Thursday, 22 July 2010

Kevin Day

Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?

Kevin Day has magical powers. It has to be said that EFW isn't the greatest fan of the Premier League, horse racing and moreover Crystal Palace. The fact that Day has taken that trio and turned them into entertainment is a huge feather in a cap already bursting to capacity, and, worthy of 5 (five) FIFA stars.

I must mention at this juncture that I have a 30-year association with Brighton and Hove Albion to declare and that Kevin is a fan of our bitterest and fiercest rivals from Selhurst Park. I've paid good money to watch many of his stand-up comedy performances in the past and had to laugh through gritted teeth at the genius of it all. At the end of the night I would hoist a little white flag and admit: 'he's Palace, but he's alright'.

He's written scripts for Have I Got News For You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and a plethora of other gubbins but at the moment it's probably his appearances on Match of the Day 2 for which he is most famed. I'm contractually obliged to say that MOTD2 is a "light hearted look" at the weekends Premier League action. It's also bloody entertaining and as previously stated - I pretend not to like the E-P-L.

So with a CV as long as your arm, Kevin and I had an awful lot to talk about. And so we did, at length. Up for discussion was Adrian Chiles, Colin Murray, Hanson, Dixon, that James Corden World Cup Live Show, Gabby Logan, the last time he cried, cuddly toy, oh, you get the picture:

Hi Kevin, thanks for talking to EFW, are you looking forward to the new season or have you had your fill of football for a while after the World Cup? I can't wait for the new season! I always imagined that the older I got the less excited I would be but the first day of the new season and FA Cup 3rd round day are as good as Christmas for me. Being a Palace fan, the start of this season is particularly welcome; there were times in May and June when we actually began to believe we would lose our club so the fact that the new season sees us safe and reunited with Selhurst Park is wonderful. My heart goes out to all those Chester fans who can't say the same thing but hopefully the phoenix club will be a huge success. And I genuinely don't understand people who say the World Cup has put them off football, it's like the old joke about oral sex - there is no such thing as a bad World Cup.

You co-wrote James Corden's World Cup Live Show with Phil Kerr didn't you? How did that go? It was an interesting, enjoyable and occasionally frustrating experience. Phil and I didn't actually write the script - that turned up fully formed for every script meeting (it may have been written by elves). What Phil and I did was basically to chip stuff in during the day, suggest lines of enquiry, add some football trivia and keep an eye on the games for unusual or funny events, so we didn't have as much creative input as we would have liked. Mind you we did get to watch games with people like Dizzee Rascal, Andrew Murray and Freddie Flintoff which was an experience.

Actually I think we made, on the whole, a decent show which is no mean feat when you have to make 14 live shows from scratch in a month. It certainly didn't deserve all the critical opprobrium it received; although I agree with hindsight that perhaps we were a bit gung-ho behind England in the first weeks and didn't fully embrace the tournament from a world perspective, notwithstanding our human wall chart. It was odd to work on a show that was getting such a critical kicking but such brilliant viewing figures.

Presumably the MOTD2 editor has got you inked in for a piece with the Blackpool fans travelling to Wigan on the opening day of the Premiership season? I'd like to report that MOTD2 were that efficient! I imagine I will be travelling to Wigan and I hope I am because that's the story. It's wonderful to see a club with such a rich history (and brilliant kit) in the Premiership and it's going to be great spending time with Ian Holloway who is very open and friendly to the media (usually!). I also hope Blackpool make a fist of it because it would be nice to see the media upgrade Holloway from 'patronised' to 'respected'. Having said all that, Newcastle being back is a big story so I could end up following them and people who know more about this sort of thing than I may decide to wait until Blackpool play their first home game.

I can think of worse jobs than working on Match of the Day. Was is a dream come true when you got the nod? Not really, in the sense that I never even dreamed of working on Match of the Day. I still pinch myself now and occasionally get tearful because as a football mad kid it would never even occur to me that I would ever stand on a football pitch let alone on a touchline with a camera as players marched onto the pitch alongside me. The offer came completely out of the blue from the editor of the show who was a fan of my stand up, so I didn't even know the job existed until he 'phoned me. I like to think the fact that he was a Palace season ticket holder had nothing to with it!

