Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 2

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

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


Brighton 2-0 Portsmouth Highlights

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

POR Titles POR Comm

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

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

POR Brighton POR Portsmouth

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

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

POR Vicente sub POR Vicente 1st goal

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

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

POR Poyet money gesture POR Vicente 2nd goal

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

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

POR Full Time POR Studio


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

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

FLW Titles FLW Everton

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

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

FLW Vokes FLW Mackail-Smith

FLW Golf challenge FLW Laptop

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

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

FLW Vokes shot FLW Vokes distance

FLW Mackail-Smith shot FLW Mackail-Smith distance

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

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

FLW Leaderboard FLW Top ten

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

FLW Studio FLW Remaining Fixtures

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

FLW CMS vs Pro FLW Trophy presentation

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

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


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Interview with Vicente and Inigo Calderon

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

LKO2 Titles LKO2 Walker

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

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

LKO2 Studio LKO2 Bright

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

LKO2 Vicente and Calderon.JPG

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

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

LKO2 Vicente quote LKO2 Vicente shirt

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


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West Ham 6-0 Brighton Highlights

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

WHAM Titles WHAM Fisher

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

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

WHAM West Ham WHAM Brighton

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

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

WHAM Vaz Te opener WHAM Nolan three nil

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

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

WHAM Vaz Te spectacular WHAM Own goal

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

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

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

WHAM Full Time WHAM Studio

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

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


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Report on The Amex bucking the trend of dwindling attendances

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

LKO3 Titles LKO3 Gupta

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

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

LKO3 Dix LKO3 Ambler

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

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

LKO3 Fans LKO3 Hebberd

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

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


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

Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 1

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe 2011/2012 campaign was a landmark season for Brighton and Hove Albion. After a seemingly never-ending battle to secure planning permission for a new stadium, that dream was finally realised when the American Express Community Stadium in Falmer was opened in the summer of 2011. Brighton had come home to a stadium they could call their own for the first time since the Goldstone Ground was sold and demolished in 1997. The ‘temporary’ abode of the Withdean Stadium, complete with athletics track and unsheltered seating, ended up being home for eleven seasons! As successful as the team were during that period, with three titles and a Play Off Final victory, this new stadium would be the catalyst for even greater success.

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


Away Days visit to Brighton

Soccer AM, Sky Sports 1 (20th August 2011)

SAM Soccer AM titles SAM Away Days

Sky Sports long-running Saturday morning entertainment show Soccer AM, hosted by Max Rushden and Helen Chamberlain, had a popular comedy feature called Away Days. In this, crew member Adam Smith played the part of ‘Franky Fryer’, a Danny Dyer spoof character who visited a new stadium each time and took in some of the local sights and sounds as if a visiting supporter on a day away. The mannerisms and language used parodied Dyer’s presenting style on football hooligan documentaries such as The Real Football Factories. The character aped Dyer’s use of cockney rhyming slang and exaggerated speech, with a trademark catchphrase “Keep me nut down!”

SAM Pier SAM Sealife centre SAM Laughter therapy SAM Stadium

In Franky Fryer’s visit to Brighton, he arrived at the station to learn that the new stadium isn’t technically in Brighton, but instead nearby Falmer. He moved down to see the famous Palace Pier, “standing for over one hundred years man and boy”, and along the seafront and pebble beach. A quick visit to the Sealife Centre followed, apparently “the world’s oldest operating aquarium”. Fryer liked to take in the weird and wonderful parts of a city so a trip to the Laughter Centre for some laughter therapy was in order. How very Brighton. Before long he had stumbled across the fields adjacent to the stadium in Falmer.

