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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

#28: Southampton 1-3 Brighton 15/11/2009

#28 SOUTHAMPTON 1-3 BRIGHTON League One
Sunday 15th November 2009 Sky 2007

Titles

PRESENTER George Gavin GUEST Peter Beagrie
COMMENTATORS Martin Tyler & Garry Birtles REPORTER Greg Whelan
4.30pm Kick Off; St Mary’s, Southampton     4.15-7pm Football League Live on Sky Sports 1

SOU Intro

Context of the Match: This match kick started a whole new era for Brighton and Hove Albion, Live in front of the Sky Sports cameras. The club were languishing near the bottom of the League One table, starting the season as poorly as the previous campaign had. With Micky Adams departing just a couple of days after our last televised match – the JPT Area Final defeat to Luton – Russell Slade was brought in to rescue the club from relegation. He did so on the final day by beating Stockport which earned him a two-year contract. However his initial success was temporary and a poor start to this year saw Slade sacked with the club just one place above the relegation zone. Slade was in charge for little under eight months whilst his assistants Dean White and Bob Booker also left the club after a long spell working alongside several different managers. The final straw was a three-all home draw with Hartlepool at the end of October. Martin Hinshelwood took charge temporarily until today where the Albion had somehow managed to convince former Chelsea and Uruguay midfielder Gus Poyet to join. This was his first job as manager having worked as assistant at Leeds, Tottenham and Swindon in recent seasons. He brought with him former Spurs left back Mauricio Taricco as number two and former Seagulls midfield battler Charlie Oatway. Today also marked his 42nd birthday and what better way to spend it than to take charge of a new club Live in front of the nation. No pressure, Gus. Southampton were starting to hit form this season having dropped down to the third tier for the first time since 1960. They were hampered with a ten-point deduction due to going into administration towards the end of the last campaign but were unbeaten in their last eight matches and could finally move out of the relegation zone for the first time this season with a win today. For the away side, the appointment of a big name like Poyet, albeit untested in management, was a huge statement to make and a big departure from the likes of the older British managers of recent times – Peter Taylor, Micky Adams, Russell Slade.

SOU Southampton SOU Subs SOU Brighton

The Teams: Brighton went into this fixture having won just one of the last ten so Gus Poyet immediately made three changes here. Long-serving ‘keeper Michel Kuipers was restored in place of Graeme Smith who made his debut as substitute earlier this season in the 7-1 humiliation at Huddersfield. Arsenal loanee Gavin Hoyte was suspended for Andrew Whing came in at right back. The final change saw youngster James Tunnicliffe, signed in the summer from Stockport, take captain Adam Virgo’s place in defence. Other new faces brought in to the squad over the summer included winger Elliott Bennett and midfielders Gary Dicker and Andrew Crofts. The attacking trio of Dean Cox, Nicky Forster and Glenn Murray were key to survival. Local lads Tommy Elphick and Adam El-Abd came through the youth system and had been enjoying regular football for the past couple of seasons. Southampton’s side was packed full of quality that really shouldn’t have been at this level. Former Premier League goalkeeper Kelvin Davis returned to the side after being rested. Dan Harding left the Albion in the summer of 2005 following his desires to be playing at a high level; just four years on he’s back in League One now with the Saints. Dean Hammond spent eight years playing for the Seagulls until joining Colchester last year and now the home side today. Despite being made captain towards the end of his time at Withdean, he refused to sign a new contract unless the club showed ‘Championship ambitions’. Glenn Murray was brought in for 300k but this wasn’t enough, Hammond was sent off on his final Brighton appearance and moved to Colchester in January of last year for a quarter of a million pounds. Youngsters Adam Lallana, Michail Antonio and Morgan Schneiderlin would all go on to enjoy Premier League football. Rickie Lambert up front was vastly experienced in the lower leagues with Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers but it was at Southampton that his career was really beginning to move up, joining earlier this season. David Connolly had also enjoyed a terrific career thus far, for the likes of Wimbledon and West Ham in the top flight, and had joined Alan Pardew’s men just a month earlier. Watching on from the sidelines as Saints assistant manager was ex-Brighton player, youth coach and manager Dean Wilkins. Taking charge of the match was Kevin Friend.