Oddly enough if I did dream of being on telly as a kid I would have dreamt of being on 'The Big Match', London's football programme. I really regret never getting to meet Brian Moore. I have been viewing some old episodes for an ITV 4 show I am writing on and it is such a joy to hear his voice again and remember that Sunday lunchtime tingle of excitement. I have been so pleased to discover from people who knew him that he was the nicest man possible.

I don't think there is a better job than MOTD 2 though (well, not in broadcasting anyway. Obviously people who are researching daily into the cure for life threatening diseases have a better job) and the insight and access I get from it are fantastic.

There are two main lessons I have learned: firstly, once you strip away the money and glamour, the atmosphere in a Premiership dressing room is exactly the same as in your Sunday League dressing room. Secondly, English football fans are some of the most articulate, funny and feisty people I have ever met. Trying to conduct an interview with a group of Pompey fans who refused to use the words 'Harry' and 'Redknapp' still makes me laugh now.

You must come home humming the theme tune after a days work there? I do, because many fans serenade me with it constantly. Except the fans who think they must be in trouble if I am there. I am genuinely proud to be associated, even in a small way, with such an iconic programme.

The last time I saw Des Lynam (January 2007, it's in my diary) he was sporting a rather splendid MOTD jacket. Have they issued you with one? Interesting - you have a diary note of the last time you saw Des Lynam do you? I haven't been issued with a Match of the Day 2 jacket, splendid or otherwise, but I'm not ashamed to say I'd wear it. It might also prevent the odd embarrassment like Steve Cram at Sunderland berating me for wearing a black coat with a very fine white stripe. Although, being Sunderland he may just have been berating me for wearing a coat.

One for the diary (L-R) Nick, Danny, Des - in MOTD coat and Binsy.

Adrian Chiles or Colin Murray? Naughty! Adrian will be a very hard act to follow. That nonchalance with which he broadcast took a lot of doing and he was incredibly popular with football fans. I don't mean it's incredible he was popular, I mean he was very popular. I want to make that clear because I got into bother with a Times journalist 'slightly misquoting' me last season and printing that I hated Liverpool.

Colin will be a more than able replacement however. He will have a more obviously enthusiastic approach which may annoy some but he is a very good broadcaster and properly in love with football. As usual, the press will berate him for the first two weeks and then it will be as though Adrian never existed.

Does the MOTD work get in the way of following Crystal Palace? It does, but let's face it, at times recently that has been a blessing. I do occasionally get pangs of guilt but I still see plenty of Palace games and I am proud that fans know I support Palace. In a strange way I think it helps that I support a team that other fans don't feel threatened by, and it gives me a certain credibility to some that I support my local team. Certainly there was one incident at Man City where several journalists were getting a hard time from City fans but I was exempt because I "supported a shit team".

The downside is that most of the journalists know I support Palace and can't wait to give me the bad news at half time. Like the particularly dour Birmingham journalist who said "Cardiff have scored again, that's you down then". It was the only time he smiled all day.

You held your wedding reception at the banqueting suite at Selhurst Park. Your wife [Ali] was all over that idea right? She was actually. We had two wedding receptions, one at Selhurst Park for family and close friends, then one at The Comedy Store for comedy family and close friends. I'm pleased to say Palace did us proud and even got one of the old stains off the carpet beforehand. And obviously, as the season had just finished, they didn't mind that at eleven o'clock that evening there was a mass imaginary kick about on the pitch in front of The Whitehorse.

The reason Ali didn't mind having a reception there was that she knows how important the place is to me. Growing up in a nebulous part of South London in an Anglo-Irish family, Palace gave me a lot of the identity that I craved. Still does. Ali also claims that the first time she knew I must really love her was when I arrived back at Euston at six o'clock in the morning when the special broke down after a midweek game at Blackburn. I drunkenly phoned her up to tell her I was alright and she was very touched, especially as we weren't going out at the time!

