided the winner. “Pleased to get that goal, you know. A lot of people have been asking, ‘When’s it gonna come?’, but pleased to score.”

LEE Mackail-Smith LEE Table

In the studio, hosts Kelly Cates and George Riley were joined by two former Albion players; regular guest Adam Virgo and Craig Mackail-Smith, who joined Luton after his Brighton contract expired in July. Of Zamora, Mackail-Smith said, “He’s a massive legend there. In the four years I was there, there were pictures of him everywhere, they were talking about him all the time so for him to go back to the club it’s fantastic.”


#13 HOME TUE 20 OCT BRISTOL CITY WIN 2-1
#14 HOME SAT 24 OCT PRESTON NORTH END DRAW 0-0

Three days after the Leeds win, Brighton made it six points out of six with a two-one home victory over Bristol City. Bobby Zamora was again on the scoresheet late on, though not quite as late as before, coming in the eighty-second minute. This was after Sam Baldock cancelled out City’s Derrick Williams first half opener. It was goalless at The Amex as Preston held firm in a game of little quality.

#15 AWAY SAT 31 OCT READING DRAW 1-1
#16 AWAY TUE 3 NOV SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY DRAW 0-0

Two more draws followed, both on the road, as Reading and Sheffield Wednesday were equal to the points. Despite being outplayed for much of the first half at the Madejski Stadium, Brighton took the lead early in the second period through Jamie Murphy. But with twelve minutes to go, Matej Vydra scored to make it one-one and keep the home side on the verge of the Play Off places. The stalemate at Hillsborough three days later cost Brighton top spot. The club slipped to third after three draws in succession, as Hull and Burnley both joined us on thirty-one points at the summit, though with better goal differences.


#17 HOME SAT 7 NOV MILTON KEYNES DONS WIN 2-1

MKD Fixture MKD Goal and reporter

The win over Milton Keynes Dons set a new club record of seventeen games without defeat, beating the previous one set back in 1931. All the action came in the first half, as rounded up on Football League Tonight by voiceover reporter Sue Thearle – a familiar voice to BBC Match of the Day viewers around the turn of the century as well as sports bulletins on BBC News. Solly March smashed home a terrific first-time strike from twenty-five yards after just five minutes. It flew into the top corner in style.

MKD Murphy goal MKD Full Time

Jamie Murphy doubled the lead a quarter of an hour later. Sam Baldock’s pass deflected through the legs of Dons defender Dean Lewington and into Murphy’s pass. His instant shot into the bottom corner of the net beat David Martin for two-nil. Pace and power was also how the visitors got their goal when Nicky Maynard thundered in a fantastic strike from almost thirty yards after rolling defender Lewis Dunk. Later on, Dunk looked like he’d given away a penalty when he slid in on Samir Carruthers but, to the bemusement of MK boss Karl Robinson, referee Dean Whitestone gave nothing and it finished two-one to the Albion. Brighton’s first win in four put the club in second place, behind Hull only on goal difference.


#18 AWAY SUN 22 NOV BURNLEY DRAW 1-1

A televised trip to Burnley was next, in which the entire action came and went within the first four minutes of the match. Bobby Zamora poached from close range inside the opening sixty seconds after Tomer Hemed’s shot hit the bar. But Burnley were awarded a spot kick three minutes later after Michael Keane’s shirt was tugged by Lewis Dunk. Their £6million signing from Brentford, Andre Gray, tucked away the penalty and it remained one-all; a result which kept Albion second and Burnley two points and three places behind.

BIR Unbeaten Run

#19 HOME SAT 28 NOV BIRMINGHAM CITY WIN 2-1

BIR Unbeaten clubs BIR March goal

Football League Tonight highlighted Brighton’s magnificent club-record unbeaten run ahead of the Birmingham match, of which highlights were called by Paul Walker. Of the eighteen games without defeat thus far, nine were wins and nine draws. The show also drew comparisons with other European Leagues, showing PSG behind on fourteen games undefeated and Bayern Munich on thirteen. Great to be in such fine company.

To the match action, and it took Solly March seventeen minutes to break the deadlock as he fired past ex-Albion stopped Tomasz Kuszczak. Jamie Murphy did well in the midfield, skipping through the middle of two challenges before laying it out wide for Liam Rosenior. His cross found March in the area; whose first time shot with his left was blocked by his own man Hemed. He made no mistake with the rebound though, blasting it home for one-nil.

Birmingham equalised four minutes later when space was exploited in the Albion back line. Jacques Maghoma struck from the right of the box, stinging the palms of David Stockdale. His parry went straight to the head of Jon Toral, who guided it into the empty net for one-one.

BIR Zamora goal BIR Hughton

Two minutes after the break, Brighton regained the lead through Bobby Zamora being in the right place at the right time. Jamie Murphy ran at the Blues defence on the left of the area and drilled a cross in low to find March. His shot was just about kept out by the goalkeeper, but the ricochet fell to the feet of Zamora who tapped home from three yards out on his first start at home for the Albion in a dozen years!

Youngster James Wilson joined on loan from Manchester United in the week and almost scored on his debut, flashing a shot just wide of the far post as he replaced Zamora after sixty-six minutes. He went even closer after that when put through one-on-one by Kayal. The shot agonisingly smacked the post and back into the grateful arms of Kuszczak. It finished two-one as Brighton got back to winning ways.

Despite continuing to set a new club record and returning to the top of the table, Chris Hughton’s feet remained firmly on the ground at this stage. “It’s a wonderful achievement, so far. I’m not saying we haven’t deserved this because I think our level of performance has been good. Generally, the League table doesn’t lie.”


#20 HOME SAT 5 DEC CHARLTON ATHLETIC WIN 3-2

CHA Virgo CHA Virgo and Cates

Regular studio pundit and former Brighton defender Adam Virgo provided Football League Tonight with analysis and comment on the key incidents across the Leagues, but also talked through one or two of the matches at first look on the screen instead of using a voiceover reporter. In December, Virgo and Kelly Cates discussed the Albion’s match with Charlton where the unbeaten run almost came unstuck. This format works well enough if you have a decent pundit like Virgo who describes and analyses seamlessly, but can be frustratingly lacking if a weaker pundit is used.

Charlton stormed into a two-goal lead after just five minutes. Ademola Lookman nabbed the first after just over a minute’s play as Brighton were countered. Winning the ball back just outside their own box, it took the visitors just three passes to get Lookman to drive to the byline before lashing a shot past Stockdale, defeating him at his near post and in. Virgo blamed Brighton’s lack of pace across the back line as a weakness for counter attacks.

The second came from Reza Ghoochannejhad and, again, resulted from a failed Albion attack, clearing it up the other end and scoring. A corner that wasn’t a corner was kicked away by the Charlton defence, two headers later they were breaking with pace. The ball eventually found its way to the back post where the goalscorer finished well to strike first time into the roof of the net from six yards. Two-nil at the break.

CHA Wilson goal CHA Zamora equaliser

Brighton pulled one back through James Wilson five minutes after the restart. Virgo believed the difference in character this season from last was leadership. With players such as Stockdale, Greer, Kayal and Zamora that had improved. The goal came about largely thanks to perseverance from both Stephens in the midfield driving the ball forward, and also from Wilson in the box. He kept going, dribbling past a couple on a mazy run, before hit shot squeezed through the legs of the goalkeeper and in.

The turning point came when defender Patrick Bauer was shown a red card for a last man foul on Zamora right on the edge of the area. Down to ten men for the final half an hour, Charlton tried but failed to hold out. Bobby Zamora bagged an equaliser with seven left on the clock, another case of right place, right time for the front man. After a couple of blocks from close range, the ball squirmed out to Zamora six yards out. He doesn’t miss from there.

CHA Hemed winner CHA Full Time

The winner came from Tomer Hemed just two minutes after getting back level. Dutch winger Rajiv van La Parra joined from Wolves on a five-week loan at the end of November and came on to provide the assist for the winner. His cross from the right found the head of Hemed, who flicked goalwards. Goalkeeper Stephen Henderson made a great reaction save to push it up but, unfortunately for him, the ball looped over and bounced into the net despite desperate efforts to claw it away.

As Virgo pointed out, “When you’re at the bottom of the League, that spins past the post. When you’re at the top of the League, Kelly, that tends to spin in. It’s a real dogged performance, second half, from Brighton.” Virgo also praised Hughton for changing tactics to three at the back after the red card and really going for the win, as an abundance of chances fell. The Seagulls remained top.


#21 AWAY SAT 12 DEC DERBY COUNTY DRAW 2-2

An entertaining contest in Derby’s four-hundredth match at their iPro Stadium as they shared the spoils with the Albion. James Wilson put the visitors ahead when his outstretched leg got the crucial touch to poke goalwards from Jamie Murphy’s cross on the left. Four minutes before half time, Derby got back on level terms through a powerful Bradley Johnson header. Substitute Rajiv van La Parra scored his first goal for the club with a quarter of an hour to play with a lovely finish to almost burst the net. But the win was denied with two minutes to go when a harsh penalty was awarded for Greer’s challenge on Johnny Russell. Chris Martin converted and Albion had to make do with a point.

#22 AWAY TUE 15 DEC QUEENS PARK RANGERS DRAW 2-2

Brighton raced into a two-nil lead shortly after the half-time break at QPR, in a midweek match televised Live on Sky Sports. Dale Stephens opened the scoring with a fabulous overhead kick from seven yards following a knockdown from a corner. Two minutes later, Rajiv van La Parra scored his second for the club to double the advantage. But Charlie Austin inspired the Rangers comeback, scoring either side of a Lewis Dunk dismissal for his second yellow card late on. The equaliser came just two minutes from time to make it two-two, both for the second game in a row, as Brighton slipped to second in the standings on goal difference.


END HOME SAT 19 DEC MIDDLESBROUGH LOSE 3-0

MID Fixture MID Two nil

The top two met in the lunchtime kick off at The Amex as leaders Middlesbrough were in town for another Live Sky Sports match. Football League Tonight led with highlights of this match and shared the Sky commentary from Bill Leslie and Don Goodman, as Channel 5 did with all televised Football League matches. ‘Boro got off to a flyer, taking the lead after four minutes through Kike. His strong header from Adomah’s cross was past Stockdale before he knew it.

On the stroke of half time it was two-nil. Grant Leadbitter’s corner was headed into the mixer by Daniel Ayala. Albert Adomah, standing just a couple of yards in front of the ‘keeper in a congested area, diverted the ball in past Stockdale’s despairing dive. The unbeaten run was under serious threat.

MID Full Time MID Virgo and Riley

Jamie Murphy had a couple of attempts in the second half to get Brighton back in it but is just wasn’t to be. With less than half an hour to play, Middlesbrough got their third courtesy of Christian Stuani. Starting with a corner on the far side, it fell to Kike in the area. His left footed curling effort was headed home by Stuani from just a couple of yards to complete a miserable afternoon for the Seagulls. Three-nil the final score, the unbeaten run ended after a record-breaking twenty-two matches. Aitor Karanka’s side secured the Championship Christmas number one.

In the studio, former Brighton defender Adam Virgo was looking to take the positives now that the run had ended. “I just think one or two performances this season, maybe around the seventeen, eighteen game mark where they were drawing, and I just thought the performances in the last twenty minutes was a little bit negative and they had this unbeaten record in the back of their mind.” He was critical of the Albion defending from crosses and set pieces which cost them the game but praised ‘Boro as a terrific side; “If you finish above Middlesbrough in the Championship, you’re going into the Premier League.”

MID Table


With Derby winning, the Middlesbrough result meant Brighton moved down to third in the table approaching the halfway point as the long unbeaten run came to a sticky end. But to go a whopping twenty-two games, and almost seven months of footballing action, without defeat was an incredible achievement. Even more so when you consider the dismal campaign the Albion had the previous year, stumbling over the safety line finishing twentieth in the League. Nobody had them down as promotion candidates. A summer of shrewd recruitment with a manager who knew how to get the best out of players and teams at this level were both vital components to this success.

Whilst the season didn’t go on to end as well as it had started, missing out on automatic promotion by goal difference alone before losing in the Play Offs once more, this set the marker for the following season. Keeping Brighton up last season was Chris Hughton’s primary objective. Getting them to become challengers for a place in the Premier League in his first full season in charge was perhaps too much too soon. He brought the good times back on the South Coast, and it all began here with the club record unbeaten run.

Small Screen Seagulls; 2013/14 Season part 2

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe opening months of Brighton’s 2013/14 campaign had mixed results. After spending much of the early stages around the middle of the table, a key victory over high-flying Leicester City at The Amex seemed to kick start Albion’s push up towards the coveted Play Off places. January saw Brighton make the top six for the first time in the season, albeit briefly. Consistency would be the key, converting losses to draws and draws to wins. Away from the pitch, the much-anticipated training ground neared completion. Just when things seemed to be coming together again, the transfer window robbed the squad of a number of key players as they were sold on to higher placed clubs. The season’s dramatic climax would go right down to the wire.

Here are some of the features and clips during the sole season under the reign of Oscar Garcia. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC, BT Sport and Sky Sports. This is part two, the first part is HERE.


Tour of new Training Ground in Lancing

SportsHub, BT Sport 1 (14th February 2014)

HUB Titles HUB Presenters

BT Sport launched on our televisions as the new rival to Sky on 1st August 2013. They wrestled Live Premier League rights away from ESPN and incorporated their FA Cup, Europa League and Rugby Premiership contracts to form a decent portfolio. To bulk up the daily schedules, BT had a plethora of magazine and news programmes coming Live from their Stratford home on the site of the London 2012 Olympic Broadcasting Centre during their first season on air. One of the regular shows was a daily news bulletin around 7pm weeknights, which began life simply as “BT Sport Live” before being rebranded as a more authoritatively named “SportsHub” after Christmas. The show was similar in remit to the “Sky Sports Centre” from the mid-1990s, the pre-cursor to Sky Sports News.

SportsHub aimed to bring us the day’s sporting news, supported with interviews and studio guests. The show uses a variety of hosts, from freelancers to their own talent, to front it. On this Friday 14th February edition, Helen Skelton and Chris Hollins were in the chair. Skelton rose to fame as the thirty-third presenter of flagship children’s show Blue Peter on the BBC for five years from 2008. Whilst there, she dabbled with primetime presenting on Countryfile and competing in the 2012 Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing. After leaving Blue Peter, she moved into sport with BT this season co-hosting coverage of the National League with Mark Clemmit as well as fronting their Women’s Super League matches.

Chris Hollins was also a familiar BBC name, having presented the sport on Breakfast for seven years from 2005. Joining BBC News in 1999, he reported at various major tournaments including the 2002 and 2010 World Cups and the Masters golf. His father, John, was He became a household name in 2009 winning Strictly and went on to front consumer shows Watchdog and Food Inspectors, and became a small part of BT’s output upon launch.

HUB Entrance HUB Perry

SportsHub went to visit the site of Brighton’s new training ground in Lancing, ahead of the Albion’s Live FA Cup appearance on BT against Hull the following Monday. The training ground wasn’t due to be completed until the summer so was still a work in progress, but the crux of the structure was in place. It promised to be a state-of-the-art world-class facility, with ‘Category One’ status – the highest that can be had – using the Elite Player Performance Plan mostly achieved by Premier League clubs. Around £32million was being invested by the club as they moved away from using the University to train in and had a base of their own.

First-team players Andrea Orlandi and Jake Forster-Caskey were shown around the site by Executive Director Martin Perry. All donning hi-vis jackets and hard hats, they made their way around the bricks and mortar to see just what the players would be getting, from first team all the way through the youth ranks and children’s levels. Martin Perry led the way for the Albion during the most difficult of times in the 1990s. He was part of the original consortium to buy the club in 1997 and became Chief Executive with the move to Withdean in 1999 – a position he held until 2012 when Paul Barber was appointed. Perry – along with former chairman Dick Knight – was at the forefront of all the public battles over planning permission for The Amex and did so again to bring this new training ground to fruition.

HUB Forster-Caskey HUB Orlandi

Jake Forster-Caskey rose up through the youth academy at the Seagulls, joining in 2007 at the age of fourteen. He gained a first team contract in April 2010 and immediately was named on the bench the following day. In the final match of that League One title winning campaign, he came on to make his debut. In doing so, he became the youngest Albion player ever. He featured with regularity during the 2013/14 campaign under Oscar Garcia having only made a handful of starts in previous years. He was always going to be a footballer as his father is former Reading midfielder Darren Caskey and is the stepson of ex-Albion striker Nicky Forster.

Andrea Orlandi joined the Seagulls from Swansea in August 2012. The winger spent five years in South Wales, signed by fellow Spaniard Roberto Martinez, helping them to Premier League promotion. Orlandi began his career with Alaves of Spain but enjoyed more regular action with the Barcelona B team prior to his move to Britain. Orlandi compared this set up with the one he had at the Catalan giants; “Barcelona, when I was there, kind of built a new training ground and honestly it is similar to this one. I wouldn’t say that one is worse than the Barcelona one, which is incredible for Brighton.” After appearing regularly in his first season at the Albion, game time this campaign was much more limited.

HUB Corridor HUB Replica pitch

Martin Perry acted as tour guide for the two midfielders and us. He explained the Y shaped building, as seen upon entry, would split the facilities essentially into two halves; one half for the first team and the other half for the academy. Above left we see the trio standing in the corridor. Perry talked through the proposals; “You’ve got each age group working down the corridor.” The aim was to give a visual progression of literally working your way up the ages. Forster-Caskey pointed out the under-14 changing room where he would’ve started his journey had this been around then.