SAM Dicks Bar SAM In the stands

The supporter’s bar, named Dick’s Bar after former chairman Dick Knight, located at the back of the North Stand and adjacent to the club shop was “my sort of place” according to Fryer. He made his way round to the other side of the ground for the culmination of the piece; the South Stand away end.  He remarked upon the padded seats in all four stands of the magnificent stadium as we saw the view visiting supporters are treated to. The final shot panned out to reveal the entire South Stand, sat to the right of the impressive three-tiered West Stand and opposite the vocal home support from the North Stand. The stadium had only been open a matter of weeks by the time of Soccer AM’s visit, so it was all shiny and new. Away fans as well as, of course, Brighton fans were in for a treat when they visited England’s newest Football League ground upon opening in the summer of 2011.


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Quiz Show from The Amex for Brighton 2-2 Blackpool

Take It Like A Fan, Sky Sports 1 (26th August 2011)

TILAF Titles TILAF Hosts

Sky Sports Friday night football quiz show Take It Like A Fan returned for a second season during 2011/2012. Presented by former Soccer AM crew member and Soccer Saturday interviewer John Fendley, AKA Fenners, and Bianca Westwood, current Soccer Saturday reporter. Westwood became a permanent fixture on the show this season having covered last year when previous co-host Charlotte Jackson was absent. The programme was presented entirely on location at a football stadium around the country with the premise of giving away cash for correct answers to a range of football-based questions and games. The show visited Withdean Stadium back in January, as chronicled on the blog post In the Spotlight. Today, the seaside special was the centrepiece, as Blackpool were the visitors to The Amex.

TILAF The Possession Game TILAF Home or Away

The first feature was called ‘The Possession Game’. In this, one fan would answer a quiz question, get it correct he kept ‘possession’ of the £500 cash prize. Get it wrong however, and he’d hand the money over to his opponent. The person in possession after the fifth and final question would then go on to take a penalty at half-time in the Blackpool match where if successful would keep that £500. Albion supporters Simon and Danny took on the game. Questions included “What nationality is Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko?” and “Who’s won more FA Cups – Manchester United or Arsenal?” The all-important poser (shown in the screenshot above, left) was answered incorrectly by Danny, giving Simon the opportunity to win the cash at half-time, shown later in the show.

The next game was the more familiar ‘Home or Away’ premise; home questions would be about Brighton and win you a tenner, or for fifty pounds you could choose an away question on Blackpool. Brighton fan Richie maximised his earnings by selecting to go away for all three questions. Questions here included, “As a player, which of these clubs didn’t Blackpool boss Ian Holloway have a spell at – Wimbledon, Luton or Brentford?”, and “Who was Blackpool’s top scorer in the Premier League last season?” He answered two of the three correctly and decided to choose the double or quits option (shown in the screenshot above, right). Answering incorrectly, he lost the one-hundred pounds he accumulated.

TILAF Birds Eye View TILAF Brighton players

Another Brighton fan competing was Ben, who previously appeared on MasterChef. For today’s TV appearance he took part in the game ‘Bird’s Eye View’, where you had to identify football stadiums from an aerial shot. Each correct answer was rewarded with ten pounds. Helped along the way by Fenners, Ben scored eleven earning him £110 in sixty seconds. He too took the double or quits option but fared better than Richie by guessing the home of Liverpool correctly.

Brighton trio Gary Dicker, Craig Noone and Steve Cook took part in a special round of ‘Fenners’ Tenners’, answering as many questions correctly inside half-a-minute as possible. First team coach Charlie Oatway was on stopwatch duty. Questions included, “What is Ashley Barnes’ squad number at Brighton?”, “Who did Brighton sign Craig Mackail-Smith from?” and “Who play their home games at Roots Hall?” The boys achieved nine correct, largely thanks to Gary Dicker. Their question to double the pot to £180 was as follows; “Which player committed the most fouls in the Premier League last season – Kevin Davies or Cheick Tiote?” Watch the video below to see how they got on.

