World Cup 1994 on the BBC

World Cup Logo FIFA brought the world of football to the United States of America for the staging of the fifteenth World Cup in 1994. However, the tournament would perhaps be best remembered for events off the field. On the opening day, America was gripped by an altogether different occasion involving a sports star as former NFL player OJ Simpson went on the run from the police in a car chase which gripped the nation and played out Live on television, following suspicions of murdering his wife. When the football did get underway, it was once again Diego Maradona who grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons when he was sent home after two group matches due to failing doping. He was found with a ‘cocktail of drugs’ in his system, which came as no surprise to anyone who saw his extreme close-up celebration at the camera after his one and only goal this summer against Greece. And Colombian defender Andres Escobar was tragically murdered by members of a drugs cartel five days after his country was eliminated from the tournament, believed to be in retaliation for his own goal against the host nation in the group stages. BBC pundit Alan Hansen clumsily, and presumably accidentally, described defending during the Argentina versus Nigeria match the day after Escobar’s death in the worst way; “the Argentine defender wants shooting for a mistake like that.” Elsewhere there were no home nations present at the World Cup for the first time since 1938, owing largely to Graham Taylor’s disastrous campaign with England and a Scotland side in decline. Republic of Ireland were the nearest representative and upset the odds immediately by beating Italy in New York. They graced the knockout stage before elimination at the hands of the Dutch. The competition culminated with the first ever Final penalty shoot-out, as Italy were defeated by Brazil in one of the most laboured of matches. British broadcasters BBC and ITV were there to beam the vast majority of matches direct to our late-night living rooms. In this post I look at the efforts of the BBC, who opened the tournament with the ceremony and the first match.

 

BBC SportPresenters; Des Lynam, Bob Wilson
Pundits;
 Jimmy Hill, Alan Hansen, Terry Venables, Gary Lineker, David O’Leary, Steve Coppell, David Baddiel, Frank Skinner
Commentators; Barry Davies, John Motson, Tony Gubba, Clive Tyldesley, Gerald Sinstadt
Co-Commentators; Trevor Brooking, Liam Brady, John Fashanu, Chris Waddle
Reporters; Ray Stubbs, Hazel Irvine, Garth Crooks


TITLE SEQUENCE & THEME TUNE

Grandstand Titles

Theme: Leonard Bernstein – America (from West Side Story)

The BBC went route one with their choice of theme tune; using ‘America’. Taken from the musical West Side Story, they used Leonard Bernstein’s instrumental version. The familiar tune was definitely one that would stay in your head but after the monumental success of the 1990 titles with Nessun Dorma, this was a bit of a climb down. However, the celebratory joy of the American World Cup came across in this tune even if the dog barking sound effects were a slightly odd addition!

BBC titles 1 BBC titles 4 BBC titles 2 BBC titles 3

The titles kicked off with the instruments blaring in full flow whilst cutting to various shots of famous American landmarks. Starting with fireworks by the Statue of Liberty before flashing through the likes of the Brooklyn Bridge and the huge buildings that crept into the New York skyline. When the music quietened, the titles switched to clips of footballing action, updated as the tournament progressed. In the example here, we saw the likes of Ray Houghton’s goal against Italy in the group stage and Jack Charlton’s celebrations on the sidelines, amongst other goals and crowd shots. To emphasise the host country, the stars and stripes adorned the top and bottom bars of the screen. When the music came back round to the bombastic bars of the chorus again, the title sequence was coming to a close with a spinning ball filled with previous World Cup winners lifting the famous trophy. As the track reached a crescendo, the red stripes of the USA flag covered the centre before a ball flew from the bottom right to act as the flag’s ‘stars’, revealing the title card “World Cup ’94”. Below, the titles to the Brazil v Netherlands Quarter Final.


PRESENTATION TEAM

BBC Host BBC Pundits

Desmond Lynam was once more at the helm of the BBC’s World Cup coverage, fronting the opening match, key games and, of course, the Final. As the corporation’s principal football presenter, Lynam had just finished the second season chairing the best of the action from the Premiership on Match of the Day since the Beeb regained the rights to the top flight in 1992. He previously hosted the show’s FA Cup coverage from 1988 and USA 1994 was his fourth FIFA World Cup. Lynam anchored more than just football though, he was a real all-rounder with his work fronting Grandstand and light entertainment shows. Consequently, he was absent for much of the group stage, instead hosting coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, but was present for the Republic of Ireland games and the latter stages. Bob Wilson deputised. A regular in the studio was pundit Alan Hansen. The Scotsman joined BBC television for the new Premiership rights in 1992, having previously covered European football for Sky as soon as he retired from playing in ’91. He was also heard on BBC Radio Five Live and quickly earned a great reputation for his considered, authoritative and forthright analysis. He made his name playing in the great Liverpool sides as a centre back during the 1970s and 80s, winning everything there was to win. Hansen excelled with his studio work during his first international tournament with the BBC.

BBC Lineker BBC Lineker studio

One of England’s all-time great goalscorers, the 1986 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Gary Lineker earmarked a career in the media once his playing days were over. He made occasional media appearances during previous tournaments, either by doing the TV interviews for England or, once knocked out, appearing on the broadcasts as a guest. He was still a professional during this tournament, plying his trade in Japan for Nagoya Grampus Eight, whom he joined in the summer of 1992. Two injury-hampered seasons followed. He returned to England whenever he could during this spell, enjoying stints on BBC Radio 5 Live and Match of the Day, including the first Premiership version of the programme in August ’92. However, instead of just going down the usual route of punditry, it was clear Lineker also wanted to be in the presenter’s seat. During the build up to the opening match of the tournament – Germany versus Bolivia – he presented a piece to camera previewing some of the big hitters; above left. Back in the studio, host Lynam told us, “We’ll be seeing quite a bit of Gary, of course, over the next couple of weeks or so”, as Lineker’s BBC career began in earnest. He appeared mostly as an analyst for this tournament but would soon go on to front shows once hanging up his boots for good in September of this year.

BBC Wilson BBC Coppell

For now though, the number two football host was Bob Wilson. He had been the host of magazine preview show Football Focus for the past twenty years upon retirement from keeping goal for Arsenal for more than a decade. Wilson made the leap from player to presenter straight away, rather than via the pundit seat, and also hosted Grandstand and Match of the Day during his time with the BBC. He played a major part during the 1994 World Cup whilst number one Des Lynam was engaged with fronting Wimbledon tennis for much of the group stage. Anchoring World Cup proceedings from Television Centre in London allowed Lynam to return to the fold for the bigger group games but it was Wilson who did much of the heavy lifting on both Live and highlight programming. One of the BBC’s recruits for this tournament was former Manchester United and England winger Steve Coppell. The 1977 FA Cup winner had his playing career cut very short due to persistent knee injuries. It stemmed from a terrible challenge in a World Cup qualifier against Hungary in 1981. He struggled through for two years before calling it quits in October ’83 at the age of twenty-eight. The following summer he moved into management and began his relationship with Crystal Palace, managing them for eight years before resigning last year following top flight relegation. Being out of work, he used the summer opportunity to sit in the BBC studio and analyse the World Cup, providing both a player and coaches perspective, but was keen to get back into management.

BBC Venables BBC Hill

Two long-standing members of the BBC team were present once more in the studio. Terry Venables was a familiar face on the corporation since the mid-1980s, appearing on commentary before becoming more established in the pundit role. His playing career was almost exclusively London based, enjoying success from midfield at Chelsea and Tottenham as well as spells at QPR and Crystal Palace. After retiring in 1975 whilst at Palace, he was handed a coaching role with the club before taking over as manager the following year. Since, he’s had spells with former clubs QPR and Spurs as well as taking charge of Spanish giants Barcelona for three years, he was able to combine this with tournament appearances for the BBC. He hadn’t actually taken charge of Tottenham since 1991, instead moving to Chief Executive for two years before being dismissed. In January of this year, he was appointed England manager following Graham Taylor’s notoriously bad campaign culminating in failure to qualify for this tournament. Another regular on the Beeb was the one and only Jimmy Hill. This was his eight World Cup as a broadcaster, stretching back to 1966. He presented Match of the Day for fifteen years from 1973, often with Bob Wilson as co-host, before moving back into the analyst seat when Lynam took the helm in 1988. As the most senior pundit, he was still going strong at the age of sixty-five during this World Cup, featuring on all the big games including the Final. Completing the line-up of regular studio guests for this tournament was former Arsenal and current Leeds defender David O’Leary, shown on our right of the picture, below, with Liam Brady. With Arsenal, the Irishman won all domestic honours; League, FA Cup, League Cup and Charity Shield. He won sixty-eight caps for the Republic of Ireland and played at the previous World Cup in 1990. After joining Leeds last summer and starting the campaign well, a serious achilles injury kept him out of action for most of the 93/94 season. It was something he would not recover from and, although officially in rehabilitation on the books of Leeds, he would never play again.

BBC Brady and OLeary

Whilst the studio team were all based in London, the commentary was done on-site in America. Co-commentators utilised for this Cup were number one Trevor Brooking, along with Irish representation in the form of Liam Brady; shown in the picture, above, on the left. Brooking was celebrating a decade on-air with the BBC having joined after finishing his playing career, appearing over half a century of matches for West Ham’s midfield. He appeared both in studio for Match of the Day and was first choice as Live match summariser, commentating across both BBC radio and television during his media career. Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Brady was covering his second consecutive World Cup for the BBC, both featuring his national side. After retiring from playing in 1990 he managed Celtic from the following year before joining his current post at Brighton and Hove Albion in 1993. Unfortunately for Brady, both spells have been marred by financial trouble at the top and poor form on the pitch. He was co-commentator for all Ireland’s matches as well as select others during the tournament. Providing a current player’s view from the gantry were John Fashanu and Chris Waddle. With Fashanu in the final couple of seasons of his playing career, he was looking for media roles. When ITV sporting entertainment giant Gladiators launched in the UK in 1992, he was host alongside Ulrika Jonsson and launched his catchphrase ‘Awooga!’ into the public conscience. He attracted controversy during his career both on and off the field. On it, his elbow during the 93/94 season fractured Tottenham captain Gary Mabbutt’s eye in a sickening clash. Off it, he publicly denounced his own brother Justin for coming out as gay in 1990, a decision he later regretted. John Fashanu’s finest day in football came when, as John Motson put it, ‘the Crazy Gang beat the Culture Club’ to win the 1988 FA Cup with underdogs Wimbledon, defeating Liverpool by a goal to nil. He spent the last eight years with the Dons but would move to Aston Villa after the World Cup for his final season before retirement. His struggled to take to co-commentary, with his fellow broadcaster having to pick up a lot of the slack during matches, confined mostly to the midnight BST kick-offs.

BBC Davies

Leading the BBC’s commentary team for his one – and sadly, only – Live World Cup Final as number one was Barry Davies; above, seen hosting the BBC’s Review of the Tournament from December ’94. He celebrated twenty-five years at the BBC in July. After serving as number two behind John Motson for so long, he was rewarded with this summer’s showpiece climax, having had experience on European club Finals during the 1970s and 80s and the 1972 European Championships Final between USSR and West Germany. This meant John Motson would have to settle for second best in 1994, including sharing Republic of Ireland duties with Davies on one Live game apiece. Motson did get to do the BBC’s Semi Final as well as the likes of USA’s first match, Brazil, Germany and Italy games too. The pair covered eighteen of the BBC’s twenty Live matches between them, leaving the other commentators to pick up the remaining couple of games as well as the non-Live ones for highlights. Clive Tyldesley was the man getting the nod for the other two Live fixtures, having joined from ITV in the summer of 1992. This was ahead of the relaunched Premiership Match of the Day, getting the chance to voice top flight fixtures on a regular basis as well as voiceovers and reports across the sporting output. Tony Gubba first covered a World Cup for the corporation in 1974, commentating on every tournament since. Owing to the large travel distances across the States, a fifth voice was needed to cover the highlights. Gerald Sinstadt, who moved over from ITV in the mid-80s, was chosen. As well as commentating, he was a familiar voice to the MotD goal round-ups at the end of the programmes.

