I have more in common with Dave Grohl than I first thought.
Not only am I a drummer who plays guitar and sings his own songs, but having watched the brilliant ‘Back & Forth’ Foo Fighters DVD documentary the other day, one of the first things he said was about the recurring dream he used to have as a kid where he’d be at a concert and the announcement comes over the PA saying “I’m afraid the gig is cancelled as the drummer tonight has broken his arm…unless there’s a drummer in the house who can play the songs…?”
Bloody hell, I had that dream SO often as a teenager! That said I’m nowhere near the singer/guitarist/songwriter that he is, so the common ground grinds to a halt right there. And to be fair, I was once at a gig where the call went out for a drummer to save the day…the White Swan in Henley In Arden was the place and 45 paying punters were all the happier for me knowing how to play Wild Turkey’s covers set when their usual guy got stuck in traffic. Not quite the NEC…but I’ve played there anyway, pfft! ;o))
Busy week of football just gone for me as my first Champions League/Europa League duties got underway on behalf of UEFA.com and the ‘world feed’ as it’s known (where your commentary is heard right around the globe via various broadcasters)
As I’ve said before in these blogs, ones knowledge of the game and its rising stars can only get better when you’re asked to watch 4 games in 3 days, with only 1 British side involved of the 8 I had to research…and that was Blues!
It’s down to this sort of prep that I learned plenty in the past about talent like Hatem Ben Arfa as he emerged at Marseille-his gradual use as an impact substitute; his clear gift as a creative midfielder; and therefore I was intrigued as he moved to Newcastle to see how he’d adapt to the pace of the English game.
Not long after his arrival in the North East, Ben Arfa’s stunning strike at Goodison Park became the focus of debate on Match Of The Day. Cue Alan Shearer to trot out possibly the most patronising line you could utter on what is still the flagship football highlights show – “Well, we don’t know much about Hatem Ben Arfa…”
I couldn’t have cared less about listening to the rest of that sentence. Here was a former England international, and Premier League manager being paid a small fortune, professing ignorance about a player at the club he used to play for and coach.
I have no truck as so many other regional conspiracy theorists do about the running order on MOTD these days. It’s a thankless task. I didn’t throw the metaphysical toys the length of a football field if I discovered that Blues’ game was on last or 2nd last, nor did I ever accuse the editor of an anti Midlands/North East/NorthWest agenda (delete as applicable depending on your postcode)
MOTD – along with Star Soccer on ITV - was pretty the ONLY place to watch league football during my childhood and has become the benchmark for other highlights shows by default, despite Sky’s entry into the battle for ratings 20 years ago. By that token, you and I should expect those pundits who cast their expert eye over the games they watch are fully up to speed on the provenance of the players that come under their microscope. “We don’t know much about…” is therefore a totally unacceptable analytical viewpoint.
And we had it again from Mark Lawrenson this past weekend, ironically about another former Ligue 1 player now wearing the black and white of Newcastle – Yohan Cabaye. Now here’s a bloke who’s just won the double with Lille, alongside other terrific talent like Eden Hazard, and we “don’t know much about him”?????? Unacceptable.
Now this is not a wanton BBC slagging. I am fortunate to rub shoulders in the press boxes of this country with a whole host of fantastic broadcasters under Auntie Beeb’s wing - some of whom I can happily claim to be good friends, like Darren Fletcher and Nigel Adderley from 5 Live and Mike Taylor from local station BBC WM for example (they’ll deny this of course!).
These guys know the game inside out and would never trot out such a lazy piece of punditry as these 2 ex players have done. And as for MOTD itself, Lee Dixon’s calm analysis is a breath of fresh air and Roberto Martinez’ guest appearance on MOTD2 a fortnight ago didn’t half show up those alongside him with his brilliant dissection of Edin Dzeko’s rise to prominence.
And I also expect that some of you reading this are saying ‘Yeah well you work on talkSPORT and you put some right numpties on there in the past who don’t know any better’. That’s up for debate, but YOU have never paid their wages as we are a commercial entity – you’re paying for Alan Shearer’s chauffeur-driven cars down to the TV studios though. Ever thought about that?
