Peter Brackley – Our Tribute

We were, of course, truly saddened to hear of the death supreme commentator, raconteur, writer, broadcaster, mimic – and fellow Albion fan – Peter Brackley.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 11.11.14

Whether entertaining millions on Football Italia, or just 100 at a sports charity event, Peter Brackley was at his best behind the mic

Peter, a product of the excellent BBC local radio system in the early 1970s, was the consummate professional, always ready, always asking intelligent questions, even when – as a 21 year-old – he got to interview an irascible Brian Clough while the latter was at the Albion. This encounter is hilariously re-told in Spencer Vignes’ new book ‘Bloody Southerners’ – out this week.

He worked for ITV on several major tournaments – World Cups, European Championships – delivering his unique, measured commentary, excited at the right times, outraged at others, before telling a pearl of a one-liner in order to get himself and everyone else back to normality, lest he be too hysterical (as others could be) behind the mic.

He was best known to millions as the voice of Football Italia on Channel 4 in the 1990s. Such was his witty, yet genuinely enthusiastic style, his became THE voice of Sunday afternoons. His partnerships with a host of sidekicks – Ray Wilkins, Luther Blissett, Trevor Francis and more besides – were of genuine bonhomie, gentle tickling (referring on air to an injured Wilkins as ‘Hopalong’), and total professionalism.

He was also the voice of the bedroom. The spotty teenage adolescent bedroom, that is, for anyone who played Pro Evolution Soccer without ever acknowledging sunrise and sunset. Such was his presence (maybe even his omnipresence), he told us he had to tell people he wasn’t really there inside their machine. He’d, like, you know, pre-recorded everything…

His mimicry was also much in demand. Hilarious on the after-dinner circuit, Brian Clough, Jimmy Greaves, Brian Butler and many more were all in his sights, as well as having an arsenal of bespoke characters to fill out yet another story.

But it was when he ‘came home’ that we really got to appreciate him.

He worked as a voiceover man for the Albion, covering highlights of the Under 23s and the Women’s teams, hosted many events for club and supporters alike, and performed an unbroadcastable routine at an Albion End of Season Awards dinner.

Peter was also generous with his time behind the mic for charity causes too. The Julie Hodder Cup is an annual wheelchair tournament, organised by our good friend Steve Darby on behalf of Albion In The Community and Chailey Heritage, and takes place at Brighton University Sports Hall every summer (seriously, Steve – an indoor tournament in July…?). Teams from the Albion, AITC, American Express and others raise funds for the privilege of spending the day playing wheelchair and powerchair football, usually to get clattered by Daniel Cullip.

A great time is had by all, made so much better with Peter’s ongoing monologue to the action unfolding in front of him – occasionally assisted by Darby, Cullip Guy Butters or Gary O’Reilly.

Each time, no-one was spared Peter’s leg-pulling. When I turned up part way through the day, Peter would clock me coming in… “Ah, glad to see Alan Wares from The Albion Roar has made it. It’s an excellent radio show, and one for all Albion fans if you want to listen. Alan tells me he has great plans and lofty ambitions for the show. Indeed, he’s in negotiations for a second listener to come in on loan…”.

And so it was in August 2014 that we finally managed to snare Peter into coming on to The Albion Roar. He’d always said ’yes’ to doing it, but it was getting our diaries aligned which was the issue. Needless to say Peter was superb. The stories flowed, the impressions were brought out of the cupboard once more, and one-liners were fired off staccato-fashion.

Peter was genuinely enthusiastic about the show, and offered Ady and I some invaluable advice and experience. His support was much appreciated. He’d always wanted to come back, especially with his double-act partner, Radio 4’s Garry Richardson, but we never could get it together. In the end, the Roar’s loss.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 17.38.18.png

Brackers (left) with Garry Richardson at a St George’s Day charity function at the American Express Community Stadium

And for those who were there, who can forget his excellent ‘Goldstone Days’ show at the Theatre Royal in February 2017…? Peter had managed to corral an impressive roster of Albion alumni on to the stage that night, and his monologues as a spiky, miserable caretaker were outstanding, causing the legendary Peter Ward to corpse on stage – even after they had rehearsed their routine so diligently. A brilliant night, all written and conceived by Peter.

