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.

Small Screen Seagulls; Sunderland (H) 19/02/2005

Small Screen Seagulls 2000sAfter achieving promotion to the second tier via a fantastic Play Off Final victory in May 2004, beating Bristol City by one goal to nil in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the Seagulls had a tough task on their hands for the 2004/2005 season. The primary objective, after four seasons of bouncing around the Divisions, was simply to remain in the newly-rebranded Championship and avoid the drop. A tricky start saw the Albion lose three of the first four before back to back wins over Preston and Live on television at Leicester got them off the mark. Two away victories in September was followed by a winless October, including a two-nil scoreline at promotion-chasing Sunderland. Just ten more points were gained by the turn of the year but an unbeaten January gave Brighton real hope of staying in the Division. ITV’s highlights programme The Championship popped down to Withdean when Sunderland were in town towards the end of February in a crucial match at both ends of the table.


Brighton 2-1 Sunderland, Championship; 3pm, Sat 19th Feb ’05

SUN Titles

A new addition to the televised football schedules from the start of the 2004/2005 season arrived on ITV1 nationally as The Championship debuted on Sunday 8th August 2004. The Football League rebranded its three Divisions from this campaign onwards; out went Division One, Two and Three to be replaced by the Championship, League One and League Two. Alongside this was a contract for a new national highlights programme focussing on the second tier Championship Division, which would go out every Sunday morning for forty-five minutes from 10.30am on ITV1. This replaced ITV’s previous efforts stretching back the previous ten years; late night round-up show Football League Extra. Also on the move were the regular Sunday afternoon regional magazine programmes, now going out on Thursday evenings around 11pm. In Brighton’s region, The Meridian Match would now be called Meridian Soccer Night. Andy Steggall remained at the helm for that. Back on the networked show, Matt Smith was the regular Championship host, with reports and analysis from the likes of ITV’s regular football correspondents Andy Townsend, Ally McCoist, Robbie Earle, Gabriel Clarke and Dave Beckett. The format of the show was simple; one featured match from where the programme was hosted from, two featured reports from other Football League games and voiceovers rounding up the rest of the action from the Championship, As the programme went on, in later seasons it increased to an hour’s duration and included Leagues One and Two action. Here I take a look back at the one and only time the programme was presented from Brighton and Hove Albion’s (temporary) home Withdean Stadium as Mick McCarthy’s Sunderland provided the opposition.


The Championship, ITV1, 10.30am (Sunday 20th February 2005)

SUN Ident SUN Sponsor SUN ITV Sport Ident

The Sunday 20th February edition of ITV’s highlights programme The Championship was broadcast from Withdean Stadium. The programme was in its first season and rotated from a different stadium around the country each week, from which the featured match was being played. It was sponsored by Pukka Pies, a staple of the Football League stadium food selection. The ITV Sport ident followed. Having held exclusive highlight rights for the top flight for the preceding three seasons, ITV’s main action now came from the lower Leagues as well as sharing Live midweek European Champions League action with Sky Sports.

SUN Lynam SUN Intro 1 SUN Intro 2 SUN Intro 3

Before the title sequence, legendary sports presenter Des Lynam made a cameo appearance to have a joking dig at today’s presenter; “Good morning, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me on ITV Sport. The trouble is they’re letting almost anybody present the programmes these days.” The camera then panned across to Andy Townsend standing alongside Lynam to introduce the programme; “Welcome to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club and all the weekend action from the Championship.” Des retired from Live sport in the summer of 2004 following the European Championships Final in Portugal and was enjoying supporting his team Brighton from the stands for this match. The titles played after, with the familiar sounds of U2’s Beautiful Day playing over the action. This music was retained as ITV’s theme tune following its use on The Premiership between 2001 and its ending in 2004. The Championship intro featured people playing football in the park and in the workplace interspersed with match footage from previous games. It also set the scene for what was to come over the next forty-five minutes. First up was the main match; Brighton versus Sunderland. Then pundit Ally McCoist went to visit his old boss Bobby Williamson, the manager of Plymouth, ahead of his next match. And finally reporter Gabriel Clarke was in Bradford to chat to their striker Dean Windass.