SOU Gavin SOU Beagrie SOU Studio

Presentation Team: George Gavin presented from St Mary’s stadium alongside Football League number one pundit Peter Beagrie. Gavin’s Live appearances are mainly lower league games and Cup competitions, with particular emphasis on games over the international break when regular staff often appear elsewhere. This is highlighted in the commentary box with an extremely rare appearance from Sky’s number one Martin Tyler on the Football League as a whole let alone the Third Tier. His only previous match for Sky as far as I can recall was a Championship tie in August 2006 though he would go onto cover the League One Play Off Semi Finals at the end of this 2009/10 season too. Even so, extremely rare appearance for him so it was a delight that it was for an Albion match. He of course reported on our first ever Live televised home game; FA Cup 4th Round win over Liverpool on ITV in 1984, as well as working for the local ITV region Southern during that period. He joined Sky as their lead commentator at the start of the 1990s and has been the undisputed number one pretty much ever since (barring a small period in 2005 when games began to be shared around between Ian Darke and Rob Hawthorne more). The more familiar voice of Garry Birtles to League One action was alongside Tyler. He was second choice to Don Goodman in the pecking order. Reporting on the touchline was Greg Whelan, having been the number one reporter for the Leagues ever since Coca Cola took over the branding of the Divisions in 2004.

SOU Pre match3 SOU Pre match4 SOU Kick Off SOU Comms

The Coverage: This season Sky Sports changed their Football League titles and theme tune from the previous All Together Now (January 2005-May 2009) to Candi Staton’s You Got The Love, across Live and magazine programming. The song is a belter, particularly this New Voyager mix, and the instrumental used as backing music just before and after the breaks is very nice. This coincided with George Gavin moving away from more Live matches in favour of David Jones who had become number one increasingly over the past year or so. Gavin did all preview and review shows Football League Weekend and occasional lower League matches such as today’s third tier clash so still remained prominent. Also from this season, terrestrial highlights rights transferred from ITV to the BBC in the form of Saturday night post-MOTD slot The Football League Show hosted by Manish Bhasin with former Sky pundit Steve Claridge. The contract also incorporated ten Live matches for the Beeb, bringing free Championship games for the first time since the ITV regions in 2002. The graphics on Sky’s coverage hadn’t changed from last season, with the familiar red and black astons and trophy replay transitions we’ve seen before.

SOU Pre match1 SOU Pre match2 SOU Coming Up SOU Analysis

Coverage began fifteen minutes before the unusual 4.30pm kick off. This was international break weekend hence highlighting a Live match from League One. Gavin hosted alongside regular pundit Peter Beagrie from the stands at St Mary’s. They spoke about Southampton’s excellent form and Brighton’s ambition by appointing Gus Poyet. He was interviewed before the game by Greg Whelan who began by asking how much he was looking forward to his first managerial match; “I’ve been looking for ten, eleven months… we had a very good day today, we’ve done everything possible because it’s only three days – normally you have a month or pre-season.” His early assessment of the side was there was ‘talent, quality’ and goals up front but poor defensively, something he wanted to address immediately. The studio team backed this up by highlighting the goal threat Nicky Forster possessed. Beagrie believed that the future was certainly going to be bright for Brighton after some tough times of late. Ricky Lambert was the player in the spotlight for the home side before hearing from their boss Alan Pardew. Our commentator Martin Tyler took over to talk us through the teams before they emerged from the tunnel and a chance for him to use his famous catchphrase “And it’s Live!” A quick break was squeezed in before a minute’s silence to honour those who passed away over the last twelve months. When the match got underway it was Garry Birtles alongside Tyler in the box. Once the ninety minutes were over, Gavin and Beagrie had around twenty-five minutes or so to wrap things up and analyse the game. Man of the Match Glenn Murray and goalkeeper Michel Kuipers were interviewed together by Greg Whelan. Both players were quick to praise the efforts of the team as a whole, all wanting to prove themselves in front of the new manager. After reviewing the goals and key incidents in the studio, we heard from birthday boy Poyet himself. He was particularly pleased that, despite the limited preparation time, the players listened to his instructions, applied them and kept strong throughout the match. After hearing from Saints boss Pardew, Beagrie and Gavin talked us through selected highlights of some of the other League One action from the weekend and looking at the table before signing off.

SOU Stats SOU Table SOU Round Up SOU Top of Table

Story of the Match: The early stages of the match were lively with both sides posing an attacking threat. Michail Antonio in particular down the right wing was causing all sorts of problems with his pace and power. Nicky Forster was leading the charge for Brighton with a couple of half-chances he created from nothing, neither too threatening for Davis though. The breakthrough came in the sixteenth minute from Glenn Murray. Dean Cox worked his way into a good crossing position on the right, outrunning Dan Harding, before delivering for Murray waiting around the penalty spot. He just guided the ball into the net with a lovely cushioned volley into the corner for the perfect start to the Poyet regime. Murray continued to be a threat all afternoon and just five minutes later he doubled the lead. A throw from El-Abd on the far touchline was flicked on by Murray to Forster. He held the ball up, turned and found the path of his strike partner to burst into the box. He needed just one touch to set himself before shooting ahead of the onrushing Harding. Davis got a touch to deflect it onto the post but it rebounded right into Glenn Murray’s path to volley into the empty net from six yards out for two-nil. What a fantastic five minutes for the 3,000 travelling supporters. Southampton were shell-shocked. The onslaught continued and Nicky Forster could have grabbed a goal himself just minutes later when he was sent clear by Murray, Forster’s touch and pace letting him down as he was forced wide and dragged his shot with his weaker left. And again just afterwards he found himself with an opportunity to lob Davis from twenty yards or so, not getting the connection quite right. Brighton were creating so many chances it was difficult to keep up in that opening half hour.