I last saw Brackers in the West Stand Upper earlier this season. I was a little surprised, especially as he had walked up the stairs. He was in good spirits and it was great to see him. We had a brief chat, and we wished each other well as we went in to watch the game.

Every time I met him, Peter made me feel like a friend, and these – more so than Football Italia or Saint & Greavsie – are the memories I will take with me. Thank you, Peter for your kindness, your insights, your generosity of spirit and, of course, the many, many laughs. May your kind soul rest in peace.

And so, for your delectation, and as our heartfelt tribute, here is Peter Brackley, entertaining us live on The Albion Roar from four years ago.

Enjoy.

Advertisements

Brighton & Hove Albion: Taylor-made without Clough

‘The past explains the present’ was the first thing my teacher, John Simkin at Dorothy Stringer, said as I had my first History lesson – a subject I’d chosen to take for ‘O’ Level. (The fact it was my favourite subject at school, and the only exam I failed is another story best left to, er… history.)

In 1973, Brighton & Hove Albion had previously been a bit of a nothing football club, located in one of football’s backwaters (maybe it still is today) in a somewhat rundown Conservative town (definitely not that today) with nothing to shout about on a national level, save for a Charity Shield victory 63 years earlier. So when Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, who had only six months previously led Derby County to the European Cup semi-final, headed south (occasionally) to manage the club (occasionally), it was a real planet-thumper of a story, football-wise.

Bloody Southerners cover

In ‘Bloody Southerners – Clough And Taylor’s Brighton & Hove Odyssey’, Spencer Vignes, author of several shining sports books in his back catalogue already, tells the story of not just Clough and Taylor, but of a dynamic and ambitious young chairman Mike Bamber (a mere three years older than Tony Bloom was when they respectively took over the reins). These three are cast front and centre in an incredible story of ambition, ambivalence, arrogance and, in certain cases, altruism spread over 33 months, but with the legacy lasting years, if not decades.

Vignes’ book is expertly researched, and wonderfully paced, superbly highlighting fact over many previously held fantasies; fantasies now shown up merely as urban myths. But it’s in him teasing and tickling the memories from the supporting cast of players, writers and broadcasters from the period which is where the story truly comes to life. Vignes interviewed over a dozen people who were there – and cross-checked with a half-dozen more – people whose memories were largely unfaded by the passing of four and a half decades. Well, as a third division player, you’re not going to forget those two cruising into town, are you?

The story of Clough and Taylor at Brighton has only ever previously been told in patches, and even then, only from the point of view of the main protagonists, who can – and often do – write their own take on events. This book, filling in the gaps which hitherto had not really been written about, is worth every page.

Fact is, it’s not good enough, indeed it does the club a disservice, to tell any old gushing story of how great it was that lowly Brighton & Hove Albion could attract two of England’s football giants through its doors. Mercifully, this is something Vignes clearly steers well clear of, and in reading the accounts from those who were there, there is no way he could have written that type of account anyway.

Instead, what is made clear is that, while the love and appreciation 45 years on for Taylor is hardly universal, he comes out of this chapter in their turbulent and ultimately separate lives much better than Clough; the latter, for certain passages of the book, is often relegated to a mere footnote. Who knew that could ever happen to ‘Old Big ‘Ead’?

But the central point – and this is where the past explains the present – is that the legacy of their time here far outlasts their actual time here. As we travel through this oh-so-brief period in the club’s history, Vignes absolutely nails the contention once and for all that, while Alan Mullery is (rightly) lauded as one of the greatest-ever managers of Brighton & Hove Albion, the truth is, he was given an enormous leg-up by what Peter Taylor’s departure had left him with during the summer of 1976. And Taylor would not have been here without Clough. From these acorns etc.

Brighton & Hove Albion fans will see this as a fascinating historical document in their club’s history. Clough and Taylor followers – way beyond Derby and Nottingham – will see their heroes in a typical light, fully aware of their sporadic behaviour. For everyone else, this is a further insight into the politics of what happens when two big fish fall into a little pond.