SUN Townsend

With regular Matt Smith away for this episode, Andy Townsend was the host for a rare frontman appearance. Smith presented the vast majority of editions from the beginning, having previously been the face of the Football League during the 2001/2002 season when the ITV Sport Channel held exclusive Live rights. When that folded he moved over to the main channel to chair The Premiership on Monday weekly discussion and highlights show from the studio. Andy Townsend joined ITV after retiring from football in 2000 and quickly became a regular pundit. He worked across Champions League, UEFA Cup, Football League and FA Cup coverage and was given his own analysis slot when The Premiership launched. However his ‘Tactics Truck’, which invited a player into the outside broadcast vehicle after the match to discuss the tactics of their performance, was ridiculed and quickly dropped after a few weeks. When Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV in April 2004 it was Townsend who filled the role of number one co-commentator on the channel with immediate effect, covering that year’s Champions League and European Championship Final alongside Clive Tyldesley. His work on The Championship has featured reporting on a secondary match and occasional hosting.

SUN Hospitality SUN Hammer throw SUN Trackside SUN Tunnel

Townsend opened the programme with a quick look around the below-par surroundings Brighton have to put up with at Withdean whilst the fight for a new stadium site in Falmer dragged on. He visited the portacabins which doubled up as VIP hospitality areas, where he was pelted with bread rolls upon his arrival. He then moved to the goal area, behind which was a hammer throwing area netting as part of the athletics equipment for the stadium. He described it as “certainly the most unusual ground that a Championship side will visit this season.” The public inquiry into Falmer was briefly mentioned whilst walking trackside in front of the North Stand. The initial plan had been for the stadium to be opened for the beginning of the 2005/2006 campaign but that was thwarted by Lewes District Council, later in 2005 MP John Prescott would reveal his decision to approve or reject the stadium proposals. Townsend concluded his visit around Withdean in the tunnel area with the players ready to make their way onto the pitch. He highlighted the Albion’s status in the League, just four places above the drop zone.

SUN Jon ChampionSUN Commentary Box SUN Comm

Our host then handed over to our commentator, “up in the crow’s nest”, who was Jon Champion. He joined ITV in the summer of 2001 to work on Premiership highlights and the launch of the ITV Sport Channel. He covered Football League and Champions League games Live and went to the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 as third choice commentator behind Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury. He also got to cover the 2002 Worthington Cup Final Live for the channel. Prior to joining ITV, Champion spent five years on BBC Match of the Day where he covered Premiership and FA Cup highlights as well as going to the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He memorably got to call Michael Owen’s wonder goal for England against Argentina in ’98 for the highlights, with his commentary living long in the memory; “It’s still Michael Owen.. he’s scored a wonderful goal!” Champion has a class and wit about him which make for the ideal candidate to be a lead commentator for a broadcaster. Outside of football he also covered cricket and rugby. We saw him in-vision at the start of this highlights package, with the temporary scaffolding commentary box at the back of the open-air South Stand proving an unusual sight for clubs at this level.

SUN Brighton

The team news for the Albion saw Dan Harding come in at left-back in place of Kerry Mayo. Striker Leon Knight began in a wide-left position in midfield as manager Mark McGhee opted for Adam Virgo, continuing his makeshift striker role this year, and Mark McCammon up top. McCammon joined from Millwall in December initially on loan before making the signing permanent at the beginning of February. He netted his first Brighton goals shortly after, scoring both in the three-two defeat at home to Derby. Swedish goalkeeper Rami Shaaban came in for his debut having been brought in on a short-term deal until the end of the season the previous night. This was to cover the places of the injured Ben Roberts and Michel Kuipers. Among his previous clubs included Arsenal where he was plagued with injuries and only started a handful of times. Defender Danny Cullip and midfielder Darren Currie, who only joined in August, had both been sold since our last big television appearance a few months earlier. Chairman Dick Knight could barely afford to turn down decent money for players with budgetary constraints tight as the fight for Falmer continued. Guy Butters was on target when we last picked up a point, three games ago at Leeds. He partnered Adam Hinshelwood at the heart of the defence, with the academy graduate now a regular fixture in the starting eleven. Midfielder Alexis Nicolas joined from Chelsea and made his move a permanent one in October.