TILAF Poyet TILAF Full Time

With kick off approaching and the players warming up, Bianca Westwood chatted to manager Gus Poyet in the dugout. He gave his thoughts on the excellent unbeaten start to the season as well as the magnificent new surroundings. “It’s been great, difficult to keep everybody calm!” the Uruguayan began. On the stadium and new League this season he added, “It’s perfect. We need it, it was the aim last year. It wasn’t easy but we are here and now we are enjoying the Championship and doing well.” She also spoke with veteran Blackpool striker Kevin Phillips before and after the match, as he entered the final spell of his playing career.

The goals and key chances from the afternoon’s match were shown, set to music. Craig Mackail-Smith opened the scoring with a header on half an hour. Ashley Barnes tapped home a second goal five minutes into the second period as Albion enjoyed the summer sunshine. But Kevin Phillips headed one back after the hour mark to ensure a nervy finish. And in stoppage time the goalscoring great bagged a great goal to equalise and rescue a point with a superbly executed volley on the turn.

TILAF Half Time TILAF Penalty

During the half-time interval, Simon from earlier on in the show faced goalkeeper Dan in a penalty kick. Score it and Simon would pocket the £500 from ‘The Possession Game’ but miss and he’d go away empty handed. Simon kept his cool and slotted the penalty away well, in front of the North Stand crowd.

The final game of the programme was with Blackpool fan and the godson of Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan, Liam. He played ‘Fenners’ Tenners’, scoring an impressive thirteen correct in the minute. He also managed to answer in full sentences rather than just the right answer! To double up to £260, he had to answer the following; “Which stadium has the smallest capacity in the Premier League – Loftus Road or Liberty Stadium?” The West London ground earned him the big money to cap off a very fun show.


3

Brighton 0-0 Sunderland (1-0 AET) Highlights

The League Cup Show, BBC One (24th August 2011); Carling Cup Round Two

CCUP Titles CCUP Comms

The games came thick and fast in the opening weeks of the Football League season and by the end of August we were already at the second stage of the League Cup. BBC held highlight broadcast rights to the competition, producing a midweek round up show on the Wednesday night. Imaginatively titled The League Cup Show, the studio and set up was the same as Saturday night highlights programme The Football League Show that began for the 2009/10 season. It was hosted by former Football Focus presenter Manish Bhasin. Joining him for this edition was pundit and former West Ham and Fulham striker Leroy Rosenior. One of the featured matches tonight was the Albion’s clash with Sunderland. Commentary was provided by Match of the Day regular Martin Fisher.

CCUP Teams

Brighton reached the Second Round of the Carling Cup by defeating their old landlord, Gillingham, in Round One. Ashley Barnes from the penalty spot was the decider that night. It set up a clash with Premier League side Sunderland at The Amex. Steve Bruce’s team were yet to win either of their top flight matches; drawing one and losing the other. By contrast, the Albion were unbeaten in their opening five games, winning all but one – the two-two draw with Blackpool last time out. Victory in these opening three matches was the club’s best start since the 1953/54 season.

Gus Poyet made two changes for tonight’s clash, as midfielders Gary Dicker and Romain Vincelot dropped out, replaced by Alan Navarro and Ryan Harley. The latter was making his debut having signed from Swansea the previous day. Steve Bruce swapped out three of his Sunderland players that lost to rivals Newcastle at the weekend. In came new goalkeeper Kieran Westwood for his Black Cats debut, and midfielders David Vaughan and Craig Gardner; all summer signings. The referee was Andy D’Urso.

CCUP Post CCUP Dive incident

The five-minute highlights edit began with a great chance for Sunderland after Kazenga LuaLua was caught out in his own penalty area. Thankfully, Stephane Sessegnon couldn’t provide a finish. He was also denied from long range by Casper Ankergren later in the half. Craig Mackail-Smith was at the heart of all Brighton’s attacking play at the other end, with two efforts on goal causing problems. He was denied by Westwood with the first and shot over for the second. It was goalless at the break.