BBC Studio 2

Fulfilling the roles of reporter in the USA were Ray Stubbs, Hazel Irvine and Garth Crooks. Stubbs started with the BBC in 1983 on local radio as a presenter and commentator before moving to Manchester after three years to produce. It was as a producer that he went to Italia ’90, for investigative sports programme On the Line, and since the formation of the Premiership he too voiced round-ups as well as touchline reports for Live FA Cup fixtures. He followed the fortunes of the Republic of Ireland from their US camp this summer. Hazel Irvine was another transfer from ITV, following the 1990 competition where she reported from the Scotland camp. At the age of twenty-eight, she became the youngest ever presenter of Grandstand in June ’93. Crooks was previously in the studio as an analyst for the 1982, ’86 and ’90 tournaments but was dispatched around America to showcase the vibrancy and atmosphere of the competition this time round.


LIVE MATCH SELECTION

BBC Sport broadcast a total of twenty Live matches during the USA 1994 World Cup, kicking off the tournament with the opener featuring holders Germany and concluding with the Brazil versus Italy Final. They showed the Republic of Ireland’s final group match with Norway which saw Jack Charlton’s men progress to the knockout stages. Whilst ITV front-loaded the tournament, the BBC had control over the picks for the knockouts, selecting the best potential clashes including the first choice UK prime-time Semi Final, Ireland’s Second Round defeat to the Netherlands on Independence Day and the Quarter Finals of both Germany and Brazil. Their coverage, although UK based, was much better received than ITV’s Dallas location.

GROUP STAGES; Friday 17th June
Germany 1-0 Bolivia (8pm Kick Off)

Saturday 18th June
USA 1-1 Switzerland (4.30pm) & Romania 3-1 Colombia (Midnight)

Sunday 19th June
Cameroon 2-2 Sweden (Midnight)

Monday 20th June
Brazil 2-0 Russia (9pm)

Tuesday 21st June
Nigeria 3-0 Bulgaria (Midnight)

Thursday 23rd June
Italy 1-0 Norway (9pm)

Friday 24th June
Brazil 3-0 Cameroon (9pm)

Saturday 25th June
Argentina 2-1 Nigeria (9pm)

Monday 27th June
Germany 3-2 South Korea (9pm)

Tuesday 28th June
Rep of Ireland 0-0 Norway (5.30pm)

Thursday 30th June
Bulgaria 2-0 Argentina (Midnight)

LAST 16; Saturday 2nd July
Germany 3-2 Belgium (6pm)

Sunday 3rd July
Romania 3-2 Argentina (9.30pm)

Monday 4th July
Netherlands 2-0 Rep of Ireland (5pm)

Tuesday 5th July
Bulgaria 1-1 Mexico, AET – BUL win 3-1 on penalties (9.30pm)

QUARTER FINALS; Saturday 9th July
Brazil 3-2 Netherlands (8.30pm)

Sunday 10th July
Germany 1-2 Bulgaria (5pm)

SEMI FINALS; Wednesday 13th July
Italy 2-1 Bulgaria (9pm)

FINAL; Sunday 17th July
Brazil 0-0 Italy, AET – BRA win 3-2 on penalties (8.30pm)


COVERAGE & GRAPHICS

BBC Ident BBC Sport Ident

When the BBC 1 ident came on followed by that iconic BBC Sport sting, you knew you were in for a treat. Above left; this set of BBC idents came in back in February 1991 and was their second major international football tournament, following the 1992 European Championships. Known as the ‘virtual globes’, the circle rotated around the numerical 1 in the centre. The BBC Sport ident followed, with that classic jingle that will surely now be playing in the heads of those of a certain vintage at the very sight of that image; above right. The gold tinge of the ‘nucleus’ around another rotating globe came in for major events beginning with the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, with this ’94 World Cup their international football tournament debut.

BBC Studio BBC Opening Ceremony

Coverage was hosted from Television Centre for all matches bar the Final, when Des and the team travelled out to the States to present on-site. Above left; the establishing shot of the sofa studio, taken from the opening match between Germany and Bolivia. Joining Lynam in the studio were principal analysts Alan Hansen and Jimmy Hill. Above right; the panel behind Lynam was a television screen, allowing Live pictures to be shown behind him as he and the panel discussed the match. In the example, the Opening Ceremony was about to begin. There were two studio sets used during the coverage of the World Cup, the main sofa area is shown above. A desk and chair set was also used, as detailed further down the page.

BBC Final Italy BBC Final Brazil

The host broadcaster provided graphics ahead of, and during, the match for channels all over the world to use. This included the team line ups as shown above. Their graphics were on a translucent blue panel with italic white text. The official tournament logo was incorporated in, with the white dots underlining the headings and the striped ribbons of the US flag appearing in the background. Above left; the Italian line up in numerical order for the Final. Above right; the Brazilian starting XI for the Final laid out in formation, shown after the numerical list as the commentator talked us through the players. These graphics would fade or appear in, with little animation or fanfare. Considering these were US graphics, they were rather simplistic and understated.

Aston 1 Replay transition 2

In-play graphics were also provided by the host broadcaster across all of BBC, ITV and Eurosport. Above left; the world feed name aston for Italian talisman Roberto Baggio. Again, this featured the blue panels with white dots and italic text. The addition of the flag and three letter country code was placed on the right, whilst a yellow number appeared left of the name to indicate the squad number. Above right; the replay transition as we returned to Live action. Replay pictures flew in from the left of screen with a thick white border. Once complete, the replay flew back out towards the right of screen as shown. This was the case throughout the tournament other than the Final, where the fixture adorned the border instead.

BBC Scorebar

This was the first international tournament where the BBC provided a permanent on-screen scoreboard and clock. With occasional experiments using this on other sports during the 1980s, a scoreboard became a permanent fixture on the football coverage in this country when Sky Sports launched in the early 1990s. The BBC took to the idea in the 1993/94 season for their UEFA Cup broadcasts and deployed it for this World Cup. Above; similar to that of ITVs, the BBC logo appeared in the top left of the screen with the clock underneath and the scoreline to the right. The timer appeared within a translucent box whilst the fixture was in a yellow italic font. This formula remained a constant throughout the rest of the decade, with only a few minor tweaks along the way.

BBC graphics BBC Sub

The host broadcaster’s graphics did not stretch to a permanent scoreboard, instead using the more familiar approach from previous tournaments of flashing up the clock and score at intervals. Above left; this would sometimes lead to slight conflictions between the exact seconds of the timer, with this example showing the BBC clock two seconds ahead of the official one. The graphics on the blue panel with the white dots would appear all around the world at the same time. Above right; for substitutions the host broadcaster graphics would appear on screen and indicate the player coming on and off with a little “In” or “Out” signal on the left accompanied by an animated arrow.

BBC Aston BBC Standings

The BBC did use their own graphics for coverage outside of the Live match. Above left; BBC aston captioning Ireland’s goalscorer over Italy, Ray Houghton’s. The blue background and italic white text fitted with the World Cup branding, whilst the trophy was added to the left and further text written in light blue. The graphics faded in and out. Above right; full screen graphics with very much a blue theme. This was after that Irish win opened their campaign. The BBC Sport globe and corporation logo adorned the bottom corner of the screen.

BBC Score astonBBC Coming Up

Further examples of the BBC’s own graphics are shown here, again using that blue panel background. Above left; during the highlights of the Nigeria v Italy match, a caption appeared signifying the progression into the Extra Time period. Above right; at the conclusion of the Live match programme, the coverage would usually end with a graphic detailing the next World Cup programming on the BBC. In this case, highlights show World Cup Report would be on air from 11.25pm.

BBC Rule Changes BBC Rules 2

Ahead of the tournament, there were genuine fears that it being held in America would change the game for the worse; with reports of the game being split into quarters rather than halves for advertising purposes, lots of gimmicks and would the supporters even know what was going on. It’s fair to say those never materialised and the tournament was the best attended to date. However, some big rule changed did come into effect. The most positive, as outlined during the BBC’s build up to the opener (above left), saw three points awarded for a win rather than two. The complaint about Italia ’90 was too many dull, defensive matches and not enough attacking prowess. The group stage alone saw ten one-nil victories and eight draws. The additional point for a win was a bid to encourage more teams to go for victory. Elsewhere we saw the introduction of names on the back of shirts, and additional substitution allowed and the possibility of video evidence determining if a suspension should stand or not. The referees were also encouraged to look out for certain things to punish as well as yet another interpretation of the offside law; above right. Other directives were to give the attack the benefit of the doubt over tight offsides, timewasting reduced to a minimum and the introduction of an electric cart! Technology was there and they were going to use it. All whilst refereeing in something other than the traditional black uniforms.

BBC Studio 3

Whilst the previously mentioned sofa area was the main set used by the BBC for coverage of this tournament, there was also a large desk area too, as shown above. In this example, host Bob Wilson is joined by pundit Steve Coppell and comedic guests Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. The pair were dressed in the unique style of USA defender Alexi Lalas. The desk would often feature on highlights programming, Grandstand and more formal broadcasts, whilst the sofa was more utilised on Live matches. During the regular season, Match of the Day’s set was like the above, featuring pundits either side of the large table. The three-coloured BBC logo was unmistakable at the front.


FEATURES & SUPPORT PROGRAMMING

Diana Ross Opening Ceremony 1 Opening Ceremony 2

The BBC showed Live coverage of the tournament’s opening ceremony in Chicago, during their build-up to Germany versus Bolivia. If people had their doubts about the Americanisation of soccer, there could surely be no doubts that they knew how to put on a show. You knew it was going to be good when someone had the bright idea of inviting comedian Robin Williams on with FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter to conduct the group draw. The ceremony was the usual mix of colour and noise, compered by television superstar Oprah Winfrey. The show introduced each country in their individual traditional dances, such as samba for Brazil and Irish dancing for the Republic (above, bottom left), there was a performance of the official tournament song – also ITV’s theme tune – by Darry Hall and The Sounds of Blackness; above, bottom right. But the standout moment came right at the start when legendary Motown singer Diana Ross kicked it all off. Wearing oversized red jacket and trousers, she ran the length of the pitch, through a parade of dancers and performers, whilst singing her classic hit “I’m Coming Out”. The intended culmination was for her to score a penalty kick which would catapult the goal frame to split in half and launch the ceremony. What actually happened was one of the most memorable moments of any opening ceremony anywhere, but for the wrong reasons. After playing to the crowds, Ross stuttered her run up, toying with the goalkeeper before slicing her shot horribly wide (above, top)! As the old adage states; the show must go on. The nets collapsed as if it was all still going to plan and Diana Ross ran through onto the stage for the next part of her performance. Seamless. She did not reign Supreme on this occasion.

Baddiel and Skinner 1 Baddiel and Skinner 2

BBC Studio 4

Comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner came to prominence during 1994 for their hit late-night BBC 2 television programme Fantasy Football League. The programme ran weekly on Friday nights from January and was a mix of comedy, sketches and discussion around the Premiership centred around Fantasy Football; the idea of choosing a team of players from the League, earning points for goals, assists and clean sheets amongst other things and competing against others in a League table, first popularised in the mainstream in the 1990s in England. Celebrity guests would come on to the show during the series and discuss their team of players, but it was also an excuse to show some funny clips from football and take the mickey out of it. As a result of the immediate popularity of the show, Baddiel and Skinner were invited onto the final day edition of Match of the Day as pundits alongside Des Lynam in May and did a good enough job to be asked back for appearances during the World Cup. They made a handful of cameos during the post-match coverage of some of the late-night Live group matches, sitting alongside the regular pundits. Their remit was to provide a lighter look at the tournament as they did on Fantasy Football League, using funny clips and making jokes. Quite brilliantly, during the closing credits after the World Cup Final, their names appeared in the list of pundits alongside the likes of Hansen, Hill and Lineker!

BBC Goal of the Tournament BBC Maradona report

A tradition of previous Cups was the Goal of the Tournament vote. BBC viewers were asked to call in to vote for their favourite from the shortlist of ten provided, which included new Tottenham signing Jurgen Klinsmann’s effort against the Koreans; above left. Following the huge news that Argentinian star Diego Maradona had failed a drugs test at the tournament and would be banned, BBC One broadcast a special twenty-five-minute programme before their coverage of Argentina’s final group match, against Bulgaria, documenting his story. Above right; Bob Wilson voiced ‘Maradona – A Special Report’ which featured archive footage, news reports and interviews. This was eight years on from his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup against England, so the development sparked little sympathy from the British broadcasters and provided Baddiel and Skinner with further comedy ammo.


