Small Screen Seagulls; 2012/13 Season part 2

Small Screen Seagulls LogoThe opening months of the 2012/2013 season put the Albion within touching distance of a Play Off place, improving upon the progress made the previous year. The second half of the campaign would be dominated by meetings with arch rivals Crystal Palace en route to the bitter end. Relive some of the highest highs and lowest lows against them here, as well as crucial points picked up against East Midlands clubs going well in the Championship. After Christmas, the grit and determination turned possible defeats into tangible points as the Seagulls soared up the table to end in fourth spot. Gus Poyet didn’t quite have it all his own way, with off the field matters proving his ultimate downfall. This year showed the fine margins between great success and failure.

Here are some of the features and coverage during the Albion’s highest placed finish for thirty years. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC nationally and locally. This is part two, the first part is HERE.


Crystal Palace 3-0 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (1st December 2012); Championship

CRYA Titles CRYA Bhasin

After a terrific start to the campaign, hitting highs of first place at the end of September, Brighton were winless in October sliding down towards mid-table. Wins against Peterborough, Huddersfield and Bristol City last time out in midweek, along with draws with Leeds, Wolves and Bolton saw Albion surge back strongly. Ahead of this trip to rivals Crystal Palace, Brighton sat in seventh spot.

Crystal Palace were flying under Ian Holloway, going top of the table in mid-November. A loss and a draw in their last two games ahead of this one moved them down to second, but a win would see them at the summit again. Despite the good start, they lost manager Dougie Freedman to Bolton near the end of October, with Holloway replacing him soon after. In the lead up to this derby game, Holloway admitted he was ‘baffled’ by the rivalry but would soon learn.

The BBC’s Football League Show was on the road for a rare outside broadcast this edition, owing to a reduced schedule. The Second Round of the FA Cup consumed most League One and Two fixtures, so host Manish Bhasin presented solo from The Den for Millwall’s match with Charlton. As well as that London derby, our match at Selhurst was one of the featured commentary games. BBC Radio Solent man Laurence Herdman was behind the mic.

CRYA Palace CRYA Brighton

The standout man from the Crystal Palace starting line-up was, of course, the former Brighton striker Glenn Murray leading their line after suspension for five bookings. Murray had fifteen goals to his name already this season and joined the club in May 2011. He scored in Palace’s win at The Amex last season. Elsewhere, defenders Joel Ward and Peter Ramage were close season signings. As was Congolese winger Yannick Bolasie who joined from Bristol City in August.

Brighton welcomed back their top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith after being rested in midweek. He netted nine goals thus far and partnered Ashley Barnes up front. Will Hoskins and Stephen Dobbie dropped to the bench, with a total of two goals so far between them – both for Dobbie. Midfielders Dean Hammond, on a season-long loan from Southampton, and Andrea Orlandi, signed from Swansea in the summer, were both on the scoresheet last time out.

CRYA Comm CRYA Red Card

Brighton got off to the worst possible start when defender Lewis Dunk was shown a straight red card within eight minutes for a foul on Palace’s Yannick Bolasie. A pass from Bruno to his centre back was miscontrolled by Dunk twenty-five yards from goal. Bolasie nipped in to push the ball forward. Dunk stretched out a leg in a desperate bid to win the ball back, he was nowhere near. Instead, he just brought the attacker down.

The referee had no hesitation in brandishing the red and the Seagulls were on the back foot for the rest of the contest. The resulting free kick by Owen Garvan hit the top of the crossbar with Brighton still rocked. Later on, Bolasie himself had a go. His fierce shot from the corner of the penalty area was palmed away by Tomasz Kuszczak in the Albion goal.

CRYA Murray 1st CRYA Murray 2nd

With seven minutes remaining in the first half, the home side took the lead via a Bolasie corner. From the other side of the pitch, the kick was swung in to the near post where that man, Glenn Murray, leapt highest to head on beyond Kuszczak and into the net. Of course it had to be Murray. The man Gus Poyet stubbornly allowed to leave on a free transfer at the end of his contract in 2011 was coming back to haunt the Albion. He refused to celebrate his goal, but the Selhurst Park support made sure we all knew what had happened. He made it look so simple.

Brighton almost got straight back into it when Liam Bridcutt crossed in for Ashley Barnes. The striker couldn’t quite manage to connect with a diving header, but Julian Speroni in the home goal still had to be alert to push away the bouncing cross. Then, after the interval, Craig Mackail-Smith was freed by Barnes to run behind the defence. He dribbled into the penalty box, slightly left of goal, with commentator Laurence Herdman describing the run as “like a rampaging Viking”. As Speroni narrowed the angle by advancing off his line, Mackail-Smith shot beyond him with his left foot, but it crashed against the post and wide.

A let off for the Eagles, who would soon punish the Seagulls. It took just nine second half minutes for them to double their lead. They worked a counter attack very well from one end of the pitch to the other, Bolasie again causing problems. He was brought down on the edge of the box but, in doing so, flicked the ball forward for an unmarked Glenn Murray. As the forward tried to round the ‘keeper, he was felled for a penalty. The ex-Albion hero stepped up to take the spot kick that he won and fired it into the bottom left hand corner of the goal sending Kuszczak the other way. Two-nil down and with ten men, this was turning out to be a terrible afternoon for the Albion.

CRYA Garvan penalty CRYA Full Time

Things got even worse with twenty minutes to go, when a second penalty was awarded. What is it about this fixture and penalties?! Yannick Bolasie crossed to the far post for Glenn Murray, who went to ground upon leaping with Gordon Greer. The referee awarded the spot kick for a shove by the Albion skipper, which looked to be a silly move. Murray did not take the kick this time and did not complete his hat-trick, instead it was left for Owen Garvan who just about managed to sneak it past the goalie’s outstretched arms. Three-nil.

