Small Screen Seagulls; Arsenal (H) 26/01/2013

Small Screen Seagulls LogoAfter an exciting debut season at The Amex, Brighton pushed on further under Gus Poyet during the 2012/2013 campaign. The club had its sights set on a top six finish, with the Championship Play Offs a real possibility. The Seagulls wanted to be plying their trade with the best the country had to offer in the Premier League. Opportunities arose in the Cup competitions for the Albion to test their mettle against the big clubs. Already in this stadium, they had seen off higher Division opponents in Sunderland and Newcastle (twice), as well as test Liverpool. The Fourth Round of the FA Cup in January 2013 presented another chance to showcase where this club could go as Arsenal came to town. BBC Football Focus previewed the match, whilst Saturday night highlights were shown on ITV as the Albion story was back in the television spotlight again.


Brighton 2-3 Arsenal, FA Cup R4; 3pm, Sat 26th Jan ’13

FAC Titles

Brighton progressed to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in 2013 after knocking out Premier League Newcastle United Live on TV for the second successive season. Goals from Andrea Orlandi and Will Hoskins secured a two-nil victory at the start of January. The draw was conducted the following day Live on ITV and ESPN. Overseen by Mark Pougatch at Wembley Stadium, ex-Arsenal and England goalkeeper David Seaman picked out the home teams whilst former Albion ‘keeper and a winner of the competition with Wimbledon twenty-five years earlier, Dave Beasant selected the away teams.

Seaman picked up ball number two, giving Brighton another home tie. When Beasant picked out ball eleven, you could hear the nervous grimace from his colleague as it would be Arsenal who would be coming to The Amex – providing they could win their Third Round Replay. The Gunners drew two-all away at Swansea City in the original tie, with a Replay at The Emirates set ten days later. A goal from Jack Wilshere with four minutes remaining broke the deadlock there to send Arsenal through.

The broadcasters had already made their television selections by that time and opted not to risk a potential Brighton v Swansea fixture ending up on their screens, whilst Brighton versus Arsenal would have been much higher up the pecking order. So, because of the Replay, the match wasn’t selected for Live broadcast and therefore was played in the traditional slot of Saturday 3pm. It did garner media attention in the form of highlights on the Saturday evening, but first, I begin by looking at the BBC’s feature on the fixture from Football Focus.

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Football Focus, BBC One, 12.15pm (Saturday 26th January 2013)

FF Ident FF Titles

Saturday afternoons on BBC One had featured preview show Football Focus throughout the season dating all the way back to 1974. It was an integral part of Grandstand from then until 2001, when it was separated out to become a programme in its own right. Previous hosts included Sam Leitch, Bob Wilson, Gary Lineker and Ray Stubbs, but it was Dan Walker who became the latest face of Focus, when he joined the programme in 2009. This particular edition on Saturday 26th January was broadcast in its usual forty-five minute slot from a quarter past midday coming Live from BBC Sport’s home at Media City in Salford. The show never really stuck with a theme tune for very long, tending to change it each season. Soundtracking this one was Undegpedwar by Welsh instrumental band Y Niwi.

FF Walker FF Studio

Joining host Dan Walker was BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson, former Manchester United and England midfielder Paul Ince and Bradford boss Phil Parkinson. Walker was born in Crawley, whom he supports. His broadcasting career began straight out of university in radio in Sheffield, where he studied, before moving to Manchester’s Key 103 for four years. He moved into television in the area with a brief spell at ITV Granada and then BBC North West from 2003. He began coverage for national television in 2008 when reporting at various major sporting events for the BBC including Wimbledon tennis and Royal Ascot horse racing before taking over this gig from Manish Bhasin in 2009. For the 2012 series, Walker also hosted regional magazine show Late Kick Off in London and the South East.

FF Protests FF Brady tenure

Reporter Mark Clemmit, regularly seen on highlights programme The Football League Show, produced a feature for Football Focus ahead of Brighton’s FA Cup clash with Arsenal taking place later that day. He focussed on one man who linked the two clubs; Liam Brady. The Irish attacking midfielder spent the 1970s at Arsenal, playing over 250 times and lifting the FA Cup in 1979.  He moved to Italy with the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan before returning to England in 1987 to see out his playing days with West Ham. After retiring, he managed Celtic for two years before joining the Albion in 1993, when the club was becoming overshadowed by financial problems. His two-year spell at the Goldstone came when Brighton were sinking down the Leagues and fans were beginning to uncover the truth about the corrupt ownership of the club. After departing in November 1995, Brady went on to lead a consortium bidding to take over the club but it was unable to achieve that.

Clemmit’s report began with Brady explaining the dire situation at the Albion in the 1990s over footage of fan protests and news reports about the chairman and chief executive, Bill Archer and David Bellotti. “They were in a bad way, they had no financial resources”, Brady explained, “inches away from going out of business completely”. The plan was for Archer and his cohorts sell the Goldstone Ground, profit from that and get out of the club, leaving it to die without a home. Brady added that Brighton had “great support in the city, in Sussex as well. And these people just didn’t care.”

FF Brady FF Knight

Brady talked about his time with the Seagulls and what caused him to leave in 1995. “I was better on the outside probably for the club that I was on the inside, because on the inside I couldn’t do anything. I was employed by them!” He started a campaign to stop the move away from the Goldstone, which had some success in delaying the sale back by a year. He paid tribute to Dick Knight, Brighton chairman between 1998 and 2011, whom Brady teamed up with during these troublesome times and was an important ally of Knight. “I helped him, I was always there. And all the people are so pleased that the club is in the position they’re in”, Brady added.

FF Poyet tenure FF Poyet interview

The report then shifted towards modern day Albion and the job Gus Poyet was doing for the three-and-a-bit-years since his 2009 appointment. Again in conversation with Mark Clemmit, Poyet revealed his first team coach Charlie Oatway had given him the lowdown on Brighton’s struggles in the 1990s and the history of all that; “He knows how much it means for people of Brighton”.

Poyet was asked what he knew about Liam Brady and particularly his time at the Albion which, as you may expect, wasn’t too much. “I hope he’s happy with what I’m doing because I’m sure that he’s got some part of his heart in Brighton.” Brady was happy; “You’ll only get highly technical players by playing in a highly technical way. And I think Poyet and Arsene Wenger do that.”

The report concluded by looking ahead to this Cup fixture. Poyet spoke of its importance; “When I sit there, 3 O’clock, it becomes the most important game of my life. Don’t worry, everybody’s going to be awake and it’s going to be a good game.” As the show returned to the studio, host Dan Walker remarked; “A lovely bit of telly, that, with the great Liam Brady.” Former Albion defender turned pundit, Mark Lawrenson, summed up the situation. “I think it’s a real tough tie for them but when you consider that game against Hereford all those years ago when they could’ve gone out the League and where they are now, it’s an absolutely fantastic story.” It really is, Mark. The scene was set very nicely for the big match.