Perry pointed out the numerous surrounding pitches outdoors. One was specifically a soil-based pitch, whilst there was also space reserved for a synthetic pitch, a dreaded running hill and a specific surface for futsal. Orlandi was less than impressed by the running hill! The manager’s office had a wonderful windowed view overlooking a pitch that was an exact replica of the surface at The Amex, with the same dimensions and even undersoil heating (above right). This was all a million miles away from plodding around Hove Park and Waterhall.

HUB Building site HUB Studio

Most of the interior was still a way off completion so a lot was left to the imagination in terms of what Martin Perry was trying to have us visualise. For the players, luxuries such as a pool table, soft-seating areas and games consoles would all be included. Upstairs, a huge dining room and eating area was located opposite a gym, as they made their way around the builders working hard to ensure delivery on time and on budget. The whole place sounded incredible, especially given how far the club had come in a short space of time.

Back in the studio, guest Clarke Carlisle gave his take on the facilities. “If they can ally those facilities with a level of coaching you get at, say, the likes of Southampton, two or three players through the system and it’ll pay for itself.” The former Blackpool and Burnley centre half continued, “It will enable them to get the quality of player that’s usually monopolised by the Premier League clubs.” That being the Division Brighton were now aiming to be in, sooner rather than later.


2

Craig Mackail-Smith’s injury rehab

FL72 Preview, Sky Sports 1 (20th February 2014)

FL1 Titles FL1 Studio

Brighton featured on Sky Sports Thursday evening lookahead FL72 Preview on 20th February, as they went to the home of Craig Mackail-Smith as the striker was slowly on his way back and off the treatment table. Having missed almost a year through an injured achilles, there was finally some light in the darkness for the Seagulls one-time record signing.

Long-serving host, and ultimate professional, George Gavin was joined in the cafe setting of Sky Studios for this edition by the Portsmouth manager Richie Barker. The Sheffield-born striker spent eighteen months with the Albion in the late 1990s during the club’s spell ground sharing with Gillingham. More recently, as a manager he was up the road with Crawley Town before moving to Pompey.

FL1 CMS

Craig Mackail-Smith talked us through his spell on the sidelines and how important it was for him to return at the right time. “I don’t wanna come back and I’m struggling, and people start saying ‘Oh, he’s not the same as he was before the injury.’ I wanna come back and I wanna hit the ground and I wanna be flying.” The hardest part for him was the mental strain, not being able to play and do something he loved but seeing the rest of the squad doing so on a daily basis. “Now it’s getting closer and it’s weeks and weeks, I’m kind of getting more and more excited because I know it’s not too far away. But at the beginning it was like, flipping hell, this is gonna be a drag.”

Mackail-Smith earned much attention the season before joining the Albion, scoring an incredible thirty-five goals for Peterborough as they achieved promotion to the Championship via the Play Offs. In the first of his four seasons with the Posh, he helped the club move from League Two up to League One. Prior to joining, he spent three years at Dagenham in the Conference. He made seven international appearances for Scotland, scoring one goal in 2011.

FL1 Rehab FL1 Family

We were shown footage of some of the recovery he was going through to rehabilitate his injured ankle. A lot of fitness work, building up strength and small steps progressing as the weeks and months went by.

During his time on the sidelines, Mackail-Smith’s first child was born; daughter Isla. His wife Amber is the daughter of former Peterborough manager, chairman, owner and all-round character Barry Fry, who even assisted with the delivery of the baby! Mackail-Smith believed his daughter had helped him through the pain of being on the sidelines and something he focus on.

FL1 Training FL1 Barker

The thing strikers miss most is scoring goals. He recalled a nice story from a recent training session, where he was allowed to join in with the squad at The Amex. “I scored a goal against Casper [Ankergren] and all of them started cheering, making loads of noise and it was just such a great feeling.” Such a huge part of Mackail-Smith’s game, particularly for Brighton where he was often isolated up top, was about running here, there and everywhere. It was important that he could still bring this to the team despite such a long time out. He paid special tribute to his physio, Steve McAleer, and would be the first person he’d celebrate with upon his comeback. His focus now was to be back fit in time to elevate Brighton into those Play Off spots.

Back in the studio, guest Richie Barker could empathise with Craig’s situation. His own career was ended earlier than he’d have liked through a knee injury, and stressed the importance of making a full recovery, not returning too early but would be very welcome when fit. “They’ve done OK over the last couple of weeks but he’d be a timely boost, I’m sure, for everybody at Brighton to have him back for the last ten games or so.” The club sat four points off sixth place and with a game in hand.

FL1 Leeds win FL1 Fixtures

George Gavin and Richie Barker discussed Brighton’s prospects. They talked through the only goal of the game as Brighton defeated Leeds one-nil last time out in the League. A burst from the halfway line to the penalty box down the left flank from Kazenga LuaLua created the chance for Leonardo Ulloa. He took one touch to set it up before flicking the ball with the outside of his foot, whilst in mid-air, into the net past the Leeds goalkeeper.

Barker was positive about Albion’s Play Off chances when asked if he thought they could make it again. “I do, yeah, just because I think The Amex is such a tough place to go and the way that they play with the possession that I can’t see many teams coming away with anything.” Crucial games were upcoming, with fellow hopefuls Wigan up next followed by key clashes with Reading and QPR to follow.


3

Brighton 1-2 Wigan Report

The Football League Show, BBC One (22nd February 2014); Championship

WIGH Titles WIGH Clemmit

The Football League Show brought highlights and round ups of all the action from the three Divisions on Saturday 22nd February. Presented by the usual pairing of Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge, the show had extended highlights of Charlton against Queens Park Rangers as well as the Sky Live lunchtime clash between Middlesbrough and Leeds. But our focus was on The Amex as the race for the Play Off places intensified. Roving reporter Mark Clemmit watched on as Brighton hosted Wigan.

WIGH Clem WIGH Garcia

Clemmit introduced his report in the North Stand by recapping on the end of Albion’s last season, and that dreadful defeat to Crystal Palace. “Last season’s Play Off’s ended messily for Brighton, in more ways than one!” he joked. Before bringing us up to date with the current situation, managed by former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia who, Clem explained, “lists Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Sir Bobby Robson and Johan Cruyff amongst his mentors”.

Clemmit caught up with the coach in the dressing room warm up area. He asked him about the so-called ‘Barcelona way’ of playing and if it remains with you throughout your career. “Yeah”, Garcia replied, “I grow with this philosophy, I grow as a person as well and, yes, it’s in my blood.” Fellow Spaniard Inigo Calderon said of his coach, “When you have a lot of managers you just take the best things of everyone. That’s the way you have to improve, we are lucky with that.”

WIGH Barber WIGH Reporter

Chief Executive Paul Barber explained the reasons for appointing Garcia to the Albion from Israel side Maccabi Tel Aviv. “The style of play was the most important factor and I think our fans have become accustomed to a style of play. We had the players to play our sort of way, pass and move, attacking football. Oscar plays that style.” The final word went back to Garcia himself, before we saw action from the clash with Wigan. He said, “What I want is to keep going, to keep improving, to keep being better every day and this is our philosophy.”

As with all Mark Clemmit reports on The Football League Show, he focussed on the before and after of a match whilst one of the voiceover reports described the match clips. Today it fell to Tom Skippings, a veteran of the art of football narration. He was a mainstay of ITV’s Football League Extra and The Championship during the 2000s as well as doing the same for Sky Sports in the late 1990s. As a freelance, he added his talents to the BBC’s version in the 2010s to maintain a long working relationship with England’s lower Leagues.

WIGH McArthur goal WIGH McCann goal

This was a busy period for the Seagulls, with an FA Cup Replay scheduled for Monday night against Hull Live on ITV4 following the previous Monday’s one-all draw. With games coming thick and fast, tiredness crept in and Wigan were gifted their opening goal. Matthew Upson’s attempt at a pass on the centre spot was charged down by James McArthur who then ran all the way to the edge of the penalty area. Still with much to do, he curled a left footed shot round Upson, past Tomasz Kuszczak and into the bottom corner of the net for one-nil.

Brighton midfielder Dale Stephens signed from Charlton in the January transfer window after an impressive spell with the Addicks. He went close twice in this match, first with a header just wide whilst the game was goalless, and second with a shot that crashed down off the crossbar. Into the second half, those misses proved crucial as Wigan doubled their lead through Chris McCann. He headed in from a corner on the far side after winning the tussle with David Lopez.

WIGH Ulloa goal WIGH Studio

With twelve minutes remaining, Leonardo Ulloa scored his fourth goal in four matches to halve the deficit. Matthew Upson headed down an Andrea Orlandi corner, it ricocheted off a Wigan body into the path of the Argentine finisher to strike from six yards out, hitting through the bodies on the line. It wasn’t enough to rescue a point, even with a late long-range effort from Rohan Ince going close. Wigan took maximum points and an advantage into the hunt for a top six position.

Afterwards, Garcia spoke with Clemmit to explain how undeserving his side were not to get anything from that performance. “We played, in the first half, their best game of the season. We had more than twenty chances to score and we only took one.” Wigan boss Uwe Rosler called the Albion “a fantastic footballing side” with a good squad, delighted to come away with a victory.

Pundit Steve Claridge in the studio gave his thoughts on Oscar Garcia’s season so far. “He’s got a wonderful squad, they have lost one or two important players, but when you take over a football club, normally it’s under circumstances where the manager hasn’t done very well and he’s had to move on.” He then questioned what Brighton’s ambitions were; having made the Play Offs last season would it be a failure if they weren’t to do the same this year? He summed up by saying, “I think he’s done OK; I still think there’s a little room for improvement.”


4

Brighton 1-1 Reading Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (8th March 2014); Championship

READ Titles READ Studio

After the Wigan defeat, Brighton lost to Hull in the FA Cup Fifth Round Replay, leaving the Seagulls free to concentrate fully on the League campaign as we entered the final third. A David Lopez penalty was the decider in a close fought tie at Millwall last time out, keeping Albion in eighth place on the fringes of the top six. Next up they hosted a Reading side also hoping to extend their season beyond the regular forty-six League matches.

The Football League Show afforded the clash extended highlights, presented by Manish Bhasin with Steve Claridge. Seventh placed Reading had a disappointing draw with struggling Yeovil, who finished with eight men, last week and had lost their last two at home. They were hoping life on the road would continue to bring more joy. After a televised goalless draw at the Madejski back in September in the League, the Albion knocked out Reading at The Amex in the FA Cup Third Round back in January thanks to an Andrew Crofts winner. Another similar result would be even better today.

READ Teams.JPG

Brighton changed two of the line-up that defeated Millwall. Rohan Ince and Jake Forster-Caskey came into the midfield, replacing Dale Stephens and Andrea Orlandi. Exciting attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard joined on loan from Manchester United at the end of February until the end of the season. The twenty-one-year-old made his Albion debut at Millwall and previously had a loan spell with Birmingham in this Division, where he hit four goals in his first match. Brighton were the lowest scorers amongst any of the top eighteen in the Championship, Leonardo Ulloa’s nine League goals were carrying a lot of the weight following Ashley Barnes departure to Burnley in January. He remained the second top scorer with five.

For Nigel Adkins’ Reading, four changes were made from the Yeovil performance. They had to rely on a John Lundstram own goal to cancel out Shane Duffy’s opener that day. Royston Drenthe made his first start of 2014. The Dutch winger spent four years at Real Madrid before a season-long loan deal saw him move to Everton. Captain Danny Guthrie spent time in the youth ranks of both Liverpool and Manchester United. Striker Adam Le Fondre was leading the club’s goalscoring charts, just as he had done for each of the previous two seasons in Berkshire. He was partnered up top by Welshman Hal Robson-Kanu. The referee was Fred Graham.

READ Comm READ Own Goal

Commentary was provided by Paul Walker. He had done voiceover reporting for The Football League Show in previous seasons but was now getting a run out as a commentator. He was a more familiar voice to listeners of local BBC radio in Sheffield, hosting their Saturday sports programme and phone-in show, as well as covering a variety of events right across the station.

Brighton began well, knocking the ball around with confidence and style. A nicely worked move caused confusion in the Royals backline and Chris Gunter nodded into his own net to give Albion the lead just after the quarter-hour mark. Ulloa, Lingard and Keith Andrews formed a neat triangle of passing before finding David Lopez. His ball over the top aimed to match Lingard’s run. As Alex McCarthy recklessly abandoned his goal line to claim the cross, an unaware Gunter tried to calmly head back to his goalkeeper. But with the net empty, he only succeeded in nodding the ball home.

READ Greer red card READ Drenthe goal

Six minutes into the second half, Brighton were reduced to ten men with the dismissal of captain Gordon Greer. He was shown receiving a yellow card for pulling down Adam Le Fondre in the first half action and received a second caution for a late challenge on the same man despite the protestations from the men in stripes. It seemed a rather petty yellow card to award from the referee for just a block.

Reading punished Brighton with their man advantage, as Royston Drenthe cut inside from the right of the area to equalise. He took a touch to move the ball onto his left foot before unleashing a fierce drive low to Tomasz Kuszczak’s left, catching the ‘keeper cold and squeezing the ball into the corner of the net inside the near post. It was the power in the shot that defeated him more than anything, and Reading were level just after the hour point. He made a point of running straight to the touchline where former Albion player, coach and manager Dean Wilkins stood. Wilkins had fallen out somewhat with the club since his surprise dismissal back in 2008. He went on to link up with Nigel Adkins first at Southampton before again with the Royals.

READ Corner Post READ Full Time

Chances fell to both sides to win it in the closing stages. Nick Blackman had an effort comfortably kept out by Kuszczak whilst the Albion had a rare venture forward when substitute Will Buckley was put through by Leonardo Ulloa. Buckley’s left footed shot just inside the box was dragged a foot or so wide of the far post. The best opportunity, though, was from Reading’s Jobi McAnuff after just coming on. He latched onto the ball before Bruno could attempt a backpass, racing clear on goal. Kuszczak stood tall and firm to deny him brilliantly. A bizarre moment at the other end saw another sub, Solly March, hit the post direct from his corner, almost catching McCarthy unawares. But it wasn’t to be and it ended all square.

In his post-match interview, Oscar Garcia spoke of the character of his players to hold out despite the dismissal of the skipper. “I’m very proud of all my players and the performance. Even though we had ten men, we created some good chances and we could have won.” A frustrated Nigel Adkins thought his side should have come away with all three points.

Steve Claridge told Manish Bhasin in the studio how the red card altered the game completely. “They [Reading] needed something like that to happen in this game and when it did, it changed the whole complexion because it was almost like a free-for-all but for both sides cos there were plenty of chances after that.” The draw kept both teams just outside the Play Offs but still in with a big shout come the final reckonings.


5

Push for the Play Offs

FL72 Preview, Sky Sports 1 (24th April 2014)

FL2 Titles FL2 Studio

Sky Sports looked ahead to the penultimate weekend of action across the Sky Bet Football League with magazine show FL72 Preview on Thursday 24th April, presented from the cafe in Sky Studios by main Live presenter Simon Thomas alongside Charlton midfielder Andy Hughes. The Sky Sports cameras were travelling down to The Amex to broadcast the following evening’s match between Albion and Yeovil Live. Ahead of that, reporter David Craig caught up with Oscar Garcia as his side sat seventh in the table and a point behind Reading in the final Play Off spot. They’d have to overtake the Royals across the final two matches to make the end of season showdown for a second successive season.

Brighton came unstuck in March, suffering three successive defeats to Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough. But since then they picked up form and started winning again to put them within touching distance of the Play Offs. Whilst it was still just out of their hands at this late stage, they’d be buoyed by excellent wins over Charlton and a four-win demolition of Champions Leicester on their own patch. Two more wins and they might be having to push back those summer holidays.

FL2 Garcia

Garcia set his mind firmly on securing a Play Off spot, he knew how much promotion would mean to the Albion. “You are playing and you are fighting for something special because this club hasn’t been in the Premier League and it will be a big achievement for us.” He wasn’t concerning himself about other teams and results, he knew he needed to do his job first and foremost and that was to win the remaining matches. Touching on the match against Yeovil in which the Glovers could be relegated, Garcia knew there were no easy games in the Division. “With the teams at the bottom, it’s hard to play well, to play comfortably. We always want to win; we are always positive with our substitutions.”

The Spaniard emphasised the dependency, if somewhat over-reliance, on Argentine front man Leonardo Ulloa. “When he scores, normally we win the game. Then it’s so important when he is fit and he can score goals.” The goalscoring struggles would be eased somewhat with the return to first team action of Craig Mackail-Smith now. “We wanted to have him back before, but it wasn’t possible.”

The old adage of experience being pivotal in high pressure games was not something Garcia wanted to focus on, with Albion only appearing in the Play Offs at this level once in the previous twenty years. Instead, he hoped the Seagulls desire would make the difference. Personally speaking, Garcia featured in a lot of big games as a player and could bring other experiences to the situation. “What I learned from my best coaches is this; that you have to be calm because you reached this stage because you were calm and you know how to play.”

FL2 Blackpool FL2 Ulloa

In the cafe, Simon Thomas and Andy Hughes discussed Garcia as well as Brighton’s form of late. The one-all draw with Blackpool on Easter Monday was a disappointing result given the two teams were at opposite ends of the table but it’s about picking up these points and not losing too much ground. Dale Stephens scored Brighton’s goal with a terrific strike from twenty-five yards out into the top corner of the net. An equally terrific equaliser was hit from outside the box former Seagull Stephen Dobbie.