The best chance arrived in the second half when Mackail-Smith was sent clear through an excellent long-range pass from Liam Bridcutt. The striker sprung the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with Westwood (above, left). Unfortunately, the shot bounced onto the post, back across the goal line and out. So close! The big talking point came when Inigo Calderon of all people found himself galloping into the area. Goalie Kieran Westwood raced out and appeared to bring the Spaniard down for a penalty (above right). The referee blew his whistle but signalled the other way, booking Calderon for a dive. It looked like a close call, with commentator Martin Fisher adamant there was contact; “The right boot of Westwood on the left boot of Calderon. It’s a huge escape for Westwood and Sunderland.” Sunderland too had a couple of half-chances but Ankergren stood firm and it finished after ninety minutes at nil-nil.

CCUP Goal CCUP Full Time

The match had to be decided on the night so on to Extra Time we went. Within six minutes, Brighton had the breakthrough and it was the tireless Craig Mackail-Smith who notched it. Scouse duo Craig Noone and Alan Navarro linked up on the near side to send the latter on down the right-hand side of the box. He hit an instinctive cross up towards the back post which was perfect for Mackail-Smith. Last season’s highest goalscorer in the country added another to his new club’s tally with a header back across from inside the six-yard area. There was nothing Sunderland could do about that one and you couldn’t say the Seagulls didn’t deserve it. The Black Cats found no answer and suffered an early exit to the competition as the stripes of Brighton went marching on.

CCUP Mackail-Smith CCUP Studio

In his post-match interview, Gus Poyet believed Brighton to have been good enough to win this close match and praised the efforts of the goalscorer, whilst Sunderland’s Steve Bruce was gracious in defeat; “they were terrific on the night, they played some really good stuff.” Match winner Mackail-Smith spoke of the club’s positive attitude; “We just believe in the way we play football and we feel that whoever we play we can go out and beat.” Back in the studio, pundit Leroy Rosenior believed this Cup upset to be no shock to Seagulls supporters, loving life in their new home; “It’s no surprise to them, they just carried on where they left off. Nobody fancies playing Brighton at the moment.” If only that were to continue! Round Three saw even more prestigious opponents descending on the South Coast; Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool.


4

Southampton 3-0 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (19th November 2011); Championship

SOU FL Show titles SOU Comm

The Championship returned after the international break and we welcomed back the BBC’s highlights programme The Football League Show late on Saturday night to round up the day’s play. Hosted by Manish Bhasin with pundit Steve Claridge, the featured match for this mid-November edition was a South Coast clash as Southampton took on Brighton. The Saints sat top of the Championship table, a position the Albion occupied briefly in September before a dip in form saw them slide out of the top six and into tenth. After an unbeaten first half a dozen League games, Brighton won just one of the following ten, ending a terrible run with a two-nil victory over Barnsley last time out. Commentating on the action was Martin Fisher, who also covered our opening day dramatic victory over Doncaster for the show.

SOU Southampton SOU Brighton

Brighton wore their change kit of green and black for the visit to St Mary’s. Southampton’s home form was remarkable; they’d won their previous nineteen matches in a row at this stadium. In the line ups, Dean Hammond captained the home side and returned to the first team in place of Morgan Schneiderlin. Midfielder Adam Lallana had been in the senior squad since 2006 having come up through the youth system. Rickie Lambert was the club’s top scorer but failed to find the target in the previous five. For the Albion, just one change was made from the side that beat Barnsley two weeks ago. Left-back Marcos Painter was preferred to Inigo Calderon. Goals had dried up for record signing Craig Mackail-Smith, his last came in the disappointing home defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of September. Strike partner Billy Paynter was on loan from Leeds until January but was yet to register a goal for the Seagulls. Half the midfield was Scouse, in Navarro and Noone. The referee in charge was Peter Walton.

Southampton complained of two penalty shouts early on, neither given by referee Peter Walton. The first was a definite no, when a shot from close range struck Gordon Greer on the arm. There was nothing the Scotsman could have done from such a short distance to get out of the way. The second saw Ricky Lambert’s shirt being held by Marcos Painter. The striker still outmuscled his man and headed goalwards regardless. Chances were few and far between in the first half as the sides went into the break goalless.

