Changes at talkSPORT

As someone who listens to talkSPORT for 8 hours a day at work most days, news coming from the station today has shocked and saddened me.

I was confronted with the Collymore news first. I should say at this point that I am a graduate with a first class honours degree in Radio Production, so I feel more than qualified to have my say on these sorts of things. The daily email update from RadioToday came through at about 11am with the headline “Stan Collymore exits talkSPORT after 8 years”. My initial response was one of disbelief. I have not always agreed with what Stan has to say, nor have I always enjoyed listening to his commentary, but for the most part, he was a talented, passionate and opinionated broadcaster for whom I had utmost respect. Of course, Stan lives just down the road from where I sit writing this now, and to look out for a local lad is only natural. It’s not too often one can hear somebody from the Cannock area on national radio. Even less likely now.

Over the past 8 years, Collymore has had various presenting jobs at the station and has, in my opinion, done justice to all of them. From somebody who read the art form of radio at university and has struggled to break into the industry ever since, I took heart from the fact that Stan gave his all for the job and portrayed a genuine love for the medium.

Of course Stan wasn’t perfect, sometimes his commentary was a little inflammatory, sometimes his emotion got the better of him and he lost his cool, but that’s what talkSPORT offers. It’s not the BBC, where composure and impartiality are king. I’m not saying the BBC’s model is wrong, merely that talkSPORT always offered something different. It was often the inflammation Stan caused that gave his shows the impact and success that they had, in much the same way Adrian Durham has built his reputation.

And so I went about the rest of my day. I was confronted a few hours later with a news story from the Facebook page of The Guardian. “Colin Murray quits talkSPORT after takeover by Sun owner”. I nearly fell to the floor. TWO IN ONE DAY!

I have followed the career of Colin Murray for a number of years, starting at BBC Radio 1 and his partnership with Edith Bowman. I watched him present football on Channel 5, and move to BBC 5 Live to present ‘Fighting Talk’. I even went with a few mates to a live production of said ‘Fighting Talk’, when it had one of its ‘Big Days Out’, at the formerly named Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent. Seeing that show live was wonderful, so funny and hugely entertaining. But seeing Colin head-bang to the Northern Irish band Ash on the touch-line of the pitch was hilarious. And so onto talkSPORT, where his mid-morning slot seemed to fit his style perfectly. Colin quite clearly has a massive soft spot for two things in his life, music and sport. What better way to live your life than combining the two and getting paid for it.

Like with Stan, I don’t always agree with Colin and often find myself getting frustrated listening to his show. I find it hard to listen to the radio without critiquing it, and Colin sometimes gives me a twitch, especially if Liverpool have played the previous night. But for the majority of the time I love listening to his show. The values that Colin holds come across in what he says and how he does things. He’s fair and he’s just, if something is wrong, you can always count on Colin to call it. That is shown in his choice of co-presenters too. People such as Didi Hamann and Stuart Pearce, guys who tell it like it is and will never apologise for that.

It is for these reasons that I felt myself feeling quite proud of Mr Murray tonight. I don’t know him, I’ve never even spoken to him, but I feel proud that he had the balls to stand up for what he believes in and put his hugely successful show on the line. I won’t be dragged into his specific reasons for the move, if you want to read the article I have referred to the link is at the bottom of this post. It is obvious why he has chosen to take the decision he has, and I admire him for it. I joke, sometimes, that his show couldn’t be any more biased in Liverpool FC’s favour, even if it were broadcast from the radio tower in Liverpool city centre. But to make the decision he has made takes guts, morality, honesty and courage. Well done Colin. Good on you. I applaud the decision.

So talkSPORT is going to be a different place moving forward. Yes it’s only two men from a station of hundreds. And yes there are ready replacements queueing up to fill Colin and Stan’s shoes. But today was still a shock, and one that will be felt for a few days more. I wish them both all the best, and I’m certain that neither of them will be out of work for very long.


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Expectant Parents

I was told this week the news that one of my best friends will be becoming a father next year. We celebrated the news with a few jars and I must say that I am so pleased for them, they will undoubtedly make excellent parents.

