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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? 2004 PLAY-OFF HEROES

1 June 2015





Eleven years ago last Saturday, Brighton & Hove Albion defeated Bristol City 1-0 at the Millennium Stadium to secure promotion to the Championship.

On a memorable day in Cardiff, Leon Knight etched his name into Albion folklore with a late penalty to give Mark McGhee’s men a famous victory, but where are those players now?



BEN ROBERT
S – GOALKEEPER
Having helped the Seagulls to the final with his penalty heroics against Swindon in the semi-final, Roberts’ career sadly didn’t last too much longer. A recurrent back injury forced early retirement but the former keeper has remained in the game and is currently a goalkeeping coach at Charlton Athletic.

 

ADAM VIRGO
– DEFENDER
The hero of the piece for his dramatic late equaliser against Swindon in the semi-final, Virgo further fuelled his legendary status at the club with eight goals as he helped Mark McGhee’s men secure Championship safety in 2004/05. His performances earned a big money move to Celtic before returning to Brighton in 2008. After leaving the Seagulls for a second time, Virgo had spells with Yeovil Town and Bristol Rovers before a knee injury forced his early retirement. Following his retirement Virgo has launched a successful punditry career working the likes of BT Sport, Sky Sports, Talksport and BBC Sussex.



DANNY CULLIP – DEFENDER
Captain fantastic Danny Cullip enjoyed five highly successful years with Albion, winning three promotions and two championships. The former central defender hung up his boots in 2010 and has played a big role coaching for Brighton’s charitable arm Albion in the Community, plus scouting for the club’s player recruitment department.



GUY BUTTERS
– DEFENDER
Butters was much maligned when he first started at Albion, with one fan even putting him up for sale on eBay! However, the defender soon changed opinions with his displays on the pitch and he was a key component to Albion’s promotion to, and survival in, the Championship, including a memorable goal at Upton Park in a 1-0 victory over West Ham. Like Cullip, Butters currently works for Albion in the Community and is regularly seen raising money and awareness for a variety of causes. Butters also hosts one of the lounges on a matchday at the Amex and has turned his hand to punditry for both BBC Sussex and Seagulls TV. Guy also does some scouting for the club alongside Cullip.



DAN HARDING – DEFENDER
Harding is the only player from the play-off winning team that is still playing professional football in England. After leaving Albion in 2005, the left-back went on to play for Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Southampton and Nottingham Forest. The former England under-21 ended last season at Millwall on loan.



GARY HART
– MIDFIELDER
A fans’ favourite, Hart has continued his connection with Albion by working with AITC. After famously signing for the Seagulls for £1000 and a kit in 1998, he spent over a decade at Albion and scored the first ever goal at the Amex when he netted in the Sussex Senior Cup Final in 2011. He also won four promotions and two titles on the south coast as well as playing an integral part in the club’s survival from relegation in 2007/08. Now Hart is coaching and spent last season playing for Southern League’s Royston Town.



CHARLIE OATWAY
– MIDFIELDER
Oatway was another player heavily involved in the club’s early Noughties successes. After retiring due to injury in 2007, he continued to work for AITC but was also part of the coaching staff at Havant & Waterlooville when they famously led Liverpool twice at Anfield in the FA Cup in 2008. Oatway then returned to Albion as first-team coach under Gus Poyet, helping guide the Seagulls to the 2011 League One title. After departing in 2013, Oatway once again teamed up with Poyet at Sunderland in the same role, spending 18 months on Wearside until March this year.



RICHARD CARPENTER – MIDFIELDER
The popular Carpenter played in excess of 250 games for the Seagulls, scoring a vital deflected goal in the play-off semi-final against Swindon. In a career that spanned 15 years, ‘Chippy’ became a stalwart in Albion’s starting XI after joining from Cardiff City. He is another former Albion pro who continued with the club by working with AITC, although he has since left and works on the railways.



NATHAN JONES – MIDFIELDER
The ‘Welsh Wizard’ Jones made a name for himself in Spain, having a brief spell with Numancia before spending a season at CD Badajoz. The left sided player returned the England with Southend before joining the Seagulls in 2000, becoming a big part of the club’s successful three promotions in four years. After leaving Albion, Jones spent seven years at Yeovil Town as first a player, then a player coach, before taking up a coaching role with Charlton Athletic’s under-21 side. He returned to the Seagulls eight years after leaving, taking up the role of assistant manager to Oscar Garcia, helping to guide the club to the play-off semi-finals. Jones took interim charge of two games last season after Sami Hyypia’s departure, winning one and drawing one, and the Welshman remains at the club as first-team coach after Chris Hughton’s appointment as manager.



