an afternoon with auntie


A couple of weeks ago, I was invited by the BBC to go to Television Centre at Shepherd's Bush to be on an Internet radio show (or webcast as they are known in the trade) that provided a fan's eye view of the goings on at matches being played that day.

I got the Tube up to White City and on a sunny afternoon came out of the station for the first time with there being no thronging crowds of fans going to Queens Park Rangers.  Every other time I had been on this trip, the trains had been packed with Spurs fans and on coming out onto the main road, there would be loads of people hanging around.  This time there were none and it was just like any other road in the country where there wasn't a match on I suppose.  I had time to kill before I was due to be at the Beeb, so I took a wander around Shepherd's Bush, being very aware that this was the area where Gary Mabbutt had been mugged while in his car a little while previous to my visit.  I wish that I had not got there early, as there is nothing to do in the area.  Yes, there were shops and a market, but little that would interest me. Usually I can find a decent charity shop that might have some footie books in, but I could not find one !!  So, I wandered to Loftus Road, which again was weird.  Not being on a main road, there were only a couple of people around the ground, unlike White Hart Lane, where it is always busy.  Although there was not a game on, the Club Shop was closed and the whole place had an air of resignation about it, even though at that stage they could still have got out of relegation.

Anyway, enough of the "Super Hoops" problems, as it was time for me to make my way into the TV Centre building.  My visit was just a  couple of weeks after the car bomb had exploded outside the building and therefore there were a couple of features which might not be normal there.  Firstly, the directions I had been given were confirmed by the large swathes of plastic sheeting covering what once were the windows to the building.  The blast had taken out the whole side of the building and that was mainly glass, but there had not been time to repair them all yet.  Secondly was the tight security in the building.  I was ushered through to reception, past a group of schoolgirls who were trying to convince security that they were allowed to go in and meet some teen idol on "Live and Kicking" or it's equivalent.  There I was given a visitors badge and waited to be collected and taken up to the BBC Sport studio.  In reception, there were lots of plasma TV's - the ones which are really thin and although the sound was down, the pictures of David Rocastle set me wondering why he was on the news.

Going up into the heart of the Sports team's office, the day's business had already begun as the TV monitors on the desks of the staff were all tuned to the Liverpool v Man U match being played that morning.  So, there we were inside the BBC and everyone was watching Sky !!  But then, when you are reporting sport, you have to watch it, whoever it is being transmitted by.  I was introduced to John (a West Ham fan from Elephant and Castle with a Midlands accent) who was there to do one of the other games and later Paul (a Leeds fan from Cambridge via Northern Ireland).  We were introduced to the production team and allowed to watch the remainder of the match.  The area is not huge, but is packed with staff, computers and a huge wall full of TV screens.  The people there provide all the news for the TV and radio broadcasts put out by the company and while things were relatively busy, I am sure while we were on air, the real business of the day meant that it was a hive of activity.

With the show starting at 2.30 p.m., we were taken into the studio about 15 minutes before to get our sound levels sorted out and were introduced to Jon Myers and Juliette Ferrington, who present the show along with Russell Osman (ex-Ipswich Town and Southampton and many others), who was the day's expert, who also watched and gave comment on the Coventry City v Derby County match.  We settled down into the studio and with six of us in there, it was a little crowded.  It was during this period that I discovered that David Rocastle had died of cancer aged 33.  Although he played for that lot down the road, he was a very talented player and for one to die so young is a great shame.  The TV monitors which take the live feed from the games are set up near the ceiling, so you watch your game and Jon and Juliette come to you during the game to ask how things are going or if you make a noise to indicate that there has been a major incident (a bit like a Sky Soccer Saturday programme but with fans rather than ex-pros).  They say don't be afraid to shout out, but on my first visit, I felt a little bit apprehensive about this and if I am asked back again might be able to get into the swing of it better.  Having said that we did have a bit of banter between us during the afternoon.