THE FINAL

Coverage of the last match on BBC One was hosted Live from the stadium as Des Lynam attended his first World Cup Final in person. Des’s previous tournament finales had been hosted from the BBC Studio in London. He was accompanied by Jimmy Hill and Alan Hansen in a cramped box which was presumably too small to also include Terry Venables. He instead found himself sat away from his fellow pundits and up on the gantry providing his thoughts when asked by Lynam during the pre- and post-match broadcast.

BRAZIL 0-0 ITALY (AET, BRA win 3-2 on pens) World Cup 1994 Final, Los Angeles
Sunday 17th July 1994, 8.30pm Kick Off BBC One Logo

BBC Final Studio BBC Final CreditsBBC Final Credits 2

PRESENTER Des Lynam GUESTS Jimmy Hill, Alan Hansen & Terry Venables
COMMENTATORS Barry Davies & Trevor Brooking
Hosted from the Rose Bowl, California     8.15-11pm Live on BBC One (Extended to approx 11.35pm)

Trophy Lift

For details on ITV’s World Cup 1994 coverage click HERE.

Small Screen Seagulls; Aldershot (A) 18/11/2000

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sBrighton negotiated a move back to Sussex to play at Withdean Stadium in 1999 and immediately took to the new, if unusual, surroundings. The first campaign there brought about the highest League finish for four seasons, ending the campaign in eleventh place in Division Three. Form towards the end was particularly impressive and had the season carried on for a few more games, the Albion might even had found themselves close to a Play Off spot. Things were on the up and, in Micky Adams, the club had a bright, young manager who resonated with players and fans alike. After starting the 2000/01 campaign brightly, a tricky trip to non-League Aldershot awaited in the First Round of the FA Cup. This garnered interest from BBC Match of the Day with the potential for a Cup upset on the cards. Could the Seagulls avoid national embarrassment and progress through?


Aldershot 2-6 Brighton, FA Cup Round 1; 3pm, Sat 18th Nov ’00

ALD Titles

Beginning in 1964 to help build the public interest in football ahead of the World Cup to be staged across the country two years later, Match of the Day went on to become one of the most iconic and recognised sporting television brands. The early years had highlights of one pre-selected game per week, hence the name, the show then expanded at the end of the decade to incorporate further matches on firstly a regional, then a national basis. By the 1980s there were three fixtures selected for extended action on MotD, before losing the top flight League action in 1988. For the following four years it was FA Cup all the way until the birth of the Premiership on Sky Sports in 1992. The BBC had the highlights of this exciting new Division and typically showcased the best of three games plus a goals round-up of the rest in both League and Cup. By the time tonight’s edition was on, in November 2000, Live FA Cup rights were with Sky and ITV but, curiously, highlights of the grand old competition remained with the BBC. Which brings us up to date ahead of this clash between Aldershot and Brighton. After seeing all the top flight goals, one match received the full MotD treatment from the First Round of the FA Cup and what better choice than the Albion? Gary Lineker presented from the studio at Television Centre in London, whilst Tony Gubba was dispatched to the corner of Hampshire to commentate on this potential Cup banana skin.


Match of the Day, BBC One, 10.30pm (Saturday 18th November 2000)

BBC One ident 2000 BBC Sport ident 2000

A mammoth one-hundred-minute Match of the Day was broadcast on BBC One in the regular 10.30pm slot on Saturday 18th November 2000. Earlier in the evening you could have seen Ant and Dec host Friends Like These after a bit of The Generation Game hosted by Jim Davidson. Classic Saturday night family entertainment, even with Davidson. The extended edition of the Beeb’s long-running highlights programme was to incorporate the best of the FA Cup action alongside the regular Premiership highlights, with a full round in swing. The famous globe idents were still being used and were followed by a quick BBC Sport sting before that unmistakable title music played. It was a big day of Premiership football, with both the Manchester and North East derbies taking place. Manchester United and Sunderland came out on top of those matches, respectively. Elsewhere Charlton defeated Chelsea, causing Alan Hansen bafflement at some of the Blues defending. And in the basement battle, Bradford remained rooted to the bottom after defeat at Derby. With the top flight action complete, attention could turn to the magic of the Cup. The first goals round-up came before the extended highlights of the Seagulls visit to this garrison town. Also making the trip would be commentator Tony Gubba, a regular across BBC’s sporting output since the 1970s. He covered every Olympics from 1972 and every World Cup from 1974. He also presented midweek highlights show Sportsnight for three years until 1975. Behind Motson and Davies in the football pecking order, Gubba would often cover more of the middle ranging matches but did voice a World Cup Semi Final in ’86 and the ’96 Charity Shield in amongst his wide range of other sports such as darts, ice skating and hockey. He was a true all-rounder.

ALD Lineker ALD Pundits ALD FA Cup graphic ALD Referee

Former Leicester, Tottenham, Everton and Barcelona striker Gary Lineker successfully made the transition from player to broadcaster after retirement in the early 1990s. He began as a pundit, making appearances on ITV during the World Cup whilst still a professional, before being given more regular work by the BBC when his playing career was drawing to a close. When he moved to Japan, he still cropped up on Match of the Day and BBC Radio 5 Live when available. He fully concentrated on his media aspirations after calling it a day in ’94 and wanted to go down the presenting route more so than sitting on the other side of the studio. He first big hosting role came in 1996 when he took over preview programme Football Focus from Steve Rider and went on to front Grandstand and Match of the Day as cover for the main hosts. His biggest gig came when Des Lynam transferred to ITV in August 1999 which enabled Lineker to step into the great man’s shoes and become the BBC’s face of football. He was joined in the MotD studio for this edition by regulars Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. The former Liverpool defenders were long-standing members of the BBC football team. Hansen joined in 1992 for the re-launch of the new Premiership-based programme, having tried his hand in the studio for Sky Sports on their Sunday afternoon Italian football matches the season before, straight out of retirement. With his distinctive Scottish accent and erudite analysis, Hansen quickly became one of the leading pundits on television and was the corporation’s first choice. Mark Lawrenson also began his punditry career elsewhere before becoming a mainstay of Match of the Day, with appearances on ITV’s Welsh and West Country region, HTV West, as well as Sky Sports Soccer Saturday and European matches. He had a brief spell coaching at Newcastle in the mid-90s before returning to the television studio and radio gantries with the BBC. The pairing was now their first choice studio pundits.


ALD Aldershot

The story of today’s hosts, Aldershot Town, is one of hope from despair. Their predecessors, Aldershot FC, racked up debts they just couldn’t afford to pay back and were wound up in March 1992. In doing so they became the first Football League club to go out of business during the season since Accrington thirty years earlier. Aldershot regrouped later in ’92, adopted the Town name and began life as a football club five Divisions lower than their March position; Isthmian League Division Three. Fans stuck with them with big attendances and success came quickly as they climbed back up the pyramid. Two promotions in the first two seasons saw them compete in the Isthmian League Division One by 1994, and the Premier Division by 1997, the level where they were at when Brighton came to town. This was one level below the Conference. Manager George Borg took over for the 97/98 campaign and gained promotion in his first year and local Cup joy in subsequent ones. The star name in his side was veteran striker Gary Abbott, a non-League legend showing no signs of slowing down at the age of thirty-six. He built a name for himself scoring goals for Welling in the 1980s, joined the Shots in 1998 and won last year’s Non-League Player of the Season. He’s partnered up top by Wayne Andrews, a pacy twenty-two-year-old signed from St Albans in February. Captain Mark Blake began at Southampton before spells at Fulham, Shrewsbury and Cannes in France. Winger Mark Graham enjoyed Football League experience, spending five years at QPR before moving on to Cambridge. Substitute Stafford Brown had a three-month spell with Brighton at the start of season 1998/99.

ALD Brighton

Micky Adams brought his side to Aldershot sitting second in the Division Three table and on course for promotion. He’d built a consistent core team with three starting all eighteen League matches thus far. Amongst those were top-scorer Bobby Zamora, with ten goals to his name, all coming at Withdean. His strike partner Gary Hart was also an ever-present, as was left-footed right-back Paul Watson. He was also a dead-ball specialist, adept at free-kicks and penalties. Combative midfielder Charlie Oatway returned to the starting line-up after suspension, receiving a red card in the top of the table defeat at Chesterfield. Alongside him was Richard Carpenter, who missed two matches in the early stages of the season but has been immovable since returning. The same goes for Danny Cullip, a rock at the back. Matthew Wicks was his centre-back partner, a former Arsenal and Manchester United youth prospect who joined initially on loan from Peterborough before making the switch permanent this year. The defence ably protected Dutch goalkeeper Michel Kuipers, signed on a free transfer from Bristol Rovers over the summer. Captain Paul Rogers had top flight experience with Sheffield United and even scored the winner for Wigan in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final at Wembley in 1998. Options from the bench included Scouse striker Lee Steele, tricky winger Paul Brooker and solid centre back Andy Crosby. Refereeing the contest was Paul Rejer.

ALD Carpenter 1-0 ALD 1st penalty challenge ALD 1st penalty ALD One One

The Albion got the game underway in the rain sodden pitch, kicking from right to left in the first half. It didn’t take them long at all to settle into the match, scoring the opener after just two minutes. Charlie Oatway was tripped by Ricard Gell around thirty yards from goal. Paul Watson with his left foot and Richard Carpenter with his right both stood over the set piece. It was the latter who struck it and struck it well (above, top left). It flew around the wall and into the back of the net, goalkeeper Pape was nowhere near it. The perfect start and what a fantastic goal from Carpenter. Commentator Tony Gubba drew comparisons with England’s own free kick specialist David Beckham, adding “he won’t have scored many better himself.” Aldershot got right back into the Cup tie around twenty-five minutes when Danny Cullip fouled Wayne Andrews in the box to concede a penalty. Kerry Mayo cut out Protheroe’s forward ball, diverting it into the area. Andrews got there quickest ahead of Cullip, whose outstretched leg brought the striker down (above, top right). The Shots talisman Gary Abbott stepped up and blasted his kick straight down the middle but, crucially, high enough for Kuipers not to get a meaningful hand to it, just fingertips on the way through (above, bottom left). One-one and it was game on at the Recreation Ground.

ALD Zamora challenge ALD Watson 1st pen

The pace of Andrews up top almost put the home side in the lead soon after the equaliser. He picked up a pass around the halfway line before going on a lightning run through to the area. Matthew Wicks did his best to stay with him all the way and just did enough, with Andrews forced slightly wide his shot smashed into the side netting. Brighton then began to take control of the match and should have taken the lead through Bobby Zamora. He latched onto a fantastic Watson cross, the header just not quite on target as it smacked against the crossbar and out to safety. Very unlucky. He was not to be deterred though as he raced onto a Kerry Mayo ball over the back line. Zamora’s first touch took him into the box out on the left whilst his second put the ball past the outrushing goalkeeper. Pape had already slid in and his arms caught Zamora to bring him down for a penalty, this time to the Albion (above left). It may have looked a little theatrical but the contact was there and enough to send Zamora flying and hand the ‘keeper a card. Paul Watson stepped up and converted the spot kick expertly (above right), tucked into the corner low and hard to his right to give Brighton a two-one lead right on half-time.

ALD Second Half ALD Oatway ALD Oatway goal 2 ALD One Three

Into the second period and it didn’t take Brighton long to extend their lead, beginning the second as brightly as they had the first half. A positive drive down the left flank from Welsh wizard Nathan Jones gained territory. His cut back found Charlie Oatway in space some twenty-two or so yards out. He took two touches to get the ball out of his feet before looking up and curling a shot magnificently into the top right-hand corner of the net (above, top right and bottom left). What a sensational goal! The rare sight of an Oatway goal must have caught everybody by surprise, particularly the extravagant manner of it. Commentator Tony Gubba called; “Good strike! Ohhhh well done Oatway. It’s three-one now, Brighton and that might well knock the stuffing out of Aldershot.” The replay from behind the goal showed just what a strike it was, no chance again for the goalie. Oatway notched his first of the campaign eight minutes into the second half and the travelling supporters began chanting and singing his name.

