As the American Express Community Stadium looks ahead to the eleventh anniversary of its first ever competitive fixture, supporters of the seagulls will be reminiscent of the first Brighton side to take to the field in Falmer. Whilst it may seem a million miles away for some, Brighton’s class of 2011/12 will forever be etched in the history of the south coast club, with Gus Poyet’s side setting the tone for a successful future at the Amex Stadium.
But what happened to the seagull’s starting eleven from their opener at the Amex? Below is a summary for every Brighton player who started in the first competitive fixture held at the Amex Stadium, allowing an insight into the individuals who guided Gus Poyet’s Albion to victory over Doncaster Rovers on the day.
Goalkeeper: Casper Ankergren
Casper Ankergren was the first in a long line of goalkeepers at the Amex, with the 2011/12 season being his second in-between the sticks for the Seagulls. Ankergren didn’t enjoy the best start to life at the Amex though, conceding just before half time to Doncaster forward and Football League journeyman Billy Sharp.
Despite conceding the opener at the Amex, Casper would enjoy a seven-year stint with the Seagulls, where he would eventually retire after 68 appearances with the south coast side. Since his retirement, Ankergren has remained within football, taking up the role of head of goalkeeping at Danish side Brøndby IF.
Captain: Gordon Greer
Scottish centre back Gordon Greer played a vital part in Brighton’s back line during his six-year stint with the Seagulls, having made 209 appearances for the Albion. Despite the undoubtable pressure of taking the armband for the Albion, as handed to him by Poyet a year prior, Greer evidently took the responsibility in his stride, guiding the Seagulls to security in the second tier with a tenth placed finish.
Following his departure from Brighton in 2016, Gordon Greer would go on to play for Blackburn Rovers and Kilmarnock, with the latter being Greer’s final club before his retirement in 2018. In May 2022, it was announced that the former Scottish skipper would be handed an off-field role with the Albion, occupying the role of Pathway Development Manager.
Defender: Lewis Dunk
Whilst a vast majority of Brighton’s starting line up from their Amex opener have since departed, supporters of the Seagulls will not require a reminder of Lewis Dunk’s exception to that rule. The 30-year-old centre back was just 20 when he started alongside skipper Gordon Greer in Brighton’s opening game of the 2011/12 season, having made his professional debut for Brighton just one year prior. Eleven years later, Dunk has admittedly earned himself a spot amongst Brighton’s legends.
The Brighton born defender has made over 300 appearances for the south coast side, whilst netting 22 times during his ongoing stint for the Seagulls. Alongside this, Dunk has earned the honour of taking the captains armband for the Albion, following in the footsteps of the man who stood aside him in defence when Brighton took to the field at the Amex for the first time.
Defender: Iñigo Calderón
Whilst Brighton have been able to boast great talent in the right back position of late, the significance of Iñigo Calderón in Brighton’s class of 2011/12 cannot be denied. The Spanish International enjoyed a strong six-year stint with the Seagulls, scoring 19 goals in 239 appearances.
Whilst Calderón was unable to hit the back of the net on the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign, his 4 goals in 32 league appearances assisted the Albion in securing a mid-table finish. Following his departure from Brighton, Calderón would go on to play for Anorthosis in the Cypriot first division, before completing his career at Indian Super League side Chennayin. Since his retirement in 2019, Calderón has delved into management, returning to his native Spain to manage Deportivo Alavés B.
Defender: Marcos Painter
The fourth and final piece of Brighton’s defence on their opening day duel with Doncaster was Marcos Painter. Whilst Painter enjoyed a stellar season prior to the 2011/12 league campaign, playing all 46 league matches for Gus Poyet’s side, the following season proved to be rather mediocre for the left back.
Painter played just 20 times for Brighton in their 2011/12 Championship campaign, failing to record any goals or assists in all competitions for the Albion. Painter would go on to play for AFC Bournemouth on loan from the Albion, before finishing his career in League Two with Portsmouth. Since his retirement in 2014, Painter has returned to the first club of his professional career, Birmingham City, where he currently works as a football coach.
Defensive Midfielder: Liam Bridcutt
Among Brighton’s midfield ranks in 2011/12 was a key figure in the form of defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt. The Scotland international enjoyed a stellar season for the Seagulls, earning Brighton’s player of the season award for his efforts in 43 leagues appearances for the Albion. Bridcutt would equate this in the following league campaign, earning himself a second successive player of the season award, in turn rendering him a fan favourite on the south coast.