They finished by turning their attention to two key men in the hunt for goals; Craig Mackail-Smith and Leonardo Ulloa. Hughes gave particular praise to the latter, putting him in the same bracket as the Championships leading marksmen Jamie Vardy, Danny Ings and Sam Vokes. Hughes pointed out that whilst the other names had been doing so in partnerships for promoted clubs, Ulloa tended to have to work on his own. “He’s pivotal, they play the ball into him, he holds the ball up, he gave the run-around to us the other week… He was the most impressive player on the pitch, for me.”


The season ended with two victories out of two as Brighton leapfrogged Reading into the final Play Off place. The last-gasp victory at Nottingham Forest, with Leonardo Ulloa’s headed goal in the final moments, provided Albion fans with one of their greatest away days in a decade. The journey of getting into the top six was, sadly, far greater than being in those Play Offs. An aggregate defeat to Derby by six goals to two showed the gulf in class, and the following day Oscar Garcia handed in his resignation as he felt he couldn’t do much more with what was available. But the job he did in somewhat difficult circumstances – taking over from a terrific job done by the previous manager, fans expectations on the up, yet key players sold off in January – Garcia’s reign has to be remembered as being a success. He was responsible for some great days which I’ll always look back fondly at. Brighton needed to rebuild over the following season if they were to mount a serious bid for top flight promotion.

This is the second part looking back at Season 2013/2014. The first part is available HERE.

 

Small Screen Seagulls; 2013/14 Season part 1

Small Screen Seagulls LogoOscar Garcia was the surprising candidate who emerged to become the new Brighton and Hove Albion head coach following the dismissal of Gus Poyet after almost four years at the helm. Poyet’s tenure ended with defeat in the Play Offs, whilst Garcia’s task was to steady the ship and aim again for a top six berth. Using largely the same squad as the season before, the Seagulls had to regroup quickly. The style of play, emphasising quick passing and an attractive watch, remained in place during this transition. With The Amex regularly topping the attendance charts in the Championship, Brighton had a solid foundation on which to build from if League form could be a bit more consistent.

Here are some of the features and clips during the sole season under the reign of Oscar Garcia. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC and Sky Sports. This is part one, the second part is HERE.


Craig Mackail-Smith’s suit fitting featured on ’92 Live’

92 Live, Sky Sports News (1st August 2013)

92LIVE Titles 92LIVE Jim White

To celebrate the upcoming start of the new season, and in a television first, Sky Sports News embarked on an ambitious task of reporting Live from each and every one of the ninety-two League clubs in English football on Thursday 1st August 2013. Kicking off at seven in the morning and running throughout the day, a team of nineteen roving reporters were deployed across the country to deliver reports, interviews and updates from each team to give a glimpse into the preparations ahead of a new campaign. And it was in no way a gimmick to scupper the launch day of new rival broadcaster BT Sport, who came on air at 6pm on the same day.

More than one-hundred-and-twenty people Sky employees were utilised, from presenters, reporters, producers and outside broadcast engineers, to bring the magic of Live television to our screens. Leading the charge was host Jim White. Having presented sport for STV in the 1980s and 90s, he moved to Sky in 1998 to launch their exclusive Live coverage of the newly rebranded Scottish Premier League, as well as Scottish internationals and Cup football. When SPL rights were lost, White became a key part of the Sky Sports News presenting line-up and went on to make their coverage of Transfer Deadline Day his own during the latter part of the Noughties.

92LIVE Presenters 92LIVE Split Screen

Jim White was provided with his own helicopter for the day to allow him to fly between certain venues. He began the 92 Live coverage at 7am from the roof of Sky Studios, setting the scene for what was to come throughout the day and making a big deal of the chopper sat just behind Sky’s Osterley headquarters. He explained it would be making its way to Arsenal to see the groundsman, then on to Premier League newcomers Cardiff as well as opening Swansea’s new supporters club before concluding at the home of the Champions, Manchester United.

In the studio, presenters Mike Wedderburn and Hayley McQueen chaired the first few hours of the day. They introduced the usual news updates and reports as well as linked to various locations around the country for the Live features. Wedderburn joined Sky in 1998 for the launch of the new round-the-clock News channel and was most often found hosting the breakfast show Good Morning Sports Fans from six until ten. A former fast bowler for Hampshire, Wedderburn also presented cricket highlights and occasional matches for Sky including the World Cup.

Hayley McQueen joined Sky Sports News for a year in 2005 from Middlesbrough’s in-house online channel Boro TV. Next, Manchester United’s MUTV channel came calling where she hosted match day coverage, news bulletins and a phone-in show. Daughter of former United defender Gordon McQueen, Hayley returned to Sky Sports News in August 2010 when the channel relaunched to begin broadcasting in High Definition and is one of its most popular anchors.

92LIVE Jamie Weir 92LIVE Mackail-Smith

Albion fans didn’t have to wait too long for our moment in the spotlight during 92 Live. Just before twenty past eight in the morning, Sky Sports News crossed Live to reporter Jamie Weir at The Amex as they made their tenth visit to a club. Northern Irishman Weir was a reporter previously on Setanta Sports News, the rival broadcaster to Sky for the near eighteen months that channel was on air for between 2007 and 2009. He then switched to Sky Sports News to become a reporter as well as occasional stints presenting and reporting on sport for Sky News.

Weir was joined by Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith for the segment. Mackail-Smith was interviewed whilst getting his new club suit fitted for the upcoming season, with views of The Amex stadium in the sunshine visible through the windows. He had been out injured for almost five months, with rehab ongoing, and sported a new look with short hair. He explained, “I cut them off for charity. Once I got injured I needed a change, a fresh start, so they went but I’m slightly missing them now!”

92LIVE Suit Fitting 92LIVE Suit switch

Mackail-Smith spoke positively about the season ahead despite having to change coach. “We’ve still got a good squad, the new manager’s come in and he’s implemented his own way so we’re looking forward to pushing on and hopefully going one better.” Reporter Jamie Weir also had a brief word with the tailors fitting the suit to talk through the process. Weir tried a jacket on himself before the price tag was revealed at a steep £249. Bargain. With that, it was back to the studio to continue the tour around the country.


2

Brighton 1-1 Millwall goals

The Football League Show, BBC One (31st August 2013); Championship

MIL Intro MIL Comm

The BBC’s Football League Show returned for its fifth season on BBC One, the second year of a new broadcasting deal. On 31st August edition, a very brief goals edit on the Brighton versus Millwall match featured commentary from Nigel Adderley, more familiar to BBC radio listeners but also deployed across the Football League output. His surname was incorrectly captioned as Adderly by the graphics department.

Millwall were in their fourth successive season at this level but had declined in the standings each time. They were tipped for more misery this year under the guidance of new manager Steve Lomas. The Albion hadn’t enjoyed huge amounts of joy thus far in the Championship, losing the opening two games of Garcia’s spell. They were back on track with wins at Birmingham thanks to Andrew Crofts second half winner. This was followed up by a terrific home display to beat Burnley by two goals to nil, Crofts again on the scoresheet and a third of the campaign from Leonardo Ulloa securing the points last time out.

MIL First goal MIL Red card

In fact, this goals edit was so brief it only lasted two minutes and was just as comprehensive as a regular voiceover report. Nevertheless, they persisted with the commentary and the clip began with action from six minutes into the second half. Millwall played the ball around from the halfway line nicely in what commentator Adderley described as “a rare break forward” by the Lions. Scott McDonald laid the ball off to Richard Chaplow on the edge of the box. He played in Martyn Woolford, who was free on the left of the area, to calmly slot the ball into the far corner of Tomasz Kuszczak’s goal to give the visitors the lead.

Millwall’s Irish right-back Alan Dunne was shown receiving a caution for perceived timewasting whilst taking a throw-in. Anybody who’s ever watched football highlights shows before knows that can only mean one, ominous thing. Sure enough, a little later on he was shown picking up a second yellow card, and therefore a red, when he upended Andrea Orlandi just outside the penalty area. Referee Bobby Madley had no hesitation in brandishing the card and Millwall’s lead was made even more difficult to cling on to.

MIL Equaliser MIL Full Time

Just before the dismissal, we saw Leonardo Ulloa have a goal ruled out. He connected with his head to guide Orlandi’s whipped free kick into the back of the net, but the referee was again in the thick of things, ruling it out for a push by the Argentinian. The game ticked on and the Albion side were desperately searching for an equaliser. They were made to wait until a minute from time when Ulloa did now get his leveller.

Some quick footwork on the far side from Kazenga LuaLua drove the winger to the byline. He flashed a dangerous ball right across the face of goal where there were a total of eight players inside the six-yard box. Waiting just outside, unmarked at the opposite post, was Ulloa. The ball ran straight into his path to hit home at last. The Seagulls almost won it at the death when Will Buckley’s deflected touch was hooked off the line by Shane Lowry as it finished one-one. Commentator Adderley’s closing line summed up the home frustration; “Somehow, Millwall hold on!” Oscar Garcia was frustrated that his side only started to play in the second half and was seeking improvements as the season wore on.


3

Brighton in the Football League Trust Futsal Cup

Soccer AM, Sky Sports 1 (26th October 2013)

SAM Titles SAM Presenters

Sky Sports Saturday morning magazine show Soccer AM, presented by Max Rushden and Helen Chamberlain, brought the skills and technical abilities of the game of futsal onto our television screens during the 2013/14 season. The show joined forces with the Football League Trust to take us behind the scenes and showcase the best of the action from the new FLT Futsal Cup, sponsored by Soccer AM. The game of futsal is all about close ball skills and touches, quick thinking, creativity and tactical awareness. It’s a five-a-side game using hockey size goals and a smaller, heavier size four ball. Matches last two halves of twenty minutes.

In England, the first futsal League was formed back in 1990 based in Lancashire but didn’t really begin to take off until at least a decade later. League emerged in places such as Grimsby in 2002 and a London Cup the following year. Subsequent years saw international involvement, with the game being the only form of indoor football recognised by FIFA and UEFA. An England team began in 2003 and an FA National League set up in 2008.

SAM Futsal SAM Garcia

2013 saw the introduction of this FLT Futsal Cup, featuring over fifty Premier and Football League clubs lending their name behind a team for teenagers aged between sixteen and eighteen. On the 26th October edition of the programme, Soccer AM highlighted the efforts Brighton made for the competition, with the show having previously visited Leeds and Cardiff. Crew member James Kirtland voiced the Cup reports which included interviews with first team players and managers, as well as those more involved in the competition.

Albion head coach Oscar Garcia spoke of the importance of futsal, particularly where he’s from as it had a big influence on the Spanish style of play growing up. “Barcelona’s always training in small pitches, in small areas, because then you have to think quickly.” He was present at one the Brighton training sessions to pass on his own wisdom.

SAM Fisher SAM Calderon and Bruno

Brighton’s futsal coach was Owen Fisher, working as part of Albion in the Community. He also acted as one of the club’s goalkeeping coach at various levels. He mentioned the fact that Oscar Garcia visiting the futsal training was a fantastic opportunity for these youngsters to learn and grow their game. “Knowing someone who’s played this game, [they can] get some real good information from what he can teach them and where he’s got to through playing futsal.”

Albion first team regulars, and Garcia’s fellow Spaniards, Inigo Calderon and Bruno also dropped in on the session. They too grew up playing futsal back home. Calderon explained, “We played in school in the break between the classes. We had always to run to the pitch to get a pitch and play with friends.” Calderon went on to explain how the greatest players in the world, such as Lionel Messi and Neymar, began their careers playing futsal. Bruno was also a keen player in his youth. “I was playing two games a week. One game with my school; futsal. And with my club I was playing normal football.”

SAM Brighton team SAM Match Action

The Leyton Score Centre, near Orient’s Brisbane Road ground, played host to the latest round of fixtures in the South East Division of the Soccer AM Futsal Cup. Brief action was shown from those games in the round-up. Southend defeated Ipswich six-three and hosts Leyton Orient were downed three-one by Crystal Palace. The highlight though, of course, was Fisher’s Brighton side thrashing Chelsea by five goals to nil, including a couple of cracking long-range strikes to keep the Albion’s hopes of progressing to the knockouts alive.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for the Seagulls, losing in the next stage last-32 of the competition finishing third in Group Five including to eventual overall Champions Grimsby Town. Still, not a bad first effort for the Sussex boys and the future looked in good shape.


4

Wigan 0-1 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (23rd November 2013); Championship

WIGA Titles WIGA Oatley

The Football League Show on BBC One brought together all the day’s action across the three Divisions on 23rd November, including highlights of Nottingham Forest versus Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday against Huddersfield. Plus, Brighton’s trip to FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium. Jacqui Oatley stood in for regular host Manish Bhasin in the studio whilst he was away. Joining her in this season’s new look studio was Steve Claridge. Gone was the brickwork effect, replaced by blue panels. The title music was still provided by Snow Patrol with their single In the End.

Both sides went into this match unbeaten in four, drawing two and winning two, after indifferent starts to the campaign. Having been relegated from the top flight in May, Wigan bounced back to winning ways in the Championship with an opening day thrashing of Barnsley. But just one win in the next five followed and the distraction of the UEFA Europa League group stage saw little reward on the pitch. Since losing to Blackpool in mid-October, the Latics began to slowly climb the table again, moving from thirteenth up to tenth at the start of today.

Albion too had spent much of the opening months occupying middling positions in the Division. A poor October performance saw no wins in five games but three goals in each of the last two victories – at Doncaster and at home to Blackburn – got Oscar Garcia’s men back in form. Commentary was provided by North West regional television stalwart Alistair Mann.

WIGA Teams

Owen Coyle and Oscar Garcia both named unchanged starting XI’s from last time out. For the home side, that meant places for summer free transfers Chris McCann from Burnley and Marc-Antoine Fortune from West Brom. Grant Holt joined to partner the latter up front for a fee of £1.5million from Norwich. Winger Callum McManaman grew up at Everton but later progressed through Wigan’s academy system before gaining a first team place under Roberto Martinez.

Albion’s side included loan signing Craig Conway, promoted from this Division last season with Cardiff. Andrew Crofts scored the equaliser in the televised match with Watford at the end of last month, adding much needed goals to his game. As had Jake Forster-Caskey, who netted in each of the last two wins. In Leonardo Ulloa’s absence through injury, Ashley Barnes scored two goals in the three-nil defeat of Blackburn a fortnight ago. Defender Matthew Upson made his Albion loan move permanent over the summer and was in fine form at the back. Iain Williamson refereed the contest.

WIGA Comm WIGA Half Time

A first half opportunity on goal fell the unlikely way of Spanish full back Bruno for the Seagulls wearing yellow. He was allowed to freely roam into the Wigan penalty box and hit a sweet strike from a bouncing ball after a knock down from home skipper Emmerson Boyce. At the other end, Cup Final winning goalscorer Ben Watson almost broke the deadlock when his determination saw him in a shooting position on the far corner of the penalty box. His early shot fizzed just wide of Tomasz Kuszczak’s post.

On loan Manchester United forward Nick Powell tested Albion’s Polish ‘keeper with an effort just inside the area. It was a half with little by way of quality and finesse and the sides went into the break goalless.

WIGA JFC Chance WIGA Crofts goal

Straight from kick off in the second period, Brighton had a wonderful chance to take the lead through an unmarked Jake Forster-Caskey at the back post. He got his header wrong from an Ashley Barnes cross, if only the move was the other way around, and it was an easy save for Nicholls in goal. Wigan were given a terrific opening when last man back Gordon Greer dithered on the ball. Grant Holt stole the ball from the Brighton captain and raced clear one-on-one with Kuszczak. Holt opened his body up to curl it into the corner but just got too much on it and it flew narrowly wide of the post. A real let off for the visitors. Commentator Alistair Mann joked, “You would have put your mortgage on Grant Holt. Well, I have to say, you’d be homeless.”

Wigan would rue that missed shot as Brighton immediately took the lead. With eighteen minutes remaining, Andrew Crofts netted with his head. Craig Conway found David Lopez on the right wing. He crossed to the centre where again Forster-Caskey was left on his own. At full speed to try to connect to the cross with his head, it ended up bouncing down hard and flicked up into the air by goalkeeper Lee Nicholls for a brilliant save. Crofts was there waiting for the ball to drop, along with three striped defenders surrounding him. The Seagulls midfielder got his head to the ball and it looped up over Nicholls and in.

WIGA Garcia WIGA Claridge

Craig Conway tried his luck from just inside the box to try and double the lead but again Nicholls stood firm. Whilst Grant Holt’s head forced Kuszczak into a fabulous low save to maintain Brighton’s clean sheet late on. It finished one-nil to the Albion, what a big three points on the road that was. Oscar Garcia spoke of ending Wigan’s unbeaten home record, “To come here and win at this big team with a strong squad, a good manager, it’s not easy because nobody did it before.”

Back in the studio, pundit Steve Claridge thought that the result was probably just about right, with the Seagulls edging the game. Of the goal, he bemoaned Wigan’s lack of reaction following the terrific save from Nicholls. “Crofts is the only one really who’s proactive in that situation. There’s three defenders around him. It’s almost as if they think, because the save’s been made, the danger clear.” Crofts was a former teammate of Claridge at Gillingham however he was ruled out for the rest of the season after Christmas through injury. The team’s form continued to pick up for Brighton in the coming weeks, including an outstanding victory over the League leaders Leicester in December, when The Football League Show was hosted from The Amex.


This is the first part looking back at Season 2013/2014. The second part is available HERE.

 

Small Screen Seagulls; 2012/13 Season part 1

Small Screen Seagulls LogoBrighton settled into life back in the second tier of English football, and at their new home in Falmer, with a very impressive campaign last time out. The Seagulls surprised most with their form as they narrowly missed out on a top six finish. But this season those Play Off places were a legitimate and realistic target. With Gus Poyet still at the helm and a squad full of talent, the mood was quietly confident on the South Coast. One of the improvements needed was to convert draws into wins. The Amex Stadium had been expanded to include an upper tier in the East Stand and further developments in the offing. It was a year that promised so much yet would all end in bitter tears.