The result showed Brighton still had a bit of work to do if they were going to be up there with Crystal Palace at the end of the season. Everything went the way of the hosts on this December Saturday, not helped by a rash sending off in the first ten.

Afterwards, Gus Poyet pointed to the Mackail-Smith chance just after half time as the turning point, citing chances needed to be taken. “That is the moment when you need to take advantage, because you will have one or two and you need to take it.” He went on to say he had “no complaints” with the result and “we need to accept that”. Onwards and upwards. Indeed, the Albion’s form after the turn of the year dramatically improved, with no greater day than our next feature.


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Brighton 3-0 Crystal Palace Highlights

Late Kick Off, BBC One South East (17th March 2013); Championship

CRYH Titles CRYH Studio

Regional Football League magazine show Late Kick Off returned to the BBC in January 2013 for another run, this time moving from the Monday night slot to a Sunday night. In our region, London and the South East, there was a change of host as Dan Walker was replaced by Jacqui Oatley. Walker’s Christian beliefs meant he did not work on Sundays, so he left the programme after one series.

Oatley’s broadcasting career began in hospital radio before moving around various local BBC radio stations and then up to 5 Live as a commentator and reporter. She covered the 2005 UEFA Women’s Euros in England for the station but became infamous in April 2007 when she became the first female to ever commentate on a men’s game for Match of the Day, when Fulham hosted Blackburn. This earned her huge press attention, largely negative. Since then she has returned to the programme on occasions to voice other Premier League games as well as covering the Olympics and Euros in 2008 for television. She is heard more frequently on radio covering both the men’s and women’s games and has branched out into television presenting to add to the commentating and reporting.

Oatley was joined in the studio for this Sunday 17th March edition of the show by former Crystal Palace striker Mark Bright and Gillingham manager Martin Allen. The main feature of the programme centred around a clash between two of the regions clubs; Brighton and Crystal Palace. The match was moved to a Sunday noon kick off on the advice of the authorities and this gave Late Kick Off the perfect opportunity to cover the match highlights. Commentary was provided by Jamie Reid, better known as a presenter and commentator for BBC Radio in London.

CRYH Ulloa goal

Brighton’s home form in 2013 had been terrific, taking thirteen points from a possible fifteen at The Amex since the turn of the year. Crystal Palace though were flying and a win here would have sent them second in the table.

After the obligatory video to explain why these two clubs are rivals, it was down to the action as the Seagulls aimed to avenge the three-nil reverse back in December. The first chance fell Palace’s way, albeit through the unlikely source of Albion defender Matthew Upson. His low header from a free kick almost went into his own goal, but for a good reflex save from Tomasz Kuszczak. Left back Jonathan Parr was later presented with a good opportunity for the visitors, his shot much simpler to handle for the Pole in our goal.

They would go on to rue the missed opportunity when Brighton took the lead through January signing Leonardo Ulloa. Will Buckley ran down to the byline and stood up a cross to the back post. Ulloa jumped highest to head. He slightly mistimed things, with the ball going off his head down on to his knee to deceive goalkeeper Julian Speroni into the net. It was a scrappy finish but it did not matter, Brighton had the lead two minutes before the break.

CRYH Lopez goal

In stoppage time at the end of the first period, things got even better for the Albion. Will Buckley again did well on the right wing, cutting inside before being scythed down by Kagisho Dikgacoi twenty yards from goal. Two of the Spanish contingent stood over the free kick but it was David Lopez, who joined from Athletic Bilbao in August, that won the vote ahead of Andrea Orlandi to strike. The rest is history, as Lopez wrote his name into Albion folklore in sensational style.

His right foot strike found its way into the top right-hand corner of the goal, clipping the underside of the crossbar to bounce down over the line in the process. Nicknamed ‘Spanish Dave’ by the Seagulls support, he instantly became a fans favourite with one clean, beautiful strike of a ball. It came at the perfect time, with two goals in three minutes sending the home side into the lead at the interval.

CRYH Ulloa 2nd

The elation continued for Brighton five minutes into the second half when a third goal was scored, this time in front of the noise of the North Stand. A very well worked goal began with holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt chipping the ball from thirty yards out towards the six-yard box. Andrea Orlandi was the target. He saw the better opportunity was waiting centrally in Leonardo Ulloa. Orlandi’s cushioned header was pin-perfect for the Argentinian striker to volley home past Speroni and seal three precious points for the Seagulls.

More chances fell the way of Ulloa and Buckley but neither could increase the deficit further and it ended Brighton three, Crystal Palace nil. What a joyous Sunday afternoon it was.

CRYH Full Time CRYH Table

The win was Albion’s first over Palace at home for twenty-five years, since a three-one scoreline on Boxing Day 1988 at the Goldstone. The result meant the Eagles stayed in fourth, missing the chance to move up to the automatic promotion places occupied by Cardiff and Hull.

Brighton went level on points with Leicester in the final Play Off position with eight matches to play. Crucially, they still had the Foxes to play at The Amex, Forest away next as well as winnable games against the likes of struggling Blackpool and Wolves. Supporters were starting to believe.

CRYH Poyet CRYH Bright

After the match, Palace boss Ian Holloway assessed things fairly and honestly, saying “They took their opportunities and we didn’t take ours.” Gus Poyet explained how the game went to plan, praising his side’s organisation. “We knew the danger, we knew what would happen if we went ahead, we knew that Ian would throw as many players as possible forward”, he said before adding of his players, “I think they were fantastic today.”