SOU Poyet SOU Man of the Match SOU Interviews

Slowly Southampton were creeping back into the game, enjoying more and more possession, with the early tempo inevitably dropping from the Albion. Rickie Lambert had a free kick central about twenty-five yards out which forced Kuipers into a low save ten minutes before the break. Four minutes later a volley from Lambert in the box had to be kept out again as the entire match was being played in the Brighton half. The pressure paid off just a minute later when Andy Whing dragged Adam Lallana down in the area defending a cross, giving the home team a lifeline. Lambert smashed his penalty home to the goalkeeper’s left and into the corner. The power behind the shot gave Kuipers no chance and right on half time it was game on again. The whistle came at the right time for Brighton, giving Poyet a chance to calm his team down and regroup after such a fantastic start for the team in yellow and blue. It seemed to do the trick as they were on the front foot again at the start of the second half. Nicky Forster’s high chipped cross from the near side turned into more of a shot, even if he didn’t mean it to be, as it sailed over Davis to clip the far post. Southampton then went straight up the other end and forged a decent chance themselves from a long throw. The resulting scramble fell to Dean Hammond who leaned back and shanked it high over the bar, later on Adam Lallana had a good chance too but his header went wide. Long throws were causing all sorts of panic in the Albion defence with Whing’s header away coming dangerously close to an equalising own-goal. Andrew Crofts had Brighton’s best real chance during this spell, when the ball broke loose his way twelve yards out. His low drive was kept out well but the captain was not to be denied later on. With five minutes remaining substitute Liam Dickinson was found running in behind, he cut it back to the incoming Crofts on the edge of the box who slid in as he launched a fierce drive low to the ‘keeper’s left and beat him for pace. “Crofts! It’s in the bag for Brighton” was the call from Martin Tyler. After having to soak up so much second half pressure the defence which had been so leaky so far in the League held strong and Brighton had the three vital points. “A new regime at the club has got off to a tremendous beginning; Southampton one, Brighton three” Tyler closed his commentary with.

SOUTHAMPTON 1 BRIGHTON 3
Lambert Murray (2), Crofts

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World Cup 2014 : #3 England Preview

“There are two quality players in every position and the manager has gone on record saying there are places available” [Steven Gerrard, England captain, May 2014]

The ’23 enigma’ is the belief that most incidents and events are directly connected to the number twenty-three. This has come about due to the ‘Law of Fives’ which states all things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five. Or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5. The ’23 Enigma’ is regarded as a corollary of this law, since 2 + 3 = 5. And you can directly thank Wikipedia for that pearl. The number is also synonymous with the World Cup as it is the magical number of players you can select in your official squad. So every four years players desperately clamber to be selected in the England twenty-three. Roy Hodgson, affectionately referred to as Roy the Redeemer two years ago, has chosen his and they are shown below.

The England 23

Roy Hodgson’s England XXIII

I am very happy with Roy’s choices. There isn’t one player missing from the squad that I would have selected. The only big name player omitted is Ashley Cole and rightly so. He hasn’t been playing regularly and he isn’t first choice for England as Leighton Baines is better so why waste a reserve place on him when you can bring Luke Shaw (a man who had a great season) to gain vital tournament experience? Cole promptly retired from international football upon finding out the news. It’s the sort of positive decision that’s been missing in previous squad selections. Players were getting in because of their name rather than their form. Remember the Sven days?

This selection seems different. It has an exciting edge. Either end of the pitch is pretty much sorted; Hart in goal and Rooney up top. The midfield is bursting with attacking options to make an impact at their first tournament; the likes of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling have the chance to make worldwide names of themselves. As do Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert. There’s also a steady core with Gerrard and Henderson, linking up brilliantly at Liverpool, ahead of solid defenders Leighton Baines and Gary Cahill. There are a few positions up for grabs as ever and one or two positions that look a little bare. The right back and centre back options are limited but with a bit of luck the first choice XI won’t be forced into changing much, if at all. If we can get a settled side we can build momentum and form good link ups.

With the squad in place, the next part of any preparation is the friendly matches. The opposition were carefully chosen. Peru at Wembley to provide the South American flavour akin to two of the Group D opponents first. Then Honduras and Ecuador in Miami to rehearse the sweltering conditions of Manaus in the Brazilian jungle for the tournament opener. I went along to the Peru match to say farewell and good luck before Roy’s boys depart for their adventures. It’s always great going to the national stadium and even better when your side win.