Here are some of the features and coverage during the Albion’s highest placed finish for thirty years. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC Sport and Sky Sports. This is part one, the second part is HERE.


Craig Mackail-Smith phone interview

The Fantasy Football Club, Sky Sports 1 (28th September 2012)

FFC Titles FFC Hosts

For this season, Sky Sports introduced a new weekly programme on Friday evenings to replace football quiz Take It Like A Fan, called The Fantasy Football Club. This was based on the popular fantasy football game where competitors picked a ‘dream team’ comprised of players from a variety of top flight clubs. This studio show was again presented by John Fendley, AKA Fenners. Joining him was former Arsenal and England creative midfielder Paul Merson, part of the Soccer Saturday panel working with Jeff Stelling. The set was decorated out like a changing room and each week a guest would join them and a Live studio audience to talk through the game, their career and culminated by picking their ‘One2Eleven’; a starting line-up made of the best eleven they ever played with. As with most Sky magazine shows, there were also games, challenges and features to fill the hour, as well as a Fantasy Football Club scarf up for grabs for the viewer who picked the best fantasy team of the week.

Part of the show’s title sequence was filmed at The Amex, with them using the tunnel area before running out onto the turf. On Friday 28th September, Brighton’s Craig Mackail-Smith was interviewed on the phone to chat about his season so far. And, along with loan signing Wayne Bridge, he would be going head-to-head with Fenners and Merse in a round of the fantasy game. This was a regular feature, with the pair taking on Norwich’s John Ruddy and Anthony Pilkington the previous week. The Norwich duo scored more points which led Merson into the forfeit of wearing a full replica kit for the start of this week’s programme. They were also joined in the studio by West Ham midfielder Matt Taylor.

FFC Head to Head FFC Mackail-Smith on the phone

The phone interview kicked off with Mackail-Smith joking about how confident he was of beating the hosts after their recent form. Talk turned to a potential forfeit, with the striker offering Fenners the chance to come down to the Albion and train with the squad; “Maybe at the end stick you in goal and have a bit of shooting practice against you!”

Attention then turned to real life football, with Fenners reminding Mackail-Smith of the “dream start” this season; top of the Championship with Craig scoring six in seven so far. “I’m catching my target from last season quite quickly”, he said. Merson asked what had been different this year, to which Mackail-Smith responded; “Last season we kept the ball a lot and we didn’t really penetrate teams so well. I think this season with Bridgey and Bruno left and right wing back, we’re getting higher up the pitch and probing, getting more shots away.”

FFC Overhead kick FFC Oatway

They talked through his spectacular overhead goal against Burnley from the start of the month, where Albion went on to win three-one at Turf Moor. It was also pointed out during the celebration that Ashley Barnes got a bit carried away with the knee slide, careering straight into the goalscorer, giving him a bit of a dead leg in the process. They also discussed his rather unusual athletic prowess growing up; the pole vault. In typically modest fashion, he said; “I went and had a go and I wasn’t too bad at it and did it for three or four years”. On that note, the interview was concluded with results about the fantasy challenge to come the following week.

So, on Friday 5th October, Fenners was back to see which pairing came out on top. Points were awarded for players in the fantasy team that scored goals, provided assists and defensively for clean sheets, whilst yellow and red cards were punished as were goals conceded. The Brighton boys scored a total of eighty-two points between them, a whopping thirteen more than the hosts, meaning it was the Seagulls who defeated Sky in this challenge. First team coach Charlie Oatway, never one to stray away from the limelight, send the show a video message from the team bus implying they didn’t know what they were talking about and needed to “watch a proper game, like us.” He was right, Brighton’s season had begun so very well.

FFC Results


2

Brighton 0-1 Middlesbrough Report

The Football League Show, BBC One (20th October 2012); Championship

MID Titles MID Clem

BBC highlights programme The Football League Show returned for its fourth season, and the first of a new broadcast contract, for the 2012/2013 campaign. There were a couple of changes; where previously the BBC held ten Live Championship fixtures and three League Cup games, it was now just highlights for the next three seasons. For this late October edition, regular host Manish Bhasin was joined in the studio by pundit Leroy Rosenior. Reporter Mark Clemmit was dispatched to Brighton to get an insight into how things had progressed during this second Amex season, ahead of a visit from fellow promotion candidates Middlesbrough.

Last season the format was tweaked slightly to drop the, admittedly unnecessary, viewer emails and texts read out by the likes of Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and Jacqui Oatley. This year saw further amendments. The theme tune was changed to now use an actual piece of music! Out went the drum beating, crowd noise style opening replaced by Snow Patrol’s In the End. The title sequence featured football freestylers doing tricks and flicks in front of a brick wall. The wall was decorated with various Football League bits and pieces which then flew from the wall to become highlight clips from years gone by before bringing us up to date. It was an improvement on the previous sequence, for sure.

MID Poyet MID Building site

Mark Clemmit’s report began with a quick reminder of Brighton’s stadium saga; saying it “shaped a generation of supporters who were as familiar with land wrangles as football formations.” With development work done over the summer to increase capacity of The Amex from around 22,000 up to more than 27,000 now, with a further increase by the end of the campaign to sit at an incredible 30,750. Such was the demand for tickets so early on, the folk of Sussex couldn’t get enough! With things never better off the field, Clem explained that the next challenge was to re-write the history books on it. “Since their formation in 1901, Brighton have been in the top flight for only four seasons.”

He spoke with manager Gus Poyet near the dugouts in the empty bowl, the calm before the matchday storm. They talked through the fantastic facilities and the change in such a short space of time to when they last were together on this site, two years ago during the construction stage. Poyet told, “Last year it was spectacular, great football days here. And then I found out we were putting an extra five, six-thousand seats and I’m thinking ‘More pressure for the manager!'” But he said he loved the pressure, as long as there were no upper limits to where it could take us; “If we don’t hit the roof, if there is no roof and we can always go and improve, then I will stay here for long.” That ‘roof’ word would come back round a couple more times during the campaign when Poyet spoke of frustrations.

MID Barber MID Fatboy Slim

Changes were made to the Albion at boardroom level during the summer of 2012 as Paul Barber was appointed Chief Executive. The businessman moved from North American side Vancouver Whitecaps, where he oversaw two stadium moves in a short space of time. Prior to that he was Tottenham’s Executive Director, running the club’s day to day operations for five years from the mid-noughties. Perhaps his highest profile, and most successful, job came at the English FA where he worked for over a decade as their Commercial Director. This was during highly controversial times; appointing England’s first foreign manager, rebuilding Wembley and moving international matches and Cup Finals all around the UK. He arrived in Sussex with an impressive CV. Speaking with Clemmit in the hospitality lounge, Barber confirmed planning permission had been granted for a state-of-the-art training ground in Lancing; the next step on the way to attracting and attaining the best young players.

One of the biggest criticisms when a club moves stadium or makes major changes it that the ‘soul’ of the club is lost. Superstar DJ, Seagulls supporter and Falmer campaigner Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, confirmed that was definitely not the case here. “It’s just got very bigger, very quickly. When we first got here, you had to pinch yourself, because we gone up the Division and were still playing well.”

MID Comm MID Goal

Next came the brief highlights from the match. Defeat on the opening day at Hull for the Albion followed an embarrassing Capital One Cup First Round exit to lower Division Swindon Live on Sky. Things were back on track by the end of August, with a five-one thumping of Barnsley which started a run of five consecutive victories. September ended with defeat at home to Birmingham to set off a three-match streak without a win, ahead of this clash with Middlesbrough. The Albion sat in fifth place at the start of the day, whilst Tony Mowbray’s ‘Boro were down in eleventh after a stop-start, inconsistent beginning.

Commentary was provided by Paul Walker. As well as commentating now, Walker was previously more familiar in a reporting role voicing the round-ups. He came from BBC Radio Sheffield where he hosted phone-in shows, Live football on Saturdays and covered other sports such as ice hockey and boxing.

The first piece of action shown was the goal, which arrived on twenty-one minutes through Marvin Emnes. The Dutchman was provided the ball on the right by Grant Leadbitter. He travelled ten yards forward to the corner of the penalty area, where he struck for goal. It took a huge deflection off Gordon Greer on the way through to wrong-foot summer signing Tomasz Kuszczak in goal, send the ball the other way and sneak in.

MID Full Time MID Studio

Brighton created several opportunities for the likes of Ashley Barnes, Will Buckley and Craig Mackail-Smith but they weren’t taken. ‘Boro goalie Jason Steele kept out a header from Barnes but Mackail-Smith really should have buried the rebound. Instead, he blazed over from five yards. Leadbitter tried one from range for the visitors which didn’t trouble Kuszczak too much but at the final whistle, it was the team in red who took all three points to leapfrog Brighton in the table.

Speaking with Clemmit after the game, Gus Poyet told of a couple of things his side needed to get used to if they were to go one further and make the Play Offs this time. As well as the increased crowds at home, Poyet said; “Second one is how the opposition is going to play here, how difficult they’re gonna make it for us.” Taking chances was crucial. Back in the studio in London, host Manish Bhasin surmised the team were being targeted for the success of late, whilst pundit Leroy Rosenior said “They’re being shown the respect they deserve. I saw them early on this season and was very impressed.” That result made it three home games in a row without a win for the Seagulls, as players adapted to the extra noise and pressure from the expectant crowd.


3

Blackpool 1-1 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (27th October 2012); Championship

BLA Titles BLA Comm

The Albion were the featured match on The Football League Show the following Saturday, as the Seaside trip to Blackpool came calling. Host Manish Bhasin described it in the intro as; “Two ambitious clubs with realistic prospects of automatic promotion, but they share the same problem – lack of consistency.” Ian Holloway’s Blackpool finished fifth last year in their first campaign since Premier League relegation but ultimately lost in the Play Off Final to West Ham. After starting this season with four wins out of six, form dried up with five defeats from their last eight. The Albion followed up last Saturday’s Middlesbrough loss with a midweek defeat at Leicester to slide to ninth in the table and just a point above today’s hosts.

Steven Wyeth was the match commentator. Like Paul Walker, he was previously a long-standing local radio employee having worked at BBC Manchester since 2000 specialising in covering Manchester United. He went freelance in September to commentate across a wider variety including The Football League Show and European matches.

BLA Blackpool BLA Brighton

Blackpool welcome back French winger Elliott Grandin back for his first start in ten months, having joined Nice in January. He returned earlier this season but was left out altogether for the past five games and trained with the development squad for a perceived bad attitude. Striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored the club’s first ever Premier League goal on the opening day of the 2010/11 season. Attacking player Tom Ince started his career at Anfield but failed to break into the first team before moving to the Seaside in 2011. He’s the son of former England midfielder Paul Ince. There was a heavy Scottish presence in the side, with goalkeeper Matt Gilks, defenders Stephen Crainey and Kirk Broadfoot, making his home debut, and midfielder Matt Phillips all starters.

Gus Poyet made one change from the midweek defeat as Gary Dicker dropped to the bench for Dean Hammond to come in. Hammond returned to the Albion where he began his career after four years away, joining on a season-long loan from Southampton. Another loanee for the year was former England and Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge, dropping down from Manchester City. Andrew Crofts also made a comeback to Sussex, re-joining from Norwich after two seasons. Right-back Bruno transferred in from Valencia on a free. Craig Mackail-Smith top scored with six thus far, whilst Ashley Barnes netted three. On the bench sat striker Stephen Dobbie, who had two loan spells with Blackpool in the last two years. He joined on transfer deadline day from Swansea.

BLA Barnes goal BLA Grandin goal

The early chances fell Blackpool’s way, with Kuszczak denying Ince and Taylor-Fletcher narrowly heading wide from a corner. Centre-half Alex Baptiste was in the thick of Brighton’s half too, trying a shot from long range which went wide of the target. The Albion offered very little in the first period and went in goalless at the break.

That changed eleven minutes into the second half when Ashley Barnes nabbed the scrappiest of goals. A long ball from Adam El-Abd on the halfway line was flicked into the area by Mackail-Smith to Crofts. In battle with Broadfoot, the ball bounced around the penalty box. Gilks came out of goal to claim but instead tangled with the pair and the ball broke loose. Standing next to them was Barnes who was able to instinctively stab home into the empty net from six yards.

The opportunities were still falling the home side’s way, with Ince guilty of missing a golden chance with the goal gaping five yards out. With father Paul watching on in the stands, Tom Ince couldn’t adjust his body to turn the ball home and instead scooped it over the bar. Brighton were soaking up a lot of pressure again. But with less than twenty minutes to go, the equaliser finally came. Elliott Grandin provided the home relief, diving in for a header six yards out to connect with Matt Phillips’ perfect delivery.

BLA Full Time BLA Claridge

Kuszczak had to fly around his goal to keep Grandin from scoring again a minute later as Blackpool didn’t want to rest on their laurels. Another great chance had to be denied when substitute Nathan Delfouneso failed to connect properly central to the goal. The stripes too had their moments, including an attempt at an overhead kick from Mackail-Smith. The bounce unfortunately took the ball up and over the crossbar. When the full-time whistle arrived, it was a relief that the Seagulls clung on to the draw, finishing one a piece.

Gus Poyet summed it up well by saying; “The effort was there, desire was there. Quality was missing today.” Ian Holloway was frustrated by the missed chances and the “calamitous” goal they conceded but was pleased with the domination overall. First choice FLS pundit Steve Claridge analysed the Albion approach in the studio; “They just slightly tinkered and changed the emphasis on the way that they play. I look at the midfield; Buckley who can play a little bit, then you’ve got Hammond, you’ve got Crofts, you’ve got Bridcutt who are all players who are renowned for their defensive qualities. So there’s a little bit of an emphasis change there… bit of resilience.” He pointed out that just nine goals conceded shows an improvement in that area.

Both this game and the Middlesbrough one highlighted the difficulties faced in the Championship. Despite outplaying the opposition, Brighton came away empty handed last week. This week, they got an undeserved point on their travels. If the Play Offs were to be reached this season, there needed to be an upturn in consistency and winning whilst on top.


4

Craig Mackail-Smith and Charlie Oatway on the sofas

Soccer AM, Sky Sports 2 (3rd November 2012)

SAM Titles SAM Hosts

Sky Sports Saturday morning football and entertainment show Soccer AM was by now in its eighteenth season, fantastic for a low budget satellite programme. From the 2008/09 season it was hosted by Max Rushden with Helen Chamberlain. The latter had been there since the first season back in 1995, working first with Russ Williams, Jane Hoffen and Gary Stevens before Tim Lovejoy took over and shaped what the show was to be recognised for. When Lovejoy left with most of the established crew including Fenners, Andy Goldstein came in for a season before ex-BBC London and radio presenter Rushden got the gig and had to move the show into a new dawn.

The show received an overhaul, with new graphics, titles and studio set as well as features and games. The duration was cut from three hours to two in 2010 in a bid to improve quality, now airing from 10am until midday. Entertainment always remained at the heart of it, with certain features standing the test of time, such as Taxi, Showboat, Third Eyes, Goals of the Week and the famous kicking the ball through a hole in the carpark, whilst others fell by the wayside as society moved away from the laddish nineties.

SAM Green Room SAM Walk On

On Saturday 3rd November, Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith and first team coach Charlie Oatway journeyed to Osterley in West London to Sky HQ to adorn the famous orange sofas. The last time Brighton had anyone from the club on this programme, Oatway was still a player and joined Nathan Jones and Leon Knight back in December 2004! Things had changed a lot since then. Now, with Albion playing the night before Live on Sky against Leeds, a rare Saturday off gave them the chance to join Max, Helen and the gang in the studio. Although, it was supposed to be Gus Poyet joining Oatway. He decided against it late on so sent Mackail-Smith instead. And completing the line-up were Suggs and Woody from the band Madness. The fans of Blackburn Rovers provided the noise in the Luther Blissett Stand, supported by a Live studio audience.

SAM Guests.JPG

Charlie Oatway’s cheeky nature was a good fit for a show like Soccer AM, where he could fit in with the mickey taking and show off. The previous night’s Leeds game was talked through, ending in a two-two draw with Mackail-Smith bagging both Brighton goals. Rushden said the Albion were “miles better” than their opponents, with Oatway adding “If it was a boxing match it would’ve been stopped”. Unfortunately Mackail-Smith saw his penalty saved to deny him the hat-trick and all three points. Having already scored from the spot earlier in the game, he was asked if it was mentally tough to take two penalties in a game. “Sometimes you change your mind, I thought I hit it really well.” Oatway joking; “Didn’t hit it well enough!”

SAM Leeds game SAM Studio

Having started the season so brightly in the first two months, form dropped off in October and the Albion pair were asked if that was a concern. Oatway batted it away saying performances were good; “I don’t think you really have to worry yourself, just keep going with what you’re doing and how the boys are playing.” Mackail-Smith’s form over the past eighteen months earned him a Scotland call up by manager Craig Levein, which Oatway also joked about. It backfired when Mackail-Smith enquired about Oatway’s international cap tally but, as always, the Londoner had the last laugh; “I’d rather none than play for Scotland!”