In the studio, Crystal Palace fan Mark Bright was visibly disappointed with his side’s effort, or lack of, during the match he attended. He cited Jonathan Parr’s miss as the key moment; “If they score first, they don’t lose. If they go behind, they don’t win.” He added it was the worst he’d seen Palace play since their first away game of the season – a four-one defeat at Bristol City. He concluded by diplomatically pointing out that it all made it more exciting for the region’s teams. Indeed, three of the four Play Off teams could come from this Late Kick Off area.


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Nottingham Forest 2-2 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (31st March 2013); Championship

FOR Titles FOR Comm

The game of the day in the Championship saw fifth placed Nottingham Forest host seventh placed Brighton at the City Ground. The Seagulls bounced back in superb style before the international break with that wonderful win over Palace, ending a three-match winless streak. Forest’s form of late was sensational under Billy Davies, winning their last six League games and moving into the top six after spending much of the season in mid-table. They had lost at home just once since early December. The reverse at The Amex ended goalless.

This afternoon’s fixture was the BBC’s featured match on The Football League Show. Manish Bhasin was back in the usual studio, joined by pundit Leroy Rosenior for this edition. Commentary was provided by Alistair Mann. The former ITV Granada man’s been a regular voice on the BBC since joining the Match of the Day roster in 2006 and covered the 2008 and 2012 Olympic football tournaments.

FOR Nottingham Forest FOR Brighton

If Billy Davies’ side won here, they would equal a club record of seven straight wins stretching back 120 years. Davies only took over the reins at the beginning of February, his second spell in charge having spent two-and-a-half seasons with Forest from January 2009. He was the club’s fourth manager since the end of last season, with Steve Cotterill, Sean O’Driscoll and Alex McLeish all departing. The Forest squad included Darius Henderson up front, who had a ten-match loan spell on the South Coast a decade earlier. Gonzalo Jara Reyes on the bench had two loan periods with Brighton last season from West Brom, he joined Forest temporarily this January.

A big change for Brighton saw first choice goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak absent through injury, allowing Casper Ankergren to make his first start in fifteen months. Midfielder Liam Bridcutt was another key man out injured. He picked up a knock during his international debut in the week for Gordon Strachan’s Scotland against Serbia. Andrew Crofts took his place in the middle alongside Spanish contingent David Lopez and Andrea Orlandi. Wingers Kazenga LuaLua and Will Buckley supported £2 million signing Leonardo Ulloa, who had already netted eight goals since arriving at the end of January. He was certainly needed, with Craig Mackail-Smith sidelined for a long time through injury and Ashley Barnes suspended after picking up two red cards in the space of five weeks.

FOR LuaLua yellow FOR Ulloa goal

This would be remembered for a ‘mixed’ afternoon for stand-in goalkeeper Casper Ankergren. He rescued Brighton early on with a good double save, the second particularly vital as he dived in the way of Darius Henderson’s close-range effort.

Tempers frayed in the first half, with Forest captain Danny Collins going in referee James Linington’s book for a late foul on Ulloa. A petulant shove to the ground from Kazenga LuaLua on Hutchinson earned the winger a yellow later, his silliness to react risked a red and was brought off after the break. An uneventful first half ended goalless.

Twelve minutes into the second half, Brighton took the lead through Leonardo Ulloa. A corner was whipped into the danger area from the left. Buckley’s tame shot was blocked into the path of Ulloa, who was waiting between the penalty spot and six-yard line. With four Forest bodies in his way, he struck powerfully, low and hard. It found its way into the bottom left hand corner of the net via a slight nick on the way through.

FOR McGugan goal FOR Buckley goal

Brighton were in confident mood and almost added to the lead from a Matthew Upson header. He diverted a Hammond shot goalwards, with Karl Darlow needing to parry away. But it was the home side who scored with just eight minutes remaining, getting the equaliser from a tight angle through Lewis McGugan. There didn’t appear to be much danger as McGugan took the ball forward on the right side of the penalty area. But he unleashed a shot which looped over Ankergren at his near post off Hammond’s boot and nestled into the other corner of the goal. One-one.

Undeterred, Brighton went up the other end to regain the lead just three minutes later. Calderon clipped it up for Ulloa, one of four Albion men in the Forest penalty area. He held the ball up well before sliding it wide to an unmarked Will Buckley. You cannot leave that man on his own with the goal in front of him. Buckley’s first-time strike found the same corner of the net that Ulloa hit earlier and Brighton were back in front.

FOR Ankergren error FOR Rosenior

But, as four minutes of added time were announced over the PA system, a terrible error by Brighton’s Danish goalkeeper threw the lead away and handed Forest a precious point. Henri Lansbury hit a shot from outside the box which was straight down Ankergren’s throat. It should have been a comfortable save. Having done so well earlier on to deny the home side, this was just a momentary lapse in concentration. He allowed the ball to slip through his grasp and under his legs to trickle into the back of the net, Massimo Taibi style. “Lansbury can’t believe his luck! Ankergren, who’s been outstanding all afternoon, makes an horrendous blunder”, cried commentator Alistair Mann.

It finished two apiece. Before kick-off, Albion probably would have taken that result, given Forest’s form to keep them at bay. Being just minutes away from a famous victory, the draw felt a bit like a disappointing result. That sentiment was shared by Gus Poyet when he said in his post-match interview; “Unfortunately today we had a massive error at the back and we gave two points away.” Their manager Billy Davies said afterwards, “If we didn’t get anything, it would’ve been a complete travesty.”

In the studio, pundit Leroy Rosenior talked through Casper Ankergren’s day; the good and the bad. “He made some terrific saves and he looked very sharp. At times he kept Brighton in the game.” Blaming concentration for the error, Rosenior believed it wouldn’t affect the goalie any more than this moment; “He’ll come back because he had a decent game today. When ‘keepers make mistakes, it’s obviously highlighted.” Still, a point is no bad result at that place and the Seagulls were very much in the promotion hunt.