LEON KNIGHT – STRIKER
The former Chelsea youth player was highly tipped for a successful career. Signed by Steve Coppell in 2003 after Bobby Zamora had moved to Tottenham Hotspur, the diminutive striker had an instant impact and his 27 goals helped fire Albion to the Championship - netting the crucial penalty against in Cardiff. However his career at Albion ended on unsavoury terms after falling out with manager Mark McGhee and the forward headed to Swansea City. His career slowly extinguished from there though after numerous public fall-outs with clubs in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland, coming to an end in 2012. Knight has become more infamous for his use of Twitter, sparking numerous controversies over the years, having his account suspended in 2012, but on a lighter note he did upload a video of himself commentating to goals he had scored. In 2014 he joined North West Counties side Barnton as a player and took over the manager reins in March 2015.



CHRIS IWELUMO –STRIKER
‘Big Chris’ won the penalty for Albion that Leon Knight despatched in front of 30,000 Seagulls fans, but the on-loan striker was never to wear a Brighton shirt again after the play-off final. Iwelumo opted to head to Germany instead although he returned to England six months later with Colchester United. After leaving the Us, the striker enjoyed spells with Charlton Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Burnley and Watford before ending his career at Chester. Iwelumo immediately turned his attention to sports journalism following his retirement in 2014, re-joining his first English club Stoke City to work in their media department on producing behind-the-scenes video content. He is currently at Staffordshire University working on his sports journalism degree and has appeared on both Talksport and Sky Sports.

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SUBSTITUTES



MICHEL KUIPERS – GOALKEEPER
A former Dutch marine, survivor of a horrific car crash in 2003 and a ten-year servant to Brighton & Hove Albion, Michel Kuipers is certainly not dull and although he didn’t feature in the final, the shot stopper proved his qualities the next season when he regained his number one spot until a severe shoulder injury ended his season early. After hanging up his gloves with Albion, Kuipers headed up the road to Crawley where he remained for three years before ending his career at Barnet after signing a short-term deal in 2013. The Dutchman has been involved with coaching youngsters at Albion while he also hosts in one of the lounges at the Amex on matchdays. The former keeper has also started up his own business.



KERRY MAYO – DEFENDER
Another long-serving player, Mayo left after more than a decade at the club. He didn’t feature in the final but did make over 400 appearances for the Seagulls during his career. Kerry has since gone on to become heavily involved with local football and played for Newhaven FC after leaving Albion.



ADAM HINSHELWOOD – DEFENDER
Did not get any game time at the Millennium but soon rose to prominence with some excellent displays in the Championship. Sadly, serious knee injuries curtailed his career and he retired in 2010. Hinshelwood has gone on to manage in non-league and currently works in Brighton & Hove Albion’s Academy.



JOHN PIERCY – MIDFIELDER
Piercy made an appearance off the bench in the play-off final and also scored in the semi-final shoot-out victory over Swindon but he is another player who saw their career ended early, this time by illness. Just seven month after the win in Cardiff, Piercy had to retire aged 25 due to an on-going battle with colitis. After retiring from professional football the former Tottenham man went into coaching and played for Eastbourne Borough.



PAUL REID – MIDFIELDER
Australian Reid became a favoured name during his displays at Brighton between 2003 & 2008. Reid started his career in his native land before joining Bradford City but after a year at Valley Parade the versatile player joined the Seagulls. In 2008 Reid headed back to Australia, joining Adelaide where he remained until 2011. The midfielder currently plays for Rockdale City Suns in the NSW Premier League although continues his work as a community officer with his previous club Sydney FC.



MARK MCGHEE - MANAGER
After guiding Albion to play-off victory, McGhee pulled off a miracle escape by keeping the Seagulls in the Championship. Sadly the trick was not to be repeated and Albion were relegated the following year. McGhee eventually left the Seagulls in 2006. In 2007 he returned to his homeland to take charge of Motherwell and then Aberdeen. After returning to England to take charge of Bristol Rovers McGhee is currently the Scotland assistant manager to  his long-time friend Gordon Strachan, and he continues to live in Brighton.

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