It was all things Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday evening, as two high-profile journalists joined Ady Packham and Alan Wares at the Rialto Theatre, discussing footballing matters alongside their experiences within the world of journalism.
The Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer Paul Hayward was in attendance, as well as freelancer Nick Szczepanik who contributes towards The Independent, Bleacher Report and many more. The pair of much-travelled sporting intellectuals are both fans of the south coast club and offered fascinating insight from a supporter’s perspective as well as on a professional level.
The Albion Roar Podcast has grown in popularity since ‘Ady and Al’ took over the show in 2012 and for the first time ever, the show was recorded in front of a live audience at one of Brighton’s most attractive performance venues.
A sell-out capacity of 80 people were in position for the show to begin shortly after 8pm, as Hayward and Szczepanik were introduced to a keen field of Albion fanatics, before taking their seats alongside the show’s quirky hosts.
The show was split into two sections, with Brighton and Hove Albion dominating the opening hour of conversation, before branching further afield into deeper matters such as corruption within sport, the existence of doping throughout football and the touching subject of cancer treatment, something both guests had been through in recent years.
Hayward’s admission to how sport helped him through his toughest experience was enlightening and offered clarity in amongst all the trials and tribulations that sport can often carry. All football talk was put to one side as Hayward explained the added appreciation he has towards life following his encounter with cancer, offering inspirational words that outweighed any chat regarding competition.
Szczepanik shared his story and touched upon his passionate opinion that there is no fighting against the illness, pushing the theory that human battle doesn’t exist and the healing process is solely down to scientific intelligence, rather than the resistance to lose.
With both guests leading busy lifestyles, travelling far and wide to report on major sporting events, they spoke of their accepted limitation towards attending Albion games and expressed how much they enjoy watching the club when occasionally given the chance.
The history of the club was frequently touched upon throughout the show, covering the Dick Knight era from various angles, discussing the tough times Albion went through in the 1990’s and the ‘fight for Falmer’ that agonisingly developed following the millennium.
Hayward offered his undeniable knowledge from inside the game of football, talking of how well-respected Chris Hughton is within the game, before expressing his delight at Albion’s state of the art training ground, revealing drone footage of the multimillion pound complex is used to attract players to the club.
The duo’s ghost writing exploits were also covered, as Szczepanik spoke of his experience working alongside Dick Knight, ghost writing the former Albion chairman’s autobiography. The club’s refusal to stock Knight’s book inside the club shop was a controversial decision and Szczepanik explained how Knight was reluctant to remove certain sections from the book.
Hayward spoke fondly of Sir Bobby Robson and the time he spent alongside the former Newcastle and England manager, explaining how energised he felt after leaving Robson’s enthusiastic presence and the level of respect he possessed for a man that lived and breathed the sport he loved.
Whether this podcast would have happened if Brighton were sitting bottom of the SkyBet Championship, that is certainly questionable. However a clear buzz was present within the Rialto Theatre as conversation switched to the club’s current rise and excitement built surrounding the potential promotion to the Premier League.
The problem behind Albion’s shortage in the left back positon was discovered, with Szczepanik accepting responsibility, admitting his only two games attended this season led to Gataen Bong and Liam Rosenior leaving the field on a stretcher. He soon moved to warn Swansea City of his attendance at the Liberty Stadium this coming weekend, reassuring Inigo Calderon who is likely to occupy Albion’s plagued position .
Hayward joked about a time Bobby Zamora was suggested as a young solution to England’s miserable striking options, with the Albion legend being 30-years of age at the time. Conversation soon shifted to focus on the positive impact Zamora has had since returning to the club and how his experience of Premier League and European football is a priceless addition to Albion’s current attacking options.
The guest pairing went on to explain the different routes they took into written journalism, also commenting on the progressive slant towards a digital-driven industry. Hayward spoke of his early work at the Racing Post before working his way into the prestigious position he now occupies. Szczepanik touched on his favourite experience whilst covering sport, identifying the dramatic European Championship success from Greece in 2004 from an array of rich sporting memories.
Aside from Brighton, the current mess of FIFA, Tyson Fury’s controversial opinions and the questionable injection of money from the Premier League into grassroots football were just a few topics covered during a Q+A session, as the show’s hosts gave the audience a chance to interact with Hayward and Szczepanik.
Diverse questions were answered by the guests before the show was rounded off by thanking Hayward and Szczepanik for their interesting input. After the shows music finale, the Rialto Theatre emptied as Albion fans went away encouraged and entertained after an evening of professional insight from knowledgeable men at the top end of their field.
The first half of the show will be available on 26th December, with the second half soon to follow:
Feature Image Courtesy of Phil Shelley