ALD 3rd penalty foul ALD Watson 2nd pen

There was no let up from Brighton, keen to get the game beyond the reach of the Reds. Zamora tried a long crossfield pass to Jones, which was just cut out by Protheroe. His header sent the ball bouncing around and into the penalty area. Pape came to claim but lost possession in a tussle with Jones. The ‘keeper then proceeded to drag the Welshman down in the resulting scramble (above left), with referee Rejer under no illusions and awarded the third penalty of the match. Paul Watson again took the kick and again sent it flying into the back of the net (above right). It was identical to his first in that it was struck low and hard into the bottom right-hand corner past the stretched arm of Pape, the only difference was it was now at the opposite end. It was another fantastic penalty and surely now the game was beyond the non-League outfit. Four-one the score at the hour mark as the rainfall got heavier in Hampshire.

ALD Subs ALD Zamora goal ALD Wicks goal ALD Wicks celebration

A triple substitution for Aldershot prompted a response, with one-time Albion man Stafford Brown bundling the ball into the goal. However it was deemed unfair by the referee who adjudged the number fifteen to have fouled Michel Kuipers. He pretty much jumped into him as Kuipers claimed a routine cross, with the result that both he and the ball ended over the line. A double sub of their own saw Lee Steele and Paul Brooker on for Albion. And a fifth came shortly after. Gary Hart’s cross from the right bounced up off a defender in the box and landed kindly at the back post for an unmarked Bobby Zamora to nod home from just a couple of yards out (above, top right) with a quarter of an hour to go. It was his first away goal of the season. And the rout was completed following an Oatway corner late on. Gary Hart hung out a leg to meet it fifteen yards from goal. His touch fell to Matthew Wicks on the edge of the six-yard box who instinctively prodded home (above, bottom left). It just needed a little touch as the combination of the slick surface and the close proximity to goal was too much to prevent it going in.

ALD Consolation ALD Goalscorers

A six-one scoreline perhaps flattered Brighton a little, who had been by far the better side but took their opportunities better and stood firmer. As commentator Gubba pointed out, “As the rain continues to fall, Aldershot’s defence proving as leaky as their guttering.” The giantkilling potential had long gone but there was still time for the home fans to cheer something as they scored a consolation second with a couple of minutes left. Some nice work from sub Brown presented Abbott with the ball near the eighteen-yard line. His fierce shot stung the palms of a diving Michel Kuipers to force a corner. The resulting set-piece was swung in to the near post and temporarily cleared after a scramble. Left-back Chewins crossed it back in high towards the back stick. Waiting there was, of course, Gary Abbott who arched his neck and powered a header across the face and into the corner of the net. It was a great header and no more than he deserved having worked tirelessly all game in difficult circumstances. And so they pulled one back to make the final scoreline Aldershot two, Brighton six. It was excellent reading for Seagulls supporters; the upset was avoided and then some! The ghosts of the previous non-League defeats to Kingstonian, Hereford and Sudbury were banished for now. National television highlights coverage was one to savour rather than peer behind the sofa at. Micky Adams and his men were through to Round Two.


ALD Scoreline ALD Borg ALD Adams

In the post-match interviews we heard from Shots boss George Borg as well as their scorer Gary Abbott. Borg was disappointed at half-time to have conceded so close to the break to go behind but remained gracious; “All credit to Brighton they played very well today, knocked it around and we’ve got no complaints really.” Abbott agreed that the first half penalty was the turning point after putting up a decent fight. Micky Adams returned the compliments to the hosts, saying “I thought they were terrific today. On their day I think they’ll cause teams a lot of problems.” The teams were friendly at full-time, applauding each other off the pitch after a crackingly entertaining and open Cup tie. However, it was not to last for Borg who left Aldershot later that month. Micky Adams meanwhile continued to lead Brighton on to greater things and sealed promotion from Division Three at the end of the season with the title trophy secured in the process.

ALD Studio ALD Lawrenson

With so many games and so many goals to cram in, there was no time for any analysis on Match of the Day back in the studio other than a brief word from former Albion defender Mark Lawrenson. He played over 150 times for the club in the late seventies and early eighties before securing his big move to Liverpool where he became a household name. After the ten minutes or so of match action, Lawrenson said “It’s always nice to see your old team do well. If you consider, what, two or three years ago could’ve gone out the League and could’ve actually been playing Aldershot in a League match. They’re doing very well in Division Three, right manager in Micky Adams and long may it continue.” Hear, hear, Lawro. And that was it as far as the Albion were concerned for this edition of the programme. Lineker introduced the rest of the round-ups before the long night was over. Brighton’s progress in the FA Cup came to an end in Round Two with a two-one defeat away at fellow Division Three side Scunthorpe. Better things were to come but for now, that six-two scoreline would do very nicely thank you very much. Six of the best.

Small Screen Seagulls; FA Cup in the Nineties part 2

Brighton on TVBrighton’s exploits in the FA Cup during the nineties provide a decent insight into the rollercoaster experience of being a Seagulls supporter during the most troubling of decades for the club. As Brighton dropped down the three Divisions of the Football League, the FA Cup represented the club’s best chance of gaining television exposure for the match action. Off the field matters attracted the most coverage unfortunately. Appearances in the high court were more frequent than appearances in the latter stages of the Cup. Whilst Cup ties in the 1990s saw the Albion excite in matches against top flight giants Liverpool and Manchester United as well as thrash local side Crawley, some of the lowest lows on the pitch also happened. Non-League Sudbury Town and Kingstonian provided huge shocks whilst Canvey Island forced a replay. If ever you needed illustrating just how desperate things had gotten, this whirlwind look back should provide some insight. This is the second part, the first is available HERE.


 

1994/95 Round One goals

Match of the Day, BBC One (12th November 1994); Kingstonian 2-1 Brighton 

94R1 Kin intro 94R1 Kin opener

In November 1994 Brighton were sat in the bottom half of the Division Two table, a continuation of the fourteenth place finish the previous campaign. That season saw them crash out of the FA Cup at Bournemouth, losing in the 1st Round for the first time since 1976. Keen to avoid a repeat, this season’s draw took the club to non-League Kingstonian; a team full of part-timers with proper day jobs. One of the many FA Cup cliches is to mention the minnow player’s craft, especially if they score or cause an upset. So Brighton’s poor performance at Kingsmeadow gave BBC Match of the Day reporter Gerald Sinstadt plenty of opportunity to compare and contrast. “Glazier, carpet fitter, financial consultant and so on, currently in the lower half of the Diadora Premier Division”, his report began. That’s the Isthmian League if you don’t recall the sponsorship, one below the Conference South. The Albion got off to the worst possible start when, after just ninety-three seconds, Kingstonian took the lead. Jamie Ndah opened the scoring with a terrific overhead kick eight yards out (above right) after the away side failed to clear their lines. He was the brother of Crystal Palace striker George Ndah whilst other brother Micky was also on the field today in defence. And half an hour later it was Micky Ndah who was involved in the next goal, the Seagulls equaliser. Ndah’s attempt to clear danger scooped the ball high in the air. Junior McDougald outjumped his marker to nod across the box to Robert Codner (below left), who stooped to conquer from six yards out. The ‘keeper got a touch on the header but the power beat him, as his fingertips only pushed it into the corner. One-one. That’s how it stayed until the final ten minutes. An almighty goalmouth scramble ensued from a corner, in one of the most mid-nineties football clips you will see. The kick was flicked on at the near post, then flicked up in the air by the attacker, Nicky Rust in the Albion goal came to punch away but just punched up. It was eventually headed down to the ground and waiting to pounce was that man again; Jamie Ndah. He was first to the loose ball to poke home just a couple of yards out to send Kingstonian through to the 2nd Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their ninety-nine-year history. The reward was a tie with Aylesbury, where they went on to lose four-one. For Brighton and manager Liam Brady, simply an embarrassing day to forget.

94R1 Kin equaliser 94R1 Kin scoreline


1995/96 Round One report

FA Cup Special, Sky Sports (12th November 1995); Canvey Island 2-2 Brighton 

Fulham FACup Gavin 95R1 Can Keeley 95R1 Can Cramped dressing room Fulham FACup Ryan

The FA Cup had a title sponsor for the first time ever from this season, as Littlewoods joined forces. After Sky Sports Live 1st Round broadcast of the game between York and Notts County this Sunday afternoon, they showed a seven-minute report on the day’s other Cup match; Canvey Island against Brighton. Reporter George Gavin was dispatched to deepest Essex to take in the atmosphere. His report began on the coast ahead of “the biggest match in Canvey Island’s history”. Gavin told of how, in 1953, the Thames river burst its banks and flooded the area engulfing Canvey’s football club records. Like with Kingstonian last season, Brighton had a tricky trip to a non-League outfit to kick off their Cup exploits. This was the first time Island had reached this stage of the competition and had never played a Football League side ever. We saw shots of the various preparations for the match, with the kit men in the dressing room, the local fire brigade and police making their inspections and the teams arriving in by coach. Park Lane was used to attendances of around 400, this match saw them squeezing in around 4,000 fans. One link between Canvey and Brighton was goalkeeper John Keeley, who George Gavin spoke to ahead of the kick off. Keeley was at the Albion for four years in the late 1980s, making over 140 appearances but was now on the books of Canvey Island. He was still on good terms with his former club; “I’ve still got lots of friends down there, like half my house is full out with them! I did alright down there, I enjoyed my time.” When the Seagulls arrived, the surroundings were not quite what they were used to. The dressing room was packed to the rafters (above, bottom-left) which forced manager Liam Brady into limiting access to only those key men; “the lads who are not playing can you get out! Make a bit of room.” Assistant Gerry Ryan chatted on the pitch, undaunted by the prospect; “Cup runs start at places like this, you know. Played at plenty of places like this in my career starting out.” He stressed the importance of having the right attitude or risk getting turned over. From the Canvey perspective, manager Jeff King and their supporters were in hopeful mood. One woman personified the Essex girl stereotype by saying; “I must watch my white stilettos don’t get stuck in the mud though when I get on the pitch and do me streak!”

95R1 Can McDougald goal 95R1 Can McDougald 2nd 95R1 Can Equaliser 95R1 Can Brady

Onto the match action and if Brighton were worried about another shock upset, they didn’t show it early on by taking the lead after sixteen minutes. Dean Wilkins floated in a free kick from the left, met by the head of ex-Tottenham youth Junior McDougald (above, top-left) to go one-up, flying past the goalkeeper’s full-stretch dive. The lead didn’t last though with an equaliser coming in the thirty-third minute in similar circumstances. The cross from the right was finished by a terrific guided header by Steve Porter, with our reporter pointing out he’s a teacher during the week. They celebrated as if school was out for the summer. Their joy was also short-lived when Brighton regained the lead five minutes on. A long punt upfield from Nicky Rust sailed over the head of everybody and suddenly McDougald was in behind the defence. As a defender rushed back to block, the Albion man was able to get his strike off just in time (above, top-right) to finish into the bottom corner of the goal, losing a boot in the process. Two-one the score at half time. A chance for Brighton’s and McDougald’s third was presented by Peter Smith in the second half but the ball seemed to get stuck under his feet, preventing a clean strike as it dragged wide. And the miss would be rued as another equaliser came with nine minutes left. A long throw in was flicked on to Alan Brett waiting in the centre. His header six yards out (above, bottom-left) beat Rust to cue wild celebrations from the bumper crowd. They went close to a winner even later on, with the defence having to dig deep and scramble away. But the Cup upset was avoided, just, and the sides would meet at the Goldstone for the replay a week on Tuesday. Liam Brady said afterwards “This kind of pitch and the environment you come to is a leveller, it evens things out, but the players battled. I felt we were in control for long periods of the game and probably missed a chance to kill the game off early in the second half.”

