Withdean on Screen; Milestone Matches part 1

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

SUN Commentary Box

OPENING IN STYLE (7th August 1999) Division Three

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

Mansfield Titles Mansfield Lorenzo

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

Mansfield Intro Mansfield Lynam Mansfield Freeman first Mansfield Thomas

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

Mansfield Freeman hat trick Mansfield Six

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


2

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

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

Chesterfield Intro Chesterfield aston

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

Chesterfield Goal Chesterfield Scoreline Chesterfield trophy Chesterfield celebrations

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

Chesterfield Adams Chesterfield Goalscorers chart Chesterfield final table

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


3

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

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

Bradford Titles Bradford Division One

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

Bradford Scoreline Bradford Penalty  Bradford Rodger Bradford Foul

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

Bradford Kuipers Bradford table

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


4

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

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 1-0 Rotherham

Rotherham titles Rotherham Intro

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

Rotherham Townsend Rotherham Claridge Rotherham McGhee Rotherham Claridge playing

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

Rotherham Harding Rotherham scoreline

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

5

AND AGAIN (26th December 2004) Division One

The Championship, ITV1; Brighton 2-1 Gillingham

Gillingham titles Gillingham Smith

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

Gillingham intro Gillingham Crofts Gillingham Carpenter equaliser Gillingham Virgo winner  

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

Gillingham scoreline

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


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

#7: Chester 1-1 Brighton 15/01/1999

#7 CHESTER 1-1 BRIGHTON Division Three
Friday 15th January 1999 Sky 1999

Ident 99 Chester titles

PRESENTER Marcus Buckland
COMMENTATORS Rob Hawthorne & Clive Allen REPORTER Alan Bentley
7.45pm Kick Off; Deva Stadium, Chester      7-10pm Friday Night Football on Sky Sports 2

Chester programme Chester tv

Context of the Match: The above screenshot in yellow is taken from the Brighton programme in December when the news was confirmed of the televised fixture. However the unusual kick-off time of 7.30pm was a mistake and, as confirmed by the second image taken from The Guardian website, the kick-off was actually the regular 7.45pm time. As alluded to above, Chester were suffering from severe financial problems and entered administration in October 1998 with worse still to come in the following years unfortunately. When Brighton’s difficult period intensified a few years earlier, fans of other clubs rallied around fantastically to raise funds, awareness and really help out under the ‘Fans United’ banner on two previous occasions. Tonight was labelled as a sort of ‘Fans United 3’, with supporters from the likes of Oxford, Portsmouth and Manchester United lending their support tonight using the Live TV opportunity, just like Brighton fans did at Bournemouth in 1995. Manchester United fans also had their own protest against Rupert Murdoch and Sky’s proposed takeover of their club, so they didn’t waste this opportunity to be vocal either. The deal eventually fell through later that year, whilst their players went on to win that incredible Treble. At half time a scarf featuring all 92 English League teams was paraded around the pitch as a mark of solidarity. On the field, Chester were six unbeaten whilst Brighton were doing alright in mid-table.

In contrast, Brighton had for once received some positive news a few weeks before this tie. The club would be returning to Sussex to play home games, having been tenants of Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium since the beginning of the 1997/98 season. The exile was confirmed to be coming to an end after two seasons and Withdean Stadium, an athletics ground predominantly, would be Albion’s temporary home from this coming summer. That word ‘temporary’ would provide so much of the television coverage of the club during Live games as well as news bulletins and magazine shows for the best part of the next dozen years or so however, as the journey home was a long old process. It’s never dull here!

Chester stat Chester booking

The Teams: Boss Brian Horton brought the Seagulls into the game having not won in three but were on the fringes of the Play-Off places entering the second half of the season. This wasn’t to last with Horton leaving to join higher-division Port Vale later in the month after not even a calendar year in charge. Club captain Gary Hobson was a couple of weeks away from being fully fit, having hardly played much all season. Rod Thomas, who began the season at Chester, was also a casualty after injuring his ankle when the club used Manchester City’s training ground the day before the match. Top scorer Richie Barker and midfielder Jeff Minton were the expected danger men for the Seagulls in their red away kit. Future youth team coach Ian Culverhouse featured in the defence. Amongst the names in the Chester squad were a young David Flitcroft, 18-year-old defender Martyn Lancaster and Andy Crosby, who would sign for the Albion later in the year. Kevin Ratcliffe was the manager. The match was refereed by Peter Walton, long before his Premier League duties.

