Behind The Scenes at Match Day Live

Ever since the beginning of the season, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the Match Day Live team, bringing a pre-match magazine show to fans at Sincil Bank.

You may have noticed it has changed my content on here a little – I don’t do as much video stuff and I rarely do a written preview of a game. This is because I don’t want to rehash the same content three or four times over. In the absence of such content, I thought you might like a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes, as much as possible, revealing a bit about how the show came about and how I came to be on it, as well as what goes into it.

The first I heard of a magazine show was over the summer when in a Supporter’s Board meeting Liam Scully made a remark about wanting to do something that made supporter’s feel closer to the club over the troubling period. I don’t know whether it would have come around anyway, but there is no doubt the intention has always been to make you feel more connected with the club during the restrictions. There was no chat to the SB about how that might go, doubtless they wanted a professional on the job who knows and understand broadcasting.

There is no better than Sam Ashoo, the presenter and driving force behind the show. I’ve known Sam since the days of Chris Sutton, when I’d pick him and mates up and drive to away games. I recall one at Northwich where we were an hour getting out of the car park and another lad, James, played Gina G at full volume whilst Gabriel Clarke came over for a chat.

Pre-match run through, one where I had to change my polo shirt as I think it made sam feel dizzy

We had some good away days, then Sam and I parted ways, remaining friends on social media. Sam has worked in broadcasting since leaving university and has lots of experience, and has always been great with me – he helped get me my job at Football League World and made sure I was included in both Imps’ documentaries (although he did delete the footage of me for the second one, but I forgave him for that). The club approached him to present the show and, independently of them, he approached me to be (in his words) ‘his Gary Neville’. I do fear, sometimes at least, a ‘Gary’ (Hutchinson, not Neville) overkill, I’m on the radio sometimes, podcast, my site (video and writing) and I write for the club programme. Still, Match Day Live was something that I had always wanted to do, and I was never going to say no.

Broadcasting and journalism was always my passion growing up. I remember doing live commentary for the Gateshead FA Trophy game with Chris Bell, a real treat, and being offered a chance to do something official like this was a no-brainer. I confess, despite all the media stuff I do, the first Match Day Live left me feeling really nervous.

The first couple of shows we did I was on my mobile, but I’ve since added a bit to my equipment – a webcam which makes my face look blue, a ring light which makes it look less blue and the microphone I’ve always used for podcasting. For those who get put off by me looking a bit ghostly, there are plans for a new webcam, if Santa thinks I’ve been a good boy. Also, I no longer have to make a tripod out of an upturned ice bucket and three blocks of 47×150 cut to four inches long. Yup, that was the first setup. I do film most of the show in my bar at home, which I didn’t have the heart to tell Sam was called the Staying Inn until about three matches ago. The problem I should have out here is the internet, but often my connection in the sticks is better than that of away grounds.

An early tripod made from the upturned ice bucket. The wood was added later to get a better angle. Perception v reality!

The internet connection at away grounds is a big issue, but as viewers, you might not see that. You see, Ii am only the third-most improtant person on Match Day Live, behind Sam (obviously) and our unseen and unsung hero, Charlie from the media team. He is the conductor, the unseen force liaising with Sam and making sure things run as smoothly as possible, which isn’t always possible!

The show’s prep, for Sam at least, starts the night before, and as I write this at 4 pm the day before, I have the running order come through. It is subject to change, but I usually give it a once over and see what we have. I’ll prep by watching the highlights of the previous game to find something new I haven’t commented on (such as TJ Eyoma’s attacking positions in a recent game). Yup, more research.

On the day, we usually have a run through 45 minutes before you get to see us, so Charlie, Sam and I come together, Sam practises his lines and usually, Charlie eats a massive sandwich of some description. Inevitably, in the background, we can hear Terry talking to the opposition media team, recently passing comment on all the miles he’s been travelling. For me, that has become a bit of a treat, because it forms part of a pre-match ritual now. I get to see a couple of different faces in Sam and Charlie (and Terry sometimes) and we chat about football and anything. The run-through is crucial for Sam, but inevitably something changes mid-show. It is hard to plan such a broadcast, as you never know if the guest will get logged on, how long they’ll talk for, or if I’ll give long enough answers to flesh the show out properly. You might not believe it, but some of the best chats and shows have come about because Sam has had to think on his feet. He’s the consummate professional and I always suppress a laugh when a question flies my way that wasn’t scripted because we need to bridge a two-minute gap between chatter and the team news.

Charlie, top right, masked up at an away game – the blacked-out bit is the team news, given a couple of minutes in advance so I can prep a response

When the show goes live, I still get a rush of adrenalin, and as the theme tune plays, I even get a bit excited. Theme tunes have always given me a buzz, for shows and programs I like. I never forget the ‘sports report’ tune on Radio Five for instance after games, and this is the same sort of thing. After that, it isn’t so much behind the scenes as bang in the scene. You get to see me trying not to grimace or look stern whilst remembering not to swear, not to be too quick with answers, not to drone on…. you get the picture.

I love the show and the viewing figures suggest it is becoming improtant to some of you too. It does change my content on here a little bit and I tend not to have quite as much opinion as I used too, because I want the best stuff to be for the show. My apologies to those who don’t watch and I do try to find a balance, but I’m sure you wouldn’t enjoy Match Day Live as much if you heard the same stuff I’d written about all week, now would you?

Post-match is always a bit of a rush, trying to get in and get iFollow setup. I have only missed one game this season, that being Crewe in the EFL Cup, but I have cut it fine sometimes. Midweek is the worst – I have to try and get some food in before the game starts, as I watch in my office with a laptop for doing the match report and a second screen with the game on it. Luckily, there’s been no lamb shank on my laptop this season (not a euphemism, thank you).

That is a little glimpse behind the camera into Match Day Live. Thank you for watching and remember, we’re live tomorrow at 1.30 pm getting you ready for the game against Plymouth Argyle, and again on Tuesday against Wigan, usually starting at 5.45 pm midweek.