SUN Sunderland

The Black Cats were playing in the Championship for the second successive season, having lost out to Crystal Palace on penalties in the Play Off Semi Finals last time round. Mick McCarthy named an unchanged side from the win over Watford a week ago. Hat-trick hero Marcus Stewart was the club’s top scorer this year and last. Strike partner Stephen Elliott was a summer transfer from Manchester City. Also coming in for this campaign were midfielders Carl Robinson and Dean Whitehead, the latter the only one of the line-up not to have played in the Premiership so far. Winger Julio Arca was named in the PFA Team of the Season last year. At the back, the experience of Republic of Ireland international Gary Breen was crucial as captain. His central defensive partner Steven Caldwell, vice-captain, joined from fierce rivals Newcastle having been released. Left back George McCartney was a key part of Sunderland’s excellent defence and started his professional career at the club.


SUN Yellow Card SUN 1st Goal SUN Carpenter celebration SUN Scoreline 1

Story of the Match: This was the first time Sunderland had travelled down to Sussex to face the Seagulls in a League fixture since the 1991/92 campaign, with that match ending in a two-all draw in a year when Brighton were relegated. The referee in charge today was Dermot Gallagher. The first incident on the highlights showed a late, aggressive shoulder challenge from Adam Virgo on Steven Caldwell rewarded with a yellow card from referee Gallagher. It wasn’t long until Brighton had the ball in the back of the net after some decent intentions shown by Mark McCammon. Right-back Paul Reid passed the ball up the line towards the forward where the ball wouldn’t quite settle at his feet. He regained possession of the loose ball to lay it off to Reid on the far touchline. His deflected cross was headed away only as far the edge of the penalty area. Richard Carpenter was waiting unmarked and with a lot of space and time. He struck a fierce first-time volley which took a nick off Stephen Wright on the way in. Brighton took a surprise lead much to the crowd’s, and Des Lynam’s, delight twenty-six minutes in!

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The dream start soon turned to a nightmare when, after just half an hour’s play, Virgo received his second yellow card and his marching orders. Sunderland were playing it about in midfield when a pass went astray from Jeff Whitley in the centre circle. Virgo lunged in and took the loose ball but the follow through with both feet caught Whitley on the ankle. The referee was no more than ten yards away and believed he got a clear view of the challenge, which was pretty reckless and deserving of a yellow card. Unfortunately for the Albion man it meant his second and his match was over more than an hour early. Clearly receiving gestures and words from the Sunderland supporters in the North East corner of Withdean, Virgo held up his hands to show the scoreline as still being one-nil as he headed for the tunnel. “And now Brighton are up against it,” claimed commentator Champion.

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However the man disadvantage didn’t seem to do Brighton any harm in the immediate aftermath as the Seagulls doubled their lead with two minutes to go in the first half. Leon Knight won a corner after a tussle with Stephen Wright. Carpenter’s kick was swung in from the left high up to the centre of the goal six yards out. Mark McCammon rose highest to gently glance his header into goalkeeper’s bottom-left hand post for two-nil. He out-jumped his marker Gary Breen who could only turn round and watch as the ball sailed home. Mark McGhee greeted it with a cheeky grin to camera. It was the perfect response to losing a player as Brighton went into the half-time break with a two-goal advantage. All ten wins so far this season had been by a single goal margin so a tough second half was surely to be expected.

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Into the second period, Sunderland made a couple of changes in a bid to get back into this match. Sean Thornton and Chris Brown came on to provide a bit more of a goal threat, with Whitehead and Whitley making way. And Thornton almost provided the early breakthrough after a neat passing move that began at the back. A lay off in the box by Arca found the on running Thornton but his shot, under pressure from a combination of Carpenter and Hinshelwood, was blazed over. The Irish midfielder was involved again soon after, with a well-struck half-volley on the corner of the penalty area stinging the palms of Shaaban, who could merely punch the ball up and back out. The chances were slowly stacking up.