Chester full time

Presentation Team: Marcus Buckland was at the helm from the Sky studio. It is unclear who the guests were as footage of this is minimal. Rob Hawthorne, Sky’s number 1 Football League commentator, was alongside Clive Allen on the gantry. As this was a Division Three match, Allen was used instead of number 1 Alan Brazil. Clive Allen was taking his first steps into regular punditry and commentary this season on Sky’s coverage, also deputising on Soccer Saturday and Soccer Special on occasions as well as appearing in studio. He would do this until 2001 when he joined ITV’s talent for their Football League and Premiership coverage and subsequently forging a long career in the media. Reporter Alan Bentley took over from George Gavin in 1997 and remained on the touchline for League and Cup until Sky lost the rights to ITV. Unlike most of the other names here, Bentley never returned to Sky and chose to go down a different route. He formed a production company specialising in sports betting programmes.

Chester Marcus Buckland Chester pundits Chester Alan Bentley Chester studio

 

The Coverage: Sky had been providing exclusively Live coverage of the Football League since 1996 and this was the third season of that deal. Personnel had changed slightly since we were last on during their first season, with Marcus Buckland now in the presenter’s chair instead of Russ Williams who was only there for the first season. Buckland joined from Radio 5 Live in 1997 and presented Sky’s entire Football League output until they lost the rights in 2001 to ITV Digital. He then moved across to host the pay-per-view matches on Premiership Plus until 2007 when he became the face of Sky’s tennis coverage. Sky still hosted the vast majority of games from their Isleworth studio, although the set design was less colourful than the Williams’ year. The theme tune remained as Black Grape – England’s Irie until 2000, when it was replaced with Primal Scream’s ‘Swastike Eyes’ for the final pre-ITV season. Matches were regularly broadcast in the Friday night and Sunday lunchtime slots still, with full build-ups incorporating goals round-ups and features alongside Sky’s weekly ‘Football League Review’ highlights programme. Graphics were uniform across Sky’s Football Output and were understated black, white and grey colours faded in and out but ones with moving text (team line ups, substitutions) did come with beeping sound effects. This came about when Sky transformed it’s look and logo at the start of this 1998/99 season.

Chester build up 1 Chester build up

Unfortunately again I do not have very many details of this particular broadcast at all, clips and footage has proved very hard to come by (thankfully this is the last Live game which I’ll need to say that). The only video I could find was 4 minutes of the goals (embedded at the bottom of this post) and a brief report on Chester’s form this season in the pre-match coverage, titled ‘Ratcliffe’s Blues?’, voiced by Buckland therefore confirming his presence. Hawthorne and Allen can be heard describing the action in the match clip. Therefore I have had to provide example images of the studio, host and reporter from a different match earlier in the season (Bristol City v Bolton). Pundits that night were Nigel Spackman and Ray Wilkins, and they were the regular Friday Night Football League pairing of this era so it could be assumed they were in situ for Chester v Brighton as well. Club-specific guests were a lot rarer during those days, with Sky opting for regular pundits Spackman, Wilkins, Allen, Brian Marwood, Alan Brazil and Dave Bassett, with Chris Kamara going on to join this pool in later seasons. The replay graphic was the same for all competitions; the video replay swooshing in from the top corner to cover the screen before flying out again, adorned with blue and red Sky Sports colours.