So how did it all unfold from 1973 to 1976? I thoroughly recommend you read Spencer Vignes’ book to find out.

‘Bloody Southerners – Clough And Taylor’s Brighton & Hove Odyssey’ by Spencer Vignes is published by Biteback Publishing on 18th October – RRP £12.99.

Kaiser: A riot, as predicted

In Tony Fletcher’s excellent 1998 biography ‘Keith Moon: Dear Boy’, he quotes legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck making a valiant effort to describe Keith Moon’s drumming. In the end Beck could merely shrug and offer up “He was the most incredible drummer. You can’t mimic him. Nobody’s been able to do it. I could describe a car crash easier than I could describe his drumming…”

So it was a similar feeling I had when coming away from watching Louis Myles’ part-documentary, part-dramatised total headspin of a debut feature film ‘Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never To Play Football’. The title may well be set in the crazy world of (mostly) Brazilian domestic football, but the story is universal.

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 23.19.57

The parallels with Keith Moon’s story only go so far – Moon really was a fantastic drummer; Kaiser really was a donkey at football – and the latter needed to hide that fact away. But the stories concocted of myths wrapped within the enigma, surrounded by mystery are now stuff of legend. Everyone has a story on Keith Moon – especially those who’ve never met him. Kaiser, on the other hand, is the one telling the stories.

Carlos ‘Kaiser’ Henrique Raposo was someone from the wrong side of the tracks, raised in the favelas of Rio who wanted to fit in, experience the life and live the dream of a professional footballer. So when he felt he could con his way into ‘playing’ football in such an obsessive city as Rio de Janeiro, the balls required to carry this off have to be enormous. And yet Carlos Kaiser managed it for 26 years. That’s 26 YEARS.

In the era of the internet and instant information, there is no way anyone could pull this stunt off today, meaning Kaiser himself is able to tell his own stories with the same devil-may-care attitude for the truth as he did for winging the legitimacy of his ‘playing’ career.

Are they true? A large pot of salt to hand may be required to get through this movie – and therein lies the craft within Myles’ storytelling. And the end of the film you think – ‘who cares if they’re true? They’re fantastic…’. Myles himself offers no answers; it’s the stories which ARE the story, and it’s left for the viewer to extrapolate exactly what Kaiser has been trying to achieve – then and now.

The fact that this film is based in football-obsessed Rio is beside the point. This is no ordinary talking heads documentary. The film is fast-paced, the stories are incredible and the imagery hypnotic and erotic, and Myles ensures the relentless visual orgy you are subject to set the tone for the first 85% of the movie’s running time. Only towards to the end do we get a breather; and even then the main protagonist and the director continue to dance a merry samba with our emotions.

Kaiser’ may well also serve as a case study in whichever ‘-ology’ one considers appropriate when making a study of the human condition. Leaving the cinema, no-one spoke of the appearances of some of Brazil’s finest players (Bebeto, Zico, Carlos Alberto – and others) or the conning of the local bicheiro; it was all about Kaiser and the never-ending subject of human frailties.

Thoroughly recommended.

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 23.19.07

PS: The UK has produced – and continues to produce – some excellent, high quality film makers who, because of the nature of the work they do, don’t fit in to the mainstream, and as such don’t get the recognition they deserve. Louis Myles’ first feature deserves to be seen as far and as wide as possible, so if your local cinema isn’t showing ‘Kaiser’, get in touch with them, and make sure they do.

“With all due respect…”

So here’s the thing. I was expecting to arrive in Stoke to find the attitude ‘with all due respect, we should be beating teams like Brighton’.

The reality was that they were bricking it. Not since their first season back at the top table 10 years ago have they ever found themselves in serious relegation bother. Stoke as a place has got a bad reputation and even the local rozzers advised me when I was looming for a recommended watering hole ‘you really don’t want to go into town mate’, and directed us towards the nearest designated away pub which was a Student Union bar which was advertising their Valentine’s night. If the best that Stoke can offer for a romantic night out is an evening with the Chuckle Brothers then thank God I live in Sussex.

