Thursday, 28 May 2009


Imagine you are the producer of a rolling news channel last night. How high up your running order at 11pm would you use the Champions League Final?
Seldom has the answer been as clear as it was last night. It depends totally on who you work for and whether your company has invested huge sums of money in acquiring rights to the Champions League. That may not be the way it should be, but it is the way it is.
Sky News 11pm - Champions League was the top story.
BBC News24 11pm - Champions League was item five, after MPs expenses, Lahore bomb, BNP and Baby P.
How could two news producers make such dramatically diverging editorial decisions? I suggest the answer is not unconnected with the sum of £240 million paid by Sky for rights to televise the Champions League. One can understand them going big on it. One can also understand the BBC lacking the same enthusiasm - but to run it at item five? When it was a fresher story than any of the other four?


Were Radio 5 Live right to run a package saluting Barcelona just after the 8am news this morning? Smart idea, and decent packaging of the Freddie Mercury/Monserrat Caballe hit "Barcelona" with Barca's goals and near misses. But it isn't an idea I would have run with on the national radio station of the team that lost. Seemed too close to rubbing noses in it. Plus it ensured that anyone listening will go round humming "Barcelona" all day. What does anyone think?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Good luck to all the English media in Rome tonight. Things are rarely straightforward on big one-off occasions and Rome seems to specialise in throwing up unexpected challenges. The best tale to come out of the 1977 final there, Liverpool 3 Borussia Moenchengladbach 1, was from Stuart Hall. Stuart was reporting for BBC TV but UEFA (not for the last time; I can be definite about that!) cocked up their media accreditation and Stuart found himself without a pass for the game. Liverpool's coaching staff, Joe Fagan and Ronnie Moran, helped him out. They gave him an LFC tracksuit, told him to get on the team coach when it left the hotel, and he walked into the stadium as part of the backroom staff! Stuart watched the European Cup Final from the bench, alongside Bob Paisley!
Finding transport to get away from the Stadio Olimpico in those days was a nightmare. Seven years on, 1984 when Liverpool beat Roma on penalties, it was no better. There were no taxis to be seen. A couple of us got a lift from a very generous Roma fan. Half a mile or so later we came across a lonely figure walking along the road. It was Emlyn Hughes, the man who had lifted the trophy for the Reds in '77. Emlyn was working for the BBC in '84 and had given up trying to find transport back to the hotel. We scooped him up and got him safely back to base.
Then there was the 1981 final in Paris when a JCB dug up the commentary lines outside the stadium a few hours before kick-off. Clive Tyldesley, now of ITV and then with Radio City, did his commentary down the telephone.
Clear lines and punctual taxis for all tonight, I hope!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Keeping an eye on Burnley FC's homecoming parade on BBC News 24. Fabulous achievement by the Clarets. But they really must beef up the quality of their celebrity support. John Kettley and Alastair Campbell don't really cut the mustard.

Monday, 25 May 2009


There's nothing like relegation to put football in a different perspective. When you're contemplating next season in the Conference, with a 10-point deduction, and hear Eamonn Holmes on 5 Live wittering about Man Utd retaining the Premier League and heading off to Rome, it is a very short trip to the off-button!
Newcastle fans will be feeling much the same this morning. When Chester went down to the Conference for the first time in 2000 it felt like a family bereavement. Ridiculous, but true. I would guess that Newcastle fans will also be feeling pretty sick at the performance of their team at Villa Park yesterday. They had a decent spell halfway through the first half but that was it. Their second half display was pathetic. Talk about going out with a whimper. What on earth was Michael Owen doing, plodding around in midfield in the last 20 minutes?
Don't know if the TV cameras caught it but the Villa fans hoisted a banner reading: "Who's your next Messiah - Ant or Dec?" In the way that football fans uniquely do, they summed up the whole Newcastle story in so few characters that even Twitter would be happy.
For me it was a memorable way to sign off the season with Setanta. Not for all the expected reasons though. The M6 was closed in two places so the journey to the Midlands from Liverpool took in numerous rural spots on A-roads that corkscrewed through Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. Got there in just enough time to sort out an ISDN problem before recording my scene-set for Setanta UK and doing a longer, live version for Setanta Ireland. The press facilities at Villa Park have nosedived since last season - more on this when I get the chance to post my next "View from the Press Box." And the game didn't really live up to its billing.
Anyway, despite my (temporary) feelings of detachment caused by Chester's demise, I'm still rooting for Burnley to make it eight North West teams in the Premier League, and 100% behind Everton to bring back the FA Cup on Saturday.
So that's it - my football broadcasting over for another season. On with the motorbike action now. I'm planning to provide updates on the buzz and gossip from the Isle of Man TT on TTwitter throughout the coming fortnight. I'm away to the three-legged isle on Friday, and meeting up with the production team and my fellow commentators late Friday afternoon when Radio TT will launch on air at 5.15pm.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Chester City FC is now officially in adminstration. This will come as no surprise to followers of this blog. If this means a complete change of ownership it will be a very good day indeed. But the future is full of uncertainty to say the least.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Burnley's magnificent win at Reading last was a stunning victory for football. Football the game, that is, as opposed to football the global money generator.
A team which was minutes away from relegation from the entire League in 1987 is now one match away from the Premier League.
It couldn't happen to a better place. Burnley is a genuine football town. Every time a game is staged at Turf Moor, you get the feeling that the whole community is involved. There is a knowledge, a passion and a sense of tradition that you don't often find elsewhere.
They have played thrilling football this season and deserve to have their chance at Wembley.
But it's the bigger picture that matters most. If some people have their way, the Premier League will become a sealed capsule one day, protecting everyone within, excluding everyone on the outside. No promotion or relegation. No more point in wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin' as Dusty Springfield put it. No chance for the Burnleys to travel from the bottom to the top and invigorate an entire town in the process.
A few months ago the Bolton chairman Phil Gartside floated the idea that relegation from the Premier League should cease. This has to be resisted. If the Premier League can't make a success of things with all their incredible advantages, this kind of protectionism is not the answer.
Football is too important for that.