SUN Diving SUN Arca

The away team’s final throw of the dice saw another striker added to the mix as Michael Bridges replaced Stephen Elliott. He had a shot which bounced just wide from outside the area. With time running out and just a quarter of an hour left to play, Sunderland resorted to slightly desperate measures when Thornton appeared to dive under no challenge from a Brighton player. The referee was right on the spot and correctly did not award a penalty but also brandished a card for the cheating. But the ten men couldn’t hold out for the clean sheet as Julio Arca got one back for Sunderland with ten minutes to play. The tricky winger picked the ball up just outside the centre circle before embarking on an unchallenged run through the middle of the pitch. By the time any Brighton defenders were in sight he got his shot off. It was struck left-footed and low into the corner of the net, grazing the post upon entry, as Shaaban couldn’t quite stretch far enough.

SUN Hit the post SUN No penalty

Sunderland kept pushing for that equaliser in the closing stages. George McCartney’s run on the left wing delivered a great ball in but there wasn’t quite a red and white striped player close enough. Dan Harding booted the ball clear. It was gathered by Thornton around thirty yards out who went for goal. His effort bounced once on the way through as it struck the face of the post and away, thankfully from an Albion perspective. Shaaban would not have got there if it was on target and it was a let off for Brighton, who seemed to have very little in this second period. The final moments saw scrambles to get the ball out of the box and away from danger as the Seagulls dug deep. Further appeals for a penalty were dismissed after the ball hit Alexis Nicolas on the arm from point blank range. “Brighton hearts in Brighton mouths for a moment”, was how Jon Champion called it. And then the final whistle blew, to the relief and sheer joy of the 6,647 spectators inside Withdean Stadium. “Brighton’s best win of the season and maybe, given the circumstances, Sunderland’s worst defeat. One of the most endearing features of the Championship is that any one team can beat any other, whatever their relative status on a given day.” Perfectly summed up by our commentator.

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After the match, Champion spoke with players and managers to get their immediate reaction to the result. Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy gave Brighton credit for the work rate and desire, calling his own team’s performance not great. Champion joked with Carpenter that the first was “obviously a Stephen Wright own goal?” Carpenter responded with “I don’t know about that! It took a bit of a deflection on the way through but I think I’ll definitely claim that one.” He thought the second yellow card for Virgo baffled him and was a bit harsh. Debutant goalkeeper Rami Shaaban was also interviewed, with reference being made to his last Arsenal appearance before he broke his leg and was out of action long term. He played in front of 67,000 against Manchester United that day compared to 6,000 here but was keen to point out it’s all still football; “For me this was a little bit more nervous even because before the United game I knew where I was standing and now I’ve been away for a while and playing in some reserve games but this is a totally different game.”

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Mark McGhee didn’t hold back when it came to the ongoing stadium saga. “It’s embarrassing for us, it’s embarrassing for our supporters, having away supporters coming and sitting in this dump of a place. We do the best we can but it is a dump in terms of modern football and the quicker they give us permission for a stadium the better for everyone in Brighton.” And with that the programme took its first advert break having devoted the entire first third to the main match. Andy Townsend continued to review the rest of the Championship action linking in and out of round-ups from various spots around Withdean. Peter Drury voiced brief highlights of Preston versus Ipswich from the Friday and Wolves against Gillingham from Saturday, whilst Ned Boulting and Dave Beckett voiced the goals from the rest of the Division. As well as the reports from Plymouth and Bradford mentioned at the top of the show, the final five minutes were devoted to rounding up the best of the rest in Leagues One and Two, as a couple of selected goal highlights were broadcast to close the show before the off-air time of 11.15am.

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The win for Brighton saw them climb three places to fifteenth and, crucially, ten points clear of the relegation zone. Sunderland weren’t able to close the gap on the top two automatic places and now faced a fight to overtake one or both of Ipswich and Wigan to gain that all important spot back in the big time of the Premiership. The season would go down to the wire.

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