Brighton & Hove Albion’s head of media, Paul Camillin, on putting Des Lynam straight…running out of bacon butties…and being hit for six…
MONDAY FEBRUARY 13
For most of the supporters the focus is on this Sunday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Liverpool, but for Gus Poyet and the Brighton & Hove Albion players the Tuesday night visit of Millwall to the Amex is the top priority (at least until 9.45pm on Tuesday). It’s an early start to the week at the Amex and after writing Gus’s notes with him for Tuesday’s match programme, it’s off to the regular pre-match press conference with the manager and two players. If there are any players who have a link with the opponents, they’re usually put up for the various media to speak to, but with no obvious candidates, it’s skipper Gordon Greer and Adam El-Abd. No surprises for either of them, although after the Suarez-Evra saga the previous Saturday, Gus gets one question as to whether he is expecting any handshake problems at the Amex the following evening. Gus – who has stood up for his compatriot throughout the whole affair – tells the press he is pleased that Luis Suarez and Liverpool have apologised after the events at Old Trafford, and that he thinks that should draw a line under the whole saga.
Monday evening sees the airing of a piece on Albion midfielder Gary Dicker, currently recovering from a broken leg suffered in the autumn. BBC London’s Late Kick Off team has been filming the Irishman throughout his recovery and rehabilitation, and Chris Slegg’s piece is an intriguing insight into the lot of a player suffering from a long-term injury. These regional programmes across the BBC network are an excellent part of the Beeb’s coverage of the Football League, along with the Football League Show, the local radio coverage (expertly done at Brighton by Johnny Cantor and his team at BBC Sussex) and the brilliant BBC Sport Online coverage; hopefully the BBC cuts will not see this affected next season, as the TV and internet deal really has raised the profile of the Football League.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 14
Millwall are the visitors to the Amex, and before kick-off both clubs sign up to the government’s anti-homophobia charter – which has also been signed by all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs. At Brighton & Hove, because the city has a large gay population, fans are often subjected to a raft of homophobic abuse on an all-too-regular basis; ranging from the boring and banal “does your boyfriend know your here” or “we can see you holding hands” right through to much more graphic and vile abuse. Many of those visiting fans, who sing along in the name of banter, don’t realise that homophobic abuse is against the law. Sussex Police together with the club are committed to tackling this problem and over the course of the season have have ejected or arrested a number of ringleaders – but I’m sorry to say the anti-homophobia movement remains a long way behind football’s anti-racism work, which has proved such a success since its launch over 20 years ago. Homophobic abuse is too easily passed off as harmless banter, and to be successful it needs buy in from the authorities and all 92 clubs, to educate players and fans that homophobic abuse is not only against the law, but totally unacceptable in modern society. On the pitch, a late equaliser by Kazenga LuaLua secures a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw, as the team maintains their unbeaten start to 2012. Sadly, after their club signed up to the charter pre-match, a section of Millwall’s following let down the South London club: seven men are arrested, for various offences including homophobic chanting.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 15
There’s an early morning call and request from the local BBC station Radio Sussex for someone from the club to go onto the breakfast show to speak about the club signing the anti-homophobia charter – and we are happy to oblige. Later in the day, Des Lynam, one of Albion’s most famous fans checks in with us to check out some facts for a piece he is writing ahead of the FA Cup match. The former Match of the Day front man had interviewed Gus for his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph the previous Thursday, and is on the phone to touch base after the weekend win at Leeds United and the game with Millwall.
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 16
Another early start, and a busy day as all the daily papers converge on the weekly press call at the Amex to look ahead to the weekend’s game against Liverpool at Anfield – and because the game is on the Sunday, there are also the Sunday papers to cater for, with a separate player and media briefing session with Gus to give them some fresh stories for the day of the match. We have so many media men in the building that we run out of bacon butties, and have to send an urgent request to the kitchens for more… well we can’t have the press going hungry! Liverpudlian duo Craig Noone and Alan Navarro speak to the daily papers. Nooney’s story was told several times ahead of the Carling Cup meeting between the two clubs: during his days spent working as a roofer while playing part-time at Southport, the Seagulls winger worked on the roof of Steven Gerrard’s house. However, Nav’s tale is a new one: he grew up six doors from Anfield, where mum Maria still lives, and he played in the age group beneath Gerrard – however less than a year ago his career was in the balance following a second serious knee injury. He speaks glowingly of Liverpool and the positive affect of Gerard Houllier during his time at the club; he also tells the media how he expects the Suarez saga to blow over and denies the twitter rumours (largely put about by the rest of the Albion squad) that the Anfield cat escaped from his family’s house!
Along with Gus, Albion’s wing wizard Will Buckley is put forward for the Sundays to speak to, and the club’s match-winner against Newcastle in the fourth round also chats to Kelly Cates – the daughter of Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish – for ESPN’s pre-match coverage. Kelly catches the eye of the Amex ground staff, who are more than happy to oblige when asked to set up a goal net as a back drop for the interview – but only on the proviso that she will pose for a picture after she’s interviewed Will.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 17
[Well earned] day off.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 18
Albion’s media department, along with other members of the Albion board and admin staff, set off for Merseyside early on Saturday morning. We are fortunate to have tickets for the Everton v Blackpool game at Goodison Park, via our Everton-supporting managing director Ken Brown. So after checking into the hotel it’s nice just to sit back, relax and simply watch a game of football for a change; but in all honesty it’s all over after six minutes as Everton storm into a 2-0 lead. After the game we head into the city for dinner, and get a first glimpse of the regenerated centre, with a fabulous array of shops, restaurants and bars.
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 19
Whatever the result this afternoon, Albion know they are in the draw for the sixth round for the first time since 1986 and only the fourth time in the club’s history – due to the quarter-final draw taking place 20 minutes before kick-off. That makes for a busy pre-match period. Typically, we get the teams an hour before kick-off, and after getting the team news out via the website, twitter and other channels, it’s time to do the same with the news of the FA Cup draw. Albion (or Liverpool) are ball number one – and for the third round in a row, the Seagulls are the first tie drawn! The prize for winning the fifth-round tie is a home draw against Stoke City.
There is just enough time to take our seats before the evocative sight and sound of the Kop joining in with You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s the ultimate pre-match anthem, unmatched in football, and it’s great to see the 6000 Albion fans getting involved by holding their scarves aloft in the away end.
The first 43 minutes aside, in which Kazenga LuaLua cancels out Martin Skrtel’s opener with a thunderous effort in front of the Kop – the game is one to forget for the Seagulls, who suffer at the hands of a rampant Liverpool, with Suarez virtually unplayable, and even upstaging the excellent Steven Gerrard. The Red machine is in full effect, but the score does flatter Liverpool a touch; even Kenny Dalglish admits so much in his post-match press conference, and his comments are more affording to the Seagulls than his post-match remarks earlier in the season. However Gus does not pull any punches, and in typical honest fashion he tells the media his team were average at best and says the mistakes made by his side were comical.
Nonetheless, after such a disappointing and heavy defeat it is easy to forget just what Gus and his team have achieved in such a short space of time: going from League One relegation battlers to an established Championship side, with a chance making the end-of-season play-offs… that quest continues at Hull City on Wednesday night.