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Brighton 1-1 Leicester Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (6th April 2013); Championship

LEI Titles LEI Comm

With Brighton’s form picking up again after a dodgy spell at the beginning of March, Leicester’s had completely tailed off as they dropped from second place in February down to seventh today. Four defeats in their last five for Nigel Pearson’s men scaled up to just one win in eleven as they crumbled at the worst possible time.

The Albion displaced them in the final Play Off spot ahead of this crunch meeting at The Amex, with only six League games to go. A goalless draw at home to Charlton stuttered the upwards charge but Brighton’s destiny was still in their own hands to secure a top six finish for the first time since 1991 at this level.

The Football League Show had Brighton versus Leicester as the opening match of this early April broadcast. Manish Bhasin was in the IMG studio in London alongside Leroy Rosenior. Former ITV Anglia, MUTV and Eurosport commentator, Dan O’Hagan provided the words to meet the pictures. He made his Match of the Day debut at the age of just twenty-six on Boxing Day 2004 at Norwich, reuniting with his Anglia TV roots.

LEI Brighton LEI Leicester

Brighton’s main man was Leonardo Ulloa, making an instant impact since his transfer from Almeria in January. His goals were keeping the side in the hunt for the top six in the absence of Barnes and Mackail-Smith. The likes of Will Buckley and Andrea Orlandi provided the creative outlet, with Liam Bridcutt bridging the gap between defence and attack. Former England defender Matthew Upson came in from Stoke on loan until the end of the season back in January, providing that much needed top-level experience as the Seagulls aimed for the Premier League. Spanish magician Vicente was among the substitutes, he netted twice in four days back in February including the televised winner against Hull.

Andy King’s goal decided the reverse fixture back in October, as the Foxes won one-nil to top of the League. He started up front with David Nugent, who scored on his one and only England international cap in 2007. Midfielder Matthew James graduated through Manchester United’s youth academy, whilst former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel’s son Kasper tended to the Leicester goal. Centre back Michael Keane was on loan from Old Trafford. On the bench, Harry Kane was loaned out by Tottenham whilst former Albion striker Chris Wood joined from West Brom in January.

LEI Off the line LEI Schlupp chance

It was the unlikely figure of Inigo Calderon who almost broke the deadlock early on, when he had an effort cleared off the Leicester goal line. Calderon made the smart run in the box to head Orlandi’s corner, but Danny Drinkwater was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line. Drinkwater had to improvise well, flicking out a right leg to keep it goalless.

Brighton were enjoying themselves in the first half, building up a momentum but not quite nabbing that breakthrough goal. David Lopez floated the ball across the box for the head of Leo Ulloa but the Argentine didn’t quite time his header right as it looped over the bar.

For all the possession and good spells Albion had, a warning sign was fired by Andy King when he crashed an effort against the bar after good work by Jeffrey Schlupp. And the two very nearly combined later on but the other way around, with King setting Schlupp free. Kuszczak raced out of his goal and, indeed, penalty area. As Kuszczak starfish jumped to try and block the potential shot with his body, the Leicester man slid his effort low. The goalie just about got a foot on it as he landed to prevent the inevitable goal and it remained without score at the break.

LEI James goal LEI LuaLua

Both King and Schlupp continued to look dangerous in the second period, forcing the Brighton stopper into action to prevent their efforts on goal. At the other end, some nice work from early sub LuaLua on the left provided Ulloa with a guilt edged chance just a few yards out. He wasn’t quite firing, as the touch was stabbed wide across the goal past the far post.

The goal soon did arrive, and it was the away team who scored it through Matthew James. A long throw-in from the near touchline alluded Wayne Bridge and just bounced off Matt Upson behind him. The loose ball was seized upon by James, who danced past Upson and the despairing lunge of Dean Hammond to create a sight of goal. His finish low into the bottom right hand corner of the net was too quick for Kuszczak as Leicester took the lead. Leicester went for the kill, bringing on sub strikers Chris Wood and Harry Kane, with the latter forcing Kuszczak into a decent save before Wood’s rebound was blocked.

As time began to run out, Brighton pulled a hugely important equaliser out of the bag from Kazenga LuaLua. As fellow substitute Vicente appealed for a penalty for a soft push, waved away by referee Jonathan Moss, LuaLua picked up the ball on the near side of the box. He took a couple of touches to dribble more centrally before blasting the ball for goal. It bounced just to the left of Kasper Schmeichel on the way through, with the ‘keeper visibly frustrated at not quite being able to reach. “It’s a big-time leveller for Brighton scored by Kazenga LuaLua”, came the call from commentator Dan O’Hagan.

LEI Oatway LEI Studio

An important point was secured with late drama on the South Coast. This result changed the Play Off picture, swinging back in Brighton’s favour and keeping the Foxes at bay. First team coach Charlie Oatway told afterwards of the take away from this draw and how scorelines hadn’t quite gone the way of the Albion recently; “We’ve had a couple of results away from home that we felt we should’ve got more points and this one could’ve been a lot more of a happier point than what we got.” Whilst Leicester’s Nigel Pearson spoke of how stalemates at this stage weren’t enough, they needed victories.

Leroy Rosenior in the studio thought a draw was about the right result. “If Brighton had come away with nothing, that would’ve been a travesty. They certainly deserved something. But it was a very nervy, disjointed game.” He was asked to evaluate the Albion’s season to this point, with them firmly in the Play Off shake up. Rosenior had nothing but praise; “You’ve got to remember where they’ve come from, how they’ve developed the club in terms of the stadium, everything that’s gone into that club. I think they’re above where they would’ve expected to be in their plan.”