Chester penalty Chester Armstrong graphic

Story of the Match: The home side generally had the better of the match, as highlighted by the first half corner statistic of 8 to 1. Deep into first half stoppage time the home side got their deserved lead thanks to a speedy counter attacking break off the back of Brighton’s first corner. Alex Smith surged down the left, running most of the length of the field before getting his shot away. That was parried by Mark Ormerod and fell right to the feet of Mike Conroy to tap home from six yards out for his first home goal with virtually the last kick of the half. Brighton had a goal ruled out frustratingly for offside six minutes after the break and thought perhaps the game had gone. Deep, deep into stoppage time at the end of the ninety minutes however a lifeline was granted. Substitute Kerry Mayo clipped the ball into the box and flicked on for Jamie Moralee who was pushed to the ground. Penalty! But regular taker Jeff Minton had already gone off so the task was left for 20-year-old Paul Armstrong. “I elected myself. I just thought what the hell? I had a lot of nerves but there was no better place to score my first goal than in front of the cameras,” he commented post-match. Armstrong’s first senior goal and live on television to boot but the drama wasn’t over there. Even deeper into injury time Chester went up the other end and probably should’ve immediately had their own penalty when a long ball from the half-way line was pumped forward to be flicked on into the penalty area. Brighton’s Ian Culverhouse clumsily swung a leg to go for the ball, missed completely and did end up getting the man to bring him down. Clive Allen on co-commentary observed “Culverhouse tries to clear, I don’t think he had any intention of actually playing or tackling the player.” A slightly fortunate point gained for the Seagulls, and the first in a Live televised League game at the third attempt. This marked our final Live match of the 20th Century.

CHESTER 1 BRIGHTON 1
Conroy Armstrong (Penalty)

Chester replay

PREVIOUS; #6 LEYTON ORIENT 2-0 BRIGHTON 22/12/1996

NEXT; #8 BRIGHTON 2-1 RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 08/12/2001

#6: Leyton Orient 2-0 Brighton 22/12/1996

#6 LEYTON ORIENT 2-0 BRIGHTON Division Three
Sunday 22nd December 1996 Sky 1995

Orient 1996 ident Orient 1996 christmas Titlecard

PRESENTER Russ Williams GUESTS Ray Clemence & Pat Holland
COMMENTATORS Rob Hawthorne & Alan Brazil REPORTER George Gavin
12pm Kick Off; Brisbane Road, Leyton Orient      11.30am-3pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 3

IntroRuss Williams Ray Clemence Pat Holland Studio

Context of the Match: The sole reason this Division Three match between two strugglers was switched to a Sunday lunchtime kick off for Live television coverage by Sky Sports was because it would be former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s 1000th League match, at the ripe old age of 47. Brighton were the opponents tasked with playing along to the Shilton beat at Brisbane Road. The Albion sat rock-bottom of the entire Football League, as they had done since early October, with just four League wins all season as we approached the halfway point of the season. One of those wins however had come in the previous League game at home to Hull. The club also had a new manager in Steve Gritt, appointed earlier this month after Gerry Ryan was sacked. Leyton Orient weren’t faring much better, just a handful of places higher in the table and with their own manager having only been in charge for half a dozen matches before today.

Teams Emerge Orient Team Brighton Team Brighton Formation

The Teams: The standout name from Orient’s starting XI was of course Peter Shilton in goal for the 1000th time, a true legend of the game for club and country. Only four of the other 21 starting players were born when Shilton made his debut in 1966! One of whom was West Ham legend Alvin Martin, running out for the O’s for his one and only season away from Upton Park, also his final year before moving into management. Scott McGleish featured, as did Martin Ling in midfield who would later go on to play for Brighton to end his professional playing career. The Albion line up included young local lad Kerry Mayo in midfield alongside George Parris and Stuart Storer (before he wrote himself into club folklore scoring the last ever goal at the Goldstone in 1997). Regulars Peter Smith and Brighton-born Stuart Tuck provided the stability in the defence. Midfielder Paul McDonald had Premiership scouts looking at him today according to co-commentator Alan Brazil, though nothing came of this as he went to his native Scotland the following year.