We discovered that Jon was a Chelsea fan and Juliette follows Port Vale !!  She knew all about Anthony Gardner !!  When we were on air, for the half hour before kick off we discussed the news of the day and the previous week, which had included England's win in Albania and Tottenham's appointment of Glenn Hoddle as their manager.  As this topic kept cropping up, I had to fight Tottenham's corner and although I feel the matter could have been handled better, I answered the caller from Southampton on the phone (as there is a phone/e-mail in element to the show), that Southampton had hardly covered themselves in glory over the handling of the David Jones affair, so were in no position to criticise others.  It was weird watching the feed from Highbury, where Spurs were to play.  I didn't really expect Tottenham to get much from the game, but when the coverage starts from 2.00 p.m., you see the empty pitch and the empty ground, which is quite unusual.  As the players started warming up, I was grateful that I had been to a few reserve games this season, as the team put out was a very young one.  Gardner, Ferguson, Hillier, Piercy (with his new haircut) and Steven Ferguson all had been given little exposure previously, but obviously, David Pleat, in charge for the day, wanted to give his singings an airing before he passed the reins over to Glenn.

At half-time, Richard Littlejohn usually pops in, but he was ill with a lost voice and therefore couldn't make it.  The studio we were using usually has to be prepared for his "606" show, which is broadcast from there later in the evening.  As the afternoon went on, I got more into it, but every time they came to me for "expert" analysis of what was going on in the game, there was little to report apart from Arsenal going close.  We were hanging on well, but it was only a matter of time before we conceded.  I managed to get a few cracks in at the expense of the Arsenal players (Kanu's haircut looking like his head had been run over).  This was heightened when Jon asked the West Ham fan if he was enjoying Tottenham's suffering, to which he said he did when we were having a bad time.  In response, I asked if having a bad season was knocking his side out of the FA Cup to get to the semi-final.  At this point he told me that there would be no drink for me in the bar afterwards !!  It was all in jest, but Jon told me after the show that there had been one week when it had got heated, where an Everton fan kept having a go at Phil Neal !!

While the show is on, one monitor has Sky's "Soccer Saturday" on it and another has the BBC tele-printer, providing all the latest scores, which are relayed by Jon and Juliette to the listening public.  It can be quite hectic and the shouts or groans from us fans come over behind the chat, so it has the feeling as if you are there.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the best of games for me to say anything about.  I was quite restrained really, which probably wasn't what they wanted and spent a bit of time watching the Coventry game, as there was more going on in that one.  West Ham lost to Everton, but Leeds beat Sunderland, so at least one fan was happy.  Having done a final round up, we adjourned to the BBC bar (which was up a mile of corridors) and we had a good chat about all things footie while having a few drinks.  Russell had to get back to the West Country, but we were joined by another colleague of Jon's who regaled us with tales of interviewing the footballing famous for radio shows.  It was very relaxed and we had a good laugh.  Didn't spot any famous faces in the bar, and then it was time for me to make my way back to Essex.

The show is an unusual one for the BBC and Jon had explained that it wasn't like the usual BBC FiveLive output, even to the extent that he had meetings with executive's to find out exactly how strong the language on the show could be !!  It is good though and obviously helps out those who can't get to the game in this country and indeed world-wide.  The week we were on they received e-mails from Australia, South Africa, Delhi, China, UAE, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Japan !!  The best one they had ever had came be from an oil rig above the Arctic Circle !!  In fact, they had been e-mailed from someone in Alaska for a few weeks and it turned out to be the West ham fan who was out there on an Internet date, which must have been successful as he was due to move out there in a couple of months !!

It is a fun show with an earthy feel to it and Russell Osman was a good bloke, who gave a sensible but professional's view of what was going on, whereas us fans were just acting like we were at a game.  Considering I very rarely enjoy Arsenal-Spurs games, at least until they are over, I would definitely like to do it again, with perhaps a little less at stake.  The whole team helped to put us at our ease and it was a nice atmosphere to work in and really interesting to see how the whole department operates.

The show has been going for a while and they are hoping to take it on into next season.  One thing that didn't work on the day was the 360 degree web camera, which would have shown us all in the studio, as I have the perfect face for radio !! 

Give the show a try.  It's on from 2.30 to 5.00 p.m. on Saturdays and can be found at  and click on the picture of Jon and Juliette, which will appear there when the show is on.  It is a great way to get up to date information on the day's action and one which, like one listener, will astound you that the BBC could feature such biased commentators !!


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