Friday, 11 March 2011

Simon Brotherton interview

Simon says...

Man alive, multiple award winning Simon Brotherton is hard to pin down for an interview. After a chance meeting with European Football Weekends in the QPR press lounge (check us out) we signed an 'I'll get the next coffees in' deal to bring the Match of the Day and Radio 5-Live commentator to these pages. We could have done it there and then, but they offer free beer in said lounge and EFW had filled our boots with it. Not a drop for Mr Brotherton I hasten to add - he's a consummate professional.

Anyway, between now and then Simon has been all around Europe commentating on Champions League and Europa League ties as well as picking up the microphone for the World Cup cycling in Manchester, interviewing Alberto Contador, continuing his MOTD work, spending valuable time with his wife and kids - you get the picture. We were finally granted a window of opportunity last night, and I think you'll agree that good things do indeed come to those who wait:

Not that we are jealous at all Simon, but you go on European football trips and get paid for doing so. Do you have the best job in the world? Well, if you love football it certainly takes some beating. Even though I've been doing it for years, there's still a thrill in things like wandering around the Vieux Port in Marseille in the sunshine or watching the teams come out in one of the big stadiums and remembering that someone's paying you to be there. I absolutely love it. However, I'm glad you didn't ask me that question while I was in Prague recently for the Sparta/Liverpool game. It was freezing cold and the game had no redeeming features at all. It was utter garbage as a spectacle. Felt better in the warm after a Czech beer or two though.

If you were to recommend one city for a EFW which would it be and why? That's a really hard one to answer because there are so many places where you could have a great weekend. I know it's an obvious answer but I would never pass up the chance to go to somewhere like Barcelona, Milan or Lisbon, but I could easily list 20 more too. I guess you want something more interesting than that so here goes. How about making it a long AFW (African Football Weekend) and taking a flight to Accra in Ghana. Have a couple of days to look around before heading to the Ohene Djan stadium for an international featuring the Black stars, maybe a World Cup Qualifier. Having covered the African Cup of Nations there, I can say that would be a trip to remember for a long time.

Do you have a preference for commentating on either the wireless or on television? No, I think they're just different and I enjoy both. Radio is sometimes more fun, but when a TV commentary works well that's really satisfying because you are part of a much bigger team where everyone has to get their bit right.

Are there huge differences between the two? I think there are differences yeah, and I certainly don't commentate in the same way for both. Most commentators do end up doing one or the other. The Radio commentator has a much more pivotal and influential role on the broadcast. After all, you are the eyes of the listener and can decide how to paint the picture and provide a flavour of the occasion. On the TV you're constrained to a certain extent by the pictures provided by the Director and also the fact that the viewer can see for themselves what's happening. On the radio I'm trying to paint the picture, on TV, aiming to add to it while hopefully not annoying the viewer.

Sid Lowe famously used Panini football stickers to help recognise unfamiliar faces during the 2010 World Cup. Is there a method to your encyclopaedic knowledge of Marseille right backs? I'm alright with Marseille right backs as I have a soft spot for OM and have kept an eye on their results for years, so Rod Fanni's not a problem for me, so to speak! To get back to your question, I've used the sticker book routine myself in the past to reinforce my prep. (That was my excuse anyway). As recently as last year my youngest daughter started collecting the Adrenaline World Cup trading cards. She was very new to football and was learning who the players were, so naturally I helped to make sure the lads in her class weren't stitching her up with any duff trades. My wife found it highly amusing to see me sitting round the kitchen table swapping cards with several 8 year old kids!

Which was the first match you commentated on and were you a bag of nerves beforehand? Arsenal against Aston Villa at Highbury for BBC Radio WM in April '91. Villa won 1-0 and Chris Price scored the goal. I was alongside Paul Franks and Andy Blair, and yes I was nervous. Franksy said he'd go 1st and hand over midway through the half, to give me time to settle in. I think it had the opposite effect. I merely sat there quietly crapping myself waiting to go on. His advice, "Whatever you do, don't stop talking". I didn't and it went o.k I think.

Simon Barnett commentates for the blind on match days at Arsenal FC. He wants to progress his career but is worried that at 36 it may be too late. Any advice for Simon? Enjoy commentating on Arsenal because week in, week out you are watching and describing some of the best football in the country. To progress would probably feel like going backwards at first because you'd not be watching Arsenal initially if you went elsewhere. BBC local radio in London or the home counties is a great place to start for someone based where you are. See if you can pop in and have a coffee and a chat with the Sports Producer. Take a recording of yourself in action and see if there might be an opportunity at some point. You never know when someone might be unavailable which could open a door. If you are good and prepared to put yourself out and show persistence, your career can move on at 36. If it's what you really want to do then go for it, and Good Luck! I'd also be happy to talk to you about commentating itself if that would help.