After 132 appearances for the Albion, Bridcutt would depart Brighton for the Premier League in 2014, swapping the seagulls for a move to Sunderland. Bridcutt would go on to play for a host of clubs, including his most recent spell with League one Lincoln City. Whilst Bridcutt has not yet retired, the 33-year-old is currently a free agent, having departed Lincoln in June.
Midfielder: Matt Sparrow
Whilst English midfielder Matt Sparrow did not fall victim to a particularly unpleasant campaign, Brighton supporters will agree that there was plenty of room for improvement for Sparrow in the 2011/12 season. The midfielder made just 18 appearances for the Albion in 2011/12, with his only goals of the league campaign coming in a 3-0 victory over Southampton.
On the opening day of the campaign, Sparrow would be subbed off late into the second half, making way for the eventual match winner Will Buckley. Sparrow departed Brighton for Crawley Town in 2013, before playing before a host of clubs both home and abroad. Sparrow currently resides in Australia, where he occupies a coaching role with semi- professional side Fremantle City.
Midfielder: Gary Dicker
Matt Sparrow is not the only individual in Brighton’s class of 2011/12 who would have hoped to enjoy a better league campaign. Alongside him is Irish midfielder Gary Dicker, who’s failure to find his form of the previous league campaign would have provided great disappointment for supporters of the Seagulls.
Despite featuring in all 46 league games in the 2010/11 campaign, Dicker made just 18 league appearances in Brighton’s opening season at the Amex, failing to score once for the Seagulls. Following the expiry of his contract with the Albion in 2013, Dicker would go on to play for several sides, before returning to Brighton in 2021.
On his return to the Albion, Dicker was eligible to play for the U23s as an ‘overage outfield player’, a role which he occupied for just six months before announcing his retirement. Despite his retirement from playing professional football, Dicker has opted to stay with the Albion, having been appointed coach for Brighton’s Under 18’s in January.
Winger: Kazenga LuaLua
Out- wide for the Albion on their Amex debut was Congo international Kazenga LuaLua. Although the 2011/12 league campaign was not the strongest for Kazenga, scoring just twice in all competitions, the Albion would go on to make his initial loan move permanent just three months into the season.
Following the deal made to sign LuaLua on a permanent contract, the winger would go on to achieve a total of 13 goals in 127 appearances for the Seagulls, the most memorable of which being his strike against Nottingham Forest in 2015 and the celebration which followed.
Following a loan deal to Queens Park Rangers in 2017, Lualua would permanently depart Brighton in January 2018, departing the Seagulls for Sunderland on a free transfer. Lualua currently resides in Greece, where he plays for top- flight side Levadiakos FC.
Striker: Ashley Barnes
Among Brighton’s front line on the day of their curtain raiser at the Amex is forward Ashley Barnes. Whilst the Englishman was unable to score on their opening day defeat of Doncaster, the 32-year-old forward would enjoy a strong season with the Seagulls, scoring 11 goals in 43 league appearances for the Albion.
Barnes' efforts in the 2011/12 campaign would see him finish the season as Brighton’s top scorer, rendering him a key part of Gus Poyet’s Brighton as they battled towards a top ten finish. In 2014, after four years on the south coast, Barnes would swap Brighton for Burnley, for whom he has made 230 appearances in an ongoing stint with the Clarets.
Striker: Craig Mackail- Smith
The final member of Brighton’s starting eleven in their opener at the Amex is striker Craig Mackail- Smith. The Scotland International made his competitive debut for the Albion in their defeat of Doncaster, having signed on for the Seagulls in the summer from Peterborough United. Whilst Smith failed to score on his debut, he would find the back of the net in Brighton’s following game away to Portsmouth, helping the Seagulls secure their first league victory of the season.
Mackail- Smith would go on to score 24 goals during his four-year stint on the south coast, with ten of them coming in the 2011/12 season. Mackail Smith would return to Peterborough United three years after his 2011 departure, where he would spend a majority of the 2014/15 season on loan, before departing the Seagulls permanently in the summer of 2015 for Luton Town.
After a period in which he played for a handful of sides, Mackail Smith would sign on for non- league Bedford Town in 2020, with whom he currently plays for.