Christmas is just around the corner and so I loaded up the internet to search for the best presents to buy for expectant parents. I thought that this year, it might be a good idea to get the something practical, or something sweet that will allow them to continue to get more and more excited about the new arrival.

So I type “best presents for expectant parents” into Google. The search results were nothing like I expected. Now, I don’t have children myself, so granted I don’t spend much time searching for stuff like this, but it immediately struck me that a gift for an expectant parent, in most cases, isn’t for the parent at all. The search is full of gifts for the child. I wanted to get something to give to my friends that they could use, for themselves, as a present for them in the position they are in. If I wanted to get a gift for the child, I would have typed into Google “best gifts for children”.

What are you actually meant to buy for expectant parents? I don’t want to take it upon myself to buy things like bottles etc, those sort of things are a very personal choice. I wanted something that says “Merry Christmas guys, I know you’re expecting so here’s a little something that acknowledges that this is going to be a massive change”.

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FIFA President; The easiest job of all?

After what seems like an eternity, earlier this year the much maligned Sepp Blatter was, to all intents and purposes, ousted as the President of football’s world governing body. For the last 17 years, the Swiss businessman has been at the helm of the charity that runs the world’s biggest sport. During that time, hundreds of millions of dollars have changed hands between himself, the organisation, it’s members and outside parties, in deals that have been on both sides of the law.

With his current suspension from all FIFA related activities, a result of the ongoing investigation into corruption, it seems that a long awaited shift from football’s ‘dark days’ is upon us. So the time will soon come for FIFA to require a new boss. This new man or woman will be taking control of one of the largest organisations in sport and will do so with one enormous task on their hands. The new President will be tasked first and foremost, and perhaps above all else, on restoring the public’s faith in the sport they love and with cleaning up the image of it’s governing body. They will have to take charge of a ‘business’ that is seemingly rotten to the core, rife with the sort of dodgy characters you’d expect in a mob and infested with a gigantic tapeworm of deceit and lies that shifts through every corridor. Tough gig?

Let me put it this way. For 17 years, one man has held ultimate power over a franchise that is loved the entire world over. That man has caused almost irreparable damage to the organisation. Billions of people have had to ‘like it or lump it’. Now the hunt is on for somebody to fill his shoes.


Do you think this job would be hard? I don’t. Firstly, I would like to see the person filling the vacant Presidency come from the outside. FIFA does not need another Sepp. Someone from the world of football, maybe. An icon of the game that has gone on to bigger things since retiring maybe. A footballer come entrepreneur. Someone like David Beckham for example. Yes he has a team of advisers and his business ventures may not be all his own work. He will have people to do the hard graft for him and perhaps even some of the thinking, but he has a passion to take the game around the globe and a shrewd team of advisers who have never failed to keep his incredible PR machine turning. It could be someone from outside of football altogether. A Mark Zuckerberg type figure perhaps. Someone who knows how todays world works. Which levers to pull and when, as well as the reasons behind the levers. Football needs to move forward, move with the times and move into a new age where it can be run as a business to further the game’s reach. There will obviously need to be some football brains in the top positions. It’s no good running FIFA if you don’t know anything about football.

Imagine the job ad.

“Multi-million dollar organisation, seeks new President to fill vacant position. Must be experienced in high pressure roles, able to deal with intense scrutiny and have a passion for sport.

Skills required: Honesty, transparency and ability to turn down a bribe”.

Doesn’t sound too hard. Anyone in business will probably tell you that you won’t make it to the top by being nice. You have to get away with what you can and step on some toes whilst you’re doing so. Why? Any self-respecting, honest person could walk into FIFA HQ and take on that job. It’s the easiest job in the world. Nobody wants to see you fail. Nobody will call you a ‘whistleblower’ for revealing who is corrupt and what they have done. Anybody could walk into those plush offices and, providing they have a sense of decency within themselves, turn the place around. Go in and be as straight as an arrow and you will have the easiest job you could find.