You might think my gripe is inconsequential, but it isn’t. You should expect the doyen of football shows to lead and the others follow – not to lose itself in its own self-importance and take some sort of peverted gratification in its ignorance. I work bloody hard to make my radio shows (which aren’t staffed by the number of bodies they have in the MOTD production office) entertaining and informative…it’s a pity Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer can’t extend me the same courtesy.
Millwall was my destination for a match against West Ham on Saturday - a return to the New Den, a stadium I’d only visited once before back in my Capital Gold/BRMB commentary days when West Brom played there on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.
‘Bomber’ Brown was my co-commentator that day, as he had been all season seeing as I’d been the designated ‘Albion’ man since that August, and our seats were right next to a section of Millwall season ticket holders in the Main Stand.
As the game got underway, we were both aware of a gentleman behind and to the left of us whose – erm – ‘industrial’ language was loud and plentiful…and being picked up by our microphones despite our best efforts to shield them from his foghorn South London roar.
“DON’T GIVE IT TO THAT DOZY F*****G C**T!!!! HE’S F*****G USELESS!!! MY F*****G C**T OF A GRAN COULD’VE F*****G FINISHED THAT OFF!!! F**K ME RIGID!!!...” and so it went on…
Sensing an imminent sacking from homebase for being unable to control a South Bermondsey local’s tirade against his hapless centre forward, I tried to take matters into my own hands. Following a couple of ‘go on, tell him’ digs in the ribs from Bomber, who had his soup flask at the ready if things were to turn ugly, I threw to another reporter we had at Walsall’s home game, giving me approximately 30 seconds to try and sort out our pal behind us.
I whipped off my headset mic, turned to find our erstwhile co-commentator amongst the throng in our vicinity. He was huge – the kind of fellow who eats 2 breakfasts as a matter of course…both full English. I had to press on, regardless of my impending doom, and make my point.
“E-e-excuse me”, I offered, “I’m broadcasting back to the Midlands to a family audience and your foul language is being picked up by our microphones. Could you tone it down for us please?”
I waited to die. Expected my face to resemble the cover of Pantera’s “Vulgar Display Of Power” LP within seconds. I’m pretty sure I shut my eyes as I awaited the right cross. It didn’t come.
Instead, he simply proffered his outstretched hand and offered a quite brilliant apology which went thus (in the finest Cockney drawl): “Oh sorry mate, I really am sorry, mate – I am sorry, I didn’t mean it pal, I will reign it in, I didn’t mean to offend you like, ok pal, I really didn’t ok?............but he IS a F*****G C**T isn’t he?????????????”
He was as good as gold for 10 minutes or so after that – until a substitution was made that he didn’t agree with. And off he went again…Bomber & I exchanged looks, shrugged shoulders and carried on regardless. We weren’t sacked.
PS. I travelled down to East Ham the other Thursday for what appeared to be a ritual humiliation to be handed down to various talkSPORT staff as part of our 2012 Olympics build up.
Tessa’s test is something devised so that, under the guidance of our golden girl of the javelin Tessa Sanderson, a talkSPORT hack learns an Olympic sport and attempts to win a specially arranged test on that sport whilst being videoed. Mike Bovill got badminton flukily; Jason Cundy lucked out with basketball – I was the one who got blooming fencing.
I mean fencing. My only knowledge of that sport was that Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden was a dab hand at it – this was going to be embarrassing…
I met Tessa at Langson School in the East End along with our film crew at lunchtime. What a bundle of infectious energy she is – it’s patently obvious why she’s a winner – total self belief and positive mental attitude exudes from within with her. And it rubs off on you I promise you. Once I was in her company, I felt like I had to try and impress her…after just 5 minutes of training in fencing basics by A British Champion, that is. Time was of the essence.
With the requisite body armour, gloves and face mask in position, I got a grounding in holding the ‘foil’, how to stand, advance and retreat using the correct footwork, and how to perform basic lunge & parry moves on an opponent. I was sweating up just on the ‘holding the foil’ bit – by the time I’d been through the basic rudiments of what to do, my face was redder than Ron Atkinsons after a heavy bout of laughter.
The ‘test’ was to try and score 3 points off Pierre, my coach in a proper contest, whilst he had to score 5 to beat me. You can go to www.talksport.co.uk/sports-news/bp and see how I got on and judge me as hashly as you like.