On a more serious and worthy note, they discussed Oatway’s testimonial year with the club. Having joined in 1999 from Brentford, he played for the Seagulls until 2007 before professional retirement. Then when Poyet was put in charge in late 2009, he rejoined the club on the coaching staff, with the combination of roles taking him to the tenth year with Brighton. With half of the earnings going towards Albion in the Community, the club’s charitable arm, he outlined what was in store; “We’ve got a game next year, we’ve got a golf day, we’ve got other events…”

SAM Bugs SAM Oatways Ordeals

He also explained the concept of ‘Oatway’s Ordeals’, in which he completed a series of challenges decided by a vote, all designed to play to his weaknesses and fears. He said he had fears of flying and being stranded in water, amongst others, so obviously they were going to be two of his challenges upcoming. Another was eating insects and, through the magic of television, Helen Chamberlain unveiled an ‘I’m A Celebrity’ style plate of bugs for him to try Live on the show. Mackail-Smith dived in to eat one first, before Oatway and Rushden joined. Suffice to say they didn’t recommend them to us. In return, Oatway’s testimonial events would be plugged on the Soccer AM website.

SAM Hairy Strikers SAM Sausage smashing

The main interview had concluded by the boys would stick around for the rest of the show. One of the Live studio sketches for the season was ‘The Hairy Strikers’, parodying its name from the Hairy Bikers television programme. The skit involved crew members Dave Morgan and Rocket Long dressed as hairy strikers Andy Carroll of West Ham and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, as well as two of the sofa guests taking part in a game or challenge. For this edition falling during National Sausage Week, Craig Mackail-Smith and Suggs had to smash as many raw sausages with a mallet as they could in thirty seconds. And why not, all part of the fun.

SAM Carpark Game.JPG

The traditional culmination of the show took place outside in the Soccer AM car park with the end game featuring the Fans of the Week. The aim was always for them to kick a ball through a hole and score as many as possible within the allotted time. This season saw a variation on the format with five holes to choose from, as they had to progress in turn from the biggest – League Two – up through the Divisions to the smallest hole – the Champions League. After the fans had their go, it was the turn of the guests. Unfortunately for Suggs, Charlie Oatway was around and threw a football at his when he was about to strike. The Blackburn fans reached League One whilst none of the guests could get their effort on target. And once everyone was back inside, it was time to end another fun-packed programme as our Seagulls were once again in the TV spotlight.


This is the first part looking back at Season 2012/2013. The second part is available HERE.

Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 2

Small Screen Seagulls LogoAfter a sensational start to the first campaign at our magnificent new home which saw Albion lead the Championship table in September, form dipped in the autumn with no wins in October. Following the Southampton defeat as featured in part one, Brighton won three League games in a row to send the Seagulls hovering around the edge of the Play Off places. A dreadful December saw four consecutive losses before a fantastic return to form in the New Year. This included knocking out Premier League Newcastle in Round Four of the FA Cup before bowing out to Liverpool for the second time in the Cups this season. As we entered the closing months, a place in the Play Offs was a real possibility. They couldn’t, could they?!

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


Brighton 2-0 Portsmouth Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (10th March 2012); Championship

POR Titles POR Comm

Since the turn of the year, Brighton were unbeaten in eleven League games ahead of this clash with Portsmouth as the club climbed back up from mid-table to sit in seventh. Pompey however were having a terrible time. They were rock bottom of the Division and on the verge of financial ruin, thankfully granted a reprieve by the League in the days leading up to this match. BBC highlights programme The Football League Show chose the South Coast clash as one of the featured matches.

This edition was presented by the usual host, Manish Bhasin. He gave up the Football Focus gig to lead the BBC’s Football League coverage when they gained rights to the three Division in 2009, their first time broadcasting this level since 1991. Alongside him was Leroy Rosenior, the former West Ham striker turned pundit. He was a familiar face to fans of both Brighton and Portsmouth with his work on magazine show Late Kick Off in the BBC South region. Commentating on the match was John Roder. He too was familiar to the Southern clubs with longer memories, as he was ITV Meridian’s lead commentator between 1997 and 2003 before moving on to Eurosport’s Serie A matches then BBC Match of the Day.

POR Brighton POR Portsmouth

Gus Poyet brought three players into the club on loan during the January transfer window, they all started this match. Up front, Sam Vokes of Premier League Wolves made the switch until the end of the season, having not started for his parent club all campaign. He scored on his full home debut as the points were shared with Millwall a month ago. Vokes was preferred ahead of summer capture Craig Mackail-Smith. West Brom allowed two of their players to gain first-team football in Falmer, signing defenders Joe Mattock and Gonzalo Jara Reyes until June. The latter already had a spell here this season, featuring from October until Christmas before being briefly recalled by the Baggies. The Chilean already had more than fifty international caps to his name. Joe Mattock actually had a loan spell earlier in the season with today’s visitors, making seven appearances.

The visitors were managed by Michael Appleton in his first permanent role. They exited both Cup competitions at the first hurdle and had just the two away victories to date, coming at Burnley and Peterborough. Brighton won one-nil at Fratton Park back in August, with Mackail-Smith netting the winner. Among Portsmouth’s key men today, Greg Halford was a summer signing from Wolves, as was new captain Jason Pearce who moved from Bournemouth. With finances stretched to the limits, regular goalkeeper Stephen Henderson was about to be sent on an emergency loan to West Ham in a desperate bid to cut the wage bill. Seventeen-year-old academy graduate defender Adam Webster filled a place on the bench, having made just three sub appearances to date. Mike Dean was the referee.

POR Vicente sub POR Vicente 1st goal

The first half was one of few chances for either side. Sam Vokes tried to nip in and round goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown after a defensive mix up saw him intercept a backpass from Pearce. It was to no avail. At the other end, Gordon Greer and Peter Brezovan tried their best to help Portsmouth’s situation by gifting them possession on the edge of the box. Scott Allan chipped his effort just over the bar. An almighty scramble in first half stoppage time nearly saw Brighton take the lead but for some resolute defending to ensure it was goalless at the break.

Joe Mattock was the unlikely man the ball dropped to at the back stick in the second half following a Liam Bridcutt cross. Mattock’s shot was deflected onto the post through the goalkeeper’s legs. The game changing moment was the introduction of former Valencia star Vicente. His fancy footwork twenty-five yards out was enough to bamboozle the Pompey defence and bring him down in a dangerous position. The winger got up to take the kick and struck it brilliantly, low and hard into to bottom-right of Ashdown’s goal (above, right). Albion had the lead with a quarter of an hour to play. Gus Poyet’s way of celebrating this was to turn and face up towards the director’s box to make a money gesture with his hands (below, left), frustrated with the budgetary constraints.

POR Poyet money gesture POR Vicente 2nd goal

In stoppage time, sub Kazenga LuaLua battled excellently on the near touchline firstly to hold up the ball to waste time. Then secondly, win the ball back from a tussle with Tal Ben-Haim. He galloped into the penalty area to lay it off to that man Vicente. The ball was very slightly behind him but that did not matter to a man in possession of thirty-eight caps for Spain. He adjusted his position to swing that magical left foot back and hook in a second goal to seal a hard earned three points for the Seagulls.

In his post-match interview, Poyet praised the match winner for coming back strong after injury problems blighted much of his first season in Sussex; “Without any doubt he was the difference because it was a difficult game, close, not too many chances. You needed a bit of quality and Vicente’s got that.” Back in the studio, Leroy Rosenior outlined why Brighton need Vicente to stay fit and how they haven’t quite seen the best of him yet; “Having only played seven games this season, Gus is desperate to get him on the pitch. He has got great quality and he’s got a great left foot.” The win sent Brighton up to fifth in the Championship with ten matches remaining.

POR Full Time POR Studio


2

Long Drive Golf challenge with Sam Vokes and Craig Mackail-Smith

Football League Weekend, Sky Sports 1 (16th March & 27th April 2012)

FLW Titles FLW Everton

As part of Sky Sports’ build up to the three Divisions of the nPower League, every Friday evening they broadcast preview programme Football League Weekend from Sky Studios. The magazine show had goal round-ups, interviews, previews and features packed into a one hour slot, hosted by George Gavin. He’d been involved in Sky’s Football League output heavily since they regained the rights from ITV Digital in 2002, first fronting the coverage as main host and more latterly as the face and voice of the magazine programming in the studio.

The show used a pool of reporters to get the interviews up and down the country, most of whom were Sky Sports News regulars. These included the likes of Peter Stevenson, David Craig, Jonathan Oakes, Mark McAdam and Tony Lockwood. During the 2011/2012 season, another name was added to the fold; Chloe Everton. She first found fame whilst appearing as a contestant on the third series of Channel 4 reality show Shipwrecked broadcast in late 2001. She went on to do some presenting work on satellite channels before joining Sky Sports in the summer of 2007. Everton presented on Sky Sports News, mostly in the Good Morning Sports Fans slot, and co-hosted phone-in show You’re on Sky Sports firstly with Gary Newbon and now Jason Cundy when that relaunched with a new set a couple of years back.

FLW Vokes FLW Mackail-Smith

FLW Golf challenge FLW Laptop

One of the features on the programme this year was a footballers’ golf challenge called Long Drive, hosted by Chloe Everton. There was a long standing link between footballers and enjoying golf in their spare time. The aim of this challenge was simply to find out which of the Championship strikers could hit a golf ball the furthest. On Friday 16th March, it was the turn of two of the Albion forwards; Sam Vokes and Craig Mackail-Smith.

The game involved a real life golf shot taken on the course and relied upon computer technology to measure the distance of the drive with software on the laptop. A leaderboard was kept in order to determine which of the Championship strikers was the best driver of a golf ball. It was also a good excuse to interview a couple of footballers in a more relaxed environment than your straightforward sit down chat.

FLW Vokes shot FLW Vokes distance

FLW Mackail-Smith shot FLW Mackail-Smith distance

The pair chatted about the season so far, as just ten League matches remained. They both praised the efforts of the squad, particularly the recent unbeaten run to climb into the Play Off places. Mackail-Smith was excited by the prospects of the run-in; “Everyone’s enjoying training and looking forward to every game. The next four of five games we’ve got are a few teams around us which will shape our season. But everyone’s loving life and when the sun comes out it’s a nice place to be.”

On loan Wolves striker Sam Vokes was first to take up the challenge. He said he played off a handicap of eighteen, two more than that of Craig Mackail-Smith. The lowest scores were Watford’s Lee Hodson with 195 yards and Bristol City’s Brett Pitman on 196, and ahead of the game that was the Seagulls minimum target to beat; don’t come last! After a few attempts each, it was clear they weren’t going to be languishing near the foot of the board. In fact, Vokes recorded an effort of 303 to climb into second position overall. Before his strike partner went even further with a colossal drive of 324 yards. Mackail-Smith’s faux-surprise tried to suggest he “didn’t even catch that right.” He most definitely did, sending the ball flying further than anyone else.

FLW Leaderboard FLW Top ten

With only a handful of shows remaining, this was a chance for the Albion pair to secure their places at the top of the leaderboard. The likes of Derby, Burnley, Reading and Doncaster had already submitted their efforts. It was Barnsley’s Matt Done who lead the way ahead of Brighton’s go; achieving a score of 307, the only man to go above the three-ton mark before today. With Sam Vokes effort of 303 yards and Craig Mackail-Smith’s 324, both Albion strikers joined Done in that exclusive club. We were used to him running and running on the pitch, covering the length of the pitch. Turns out Mackail-Smith could also do it on the golf course. They would have to go some to dislodge the Scot from his lofty perch.

FLW Studio FLW Remaining Fixtures

Back in the studio, host George Gavin was joined by recently departed Sheffield Wednesday manager Gary Megson. Upon watching Mackail-Smith’s drive, Megson remarked “I don’t go that far on my holidays!” He was clearly a big fan of the Albion number twelve, going on to say; “If there was one player who I could sign outside the Premiership it would be that Mackail-Smith. Terrific player.” The studio pair then discussed Brighton’s form and upcoming fixtures in the hunt to secure a top six finish. Megson put things into context; “Given the fact they came up last year and if somebody had said to them where they would be at this stage of the season, they’d certainly take that. Wherever they finish, it’s been a great season.” They cited Norwich doing a double promotion in the previous two campaigns and the importance of momentum to promotion charges.

FLW CMS vs Pro FLW Trophy presentation

On Friday 27th April, ahead of the final game of the season, Football League Weekend wrapped up the final standings of the Long Drive challenge. Nobody had managed to trouble the top three since Brighton claimed two of those spots a month or so earlier. Therefore Craig Mackail-Smith claimed the prize of top Championship striker with the longest golfing drive at a fantastic 324 yards. Sam Vokes remained in third spot. Chloe Everton revisited Mackail-Smith for one further challenge before presenting him with the overall trophy. They were joined on the course by the UK’s longest driver, professional golfer Adam Stacey.

Mackail-Smith was no match for the pro, as Stacey recorded an effort of 405 yards. He even managed to hit a good couple of hundred once on his knees and another time using just a putter. He was showboating. Upon accepting his trophy in front of an invited crowd including his manager Gus Poyet and his father-in-law the ex-Peterborough boss Barry Fry, Mackail-Smith joked it was “the best award I’ve ever won”. In the studio that week were George Gavin and Peter Beagrie, who briefly touched upon the Albion’s season as a whole. Beagrie commented, “Massively overachieved and what a brilliant debut season in that fantastic stadium. After promotion last year, they’ve been amazing”. Kind words, indeed.


3

Interview with Vicente and Inigo Calderon

Late Kick Off, BBC One South East (2nd April 2012)

LKO2 Titles LKO2 Walker

Dating back to the beginnings of ONdigital in 1998, which went onto be the ill-fated ITV Digital and then Freeview, the digital switchover project had been ongoing in the UK ever since. In a bid to convert analogue terrestrial television broadcasting to digital terrestrial by the end of 2012, changes were made to the way viewers received free television channels. As part of this, in March 2012 the Brighton and Hove area saw their BBC region switched from South to South East. This impacted BBC regional programming, with ITV Meridian unchanged.

Consequently, the region now received BBC South East Today as their local bulletin instead of BBC South Today, whilst the regional football magazine programme came from London and the South East. Albion fans would no longer be grouped with the likes of Bristol City and Exeter, but now with Millwall, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Charlton, Crawley, Stevenage, Aldershot, Gillingham, QPR, Brentford, Watford, Wimbledon, Barnet, Leyton Orient, Wycombe and Dagenham and Redbridge.

LKO2 Studio LKO2 Bright

Football Focus host Dan Walker presented the programme for its 2012 run, usually alongside former Crystal Palace striker and BBC pundit Mark Bright. For this edition Walker was joined by former QPR midfielder Marc Bircham and Crawley boss Steve Evans. The show, broadcast on Monday 2nd April 2012, saw Bright travel to The Amex to hear from two of Albion’s influential players of late; Spanish pair Inigo Calderon and Vicente. For Vicente, his grasp of the English language was not the best so it was an added bonus to be playing alongside a fellow compatriot in Calderon. He also acted as translator for this interview, conducted in the padded seats of the West Stand.

LKO2 Vicente and Calderon.JPG

Vicente was first asked about the differences between La Liga, where he arrived from last summer, and the English Championship. He answered by saying “In Spain, the players are better technically but here in England, it’s more physical, more aggressive.” He explained he had always expressed a desire to play in this country and after speaking with Gus Poyet, Vicente was sold on the club’s ambition. He admitted there were other opportunities in Spain but had no regrets about his choice on the South Coast.

Poyet paid his tributes to the star man too; “He makes this team stronger, when we attack he makes this team different. Because when he’s on the ball, everything can happen.” Inigo Calderon was asked about the ‘promotion’ word, where he was in confident mood of sustaining the fourth or fifth position currently held. Vicente added they were in a good place for it despite not having the budget others enjoyed. As for his future in Sussex, Vicente didn’t yet know but did express he was happy to stay, happy with his contract, the club and embracing life in Brighton.

LKO2 Vicente quote LKO2 Vicente shirt

Back in the studio, guest Steve Evans complimented the job Poyet was doing with the Seagulls; “He’s a football purist… he wants them to play in a style which gets the ball down and play.” The presentation team then talked through the goals from the weekend’s one-all draw at home to Middlesbrough, which saw Calderon nod home the equaliser from a Kazenga LuaLua corner. Pundit Marc Bircham didn’t think Calderon would “adjust to the English style of play in the lower Leagues” when he first arrived but admitted his opinion had since been changed completely. Brighton were leading the renaissance of the South Coast teams, with Evans expecting them to be a Premier League club in the very near future.


4

West Ham 6-0 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (14th April 2012); Championship

WHAM Titles WHAM Fisher

After the Portsmouth victory placed the club in the top six, it was followed up with just one further win all season. Two draws then two defeats in a row saw the Play Off places head out of their own hands. With four matches remaining, this trip to promotion chasers West Ham would be a big chance to gain some ground on those above them. Win and the dream is still alive, lose and that’s pretty much the season done and dusted. The Hammers hadn’t won at Upton Park since February though, as their automatic push fell a little flat.

As you would expect, the BBC picked this game to feature on their highlights programme The Football League Show. The main pairing of Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge presented the action, with commentary from Martin Fisher.

WHAM West Ham WHAM Brighton

Gus Poyet had Liam Bridcutt back in the side after serving suspension for his tenth booking of the campaign. Left-back Marcos Painter returned for the first time after three months out injured. A new name on the sheet was Gai Assulin, signed on loan from Manchester City in mid-February as part of a double deal with Abdul Razak until the end of the season. Assulin was preferred to ten goal Craig Mackail-Smith who hadn’t netted since 3rd March.

Sam Allardyce named Henri Lansbury in the starting line-up for the first time in a month. Striker Ricardo Vaz Te was in great form, having scored five in his previous four games. Captain Kevin Nolan scored the decisive goal at The Amex in the reverse fixture back in October, a match which was televised Live on Sky Sports. Taking charge of the Upton Park clash was referee Roger East.