The Holmsdale Fanatics have made a bit of a name for themselves with their terrific vocal and visual support haven't they? Strangely enough, they were considered a bit laughable at first. This hardy little bunch with their big Italian style flags seemed to come out of nowhere and looked a bit incongruous in a crowd of 12,000 at Selhurst Park. Now though, everyone loves them. They really help to get the atmosphere going and lift the spirits. At the impromptu demonstration on Bank Holiday Monday at Selhurst Park I was in a crowd of about five hundred sad and angry fans. Then in the distance came the sound of drums and the Ultra's appeared round the corner of Sainbury's at the head of another 500 fans like a medieval army in riot of noise and colour. It was a wonderful emotional sight, and that would be a really romantic story if it didn't have Sainsbury's in it.

Were you at the Sheffield Wednesday game at the end of last season? That must have been both horrendous but ultimately very satisfying? I couldn't get there. It was awful. To celebrate various family near-things with illness and what not we had planned a massive get together not thinking for a minute that administration and near relegation would follow. I decided to do the decent and mature thing and not go (much against Ali's wishes who thought I might ruin the day).

Trouble is after two minutes of watching telly I was so fed up with well meaning people asking me what was happening that I left. I walked a long way to Mitcham Common and walked round and round it for two hours in the pouring rain. There was not a soul there except, and I swear this is true, one elderly man walking his dog who went by me and said: "Wednesday have equalised". Eventually, I got a text from Ali, followed by hundreds of others and I am not ashamed to admit that I stood in the rain and cried.

Do Palace still consider Brighton to be their No.1 rivals? My generation certainly do. I think there are some younger fans who aren't quite as vehement because we rarely get to play them and because Steve Coppell managed there as well, but for me and my mates, the mere mention of Peter Ward and Brian Horton will get us angry. (The feeling is mutual from our side with regards to Jim Cannon, Henry Houghton and don't get me started on Kelvin Morton - Ed.) I did the voice over for the Palace Centenary DVD and at the premier in a packed Fairfield Hall, the first sight of Alan Mullery had the place in uproar. Luckily the director very cleverly added a graphic of cartoon devil's horns growing on his forehead so anger changed to laughter.

It's a strange rivalry because not only is it long distant it's also relatively new. One old chap I met tried to tell me it dated back to gang fights in the '30s but it really only started after a long running cup tie in 1976 when we were both in Division 3. It bemuses most people but the worst football violence I have ever seen was at Palace Brighton games.

That said of course, Brighton fans were very quick to express support when we were in trouble and I had a fantastic night headlining one of their benefits to raise money for the Falmer campaign. Obviously I had to explain a lot of the clever jokes to them.

Do you have any interest in Non-League football? Lewes FC are only just down the road from you and you'd be afforded a very warm welcome there should you choose to pay us a visit. When we were younger, if Palace were too far away, we used to go to Tooting and Mitcham all the time, and I loved it. Our Sunday League team later went onto get a final which was played at Sandy Lane and that was like Wembley to us.

I think non-League teams will benefit more and more as people become disillusioned with the money and hype in the top leagues. At heart, and so many fans tell me this, whether you support Liverpool or Lewes, the important part of the experience is the match itself and the talking the same bollocks to the same people week in week out before the match. Most Liverpool fans choose to talk bollocks in a pub, not the ground, and eventually a lot of people will suss out that they can do the whole bollocks/match experience much more cheaply and enjoyably at a non-League ground.

Lewes have just become a community club. Ultimately, in a season or two we will be owned by the fans who can vote the board in or out. Is that something you'd like to see happen at Palace? I would like to see it happen at every club. I think most right-thinking football fans would. Now I have met so many more fans and realise the experience and expertise they could bring to running a club I am even more convinced of it.

Obviously as you rise up the league it would seem to be more impractical but there is no reason why more clubs shouldn't follow your example. I'm certain Chester City would still be here if the fans had owned the club and I think it's disgraceful and obscene that a club in the country of the Premiership, was allowed to go bust for the sake 0f 57,000 measly bloody quid.