SOU Lambert goal SOU Incorrect Penalty decision SOU Penalty award SOU Full Time

It took the Saints just four minutes into the second half before the took the lead through Rickie Lambert. Richardson crossed from the near side, cutting back on his left foot and swinging a delivery towards the back post. Lambert outjumped both Craig Noone and Mauricio Taricco to win the header and power it past Steve Harper in goal. Brighton rightly avoided giving away a penalty when Dean Hammond went down under Harper’s challenge. The referee didn’t buy it and booked the ex-Albion midfielder for diving. But Southampton were awarded a penalty soon after when the linesman flagged for a foul by Dunk on Jose Fonte. If they got the Hammond decision correct, the officials lost all credibility when giving this one as the contact clearly took place outside the box. Taricco went mad and got sent off for presumably something he said to the referee. From nothing, Brighton were about to lose all hope of getting something from this crunch clash. Lambert tucked away the spot kick sending Harper the other way for two-nil just before the hour mark.

Alan Navarro went close to joining Taricco for the proverbial early bath when he lunged into a challenge with his studs showing. He connected full on with the calf of substitute Morgan Schneiderlin. Navarro was awarded a yellow card when it could easily have been more. The resulting free kick towards Lambert then should have been a penalty for a push by Painter but wasn’t given. They say these things even themselves out. It capped off a pretty bad day for the officials. Yet another shout for a penalty came when Lambert appeared to be felled by the foot of Inigo Calderon. This was more difficult to judge as first glance it appeared to be a foul but the replay showed contact was minimal and, if anything, Lambert just lost his footing. Either way, it was given and Lambert completed his hat-trick with another superbly taken kick into the roof of the net twenty minutes before the end. They could have had even more but for Harper and some tame efforts, but it finished three-nil to the home side at St Mary’s.

SOU Poyet SOU Studio

In Gus Poyet’s post-match interview he, understandably, spoke out about the refereeing performance. “We respect the referees a lot and we give them credit for the job they do and how difficult it is nowadays in football to give a penalty or not… And when it’s so embarrassing, if you want the players just to accept it and clap their hands and go home and just relax and forget about that. They took everything we done in fifty-five minutes away just because… who knows what went through the head of the referee and the linesman today?”

In the studio, Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge also began by discussing the decisions of the officials. For the penalty that should have been a free kick on Fonte, Claridge called it an “incredible decision. I don’t think Jose Fonte actually gets any part of his body at any time into the box apart from when he falls over eventually.” They emphasised that the right team did still win the game, but they were helped along the way by Peter Walton and Brighton’s challenge ended with the award of that first penalty. The studio team reviewed five big penalty decisions Walton had to make and judged that he got four of them wrong. The one correct decision was to book Hammond for his dive. Claridge’s assessment of Brighton was that although they were in the game for the first fifty-five minutes, he didn’t think they ever looked like they were going to win it, whilst Southampton’s start to the campaign was better at this stage than the previous two winners of the Division. Bit of a turnaround from the two sides competing together last season in League One.


5

Amex Stadium Report from an away perspective, Brighton 2-0 Bristol City

Late Kick Off, BBC One South (16th January 2012)

LKO1 Titles LKO1 Studio

The BBC’s regional Football League magazine show, Late Kick Off, returned for a new series on Monday 16th January 2012 until the end of the season. In the South and South West, the programme was presented by James Richardson with regular pundits Graeme Murty, formerly of Reading and Southampton, and Leroy Rosenior, ex-West Ham and Bristol City striker. It was the second season running with this trio at the helm, having taken over from original host Jonathan Pearce. The show covered the Albion as well as Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Swindon, Aldershot, Plymouth, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham, Crawley, Exeter, Oxford and Yeovil.