A very nice pub was actually found which even boasted a deli counter – so not all bad. A bus to the ground was very simple.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 12.25.23

Since our last visit the corners have been filled in and the attendance was in fact a record 29,876, which perhaps was a portent for how massive this game was to them. The team news saw one change for the Albion, with Solly March preferred to Anthony Knockaert. It’s clear that Chris Hughton thinks that Solly is more reliably defensively than AK.

Stoke had been starting with Peter Crouch of late but an injury to the lanky mirth maker meant his place was taken by Chuba Moting. Whoever advised him that the man bun actually looks good was clearly taking the piss. Albion started brightly and when Glenn Murray played in Jose Izquierdo, breath was held. However, despite applying a better finish than he did early doors at Southampton the South American Express’s shot was brilliantly saved by Jack Butland. The game was far from the war of attrition most of us were expecting and both teams were not there to play out a draw. Chances were coming for both teams but some trademark woeful finishing did for both teams.

There was nothing woeful about Albion’s goal though.

At the time I wondered why Gross played square to Jose but as El Pig drove into the box and played  a series of 1-2s and then slotted past Butland I erm… forgave him. It was the best team goal we have scored this season and the speed of the interplay was a delight. Izquierdo has clearly found his mojo and is displaying the sort of form that made him our record signing.

sollymarchjoseizquierdostokecityvbrightonsyk9e05i92jl

The Stoke fans were definitely getting twitchy and when Pascal Gross wandered in to the box, their anxiety levels went up a notch. I’m still not quite sure what the German engineer of goals was thinking as he tried to find a banana clad team mate but the chance game to nothing.

Tension amongst the Stokies was high at half time but you knew that the Potters would come out fired up. Two corners in the first two minutes got the Abion faithful’s nerves a bit frayed but amazingly, Stoke are worse at corners than us…. taking them that is. Will we ever score from a corner this season?

The game continued to go from end to end but we created the better chances, most of which were falling to a much more advanced Davy Pröpper, but he couldn’t finish any of them. Stoke were pushing and, in Shakiri, they have player who can always find space …which he needs. He’s the size of a detached bungalow in the Cotswolds. And space he found as he advanced on the area and curled one into the bottom corner.

The Bet365 / Brittania is loud; very loud when it gets going and my God it got going. We continued to probe though and silence the crowd. Changes were made with Ulloa replacing Murray, and Kayal replacing Gross. Ulloa has come back to us a much better all-round player. His touch, movement and passing ability show that He has spent a lot of time with a higher quality of player.

So to the finish then. By now you will have all seen the replays. It wasn’t a pen. It wouldn’t have been given as a foul in the centre circle so it shouldn’t be a foul anywhere else. The fact that Jesè went down just proves that he is a big version of his name… He wanted to take the spot kick himself but after a bit of jostling, designated taker Charlie Adam lined up to take it.

brighton-star-matthew-ryan-655857

I’ve seen worse penalties and it took a magnificent save from Mat Ryan and some last ditch defending from Lewis Dunk to retain parity. So it finished honours-even and on balance, probably a fair result but we had chances to put the game beyond them and to stay up. We should really be beating teams like Stoke…

2017 – the finest year in the history of the Brighton & Hove Albion

A bold statement, but I am going to endeavour to back it up.

For a start, I’m not putting it out there in terms of stats and figures. There have been other years where we have scored more goals, gained more points, conceded fewer and so on (actually, 2016 takes most of those plaudits).

My assertion that it is the finest year ever is based on the slightly more intangible. I’ve just been reading through people’s Albion memories of 2017, and one thing strikes a chord more than other. 20 years since resurrecting our club from the wastelands of Archer tuberculotic P&L sheets – the work we had put in, the marches we had gone on, the letters written, the political candidates, the petitions, the banner over bridges – everything we had done over the past two decades was building to this. And this was OUR MOMENT, one we as fans had collectively worked towards. We had booked it, paid for it – it was our turn.

When we fell at the final hurdle at Middlesbrough in 2016 in truth, I never really believed we were fully ready. However, for a team which finishes third (automatic promotion once upon a time), to not only repeat the feat, but to better it (we’re not going to talk about those last three matches of the season) shows class, character and desire. And no little love.