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The Masters

Millions of sports fans around the world will be settling in to watch the final round of the Masters from Augusta tonight, to the bewilderment of millions more. How many people will have heard the words “I don’t know how you can sit and watch golf. It’s booooring”? Millions I reckon.

To the untrained eye, watching golf can be boring. Watching a bunch of men (in this case) smack a tiny ball down a field and then walk after it, time after time, may look a little tedious. Even I, as an avid golf fan and occasional player, must admit that the concept does sound a little dreary. But the true wonder in watching this final day at the most prestigious individual tournament in golf is understanding, at least a little, what those men are doing and just how good they actually are.

If you’ve ever played golf, at any level, you will know just how frustrating a game it can be. You will also understand just how hard it is to make that little tiny ball go where you want it to go. And don’t even get me started on putting. Greens that are lightening fast and ungulate and contour like a miniature Pyrenees.

So spending an evening watching someone like Jordan Spieth annihilate one of the most testing courses in the game (testing of both your game and your mental strength), it fills you with admiration. Watching Phil Mickelson hover around the top 3 or 4, having done so for years and years now, you appreciate just how good he is and how hard he must work to stay at the top of his game for so long.

So when confronted with that question; “How can you sit and watch golf?”, be safe in the knowledge that you are watching tiny little touches of magic, shot after shot after shot. And if all else fails, just look at what Ian Poulter is wearing.

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Kids and music. There has to be more to it. 

I don’t have many interactions these days with 18 year olds. I have no children of my own or younger siblings and I am old enough now that they would not be in my normal circle of friends. So when I was speaking to one such creature recently I was intrigued to see how they worked. I asked her about music. That was mistake number one. Firstly, she confused Tom Jones with Cliff Richard. Old Cliff certainly did not sing “it’s not unusual”. Perplexed. 

She then went on to ask me the finest gig I ever attended. After much deliberation I stumped upon one of Pete Docherty’s first gigs after leaving prison. He was with Babyshambles at the time and when he attempted to light a cigarette on stage, he was accosted by a production crew member who politely informed him that if he did light up, he’d be breaking the law, thus breaking the conditions his parole and would end up back in the slammer. Upon telling us in the crowd, a chorus of boos and an almost entirely synchronised glow of lighters erupted as everyone in the crowd lit up in protest. A plume of cigarette smoke filled the small venue as fans staged a mini protest. The support act was The View, who spoke to us before their famous song ‘same jeans’ in incomprehensible thick Scottish accents that no doubt their state of sobriety did nothing to alleviate. 

In retort to this story, the best gig ‘this child’ had ever been to was a ‘ball’ that was put on by a particular radio station, featuring the likes of Usher, Rita Ora and Justin Bieber. Now I know I have age on my side when it comes to having a longer list of previous gigs, but if this is the pinnacle of live music for ‘the kids’, Justin Bieber, then I feel sorry for the generation after my own. I’ve been lucky enough to stand right at the back of a crowd of thousands of people watching Oasis, feeling the same electricity that the front row must have felt when the first few bars of ‘Wonderwall’ are struck. I’ve seen The Prodigy light up a mosh pit that went back as far as the eye could see at V festival. I’ve seen the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl bring out his mother on stage and sing happy birthday to her. 

So when this 18 year old girl said that the answer to both her favourite artist and the best gig she ever went to was Justin Bieber, I feel genuinely sorry for her. Not only at the fact that this is her musical icon, but at the earlier point. The Tom Jones/Cliff Richard switcheroony. The kids seem to lack the urge to research where their music comes from. I doubt many 18 year olds have ever heard of The Vapours or X Ray Spex. When so many of their bands have genuine punk influences. How many school kids know the incredible back catalogue of artists such as Meat Loaf or Ozzy Osborne. Ozzy is not just Kelly’s dad, some crazy old guy on MTV. An increasingly lower average age of parents means that in the formative years, children will no doubt be listening to Chris brown and David Guetta. When I grew up, I was surrounded by my fathers rock collection – The Who, Sabbath, Queen, The Rolling Stones,  The Beatles and The Eagles. My mother would switch between Toni Braxton, Wet Wet Wet, Celine Dion and Simply Red, and Northern Soul and Motown acts such as The Supremes, The O’Jays and Frank Wilson. Don’t get me wrong. I do like some of the current artists producing music. And in a twist of hypocrisy, I absolutely love One Direction. Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry all make music that I like to listen to. 