 

Round One Replay goals

Meridian Tonight, ITV (22nd November 1995); Brighton 4-1 Canvey Island

96R1R Can Steggall 96R1R Can Acknowledgement

It was all change at the Albion since the last meeting with Canvey Island just over a week earlier. On Monday 20th November, following a three-nil home defeat to Walsall at the weekend, manager Liam Brady resigned. The following night the replay at the Goldstone was due to take place. On the day, the board acted quickly to draft in reserve coach Jimmy Case as first team manager and he took charge of the Cup match almost as soon as he agreed terms. Local evening news programme in the South, Meridian Tonight, reported on the match the following evening. Sports presenter Andy Steggall introduced the report, which showed the goals courtesy of FA Cup rights holder BBC, as well as a couple of interviews. Behind the scenes there were all sorts of issues relating to the ownership, with talks of planning a new stadium on the horizon and selling the Goldstone whilst debts continued to build up. Indeed, money that was loaned to the club by president Greg Stanley was now reported to be charged at an interest, further adding to the money owed whilst lining his own pockets. A visit from the FA also came at this busy time, seeking assurances of finances. On the pitch though, for tonight at least, things were looking up as Jimmy Case made a winning start to his managerial reign. Meridian’s Geoff Clark reported.

96R1R Can Byrne goal 96R1R Can Smith goal

John Byrne gave Brighton the lead with a powerful header down from a cross on the stroke of half time. The lead was doubled two minutes after the break by Junior McDougald, adding to the two he got in the original game, with a well taken half-volley into the top corner. John Byrne added another (above left) to make the game safe with just over twenty minutes remaining, slotting home past the ‘keeper. Canvey got one back five minutes later through Glenn Pennyfather before a fourth was scored by Peter Smith (above right). Smith made the goal all by himself when his initial through ball was blocked by a defender, he picked up the loose ball to continue his charge through as the back line opened up. Just entering the penalty area, he lifted his shot up over the onrushing goalie to put the cherry on top of the cake. Four-one the final scoreline. Jimmy Case downplayed his role in the win, paying tribute to the former boss; “Sometimes you get a reaction from whatever’s gone on. But I think Liam built the team as it stands.” George Parris, signed permanently in September 1995 after a loan spell from Birmingham the season before, said perhaps they did “put in a little bit more effort” for this new boss as “you wanna try and impress them and I think it showed again tonight.” Onto Round Two where a trip to Fulham awaited. That also went to a replay at the Goldstone, which was selected for Live television coverage by Sky Sports; that report is available via this link. The good form did not last though and by the end of the season, Brighton were relegated to Division Three for their first spell in the fourth tier since 1965.

96R1R Can Case aston 96R1R Can Parris


1996/97 Round One round-up

Match of the Day, BBC One (16th November 1996); Sudbury Town 0-0 Brighton 

96R1 Sud Intro 96R1 Sud Minton crossbar

Another season, and another First Round trip to non-League opposition. This time it was to Sudbury Town of the Doc Martens League; the sixth step of the English football pyramid, one below the Conference. Even though Brighton were now just two steps above and struggling at the foot of Division Three, anything other than a resounding victory would be seen as a humiliation. Cue classic mid-90s Brighton then as the first tie ended goalless. Sharing billing with the Premiership, a new look BBC Match of the Day squeezed in thirty seconds to round up this match, voiced once again by Gerald Sinstadt. Jeff Minton went closest for the stripes, smacking the crossbar with a fizzing left foot drive on the edge of the box. The ‘keeper Steve Mokler at full stretch could get nowhere near it. This was Sudbury’s debut in the First Round proper of the competition and they nearly went one better but for a disallowed goal. A high cross took an age to come down to Earth, at which point Nicky Rust in the Brighton goal went up to claim it. He was challenged by the Sudbury forward Ian Brown leaping at the same time (below left). It appeared as Rust was landing, the ball bounced off the striker and to the floor where he stuck a foot out to nudge it towards Christian McClean who volleyed it into the roof of the net. However, the referee ruled it out for Brown’s foul on Rust and the scoreline stayed nil-nil. So another replay was enforced, and this too went the distance, finishing one-all and needing a penalty shoot-out to decide the victor. The non-Leaguers prevailed winning four-three on penalties to send Albion to its lowest point on the pitch. The season continued with misery upon misery, stranded at the bottom of the entire Football League. Boss Jimmy Case departed in the weeks after, with former Charlton player-manager taking his place in December with the club eleven points adrift. He managed to work an absolute miracle in the League to pull off the greatest of great escapes during the utter mayhem going on around the club. This was without doubt the worst season in Brighton history; typified by this Cup exit, exacerbated by the sale of the Goldstone Ground without anywhere to move into by the shambolic ownership, the prospect of playing home games all the way up in Gillingham from the following season, it was Gritt by name and grit by nature. The final day relegation shoot-out draw at Hereford sent them down and kept Albion up on just goals scored. If you can bear it, further information and snippets from the 1996/97 season can be found in a separate report via this link. Sudbury meanwhile were knocked out in Round Two by Brentford.

96R1 Sud Foul 96R1 Sud Scoreline


1997/98 Round One highlights

Match of the Day, BBC One (15th November 1997); Hereford 2-1 Brighton 

97R1 Her Titles 97R1 Her Lineker

Hereford were also able to get a very small slice of revenge on Brighton just six months after their relegation to the Conference on the final day when the sides were drawn together in the First Round of the FA Cup. Extended highlights were shown on BBC Match of the Day presented by Gary Lineker with Jimmy Hill and Mark Lawrenson. This was a week when the Premiership took a back seat for the international break, so the FA Cup was afforded its own hour long MotD programme, as second choice Lineker gave Des Lynam the week off. The lead match was Hull against Hednesford Town with commentary by Tony Gubba, and our trip to Hereford was the other feature. In his third season on the show Jon Champion commentated at Edgar Street, having transferred over from Radio Five Live during the 1995/96 campaign.

97R1 Her Hereford 97R1 Her Brighton 97R1 Her Referee 97R1 Her Gritt

Brighton boss Steve Gritt named seven of the starting eleven that saved the club’s League status in this fixture in May; Nicky Rust among those that didn’t feature last time. Rust was in for regular ‘keeper Mark Ormerod, who was out with a twisted ankle. It was Craig Maskell’s shot which was pushed onto the post for Robbie Reinelt to react quickest and net the equaliser in May. Gary Hobson skippered the side. Kerry Mayo was the unfortunate man who turned into his own net to give Hereford the lead in the previous meeting. Left back Stuart Tuck was a product of the Albion youth academy, joining as a YTS in 1991. Scottish winger Paul McDonald was signed for £25,000 last year. Number nine Stuart Storer scored the final goal at the Goldstone in the victory over Doncaster which allowed Brighton to go to Hereford and get that draw. Five of Albion’s squad were on the transfer list, simply in a bid to bring in some much-needed cash. The home side, still managed by Graham Turner despite him handing in his resignation following demotion to the Conference, had just three survivors from that fateful day here; Andy de Bont in goal and Rob Warner and Brian McGorry in the middle. Taking charge of the encounter was referee Gerald Ashby.

97R1 Her Crossbar 97R1 Her Penalty 97R1 Her Missed penalty 97R1 Her Opening goal

Brighton wore their change kit of all red for this First Round Cup tie. A chance came their way thanks to the running of John Westcott down the right flank. He was put through by an excellent reverse pass by Storer. Westcott dribbled into the box, slowed down momentarily by the challenge of Fishlock, before laying it off to Maskell. His effort was weak and just chipped up into de Bont’s grasp. The home side almost took the lead when Cook’s header looped up over Rust but crashed against the crossbar (below, top left) and back down into the grateful ‘keeper’s arms. Into the second half, Brighton were awarded a penalty when Walker’s lunge took the legs of Maskell away (above, top right). Paul McDonald stepped up with his left foot but de Bont guessed correctly to parry it away to his right with an excellent full-stretch save (above, bottom left), maintaining the deadlock. But it didn’t last for long as Hereford took the lead after fifty-six. Top scorer Neil Grayson added to his tally with a smart finish. Fishlock’s cross from the left found Pitman who cleverly backheeled the ball on. Grayson gathered and, sensing Rust sliding out to claim, sidestepped him to slot into the empty net.

97R1 Her Storer equaliser 97R1 Her Level score 97R1 Her Another penalty 97R1 Her Winning goal

Paul McDonald’s corner wasn’t claimed by de Bont, the ball falling through his fingertips, which presented an equalising opportunity for Stuart Storer. From a tight angle and with bodies on the line and in front of him, Storer angled his shot to net superbly past the lot of them (above, top left). “From despair to delight. And the lead lasted barely four minutes”, called commentator Champion. Hereford weren’t despondent though and almost regained the lead through substitute James McCue. Ian Foster charged down the left and crossed into the middle, McCue almost ran past the ball and had to hang his leg back which scooped the ball up and high over the bar from seven yards. The pressure applied from Gary Hobson was enough to put him off. He had another effort moments after with his left just outside the box, this shot also going just too high but was getting closer. Then the referee gave another penalty, this time to Hereford. Peter Smith battled with Ian Foster, with the Albion defender judged to have pulled Foster back as the tangle continued into the area (above, bottom left). Paul Grayson, scorer of the first, got his second of the match as he blasted the penalty kick emphatically down the middle (above, bottom right). Rust had no chance due to the sheer power and Hereford led by two goals to one with just over a quarter of an hour to go. And that’s how it stayed, with the non-League side knocking out the Third Division (just about!) Seagulls. In the studio, pundit Jimmy Hill (below, bottom right) said “You feel for both those sides in a way… For Brighton, with all their problems as well. They put on a fine Cup tie.” He praised Hereford’s style, playing the better, more attractive football. Their reward was a Second Round trip to Colchester, where they triumphed on a penalty shoot-out in the replay to make Round Three. That’s where their Cup run came to an end, with a three-nil defeat by Tranmere. In the League they finished sixth in the Conference, whilst Brighton once again finished 91st out of the 92 League teams. Thankfully it didn’t go down to the wire this time, finishing fifteen points better off than relegated Doncaster. But Steve Gritt paid the price for more dismal form, with former player Brian Horton coming in to replace him in February 1998 and kept them up in April.

97R1 Her Final Score 97R1 Her Studio 97R1 Her Hill


The decade ended with defeats in the early stages of the competition as first Leyton Orient knocked the Albion out four-two in 1998. Then in 1999 draws in both the First and Second rounds ensured four FA Cup matches were played in the season, more than the previous three seasons combined. After seeing off Peterborough in the First Round Replay, Plymouth knocked us out in the Second after a rematch on our own patch. As the 1990s went on, the Cup increasingly became less important to Brighton as the main objective was the League. With the Goldstone Ground sold off in 1997, home matches were played in Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium for two seasons, making home Cup ties even less appealing for the Albion faithful. By the time the club came home to Sussex, playing at Withdean Stadium from 1999, the form dramatically improved on the pitch and the Cups became a vital source of income as the fight for a permanent home took its toll on the budget. The story of further Cup exposure, drawn away from the Withdean to Premier League teams in the 2000s, is detailed in a separate post available HERE.

The first part of this two part 1990s FA Cup televisual rewind is available to view HERE.

 

 

Small Screen Seagulls; The Dignity and Class of Chris Hughton

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


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

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton with Ciaran Moynan and myself in 2015

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

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

Hughton Promotion

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

Hughton Manager of the Month

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

 

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

GOS Studio GOS Hughton

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

GOS Presenters GOS Guests


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

My Icon 2017 ICON Hughton

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

ICON Interview ICON Dressing Room


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

Premier League Show titles PLShow Training ground

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

PLShow Interview PLShow Hughton

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

PLShow Barber PLShow Embrace

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


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

SET Titles SET Presenters

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

SET Studio SET Hughton

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

SET Szczepanik SET Reporter


BT Hughton

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

Sky Hughton

World Cup 2018: #4 England Review

“To take the second youngest team in the tournament and the least experienced team in the tournament and break through so many historical barriers has to be a brilliant achievement for the team.” [Gareth Southgate on ITV’s ‘World Cup: Summer of Love’, December 2018]

The year of 2018 will be remembered in England as one of the worst, most chaotic and confusing years the country had seen in a long, long time. Government ministers provided shambles after shambles with the ongoing Brexit saga. The nation was divided and at each other’s throats. Debate was disappearing, with people refusing to engage with anybody who disagreed with their opinion online. The football World Cup in the summer was being treated with fear, trepidation and a lack of enthusiasm the likes our team hasn’t seen for at least a decade.