One of the very many things the new owners of Palace are getting right is their relationship with the fans. Simon Jordan concentrated on the corporate income and seemed genuinely confused that 'customers' would want a say in running the business. The new owners have already opened lines of communication, gone onto fans' forums to answer questions and been in contact with the Ultras and other groups to ask for their views. It's a great leap forward, but that's the way it should be.

Football pundits took a bit of a kick to the jubulanis during the World Cup. Are there any that you actually like both professionally and as a viewer? I feel this is one of those answers that should start the way Australian cricketers start: "Aw look mate..." I hardly know Shearer or Hansen but they are always polite. I really like Gary, Lawro is the friendliest bloke you could meet and Lee Dixon is genuinely nice.

One of the problem's for them is, they are on a hiding to nothing when it comes to tactical analysis. If they don't do enough they are accused of treating the viewers like idiots, if they do too much they are accused of being too technical (one letter said a particular piece of analysis had been like having a music expert sitting with you at a concert and taking all the fun out of it by explaining it note by note) and obviously on the Saturday night show they only have an hour or so for eight games.

I genuinely learn things from them, Hansen and Dixon in particular but the master was Gordon Strachan. Watching a game with him was like watching it with a cross between Stephen Hawking and an over-excited 12 year old. His vision and analysis of the game was extraordinary, as was his detailed knowledge of players and his enthusiasm for the game.

He also highlights another problem for pundits: opinions. He managed to voice opinions without necessarily insulting a player, but partly because of fears about losing access to clubs and partly from natural reluctance it is really hard to get the sort of opinion on screen that you will sometimes hear off it.

That's why the immediate reaction to the England Germany game was so unusual, it displayed the anger and disappointment of us all; and fans want to hear the insight and opinion of people who know far more about the game than we do. The other big problem presenters and pundits have is that they don't understand fans' culture like we do. Our passion was their job, they love it and they appreciate it but in a way differently to us - similarly, I very rarely laugh at a comedy show. I will find it funny but I am too busy analysing the technique and second guessing the content to actually laugh.

Most of them were playing seriously at such a young age they didn't have a chance to actually be fans. I really really would love to know what it feels like to score the winning goal in a big match but they reallly really don't want to know what it feels like to have a sixteen hour round trip in a mini van to a midweek away game. Or indeed what it feels like to 'phone a woman you're about to fall in love with at six 0'clock in the morning after Blackburn away.

That's why Adrian is so popular, he understands the parts of a game that a player loves. How many times have you heard a pundit say "this mass brawl is exactly what the game doesn't need" when what the fans are thinking is "why isn't the goalkeeper getting involved in this mass brawl?"

So I do think we could get more from our pundits but in general I think they do a good job, they are exceptionally knowledgable and they do love the game. And the answer to your next question: would I be saying that if I knew for a fact that they wouldn't be reading this? Yes, I would.

Who is the most famous person in your phone-book? Well, I've met Mohammad Ali and George Best and Desert Orchid and I have worked with Kevin Spacey. I suppose Gary Lineker counts as famous does he? (at a push, unless he wants to be interviewed on EFW then he most certainly does, yes - Ed.) To be honest the two people in my phonebook I am most childishly pleased at having are John Motson and Jasper Carrott. Did you notice the way I skilfully dropped Ali, Best, Spacey and Orchid even though I clearly don't have their numbers in my book?

Alan Davies told me that Gabby Logan is deeply attractive in real life. God forbid that EFW would ever stoop so low, so we'll move on shall we. Oh, sod it, is she? Come now. Are we really going to objectify a clever woman and fine broadcaster in 2010? We are? Well, Alan is right. Gabby is deeply attractive. There's a kind of stern innocence about her that is deeply appealing. And it's very easy to make her blush and giggle as well. No, hang on, that's me. She is a very nice person, and, of course, lurking at the back of your mind there's always the whole gymnastics thing...I've got her number in my phone book.

Gabby pictured in GQ Magazine. Nation nods in agreement with Alan Davies.