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FA Cup Highlights, ITV, 11pm (Saturday 26th January 2013)

FAC Smith FAC Studio

ITV continued to broadcast coverage of the FA Cup this season, having won it back in 2008 from the BBC. Brighton supporters were well versed with ITV’s coverage of the competition this season having been shown Live on the channel in Round Three. Since that point, the ITV network underwent a rebrand. ITV1 became simply ITV, whilst their portfolio of channels all received a new logo which permanently remained in the top corner of the screen.

At the beginning of this season ITV launched new graphics and title sequence for their coverage. The specially composed music was by Jim Copperthwaite, a composer who had worked on several television and advertising soundtracks, and was simply known as ‘FA Cup’. The cinematic titles include various famous Cup moments from the ITV archives, including the great Brian Moore welcoming us to the coverage. The clips all form part of the trophy that slowly came together during the sequence.

Hosting the programme was Matt Smith, the usual highlights presenter and an ITV Sport anchor since 2001. He turned his hand at any sport the network threw his way, including darts, boxing, cricket, motor sport and, of course, football. He was even involved in the ITV coverage of the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. For tonight’s highlights show he was joined in the studio by pundits Clarke Carlisle and Gordon Strachan, both regulars on ITV this season. Commentary was provided by Peter Drury, who also voiced our Third Round match.

FAC Teams

Gus Poyet gave a run out to former first choice goalie Casper Ankergren, now the club’s designated Cup ‘keeper. Inigo Calderon was preferred at right back to his Spanish compatriot Bruno. Despite being on loan, left back Wayne Bridge was given the go ahead to feature in the Cup as there were no plans for him to return to parent club Manchester City, likewise Dean Hammond in midfield on loan from Southampton. There was a first start for new £2million signing Leonardo Ulloa. The Argentine striker joined from La Liga’s Almeria ten days earlier. He partnered Ashley Barnes up front, who scored in two of his last three appearances. Options on the subs bench included Craig Mackail-Smith and Kazenga LuaLua if the attack needed fresh legs.

Arsene Wenger introduced a new front line for the 2012/2013 season in a bid to end a trophy drought dating back to 2005. German striker Lukas Podolski was signed for just under £11million from Cologne, and Frenchman Olivier Giroud switched from Montpellier for a rumoured £13million. In goal, Polish ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny was handed the number one shirt following the release of Manuel Almunia. German central defender Per Mertesacker was handed the captain’s armband for the first time today and had only missed one match so far this season. Czech international Tomas Rosicky missed the first few months of the campaign after injuring his achilles during Euro 2012. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was part of Southampton’s midfield when they were promoted behind the Albion from League One in 2011, making the Division’s PFA Team of the Season in the process and earning his move to the Gunners that summer. The referee was Michael Oliver.

FAC Comm FAC Giroud goal

The first chance fell the way of the Albion as Ashley Barnes went very close to breaking the deadlock. The move began with a throw in on the far touchline and, a couple of passes later, David Lopez was flicking on his header behind the Arsenal defence. The looping ball fell for Barnes, but he didn’t quite connect fully with the volley. It was hit into the ground rather than cleanly, enabling Szczesny to get fingertips on it and keep it out. This proved crucial.

The resulting corner was dealt with by the goalkeeper eventually, who then started a lightning quick counter attack to result in the opening goal in the sixteenth minute. Tomasz Rosicky was allowed to carry the ball forward from the half way line up to near the Brighton penalty box. He found Podolski who laid it off to Olivier Giroud inside the D on the edge of the area. Giroud curled a superb effort into the top corner of the net with his left foot for one-nil to the Arsenal.

FAC Barnes goal.JPG

Brighton thought they’d got an equaliser through debutant Leonardo Ulloa only for the linesman’s flag to rule it out for offside. The replay confirmed the decision, as he strayed just too much beyond the last defender when Inigo Calderon delivered his cross. Szczesny parried that into Ulloa’s path but by then it was too late and the flag was aloft. A bit of momentum was building though for the home side.

Moments later, the equaliser arrived through a powerful Ashley Barnes header. Will Buckley played a corner short to David Lopez on the near side. His delivery was perfectly into the heart of the six yard area. As Szczesny came to punch clear, he was beaten to the ball by Barnes who buried his header into the empty goal from just a couple of yards out with thirty-three minutes on the clock.

FAC Subs FAC Giroud second

Into the second half, Brighton changed things up a bit with the arrival of Gary Dicker and Kazenga LuaLua to bolster the midfield. But it was the Gunners who fired first and almost regained their lead. Adam El-Abd’s foul on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain presented a shooting opportunity from a free kick twenty-five yards out. Lukas Podolski did almost everything right but for the placement, as it cannoned off the crossbar with Ankergren beaten all ends up.

The visitors did have their lead back after eleven second half minutes and again it was Olivier Giroud who scored it. Abou Diaby chipped the ball from half way inside Brighton territory over the heads of the back line. Giroud brought the ball down and got the better of his marker El-Abd. As Ankergren rushed out of goal to close down the angle, Giroud stretched to rifle the ball home from the left of the six yard area to crash the back of the net. Two-one Arsenal.

FAC Ulloa goal

Albion heads did not lower despite the setback. Although, their second equaliser needed a stoop from Ulloa to connect with his head on the way to goal ten minutes later. Dean Hammond played the short ball out wide to Ashley Barnes. His cross was inch perfect into the danger zone where Ulloa had run between two Arsenal defenders. Being just six yards out, he only needed to nod the ball home and it would beat the ‘keeper for pace from that distance. The Argentinian watched it all the way, timed his run and netted a goal on his first start in the blue and white stripes. Game on again at two-two.

Arsenal changed their personnel, bringing on Theo Walcott and the man who rescued them in the last round, Jack Wilshere. Whilst the Seagulls swapped Ulloa out for the tireless running of Craig Mackail-Smith for the final part of the contest.

FAC Walcott goal FAC Final Score

For all the fight and spirit from the Albion, it took a deflected goal near the end to finally kill them off. Casper Ankergren flapped at an Arsenal corner. He pushed the ball to the edge of the box where Theo Walcott was waiting. He used his side foot to volley a shot back in. It looked like it was going centrally before taking a huge nick off what looked to be an instinctive arm out from the goalkeeper. That sent the ball into the other side of the goal, beyond Mackail-Smith on the line. Arsenal had their third lead of the match with just five minutes to hang on to it.

Craig Mackail-Smith had his appeal for a penalty late on turned down by referee Michael Oliver. He appeared to be shoved over in the area by Carl Jenkinson whilst awaiting Liam Bridcutt’s delivery but these cries were ignored. And it ended up being the last action of the match. Arsenal progressed to Round Five, knocking Brighton out at The Amex by three goals to two. They would go on to face Blackburn in the next round, where they’d suffer a surprise defeat at home. Meanwhile, Brighton could put all their focus onto the promotion push where they’d ultimately come unstuck in the Play Off Semi Finals.

FAC Wenger FAC Poyet

In his post-match interview, victorious manager Arsene Wenger admitted his nerves at the prospect of not winning on the day as Albion kept fighting back; “In the last twenty minutes I thought there was a bit nervous because, I thought, we do not want the replay and, of course, we do not want to go out.” Winning goalscorer Theo Walcott thought his fortunes were finally in with the deflection for the decisive strike; “I’m due a lucky goal! I haven’t had a lucky goal for a long time.”