Most Seagulls supporters would agree with that sentiment. Brighton went on to finish fourth in the Championship table and qualify for the Play Offs. Despite a well-earned goalless draw at Selhurst Park as we faced Crystal Palace once more, in the Second Leg it all fell apart and Gus Poyet’s tenure came to a bitter end shortly afterwards. However, with The Amex packed and rocking and a very talented squad assembled, the foundations had been laid for a bright future.


This is the second part looking back at Season 2012/2013. The first part is available HERE.

Small Screen Seagulls; 2012/13 Season part 1

Small Screen Seagulls LogoBrighton settled into life back in the second tier of English football, and at their new home in Falmer, with a very impressive campaign last time out. The Seagulls surprised most with their form as they narrowly missed out on a top six finish. But this season those Play Off places were a legitimate and realistic target. With Gus Poyet still at the helm and a squad full of talent, the mood was quietly confident on the South Coast. One of the improvements needed was to convert draws into wins. The Amex Stadium had been expanded to include an upper tier in the East Stand and further developments in the offing. It was a year that promised so much yet would all end in bitter tears.

Here are some of the features and coverage during the Albion’s highest placed finish for thirty years. Screenshots are provided from various clips of coverage by BBC Sport and Sky Sports. This is part one, the second part is HERE.


Craig Mackail-Smith phone interview

The Fantasy Football Club, Sky Sports 1 (28th September 2012)

FFC Titles FFC Hosts

For this season, Sky Sports introduced a new weekly programme on Friday evenings to replace football quiz Take It Like A Fan, called The Fantasy Football Club. This was based on the popular fantasy football game where competitors picked a ‘dream team’ comprised of players from a variety of top flight clubs. This studio show was again presented by John Fendley, AKA Fenners. Joining him was former Arsenal and England creative midfielder Paul Merson, part of the Soccer Saturday panel working with Jeff Stelling. The set was decorated out like a changing room and each week a guest would join them and a Live studio audience to talk through the game, their career and culminated by picking their ‘One2Eleven’; a starting line-up made of the best eleven they ever played with. As with most Sky magazine shows, there were also games, challenges and features to fill the hour, as well as a Fantasy Football Club scarf up for grabs for the viewer who picked the best fantasy team of the week.

Part of the show’s title sequence was filmed at The Amex, with them using the tunnel area before running out onto the turf. On Friday 28th September, Brighton’s Craig Mackail-Smith was interviewed on the phone to chat about his season so far. And, along with loan signing Wayne Bridge, he would be going head-to-head with Fenners and Merse in a round of the fantasy game. This was a regular feature, with the pair taking on Norwich’s John Ruddy and Anthony Pilkington the previous week. The Norwich duo scored more points which led Merson into the forfeit of wearing a full replica kit for the start of this week’s programme. They were also joined in the studio by West Ham midfielder Matt Taylor.

FFC Head to Head FFC Mackail-Smith on the phone

The phone interview kicked off with Mackail-Smith joking about how confident he was of beating the hosts after their recent form. Talk turned to a potential forfeit, with the striker offering Fenners the chance to come down to the Albion and train with the squad; “Maybe at the end stick you in goal and have a bit of shooting practice against you!”

Attention then turned to real life football, with Fenners reminding Mackail-Smith of the “dream start” this season; top of the Championship with Craig scoring six in seven so far. “I’m catching my target from last season quite quickly”, he said. Merson asked what had been different this year, to which Mackail-Smith responded; “Last season we kept the ball a lot and we didn’t really penetrate teams so well. I think this season with Bridgey and Bruno left and right wing back, we’re getting higher up the pitch and probing, getting more shots away.”

FFC Overhead kick FFC Oatway

They talked through his spectacular overhead goal against Burnley from the start of the month, where Albion went on to win three-one at Turf Moor. It was also pointed out during the celebration that Ashley Barnes got a bit carried away with the knee slide, careering straight into the goalscorer, giving him a bit of a dead leg in the process. They also discussed his rather unusual athletic prowess growing up; the pole vault. In typically modest fashion, he said; “I went and had a go and I wasn’t too bad at it and did it for three or four years”. On that note, the interview was concluded with results about the fantasy challenge to come the following week.

So, on Friday 5th October, Fenners was back to see which pairing came out on top. Points were awarded for players in the fantasy team that scored goals, provided assists and defensively for clean sheets, whilst yellow and red cards were punished as were goals conceded. The Brighton boys scored a total of eighty-two points between them, a whopping thirteen more than the hosts, meaning it was the Seagulls who defeated Sky in this challenge. First team coach Charlie Oatway, never one to stray away from the limelight, send the show a video message from the team bus implying they didn’t know what they were talking about and needed to “watch a proper game, like us.” He was right, Brighton’s season had begun so very well.

FFC Results


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Brighton 0-1 Middlesbrough Report

The Football League Show, BBC One (20th October 2012); Championship

MID Titles MID Clem

BBC highlights programme The Football League Show returned for its fourth season, and the first of a new broadcast contract, for the 2012/2013 campaign. There were a couple of changes; where previously the BBC held ten Live Championship fixtures and three League Cup games, it was now just highlights for the next three seasons. For this late October edition, regular host Manish Bhasin was joined in the studio by pundit Leroy Rosenior. Reporter Mark Clemmit was dispatched to Brighton to get an insight into how things had progressed during this second Amex season, ahead of a visit from fellow promotion candidates Middlesbrough.

