Parking www.footballcommentator.org

http://www.footballcommentator.org is going to park up for a while.

The Forum will be here for any of you who want to chew the fat, and I can be contacted directly via clivetonline@gmail.com.

I am always happy to try to help anyone with a serious desire to progress in the world of sports journalism and broadcasting. I will continue to visit universities when possible (and invited!).

Forming a link between students of the profession and the media providers was one of the two main aims of http://www.footballcommentator.org, but there has been little appetite shown to use the website as a showcase for your sports writing.

The other objective was to establish a platform for healthy debate about how sport is reported and portrayed in print and on radio and television. That debate hasn’t really begun.

Six months in, I expected the website’s users to be writing and developing the content, and for me to be merely commenting and guiding where applicable.

I’m disappointed because I think that I would have made a lot more of such an opportunity if it had existed when I was young and ambitious.

Now, I’m old and ambitious, and my immediate ambitions for http://www.footballcommentator.org have not been realised.

Shame.

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Manchester United V Liverpool

Nothing divides opinions quite like a Manchester United-Liverpool game… well, nothing other than maybe commentating on a Manchester United-Liverpool game!

The best you can hope for is that any abuse that comes your way is evenly split between supporters of the two teams, so I will take some reassurance from the fact that the score on Twitter was as close as the match result. There was even some praise.

I don’t think you can properly analyse a game by analysing a couple of moments, but when the only goal comes from the first attack and one team loses their best player after half an hour then those couple of moments are obviously hugely significant. Both arose from arguable refereeing decisions.

Next in the firing line of the arguments after the referee himself are the commentators that are first to comment on his calls. We watch the replays at the same time as the rest of you. We say what we see.

Any of you that violently disagreed with Jim Beglin and I will be pleased to hear that one of my best mates sent me two pretty heated texts about our reading of the penalty award and the red card. Just what you need in an M62 traffic jam.

But then a frivolous question I asked Jim about whether or not he missed any games for the birth of his children prompted a couple of serious tweets denouncing my attitude. Lighten up everyone. It was just a bit of fun.

We are kind of hoping that http://www.footballcommentator.org will prompt some constructive criticism (and praise!) about the way our national game is covered by the media.

It is difficult to present a balanced view of any event that is being watched in a naturally unbalanced way by viewers fiercely committed to one team or the other. United-Liverpool games wouldn’t be worth broadcasting if tweets made during the match didn’t reflect that. My only disappointment was that the game wasn’t a better one.

What were your thoughts? Post a reply below or join the Forum and we will publish them.

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New Showcase post about George Burley and Palace

New Year resolutions for http://www.footballcommentator.org – er, over to you!

At the start of the football season, I opened up this tiny corner of the worldwide web for anyone with a view or a contribution on sports coverage in the media to share it. In the last four months of 2010, more than 20,000 of you visited the site. So there is an audience for anybody who wants one.

Tom Wellman is the latest to press Send/Rec and get published. His views on George Burley’s time at Crystal Palace are now in our Showcase section for you to read and reply to. John Cross of the Daily Mirror will take a look through the section himself and post some views. I will ask other national sportswriters to do likewise. If you want to submit some written work of your own, send it to clivetonline@gmail.com. Now!

While Showcase provides opportunities for those of you pedalling the printed word, we will investigate the best way to put sound files up for public consumption, and set up a proper podcast forum.

In the meantime, I am back to work this weekend with the live FA Cup tie between Manchester United and Liverpool on Sunday at 1:30pm on ITV1. I will tweet when time allows from Old Trafford, but feel free to discuss my slips and dips of the tongue on the Forum. Some constructive feedback is just what I will be looking for after four hours on the motorway. But will I get it?!

My New Year’s resolution for http://www.footballcommentator.org is to write less and reply more.

Give me something to reply to.

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Give yourself a break

CliveT at Southampton Solent University

Clive talking to students at Southampton Solent University.

Whenever I get asked the question ‘what was the biggest break you got in your career?’, I always reply, ‘the first’.

The gap between Planet Earth and the first rung of the reporting ladder is much bigger than any other step you may subsequently take.

All that most of us ask in life is a chance… a first appearance, a first part, a first assignment… then it’s up to us.

http://www.footballcommentator.org cannot give you that chance…. not yet, anyway. My ambition for the site is for it to grow into a showcase of sports journalism and broadcasting talent that the industry itself – the newspapers, the radio stations, the TV companies – will take notice of.

Showcase is the key word, so we have opened a new Showcase section to publish your work to a wider audience.

I’ve visited six university sports journalism departments in the last couple of months – all full of bright, opinionated young things turning out reams of material for their coursework and for various local sports clubs and organisations too. Showcase is a chance to share that work with the rest of us, and to get it reviewed by national newspaper sportswriters.