What is the cheesiest 'Day' related headline you've had in a review? How long have you got? (All day, hehe, did you see what I did there? - Ed). There have been many but as I called my first Edinburgh show 'The Day Trip' I suppose I haven't got much room to complain.
I was particularly fond of one in the BBC in-house magazine which said "Not a Hay-Day" above a story about me being chased by a horse vet at the Cheltenham Festival.

Since you mentioned it - I don't particularly like horse racing but I do make of point of listening to the 5 Live coverage of Cheltenham which you've become an integral part of. Is that the highlight of your sporting calender? I'm really pleased you say that because we get so many people who say they don't like racing but they really enjoy our coverage, hopefully because our enthusiasm and our affection for each other comes across. I'd be reluctant to say that anything non-Palace related was the highlight of my sporting calendar but I really look forward to it. We all stay in the same farmhouse miles from nowhere (although everyone knows I am terrified of the countryside now so there is a lot of teasing) and sitting round the massive table of an evening swapping stories and gossip and getting just drunk enough is a fantastic way of passing the time. I could tell you things about Clare Balding that would make your hair curl.

John Inverdale's enthusiasm comes across in spades at Cheltenham and indeed at the other great sporting occasions he covers. He must be a joy to work with? You know that farmhouse I mentioned? John Inverdale is both alpha male and top dog, once you accept that fact he is an absolute charmer. He is also one of the most under rated broadcasters we have in this country, he never quite gets the credit he deserves. Basically he plants himself on the weighing room steps and for three hours effortlessly deals with anything that comes up while somebody shouts in his ear. He's the same at the golf and at rugby on TV. His secret is, I think, that he would be at those sporting events anyway, as a fan, because he loves them so much but he is never afraid to ask a question that may hurt.

Radio, television work, podcasts, writing, stand up - you've done the Jewson lot. Do you have a preference? Well, I always refer to myself as a stand-up even though I do less of that than anything else. I tend to love the job I am doing at the time but stand-up will always be the most thrilling and rewarding and psychologically damaging; and I love the company of stand-up comedians. My wife is working on shows at the Edinburgh festival and I can't wait to get up there, see some stuff and talk comedy and football long into the night.
To be honest, I'm delighted I've had the chance to do so many things but I wonder if I am spreading myself too thin - I'm finding writing funny things for other people to say a bit frustrating at the moment, I think I need to start writing a new show for myself.

Probably my favourite job at the moment is the podcast I do with Mark Chapman, Graham Poll and Roy Meredith from Championship Manager. It really is four people talking about football but a lot of people listen, and I'm sure you get the same childlike excitement from having readers all over the world that we do about having listeners from all over the world. One of our World Cup competition winners was from Guatemala. Mind you they don't just listen, they challenge, it really helps make sure you don't have a too parochial perspective on football.

Chappers, Meredith, Poll and Day in the pod.

Do you listen to any other football podcasts? I am a bit superstitious about listening to other podcasts since I started mine. I'd rather we did what we did rather than influencing ours even sub-conciously. Which is a bit pointless because Roy seems to listen to all of them.

And do you get time to follow any football blogs? I worked for a year on the ill fated Fanbanta Football Website in 2007 and first became award of football blogs then. To be honest, it's only through doing the podcast and the recommendations of the wonderful Roy Meredith that I am beginning to discover them properly, among many, yours of course and a chap who blogs under the name Hartch, and for me, the discovery has been fantastic.

I have a terribly romantic view of football. I think it's a vitally important part of the identity of a community and it's a massive part of the culture of this island. I got really cross hearing Mark Kermode describe culture as "everything except football".

I like Mark, and I love theatre and cinema, books and music; but football is equally as important as they are. I love football for the sentiment, the nostalgia, the friendship, the camaraderie, the songs and the kits. I learnt about geography and history through football, about Crooked Spires and Chairboys and Young Boys Berne. Football fans are as passionate and articulate about the game as opera lovers are about the music, more so probably. On a cold Wednesday night in Norwich the latest French film noir will be watched in a tiny cinema by Mark Kermode and three other people, down the road 25,000 people will be watching their football team.
Football matters, and the point I meant to make at the start of that rant is that increasingly it is in blogs rather than newspapers that I find the quality of writing that does it justice. Hartch wrote a piece recently about Paul Gascoigne that would bring tears to the eyes of a statue.