Kick Off CommsCommentators

Presentation Team: Russ Williams anchored proceedings from a festively-decorated Sky Studios, complete with Christmas tree and tinsel by his side for this high-noon showdown. He was joined by England goalkeeping coach, and tenth on the all-time League appearances record with 758 games, Ray Clemence. Clemence was a rival to Shilton during their National Team days in the 1970s so was brought in as he knew ‘Shilts’ as well as anybody. The other guest was Pat Holland, who was Leyton Orient manager until just a few weeks before today. Holland only played for three teams during his career; West Ham, Bournemouth and, amazingly, Team Hawaii. He was in charge of the O’s for the past two years until Tommy Taylor took over this season. Reporting on the match was George Gavin, Sky’s number two on the touchline behind Nick Collins. Collins did England, FA Cup and Premiership whilst Gavin was left to pick up the rest. Completing Sky’s line-up were Alan Brazil and Rob Hawthorne up on the commentary gantry. Co-commentator Alan Brazil started his broadcasting career as sports expert on GMTV, the ITV breakfast company, until he joined Andy Gray on Sky Sports for The Boot Room. This led to being utilised on commentary when Sky signed up the Football League rights this season, a role in which he stayed as number one throughout the first four years of the contract, as did lead commentator Rob Hawthorne.

Appearance table S Files S Files Shilton S Files 2 Shilton

The Coverage: Sky gained the rights to broadcast the Football League Live from the beginning of this 1996/97 season, breaking ITV’s long held Live grip going back consecutive years to 1983. A new channel was launched to house the extra football content from this competition as well as the League Cup; Sky Sports 3 came on air on 16th August 1996. They assembled a new team including presenter and face of the launch promo Russ Williams, who was brought in after hosting the first incarnation of Soccer AM (alongside Jane Hoffen and Gary Stevens in 1995 before Tim Lovejoy took over at the start of this season) whilst Rob Hawthorne moved from Monday Night Football to commentate on almost every Football League Live match between 1996 and 2001. Also joining were Alan Brazil as first choice co-commentator/pundit and George Gavin as pitchside reporter, later replaced by Alan Bentley from 1997 when Gavin was moved up to the Premiership. Coverage was usually based in Isleworth and regular Live games shown on Friday night and Sunday lunchtime, with the broadcast normally incorporating the week’s goals and previews/reviews of the entire Division. Fresh off the back of England’s successful staging of Euro 96, one of the unofficial songs was Black Grape – England’s Irie, which Sky used as their Football League theme tune from 1996 until 2000. I thought it was an inspired choice and look back fondly on that title sequence. As this match took place just three days before Christmas, seasonal idents were used by Sky, a long held tradition of the broadcaster.

Peter Shilton Shilton entrance

The pre-match build up was dominated, as you’d expect, by talk of Peter Shilton for what was an historic achievement that will probably never be surpassed. Studio guests Clemence and Holland both had personal connections with the goalkeeper and were able to give their own insight. A regular feature of the early season Football League coverage was VT insert ‘The S-Files’; borrowing elements from acclaimed 90s drama The X-Files. This entailed the theme tune playing as a mysterious man crept around a darkened office and logged onto an early incarnation of a PC, giving the impression it’s all very secretive. There then followed an interview with none other than Peter Shilton who would answer questions displayed on the screen complete with picture-in-picture shots before ending when ‘time was up’ and we were automatically logged out. It was all very Sky in the 90s. Cameras followed him seemingly all morning as we saw him arrive at the ground and get out his car. He then had a chat with George Gavin, where he was keen to stress it’s not about him it’s about getting the win for the team; ever the ultimate professional. In a bizarre moment we saw him sitting in his underpants in the dressing room as if it was the most normal thing in the world, as we witnessed the preparations. The only mentions of Brighton from the studio came from Ray Clemence noting “Brighton always have a good travelling support anyway, even considering the problems that they’ve had,” referencing the ongoing battle against the board and a points deduction for a pitch invasion at the Goldstone a few weeks earlier. We also got a shout-out when the League table was shown, rock-bottom Brighton.