What is the first thing you think when you record yourself for the first time? Surely, that’s not my voice! Sometimes, when I hear FIFA blaring out of my son’s bedroom, I still think the same thing.

Getting published and being broadcast can be scary things (particularly when the abusive tweets start!), but you can’t get on in this business without putting yourself up there to be shot at.

If you don’t take the kind of chance that Showcase is offering you, I doubt you will ever make the first rung of the ladder.

It’s up to you…

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Incident or accident?

I can’t stand it when managers analyse a game solely by analysing incidents. The ‘if the referee had given that foul in the 3rd minute we wouldn’t have lost 5-nil’ mentality.

It’s one of the joys of football that you never know quite what’s coming next… although if the ‘incident’ happens in the 89th minute you’ve got a better idea.

Whatever you think of Alex Ferguson, he tells it like it is nine times out of ten (and the other time is usually when he has an agenda). Beneath his spitting fury at the nature of Birmingham’s equaliser he did admit that United should have wrapped the game up long before Nikola Zigic took a ‘hand’. Good teams win matches despite decisions.

But when the decision comes in the closing minutes of a game you are deservedly winning, the sense of injustice has some legs. I’m a believer that too many handballs are given. All the law says is ‘deliberate’ – it’s there to stop outfield players catching the ball.

But – even through those murky St Andrews floodlights – your first impressions told you that Zigic had totally mistimed his jump and crashed into Rio Ferdinand, then the ball, illegally. The offside was an aside.

I’ve stood on touchlines watching my teenage son and felt a similar sense of injustice. We all accept we don’t see straight when it’s our boy, our team. But from time to time a moment comes along that every nerve end in your body is telling you is more than the usual human instinct to blame someone else. At those moments you just know (with a Ponting-like certainty) that the television replay will confirm what you saw.

And then someone sticks a microphone under your nose. In the words of the good Sir, “what chance have you got?”.

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Black and white and read all over…

No wonder football is reported in black and white. Chelsea’s double-winning manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is now fighting for his job. Or is he?

http://www.footballcommentator.org is here to discuss and dissect the way the various football media translate what happens on the field to your newspapers, lap-tops and television screens. Is it right that ten minutes after defeat to a very good Arsenal team that Ancelotti is being cross-examined about his very livelihood?

Is the back-page headline in the country’s best-selling newspaper, ‘Roman’s gunner get you, Carlo’ a fair reflection of Ancelotti’s worth? Is a Sun headline supposed to be fair?

Nothing is more certain than if Chelsea revive their title challenge, the same inquisitors will be asking them if they’ve silenced their critics. We don’t do ‘shades’ in the sports media anymore.

‘Nobody’ gave Arsenal a chance this season, did they?… Well, I tipped them to win the league at the start of August. I’m not certain, not even confident, I just think they’ve got the best players. I only tipped anybody because the ITV website asked me too! (and, yes, I had Blackpool going down).

http://www.footballcommentator.org set up a mini ‘chat-room’ on the Forum and via my Twitter account to test and challenge opinions last night. A few thoughts and insults were traded during the game, and it was cheaper than going down the pub.

I will be watching most of the live TV games this week, and will be on line for further bant and barracking, so why not join in?

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Arsenal v Chelsea: 27 December – join me online

Come 8:00 pm on the 27 December I, like thousands of others, will be on the sofa watching Sky’s coverage of the Arsenal V Chelsea match, so why not join me online?

We can discuss the match as it happens on Twitter and post the (slightly) more considered responses on this blog, on the Forum or on our Facebook page.

If you fancy writing a post-match report on the game and sending it to me at: clivetonline@gmail.com, I’ll select the best of those we receive and post them onto the footballcommentator.org website and tweet about them to my followers.

Looking forward to ‘sharing’ the sofa with you!

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Christmas chatter

Christmas is here so spare a thought at this special time of the year for people in the essential services who are working while you’re wassailing – policemen, firefighters and football commentators.

Richard Keys is on telly more often than Davina McCall over the holiday period, so let’s all try to keep him company.

ESPN and MOTD will be gobbling up the leftovers from Sky’s festive football binge, so I for one will be doing my third round FA Cup research from the comfort of my own sofa, blogging and tweeting my thumbs up and downs like some grape-eating Roman emperor – only I’ll be eating Munchies.

The www.footballcommentator.org Forum will be gritted and open for business throughout, and we are inviting you to use the Facebook page as a discussion group cum chatroom during the headline live TV games.

If I can still see over my stomach, I will join in the broadcast bant, and on January 9th you can all bitch about me behind my back when I’m commentating on Manchester United v Liverpool – yes, I know, I’m asking for it, aren’t I?