You get a nice soup in the QPR press lounge and a I've heard you get a curry at Wolves. What is the best welcome you've had from a club - on an empty stomach? Most clubs look after us really well these days. I'm sure for some people in the media it's the best meal they get all week. In alphabetical order the top 3 Champions league Culinary places are Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in my humble opinion. In Europe, you won't be suprised to learn that you won't starve at Bayern Munich, with plenty of hearty fare and sausages to keep the winter cold at bay. The best welcome I can remember though, came at Wolfsburg when they played Man Utd last season in the Champions league just before Christmas. As well as sarnies and sausages, We were all given a beautifully tied celophane bag with big chocolate santas and others the size of tree ornaments. The idea was to take it home for the family but I reckon half the chocolate didn't last beyond half time in some cases.

How did it feel when you slipped on the Match of the Day jacket for the first time? Nerve-wracking to be honest.

And do you ever take that jacket off? Yes. And mine's not a sheepskin either.

I've checked and @BrothertonBBC is available on Twitter, and yet you're not on it. Do you have no interest in social networking? I may actually end up tweeting before long, but to be honest I spend enough time online without spending the rest of the day tapping away into my phone as well. I'd rather go out on my bike or spend some time with the kids.

Well, your colleagues at the Beeb have been on Twitter today. First up Dan Walker from Football Focus asked you to explain why Horsham is the home of ragu....I'd love to come up with some witty response here, but I genuinely haven't got a clue what he's on about! He's from Crawley so I doubt he's being complimentary about Horsham.

5-Live commentator Jacqui Oatley wants you to remind us of your nickname within the BBC and Kevin Day also made reference to an 'infamous burger incident'. Care to shed any light on that score? I'm known in the office as Burgers after having a Big Mac taken from my grasp years ago late at night on the tube just as the doors beeped and closed. It was stealthy and timed to perfection - some bloke just jumped on the train, snatched my burger and jumped straight off again. I was left with just a few sad strands of lettuce and the box as the train pulled away. That'll teach me to get the munchies after a couple of beers.

Whilst we are on a roll. Have you made any on-air gaffes that would have made Denis Norden proud? Oh yes. I once had Birmingham City pushing hard for an equalizer for the last 20 minutes of a game against Preston at Deepdale when in fact they were still 2-0 down all along. I didn't realise a goal had been disallowed until interviewing the manager some time after the final whistle. I was so busy trying to dial the number to get on air that by the time I looked up they were playing again and I wrongly thought they'd just kicked off. I also once described Simon Sturridge as being " as cool as a cumicumber" in scoring a goal at Wembley in a Leyland DAF Final. My old boss only mentions it every time I see him!

There was one comment that caused confusion as well that springs to mind. When welcoming World Service listeners to Kenilworth Road for an FA Cup tie between Luton and Liverpool, I said "welcome to Luton's cramped ground". Apparently many listeners thought I'd said welcome to Luton's crap ground and the e-mails and texts came flooding in.

You're good pals with John Motson. Far be it from me to nudge into your lucrative after dinner speech routine, but do you have a favourite Motty story? If only I did have a lucrative after dinner speech routine! I'm sure Motty's got a few stories to tell, but I do know his traditional approach extends to his half-time break at matches. Apparently when offered a Chunky KitKat with his half time cuppa in the not so distant past he declined, asking for a "proper one" instead. That's old school.

Do you get the time to read any football blogs? I spend a lot of time online, so inevitably yes I do read some blogs from time to time. You mentioned Sid Lowe earlier, he's good on the Spanish stuff and his writing in Guardian sport blog that wouldn't get in the main paper gives him more space to write.

Are there any football journalists that stand out to you? There are several, but my favourite writer doesn't cover football at all. William Fotheringham writes for the Guardian mostly on Cycling, with a mixture of authority, intelligence, wit and irreverence. I also enjoy writers who make me laugh, like Martin Kelner.

You've commentated on a plethora of sports aside from football, which of those do you enjoy picking the mic up for the most? The rush of a sprint in the Tour de France on a hot day in July excites me, particularly when Mark Cavendish is giving everyone a pasting. The Olympic success of the British cyclists in Beijing was also something special that will stay with me for ever. I've been very fortunate and other than the Cycling, I'd have to say a big fight in Vegas really gets the juices flowing as does the first pitch or the final out in the Baseball World Series.

I'm guessing Lance Armstrong would be your biggest sporting hero right? It's a great story but actually no he's not, and with the current federal investigation into his career, you have to wonder quite what the ending will be. I was always a Sean Kelly man myself.

And finally, anyone else you'd like to see interviewed on European Football Weekends? Yes, how about Dan Walker? Ask him what Ragu's got to do with anything!

- Feel free to comment below - 


Dave said...

Great interview, have followed Simon's career from when he covered the Villa on BBC Radio WM, his voice always followed the goal horn alert!

Richard Browne said...

Arsenal certainly didn't lose to Villa in April 1991! He meant 1990! (Pedant)

Great intervuiew otherwise.