Albion boss Gus Poyet spoke of Leonardo Ulloa’s goalscoring debut. “He’s the only one who looks a little bit happy in the dressing room!” He went on to add his disappointment about not quite getting the result the performance merited.

FAC Carlisle FAC Strachan

In ITV’s London Studio, Matt Smith analysed the match with his pundits; Clarke Carlisle and Gordon Strachan. Carlisle described the enjoyment he had of what he was watching; “The quality that was on show, the atmosphere in The Amex stadium, it made for a fantastic spectacle.” He praised the quality of Olivier Giroud, showcasing his talents with two very good strikes to get his brace.

Gordon Strachan referenced Arsenal’s replay victory at Swansea, which needed game changing substitutions to see them through. And the same happened here, with the introduction of Walcott to win it late on. “They brought the cavalry on again today. I don’t care what tactics you’re using, if you bring on three great players like that, your game will improve.” The difference in quality between the top clubs and teams in the Championship should always be the deciding factor, and it was on this occasion. Though, Brighton ran their Premier League opponents very close and real confidence could be taken from this performance.

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


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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.


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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.


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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.

Small Screen Seagulls; The Rise and Fall of Gus Poyet

Small Screen Seagulls LogoGustavo Augusto Poyet Dominguez, or Gus Poyet to you and me, made a name for himself as a talented midfielder for Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham. The Uruguayan spent seven years in the Premier League picking up the FA Cup, Charity Shield, UEFA Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup. At international level, although he didn’t earn too many caps, he did lift the Copa America in 1995. Affectionately nicknamed “the radio” due to his incessant talking, there was no doubting he would go into coaching. Not many would have earmarked League One Brighton and Hove Albion as the club to give him his first managerial break. In November 2009 that’s exactly what happened, as Poyet brought a South American touch to the South Coast. 


Gus Poyet Brighton Manager 10th Nov 2009-23rd Jun 2013

Poyet's first game interviews (1)Gus Poyet had been assistant manager at Tottenham, Leeds and Swindon but now was given the top job for the first time. It was undoubtedly a gamble from new chairman Tony Bloom, but he was no stranger to playing the odds. Having taken over from Dick Knight in May, Bloom arrived as Brighton had just saved their skin on the final day with victory over Stockport at Withdean meaning they would remain in League One for another season. But the following campaign saw more misery at the start and Russell Slade’s short tenure was over. After Slade’s dismissal, Bloom said he received lots of applicants for the vacancy but when Poyet’s name was thrown in, he became ‘very interested’ before adding, “His reputation as being a top quality coach shone through, as well as being a top man… I am certain he will be a big success at the Albion.” Poyet certainly agreed, stating in a BBC Sussex interview “This is another challenge for me to take the club where everybody in Brighton wants to be and that’s in the Championship… Being realistic I think eighteen months is possible. If that is the goal of the club, it’s no problem.” He signed an initial contract until the end of the following season, which would be Albion’s final one at their makeshift home of Withdean. There was an immediate interest in the club from the media and it just so happened that Poyet’s first match in charge would be televised Live five days after taking charge. As a well known player in the Premier League, he scored some fantastic goals and assisted many more. As assistant coach he worked alongside big names, the likes of Juande Ramos and Dennis Wise. He was well used to lots of attention, but Brighton were not. The main focus in the spotlight was usually about the club’s fight for a stadium, a battle which dragged on for over a decade. Now, with Gus at the helm, there was an increase in coverage purely to see how the Uruguayan would be getting on. It turned out to go rather well.

Poyet appointedClimbing the table and building his own style was the first aim for Poyet. Results started to arrive and the style of play was overhauled. It was about getting the ball on the floor, playing out from the back, enjoying possession and passing the ball as much as possible. It was his philosophy and he only wanted to play one way. The club finished thirteenth in League One in May 2010 and sights were set on the top six. Poyet’s free-flowing Brighton side went even better in the 2010/2011 season, Poyet’s first full campaign, as they stormed to the top of the table and ran away with the title at a canter, soaring to the top of the table in September and never letting up. The club played some of the best football the supporters had ever seen. It culminated with a whopping 95 points to be crowned Champions as they bid farewell to life at Withdean and welcomed in the new stadium in Falmer with Championship football after five years away. In the process, Poyet earned the PFA League One Manager of the Year award and went on to claim the Outstanding Managerial Achievement prize at the Football League Awards. Praise was flying in from everywhere and the momentum continued in the second tier. His Seagulls narrowly missed out on the Play Off places in the 2011/2012 season as they took naturally to the higher League. One big push the following year saw them finish fourth and reach that end of season showdown for the first time at this level since 1991. That time it was ended at Wembley by Notts County, but for Gus it was Crystal Palace who did for us in 2013. And everything immediately fell apart in the days and weeks that followed. It ended with a bitter public fallout in which Poyet lost his job and Brighton had to start again. Here, we take a look at some of the media appearances Gus Poyet made whilst in charge of Brighton. A natural in front of the camera, he interviewed with passion and honesty and was a favourite in the studio. It all began by taking his new side along the South Coast for a birthday to remember.

 

First Match in Charge; v Southampton (A), 15th November 2009

#28 Southampton 15/11/2009 Table on Poyet's arrival

Five days after signing on at Brighton, Gus Poyet took his new club along the Coast to Southampton for a big clash at the foot of the League One table. Sky Sports couldn’t believe their luck, having already chosen this match in advance for Live television coverage over the international break weekend. Having a high-profile new manager in charge, and on his birthday, was the icing on the cake. Brighton sat 20th and in need of a rethink having shipped four goals in the previous match at Wycombe. In contrast, Southampton were in great form yet propped up the table for most of the season so far due to a ten-point deduction owing to financial irregularities but a win would take them out of the drop zone and above Albion. Sky Sports reporter Greg Whelan spoke to Poyet before his debut in charge and began by asking how much he was looking forward to the challenge. “We’ve done everything possible, because it’s only three days normally you have normally have a month of pre-season but, like I always say, I don’t complain at the situation and we have to accept it.” He spoke of the “talent and quality” of the squad he inherited but emphasised the need to shore up the back line, which he immediately tried to address by dropping captain Adam Virgo from the starting XI. The match couldn’t have gone any better, a full report is available here, as Brighton surged to a terrific three-one away victory with goals from Andrew Crofts and a Glenn Murray brace. Afterwards, a slightly hoarse Poyet spoke again with Whelan. “The lads were superb. We had two or three days to train, they adapted themselves to the situation very well.” He was pleased with the effort from the defence and debated whether the Southampton goal from the penalty spot should have been given in the first place. His focus was now about taking it game by game whilst he worked out exactly what to do with this squad and where strength was needed. “We need to think about keep improving as a team, keep working hard, keep believing in the strength of the team and work hard on the weakness.” In the studio, host George Gavin and pundit Peter Beagrie predicted brighter things for the Albion. “It’s a big task for Gus but I think, because you’ve got somebody with such kudos attached to it, I think he’s gonna be given time to build something at Brighton,” Beagrie said. That time spent during the rest of the 2009/10 campaign was enough to lift the club up the table steadily and with an attractive, open style which was enough to secure thirteenth place the following May, well clear of the relegation zone this time. Times certainly were changing.