The signs were there. Tony Bloom had put an £8m chip on the table to keep Dale Stephens at the club. And no-one goes eye-to-eye with the Lizard in a game of high stakes poker for one of our players and comes out smiling. Glenn Murray came home. Shane Duffy joined and became a colossus – horizontal and vertical.* Knockaert was on fire, and it was a team (hardly ever) laid down and died.

The year started amazingly well. Hemed and Dunk scoring with 90 seconds of each other at Fulham; the Putney end threatened to collapse, and I still wince when I see Shane Duffy bundling on top of the celebratory pile. Sheffield Wednesday at home, bloody hell – That. Felt. Good. Hemed at Brentford (with a jubilant Bloom in the crowd), Pocognoli at QPR (‘scenes of utter bedlam’), AK on fire at Wolves and on and on.

nintchdbpict000317505011

Tony Bloom – the man, his moment

And how good was 17th April 2017…? A run-of-the-mill (eventually) victory over a mediocre Wigan Athletic side secured the near-as-dammit nailed-on probability that we had been promoted. Cue enormous pitch invasion, great scenes and a bawdy, NSFW karaoke singalong from a dozen half-naked players in the Press Area. Fast forward two hours, promotion is secured and we do it all over again. This time, however, the players had got some clothes on. Two more hours and some half-cut Albion players are passed down the train like a torpedo on the way into town.

When Paul Hodson, Steve North and I put on ‘Build A Bonfire’ back in April, we knew we were in the middle of the zeitgeist. We had been promoted 11 days before – ‘We’re On Our Way’ was a constant earworm, and the city was dressed in blue and white. More so than the Cup Final, and (from memory) more so than promotion in 1979, we were the footballing story. People wanted to know about us; about our story. And ours is a story which does need telling. So we told it.

We were ridiculed by other fans for having an open top bus parade for finishing second. Twaddle. We were having a parade for the 20-year journey we had made together from Gillingham to Withdean – via John Prescott, NIMBYism, letter-writing, local authorities, planning consultants, planning lawyers and a whole host of other bodies that have no business involving themselves in the history of our old and cherished club – to Falmer to get where we are. And to go into the final game of 2017 in 12th place in the Premier League? You’d have bitten your arm off for it in September, let alone this time last year.

20170514_195039

Hove seafront – a riot of sunshine, flags, ticker-tape, fans and noise. Together.

We made a slow, nervous, rabbit-in-the-headlights start to our second spell in the top flight, but I believe we have already better equipped ourselves in this division this time around than in 1979. A great win at home to West Brom, and and even better one away at West Ham have already made people sit up and notice. Chances of PL survival are reasonable; more optimistic than the outlook back in August. The second half of the year hasn’t been the total crash-and-burn some may have feared.

But, for me, if 2017 has to be about one person – it’s about Chris Hughton. Again. The man is a hero. Never mind the wonderful in-jokes about his behaviour on the touchline – this man has got us to where we are today. He kept his head while all those around him were screaming theirs off. He doesn’t always get it right, but he does so far more often than he gets it wrong. He has by no means taken the club as far as he can; I believe he has plenty more gears to go through, and if Plan A (not getting relegated) for 2018 can be achieved, he will have there wherewithal to take us much further. And if we do go down, I can think of no better person to take us straight back up.

skysports-chris-hughton-brighton_4072497

Pragmatic, considered and respected – Chris Hughton is one of the finest managers ever to take the hotseat at Brighton & Hove Albion

We’ve done as well as we have in 2016 and 2017 because we’ve done it the right way… #Together. 

So – as an Albion fan, was there a better, more memorable year? Does 1979 (as a whole) compare? Was another year better – given the context? If so, when? Over to you…

* His leaping and his diving headers. What did you think I meant?

Booker to a T…

The Roar’s Alan Wares reviews ‘Ooh-Ahh – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman – a funny, open and sometimes uncomfortable look into the life of the Albion’s long-time Assistant Manager.