WHAM Vaz Te opener WHAM Nolan three nil

On the day that Neptune Collonges won the last Grand National to be televised Live on the BBC, this match was very much a one horse race right from the off. The warning sign came immediately when Lansbury’s deflected shot looped over Peter Brezovan and onto the bar in the first minute. The Slovakian goalkeeper didn’t cover himself in the third minute either, as Ricardo Vaz Te’s ferocious strike from thirty yards sailed through his arms and in for one-nil. Brighton were under severe pressure and needed their ‘keeper to up his game, which he did in the following few minutes making two vital blocks. But the Hammers were not stopping there and Vaz Te doubled the advantage with less than eight minutes on the clock. His head connected with the deep cross and beat Brezovan low to his right.

Incredibly, it was three-nil just three minutes after that as West Ham went all out to obliterate the Albion within the opening passages of play. “Brighton have not turned up, this is already embarrassing,” cried commentator Martin Fisher. The marking was slack from Matt Taylor’s floated free kick. James Tomkins headed it back across goal and captain Kevin Nolan was waiting on his own to tap home into the roof of the net from all of three yards. It was a shocking start from the Seagulls, conceding three very early goals in the net right in front of the travelling support. The attack calmed down somewhat as the half progressed but by that point it was already too late to recover. Gordon Greer had an effort clawed off the goal line when it looked suspiciously over, but it would have been little reward. The deficit remained three at the break.

WHAM Vaz Te spectacular WHAM Own goal

Seventeen minutes into the second half, the West Ham onslaught continued with two quickfire goals in three minutes. Their fourth of the afternoon was the pick of the bunch, as Ricardo Vaz Te completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion. Taylor’s cross to the back post was headed into the centre by Carlton Cole. Appeals for a penalty when Liam Bridcutt appeared to bundle over Lansbury were waved away. But it didn’t matter as the ball bounced for Vaz Te to try a bicycle kick. It absolutely flew into the back of the net for one of the finishes of the season.

When it’s not your day, the luck goes against you. It certainly didn’t go our way for West Ham’s fifth. Carlton Cole drove into the box from the left, skipped past one defender before unleashing a fierce drive. But the ball skipped up off the heels of Lansbury as he tried to get out of the way. The deflection gave Brezovan no chance as he was already committed on the ground. That was the final straw for large sections of the away support, who headed for the exits to the pub early enough to still catch the Grand National race.

Continuing on the hard luck theme, the sixth and final goal was an own goal from Gary Dicker. Mark Noble’s in swinging corner could only find Dicker just inside his own six yard box. As he tried to volley clear, he got his timing all wrong. Attempting to boot it with his right, he missed the ball completely and it bounced into the back of the net off his standing left leg. It completed a day of abject misery for the Albion, and it was somewhat fortunate to get away with just the six.

WHAM Full Time WHAM Studio

Brighton’s heaviest defeat since the seven-one humiliation at Huddersfield in August 2009 under Russell Slade put pay to the Play Off hopes this time. Albion were five points off the top six with just three matches remaining. We went so near, yet so far. But what a return to the second tier of English football. Gus Poyet knew the West Ham game plan would be to try and press and try to win it in the first twenty minutes but didn’t deal with it. “A big question that we need to ask ourselves if it was because we have a bad day or because we were not strong enough.”

In the studio, one time Seagull Steve Claridge explained how to shape up against his former side. “There are two ways of playing Brighton; you can sit off them and let them play out from the back and let them dictate the play. Or you can get after them right from the very start.” Sam Allardyce opted for the latter with unstoppable consequences, with Claridge saying it could’ve been five in the opening twenty. This was an unusual result for the club, having kept a tight ship all year. Too many draws in the final weeks of the season cost Brighton a Play Off place, but the supporters couldn’t grumble too much after making such fantastic strides at The Amex. Next season was shaping up to be a cracker.


5

Report on The Amex bucking the trend of dwindling attendances

Late Kick Off, BBC One South East (23rd April 2012)

LKO3 Titles LKO3 Gupta

BBC Late Kick Off in London and the South East region featured a report on attendances at Football League matches. Host Dan Walker began, “Football would be nothing without the fans but these days it’s rare to see a packed stadium outside of the Premier League.” He then handed to Rajeev Gupta’s report detailing some of the challenges clubs faced in with their fanbase in times of austerity. Gupta was a broadcast journalist and producer for the BBC, working across various outlets including this regional magazine programme, having joined the corporation out of university four years earlier.

His report centred around two of the London and South East region clubs with contrasting fortunes; Brighton and Millwall. At The Amex, attendances couldn’t be better. The stadium was packed every week and plans had been given the go ahead already to extend the capacity to include filling in corners and adding in an upper tier to the East Stand. Three-thousand plus people were on the season ticket waiting list. But the Albion were very much an anomaly. “Football League attendances as a whole have been falling and that’s meant some clubs have had to come up with new ways to try and bring fans into grounds”, Gupta explained.

LKO3 Dix LKO3 Ambler

The report used a stadia consultant by the name of John Dix to add context to the worrying trend of dwindling support. “When you start drilling down a bit lower, what you see is the Premiership is quite insulated – not surprisingly. But it’s when you go to Championship and Leagues One and Two that you start to see some of the fans maybe drifting away there.”

We then heard from representatives for Millwall, who had the lowest average gate of any of the London sides in the Championship. Andy Ambler, their Chief Executive, shared some of the schemes they were getting behind in order to win back those fans whose interest may have lessened in recent times. The family section had changed with a concerted effort made to bring in more from the community to that part of the stadium. Things such as food options and overall facilities had been tweaked to appeal more to the whole family.

LKO3 Fans LKO3 Hebberd

John Dix outlined some of the key things clubs should be doing in order to attract higher attendances. He said they needed to understand exactly who their supporters are, where they would draw them from and target them specifically. “We see some clubs who put out a lot of information but it’s focussed at one key group; the diehard fans who will come week in, week out anyway. It’s about looking at the occasional fan.” The impact of a new stadium can benefit clubs hugely, expanding the fanbase and providing introductory offers that then convert people from newbies to regulars. Something Brighton was managing very nicely.

The Albion’s COO Richard Hebberd discussed how the club were encouraging people to make a day of it, rather than just coming for those two hours from three o’clock. The stadium opening hours were extended on matchdays, with turnstiles up two hours before kick-off. More importantly though, certainly as far as revenue was concerned, it was after the match that was proving popular. One of the areas of The Amex was open until eleven on the matchday of filming. Hebberd said, “They’re entitled to feel they’re being well treated… At the end of the day, people will spend money on something that’s good.” Seagulls supporters certainly could not grumble too much about that first season in Falmer. The club missed out on the Play Offs, what a ride it was along the way. But the only thing that ever mattered was getting into that home we could call our own. Now, for many more wonderful years to come!


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

#45: Crystal Palace 0-0 Brighton 10/05/2013

#45 CRYSTAL PALACE 0-0 BRIGHTON Championship Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
Friday 10th May 2013 Image result for

CPA Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUESTS Matt Lawrence & Craig Mackail-Smith
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Jonathan Oakes
7.45pm Kick Off; Selhurst Park, Croydon     7.30-10pm Play Offs 2013 Live on Sky Sports 1

CPA Ident CPA Sponsor CPA Intro

Context of the Match: Brighton had reached the Championship Play Offs in their second season back in the Division. The upwards trajectory under Gus Poyet continued, having raised the Seagulls away from the relegation zone in his first few months in charge, following that up with the League One title in his first full season, finishing a very respectable tenth in the second tier last season and now this, fourth place and into the Play Offs. The Albion had been in the top ten since August, briefly leading the way in September before a poor run of form drawing too many games saw them slide down the table. Form improved after Christmas and following a hard-fought win over eventual runners-up Hull City in our last televised match in February, Brighton found the consistency to catapult them into the top six. A Play Off place was confirmed in the final away match of the season with victory at Leeds and fourth was secured with a last day win at home to relegated Wolves. Just three League defeats in twenty-two matches this calendar year means Brighton are the form side of the four. Their opponents also happened to be their fiercest rivals Crystal Palace. They had hopes of an automatic spot in December but despite form slipping, they had been in the top six ever since October. They were in danger of dropping out of the Play Offs having not won in nine matches ahead of the final day of the season. A last-minute winner over Peterborough kept the Eagles in fifth place in dramatic style. Whilst Brighton had the best defence in the League, scoring goals wasn’t always straightforward with only Craig Mackail-Smith in double figures. Sky Sports televised every single Play Off game Live this season, meaning tonight’s clash took place under the lights on a warm Friday night in Croydon.

CPA Palace CPA Subs CPA Brighton

The Teams: Brighton were without top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith who was a long-term casualty due to an achilles injury. Having guaranteed a Play Off place with a game to spare, Poyet was able to rest key players for last week’s win over Wolves. Five changes were made to tonight’s line-up, bringing back core midfielders Dean Hammond, Will Buckley and Andrea Orlandi. Wayne Bridge returned after a slight injury and on the other flank Inigo Calderon came straight back in after a one-match suspension for a red card against Leeds. The best defence in the Championship was aided by former England defender Matt Upson, who slotted seamlessly into the side alongside captain Gordon Greer. Liam Bridcutt was named Albion Player of the Season for the second year running, crucial to why the club’s defence has been so well protected. Options on the bench included Ashley Barnes, Vicente and goalscorer last time out Kazenga LuaLua. Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace side were spearheaded by former Albion striker Glenn Murray. He was inexplicably let go at the end of his contract in 2011 and as a free agent joined our rivals up the road. He was the club’s, and indeed entire League’s, top scorer this season with a fantastic thirty-one goals. The Eagles had lost that winning feeling in the final quarter of the season and made one change from the last-gasp victory on the final day as Jonny Williams replaced Yannick Bolasie – he’s the cousin of LuaLua. Danger man Wilfried Zaha was featuring at this stadium for the final time having already agreed to join Manchester United as incoming manager David Moyes’ first signing. Veteran striker, and no stranger to Play Off heartbreak, Kevin Phillips was on the bench. Refereeing matters was the Premier League’s Michael Oliver.

CPA Thomas CPA Lawrence CPA Mackail-Smith CPA Studio

The Coverage & Presentation Team: Sky Sports coverage of this Play Off Semi Final First Leg clash came on-air fifteen minutes before the 7.45pm kick off. Main Football League host Simon Thomas presented from the studio in the corner at Selhurst Park. The graphics were mainly the same as the regular season, with the addition of the ‘Play Offs 2013’ logo added. Club crests would now rotate to have that on one side and the Play Offs badge on the reverse. A specific title sequence was given to all Play Off fixtures with clips of great moments from down the years including Paul Dickov’s equaliser for Manchester City in 1999, Sasa Ilic’s save for Charlton in 1998 and all three of last season’s winners lifting the trophy. The overall look of the sequence and the music remained the same; Candi Staton’s “You got the Love”. The replay transition was the Play Offs trophy, the same that the League One and Two Champions receive. Thomas introduced the show by looking over last night’s other Championship Semi Final between Leicester and Watford before clips of tonight’s two teams played. His guests each represented the sides; Matt Lawrence for Crystal Palace and Craig Mackail-Smith for Brighton. Lawrence played in Palace’s defence for four years from 2006, making over a hundred appearances. He had Play Off experience at this level with Millwall under Mark McGhee back in 2002 and then again with Palace in 2008. Craig Mackail-Smith had a new look for the occasion, having had his trademark long hair shaved off recently. He was out with a serious achilles injury sustained in March that would prevent him from featuring for a long time. He too had Play Off experience having scored for Peterborough during the League One Final in 2011, his last match before joining the Albion. Glenn Murray for the home side and Brighton’s Liam Bridcutt were picked out as key men ahead of the clash, big games expected for both. Football League reporter Jonathan Oakes heard from both managers before the advert break, Poyet keen to stress the approach would be as usual; “the idea is to make sure we are strong enough mentally to play the game the same way.” After the pause, Thomas handed over to the number one League commentary team of Bill Leslie and Don Goodman. Leslie would do all Championship Play Off games, with Goodman and Andy Hinchcliffe accompanying him for each of the two pairs of fixtures.

CPA Play Offs CPA Schedule CPA Bridcutt CPA MOTM

At half-time Craig Mackail-Smith thought Poyet would actually be disappointed with the scoreline, Brighton had two great chances to take the lead but didn’t take them. Matt Lawrence saw Crystal Palace’s full-backs as the weakness that Brighton could exploit more in the second half. When the stalemate ended, reporter Jonathan Oakes got instant reaction from Man of the Match once again Liam Bridcutt, and Crystal Palace striker Wilfried Zaha, who played his final game at Selhurst before joining Manchester United. Bridcutt thought it was “a massive result for us” looking forward to the Second Leg with “a bit of an advantage now.” That seemed to be the general consensus; home advantage on Monday could be the deciding factor. Around ten minutes was allowed for post match discussion. Oakes chatted with Poyet who described the second half as “a bit more crazy, a bit more open and those are the games that are difficult to defend”, having been frustrated that his side didn’t take the lead in the first half. The injury to Glenn Murray was one of the talking points in the studio, how much he would be missed for the Second Leg but oddly it sparked Zaha into life having been largely anonymous before. There were several incidents of shirt-pulling ahead of corners and free-kicks, with Matt Lawrence believing Palace should’ve had a penalty for one of them. A rather sombre Ian Holloway spoke before the programme came off-air, clearly disappointed with the two injuries and not taking an advantage but “it’s all set for Monday night.” And following that we were done, all eyes would be on the return fixture Live on Sky Sports.

CPA Kick Off CPA Comms CPA Hammond header CPA Sub

Story of the Match: Brighton wore their change kit of luminous green and black stripes. The atmosphere was terrific as both sets of supporters were in full voice, albeit nervously, for this huge Play Off clash. The first chance fell Leo Ulloa’s way with a header six yards out from a free kick. He mistimed it as the flag spared any potential blushes calling offside. Minutes later he saw another header fly wide following a cross on the left-wing from Wayne Bridge. It was an encouraging opening six minutes for the Albion, the striker just needed to work on his direction. Young midfielder Jonny Williams had the first goalward effort for Crystal Palace, his long-range shot going wide. In the twentieth minute a golden chance was carved out by the Albion. Buckley did really well up against Delaney on the right-wing, beating his man for pace and getting a great cross in. Waiting centre of goal was Dean Hammond unmarked six yards out. His header had power but lacking in placement as it went straight at Julian Speroni in-goal who reacted well to keep it out. What a chance to take the lead. Hammond then had a strike that he sliced wide of the goal and too high for any attacking head to deflect home. At the other end Palace had attempts blocked when Brighton threw bodies on the line. It was tight and tense out there. Inigo Calderon picked up a yellow card just before half time for a late trip on Williams, meaning he’d need to err on the side of caution for the rest of the contest. Consequently, for the second half Palace switched Zaha from the right to the left flank to go toe-to-toe, as Wayne Bridge gave him absolutely nothing in the first. The change immediately brought the home side into the game, Zaha fired a ball right across the face of goal which both Murray and Williams were close to making contact. Dean Hammond remained the Albion’s biggest goal threat. A David Lopez set piece was met by Hammond’s head but he was offside and it was kept out by Speroni. The second period was much more even, one side attacked then the other would in turn. Palace nearly got the opener from Danny Gabbidon’s header, however Kuszczak was alert to it and got it away with the help of Orlandi on the line. Set pieces were the only way of conjuring shots on target. With twenty-five minutes to go Glenn Murray seriously injured his knee twisting in the box, he fell down in agony under no challenge and had to be stretchered off. The incident kept him out for the rest of the calendar year and beyond. Several long stoppages for injuries resulted in six minutes of added on time. Alas, nothing could separate the Eagles and the Seagulls tonight, as the First Leg came to a goalless close. Brighton would be the happier side ahead of the Second Leg, aware of their excellent home record. There wasn’t long to wait for the rematch; just three nights until the conclusion at The Amex on Monday. If you can bear it.

CPA Coming Up

CRYSTAL PALACE 0 BRIGHTON 0

CPA Replay

PREVIOUS; #44 BRIGHTON 1-0 HULL 09/02/2013

NEXT; #46 BRIGHTON 0-2 CRYSTAL PALACE 13/05/2013

#41: Brighton 2-2 Leeds 02/11/2012

#41 BRIGHTON 2-2 LEEDS Championship
Friday 2nd November 2012 Image result for

LEE Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUEST Nicky Forster
COMMENTATORS Daniel Mann & Don Goodman REPORTER Paul Gilmour
7.45pm Kick Off; Amex Stadium     7.30-10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

LEE Ident LEE Bet365 LEE Intro

Context of the Match: Brighton began their second season back in the Championship well, topping the table in September. However, form of late had slumped to the third worst in the Division with no wins in the last six matches. Worryingly, the goals were drying up to; the club not scoring in four matches. Goals were guaranteed though whenever Leeds United were in town; the Yorkshiremen had scored and conceded in every match on the road thus far. The stadium’s biggest crowd to date was expected for their visit this Friday night, Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Over the summer building work was completed to add a second tier to the East Stand bringing the capacity up past 26,500. Further increases were in the pipelines, with all four corners set to be filled in to allow more than 30,000 supporters in. Exciting times were ahead. Despite the recent blip, the Seagulls were only a couple of points off a Play Off place. Tonight’s clash saw tenth versus eleventh, both on nineteen points. Last season’s fixture was also televised on a Friday night, ending in a thrilling three-three draw. What would the rematch have in store?