SOU Poyet SOU Studio


Football League Weekend studio appearance; Sky Sports 2, 21st October 2011

FLW Titles FLW Poyet

In Poyet’s first full season in charge, Brighton were unstoppable as they stormed their way to the League One title. He built an exciting, attacking team dominating possession with free-flowing, passing football. The 2010/2011 campaign would be remembered amongst the greatest in Albion’s history as they took on and defeated all comers. The championship was secured in the final season at Withdean with four games to spare and ensured the opening of The Amex in Falmer would be as a second tier club again. A massive ninety-five points were obtained along the way, with Poyet named LMA League One Manager of the Season earning him huge acclaim. He strengthened over the summer to twice break the club’s transfer record – first on Will Buckley and then Craig Mackail-Smith – and began life in the Championship in superbly dramatic style with a last-gasp two-one opening day win over Doncaster. However, form over the next couple of months had stalled after positive opening weeks. Sky Sports had selected the home match against West Ham for Live television coverage on the Monday night. To preview that and the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, Gus Poyet was invited into the Football League Weekend studio to accompany George Gavin on the Friday evening. He admitted that he found the step up in League “very hard, very competitive” citing more power, strength, quality and experience in the Championship. After a dozen matches the Seagulls sat in tenth place on nineteen points going into this weekend. Poyet’s achievements so far earned him a contract extension beyond the original eighteen months and boasted a terrific win ratio of more than 50% over a century of matches. The stats were looking fantastic.

FLW Studio FLW Record

Gavin and Poyet discussed the move from Withdean to The Amex and how that impacted the club. Gus made his feelings clear about the old athletics ground; “I know people love it but I don’t. I’m the only one at Brighton who said that it was one of the horrible places to play football!” Of course by contrast he loved life in Falmer; “It’s totally the opposite – it’s massive, it’s comfortable, even the seats now!” He made a number of improvements on the playing staff too, bringing in the likes of Mackail-Smith, Buckley and Vicente as well as younger talents like Will Hoskins and Romain Vincelot. Poyet singled out Scotland’s newest striker Mackail-Smith for his outstanding workrate; “He’s the type of player that, when you are a defender, you don’t want against you. He’s quicker than what people think, he’s always running, desperate to play”. The Tuesday before the show, Brighton drew one-all away at Millwall which featured one of the weakest penalties in club history from Ryan Harley. Poyet’s response; “I was not a penalty taker so I’m not gonna blame anyone who takes penalties.” Without a win in six, form had gone off the boil having not lost in the opening six matches. A tough period was ahead for Poyet as clashes with West Ham and Southampton were coming up but Poyet was in buoyant mood. “I look at that as a manager, as a player, the fixtures – where is West Ham? There. Where is Birmingham? There. That’s the games you want to play… I love it.” Poyet talked through his own methods of coaching. On his preparation, he said “I’ve done everything possible to win this football game… I’ve done my job, then it’s up to the players” He didn’t join in playing during training whereas assistant Mauricio Taricco did. And the programme drew to a close with a quick mention of the success in League One; “I think it’s incredible what we did last year… The way we played we surprised people early doors and got points ahead and it was difficult for them to get back.” His aim of a top ten finish was in sight. “We’ll see.”

FLW Signings FLW Fixtures


Football League Weekend interview; Sky Sports 1, 2nd March 2012

FLWI Forster Poyet's Office

After a bit of a blip, Brighton were firmly back on course in the Championship. By March the club were on the fringes of the Play Offs in their first season back. Sky Sports preview programme Football League Weekend sent their reporter and former Albion striker Nicky Forster to the manager’s office to catch up with the boss. This was a particularly enlightening interview, given what we know subsequently. It began by discussing the situation at the time; Brighton were in seventh place level on points with the final Play Off team and thirteen matches remaining. Poyet admitted that placing was “just a little bit better than expected” as he was “expecting to be in the middle really”. He continued to play things down, saying “I don’t think we should be real contenders but I think we’ve got a chance because we are a little bit different.” To give a real insight into the mind of Poyet, Forster questioned him on the inevitable links to bigger clubs that come when a manager does as well as Gus had done thus far. “It’s good because that means we’re doing something right. I try to wait for the time it happens, I try to live with it. Sometimes it’s a shock and it’s crazy for a few days but I’m lucky.” The attention feeds into a crucial part of the man; his ego. The success in League One earned Poyet a new long-term contract but, he said, “at the same time, like any other job, there is a time frame that you need to set up… depending on how we do, you can stay forever or not.” He then spoke of some of the positives of the future, with the academy on the horizon and a plan in mind but didn’t want to commit to too much detail for fear of everything changing and then “looking stupid”. Perhaps this attention from other clubs and talk about promotion was a bit much as things quickly began to go off the boil. After this interview, Brighton won just two of the thirteen matches to drop down to tenth. Was their eye taken off the ball and heads were allowed to turn, we’ll never probably know. But what was known amongst the footballing community was how good a job Poyet was doing. The studio team of host George Gavin with Simon Grayson and Phil Brown echoed that afterwards, demonstrating it with the excellent results since the New Year.

FLWI 2012 Results FLWI Presentation team


Football League Award Winner; BBC One South East, 12th March 2012

LKO Titles LKO Award

Gus Poyet’s great work at the Albion was recognised by the Football League at their annual awards dinner in March 2012. He was honoured with the Outstanding Managerial Performance across the three Divisions for transforming the Seagulls from relegation candidates to League One Champions within eighteen months of taking charge. BBC regional magazine show Late Kick Off reported on the event the following evening. The Brighton area was now served by the “London and South East” BBC region, meaning a new line up for the 2012 series of Late Kick Off, with Football Focus presenter Dan Walker at the helm as the Albion shared the spotlight with the clubs from the capital. Walker was joined in the studio by former Charlton and Wimbledon striker Jason Euell and ex-Crystal Palace front man Mark Bright. Poyet said of his award; “I’ve been lucky to be at the right club at the right time… The key is the players. If you make sure you get the right players, you convince them, you make sure they want to play for the football club and they believe in what we do… you got a chance.” By the time the gong was handed out to him, Brighton were sat fifth in the Championship table with ten matches of the season to go, such was the lateness of this award we had almost completed the following season. In fact, Poyet was doing such a great job to carry on the momentum of promotion into the higher tier and in the new stadium, he wouldn’t have looked out of place on the shortlist for the award for this 2011/2012 campaign either. In the studio, Mark Bright was full of praise for the job done by the former Chelsea midfielder. “The move into the new stadium was fantastic for the Brighton fans and for the team. But the style of football they play, they’re now looking at back to back promotions – and seriously as well – I think they are big contenders. There was a lot of respect in the room for Gus Poyet.” The final few matches of the season saw the Albion tail off and miss out on the Play Offs but over the course of Poyet’s first two seasons in charge he won plenty of plaudits for the open, attractive passing style of play and were candidates to go one step further into the top six the following season.