I myself have gone and found artists off my own back. I have listened extensively to music that changed the world. Elvis Presley and the aforementioned Cliff Richard bringing Rock ‘n’ Roll to the masses. The Beatles changing the face of music forever. Led Zeppelin selling out stadium after stadium with 7 minute long songs at a time when 3 minutes was the most you were afforded on the newly founded Radio 1. Why do kids not do this these days? It’s so easy, any song you want is at your fingertips. 

I have never wanted children, and if this is the world that they would be born into, I see no reason to change my mind. If I was a father, a nightly sit down with my vinyl collection would be standard regime in my child’s life. 

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My first blog. 

I like to read Confucius and Alan Watts, the Sunday Times and The guardian in the week and I hate the Daily Mail. I do this from a working class background where my grandfathers were miners and bakers, and my parents were made up of a painter and decorator and a seamstress turned social care worker. I enjoy the working class pursuit of grass roots football and juxtapose this with a love of the ‘upper class sports’ such as cricket and rugby union. 

I don’t do the food shopping in my house, but if I did, I’d quite happily mix Waitrose fruit and veg with sandwich filler pots from Aldi. All of this, I feel, creates a slightly stranger than your average individual. Some might say a false sense of grandiose. Some may say that a working class boy is trying to move up the ladder. I have a middle class, middle management job title but a working class wage. My grandfather, the miner, has an engrained hatred of the Conservative party and regularly comments that if he were to ever have met the much maligned Baroness Thatcher on ‘the pit top’, that she would have been thrown down the shaft followed swiftly by hundreds of tons of hardcore to fill it in. Despite this, I have an admiration for the Tories and, if I had the compulsion to mark my cross on a ballot slip, would happily give “call me Dave” Cameron my vote. 

I try to live my life in a manner which I think Jesus Christ himself would have been shyly proud of (that’s not to say that I have borrowed Russell Brand’s Messiah Complex). I embrace our nation’s multiculturalism. I give to charity. I watch question time to educate myself and to scorn at the mere mention of Mr Farage. I’ve reached an age where I am no longer obliged to be “cool”. The kids these days will know more ‘happening’ bands than I do (I told you I’m not cool) and will speak words that are unfathomable to a man who went to school with a game boy and a tamagotchi. I’m also at an age where people who don’t know my age assume I remember much further back than I do. I’ve never had a great memory. One reason I’ve never tried to get into stand up comedy. That and (going back to my age again) the fact that I tell quite terrible ‘dad jokes’ most of the time. Here’s one….no I won’t put you through it. 

I have a small group of friends and a long list of acquaintances. Acquaintances from my time at university are my favourite acquaintances of all. I didn’t go to a posh university, I didn’t read the classics or medicine. But the diversity of my social circle during my student years was huge. We thought the one chap was a posh snob, until E4 introduced us to Made In Chelsea. The typical Yorkshire lass who had an amazing family and the Manchester lad who idolised the lifestyle of poker star Dan Bilzerian. 

I know right. A messed up sense of being. One of those b’stards who always point out that you’ve spelt something wrong when he himself went to an average state school and an average university. I dislike the American English language profusely. Colour is spelt with a ‘u’ and their pronunciation of the word aluminium strikes incandescence in my cerebral cortex. But that is not to say that I have a xenophobia towards the Americans. I love their comedy, most of their music and most of all their spirit. The feeling that you can come to America with a penny in your pocket and a hat full of dreams and create companies on the scale of Google, Starbucks or Facebook. The ‘American Dream’. But please please please, when discussing the making of soft drinks packaging, just say they’re made of metal. 

I suppose I write this blog to find out the answer to my second paragraph. Am I an annoying working class lad with a superiority complex, or am I someone who was just born in the wrong place. I don’t suppose it will be witty or life affirming. It may not even be interesting. But I will persist all the same. 

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