Do you have a favourite ground? Yes, I do. It's called Selhurst Park. I always like going to Portsmouth because it's ludicrously 'proper' and I quite like the Emirates because as a kid dreaming of going to football on a jetpack in the future the Emirates is kind of how it looked.
To be honest, I like visiting any ground where there is a clear reminder of the club's heritage, but the short answer is: Selhurst Park.

Do you know how many you've been to? Are you allowed to count new grounds twice? (can of worms, don't go there - Ed.) If the answer is no then only counting grounds that I have seen Palace play at then I have been to 68 grounds. I am aware that for you and many of your readers that is a pathetic number, but I have been to those 68 grounds a lot of times.
One thing I haven't done is seen nearly enough football abroad and that is something we intend to rectify with some podcast weekends away.

Twitter. Hideous waste of time or great way to spend five minutes on the bog? I haven't worked out how to do it on a mobile yet and I can't take the PC to the mobile. The BBC made me sign up for my penultimate piece last season and I did so kicking and screaming. I have to admit however that I have really taken to it. I'm terrified by the tyranny of having to think of funny things to say but I have discovered some really nice people, some very interesting facts and a lot of brilliant websites because of it. I have 1,500 followers at the moment which is ahead of Poll and Meredith but way behind Chapman. Not that it matters of course. My twitter address is @kevinhunterday Not that it matters, as I say.

That's it Kevin, thanks again for taking the time to talk to us and keep up the very good work old chap. Mate it was my pleasure. Sorry if I banged on a bit.

- Feel free to comment below -


Danny Last said...

For those that don't know, the headline is of course a nod to the late, great Frank Sidebottom.

This live video of 'Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day' is essential viewing:

RIP Frank.

Anonymous said...

really enjoyed this piece.
the wedding recpetion in selhurst park is class.
Totally agree with him about gordon strachan as a football character,he is class
Mark W

Deacs said...

Top Piece, Top Bloke and his section in MOTD 2 is one of the highlights

I was a bit sceptical about Colin Murray taking over from Chiles but i think he had a good showing this WC which will hopefully mean that MOTD 2 will always be superior than the Saturday edition

Martin Searle said...

A superb piece. Thanks, from a Palace fan (yes, I know...)

And RIP Frank.

Danny Last said...

Thanks for the comments lads. Really appreciated. Kevin is indeed a top bloke and I was delighted he gave up so much of his time to do this.

Next up an interview with the lovely Gabby Logan - possibly. Fingers crossed.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Paxman's job's safe then. I realise you have to be nice to get interviewees but to have before you the man responsible for the comedy abortion that was James Corden's World Cup show and not inflict any physical chastisement is unforgiveable.

He is also heavily involved with football coverage in this country , outside of Soho House widely thought to be abysmal. His slot on MOTD2 was rightly described by @ZonalMarking as the nadir, although it may be considered the highpoint when that puerile twerp Colin Murray gets his hands on the show.

But Mark Lawrenson's very friendly, that's the important thing.

Danny Last said...

This is what he actually said:

"Phil and I didn't actually write the script - that turned up fully formed for every script meeting (it may have been written by elves). What Phil and I did was basically to chip stuff in during the day, suggest lines of enquiry, add some football trivia and keep an eye on the games for unusual or funny events, so we didn't have as much creative input as we would have liked"

So, I don't think he's single-handedly the "man responsible for the comedy abortion that was James Corden's World Cup show" do you?

me again said...

I hope you're that pedantic when you tackle Gabby and her groundbreaking interviews with Fabio Capello, Danny.

Danny Last said...

Hehe....don't worry (whoever you are), the shackles will be off for that one.

AciJub said...

Another great blog. So disappointed Kevin didn't have Desert Orchids number - I really want to know what they would talk about... maybe Desert Orchid would be dissing Mr. Ed?
Looking forward to your interview with Gabby. You can cross your fingers, the question is will she... no, that's just not right :)