LKO Poyet LKO Studio


Last Match in Charge; v Crystal Palace (H), 13th May 2013

PAL Titles PAL Poyet

The club missed out on the Play Offs in 2012 having dropped too many points in the final third of the season and winning just one of the last ten. Poyet signalled to the board that, in order to go one step further, investment was much needed. Tony Bloom answered by providing funds to bring in top class players such as Tomasz Kuszczak, Bruno, Wayne Bridge, Andrea Orlandi and David Lopez over the summer. The squad was sharp and solid. The Albion even led the Championship briefly in September. Too many draws cost us in November and December as Brighton slipped down the top half. Leonardo Ulloa and Matthew Upson were brought in to add even more quality in January and result picked up again for Poyet. Just one defeat in the first eleven matches of 2013 saw the club back in the Play Off pack and an unbeaten last nine games cemented fourth place in the second tier, the highest finish for thirty years since relegation from the old Division One. It set up a crunch clash with Crystal Palace in the Play Off Semi Finals and, after drawing the away leg nil-nil on the Friday, it was all down to this Monday night in May at The Amex. Brighton were favourites and dispatched of their rivals three-nil as recently as March here. Gus Poyet was one match away from a Wembley Final. It turned out to be a dreadful night. Palace won the game two-nil and went on to gain promotion with a Final win over Watford. An incident in the away dressing room prior to kick off enraged their boss Ian Holloway and fired up the Palace players.

After the televised match, Poyet spoke to Sky Sports reporter Jonathan Oakes in a conversation which fuelled speculation about the Uruguayan’s future with the Albion and saw him lose the support of the chairman and board. It began with Poyet’s summation of the campaign; “You have a very, very good season, better than expected. You done something very good and then because of this Play Off you go home with a terrible feeling and I’m really sad.” Over the course of the two Legs, Poyet thought Brighton should have edged it. He praised the First Leg performance in particular, dominating that first half but not getting the reward. But complained of his side’s poor showing in this match; “We were not ourself, too much tension, too much responsibility… That is not us.” The damning moments came at the end of the interview when asked about recovering from this and his future with the club. “I don’t want to make any decisions or any comments right now because the feelings are not the best so I will sit down, check properly everything… Where is the roof? Did we hit the roof today and there is nothing above? What is going to be the situation next year? But we’ve got time.” Asked if he would be here next season he replied, “I need to analyse my personal diary.” Emotions played a big part of Poyet’s success, being fiery and passionate and feeling all the highs and lows. But when it came to interviews, particularly just after a defeat or if something hadn’t gone his way, Poyet showed his managerial immaturity too many times. It wasn’t his place to question the ambitions of the club in the minutes after a heart-breaking defeat in this manner. Blame was being placed at everyone else’s door instead of his own. Brighton’s squad was better than Crystal Palace’s but he couldn’t get past them. And for that he should have faced up to it. It was silly to talk about ‘hitting the roof’ and touting himself as available for other jobs in such a manner. This was noted immediately by the board, who acted to suspend him from his job pending an internal inquiry in the subsequent days. Poyet was in danger of undoing all the great work he put in to this club and it was his own fault for the bitter ending.


TV Pundit Poyet dismissed by Brighton; BBC Three, 23rd June 2013

TV Studio TV Poyet

Never one to go quietly, the manner of Gus Poyet’s eventual dismissal from Brighton following a period of suspension caused headline news. Not necessarily for the sacking itself though, more for the way the news reached the public domain. On Sunday 23rd June 2013, Poyet was working as a pundit on BBC Three’s Live coverage of the FIFA Confederations Cup match between Nigeria and Spain. Sat in the warm Salford studio alongside fellow guest Efan Ekoku and host Mark Chapman, the news was delivered to the viewers at home during the half-time break that Gus Poyet’s contract with Brighton had been terminated with immediate effect. Chapman began the coverage by announcing, “We will look more at that first half during half-time, but we’re gonna start half-time by talking about Gus because it’s been a slightly odd first forty-five minutes for those of us in the studio and particularly for Gus because after three-and-a-half-years as Brighton manager, whilst we’ve been on-air this evening Gus has been told that his contract has been terminated.” The official statement, below, issued by the football club on the Seagulls website was read out. Poyet insisted that the first he heard of the decision was when a member of the BBC production staff printed out the statement and handed it to the studio team whilst the match they’re covering was in play. Brighton and Hove Albion refute these claims.

TV Statement

Poyet began by saying, “I think BBC have got a great story forever, really. Because a manager getting information that he’s been released from his employment by the BBC during the time of a programme is quite surprising.” He said he did not receive any form of communication from the club prior to this statement being released. He added a veiled barb towards the Albion hierarchy by saying, “I think everybody, the viewers and everyone, can take their own conclusion about the way that I’ve been informed.” He confirmed that he intended to appeal the decision and had already spoken with his lawyers around the next steps but was limited in what he could say right now. He was most sad with the fact that during the suspension period, lasting for over a month until this point, Poyet had not been allowed any form of communication with his players or staff for legal reasons. After the match, they returned to the subject of Poyet’s dismissal to delve a little further and reiterate the news to any latecomers. Chapman asked him if he was now on the job market again, to which he replied, whilst reaching for the piece of paper in front of him, “From what I read from the statement is that I am unemployed.” If he genuinely didn’t know about this before coming on-air then he handled it brilliantly. If he did know, it was a masterclass in hamming it up and feigning surprise. Given the nature of his fiery personality on the touchline, you tend to think that he would have been a bit more outspoken if this was genuine news to him. He did look rather emotional though as the questions wore on. Gus Poyet’s time in charge of the Albion concluded with the following message at the end of the programme; “First I would like to thank every single Brighton fan for being so patient with me, supportive. They’ve been outstanding. I know how difficult it was in the beginning to change a way of understanding football and they’ve been excellent with me all the time. They were patient, they believed, they got convinced and I’m sure they are proud of the football club and the team they’ve been watching over the last three-and-a-half-years.” Gus Poyet did not go through with his appeal and his tenure at Brighton came to a sad end after such highs.

TV Chapman TV Studio 2


The relationship between Brighton and Hove Albion, the supporters and Gus Poyet completely broke down after that terrible Play Off night in May 2013. Poyet was soon suspended by the club, along with coaches Mauricio Taricco and Charlie Oatway, pending an inquiry after comments made after the Crystal Palace match. The full truth probably will never emerge about exactly what happened behind the scenes there but it was all rather unsavoury. When he was dismissed from the club in June, Poyet insisted the first he heard of it was when he was making a punditry appearance Live on the BBC, who broke the news to him on-air. The club statement said Poyet was already aware of their decision. Whatever happened, it was a very sad ending to what had been a fantastic period for both Poyet and the Albion. He oversaw the move into the new stadium with a seamless transition from Champions of League One at Withdean to promotion candidates in the Championship at the new home of The Amex. He transformed the playing style of the club, moving away from long-ball plodders struggling at the foot of the third tier to an attractive, flowing passing philosophy knocking on the door of the Premier League. He was at the helm for almost two-hundred matches emerging the victor in eighty-six, that’s a win ratio of 44.3%. Too many draws cost him a Play Off spot in the 2011/12 campaign but it still built up the points, losing just forty-nine matches in charge. As far as first managerial jobs go, Poyet had a stormer and was highly sought after and respected in the wider football community, both at home and abroad.

