Cheerleader Charlie Connell

Charlie Connell - Brighton Tigers Cheerleader
From the private collection of Trevor Chepstow

No ice hockey game at the Sports Stadium, West Street, Brighton would be complete without the presence of Charlie Connell, the Brighton Tigers Cheerleader!

Unmistakable outfit of black and yellow
When the Tigers started playing ice hockey again after World War II, they were fortunate in having one of the largest supporters clubs in the land. At the head of this was Charlie Connell in his familiar outfit of straw boater, megaphone and complete Tigers regalia in black and yellow!

Working the crowd to a frenzy
At the beginning of every match and throughout, Charlie would whip the home crowd into a mad frenzy, bellowing rousing chants through his megaphone to the delight of the supporters and the disdain of the visiting opposition supporters!  At the height of the match and hopefully when the Tigers were winning, he would get the crowd of over three thousand people to sing their club song, “Good old Sussex by the sea” and spur the team on to another victory. The crowd singing could be heard half way up West Street and told anyone on the street that the Tigers were winning again!

A very forward looking supporters club
The Tigers supporters club were one on the first groups in the UK to fly to an away match. In the late forties they chartered a plane (Dakota) from Shoreham airport and went along to support their team in the north (Nottingham) of England. Charlie of course was not far away and always there to add that “something special” for the small group of Tiger supporters at the away match!

Comments about this page

  • In 1935 Charlie Connell, together with fellow supporter Bert Head, formed the Brighton Tigers Supporters Club on the steps of the Sports Stadium in West Street. Charlie was also the driving force behind the reception given to Jimmy Kelly and Reg Merrifield on their return from the World Ice Hockey Championships in Prague in 1938. Ten thousand people thronged Queens Road and West Street as the two men were transported in a Daimler from Brighton Station to the Sports Stadium. With the outbreak of World War Two, Brighton Tigers ceased playing in 1939. The 1946-47 season was the first organised campaign after hostilities ended. The first game attended by Charlie Connell and an organised supporters club was on October 10th 1946, Tigers against Wembley Monarchs. This was the start of the London Provincial League which changed to the Autumn Cup a few games later. The supporters club reached its peak numerically in the immediate post war years when its membership was almost 2,000. On April 9th, 1948, Charlie with supporter’s club trip secretary Alf Back organised the much publicised flight from Shoreham to Nottingham; 21 fans made the journey. This was not the first air journey undertaken by Tigers supporters. There were several pre-war trips, including one to Manchester. Brighton Tigers Supporters Club were among the first fans of any sport in the UK to fly to an away fixture. Charlie Connell also spent one season at the Goldstone Ground giving vocal encouragement to Brighton and Hove Albion FC. On November 22nd, 1953, following the Tigers v Streatham game at the Sports Stadium, 18 years staunch and loyal service in an official capacity came to an end with Charlie’s retirement as the supporters’ vocal director. His retirement was due to a change in employment and abode. After years of working as a cake confectioner and living at 15 Southover Street, Brighton, he found work as a storeman with the leading London department store D.H. Evans. This made it impossible for him to travel to Brighton regularly for games, although he did make occasional appearances in the remaining years. He also made a guest appearance on the night of May 23rd 1965 for the final game at the Sports Stadium. Charlie continued working until the age of 74, and died after a short illness on April 29th, 1982, aged 75.

    By John Denyer (28/08/2005)
  • Charlie Connell may well, as you state, have retired “officially” as Tigers’ cheerleader in 1953, but I remember seeing (and hearing!) him many times after that. My first visit to the SS was as a Harringay Racers supporter in (I think) 1957 and he was certainly in action that night. That was after Brighton Tigers switched their “home” night to Sundays (from Thursdays). I guess that was what enabled him to take up his megaphone again without clashing with his work commitments. Also, after the league collapsed, he was frequently to be seen getting the crowd going at the various “Cup” games Tigers played from 1960 to the final closure in 1965. I was one of many Londoners who travelled down by train every Sunday in those days for our hockey “fix”, as the sport was not played at all in the Capital. Anybody else remember that desperate uphill dash up West Street to catch the last train (10.08 p.m.) back to Victoria? As for dear old Charlie, if I close my eyes and try very hard, I can still hear his inspirational cry….”Set ’em alight, set ’em alight, who’s the team to set ’em alight? T-I-G-E-R-S…..TIGERS!!”

    By Tony Allen (14/12/2006)
  • Charlie Connell did indeed hang up his Cheer Leader’s baton in 1953. He did reappear in Brighton occasionally from around 1957 onwards, but only when work commitments permitted. He also attended Tigers’ games at the London rinks when possible. As stated, he was indeed guest of honour at the Tigers’ final game in May 1965 – I was there. Who can possibly forget that very emotional night. I lived just around the corner from him when he lived in Southover Street in Brighton. Great character, great memories. I still have a collection of photographs from that era, including many of Charlie. Great days indeed.

    By George Russell (12/07/2009)

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