For a change it’s been something of a quiet week for me these past 7 days…although the emergency talkSPORT call did come on Monday morning – but not for Alan Brazil but instead for a poorly Adrian Durham our Drivetime host, and so a quick dash to Birmingham International was in order to cover 4-7pm alongside Darren Gough.
It’s only recently that I’ve noticed the correlation between my gigging history and my work history – upon writing my recent blog ‘The Cover Guy’ for my Rock n Roll War Stories, it occurred to me that my talkSPORT career has also been about covering as and when required in hours of need on the radio as well as onstage.
And it can be anytime, as the last 6 or so years have proved. I’ve hosted breakfast, mid-mornings, afternoons, drivetime, early evenings, late nights and overnights since my first Xmas cover shift on afternoons in 2005, which HAS to be some kind of unique record. I worked first with the lovely Rachel Brookes (now a regular on Sky Sports News) and the equally fab Robyn Schonhofer over 3 days, as the bosses wanted to see whether I could make the switch from a music radio presenter to a talk format. I can’t have done half bad I suppose as things stand now.
Everything differs from show to show – producers, associate producers, co-presenters, content, debating points, the lot. What remains the same is the station ethos – make it entertaining, make it interesting but make it YOURS. Of course I have my regular ‘home’ on Sunday evenings with Football First which I love and have loved ever since I began hosting the slot, but that show for me benefits from my experiences elsewhere around the schedule as you pick up tips and tricks from the direction you get.
Saturday afternoon cover is always a joy as I’ve mentioned before on this site (I’m doing it again next Saturday for the Wales/England game etc) but that Drivetime show last Monday with Goughie absolutely flew by – a sure sign that it went fantastically well. Whether it was about the stretched Met Police resources on Cup semi-final weekend, Arsenal’s horrid fortnight or Stoke’s alleged ‘anti-football’ it was call after text after call after email after tweet. Bostin entertainment.
There are always those texts and emails you receive that you’d rather not show to the family or read out to the listening millions, but I’m getting more thick-skinned to each knuckle-dragger who bravely taps into their keyboard that either I MUST be a Villa fan as I’m sent to cover their games as well as Blues matches, or that I’m institutionally anti-Man Utd/Arsenal/Liverpool/Man City/Fisher Athletic etc etc ad nauseam.
I mean, I get off lightly compared to the filth some of my colleagues get sent through the information superhighway. One ex-player at the station laughed off suggestions he should have a facebook or twitter page, saying “If I did that and read what people thought of me, I’d want to end it all in a week!”
Perspective is what it’s all about at the end of the day. When I was hosting the Barmy Brummies show for BRMB in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, I would invariably walk past the Programme Controller’s office most days only to be beckoned in by the old curly finger with the words “Dants, mate, er…we’ve had a complaint about something you did yesterday…” and he would go into detail about either a listener’s gripe over an innuendo used in our ‘Des’ Dedications’ feature which was no different to those used to critical acclaim by Kenneth Williams on ‘Round The Horne’ on Radio 4 way back when, or that an individual or group was mis-represented by the politically incorrect MP for Dudley, one Black Country Bob, a man who always was the butt of the joke in the end…or that our harmless Mr Men parody Mr Taxi Driver was insulting to the profession as a whole.
You quickly learn that, whilst some complaints are absolutely bang on and that we deserved a ticking off from time to time, most are so frivolous and without foundation as to be laughable. So many listen to a radio station just waiting – waiting – to be upset about something so they can beat their gums about it to a higher power. It’s then down to that higher power to decide what goes beyond taste and decency. Fortunately for me, my bosses at BRMB (and Heart for that matter) always fought my corner so well that hardly any complaints were upheld. And let’s face it, the Barmy Brummies had it’s buttock-clenchingly ill-advised moments, but compared to, say, Howard Stern? Not even close – watch ‘Private Parts’ if you remain unconvinced.
Not a good weekend just gone for Blues, losing 2-1 at Wigan and going 2nd bottom of the Prem table, but realistically there’s any one of 8 teams who could finish bottom, never mind get relegated come late May. It could be a North West trio that drop out, or a Midlands one to be fair. Naturally, I have faith in Alex & the boys to see things through and stay up – our next 3 games after the international break will say much about our fate…Bolton (h) Blackburn (a) and Sunderland (h). I imagine these 14 days off for most of our players will be just the ticket after pre & post Wembley knocks and niggles they need to shift. Nae bother. Honestly – I’m not sticking my head in the sand on this one. That dressing room spirit we have counts for a whole lot and they will pull together, concentrate and prevail.
Villa are down there scrapping too, which is a surprise, but they’ve flirted with danger before under both Brian Little and David O’Leary only to pull a result out of the bag at the 11th hour to spare blushes all round. I was reminded of O’Leary on Saturday when I saw a banner being unfurled at the Holte End before kick off against Wolves simply saying ‘Had Enough – Houllier Out’. Said banner was removed by Villa stewards within 2 minutes, but the genie was long since out of the bottle as it was when O’Leary entered into his last knockings as Villa boss.
The Irishman had complained at Everton the week before to local journalists that Villa fans were, as he put it, ‘fickle’ about the perceived lack of progress under his stewardship. Fast forward a few days to the home match against Fulham and there it was - a lovingly neatly created banner displaying the following: “We’re not fickle – we just don’t like you”
That was that for him not long after, and Monsieur Houllier may be happy that Doug Ellis is not his chairman as was O’Leary’s situation. He may well survive this episode-the way Wolves went about their business in the 1-0 win suggests that they will too. Survive that is. There’s an honesty about Mick McCarthy that all us press guys round here warm to. Never carried away with a win, never mortified by a defeat.
West Brom? Well, Roy Hodgson performed the Houdini act with Fulham and he’s kept the Baggies undefeated so far, although I’ve only seen them live once recently – and that was when they sailed past us at St Andrew’s. They’ll stay up too – I said a few weeks ago that I thought it’d be Wigan, Blackpool & Blackburn who’d go…I may have to review that in a couple of games’ time LOL! But then if there’s a pundit out there who has 100% confidence in their relegation picks, they are total liars!
And so…who knows what next week will bring?! All I know is, it won’t be the same as what last week brought – and that is what life should be about…variety! And thanks to those who wrote to say how much they enjoyed my City Kidds blog from last week – if you want more stories like that, please let me know and I’ll search the memory banks for more nuggets of information for you.