Six months on from Russia 2018, it was that tournament which provided an all-too-brief respite from the horror back home. That team, led by that manager, were the beacons of light in a dark, dark time. Gareth Southgate, BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year, had achieved the most difficult of tasks; getting the country to unite behind a common cause. Not only that but he also inspired people to believe in the England team again. To get behind them. To will them on. It was a wonderful time to be a football fan again. And this resulted in a semi final place and fourth overall at the World Cup; our best achievement since 1990. Imagine if we’d have won the bloody thing!

Southgate's World CupBBC Sports reporter Gabby Logan interviewed boss Gareth Southgate in December to reflect on the World Cup summer

 

Monday 18th June, 7pm. Volgograd. Group G; ENGLAND 2-1 Tunisia

The draw for the group stages had been kind to England; the beatable Tunisia and Panama in with tricky Belgium. The aim was always to get out of the group and realistically in 2nd place behind Belgium, who were many people’s tip for the whole thing. We wouldn’t play Belgium until last so it was quite conceivable that we’d qualify for the knockouts before that match, all we had to do was win the opening two games. This Monday night in Volgograd saw England face Tunisia for the first time since a 2-0 win in France 1998, coincidentally that was also the opening group match. England had an inexperienced squad led by an inexperienced international manager but expectations before the tournament were low. This was only going to be a benefit to them. The way they were open with the media in the build up to the tournament was impressive. It allowed the characters in the squad to shine through without a filter or another agenda. It was a masterstroke from the FA. By the time the opener kicked off England seemed ready and raring to go, demonstrated by the fantastic start made. Inside the opening eleven minutes England took the lead. An Ashley Young corner was thumped goalwards by the head of Harry Maguire. It crashed off the goalkeeper’s claw to land at the feet of poacher Harry Kane just three yards out to tap home. However the lead only lasted twenty minutes. Kyle Walker used his arm to shepherd an attacker out of the way from an in-swinging cross, which the referee decided was a foul. Sassi converted the penalty right into the corner despite Pickford’s best efforts and the game was level. England pushed and harried for a winner but it was just not there. We had to wait until stoppage time at the end of the match for the decisive action. Another corner, this time from Kieran Trippier, was floated in to Maguire. His knockdown fell at the back post to an unmarked Kane who expertly guided his header into the goal from five yards to snatch it. England had done it! “There’s no doubt scoring that late goal and being patient enough to do it I think was a big moment in the tournament for us,” Gareth Southgate told Gabby Logan during her retrospective review “Southgate’s World Cup” in December.

 

Sunday 24th June, 1pm. Nizhny Novgorod. Group G; ENGLAND 6-1 Panama

Again speaking to Gabby Logan for her review, Southgate explained the opening win “definitely meant that the atmosphere around the whole training camp and for our fans and everything else was more relaxed. You buy yourself another five days before the next game.” That next game being England’s biggest ever tournament victory. Set pieces continued to be a major part in England’s success. Another Ashley Young corner found an English head unmarked in the centre of the area, this time John Stones, to take an 8th minute lead. The lead was doubled through Harry Kane’s penalty after Jesse Lingard was shoved over. Kane’s kick absolutely flying into the top left corner, unstoppable. It was Lingard’s turn next after he played a neat one-two and unleashed a fabulous curling effort into the corner from outside the box. It was four in the 40th minute through a cleverly worked free-kick routine. Henderson flicked the ball up, it was headed across goal by Kane where Raheem Sterling was waiting. His header was saved by the goalkeeper but Stones was waiting to pounce on the rebound from less than two yards. And the scoring continued just before the half time whistle when another penalty was given, this time for practically an assault on Kane right in front of the referee whilst waiting for a cross to be delivered. Tunisia had got away with a few rough holds in the first match but Panama certainly would not here. Up stepped Kane to blast it the exact same way as his first to make it five-nil England. What an incredible first half of football. He got his hat-trick in the second half via a fortunate flick off his heel from a Ruben Loftus-Cheek effort, and in doing so became only the third ever Englishman to score three in a World Cup match – joining Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker. Panama did pull a consolation goal back with around twelve minutes remaining from Beloy, which gave their fans something to cheer about for the first time in tournament history, but the day was all about England and their march through the group. Suddenly the fans started to believe this year would be different. The squad was playing with freedom, scoring goals and creating chances. Banana skins were avoided, six points from six achieved and the top scorer in the Cup was one of our own. Gareth’s waistcoat attire quickly became elevated to iconic status levels, fans were singing his name, cheering his players and witnessing great things on and off the pitch. Yes it was “only” Tunisia and Panama. But in 2010 it was “only” Algeria, in 2014 “only” Uruguay and Costa Rica and 2016 “only” Iceland. And we didn’t win any of those matches. Whatever happened afterwards, this would always be a match and a performance to savour for the fans.

 

Saturday 7th July, 7pm. Kaliningrad. Group G; ENGLAND 0-1 Belgium

With objective one achieved, qualification to the knockout stages, the final group match against Belgium was a bit of a dead rubber as they’d also made it through. The only thing left to decide was which of the two would top the group. Usually that would mean a more favourable path in the next round however this tournament was all over the place in terms of upsets and the reality was that second place in this group would probably be a better route to take. Neither team would ever throw the match of course, but it was used as an opportunity to give game time to some of the personnel who so far had not featured and those players could look back and say they had played in a World Cup; all invaluable experience for next time. “We knew that actually one half of the draw looked stronger than the other. We knew that the most important game was the knockout game and we had the chance to keep the basis of what we saw as our first team, at that moment, fresh,” the boss outlined to Logan in December. The match itself was largely forgettable, with the pace being slightly slower than in the opening games, and neither team wanting to put too much at risk as they looked ahead to bigger things. Former Manchester United striker Adnan Januzaj got the only goal of the game six minutes into the second half. Consequently Belgium won the group whilst England were runners-up and not many people back home were too disappointed with that outcome. Belgium’s potential route to the Final would feature the possibilities of Japan next, then Mexico or Brazil in the quarter finals with France, Argentina, Portugal or Uruguay in the semis. By contrast, England’s 2nd place spot meant it would be Colombia next then either Switzerland or Sweden with potential semi final opponents being Spain, Croatia, Denmark or Russia. On paper you would definitely select the half of the draw England were now in, but it’s never as simple as that as Southgate pointed out once again to Gabby. “Whoever we played in the second round, frankly if we had an easier semi final, we hadn’t won a knockout game since 2006 so let’s not worry that far ahead. How do we give ourselves the best chance of winning the knockout game?” He wasn’t allowing himself to get too carried away, but for us fans we really believed now we could go far here.

 

Tuesday 3rd July, 7pm. Moscow. Last 16; ENGLAND 1-1 Colombia (AET, 4-3 on penalties)

With second place secured, the first knockout hurdle England had to face was in the shape of South American tricksters Colombia. We had previous with them. France 1998, group stages; England won 2-0 then thanks to Darren Anderton and David Beckham’s goals up against the likes of Carlos Valderrama. But they were a far better team now with household names all over Europe. It proved a tough match, both mentally and physically. Following on from the pushing and shoving against Panama and Tunisia, this too was a bruiser. It boiled over in the 57th minute when England were awarded a penalty after Harry Kane was bundled to the ground by Carlos Sanchez from a corner. It took around two minutes between the kick being awarded and Kane converting it due to various protestations from the Colombians, including scuffing up the penalty spot with their studs. But this was 2018 England, not 1998. We wouldn’t let that distract us. Harry Kane certainly wouldn’t and calmly slotted the ball home straight down the middle as the keeper dived to his right. The lead would last all the way until the third minute of stoppage time when a corner was swung in, with every other Colombian in the box including the goalkeeper, and Yerry Mina’s header bounced up and over Kieran Trippier on the goalline. Equaliser. And you just knew it would be the inevitable penalty shoot-out that would follow. It just had to be; for Gareth Southgate, for England, for the World Cup. The preparation had been done months in advance, players knew who would be taking the kicks and Jordan Pickford in goal knew where he needed to be diving to save them. The first five taken were all scored; Kane and Rashford for England, Falcao, Cuadrado and Muriel for Colombia. But up stepped Jordan Henderson who saw his shot saved, with England 3-2 down. We needed a hero. Pickford became that hero. Uribe hit the bar and the balance shifted back our way. Kieran Trippier scored in the top-left corner and we were all square again. Back came Jordan Pickford, who saved magnificently with a solid left-hand to deny Bacca and put England in the driving seat. Amazing! Eric Dier was next up and he made no mistake; low, hard and towards the left corner of the goal. England had won their first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out at the fourth attempt, managed by a man whose most infamous moment in international football thus far was missing a penalty in a shoot-out twenty-two years prior. Redemption. The tables had turned, the belief grew further. Whatever happened after this, that moment on that night had given us England fans so much joy, so much relief and so much belief.

 

Southgate conductingGareth Southgate emerged after concluding his various media duties to conduct the jubilant England fans in celebration following the Quarter Final win

 

Saturday 7th July, 3pm. Samara. Quarter Final; ENGLAND 2-0 Sweden

England had reached their first quarter final since 2006 and the Germany World Cup. That summer we played, and drew with, Sweden in the group stage. This summer we played them in the knockouts. The belief back home was definitely this would be ours to lose today, Sweden were OK but no more. Even Gareth Southgate was confident; “I knew if we played the way that we were capable then our system in particular would cause Sweden problems. So the 3-5-2 against their 4-4-2 gets us in pockets of space that really is a problem for them,” he later told Logan. The truth turned out to be exactly that. Nerves were settled after half an hour when our set piece dominance showed once more. Ashley Young’s corner was angled towards the big, powerful head of Harry Maguire (Slabhead to his mates) arriving on the penalty spot and flew into the net. Maguire was in the stands as an England fan with his mates just two years earlier at the Euros in France, now he was scoring in the World Cup quarter final, his first England goal. Raheem Sterling would go close and Jordan Pickford would have to produce some fantastic stops during the match but it was all settled just before the hour mark. Trippier pulled the ball back for Sterling to loop up into the area. Waiting at the back post unmarked was Dele Alli. He had beaten the offside trap enabling him to head straight through the Swedish goalie and double England’s advantage. Pickford again had to make some further outstanding stops but by this point there was never any doubt. The belief that was so lacking in previous years was there for all to see. There was only ever going to be an English win from that point onwards and so it proved. After the stress, the emotions, the exhaustion of the penalty shoot-out last midweek, this match was relatively plain sailing. England marched on to the World Cup semi finals four days later and the entire country was talking about it. Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat look had become iconic; he had a lookalike in the crowd, a song of his own sung by the fans and a National Waistcoat Day established to support the team. Every interview he gave, every match we played, we impressed so much, he impressed so much. The clichéd ‘zero to hero’ tagline was spot on for this case. He inspired his players, the fans, the nation, with his calm demeanour and classy attitude. The whole of England would be watching on Wednesday.

 

Wednesday 11th July, 7pm. Moscow. Semi Final; ENGLAND 1-1 Croatia (1-2 AET)

The big match was here. This was the side of the draw we wanted. The big teams were all falling by the wayside; Italy and Netherlands didn’t even make it, holders Germany eliminated in the groups, Spain and Argentina out in the next round, Euro champs Portugal too, Brazil, Belgium and France were on the other side of the draw meaning we were left with just Croatia to beat to reach our first World Cup Final since the boys of ’66. And it began oh so well. In the fifth minute, Kieran Trippier secured his place in the Team of the Tournament by scoring his first international goal with a wonderful free-kick from just outside the box which flew into the back of the net. Cue delirium both at home and in Moscow! His deliveries, his work rate, were all so impressive this summer. England were dominating the match and a golden chance fell to Harry Kane who was miraculously thwarted by the goalkeeper Subasic (and a combination with the post) not once but twice in the same move when it looked certain he would score. As the game went on, the pressure grew. The enormity of the situation perhaps began to dawn. Fans were nervous, players were anxious and, most importantly of all, Croatia began to get better. In the 68th minute they equalised. Vrsaljko’s cross from the far touchline was met by the outstretched boot of Ivan Perisic who nipped in ahead of the defence to stab home. He went on to hit the post as Croatia really pushed for the winner but it wasn’t to be and extra time would again be necessary. The experience showed, they got stronger as we got weaker. Modric, Perisic, Rakitic and Mandzukic showed off their ability. In the 109th minute of the match the fatal blow came. Kyle Walker’s half clearance only put the ball onto a Croatian head. That header went over the right back and suddenly Mario Mandzukic was in the clear out of nowhere, sharper than John Stones to the danger and able to fire towards goal past Pickford from just a few yards out. We couldn’t say it wasn’t coming, but when it did come it was so, so heartbreaking. For the first time in that tournament it looked like we didn’t believe any more. It wouldn’t be coming home. The players had given everything and more, they made us so proud. It was a joy to watch the England team at that tournament but it would be the semi final stage and no further.