LEE Brighton LEE Leeds LEE Subs

The Teams: Brighton’s recent goal-shy attack meant last season’s top scorer Ashley Barnes had only scored four this term and record signing Craig Mackail-Smith had six. One thing going in his favour though was that Mackail-Smith had scored on all four occasions he had faced Leeds in his career. The energetic Will Buckley would hope to be crafting the assists tonight. Former captain Dean Hammond re-joined the club on a season-long loan at the end of August from Southampton. He cited the Albion’s ambitions as a reason for leaving first time round in 2008, there was no doubting that now. Also joining at the end of the transfer window were Spanish midfield duo Andrea Orlandi, moving from Swansea, and David Lopez, signed on a free from Athletic Bilbao. In a bid to bolster the attack, Scottish striker Stephen Dobbie also left the Swans and began on the bench here. Whilst the goals were lacking up front, they were also being kept out at the back with Brighton boasting the best defence in the entire Football League this season; conceding just nine goals in fourteen League matches. Former Manchester United ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, centre-half Adam El-Abd, captain Gordon Greer and ex-England international Wayne Bridge were all ever presents. As was holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt but he was on four cautions, one more and he’d be forced to miss the next game. For Neil Warnock’s Leeds, Luke Varney was Man of the Match during their midweek Capital One Cup victory against Southampton. One change was made from that win as Paddy Kenny returned in-goal. The striker all opposing fans love to hate, summer signing El Hadji Diouf was in the starting XI, whilst on the bench sat Luciano Becchio & Danny Pugh. Refereeing was Lee Mason.

LEE Thomas LEE Forster LEE Studio

Presentation Team: Simon Thomas was lead Football League presenter for the second season running. Having worked his way up from hosting youth matches and pretty much any low-key football they could throw at him, he progressed onto secondary Football League broadcasts before landing the main gig when David Jones was promoted to Sky’s Premier League coverage hosting the Saturday games. This all followed the reshuffle at the start of 2011 when Richard Keys resigned. Alongside Thomas at The Amex was former Brighton striker Nicky Forster. He spent three seasons at Withdean, making over a century of appearances. He scored his 200th career goal during a televised Football League Trophy match as the Albion lost out on a place at Wembley to Luton. Since retiring from the professional game in 2011 he joined Sky Sports as part of the Football League coverage. He filed regular reports for the preview programme last season, including ahead of the opening Amex match, and has appeared as a pundit across the Leagues. He returned to playing, albeit on a semi-professional basis, for first Lingfield then Dover when he took over as player-manager last year in the Conference South. He combined this with his media role. In the commentary box were Daniel Mann and Don Goodman, neither were strangers to this stadium. They both covered this fixture last season although not together; Mann did the 3D commentary whilst Goodman was heard by everybody else. With tonight’s match not broadcast in 3D, and Sky seeming to scale back the amount of games covered after not enjoying too much uptake, Daniel Mann was free to cover the game for the wider audience. He’s behind Bill Leslie in the Football League pecking order but with an increased broadcast rights deal with the League from this season, more matches were available to cover. Don Goodman was also behind the mic when the Seagulls crashed out of the Capital One Cup in August at Swindon, before a League football had even been kicked. Reporting at The Amex was Paul Gilmour, covering his first Live Albion match. He joined Sky Sports in April of this year, working predominantly for Sky Sports News during the week as well as reporting on the handful of Live Northern Ireland internationals and Irish League football. He was formerly a commentator for BBC Northern Ireland.

LEE Opener LEE Action Areas LEE Coming Up LEE Gilmour

The Coverage: Sky came on-air at the usual Friday night time of 7.30pm for kick-off fifteen minutes later. A new broadcasting rights deal kicked from this season, increasing the amount of Football League games Sky could show seventy-five regular season matches, all fifteen Play Off games and fifteen Capital One Cup ties exclusively Live. This brought an end to the BBC’s ten Championship Live games after three seasons but they still held the highlights rights. The graphics and titles remained as they were last season – Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’ the soundtrack – with bet365 still sponsoring the programming. The idents in 2011 were all about twenty years of Sky Sports, from 2012 onwards they had a “Home of Sport” theme, adapted to ‘Your home of Football / Cricket / Goals’ etc when appropriate. Simon Thomas hosted the match from the glass box studio located permanently within the North Stand. Development work had been going on over the summer to increase the capacity of The Amex with the corners beginning to be filled in. The space where the studio position was last season – between the South and East stands – was being rebuilt to house fans below so television hosts were shifted to the opposite side this year. He previewed the big match with studio guest Nicky Forster. The introduction VT showed clips of Brighton’s past superimposed onto the Amex Stadium, in an attempt to show how far we’ve come, as Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” played. It is such a great tune and so appropriate for this club. In his pre-match interview with Paul Gilmour, Gus Poyet spoke of his frustration at the lack of goals recently despite creating good chances; “We’ve been performing, not scoring.” The programme format now took the pre-match advert break before the teams emerged from the tunnel, thus not giving the pundits too much time to chat uninterrupted. A slight tweak to the scoreboard was made this season, as it moved outside 4×3 safe zone to sit in the corner of the screen and looked better for it. At half time Nicky Forster was adamant that Brighton should’ve been ahead and the Leeds penalty was very soft; “For me, anywhere else that’s not a foul.” Straight after the final whistle, Gilmour spoke with Man of the Match Will Buckley, who ran the show in the first half, alongside Leeds midfielder Michael Brown in the centre circle. Opposition manager Neil Warnock gave a rare bit of praise to referee Lee Mason for his handling, allowing play to continue and not issue unnecessary cards. In the studio Nicky Forster thought Warnock would be the happier of the two managers given Brighton’s dominance in periods throughout. Poyet’s assessment was “one team playing football, one team going forward and another team getting lucky.” He said Varney dived for the Leeds penalty and Michael Brown should have been sent off for an accumulation of yellow cards, so understandably Poyet was frustrated with the result. Forster and Simon Thomas wrapped up the story of the rest of the game in the ten minutes of time given to analysis before signing off from The Amex.

LEE Kick Off LEE Comms LEE Celebration LEE Penalty

Story of the Match: Led out by Pudsey the Bear to publicise the upcoming BBC Children in Need fundraiser in two weeks time, the teams left the tunnel to a rapturous reception in anticipation of another Friday night thriller with Leeds. Referee Lee Mason set his stall out early on with Buckley booked inside the first ninety seconds for a late lunge, whilst Michael Brown did the same in the tenth for the away side. The game flew out the traps with end-to-end football early on. Buckley burst through the Leeds defenders and his cross/shot was deflected to bounce just wide of the post. Wayne Bridge used his energy to run half the length of the pitch to cross to Barnes who couldn’t quite wrap his foot round the shot to get it on target. The home side were rampant. They were rewarded after a quarter of an hour via a penalty kick. The lively Will Buckley nipped in ahead of captain Peltier who could only stick a leg out to trip him up. Up stepped Craig Mackail-Smith to blast it down the middle for one-nil Brighton. The man can’t stop scoring against Leeds! He almost got a second after another Buckley surge, chipping the ball over his marker before outpacing him to reach the loose ball. He found Mackail-Smith who smacked the post with his effort. Andrea Orlandi then had a fantastic opportunity off a Bruno cross. Orlandi was unmarked six yards out but miss hit it down into the ground instead of hitting the back of the net. Leeds could’ve been out of sight within the first half an hour. However out of nowhere Leeds won themselves a penalty ten minutes before the break after Varney clashed with Bruno, appearing to push the attacker who went down very dramatically. It seemed a harsh penalty to give. Pantomime villain El Hadji Diouf squeezed the spot kick past Kuszczak’s diving hand to level it up. Just before the break Mackail-Smith went close again, his half-volley from the edge of the box only centimetres wide. How Brighton went into the dressing room level was a mystery.

LEE Yellow LEE MOTM

The lead was restored just three minutes into the second half, following a nice reverse pass from Orlandi to set Buckley racing to the byline. He cut it back to Mackail-Smith ten yards in front of goal whose shot took a nick off the defender on its way past Paddy Kenny. The movement and awareness from all three Albion players was excellent. Much like the first half, this was all Brighton until Leeds got their equaliser. The defence limited Leeds to long-range efforts only but Michael Brown’s shot from just outside the D got the better of Kuszczak this time. It came from a simple ball rolled across from the edge of the area for Brown to hit it first time, it took a slight touch from sub striker Becchio on the way through but it would still be claimed as the midfielder’s goal. Twenty-five minutes were left to find a winner. Not long after drawing level, a cross to Becchio’s head almost turned the match around. His glancing header fell just inches wide. Brighton were then handed a golden chance to re-take the lead when Mackail-Smith was bundled over by Byram waiting for Bruno’s deep cross in. The striker got up to take it for his hat-trick but Kenny ruined that with a good save to his right. Leeds were not made to pay the penalty on a night of kicks from twelve yards; two converted, one missed. The final quarter of an hour went by without incident, with substitute Andrew Crofts having the only good chance with almost the last kick of the match, his shot though well kept out by Kenny once more. It ended in an entertaining two-two draw. Brighton could take many positives from the match, most prominently that they created more than enough to win comfortably and goals did start to come after a drought. The point kept the Albion in the chasing pack just outside the Play Off places.

LEE Table

BRIGHTON 2 LEEDS 2
Mackail-Smith (2) Diouf, Brown

LEE Replay LEE Goal

PREVIOUS; #40 SWINDON 3-0 BRIGHTON 14/08/2012

NEXT; #42 BRIGHTON 1-3 WATFORD 29/12/2012

#35: Brighton 3-3 Leeds 23/09/2011

#35 BRIGHTON 3-3 LEEDS Championship
Friday 23rd September 2011 Image result for

LEE Titles

PRESENTER Simon Thomas GUESTS Peter Beagrie & Mark McGhee
COMMENTATORS Bill Leslie & Don Goodman REPORTER Patrick Davison
7.45pm Kick Off; Amex Stadium     7.30-10pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

COLU Ident LEE Bet365 LEE Intro

Context of the Match: You wait twelve months for a televised home match and then two come along within forty-eight hours. That was the case for the Albion up against Leeds tonight, having narrowly lost to Premier League Liverpool on Wednesday in the Third Round of the Carling Cup. The Leeds match was the first League game to be broadcast Live from the Amex Stadium, a marked difference from Bournemouth at Withdean last October. Already there’s been an average attendance of over 21,000 fans, compared to the 7,000 at the athletics ground. Gus Poyet’s first home League match almost two years ago was tonight’s opponents, he’ll be hoping for a much better result after losing that one by three goals to nil in League One. United were promoted that season and adapted to Championship life immediately, narrowly missing the Play Offs by one position. The Albion will be aiming for something similar, if not better, this campaign. Poyet also was their assistant manager under Dennis Wise before getting his big break with us. Both sides went into tonight having lost to a Premier League side in midweek, with Manchester United knocking out the Yorkshiremen on Tuesday. A win for Brighton would see them go top of the table. The visitors sat in eleventh ahead of this one after an inconsistent start, however they had won their previous two Championship games. Goals were expected ahead of Sky Sports first Football League visit to our new residence.

LEE Brighton LEE Leeds LEE Subs

The Teams: Gus Poyet made five changes to the starting line up which lost to Liverpool. One academy graduate replaced another as Lewis Dunk returned for Steve Cook. First choice left-back Marcos Painter was back after a one-match suspension for his red card at Leicester, Romain Vincelot dropped down to the bench. Two changes came in midfield as out went Matt Sparrow and Alan Navarro, bringing in Kazenga LuaLua and Gary Dicker. This was LuaLua’s first start since the opening day victory over Doncaster. And after his goal from the spot late on, Ashley Barnes was straight back in to partner the ever-running Craig Mackail-Smith in a 4-4-2 formation. Casper Ankergren faced up against the club he helped get promoted in 2010. Whilst seven substitutes were permitted in the Cup, we were back to five for the League. Taking their places were the much-anticipated Vicente, who won the penalty against Liverpool, and new signing Will Hoskins; brought in for a rumoured £1 million from Bristol Rovers. He scored a cracker against us last season as part of a brace, prompting his capture in May. Leeds under Simon Grayson made one change from their three-nil defeat at home to Manchester United, with Danny Pugh going straight into the first team having been signed on loan from Premier League Stoke just yesterday. Pugh enjoyed a couple of years at Elland Road at the beginning of his career, making a half-century of appearance. Ross McCormack had already scored seven goals this season, alongside Andy Keogh who was another man to return to the club on loan having risen to prominence in Yorkshire early on in his career. They had former Manchester United goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and ex-Chelsea and Finland forward Mikael Forssell to call upon from reserve. United hadn’t kept a clean sheet yet this term. Tonight’s referee was Lee Probert.

LEE Thomas LEE Beagrie LEE McGhee LEE Studio

Presentation Team: Hosting from the portable glass studio in the South-East corner of the stadium was Simon Thomas. As of this season he was officially the Football League number one presenter now David Jones had stepped up full-time to chair the Premier League’s Saturday lunchtime matches. This came just one season after first doing a League game; on the opening weekend of 2010/11 at League One Southampton. As well as being a regular on Sky Sports News until last season, Thomas had presented a whole host of low-key football for the broadcaster. He first did the under-16 international Victory Shield games in 2006 and subsequently mopped up the likes of the under-21 internationals and FA Youth Cup matches Sky held the rights to, gradually working his way up the ladder gaining experience. With him tonight were Peter Beagrie and Mark McGhee. Beagrie was now in his fifth season as the Leagues premier pundit, covering the vast majority of matches week in week out. Mark McGhee had popped up quite a few times on duty analysing Brighton matches since leaving the club in five years ago. The most recent of these came in the last televised League game at Colchester in April. In the commentary box were Bill Leslie and Don Goodman, Sky’s first choice pairing. Somewhat surprisingly this was the first time Goodman had done a Brighton match despite being a regular for four years now. He enjoyed a successful career in the Football League as a striker for both Wolves and West Brom, starting off at Bradford and playing over a hundred games for Sunderland. He scored in Walsall’s Division Two Play Off Final victory over Reading in 2001. Bill Leslie did his first Brighton commentary in the defeat at home to Crystal Palace in 2005, they would be the Seagulls next opponents on Tuesday. Leslie’s the current voice of the Football League and called our Live match on Wednesday against Liverpool. Completing the line-up was reporter Patrick Davison, stepping into the number one role following Greg Whelan’s promotion to the Premier League coverage working with Geoff Shreeves and Guy Havord.

LEE Pavillion LEE Team LEE Kick Off LEE Comms

The Coverage: Sky hosted their regular Friday night preview programme Football League Weekend Live from The Amex between 6 and 7pm earlier. Full details of that can be found at the bottom of this post but it was a fantastic build-up to the big game. This was also the first regular Football League match to be broadcast in 3D on the Sky 3D channel, which required separate camera angles and commentary. On the slightly lower gantry were Daniel Mann and Tony Gale as they were on Wednesday in the Cup. The main Live show came on-air fifteen minutes prior to the 7.45pm kick off, with Simon Thomas in the hosts chair next to Peter Beagrie and Mark McGhee. The studio on Wednesday had a desk, comfy chairs and Carling Cup decorations within, whereas tonight the setup was a bit more stripped back; just three simple stools. And I’m not talking about the pundits. The new graphics this season to be utilised on their 65 Championship Live games were shinier and smoother than before, all framed within the 4×3 safe area instead of extending across the entire screen like before. The title sequence remained the same as last year, just different clips used, with Candi Staton’s ‘You Got the Love’ soundtracking it once more. The team line-ups now contained static player pictures as well as the names and numbers underneath to give it a more dynamic look. The Premier League had these for a while before. “You can’t beat a trip to Brighton. There’s loads to do and always plenty on offer. But there’s a new attraction around here that’s been causing heads to turn recently and it’s got all the makings of a great night out” were the words Simon Thomas opened the programme with, shot from various locations around the city including the pier and the Pavillion. His guest Mark McGhee was able to compare and contrast to what he had as manager compared to what Poyet has now, with the stadium, the fantastic crowds and some excellent signings. McGhee was hampered by having to work on less than a shoestring budget, a long way off the million pound-plus spent on multiple players in the summer. A look at the table saw third-placed Brighton six points ahead of Leeds, just creeping into the top half. Patrick Davison spoke with both managers in the tunnel, with Poyet emphasising the mental toughness his side would need to go the distance here. Leeds boss Grayson expected an entertaining game despite the drains of midweek. Further studio chat ensued before the line ups were confirmed by commentator Bill Leslie pre-kick off.

LEE All the Action LEE Analysis

At half-time Thomas, Beagrie and McGhee were full of praise for Leeds for their fantastic first period. Beagrie criticised the Albion’s approach, saying “Brighton played into their hands to a degree because they play total football out from the back and allowed Leeds to swarm all over them.” McGhee didn’t think having one fewer day’s rest than Leeds had anything to do with the scoreline, saying the shape was more at fault. The trio laid the blame for the goals with the defence first before giving United credit and expecting better in the second half. They certainly got that. Around fifteen minutes of post-match analysis was afforded to review the terrifically topsy-turvy game. Immediately after the final whistle Patrick Davison caught up with the Man of the Match two-goal Craig Mackail-Smith who was joined midway through by Leeds’ Ross McCormack. He spoke of the wager he had with Michael Brown – who wasn’t in the squad – whereby he would receive £100 for every goal, and had to give Brown £50 for any game he didn’t score. He was quids in tonight. In the studio, Thomas asked McGhee what he would say to defenders trying to face Mackail-Smith, answering how the body position was key and the movement and anticipation needed to be impeccable because he’s always running and getting to the ball first. They analysed all six goals having hardly got their breath back from the on-field entertainment. We also heard from both managers, with Grayson “pretty devastated but obviously delighted as well”. Poyet spoke similarly, “If you look first half, I think it’s a great point. If you look about the last two minutes, probably not.” He said high scoring draws are not their style, conceding lots and wanted to address the defending to stop it happening again. And so another broadcast concluded, one which showcased both the good and the bad of the team finding their feet in this Division once again.