Dressing Room Awards Gathered press Scott McCarthy

As kick-off approached and Williams handed over to our commentary team, we witnessed a series of grand presentations and fanfare to welcome the star of the show onto the pitch. The centre circle was full of photographers and press (there must have been about 50 people on there) eager to get their shot of Shilton. A band played the teams out, dressed to imitate the London Beefeaters, onto the red carpet laid out. As conditions were so blustery this actually blew away and had to be rescued! A thousand balloons were released and a guard of honour was formed by the two line-ups for Shilton to run through. He was then presented with a silver salver by secretary of the Football League David Dent, and former World Cup referee Jack Taylor. Dent is probably most renowned for being the man in charge of the infamous League Cup draw that Donald Trump did in 1991 on ITV magazine show Saint & Greavsie. Orient chairman Barry Hearn gave Shilton the ‘Carling No.1 Award’ for his services to football. Then it was Brighton’s turn, with mascot Scott McCarthy (now one half of fan website WeAreBrighton.com) handing over something akin to the souvenir from darts quiz Bullseye on behalf of the Albion Supporters Club; “9-year-old Scott McCarthy, who’s giving him the tankard and he’s a budding young goalkeeper himself. He plays for the Seagulls Under-10 team” remarked Rob Hawthorne at the time. And lastly the 1000-game man was gifted a Guinness World Records certificate before finally he could get on with actually playing. A good ten minutes were taken up with getting the ceremonies completed!

George Gavin Straight after the final whistle we were able to hear from that man again; Mr P. Shilton MBE/OBE. He really deserved a credit at the end of the broadcast for his contributions to Sky’s programme. Never one to shy away from the camera, head of Matchroom Sport and chairman of the home side, Barry Hearn gave his thoughts on the day, including crediting the supporters of both teams. There was a bumper crowd of nearly 8,000, several thousand more than normal. The post match coverage did discuss Brighton in a bit more detail once the talk of the goalkeeper had concluded. Both managers were interviewed, including Steve Gritt confirming that he despite all the off-field problems he was being allowed to manage the team in his own way. Both pundits believed it would be an incredibly tough job for him to keep Brighton in the Division, with Holland noting even more so because Gritt had been out of the game for eighteen months. The Brighton boss was scathing about the performance, saying Shilton (him again!) probably hadn’t had an easier game in his 999 previous appearances. The fans stayed long after the final whistle to protest and display banners in the stand, with Gritt prefering to stay out of the politics and concentrate on the football. After around twenty minutes or so, the focus of the programme turned to the rest of the Football League with a goals round-up of the weekend’s action filling much of the remainder of the broadcast before saying goodbye just in time for viewers to switch over to Sky Sports 1 for the Live Super Sunday match from the Premiership; Aston Villa v Wimbledon.

Table Steve Gritt

Story of the Match: Leyton Orient dominated and were by far the better side. It took 23 minutes before Shilton even had to come off his line to gather the ball from a header back. He couldn’t have wished for an easier day to celebrate his millennium milestone, in doing so keeping his 333rd career clean-sheet. His opposite number for Brighton Nicky Rust, 25 years Shilton’s junior, was far busier and kept Albion in the game in the first half. Brighton settled into the game more after the half hour mark, in seriously windy and bitterly cold conditions, but Orient were the more dangerous throughout. The deadlock broke after the break when full-back Dominic Naylor played a neat one-two before finishing the move off from just inside the box despite Rust getting a hand to it. The result was sealed when Naylor again ventured into the penalty area and, after panic in the Brighton defence, was tripped by George Parris for a spot kick. Naylor got up to take it himself and sent Rust the wrong way for two-nil. Both incidents happened within seven minutes of each other and left the away team with a mountain to climb in a game in which they were always going to be the afterthought. The impressively vocal and numerous away supporters could be heard throughout chanting the club cause; “Archer out!” and “Sack the board”. Albion remained bottom of Division Three and would have to go some to survive in the final season at the Goldstone Ground. The rest is history. Peter Shilton went on to play five more times for Orient before finally, and definitely, calling it a day in 1997.

LEYTON ORIENT 2 BRIGHTON 0
Naylor (2)

Replay Goal

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EXTRA; This season was Brighton’s final one at their home of 96 years – the Goldstone Ground. The off-pitch battles were fierce, difficult and extremely fraught. Excellent articles and books, such as Build a Bonfire, have been written documenting the entire battle to save the ground, save the club, oust the board and keep Brighton in Brighton, which I won’t go into on here. Instead, brief snippets from the media coverage of the 96/97 season are provided in a separate post linked HERE and HERE.