I’ve visited Sports Journalism courses at six southern universities in the last couple of months, and the invitation to get your words published beyond the Forum threads is now being extended to a new Readers’ Work page on the website.

Send your ramblings to clivetonline@gmail.com. A couple of football journalist pals (I do have two!) have volunteered to look through it and comment.

When I unmask them, you can look through their work and retaliate!

Last week I attended the first NOPA Football Blogging and Podcast awards, and next year it would be nice to return as something other than a G-list celebrity who they get to present an award, then poke fun at!

Check out the ‘make your opinions count’ blog I wrote a while back, and get published. Meanwhile, see you on Facebook for Arsenal-Chelsea on the 27th.

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‘Fessing up about City

Yes, I know I grew up a United fan but it is particularly difficult to drum up much sympathy for Manchester City at the moment.

It’s not their fault they hit the jackpot, and their arrival as live contenders in this fascinating title race has given the whole quilted rug of English football a good shake. I guess it’s just envy.

The lairy lottery winners have moved in next door to the stuffy old residents of Millionaires’ Row and built more extensions than Cheryl’s got. Noisy neighbours who have rows in the street and break-up and make-up on a weekly basis. I went off Shameless the moment the Maguires arrived on the Chatsworth estate, and this feels a bit the same.

I did my first ever telly commentary at Maine Road. City 5 United 1. I was the only Red in captivity who grew a soft spot for the Blues too. (I feel like Tony Soprano ‘fessing up to Dr Melfi here.) The thing is I’m of an age where change grates on the feelings, and the move to Eastlands and the open arms for Thaksin Shinawatra were already a bit much to take. Now this. Now, the supporters with the best gallows humour in football are sounding brasher and more boastful than United fans – which is saying something.

So watching Leighton Baines (that is the same Leighton Baines, isn’t it?) and co prick the Carlos bubble last night was not an uncomfortable experience. I always thought Tevez would return to the fold. He just wants to feel loved.

Balotelli is from another solar system altogether, though. I fancy that will end in tears. I’ve always been uneasy about the way Robbie (is it, Sky?) Mancini arrived in the job and he is just somehow not a man I’m constantly yearning to see succeed.

Please don’t let this manager get the City wagons in a circle and nurture a ‘no-one likes us but we don’t care’ mentality. People have always liked City. Throughout my life, they’ve been one of those ‘proper’ clubs like West Ham and Sunderland – kids through the system, locals through the turnstiles, putting their fans through the mill but always coming out the other side still recognisable as the same club with the same personality.

The funny thing is I was dying for Adam Johnson to turn the game round just to spite the scarfed one. The same well-worn instincts that make me suspicious of Robbie and Super Mario get good feelings about Johnson, Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany.

I guess they are just what an old blogger like me sees as ‘City players’ – good guys. And maybe good guys finish second and I’m just nervous about this City finishing first.

Confession over, for now…

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Sports Personality of the Year

The BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year show is not what it was. And I think it is probably better for that. Changing national institutions is always dangerous but taking SPOTY out of the cosy ‘Des Lynam’ comfort of a London studio into a major arena has revived the sense of occasion that has always gone with the event for as long as I can remember.

For several years now, the programme has moved away from its original remit as a comprehensive review of the year’s sport. The stories that gripped live television audiences at the time are told merely as a series of subliminal images that barely recall the various tales of derring-do. The election of the top award winner is the main attraction. It’s a prime-time entertainment show rather than a programme of record.

As such, I think SPOTY was a qualified success – well-staged and well-presented, not so well-directed. The constant stream of cutaways were usually of minimal relevance and always of maximum annoyance. Famous faces deserve watching. Stay with them for God’s sake. It’s their moment, not Sven’s. It’s like holding a conversation with someone who keeps looking away, like painting over bits of a work of art because you happen to have a few pots left over.

Of course, it’s a show that’s easier to get wrong, than right. The Smithy/Katherine elements are adornments that kick against its original editorial values but mass audiences command the need for a broader appeal. But the programme editor didn’t mess about with the business end of the show, and the general public came up with a nice surprise. Not AP McCoy. He was a most worthy and obvious winner. As Mick Fitzgerald once said to me, ‘name me another profession where you’re followed round by two ambulances when you’re at work.’

No, it was the choice of second-placed Phil Taylor that put a smile on my face nearly as big as the one on his. Darts is a game we all have a go at, heptathlon and skeleton bob are not.

Taylor has mastered his game like few others have ever mastered theirs, a pure skill game with no variables, a game with no heirs or graces either. It was a popular vote like the popular acclaim for David Beckham. Nothing stuffy about either moment, and nothing stuffy about SPOTY these days either.

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