Last season the format was tweaked slightly to drop the, admittedly unnecessary, viewer emails and texts read out by the likes of Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and Jacqui Oatley. This year saw further amendments. The theme tune was changed to now use an actual piece of music! Out went the drum beating, crowd noise style opening replaced by Snow Patrol’s In the End. The title sequence featured football freestylers doing tricks and flicks in front of a brick wall. The wall was decorated with various Football League bits and pieces which then flew from the wall to become highlight clips from years gone by before bringing us up to date. It was an improvement on the previous sequence, for sure.

MID Poyet MID Building site

Mark Clemmit’s report began with a quick reminder of Brighton’s stadium saga; saying it “shaped a generation of supporters who were as familiar with land wrangles as football formations.” With development work done over the summer to increase capacity of The Amex from around 22,000 up to more than 27,000 now, with a further increase by the end of the campaign to sit at an incredible 30,750. Such was the demand for tickets so early on, the folk of Sussex couldn’t get enough! With things never better off the field, Clem explained that the next challenge was to re-write the history books on it. “Since their formation in 1901, Brighton have been in the top flight for only four seasons.”

He spoke with manager Gus Poyet near the dugouts in the empty bowl, the calm before the matchday storm. They talked through the fantastic facilities and the change in such a short space of time to when they last were together on this site, two years ago during the construction stage. Poyet told, “Last year it was spectacular, great football days here. And then I found out we were putting an extra five, six-thousand seats and I’m thinking ‘More pressure for the manager!'” But he said he loved the pressure, as long as there were no upper limits to where it could take us; “If we don’t hit the roof, if there is no roof and we can always go and improve, then I will stay here for long.” That ‘roof’ word would come back round a couple more times during the campaign when Poyet spoke of frustrations.

MID Barber MID Fatboy Slim

Changes were made to the Albion at boardroom level during the summer of 2012 as Paul Barber was appointed Chief Executive. The businessman moved from North American side Vancouver Whitecaps, where he oversaw two stadium moves in a short space of time. Prior to that he was Tottenham’s Executive Director, running the club’s day to day operations for five years from the mid-noughties. Perhaps his highest profile, and most successful, job came at the English FA where he worked for over a decade as their Commercial Director. This was during highly controversial times; appointing England’s first foreign manager, rebuilding Wembley and moving international matches and Cup Finals all around the UK. He arrived in Sussex with an impressive CV. Speaking with Clemmit in the hospitality lounge, Barber confirmed planning permission had been granted for a state-of-the-art training ground in Lancing; the next step on the way to attracting and attaining the best young players.

One of the biggest criticisms when a club moves stadium or makes major changes it that the ‘soul’ of the club is lost. Superstar DJ, Seagulls supporter and Falmer campaigner Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim, confirmed that was definitely not the case here. “It’s just got very bigger, very quickly. When we first got here, you had to pinch yourself, because we gone up the Division and were still playing well.”

MID Comm MID Goal

Next came the brief highlights from the match. Defeat on the opening day at Hull for the Albion followed an embarrassing Capital One Cup First Round exit to lower Division Swindon Live on Sky. Things were back on track by the end of August, with a five-one thumping of Barnsley which started a run of five consecutive victories. September ended with defeat at home to Birmingham to set off a three-match streak without a win, ahead of this clash with Middlesbrough. The Albion sat in fifth place at the start of the day, whilst Tony Mowbray’s ‘Boro were down in eleventh after a stop-start, inconsistent beginning.

Commentary was provided by Paul Walker. As well as commentating now, Walker was previously more familiar in a reporting role voicing the round-ups. He came from BBC Radio Sheffield where he hosted phone-in shows, Live football on Saturdays and covered other sports such as ice hockey and boxing.

The first piece of action shown was the goal, which arrived on twenty-one minutes through Marvin Emnes. The Dutchman was provided the ball on the right by Grant Leadbitter. He travelled ten yards forward to the corner of the penalty area, where he struck for goal. It took a huge deflection off Gordon Greer on the way through to wrong-foot summer signing Tomasz Kuszczak in goal, send the ball the other way and sneak in.

MID Full Time MID Studio

Brighton created several opportunities for the likes of Ashley Barnes, Will Buckley and Craig Mackail-Smith but they weren’t taken. ‘Boro goalie Jason Steele kept out a header from Barnes but Mackail-Smith really should have buried the rebound. Instead, he blazed over from five yards. Leadbitter tried one from range for the visitors which didn’t trouble Kuszczak too much but at the final whistle, it was the team in red who took all three points to leapfrog Brighton in the table.

Speaking with Clemmit after the game, Gus Poyet told of a couple of things his side needed to get used to if they were to go one further and make the Play Offs this time. As well as the increased crowds at home, Poyet said; “Second one is how the opposition is going to play here, how difficult they’re gonna make it for us.” Taking chances was crucial. Back in the studio in London, host Manish Bhasin surmised the team were being targeted for the success of late, whilst pundit Leroy Rosenior said “They’re being shown the respect they deserve. I saw them early on this season and was very impressed.” That result made it three home games in a row without a win for the Seagulls, as players adapted to the extra noise and pressure from the expectant crowd.


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Blackpool 1-1 Brighton Highlights

The Football League Show, BBC One (27th October 2012); Championship

BLA Titles BLA Comm

The Albion were the featured match on The Football League Show the following Saturday, as the Seaside trip to Blackpool came calling. Host Manish Bhasin described it in the intro as; “Two ambitious clubs with realistic prospects of automatic promotion, but they share the same problem – lack of consistency.” Ian Holloway’s Blackpool finished fifth last year in their first campaign since Premier League relegation but ultimately lost in the Play Off Final to West Ham. After starting this season with four wins out of six, form dried up with five defeats from their last eight. The Albion followed up last Saturday’s Middlesbrough loss with a midweek defeat at Leicester to slide to ninth in the table and just a point above today’s hosts.