England versus Peru

England versus Peru

The Peru game wasn’t a great spectacle, it was extremely comfortable right from the kick off. That’s never a bad thing of course. A win is a win and helps build the confidence and the all important momentum. The starting XI was pretty close to what I’d opt for at the World Cup; with Hart in goal, Johnson, Cahill, Jagielka and Baines at the back, Lallana, Gerrard and Henderson in the middle and Rooney with Sturridge up front. The only difference would be Sterling starting for me instead of Welbeck.

ENGLAND Wembley Stadium 30

Daniel Sturridge has had an incredible year and will surely relish going up against his strike partner Suarez in the Uruguay game. He scored an absolute belter against Peru, curling it into the top corner from outside the area. The defence also got on the scoresheet with Jagielka and Cahill netting. They didn’t really have much else to do. The impressive crowd of over 80,000 found it so relaxed that paper aeroplanes were launched from all sides of the ground. Huge cheers went up every time one made it onto the pitch but the real highlight of the night was when one hit a Peruvian defender on the head. Quite a feat.

Job done at Wembley. All the best to the boys heading to Brazil

Job done at Wembley. All the best to the boys heading to Brazil

Having tackled the first obstacle well the players flew to Miami for the warm weather training. This being the England squad, they were met with torrential rain on the first day although this did soon clear and the match against Ecuador was played in the conditions intended. It was largely forgettable like most friendlies but certainly had its moments for a second string England. Ecuador took the lead with their first attack early on, then Rooney got the scrappiest of equalisers after good work on the wing from Oxlade-Chamberlain. He really impressed me in the Euros two years ago and hopefully can provide a decent impact sub option this time round. Not looking too likely though as he went off injured and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Not good.

England v Ecuador

Another lowlight was Raheem Sterling being harshly sent off following a mistimed challenge and subsequent square up with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Hopefully not a sign of things to come from the officials this summer as it was a rash decision. Other disappointments were Ben Foster’s poor kicking and positioning, a makeshift, nervous defence and James Milner just isn’t up to scratch. He’s not bad but he’s not great either; mediocre. Ecuador also scored a cracking equaliser through Arroyo, past some half-arsed attempts to close down and block from Wilshere and Milner.

On the plus side we saw a lovely strike from Rickie Lambert akin to Carlos Alberto’s classic 44 years previous. The midfield going forward looked decent, particularly the aforementioned ‘Ox’. Two games, two different sides. Roy reverted back to the same starting line up in the thunderstorm-delayed final warm up against Honduras, which indicated maybe what his preferred first choice is.

England v Honduras

Previous pre-tournament games have taught us that they don’t really give any indication as to how the team is going to fare. Remember before the World Cup in Germany eight years ago? Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick in a famous 6-0 win over Jamaica which convinced us we were gonna go all the way this time with that poorly-labelled ‘golden generation’. The reality was a quarter final exit. Or what about the 3-1 against Mexico four years ago? Again another quarter final exit. Before Italia ’90 there was one win, one draw and one defeat. Again not really a sign of things to come as we were one successful penalty kick away from the final that time. So the results don’t seem to give much away. Italy would hope so! They only managed a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg a few days ago. The formations and line ups don’t always follow suit either. Before the 2002 Cup Sven changed from his familiar 4-4-2 to a more attacking 4-3-3 against Cameroon in order to incorporate world beaters Darius Vassell and Emile Heskey, and looked what happened to them.

The conclusion really is to use these friendlies for what they are; as practices. The main thing is for players to not get injured. Marco Reus of Germany and Frank Ribery of France have both had to pull out just before this World Cup due to injury. These games are more to give a chance for players to get used to each other’s company, locked together for weeks on end with little else to do or see. As cricket has shown with Kevin Pietersen’s exit from the England squad, it is vital to keep a happy dressing room. The manager, ably assisted by GNev, has made his decisions. It’s up to the players to take it to Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The Italians knocked us out two years ago in a dire match. A draw seems likely again this time, maybe England to sneak it. Uruguay are great up front with Cavani and Suarez but the latter has been injured and may not be 100% fit. Costa Rica are the team many people think will be the easiest of the three. If we stay unbeaten we should progress to the knockout stage. The last 16 team is looking to be perhaps Colombia or Greece, which wouldn’t be bad at all. I’m getting ahead of myself but it is all very promising. The World Cup is only a few days away and I just want it all to live up to the hype. Prove that it really is the greatest show on turf.

WATCH the team from BT Sport’s ‘Life’s a Pitch’ discuss England’s chances a week before the tournament starts

READ my starting XI World Cup iconic moments

CLICK for the full World Cup match & TV schedule