Large

There was a moment during ‘An Evening With Booker & McGhee’ recently where Bob stopped himself halfway through a point he was making by pondering ‘… it feels funny, even after all these years, to call him ‘Mark’ rather than ‘gaffer’…’ McGhee, with customary lightning speed, responded ‘no, don’t call me Mark…” McGhee disarmed a potentially over-revealing moment with fine diplomacy. Booker’s unnecessary pause sought to highlight the deference, even 12 years on, in which he holds McGhee.

It was a similar recurring theme which I came across as I read through Greville Waterman’s excellent ‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’. Added to this is the fact that Booker, former assistant manager at the Albion under six different managers, feels humbled and grateful to have worked with each and every one of them.

Booker started his playing career at Brentford, before a surprise Indian summer was offered to him by Dave Bassett at Sheffield United. He gained legendary status at Bramall Lane; there’s a hospitality box bearing his name there. He returned to Brentford where injury finally put paid to any hopes of continuing his playing career beyond the age of 35. He joined the Albion as assistant manager in 2000.

It’s very tempting as a Brighton fan to flick through the Brentford and Sheffield United pages, and catch up with the juicy bits from his days at Withdean. To do this would be to undermine the very essence of the story, and render the reasons behind Booker’s longevity here meaningless.

We all know Booker to be a gentle giant, a clown Prince, the good cop in the rough-tough partnerships. What Waterman’s book does is to get to the heart of his subject’s personality, and to reveal what makes him tick. On so many pages, in amongst from the professionalism, the courtesy and the humour is the vulnerability, the self-doubt and the anxiety of a man who, by his own words, doesn’t feel he deserves the accolades.

Booker instead treats everyone he feels helped him along the way – family, friends and colleagues – with such good grace and courtesy. In the book, Waterman deals with the ups and downs skilfully, and with care without lingering on the worries for too long. He wants the book to be a celebration; we all do. And it is.

Booker ultimately feels very proud of his career – and so he should. If there’s one thing you’ll take from this book it’s that no matter how highly you respected, appreciated and acknowledged what Bob Booker brought to Brighton & Hove Albion during the noughties, you’ll love him even more after you’ve finished reading it.

‘Ooh-Aah – The Bob Booker Story’ by Greville Waterman is published by Bennion Kearny and is available for £12.99 from Amazon and from City Books, Western Road, Hove.

Shaun is happy

pa-18379851-shaun-harvey-plaque-presentation_3201944

Shaun is happy.

The fixtures are out, marking the official end of British Summer Time, and with it the heightened expectation of Sky making a total mockery of everybody’s best laid plans to try and see their team on the road.

This season sees a new corporate partnership in ongoing hopelessness and total advocacy in chaos. SASTA will be providing no service, no assistance and no consideration for the ‘EFL’s’ away supporters as they continue on their arbitrary folly of cancelling trains for a laugh. And don’t even think of asking for your money back.

I predict a boom in minibus hire this season.

Meanwhile, on Planet Twaddle, EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “Our first season rebranded as the EFL promises to be one of the most exciting yet for league football and we’re delighted the TV cameras will be with us every step of the way to showcase all the action as it unfolds at stadia up and down the country.

“As ever, whilst being supportive to our principal broadcast partner, who continue to provide our clubs with an important guaranteed income, we are extremely conscious of the impact moving fixtures for television can have on fans.

“We are in a regular dialogue with Sky to ensure that any Sky Bet EFL matches set to be displaced for live coverage are done so as soon as is practically possible.”

Shaun is happy.

We must congratulate Shaun in taking an evidently tortured-over 120 words and making them say absolutely nothing; a masterclass textbook corporate drivel.

In short, Sky have tried to consider maybe thinking about the distant possibility of accommodating inconvenienced fans, as long as it doesn’t interfere with it affecting themselves in this continuing omni-shambles, of course.

And calling the Football League the ‘EFL’ will of course make the season that much more exciting. How do we know? Shaun said so, and Shaun is happy. Cardiff City and Newport County should think themselves lucky that England is bending so far backwards in ignoring them…

Meanwhile, English football administrators – still split into three separate and diverging entitites – shuffle papers on their desks, make meaningless arbitrary changes of no significance, make fatuous statements, and supporters are still inconvenienced. Easiest gig going.

So Shaun is happy.