Steven Wyeth was the match commentator. Like Paul Walker, he was previously a long-standing local radio employee having worked at BBC Manchester since 2000 specialising in covering Manchester United. He went freelance in September to commentate across a wider variety including The Football League Show and European matches.

BLA Blackpool BLA Brighton

Blackpool welcome back French winger Elliott Grandin back for his first start in ten months, having joined Nice in January. He returned earlier this season but was left out altogether for the past five games and trained with the development squad for a perceived bad attitude. Striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher scored the club’s first ever Premier League goal on the opening day of the 2010/11 season. Attacking player Tom Ince started his career at Anfield but failed to break into the first team before moving to the Seaside in 2011. He’s the son of former England midfielder Paul Ince. There was a heavy Scottish presence in the side, with goalkeeper Matt Gilks, defenders Stephen Crainey and Kirk Broadfoot, making his home debut, and midfielder Matt Phillips all starters.

Gus Poyet made one change from the midweek defeat as Gary Dicker dropped to the bench for Dean Hammond to come in. Hammond returned to the Albion where he began his career after four years away, joining on a season-long loan from Southampton. Another loanee for the year was former England and Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge, dropping down from Manchester City. Andrew Crofts also made a comeback to Sussex, re-joining from Norwich after two seasons. Right-back Bruno transferred in from Valencia on a free. Craig Mackail-Smith top scored with six thus far, whilst Ashley Barnes netted three. On the bench sat striker Stephen Dobbie, who had two loan spells with Blackpool in the last two years. He joined on transfer deadline day from Swansea.

BLA Barnes goal BLA Grandin goal

The early chances fell Blackpool’s way, with Kuszczak denying Ince and Taylor-Fletcher narrowly heading wide from a corner. Centre-half Alex Baptiste was in the thick of Brighton’s half too, trying a shot from long range which went wide of the target. The Albion offered very little in the first period and went in goalless at the break.

That changed eleven minutes into the second half when Ashley Barnes nabbed the scrappiest of goals. A long ball from Adam El-Abd on the halfway line was flicked into the area by Mackail-Smith to Crofts. In battle with Broadfoot, the ball bounced around the penalty box. Gilks came out of goal to claim but instead tangled with the pair and the ball broke loose. Standing next to them was Barnes who was able to instinctively stab home into the empty net from six yards.

The opportunities were still falling the home side’s way, with Ince guilty of missing a golden chance with the goal gaping five yards out. With father Paul watching on in the stands, Tom Ince couldn’t adjust his body to turn the ball home and instead scooped it over the bar. Brighton were soaking up a lot of pressure again. But with less than twenty minutes to go, the equaliser finally came. Elliott Grandin provided the home relief, diving in for a header six yards out to connect with Matt Phillips’ perfect delivery.

BLA Full Time BLA Claridge

Kuszczak had to fly around his goal to keep Grandin from scoring again a minute later as Blackpool didn’t want to rest on their laurels. Another great chance had to be denied when substitute Nathan Delfouneso failed to connect properly central to the goal. The stripes too had their moments, including an attempt at an overhead kick from Mackail-Smith. The bounce unfortunately took the ball up and over the crossbar. When the full-time whistle arrived, it was a relief that the Seagulls clung on to the draw, finishing one a piece.

Gus Poyet summed it up well by saying; “The effort was there, desire was there. Quality was missing today.” Ian Holloway was frustrated by the missed chances and the “calamitous” goal they conceded but was pleased with the domination overall. First choice FLS pundit Steve Claridge analysed the Albion approach in the studio; “They just slightly tinkered and changed the emphasis on the way that they play. I look at the midfield; Buckley who can play a little bit, then you’ve got Hammond, you’ve got Crofts, you’ve got Bridcutt who are all players who are renowned for their defensive qualities. So there’s a little bit of an emphasis change there… bit of resilience.” He pointed out that just nine goals conceded shows an improvement in that area.

Both this game and the Middlesbrough one highlighted the difficulties faced in the Championship. Despite outplaying the opposition, Brighton came away empty handed last week. This week, they got an undeserved point on their travels. If the Play Offs were to be reached this season, there needed to be an upturn in consistency and winning whilst on top.


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Craig Mackail-Smith and Charlie Oatway on the sofas

Soccer AM, Sky Sports 2 (3rd November 2012)

SAM Titles SAM Hosts

Sky Sports Saturday morning football and entertainment show Soccer AM was by now in its eighteenth season, fantastic for a low budget satellite programme. From the 2008/09 season it was hosted by Max Rushden with Helen Chamberlain. The latter had been there since the first season back in 1995, working first with Russ Williams, Jane Hoffen and Gary Stevens before Tim Lovejoy took over and shaped what the show was to be recognised for. When Lovejoy left with most of the established crew including Fenners, Andy Goldstein came in for a season before ex-BBC London and radio presenter Rushden got the gig and had to move the show into a new dawn.

The show received an overhaul, with new graphics, titles and studio set as well as features and games. The duration was cut from three hours to two in 2010 in a bid to improve quality, now airing from 10am until midday. Entertainment always remained at the heart of it, with certain features standing the test of time, such as Taxi, Showboat, Third Eyes, Goals of the Week and the famous kicking the ball through a hole in the carpark, whilst others fell by the wayside as society moved away from the laddish nineties.

SAM Green Room SAM Walk On

On Saturday 3rd November, Brighton striker Craig Mackail-Smith and first team coach Charlie Oatway journeyed to Osterley in West London to Sky HQ to adorn the famous orange sofas. The last time Brighton had anyone from the club on this programme, Oatway was still a player and joined Nathan Jones and Leon Knight back in December 2004! Things had changed a lot since then. Now, with Albion playing the night before Live on Sky against Leeds, a rare Saturday off gave them the chance to join Max, Helen and the gang in the studio. Although, it was supposed to be Gus Poyet joining Oatway. He decided against it late on so sent Mackail-Smith instead. And completing the line-up were Suggs and Woody from the band Madness. The fans of Blackburn Rovers provided the noise in the Luther Blissett Stand, supported by a Live studio audience.