Nigel Martyn's column in tonight's Liverpool Echo ensures the misinformation about THAT record continues (see my two previous posts).

"So Tim Howard has his place in the history books at long last and I, for one, could not be happier," says the ex-Everton goalkeeper.

History books that didn't begin till 1992? Come off it. If the only football facts that count are those which date from 1992, Blackburn Rovers have a more illustrious League record than Liverpool and Millwall have appeared in as many FA Cup Finals as Everton.

"If you know your history," goes the Everton song. But they don't, do they?

Monday, 11 May 2009


Very sad to see the Liverpool Echo, of all papers, swallowing the marketeers' line as featured in my previous post.
"Neville salutes record-breaking Howard" is tonight's headline, followed by the assertion that Howard "finally became a record breaker."
No mention anywhere that supporters from earlier generations witnessed even greater achievements.

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Farewell then, Ted Sagar. Gordon West - you needn't have bothered to put on your gloves. Your efforts as Everton goalkeepers have been airbrushed out of history by the PR machine of the Premier League.
Before last Saturday's match between Everton and Tottenham we were all informed that if the current Everton keeper, Tim Howard, kept a clean sheet he would set a new Premier League record of 16 shut-outs in one season for the club. Howard, who has had an excellent season, did exactly that and was duly saluted in some of the Sunday papers.
But this does not make Tim Goodison's greatest goalkeeper.
Ted Sagar, most Evertonians' choice as the only Number One to rival Neville Southall in the club's 131-year history, was a player of remarkable consistency who played from 1929 to 1953. In 1938-39 he kept 18 clean sheets, his value to the team reinforced when, in the only game he missed that season, the defence let in seven.
Gordon West was Everton's regular custodian in the late sixties and early seventies. In 69-70, when they won the League title, he kept opposition forwards at bay no fewer than 21 times - exactly half the scheduled matches in those days.
These men should be acknowledged for their achievements, not shoved into the shadows because of the inconvenient fact that they happed to play before 1992 when the Premier League was invented.
The current era, with its ProZone software, has spawned a fascination with statistics which football fans were content to leave to cricket buffs in the past. People are employed solely to record the number of passes a player makes, the number of tackles achieved. Fine for those who are enthralled by such arithmetic, but let's not fall for the insinuation that footballing achievements are only relevant if they take place in the Premier League. 1992 is not some Year Zero, before which lay only darkness of which none dare speak.
In my view, Howard's achievement is not worth a mention. It is a big "so what?" Once he beats the marks of Sagar and West we can start getting excited. History is too important to be rewritten, and the Premier League is usurping the traditions of the game by allowing it to happen.

Sunday, 3 May 2009


Press facilities were well thought-out when the City of Manchester Stadium was converted from the home of the 2002 Commonwealth Games to a football arena. The media are located in that part of the stadium which was excavated after the Games, extending the capacity and creating a new playing surface. Clear view, very good facilities and efficient media staff make this one of the top-rated grounds.
Star rating out of five: 5


Proof that the good guys can also win came today in the shape of Sean St Leger's winning goal for Preston North End against QPR. The goal sent North End into the Championship play-offs against all the odds, pipping Cardiff on goals scored after the teams tied on points and goal difference. How vital was that 6-0 win by North Enbd over Cardiff a couple of weeks ago. I am delighted for Sean who has been brilliant with our students at the University this year, making himself available for mock press conferences and TV interviews and conducting himself superbly.