Poyet Manager

Defeat in the Play Offs to your biggest rival and then a bitter fallout with the club hierarchy did mean that Poyet was enemy number one amongst sections of the Seagulls support for a time after his sacking. But to gloss over the fantastic achievements he had with the club would be foolish. Without Poyet, Brighton could well have begun life at Falmer in the bottom Division of English football and going nowhere fast. It wasn’t just results he was able to get, but he improved players too. The best example was probably with local lad Adam El-Abd, who was transformed from a big bruising old-fashioned centre-half into a ball-playing modern defender. Poyet’s fiery style and passionate displays didn’t endear him to everyone and several high-profile names fell foul of him. Nicky Forster and Glenn Murray’s partnership didn’t last nearly long enough. But he was able to attract a whole new calibre of player, the likes never seen before in Sussex. Former Valencia playmaker Vicente was somehow convinced to join and, in the limited game time he got, showed glimpses of brilliance. Kazenga LuaLua flourished. A host of other top Division players dropped down to the Championship to earn their stripes with the blue and whites. Gus Poyet was a huge factor in that. He gave us a glimpse of the potential this football club had now the stadium and training facilities had started to take shape.

Poyet Memory Lane

In his final post-match interview, he questioned if we’d ‘hit the roof’. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The foundations were laid, they just needed someone to crank it up a notch. Should Poyet have been the man to have taken the club into the Premier League? Possibly. It may have been a case of trying to go too far too soon. Brighton were not a top level club in 2013 and had overachieved to get within 180 minutes of making it. Allowing Glenn Murray to slip away for nothing in 2011, and to end up at Palace, was a terrible error of judgement and his goals we struggled to replace for a long time. Poyet’s passion would sometimes boil over into petulance, he received his marching orders from the touchline and saw rage transfer to his players on the pitch too often. Establishing the club in the second tier soon attracted interest from bigger clubs and Poyet didn’t exactly hide his delight at that. For a while it seemed we were destined to lose him to the Premier League as former stomping grounds Chelsea and Tottenham sniffed around. As much as his philosophy brought huge success, it could sometimes be stifled in the Championship as clubs learned how to counter it and frustrate Brighton. Plan B was rarely in the offing and this harmed the promotion charge in both second tier seasons. His ego got the better of him and when the final, crucial battle was won by Ian Holloway’s Palace, blame lied everywhere except at the manager’s door. In the end it became a tussle between manager and board and there would only ever be one winner. Poyet paid the price.

He was responsible for the best of times as an Albion fan. We were making headlines for the attractive football and fantastic facilities, showcasing the club and the city to the world in the process. Players flocked to Falmer from far flung corners of which Poyet was usually a big factor. We came so close to achieving the dream of top flight football, but just fell short. Poyet questioned if that was as far as the club could go. But as far as he could go with the club, come June 2013 it was adios, Gus, and thanks for the memories.

Huddersfield Poyet

Small Screen Seagulls; Doncaster (H) 06/08/2011

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe 2011/2012 season was a landmark year for Brighton and Hove Albion. Fourteen years after beating Doncaster in the final match at the Goldstone Ground back in April 1997, Brighton were about to embark on a watershed moment for the Football Club. Saturday 6th August 2011 would welcome League football to Sussex in a permanent stadium the club could call their own; the magnificent American Express Community Stadium in Falmer. The opponents on that momentous day; of course, it had to be Doncaster Rovers. The fixture computer had thrown up a really pertinent tie to open life in the new ground. After a couple of test events over the summer, including hosting Premier League Spurs, the scene at long last was set.


Brighton 2-1 Doncaster, Championship; 3pm, Sat 6th Aug 2011

imageThe view from my seat ahead of kick-off

The first ever League match at The Amex opened Brighton’s 2011/2012 campaign in the Championship. The Albion won League One at a canter the previous season, spending over thirty weeks at the top of the table and amassing 95 points. Gus Poyet only arrived at the club in November 2009 yet secured promotion in his first full season as a manager. Doncaster Rovers would provide the opposition for this Saturday 3pm kick-off in the August sunshine. Tickets were like gold dust, it was surely going to be one of those “I was there” moments. We also had a brand new club crest to herald the new era. Here we take a look at the coverage of the match from Football League rights holders Sky Sports and the BBC.

Football League Weekend, Sky Sports 1 (5th August 2011)

FLW Titles FLW Gavin

Sky Sports previewed the return of the new season in their regular Friday evening magazine programme Football League Weekend hosted by George Gavin. Having began at Sky as a touchline reporter on the Football League and Premier League in the mid-90s, Gavin hosted their Live coverage of the three Divisions from 2002. As younger hosts started to emerge over the previous couple of seasons, his main role now was to host the preview and review programming in the studio. Alongside him for this edition was former Southampton, Wolves and Cardiff manager Dave Jones. He covered our Live broadcast of the Ipswich game on the final day of the season in 2005 when a draw secured survival in the Championship for another year. FLW used the same titles and graphics as the Live matches, with “You’ve Got the Love” as the theme tune and new-for-this-season sleek 3D red and black name straps. “Welcome to the start of the race for football’s richest prize and some clubs are better placed than others to hit the ground running”, said George Gavin as he introduced the programme.

FLW Studio FLW Jones

Gavin introduced the report on the new stadium by saying “After fourteen years of nomadic existence, the tune ‘Sussex by the Sea’ will ring out on Saturday at Brighton’s new stadium to welcome them into the Championship. These are sunshine days for the Seagulls, and one of their former stars Nicky Forster has been back to take the temperature.” Forster started working for Sky as an occasional Live match pundit and regular feature reporter for Football League Weekend following his retirement up the road at Brentford over the summer. Ahead of the Doncaster match he was sent to look around The Amex and chat with a few of the current crop. His report began by interviewing Albion coach and former midfield battler Charlie Oatway. “We’re still looking in certain areas just to give us that little bit of difference because every other side’s got it. We’re looking for that someone who can just turn a back four, or have that killer pass, we’re looking at that sort of thing. And you’re always looking for a man who’s gonna score more goals.”

FLW Stadium FLW Oatway

Forster then spoke with Brighton’s new record-signing Craig Mackail-Smith. The former Peterborough striker scored 35 goals on his way to being named in the PFA Team of the Year last season and inspired the Seagulls to splash out £2.5 million to bring him to the club. “It’s such a big game Saturday. I think it’s a full house, everyone’s gonna be right behind the team and hopefully if we can get that first goal quite early then that will take the roof off the stadium and get the fans rocking.” Mackail-Smith turned down bids from Premier League QPR amongst others, citing the ambitions from the chairman with the stadium being a high factor in deciding to join Brighton.