The lead feature of this edition centred around stadiums; with Brighton having moved into their new home ahead of this season, meanwhile Bristol City were fighting their own battle with the powers that be to secure their new one. The two sides met on Saturday at The Amex in the Championship. The Albion board made their visitors feel very welcome, sympathetic to their cause. As host Richardson explained in the show, “A judge has today ruled that a full review is necessary on City’s bid to build their new stadium.” Andy Steggall (below left), better known as the face of sport on ITV Meridian during the 1990s, reported on the story for Late Kick Off. He also co-owned the production company that made the programme, along with Match of the Day commentator John Roder.

LKO1 Steggall LKO Bristol ale

Steggall’s report began with Brighton’s two goals to secure the victory; a fantastic long ranger from Inigo Calderon, an unlikely goalscorer, plus Will Buckley rounding the goalkeeper. He then moved into the away concourse to showcase the efforts Brighton made to feel visiting supporters feel at home, treating them with respect rather than contempt. It’s a lesson a lot of other clubs could learn from. Little touches included lighting in the colours of the away club, this time being red, selling a guest ale from their local area and decorating the television screens with images of the opposing players. “When The Amex was designed, serious consideration was given to making away fans feel welcome”, Steggall explained. He spoke with a few of the travelling support to gauge their opinions of the away fan experience at Falmer. Some of them had clearly been enjoying the hospitality of the local ales! “Brighton’s an example to all teams” one fan slurred, as the tributes were all glowing.

LKO1 Touring LKO1 Martin Perry and Guy Price

In addition to some two-thousand away fans, Bristol City directors and board members were welcomed to The Amex to have a look around. “Before kick-off, Albion had welcomed every door to all of their opponent’s heads of department, from the rooftop to the tunnel. Happy to give them every war story, every helpful hint about planning success and stadium building”, Steggall added. In the director’s lounge, the suits of both clubs were in discussion. Guy Price, Bristol City’s CEO, asked about the defining lessons Brighton learned that City could take away. The reply explained the experience for the fans had been thought of in every last detail.

Price also spoke to Martin Perry, Brighton’s chief executive and a huge figure in the club’s success off the field in obtaining this stadium. Perry had lent his support to Bristol City’s bid for a new stadium at Ashton Vale, arguing their case and attending their planning committees. “It was important that we demonstrated that when they talk about the benefits to the community, we’d already begun to deliver them. So this wasn’t just talk, this was real”, Perry told us as he expressed how we’re all part of the wider football family.

LKO1 Doncaster game LKO1 Lynam

Steggall’s report continued by explaining the situation from a Bristol City point of view; “The judge’s decision now means further delays, further cost for club and council.” Perry’s final words of advice? “Never give up.” We also heard from broadcasting great and Seagulls supporter Desmond Lynam who spoke about the emotions when that first League game against Doncaster came about back in August 2011. “We were so moved in the directors’ box we were shedding a tear… It had taken so long, so much heartache and all the rest of it… This isn’t the biggest and it’s probably not the best, but it’s ours. It’s for us.” Hear, hear.


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

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

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


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

imageThe view from my seat ahead of kick-off

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

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

FLW Titles FLW Gavin

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

FLW Studio FLW Jones

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

FLW Stadium FLW Oatway

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

FLW Forster & CMS FLW CMS

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

FLW Elphick FLW Odds


Football Focus, BBC One (6th August 2011)

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

FF Titles FF Field

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

FF VT FF Lawrenson

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

FF Dressing Room FF Savage

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

FF Tony Bloom FF Bloom

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

FF Oatway FF Dugout

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

FF Concourse FF Clipping

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

FF Goal FF Fatboy Slim


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

FLS Titles FLS Bhasin

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

FLS Brighton FLS Doncaster

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

FLS Commentator FLS Yellow Card

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

FLS Poyet Sent Off FLS Doncaster Goal

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

FLS Equaliser FLS One all

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

FLS Winner FLS Celebration

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

FLS Full Time FLS Poyet

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

FLS Claridge FLS Studio