LEE Ticker LEE CMS

Story of the Match: The crowd was bang up for this match under the lights, with all stands joining in the singing. After Brighton enjoyed much of the early possession, a warning shot was fired by Robert Snodgrass cutting in from the left-wing before stabbing the ball goalwards with the outside of his boot. Ankergren seemed pretty calm about leaving the shot to go over the bar but it didn’t miss by too much. It didn’t take Leeds long after that to crank up the pressure and score the opening goal with eighteen minutes played. White did well on the left, driving into the area and cutting the ball back for Keogh. He laid it off for Clayton to hit it, Albion bodies blocked but the resulting scramble saw the ball ricochet back to Andy Keogh to finish past desperate lunges on the line from both Ankergren and Calderon. Leeds doubled their lead five minutes later with a goal from nowhere thanks to a rocket from Ross McCormack. Their top-scorer picked up the ball around twenty-five yards out, took a touch to spin away from Bridcutt, and fired a fierce drive hard and low into the corner of the net, to beat Ankergren for pace to make it two-nil. The home side were rocked. It took until the 38th minute for the Albion to look dangerous and work the goalkeeper. A Craig Noone corner was floated into a scrum of bodies around the penalty spot, with the ball bouncing out towards an unmarked Mackail-Smith at the near post. Lonergan in-goal just got his body in the way ahead of the striker and his defence managed to clear the danger. Soon after, a wicked ball in from LuaLua stretched the Leeds back line. The cross deflected up by a defender with Noone giving chase with the ‘keeper diving for it, he caught Noone’s ankle to bring him down for what should have been a penalty. As the linesman was on the near side and the incident on the far, it was up to the referee who clearly did not wish to give it. Set pieces were providing the greatest threat to the Leeds goal.

LEE Man of the Match LEE Poyet

Vicente came on at half-time to replace Craig Noone in a tactical change for the Albion. Under two minutes in and Brighton had their breakthrough. Craig Mackail-Smith received a pass with his back to goal from Barnes on the right. Knowing there was a defender in front and another breathing down his neck, the record-signing expertly dragged the ball with his first touch to skip through them before slotting into the corner of the net across goal for a fantastic finish all down to an individual piece of skill. It was the perfect start. The emphasis continued and approaching the hour mark they got themselves level. LuaLua played it forward for Mackail-Smith to run behind, Leigh Bromby lunged in and brought the striker down rather unnecessarily. After a hit and miss season of penalties in League One which saw responsibility passed around the team, it seems Brighton have their designated taker again. Ashley Barnes scored his penalty against Liverpool, and he scored his penalty against Leeds here in very similar style. He took just a couple of steps to run up before lashing it into the top left-hand corner of the net, the ‘keeper sent the wrong way but it wouldn’t have mattered. Nobody was saving that. Within the opening quarter of an hour of the second half Brighton had pegged Leeds back and the crowd was buoyant once more. And just like on Wednesday, the home side dominated the second period possession stats, with 65% of the ball by the time the equaliser occurred. Leeds weren’t caving in though, and a free-kick from McCormack was whipped in dangerously, Ankergren having to stay alert to parry away. Into the final six minutes, Calderon brought the ball forward and released Barnes in the box. His low cross into the middle was met by Mackail-Smith to sidefoot into the back of the net to turn the game around. The movement was excellent from the striker to get there ahead of Bromby, the hard work done all he needed to do was finish. A lovely goal for the man who worked his socks off all evening. All they had to do now was hold on to that lead. And it looked like that was going to be the case right up until the second minute of injury time. An opportunity to keep hold of the ball was squandered with a huge drop kick up field from Ankergren. His opposite number in return launched the ball back where it came from, a flick on was won well by sub Becchio for Howson who did really well to skip through Painter to get to the byline. He pulled it back for McCormack to score via a Dunk deflection. “They looked down and out but in the third minute of added time Leeds have found the equaliser – three-three!” was the call from commentator Bill Leslie. What a match! After fighting back so well Brighton couldn’t quite hold on to the win and the match ended in a hugely entertaining score draw. The Albion remained in third place in the Championship table and were going so very well back in the second tier.

LEE Table

BRIGHTON 3 LEEDS 3
Mackail-Smith (2), Barnes Keogh, McCormack (2)

LEE Replay LEE Goal LEE Goal 2


EXTRA; Sky’s Friday night preview programme Football League Weekend was on location this week, broadcasting Live from Brighton’s Amex Stadium ahead of the match against Leeds which followed later. This was a very rare occasion when Sky would leave their Isleworth studio and host the preview from a stadium but an exception was made ahead of their first Football League visit to our wonderful new abode. This was quite a week for Sky’s relationship with the club, having already shown our Carling Cup match here against Liverpool 48 hours previously, all the cabling and facilities were left set up for tonight’s broadcasts. Regular magazine programme host George Gavin was granted access all areas for the show. He opened proceedings from the centre circle with the words “This is the Football League Weekend show on the road, we’re at the country’s newest stadium. Brighton, after being homeless for fourteen years, finally have a place to call their own.”

FLW Titles FLW Gavin

With George Gavin was former Albion striker Nicky Forster. Since retiring in the summer he’s taken up a semi-regular role with Sky Sports on the Football League coverage in studio and reporting out and about. He brings a wealth of lower league experience with him and speaks well, so naturally slotted into the coverage from the off. Forster was certainly a fan of the new place, “It’s magnificent. It’s geared up for Championship football and beyond. They’ve had a fantastic start to the season and, who knows, the dream’s on isn’t it?” It was still early days in the season of course but Brighton were flying. He predicted a good first season back in the second tier for the Albion, perhaps not quite emulating Norwich’s back-to-back promotions, but certainly avoiding going straight back down like others have.

FLW Forster FLW Duo

Reporter Mark McAdam was in search of manager Gus Poyet, and granted access to his office for an interview. McAdam has been with Sky Sports for years working across a variety of things such as reporting on Sky Sports News, Soccer Saturday and of course FLW here. He’s based in the south for the News channel so often covers the Albion as well as the likes of Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. He spoke with Poyet about going toe-to-toe with Liverpool, facing up against Leeds tonight and only having 48 hours in between matches. “I think it’s good. Normally I’d be complaining, you don’t want to play every two days, but I think it’s good because when you have a bad result you want to play. The players want to go back, they want to try to go and win a football game and get that feeling back of a winning team.”

FLW McAdam FLW Poyet

Peter Beagrie joined Gavin and Forster pitchside ahead of his appearance as a pundit for the match coverage afterwards. The trio reviewed the midweek Liverpool match, full of praise for how the Seagulls fared in defeat. “When you’ve come on the back of a promotion as well, you’ve got to make sure that you also add to the squad. He’s done that with Mackail-Smith and there’s no shrinking violets here, all of them want to accept responsibility, they can all pass a football. As we’ve seen here, they give Liverpool a real run for their money and that was a very, very strong – packed full of internationals – Liverpool side,” Beagrie commented. They then discussed the prospect of former Valencia midfield creative Vicente, who came on in midweek for his first appearance. “Up against defenders in the Championship,” Forster began, ” I think he will unlock them with his quality… It shows how far Brighton have come that they are bringing in players that have had bids in the past of £35 million.”

FLW Trio FLW Vicente

Two of Brighton’s younger members of the squad joined the trio pitchside in injured defender Tommy Elphick and Nicky’s stepson Jake Forster-Caskey. JFC had played for the England under-17s already, going to the Euros and World Cups with the youth squads, and became Albion’s youngest ever player when he appeared off the bench at home to Yeovil in the final game of the 2009/10 season in League One. Elphick injured his achilles in the final game of last season and said visiting the stadium only adds to the frustration of not being able to play. “Can’t wait to get back. Starting to be treated like a proper team now, whereas before we struggled for places to train and pre-match we didn’t really have nowhere to go. But now we’ve got a home, got a base, it’s really what the club has waited for and we can really push on to, hopefully, Premier League football.”

FLW Players FLW Forster-Caskey

Mark McAdam moved over to the hospitality areas where we saw some of the chefs preparing to cater for up to 3,000 people tonight, compared to the 200 maximum back in the Withdean days across the two portakabins. The difference never ceases to amaze. In the Lounge chairman Tony Bloom was waiting to speak to us, whilst the tables filled up around him as it edged closer to kick-off. Bloom couldn’t be happier with the start the club’s made; “We’ve got our momentum from the brilliant season where we won the League One title. We’ve built on that and we’re holding our own, and even better than that, in the Championship playing really good football. And the team will have the confidence as well beating Sunderland a few weeks ago and playing so well in the second half against Liverpool, there’s no reason to be overawed by any team.” It was all so different fourteen years ago when the club had to fight constantly just to stay alive, and that’s never going to be forgotten at Brighton. Bloom was wearing a green tie in aid of supporting Plymouth Argyle in their ‘Fans United’ day on Saturday, reciprocating the support we received thanks to fourteen-year-old Richard Vaughan’s idea of uniting supporters across the land when we were at our lowest point. Fast-forward to today and Argyle were struggling financially in administration, bottom of the entire Football League and parting with their manager Peter Reid recently. Bloom encouraged Albion fans, and supporters across the country, to help out Plymouth and attend their fixture this weekend.

FLW Lounge FLW Bloom

The Brighton versus Leeds match was Sky’s first ever 3D Football League broadcast and reporter Patrick Davison took us behind the scenes into the VT trucks to see some of the preparations involved. Banks of screens showing various angles and graphics were everywhere, hundreds of button doing all sorts of things. Commentator Daniel Mann was present compiling last-minute notes ahead of him being heard on the 3D coverage, as separate commentary teams talked us through the main broadcast and this one due to differing angles being shown. Sky’s Steve Smith explained “We’ve got seven 3D cameras. The main difference between the 2D and the 3D is that two main cameras are at a slightly lower angle. That creates good, natural 3D depth on the main pictures.”

FLW Davison FLW 3D Truck

Co-commentator for the match Don Goodman joined the team pitchside for a quick chat and expected goals to come. “It’s almost deja vu for Leeds at the minute, isn’t it? They are very, very capable of scoring goals and they are certainly capable of conceding goals. That was the story of their season last season… They’re up against a team that, maybe not quite as prolific… but they’ve conceded seven less and that’s where Gus will be really pleased.” Goodman was excited for the prospect of Mackail-Smith and Vicente playing, for the supporters to be in for a treat and the fantastic surroundings at this great place. The programme set the scene brilliantly for another classic at The Amex Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, reminding us again how having a place to call our own can really change everything.

FLW Goodman FLW Stadium

 


EXTRA; The BBC’s Football League Show had short highlights of tonight’s match in their regular Saturday post-MOTD slot. The programme as ever was hosted by Manish Bhasin, seen below up on the balcony. He was joined in the studio for this edition by his main regular pundit Steve Claridge to review the action from the three Divisions. With our game being on a Friday, these matches rarely took precedence over Saturday’s action therefore only a quick summary tended to get shown, usually with commentary.

FLS Titles FLS Studio

Jonathan Legard called the brief three-minute highlights of the match which consisted largely of just the goals, followed by a brief thirty second chat with the Leeds assistant manager followed by an equally brief word from Gus Poyet. The commentary was so short it was even captioned as being from a “reporter”. Legard had long been a voice of BBC Radio 5 Live on multiple sports before becoming the lead Formula One commentator when the BBC regained Live rights back from ITV in 2009 after a twelve-year absence. He was in that position for two years before changes were made. He started commentating for The Football League Show in February 2011.

FLS Graphic FLS Commentator

 

PREVIOUS; #34 BRIGHTON 1-2 LIVERPOOL 21/09/2011

NEXT; #36 BRIGHTON 0-1 WEST HAM 24/10/2011

Brighton Season Review 2013/2014

“The club will always have a place in my heart and I hope very soon they will be competing at the top level in English football.” [Oscar Garcia, former Brighton manager, 2014]

I am both surprised and saddened to be writing an end of season report which, just one week ago, was looking oh, so different. Oh, so positive. Not so much now. Today is three days after the Play Off semi final 2nd leg defeat to Derby. They were the better team by far. We looked fragile. Out of sorts. Out of luck. In the 72 hours that have passed the club has gone into meltdown. Again.

Garcia goes

Oscar Garcia during happier times

For the second season running we are now without a manager and about to lose some of our best players. Oscar Garcia handed in his resignation on Sunday night. By Monday afternoon the club confirmed it had been accepted. As his letter to the fans shows, he’s not got a new job lined up and he certainly has not been asked to leave. So the big question is why has he decided to go; a decision, apparently, which has been thought over for the past few months? This is the man who joined only last summer after Gus Poyet left the club in such clouded circumstances, again so soon after losing in the Play Offs.

It doesn’t make sense and points to bigger problems behind the scenes. I thought the days of managers leaving due to budget constraints and lack of ambition were left behind at Withdean along with temporary seating, waterlogged pitches and terrible chips. Selling excellent players in January in Bridcutt, Barnes and El Abd and not replacing them was a major blow, two of whom will be in the Premier League next season. We won’t. But that’s not so bad. I was never expecting to be there. The Play Off defeat this season was so much different to last year’s. This was a magnificent bonus that was secured in the most dramatic, last-gasp fashion at Nottingham Forest by Leo Ulloa. What a great day that was for me; dressed in full Harchester United kit, it really was like something out of Dream Team. Since then only nightmares.

Dream Team

Harchester kit amongst Brighton and Berlin

The most disappointing thing now is that it looks like we’re having to start again despite picking up the pieces so well from the mess of last summer. Back to square one. No manager to make the decisions on signings; who to keep, who to bring in, who to get rid of? This morning the retained list was announced. Star goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and flair midfielder Andrea Orlandi are the big names out of contract and, amazingly, won’t be offered a new one. What madness. The goalkeeper is the second most important part of a Championship team after a goalscorer. Kuszczak is amongst the best in the league. He’s now going somewhere else for free.

It’s a real shame to be starting this in such a negative tone because again it’s been an incredible season with so many highs. It took a while to get going at the Amex but once we did it was well worth another season in the back row of the North Stand. Key wins over champions Leicester, promoted Burnley and Play Off finalists QPR showed we could beat the best on our day. Yet that was countered with a frustrating draw with Blackpool, which nearly ended the dream of promotion, an against-all-logic defeat to Wigan and back to back catastrophes against Ipswich and Middlesbrough. At times the home form seemed to be costing us but we’d soon go and pick up a vital win. Consistently inconsistent on the South Coast.

The North Stand

The North Stand at the Amex

Away from Sussex there were some wonderful days out as ever. If Forest on the final day was the cherry on top of the clichéd cake, then count the Christmas jumper-infested surprise win at Middlesbrough as the icing, Port Vale in the cup as the necessary but nostalgically brilliant jam and overnight party trip to Bournemouth as the sponge all good cakes need. I think you can tell that I’m no Gordon Ramsay so I’ll leave the food analogy there. Special mentions also to great days at Wigan and new forays for me into Reading, Blackburn and Yeovil. All genuinely enjoyable in their own ways and reminders as to why football is the greatest game in the world.

Middlesbrough away

Christmas jumpers all round at Middlesbrough

On the pitch exceptional seasons from player of the year Matthew Upson (another one worryingly out of contract), Andrew Crofts (his season cruelly cut short half way through by injury) and top-scorer Leo Ulloa who had the unenviable task of having to win flick-ons and then chase it down all on his own. He seems to have mastered the trick of both creating the assist for, and scoring, his own, unstoppable goals. Fingers crossed the sniffing dogs of Leicester and their millions of pounds will be kept at bay over the summer as we cannot afford to lose him. Rohan Ince, or Ronan Since as my autocorrect keeps trying to put, has been a revelation in the midfield and is going a long way to replacing Bridcutt. Solly March is featuring and impressing more and more. Stephen Ward has replaced Wayne Bridge in the role of ‘excellent on-loan left back who for some strange reason won’t be around next season’ brilliantly. And finally, after more than a year out, Craig Mackail Smith has returned and will hopefully lead the line when we go again in August.

We were defensively amongst the best in the league but going forward left a lot to be desired and ultimately too many draws cost us cementing a higher finish. Still though, 6th place is excellent. It’s better than I could have hoped for. A remarkable achievement to have steadied the ship and guided it round that iceberg when many thought we were heading straight for it. It seems there may be a different obstacle this summer with no manager to guide us just yet. If bookmakers are to believed, and of course they aren’t, then gilet-wearing, borderline maniac Tim Sherwood will be in charge or, failing that, former never-say-die defender and friend of idiot owner Vincent Tan, Malky Mackay. Either appointment would be a clear step in the right direction. As would anyone on the supposed short list apart from Alan Curbishley. Or Alan Pardew. Or any Alan. It’s just a name synonymous with poor management.

Sherwood's famous gilet

Is Tim Sherwood next in the Amex dugout?

So the World Cup is around the corner. The fixtures for next season are out in five weeks and I start a new job at Sky in four. I’ve renewed my season ticket and only a dozen grounds away from ticking off all 92 league clubs. Exciting trips to Norwich, Brentford and Wolves await the Albion and for me some extra journeys across to Swansea, Everton and further north with a bit of luck. Seasons come and go and tend to be remembered for how they end. The season just gone is defined by further play off heartbreak and managerial uncertainty but throughout the campaign there were more than enough reasons to do it all again next season. So I’ll see you back here for pre-season in less than two months. You just know it’ll be here before we have time to draw breath.

Fan made YouTube Season Review video by jmac8