NCFC: Hi Chris, thanks for talking to us. You’re usually the person conducting the interview – have you been interviewed yourself many times before?
Not very often, but I think that’s probably a good thing. Usually managers and players have much more interesting things to say, and people are a bit more interested in what they have to say when it comes to football!
NCFC: Do you ever feel sorry for managers, because they’re put in front of microphones before and after every match and they must feel like they churn out similar lines each time?
It’s not a job I would like to do, particularly after a game when it’s quite often within half an hour of it finishing that I’m there to do the interview. By that point, they’ve usually spoken to several television and radio stations, so they do find themselves sometimes saying the same things.
It is part of the job. I think they know that when they come into it, but I would imagine when you want to actually do your job and speak to your players, there are weeks when the last thing you want is to go over the same thing with different reporters.
NCFC: What would you say is the one secret to a good interview?
I think it’s important to give the manager the opportunity to have their say and explain their point of view. By the time a manager comes to speak to us, a lot has happened: the team news had come out before the game which people might not agree with, major incidents have happened during the 90 minutes – there is so much to talk about.
You need to see your role as giving the manager the opportunity to explain his team selection and to hear what he thought of the game. If fans don’t agree and have a different opinion, that’s up to them. I think there are people who expect you to go in like Jeremy Paxman every week! I don’t think you can do that. People aren’t interested in what I think about the game.
All in, you’re probably speaking to the manager nearly a hundred times a season, and I don’t speak to my friends that often!
NCFC: When you look back over your time covering Norwich City, who would you say – player or manager - has been the best interviewee?
That’s a good question. I think we’ve been really lucky over the years as there has always been a solid group of players who have understood the importance of speaking to the media and communicating with fans. When I first started covering the club, players like Iwan Roberts were playing and it’s no surprise that he’s gone on to have a career in the media. He was always someone who would talk to you and be quite honest.
Now, somebody like Russell Martin is tremendous. He’s often the player that will speak to the media after a defeat, and that’s because everybody knows they can trust him to be honest in the right way. He realises that fans who come and sit at Carrow Road do want to hear from players.
Having said that, not everybody is confident in front of a microphone or TV camera, and why should they be? I wouldn’t trust me one-on-one with the goalkeeper in a Premier League match, so why should we then expect players to be comfortable with a microphone?
Of the managers we’ve had here over the years, I’ve managed to get on pretty well with all of them. I enjoy speaking to Alex Neil. He doesn’t mince his words at all; he’s very honest and forthright after games, and that’s all you can ask for.
NCFC: You’re a City supporter and you’ve been associated with the club for a considerable time now. How special have the last eight months been?
It’s been brilliant. In fact, the last few years of covering Norwich City have just been fantastic. When I first started, for the first few years not much happened. They were just out of the top flight with Nigel Worthington, and it took them a long time to do anything really after that.
Recently it’s been fantastic. We’ve had all the promotions and then of course what happened at Wembley in May and the semi-final against Ipswich before. That was a terrific run of games. I think it was the best month any of us have had covering Norwich City.
One of the things that made it so thrilling was that you didn’t know what was going to happen. You knew it was so important that it all ended well with a Wembley win, or none of it would have felt so good now looking back. To be able to commentate on those games was a great thrill.
NCFC: Where did your path to becoming Radio Norfolk’s Norwich City commentator begin?
It’s something I always wanted to do, partly because I wasn’t very good at being a footballer. I didn’t even get in the school team but I was always a massive Norwich fan. My granddad and dad used to take me to Carrow Road, so I was really keen on the Canaries.
I knew if I wanted to get a job in football, it wasn’t going to be playing. I used to watch any football on TV or listen to it on the radio, and through that I got the idea that being paid to watch football would be a good way to make a living.
I did work experience at Radio Norfolk when I left school, and then I worked alongside Roy Waller for a long time which was brilliant having grown up listening to him. Eventually, I got to take over the job of commentating on my team, which is definitely my dream job.
NCFC: Was it a difficult job to take over from Roy as the voice of Norwich City on the radio?
It was and it wasn’t. It was in the sense that he was the only person who had ever done that job properly, but it wasn’t difficult for me because it was a job that I really, really wanted. Roy was around at the time and I was working really closely with him, he helped me along and I knew I had his blessing and his full support. That meant a lot.
NCFC: When you watch a game on the television or hear one on the radio, are you always listening a bit more attentively to the commentator than the average consumer would be?
I suppose you are a little bit, maybe subconsciously. You try not to because you’re a fan first and foremost and you want to watch the game, but I think you notice the way certain commentators do things, and how they used the research notes they’ve done. I find it quite interesting watching how commentators blend in the homework they’ve done with what’s actually happening on the pitch.
NCFC: Tell us about your very first commentary, because it’s a great story…
My first commentary was alongside Roy, and because I hadn’t done it before we shared half of a half each and it was a pre-season friendly against Heerenveen in the Bryan Hamilton days. About five minutes after I started commentating for the very first time, there was a massive thunderstorm and all the players went off!
So within five minutes of my life as a commentator, I had no football at all going on and I had to keep talking. I felt like I’d got a job on Test Match Special. We had Matt Jackson as our summariser that day, and I was grateful to have him to talk to at the time!
NCFC: Do you have a routine before every match?
From our point of view there’s one really nervous moment, and that’s when we turn up with our box of broadcasting equipment to a game and try to connect to the studio for the first time. There are two lights: one is red and one is green. If both light up, then you know you’re connected. That’s always the big moment of the afternoon for me.
The technical side is the thing you get most nervous about – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve prepared, if there’s a dodgy cable then people aren’t going to hear you.
NCFC: Does commentating come easier on some days and harder on others?
Yes, completely. Like everything else, there are some days when you start on a sentence and there’s that part of your brain that says ‘right, this is interesting but you’re on your own now’! You realise you’ve started to talk nonsense.
It’s like any other job – there are some days where you get to the end of the game, and regardless of the result you know you’ve had a good game, and there are others where you think ‘well, I didn’t call that very well’. There’s no rhyme or reason to it.
NCFC: We exist in a multimedia age but radio is still very popular. What is special about the medium?
It is special and I suppose I would say that, but I’m somebody who still follows a lot of sport on the radio. I’ve followed a lot more of the Ashes on the radio than I have done on television, and I think it’s because you can do other things while you’ve got it on.
Radio is much easier to take with you; you can have it in the background and people on the radio become a part of people’s lives a bit more like that. Sport on the radio is something that is particularly special, and I’d like to think that it will always be that way – but then I would say that!
NCFC: Do you get stopped in the street?
On the odd occasion I do. The good thing is, with it being radio people can’t see you most of the time so it’s alright. It shows that there are people listening and that people want to talk to you about football.
That’s one of the great things about being a football fan – you feel part of a huge community. Nowhere illustrated that better than at Wembley. We spent a long time broadcasting from Wembley Way before we went into the stadium, and just the time I spent there I saw so many people that I know or half know, and that just shows what a great community it is.
Finally – if you had to describe your association with Norwich City in one word, what would that word be?
I think bearing in mind that I’ve gone down to League One and back to the Premier League via Wembley, it can only be ‘rollercoaster’!