FLW Forster & CMS FLW CMS

Local born defender Tommy Elphick caught up with his former roommate in The Amex dressing room. He spoke highly of the new surroundings; “The club is being revolutionised by the gaffer and the chairman. I think you can see by this fantastic stadium that the club’s definitely going forward now.” After the report concluded, Dave Jones in the studio continued, “Moving into a new stadium is going to be absolutely fantastic for them. Good players, they’re playing some good football as well. They’ll be there or thereabouts, whether they do it this year or next year, that’s what they’re aiming for. You look at the facilities, they’re absolutely magnificent.” The team talked up Brighton’s chances of doing well this season and showed the goals from July’s friendly with Tottenham. The bookies had odds of 9/2 for the Seagulls to gain back to back promotions.

FLW Elphick FLW Odds


Football Focus, BBC One (6th August 2011)

Long-running BBC Saturday lunchtime preview programme Football Focus marked our momentous day by broadcasting the entire show Live from The Amex. There were reports that they wanted to show the Doncaster match Live as one of ten Championship broadcasts this season but the club turned the TV requests down, wanting it preserved as Saturday at 3pm. So the Beeb opted for the next best option to kick off a new season of football. They were into their third and final season covering the Football League Live. They also held highlights rights which would continue for a further three-year contract after this season. Football Focus had been running since 1974, with current host Dan Walker taking over the reigns in 2009. Walker was born not far away in Crawley and had been part of various big sporting events on the BBC since around 2008 before landing the Focus gig.

FF Titles FF Field

After Dan Walker had done his introductions from the fields outside the ground, and the car park by the stadium, broadcasting great and famous Seagulls supporter Des Lynam narrated a potted history of the club to provide context as to what we’ve achieved just to get to this point today. He talked about the foundation, the Goldstone, Brian Clough, the Cup Final, that match with Hereford before going up to the present day with Gus Poyet’s Champions, via Gillingham and Withdean Stadium. Walker had made his way round to the legends banners outside of the West Stand and hospitality entrances, where he was joined by BBC Sport pundit and former Albion defender Mark Lawrenson. Lawro spent four years at the Goldstone, making 152 appearances before going on to join Liverpool in 1981 where he enjoyed the most success of his career. Since retirement he’s been a pundit primarily for the BBC and Match of the Day forging a long-standing partnership with ex-teammate Alan Hansen. He combined studio work with a place on the gantry as their lead co-commentator, most recently covering the 2010 World Cup.

FF VT FF Lawrenson

Today’s edition was pleasingly very Brighton centric, with multiple features from around the stadium and about the club. Even both pundits had connections to the Albion. The host was making good use of his access all areas pass, as he visited the home dressing room, where the Albion players were already sitting around reading the matchday programme ahead of kick off less than three hours later. Waiting for us there was Robbie Savage, newly-retired from the game and hoping to forge a career as a pundit with the BBC. Savage played six times on-loan at Brighton where, by his own admission, he was not very good back in October 2008 under Micky Adams. Alan Navarro in the changing room shouted across to make sure he hadn’t forgotten; “He had a stinker in every game!”

FF Dressing Room FF Savage

After a quick summer Championship round-up VT from reporter Mark Clemmit, Dan Walker went out the tunnel and to the side of the pitch where Lawrenson and Savage were standing alongside Chairman Tony Bloom; without whom this stadium would not have been possible. “It’s a hugely emotional time for all of our fans, they’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Over fourteen years since the last game at the Goldstone ground against Doncaster, funnily enough, in April ’97 and that was a massive game for us which we needed to win to give ourselves a chance of staying in the Football League. Which goes to show how far we’ve gone in that time” he began. Bloom pointed out that the expectations of other teams will be higher than his but to see where we are after a few games and assess the situation from there. The pundits believed one of the biggest tasks would be to keep hold of manager Gus Poyet after such a successful first couple of years in management.

FF Tony Bloom FF Bloom

First team coach Charlie Oatway is never one to shy away from the cameras, as he sat in the car-seat style chairs in the dugout for a chat alongside Walker and his two pundits. The full eleven name introduction was given, with Oatway famously being named after the entire 1973 Queens Park Rangers team, the year he was born. Oatway played 224 matches for the Albion during those successful Withdean years, leaving in 2007 but returning as coach when Poyet arrived two seasons after. Walker asked Oatway about Poyet’s request to have the pitch as wide as possible to encourage the team’s passing philosophy; “We’ve got the best intentions of the way we wanna play football and the stature of this football club and what we wanna achieve and have our own identity. He’s adamant about that and that shows with the way that we try to play.” Their chat closed with a little plug for Oatway’s autobiography “Tackling Life”, charting his story out of trouble to captain the Albion as well as having to learn to read and write as an adult.

FF Oatway FF Dugout

The away end was Walker’s next port of call as he walked through the concourse highlighting some of the little touches the club would be putting on for visiting fans. We saw the television screens informing of next train times, the barrels of beer brought in locally from the visiting area and he spoke of how the lighting would be adapted to that club’s colours each match too. We saw the view from the away end, hoping “in the not too distant future there’ll be Premier League fans watching their team here at this great new stadium.” He also brought up the slight change from an earlier design of the seat colours which did have a couple of white seats ‘deposited’ underneath the giant seagull in the West Stand. That idea was poo-pooed.

FF Concourse FF Clipping

Superstar DJ Fatboy Slim, AKA Norman Cook, gave his considerable support to the campaign to bring home the Albion down the years and deserves credit for the publicity that brought, as well as the Skint shirt sponsorship which served the kits at Withdean so well for nine years. He joined the team pitchside for a natter and perhaps putting it best when he said, “We’ve lived through a difficult fourteen years and now we have our field of dreams. If you build it they will come.” It’s difficult for Mark Lawrenson to get through any broadcast without some attempt at a joke so when the good ones land you can’t help but admire his efforts; “They were sponsored by Skint, now they should be sponsored by Loaded! He’s got loads of money, the chairman.” And that was just about all we had time for this afternoon. This programme was a wonderful build up to one of the most anticipated days the Brighton supporters had seen for a generation. It was great seeing our stadium on television, exploring all the different areas and having nothing but praise for it. It set the scene perfectly for the match to come later that afternoon.

FF Goal FF Fatboy Slim


The Football League Show, BBC One (6th August 2011)

FLS Titles FLS Bhasin

BBC Saturday night highlights have been a staple of the British football diet going back to the times before England had even won the World Cup. Match of the Day launched on Saturday evening in 1964 and has continued on-air in some form on the weekends every season ever since. From 2009 this was supplemented by more action in the post-MOTD slot; The Football League Show. Not the most imaginatively titled programme, with largely forgettable (and barely audible) theme music, but it gave fans of lower league clubs the chance to see their team’s goals on a Saturday night after the Premier League games had been wrapped up. It was hosted from their London studio by Manish Bhasin, formerly of Football Focus. Bhasin would be joined by a guest pundit each week – the likes of Steve Claridge, Leroy Rosenior, Dave Kitson as well as current players and managers. Genial reporter Mark Clemmit – or Clem – would visit a match each Saturday to file an extended report from, interviewing players and managers and giving a bit of context to one of the 72 clubs in the Leagues. A club history section would often also be hosted by him to break up the flow of goals, goals, goals. For the first couple of seasons there would also be a chance for viewers to interact with the show sending comments and questions to be read out by reporters such as Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and Jacqui Oatley. There would be longer highlights of one or two featured games from the Championship, with voiceover reports in the round-ups for the rest of the matches across the Three Divisions. On this opening day, Brighton’s debut home fixture was the chosen star match here.