 

Saturday 14th July, 3pm. Saint Petersburg. 3rd Place Play Off; ENGLAND 0-2 Belgium

The emotions were still very raw just three days on when England had to complete their tournament in the Third Place match. The country was of course disappointed not to be playing in that Final on Sunday, some genuinely believed “It’s coming home!” and all that. It was hard not to be upset by the semi final, going so, so close. There was a connection between the fans and players for the first time for years, even decades. We bought into this group, led by an impressively calm and sensible leader who said all the right things at the right times. So that bond amplified the feeling of disappointment not just for us but for them too. We were so proud of them, indeed are so proud of them, for their achievements and that will always stay with so many. Just like when we played Belgium three weeks earlier, this match had the strange feel of a friendly. Unlike that match though, where only five players across both teams had played their previous match, today the line ups were pretty much full strength. When England were last this far into a World Cup in 1990 we lost the Third Place Play Off to Italy in Bari. And it would be a similar outcome in 2018 against the Belgians, losing two-nil in Saint Petersburg. They took a fourth minute lead with a goal assisted by the Premier League; with Manchester United’s Lukaku passing for West Brom’s Chadli to provide the crucial cross into the penalty area. It was finished by Thomas Meunier who wasn’t picked up quick enough in front of goal by England’s Danny Rose. England came closest in the second half when Eric Dier was put through by Marcus Rashford but his chip over the onrushing ‘keeper didn’t quite have the legs to make it over the line and a covering defender cleared off the line. The bronze medal was sealed with eight minutes remaining Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was found by Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne to run in behind the England back line and sidefoot past Pickford for two-nil in typical fashion his fans are used to seeing. And that was that. Belgium recorded their best ever finish at a tournament whilst England had their best for 28 years. The impact on English football domestically that Italia ’90 had was enormous, the aim after this summer would now be to maintain the connection, the passion, the performance levels and everything that was so great about this England squad as we look ahead to future tournaments.

 

The feel good factor of the World Cup certainly continued in the months afterwards for England. The newly established UEFA Nations League, replacing international friendlies and providing competitive football to international matches outside of Qualifiers, helped the momentum. England were drawn in a tough group with Spain and Croatia but came out on top, advancing to the inaugural tournament finals to be played in June 2019. And the terrific atmosphere from the World Cup was present in those matches. Wembley was absolutely bouncing for the final Nations League group stage match against Croatia. The new version of the stadium had never heard anything like it at the highest level. England did the business again in the most incredible year for a long time. Gareth Southgate was universally praised and, more importantly, respected. Harry Kane was the World Cup golden boot winner, our first since Gary Lineker in 1986. The players enjoyed playing for their country. They bonded with their teammates, had the press and fans on their side and this youthful, exciting and engaging team were only just getting started.

I never quite thought I would see England in a semi final of a World Cup, certainly not so soon and absolutely not at this tournament. Everything done in the previous two years was with the mindset of doing well in the 2022 World Cup. Gareth’s reflections with Gabby were “of course an opportunity missed which would always be there. But also a large feeling of that’s maybe an experience we had to go through because normally teams that win – France lost a European Final at home, Germany had semi finals before they won their tournaments – it’s very unusual to come from 15th in the world where we were a few months before, to being a team that are ready for semi final, Final and winning a tournament.” Yet here we were in the semis four years ahead of schedule. After the disappointment of Brazil 2014, crashing out after just two group games, and the embarrassment two years later against Iceland, international football was so low down the English pecking order. It was seen as a nuisance when the international breaks came. A team full of overpaid underperformers in a soulless ground with no pride or passion. A lot of that thinking was eradicated in one glorious summer in Russia.

“Whether it’s the opportunity of a lifetime is up to this group of players and this group of staff,” Gareth Southgate told ITV’s ‘World Cup: Summer of Love’ documentary which aired in December 2018. He continued “To take the second youngest team in the tournament and the least experienced team in the tournament and break through so many historical barriers has to be a brilliant achievement for the team. What’s hit me since we’ve been back is that that’s probably been the most rewarding part. People felt they enjoyed the summer and there a reconnection with the team. For me that is a massive step for us moving forward.” And that sums it all up. It’s easy to overplay and overstate the importance of football to its community but when they get it right and it goes your way the effect is enormous. Gareth Southgate was rewarded for his efforts with an OBE in the New Year’s honours list. This summer changed perceptions of so many; the sceptical media, the club loyalists, the casual fan and even the anti-football brigade. They all saw something during the tournament in the summer from that young, united England team which will stay with so many people for a long, long time to come.

FansFans erupting in celebration in a show of unity behind this exciting England team

World Cup 2014 : #4 England exit the greatest World Cup

“It’s not the despair. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope!” [John Cleese in Clockwise, 1986]

Is there anything worse than leaving the party before it really gets going then watching everyone else have a great time? You know the scene; you turn up not really sure what to expect, slightly nervous about the night ahead because your best days are probably behind you. People that arrived before you seem to be sinking the pints quickly and effortlessly, now it’s your turn to go to the bar. You stutter over the order but not to worry, you still get the drinks you wanted. With the confidence of alcohol and belief that it might be your night, despite it being a long time since the last good one, you go over to the dance-floor to get your groove on. It doesn’t go well. Every girl has brought their boyfriend. Limited scoring opportunities here.

Hold on though, you can hear high-pitched screeches and see the inflatable fallace which means one thing; a hen party has arrived. A glimmer of hope. Immediate disappointment shows on your face as it’s a 45 year-old hen who’s brought the rest of the Bowls club with her. It’s only been an hour but you just know it’s not been a good night. To cap it all off you misjudge your drinking and end up throwing up all over the place. A more experienced drinker wouldn’t have done that. As a result the bouncer kicks you out. You retreat from the club and head home the earliest you have done in a long, long time. The rest of that club gets stuck in as the hen party also contained some aspiring page 3 models who turned up as you left. But it’s too late, you can’t go back in now. Poor decision making was costly. So much hope but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the England fan

Enough claptrap, England have crashed out of the World Cup on day nine having played just two matches. Day nine? It’s the earliest exit in over 50 years. The shame has been enhanced by some of the lesser teams doing so well. Chile, Costa Rica and Colombia have been exciting and should all go through to the knock out rounds. It is the most open and attacking World Cup in decades. To the point of writing this 77 goals have been scored in 26 games. Contrast that with this point four years previous in South Africa when only 49 net-ripples were recorded. It’s been a trend of recent tournaments for England to turn up and stink it out with awful performances. This year it didn’t start like that, which lead to optimism in defeat. How rare is that?

England 1-2 Italy

England team v Italy

The Italy game on day three had so much promise. An 11pm kick off our time on a Saturday night against an ageing team who we went toe-to-toe with all the way to penalties just two years prior. Our younger, fearless team would go out and show the Italians that they’re out of touch, we thought. We weren’t expecting as much as before but maybe, just maybe, we could get a result here. Wahoo on West Street was my chosen venue. Jugs of beer ready. Three Lions and World In Motion blaring out and the big screen erected. Here we go!

Italia 90 vs Brasil 14

Sturridge goal captioned in the Italia 90 graphics

The match itself followed how the rest of tournament had started, with good attacking football and a lively, open game. The day before, world champions Spain were humiliated 5-1 by the Netherlands. They looked rocked, old and slow. We couldn’t do the same to the 2006 champions. Roy Hodgson’s selection was very encouraging. Sterling, outstanding for Liverpool the past season, started in an attacking force alongside Rooney and Welbeck, behind Sturridge. It looked fresh, it looked lively and, most importantly, they all caused problems for Italy. Sterling hit a fantastic strike from way outside the box which hit the side-netting but left us all thinking it was a wonder-goal. The BBC scoreboard flashed up ‘GOAL’ and we were all jumping around throwing alcohol about like we were Formula 1 drivers. No goal but plenty of positives. So it was inevitable that Italy then took the lead. It was a very good low drive from Marchisio 20-odd yards out to go one up.

However bad a hangover may be the next day after a football match I guarantee it won’t be as bad as the pain England Physio Gary Lewin had after this match. In a bizarre incident involving water bottles, he managed to break his ankle celebrating Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser. This led to him being stretchered off down the tunnel to provide another iconic World Cup image. Sturridge managed to keep his cool to slot home a great sidefoot finish from Rooney’s perfect cross. Cue a repeat of the jubilant beer-throwing we practised earlier, this time momentarily blinding me. When I was able to see again I did fear that Lewin had maybe suffered a more serious fate, perhaps a heart attack. Fears were put to rest when he appeared on the screen. So it was safe to laugh at him. Smiles weren’t as broad when comic-book villain Mario Balotelli cropped up to head the winner in the second half. “Why always him?” a lazier writer would put. I am lazy, clearly as I was supposed to be writing a separate blog for each match!

Gary Lewin

England physio requires physio

At full-time we found ourselves in the unprecedented position of feeling alright and actually quite positive about England after a defeat. Weird to say, particularly after what happened next, but there was a great deal to take from that match. Roy Hodgson said so himself in the post match interview. Sterling was a phenomenon. We knew he was good but here he came to life bossing the game through the middle. This was at the expense of Wayne Rooney who was forced wide. The pundits post-match called for Rooney to be moved more centrally. Whilst some of the fans agreed, others (including me) thought he should be moved to the bench. It just wasn’t working for him. Elsewhere Sturridge looked good and got the all important goal in his World Cup debut. Even Danny Welbeck looked decent too. The midfield was strong, the attack was lively. The defence had its problems, particularly the full backs, but because we had something going forward we tended to overlook that aspect. Bring on a deflated Uruguay we cried, after their surprise 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica.

England shots

England had more shots than me on a Saturday night in Oxygen

In truth I was never really too concerned about taking on Uruguay. Yes they have great strikers in Cavani and Suarez but I didn’t think they had enough to dominate. That, coupled with the display against Italy, meant my pre-match mood was quietly confident. Boy, how wrong was I?! The line-up was unchanged but the positioning was slightly different; Rooney was pushed into the middle and Sterling moved wider. The pundits got their wish. At the time I couldn’t fathom why the best player in the previous match, the unpredictable threat, was moved to accommodate a man out of sorts and out of luck. I trust in Roy and Gary Neville, I just think this was a mistake. The pressure was now on Rooney to repay them. He had no excuses and had to have a good match.

England v Uruguay

England unchanged for Uruguay

We label Rooney as our only world-class player but time after time he struggles to fulfil that billing for England. Uruguay do have a true world-class player in Luis Suarez. As remarkable as his recovery is having only had an operation a month ago, his threat was constant and he always had the upper hand over our defence. He linked up with his strike partner to open the scoring in the first half with a very nice headed goal. Phil Jagielka seemingly tried to play the offside trap which was a crazy decision given he was only about ten yards out. It was a bad time for Jagielka to have his worst performance for his country. The same goes for Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines. Only Gary Cahill, with his John Terry-like commitment, came out of the game with any sort of praise. The Sturridge of the Italy game was unfortunately replaced by the hesitant, wasteful Sturridge that left Chelsea. It looked so flat and so very hard to score.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney hits the back of the net

Things didn’t change too drastically in the second half. We weren’t creating the chances like we did in the first game. Sterling wasn’t allowed the space and time to run at lightning speed to frighten another ageing defence. Our only serious chances came through, or rather fell to, Wayne Rooney. His free-kick in the first half whistled agonisingly close to the top corner. The TV next door annoyingly is about 3 seconds ahead of the one I was watching on at home so I could hear their cheers turn to “ooooh” before I could see the bloody thing. HD – not quite the wonder of modern broadcasting it thinks it is. I didn’t care about the delay when the chance was finally taken by Wayne with a tap in even that granny prostitute would have scored. (Several years on that reference is still funny.) For those seven or eight minutes after the goal we looked back to our best. The pressure mounted. The bus from Uruguay was well and truly parked. It worked though, they soaked up the brief spell of pressure better than Juan Sheet’s paper towels.

