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For the Love of Football

For the Love of Football

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Published by Stuart Fuller
Ian Rands from the website A United View in conversation with commentator Guy Mowbray
Ian Rands from the website A United View in conversation with commentator Guy Mowbray

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Published by: Stuart Fuller on Jul 04, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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For the Love of Football
Ian Rands from
talks to BBC Football Commentator Guy Mowbray
Football commentary always seemed like a great job when I was younger. You get to travel the country,potentially the world, watching the game you love. You visit great stadiums, meet great players, thegreat managers. Immerse yourself in the culture of the game. Oh and you get paid for it. I could neversee the downsides, apart from not getting to watch my beloved team each week? As BBC commentatorGuy Mowbray told me, the downsides are few and far between, although a stomach upset, a TV gantryand 90 minutes of football isn't a great combination.Fresh from a double header weekend of commentary and ahead of recording the latest edition Late KickOff, Guy kindly took the time to tell me a bit about his career, what drove him to make the careerdecision I would have loved to have made when I was younger and what is left to achieve for a man whohas already commentated on two World Cup Finals.I began by asking Guy where and when the interest in being a football commentator originated? Theanswer, like for many of us reading this, began with a childhood football obsession.
"I was playing,listening, watching, and absorbing every bit of information there was." 
Dreaming of wearing thenumber 9 shirt for his beloved York City, watching his team at a time when they were achieving giant-killing exploits against Arsenal in 1985 and a draw against Liverpool at Bootham Crescent the followingyear.Yet it was wise words from his Dad that set the ball rolling
"Having exited my teens still thinking about what I'd like to do with my life, one sentence set the ball rolling." "If you can't get paid for playing football, why don't you try getting a job watching it?" 
Interestingly though, when many broadcasters list the names and voices that inspired them, Guy'sheroes were firmly on the pitch.
"My idols weren't broadcasters, the stars will always be the players." 
Despite this he admits that, like most of us of a certain age, hearing any archive of the late,great Peter Jones (Voice of BBC radio football from 1966-90) and Brian Moore (ITV) always bringsback fantastic childhood memories.Spurred on by his dad, Guy started writing as many letters to as many broadcast and reporting outletsas he could, outlining his knowledge of and love for the game.
"Clubcall's northern co-ordinator John Temple responded some weeks (may have been months) later and invited me to shadow him at a match. The following week I was on my own! We both took a lucky punt basically." 
His subsequent move to radio saw him in football commentating heaven. His first full time radio job wascovering City games for Minster FM, York's independent local station. However when the station boughtWear FM in Sunderland (now Sun FM) and bought the rights to commentate on Sunderland's matches,Guy moved up the divisions and away from the Bootham press box. Guy still makes time for watchingYork, getting to every home game he possibly can and at least a couple away in a season.Sunderland had its attractions though,
"There's something about the Mackems' passion that hooks you in and so to be honest that more than compensated for not getting to watch City quite so much. I only hated it once - when commentating on a routine 2-0 Liverpool win over Sunderland in the League Cup on the same night York beat Man Utd 3-0 at Old Trafford!" 
Despite resting players, the United team that September evening included Beckham, McClair, Giggs,Neville, Pallister and Irwin. Only the introduction of Steve Bruce from the bench helped to stem the Yorktide. A special night indeed and a disappointing one to miss, but less than three years later Guy'sachievements would more than compensate.As the radio work developed, Guy was making his first forays into television. Although the transitionbetween radio and television commentating is not straightforward.
"It takes time - and if I heard my early TV commentaries back now I'd probably cringe more than usual. When I started in TV with Eurosport I was working for Metro Radio in the North East at the same time so I had to consciously think about which medium I was broadcasting on as I flicked between the two. That can be troublesome, but for me I think it helped." 
It certainly didn't do Guy any harm,earning a 1999 Sony award for hispresenting, commentary and productionof his Saturday show from Sunderland,including the epic play off final againstCharlton. But he was not onlyrecognised for his radio work that year,also picking up a RTS Award as theBest Newcomer in TV Sport. One of thereasons for that award might surprisemany who didn't have satellitetelevision at that time. Eurosport hadcoverage of the 1998 World Cup inFrance and Guy, at the age of 26,became the youngest commentator to cover a World Cup final.So how did his first final compare with the experience of commentating for the largest terrestrialaudience in 2010?
"Commentating on the final in South Africa was fantastic - except the '98 final I covered for Eurosport was a better game with a better atmosphere. Given the fact France won on home soil it would be." 
 The African World Cup experience made up for the disappointment of the England performances andthe quality of some of the matches.
"I loved everything about the South Africa World Cup though. Agreat experience and the final was a wonderful occasion - if not a tremendous football match.I'm glad I was there and want to be at every one in the future, Qatar included!" 
During the World Cup, Guy covered England's livegames on the BBC including the defeat by Germany.Added to his previous experience of commentating onhis own team I wondered if he ever let his neutralityslip.
"I don't think I have - others may disagree. I think covering the England games it's fair enough to make clear who you 'want' to win without letting it cloud your judgement of calling decisions or assessing the game. I should point out that I would do that for any of the home nations in a major tournament, and for British teams in European games. You have to know and relate to your audience." 
Guy knew from February-March time that he had the final "gig", but tried to forget it as much aspossible, both during the build up and once the tournament started.
"If you thought about anything other than your next game you'd soon make a mess of things and see the big ones given to someone else." 
With the BBC presenting a strong commentating line-up including Steve Wilson andJonathan Pearce, Guy is kept him on his toes and it's important that he doesn't let anything slip.Something that, with 15-20 hours of preparation for each game, he tries to avoid. To my mind it is theeffort that Guy and his colleagues in the commentary box put into their preparation that goes some wayto compensating for a studio pundit's apparent lack of interest. Take Alan Shearer admitting to knowlittle about New Zealand and Slovakia at the same World Cup.Social media and fan sites make it much easier for fans to comment on all aspects of football, includingthe way it's broadcast and the people who present it. Not least when you commentate on the bigmatches and the contentious decisions. It poses an interesting quandary for Guy;
"You do pay attention - but try not to. What you must remember is that a lot of the comments - good and bad - are made by people who have never worked in the industry and have no experience or knowledge of how it works or why something has happened the way it has." 
"A friend of mine put it quite well - like overhearing a conversation in a pub between people who don't know you, but they've got an opinion anyway. The anonymity of the internet unfortunately can make some people 'braver' than they'd normally be. It doesn't really affect the way I commentate, but sometimes I read things that trigger a "oh yes, I do do that don't I?" thought in me - and I might think more carefully next time." 
Taking away the sense of occasion of a World Cup final, choosing the most enjoyable match to havecommentated on proves tricky.
"There are too many to pick one out. Often it can be something quite recent. Can I say this weekend just gone? I had 2 great Premier League games - Man City 4- 
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