FLS Brighton FLS Doncaster

Brighton’s side included Craig Mackail-Smith, the club’s new record-signing from Peterborough, up front. He partnered Ashley Barnes. Glenn Murray rejected the club’s offers of a new contract and left as a free agent in the summer, only to join bitter rivals Crystal Palace. Winger Kazenga LuaLua had repeatedly been on loan with us over the previous season and a half and signed another six-month loan deal for the start of this campaign, with a view to a permanent deal. The solid back-line of Casper Ankergren in-goal, full-backs Inigo Calderon and Marcos Painter, and captain Gordon Greer kept twenty clean-sheets in the League last season and continued as starters here. Tommy Elphick was stretchered off injured in the final day draw at Notts County and would be a long-term casualty this time round. This gave another local youngster a start in his place; Lewis Dunk, who had made a handful of appearances for the Albion prior to today. The midfield core of Irishman Gary Dicker, Matt Sparrow and former Chelsea youth captain Liam Bridcutt all started. Winger Craig Noone had impressed since joining the side for the second half of last season but began on the bench. He was accompanied by unfamiliar Albion faces in new signings Will Buckley, temporarily our record signing at £1 million when the winger joined from Watford, and Romain Vincelot, a utility player brought in from Dagenham & Redbridge. Doncaster had a tough pre-season and were without seven of their squad due to injury. Billy Sharp and James Hayter were the target men, James Coppinger a potential danger in the middle with Ryan Mason, and at the back was captain George Friend. The referee was Eddie Ilderton.

FLS Commentator FLS Yellow Card

Commentary on the ten-minute highlight edit came from Martin Fisher. He joined the BBC when Match of the Day regained highlights to Premier League matches and began deploying commentators to every single game in 2004. Since then he’s regularly covered top-flight action and, from 2009, dipped down into the Football Leagues for this programme. Prior to that he was a reporter for Sky Sports News based in the midlands. The opening chance of the highlights fell to Billy Sharp whose curled effort inside the area narrowly missed the post. Kazenga LuaLua was causing all sorts of problems for the Donny defence, with Tommy Spurr getting booked for a foul. LuaLua himself was then booked for a dive when it seemed like he had surely been fouled for a penalty. Manager Poyet was incensed on the touchline, living up to his fiery nature, and received his invitation to sit in the stands courtesy of the referee. Ashley Barnes had the Albion’s first good chance after a flick on saw him one-on-one with the ‘keeper. Woods stood his ground and blocked Barnes’ effort with the defence helping out to clear a yard off the line. It all wasn’t quite going to plan for Brighton and it was made worse five minutes before half-time. Dicker was dispossessed on the half-way line by Ryan Mason, who continued his run to the edge of the box. His shot deflected off Dunk into the path of Billy Sharp to steer goalwards a first-time shot through Ankergren, already scrambling around way off his goalline, who managed to deflect the effort onto the post but to no avail. It trickled in to give Rovers the lead.

FLS Poyet Sent Off FLS Doncaster Goal

In the second half a wild lunge from Lewis Dunk earned himself a yellow card and brought an end to Sharp’s afternoon, having to be stretchered off to add to the away side’s injury woes. Substitute Craig Noone was in behind the Doncaster defence after Barnes flicked on Sparrow’s nice through ball. Noone opened his body up but saw the effort fly past the wrong side of the post, the shot lacking the required curl on it. The highlights were now all Brighton’s; with Craig Mackail-Smith forcing Woods into action again. The Albion breakthrough finally came through another sub, Will Buckley, who thundered in a goal from the corner of the area. Bridcutt’s floated free-kick was headed out by the defence who twice couldn’t clear sufficiently. The ball eventually fell to Buckley who smashed it on the half-volley twenty yards out low and hard past the ‘keeper to level with seven minutes remaining. Both sides had chances to win it, with Mackail-Smith going close for us, whilst Hayter had a volley blocked for Rovers. He got injured in the process, leaving Sean O’Driscoll with no option but to play the final few minutes with just ten men having already made three substitutions. A lot of stoppage time was going to be played here, Brighton had a man advantage now, could they get the goal advantage?

FLS Equaliser FLS One all

Into the 98th minute of the match, Craig Noone showed off some lovely footwork on half-way to spin one defender and skip past a second. With the outside of the left boot he stabbed a defence-splitting ball forward for Will Buckley to run through on goal. The pass was perfect, Buckley didn’t even need to take a touch he just ran wide to give himself the best possible angle to shoot and then bam! He curled it into the bottom-right corner of the goal to seal his place in Albion folklore forever. “It’s Buckley in againnn, TWO-ONE BRIGHTON!” cried commentator Martin Fisher. A fantastically cool finish from the debutant to complete the comeback and secure a very special victory on a very special day. Brighton had won it with virtually the last kick of the match. I hope you were expecting drama, it’s never plain sailing being a football fan!

FLS Winner FLS Celebration

In his post-match interview Gus Poyet was still fathomed by the referees decision to book LuaLua instead of award a penalty. Acknowledging his fiery temper he said “It’s me, you like me or you don’t. You take me how I am or I go home and I play golf.” We also heard from double-goalscoring hero Will Buckley. Questioned about how pleasing it was to go down in the record books he answered “I think everyone was trying to get that but it’s more importantly about the team win today and that’s what we needed, a good start, and we got it.” The standard footballer answer given, playing down his own achievements to focus on the three points and the team aspect. I could watch those two goals over and over again. I was so fortunate to have been there for this match and to enjoy the incredible surroundings our new abode had to offer.

FLS Full Time FLS Poyet

Manish Bhasin was joined by Steve Claridge in the studio to review the action. The retired striker had a short six game loan spell with Brighton under Mark McGhee in 2004. Upon analysing today’s match Claridge loved the atmosphere the fans created with the flags waving pre-match creating a sea of blue and white. He agreed with Poyet that the penalty should have been given for the foul on Kazenga LuaLua and praised the manager for making game-changing substitutions, with Noone and Buckley coming on. On the first goal, Claridge believed it to be “a fantastic strike, that’s a difficult skill and a great technique” before remarking about the winner “This is a fantastic run, teams can’t defend against this because it’s players running from deep, no-one can run with him.” No-one did run with him and consequently Brighton ran out winners by two goals to one completing the fairytale story in this brand new place we are very lucky to call home. This day will be forever remembered as the day the fans brought their football club back.

FLS Claridge FLS Studio