And then came the heartbreaker. The moment which, whilst absolutely gutting, was far from unthinkable. The moment that triggered England to be placed onto a life-support machine. A simple goal kick was flicked on unwittingly by Steven Gerrard to Suarez, who out-thought Jagielka (him again, unfortunately), to smash home with less than ten minutes to go. He latched onto the pass because he gambled that the ball would travel as far as it did. Jagielka again was relying on offside being given and didn’t drop back goal side when the ball was played. A very basic goal to give away. A bit like against Germany in the last World Cup. It’s as if we learned nothing from that great Deutschland dissection.

Would you smash it?

Only the England fans seemed fully fit

The social media crew were quick to point out the horrid stat that never before had we lost our opening two matches. It’s also the first time England have exited in the World Cup group stage since 1958. Finally we have a reference which pre-dates the year we won the thing, whenever that was. I’m starting to doubt we ever did win it. Maybe it was a myth like the moon landing or white dog shit. We’ve tried going into tournaments with massive expectation, we’ve tried with no expectation – whatever happens it is still the worst possible feeling to be knocked out of an international tournament. Never have I experienced the pain so early on. At least in Euro 2000 it was late on in the third match that we blew it. This just feels like it’s over before we even started. I should point out the life support plug was only officially pulled out when Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0 the following day but many had already given up by then, despite Gary Lineker’s best efforts to cheer on the Italians. As the quote at the top suggests, it’s the hope that kills you.

Lineker tries to inspire Italy before their Costa Rica meeting

Lineker tries to inspire Italy before their Costa Rica meeting

There is another match to be played. Costa Rica v England is a poor man’s third place play-off. At least with that match it means you’ve done well and reached the semi finals. This is so far away from the semis it’s like a different competition altogether. It could get the lowest television ratings for an England match ever. I’ll still be watching but part of me is more interested in the Italy v Uruguay game being played simultaneously. Particularly because Andy Hinchcliffe will be co-commentator and he is excellent.

The pundits have come out in force to criticise England, as have the fans. Rightly so. But I have been disappointed to see none of them mention the switch between Stirling and Rooney. So many of them were calling for that change but it hampered us rather than improved us. Chris Waddle was spot on when he said that we aren’t learning from previous mistakes. Thierry Henry and Clarence Seedorf on the BBC explained that it’s not enough to just have decent players, they have to work as a team. Which brings me back to the Rooney argument; he seems to be automatically picked on name alone and the system accommodates him rather than he accommodating the system. There are positives of course; young players will gain experience from this and will hopefully merge a good team with Barkley, Lallana, Luke Shaw and Sturridge at the core. Argentina’s former Real Madrid star Santiago Solari seems to think so. At the Euros two years ago we were saying it was all building towards this World Cup. Now we’re all building towards the 2016 Euros. Sooner or later we are going to have to pause the building work, step up and win games ugly as well as through brilliant football. We need our big players to perform in every big game. No time to hide. If they ain’t doing it they’ve gotta go. I’d like to see Roy remain at the helm. Let’s face it, the European qualifying group is very easy. So make the most of it and forge a great team rather than a few good individuals.

PaddyPower

PaddyPower’s list of media exit cliches

In the meantime the tournament continues with three games a day for the next few days then the knockout stages bring it up a notch. The World Cup has been so great so far. There have been only a couple of poor games. The coverage has been superb, particularly in the studio, from the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Danny Murphy, Martin O’Neill, Patrick Vieira and the aforementioned Henry and Seedorf. The game goes on without England. Not too many outside these shores will give a hoot. We just aren’t very good. I’m off to support Germany now so let’s hope we can end that awful 24 year wait for a trophy!

HIGHLIGHTS England 1-2 Italy with Joe Speight
HIGHLIGHTS England 1-2 Uruguay with Guy Mowbray & Phil Neville

WATCH BBC pundits analyse Rooney’s performance after the Italy game
WATCH BBC pundits react to England’s sad exit
WATCH Roy Hodgson’s interview with Gabby Logan after the Uruguay match
WATCH Glenn Hoddle’s view on Wayne Rooney’s future
WATCH Argentinian Santiago Solari chatting with Lynsey Hipgrave about a brighter future for England

World Cup 2014 : #2 Starting XI – Iconic Moments

“Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! [Kenneth Wolstenholme, BBC World Cup final commentator, 1966]

Since its inception in 1930, the FIFA World Cup has given us hundreds of talking points; from hours of joy to years of despair. From Bobby lifting the Jules Rimet in ’66, to Zizou bowing out in disgrace forty years later and everything in between. It is the pinnacle of world football. Billions around the globe tune in; making ordinary people heroes and heroes turning to villains. Here are eleven of the most iconic World Cup images to get you in the mood for the big one in Brazil now just moments away.

2006 Zinedine Zidane’s last ever match ended in disgrace with the red card for a headbutt in the 2006 final
1970 So good he had a move named after him – the Cruyff turn in 1970
1986 Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 against England
1970 Carlos Alberto’s wonder strike for the great Brazil team of 1970
1998 David Beckham’s petulance cost England this tie in 1998
1974 Zaire’s Mwepo Ilunga misunderstood the free kick rules in 1974
1982 Italy’s Marco Tardelli celebrated his famous Cup final goal in 1982
1994 Diego Maradona overdid this celebration due to illegal substances in USA ’94
1990 Paul Gascoigne’s tears captured the nation in Italia ’90, as Lineker mouthed for the bench to ‘have a word with him’
2010 Frank Lampard’s goal that wasn’t given against Germany in 2010
1966 The best of them all – Bobby Moore lifted the 1966 World Cup in England

These are just some of the most memorable World Cup stills. Hopefully many more will be created this summer across Brazil to add to the above. Can Steven Gerrard replicate Bobby Moore’s success and guide the Three Lions to a second World trophy? Will Lionel Messi prove himself on the international stage as the greatest player? Whose celebration will live long in the memory? This tournament will be covered by the highest number of cameras, reaching the widest audience possible using the most up-to-date technology available. Everything will be captured and stored for many years to come. Don’t forget to smile.

Watch the BBC’s video reviews of every World Cup tournament

World Cup 2014 : #1 TV Preview

“Our aim is for this to be the first truly 24/7 World Cup” [Barbara Slater, BBC Sport director, 2014] 

Every four years thirty-two countries compete in sixty-four matches to prove once and for all who is the best footballing nation on the planet. It’s a time when all fans put aside club bias and come together as one to cheer on the Three Lions of England in a bid to blur the desperate close-season blues. Football in June is a God send to us fans so enthralled by the sport that we get up at silly o’clock every weekend, boarding coaches and trains, spending thousands of pounds, consuming pint after stomach-stretching pint, watching ordinary people do extraordinary things. In order to keep that buzz over the summer, contests between Ecuador and Honduras on a Thursday afternoon for two hours suddenly feel like the only thing that matters. Yes the World Cup is nearly upon us!

This week the squads were announced and as usual there were a couple of surprises, some familiar faces and some downright odd choices. I’m not talking about Roy Hodgson’s England squad – I’ll mention that in a separate blog post – but the on-air teams assembled by our broadcasters BBC and ITV. The full press releases can be found here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/worldcup2014

http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-packs/2014-fifa-world-cup#.U3QBj9q9KSM 

As with every major international tournament the race is on to add to the broadcaster’s own line up of existing pundits and commentators with top names from the international game. BBC announced the signing of Thierry Henry a number of months ago and he should be an interesting one. His only experience of UK TV punditry is with Sky Sports on their Champions League coverage earlier this season and he did a good job, if somewhat casual. Clarence Seedorf will be another cool character but is untested on our screens, likewise Brazilian Ex-Middlesbrough star Juninho. Rio Ferdinand adds the English flavour and has already done a couple of stints for BT Sport this season. Predictably he’s drawn criticism for this but from what I’ve seen of him on camera he’s got the basics of being a natural broadcaster and can add some much needed insight into an England camp which undoubtedly will dominate the discussions in the build up.

ITV’s international line up is very interesting. They too have gone for the tried and untested. Former Brighton boss Gus Poyet, so ubiquitous last summer and the early stages of the season on our screens, has been signed presumably to give the Uruguayan angle when England face them in their second group game. He also happens to be opinionated, intelligent and loves the limelight. He’ll be a great pundit and has bags of experience of it. Fabio Cannavaro has not. He’s a huge name to be able to bring in. I’m not sure how good his English is but I suspect he’s there more to attract attention rather than freshen up the analysis.

ITV World Cup 2014 ITV’s World Cup core

Alongside the new faces there are many more familiar ones that will dominate the schedules over the course of June and July. ITV have called upon several ex-BBC World Cup men in the form of Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill to fit in next to Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. The English viewpoint is provided by current international Andros Townsend and ’98 World Cup coach Glenn Hoddle. In addition to this summer, Hoddle will continue with ITV for the Euro qualifiers over the next few years. He’s someone highly regarded as amongst the best Sky use after Neville, Carragher and Souness; all of whom have been used in the past by ITV for international tournaments.

The Beeb regulars Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy and Robbie Savage will work with Alan Hansen for the final time as he retires at the end of the summer. He will be missed, if not only for nostalgic reasons, but in recent tournaments his disdain for some of the lesser countries has been all too prevalent and probably is the right time to call it a day. There’s no doubting he’s a very knowledgeable pundit and does offer the viewer something not immediately obvious. The criticism that recently he’s been phoning in his analysis is a valid one though. Many of the BBC pundits will be combining studio roles with co-commentary so the likes of Lawrenson, Keown and Kilbane will be very busy. The positive is there’s no Mark Bright this time, ditched after a bafflingly-long time as number two (in every sense).  The BBC look to be stronger in the commentary box than their rivals for the first time in a long time.

BBC World Cup 2014 BBC’s World Cup band

Guy Mowbray will continue to cover the England games and the final in his role as number one. The rest of the matches will be shared out as equally as possible with Steve Wilson, Jonathan Pearce, Simon Brotherton and Steve Bower certainly clocking up the miles across the vast areas of Brazil. The latter trio have all benefitted from regular live games on BT Sport this past season and go into the tournament much sharper than two years ago, where their main regular gig was restricted to solo highlights only. Phil Neville is a new addition to the gantry and will work with Mowbray for England games, of which we hope there’ll be more than just the three. He’s done a couple of unbroadcast practice pilots with him and I’m interested to see if he’s anything like his brother Gary. If he’s half as good we’re in for a treat.

ITV look bare in comparison. Only the regular number one pairing of Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend (not to be confused with the aforementioned Andros, who sounds as if he’s the Greek equivalent) survive from the Euros two years ago. So stalwarts Peter Drury, Jon Champion and Jim Beglin are all elsewhere this time. As is Craig Burley, who unexpectedly found himself doing the final in South Africa when Beglin was struck down by illness. Champion was initially supposed to go with ITV but opted for a more lucrative ESPN America gig so Sam Matterface and Clarke Carlisle are promoted to second choice pairing. Completing the regular commentary line up will be Joe Speight, for his first international tournament, and, combining studio role with co-comms, Lee Dixon. He’s been a regular for American network NBC all season and will be interesting to hear. There will also be others but as yet they haven’t been named.

Anchoring the coverage will be the ones we all expected; Gary Lineker for the fourth consecutive World Cup on the BBC, and Adrian Chiles for his second on ITV. In doing so Chiles becomes the first ITV host to lead consecutive World Cups since Brian Moore in the seventies! A quite remarkable statistic which even the great Des Lynam couldn’t break. Support provided by the excellent Matt Smith for his fourth and Mark Chapman for his first TV World Cup. Gabby Logan, Dan Walker, Jason Mohammed and Gabriel Clarke will all be on the plane as well as others who’ll no doubt crop up here and there.

The promos are beginning to air, the countdown is gaining interest and the soap fans are starting to fret about their beloved Coronation Street being shunted all over the schedules like it’s a Ben Elton sitcom. The focus is gearing up now the regular seasons are pretty much done and dusted. I don’t know where I’ll be watching the games yet, but one thing’s for sure; I cannot wait for it to all get going. I don’t wanna miss a thing.

See the first BBC World Cup promo here
watch the itv World Cup ’emotions’ promo