SAM Guests.JPG

Charlie Oatway’s cheeky nature was a good fit for a show like Soccer AM, where he could fit in with the mickey taking and show off. The previous night’s Leeds game was talked through, ending in a two-two draw with Mackail-Smith bagging both Brighton goals. Rushden said the Albion were “miles better” than their opponents, with Oatway adding “If it was a boxing match it would’ve been stopped”. Unfortunately Mackail-Smith saw his penalty saved to deny him the hat-trick and all three points. Having already scored from the spot earlier in the game, he was asked if it was mentally tough to take two penalties in a game. “Sometimes you change your mind, I thought I hit it really well.” Oatway joking; “Didn’t hit it well enough!”

SAM Leeds game SAM Studio

Having started the season so brightly in the first two months, form dropped off in October and the Albion pair were asked if that was a concern. Oatway batted it away saying performances were good; “I don’t think you really have to worry yourself, just keep going with what you’re doing and how the boys are playing.” Mackail-Smith’s form over the past eighteen months earned him a Scotland call up by manager Craig Levein, which Oatway also joked about. It backfired when Mackail-Smith enquired about Oatway’s international cap tally but, as always, the Londoner had the last laugh; “I’d rather none than play for Scotland!”

On a more serious and worthy note, they discussed Oatway’s testimonial year with the club. Having joined in 1999 from Brentford, he played for the Seagulls until 2007 before professional retirement. Then when Poyet was put in charge in late 2009, he rejoined the club on the coaching staff, with the combination of roles taking him to the tenth year with Brighton. With half of the earnings going towards Albion in the Community, the club’s charitable arm, he outlined what was in store; “We’ve got a game next year, we’ve got a golf day, we’ve got other events…”

SAM Bugs SAM Oatways Ordeals

He also explained the concept of ‘Oatway’s Ordeals’, in which he completed a series of challenges decided by a vote, all designed to play to his weaknesses and fears. He said he had fears of flying and being stranded in water, amongst others, so obviously they were going to be two of his challenges upcoming. Another was eating insects and, through the magic of television, Helen Chamberlain unveiled an ‘I’m A Celebrity’ style plate of bugs for him to try Live on the show. Mackail-Smith dived in to eat one first, before Oatway and Rushden joined. Suffice to say they didn’t recommend them to us. In return, Oatway’s testimonial events would be plugged on the Soccer AM website.

SAM Hairy Strikers SAM Sausage smashing

The main interview had concluded by the boys would stick around for the rest of the show. One of the Live studio sketches for the season was ‘The Hairy Strikers’, parodying its name from the Hairy Bikers television programme. The skit involved crew members Dave Morgan and Rocket Long dressed as hairy strikers Andy Carroll of West Ham and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, as well as two of the sofa guests taking part in a game or challenge. For this edition falling during National Sausage Week, Craig Mackail-Smith and Suggs had to smash as many raw sausages with a mallet as they could in thirty seconds. And why not, all part of the fun.

SAM Carpark Game.JPG

The traditional culmination of the show took place outside in the Soccer AM car park with the end game featuring the Fans of the Week. The aim was always for them to kick a ball through a hole and score as many as possible within the allotted time. This season saw a variation on the format with five holes to choose from, as they had to progress in turn from the biggest – League Two – up through the Divisions to the smallest hole – the Champions League. After the fans had their go, it was the turn of the guests. Unfortunately for Suggs, Charlie Oatway was around and threw a football at his when he was about to strike. The Blackburn fans reached League One whilst none of the guests could get their effort on target. And once everyone was back inside, it was time to end another fun-packed programme as our Seagulls were once again in the TV spotlight.


This is the first part looking back at Season 2012/2013. The second part is available HERE.

Small Screen Seagulls; 2011/12 Season part 2

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

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


Brighton 2-0 Portsmouth Highlights

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

POR Titles POR Comm

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

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

POR Brighton POR Portsmouth

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

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

POR Vicente sub POR Vicente 1st goal

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

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

POR Poyet money gesture POR Vicente 2nd goal

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

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

POR Full Time POR Studio


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

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

FLW Titles FLW Everton

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

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

FLW Vokes FLW Mackail-Smith

FLW Golf challenge FLW Laptop

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

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

FLW Vokes shot FLW Vokes distance

FLW Mackail-Smith shot FLW Mackail-Smith distance

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

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

FLW Leaderboard FLW Top ten

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

FLW Studio FLW Remaining Fixtures

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

FLW CMS vs Pro FLW Trophy presentation

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

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


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Interview with Vicente and Inigo Calderon

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

LKO2 Titles LKO2 Walker

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

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

LKO2 Studio LKO2 Bright

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

LKO2 Vicente and Calderon.JPG

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

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

LKO2 Vicente quote LKO2 Vicente shirt

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


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West Ham 6-0 Brighton Highlights

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

WHAM Titles WHAM Fisher

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

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

WHAM West Ham WHAM Brighton

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

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

WHAM Vaz Te opener WHAM Nolan three nil

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

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

WHAM Vaz Te spectacular WHAM Own goal

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

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

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

WHAM Full Time WHAM Studio

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

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


5

Report on The Amex bucking the trend of dwindling attendances

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

LKO3 Titles LKO3 Gupta

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

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

LKO3 Dix LKO3 Ambler

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

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

LKO3 Fans LKO3 Hebberd

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

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


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