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Careers advice for aspiring Motsons

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Dan Walker | 14:25 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

A busy week this week. There has been the appearance of QPR skipper Joey Barton on Football Focus on Saturday to prepare for and I returned to my old university in Sheffield to speak to a gaggle of journalism students.

There were about 150 budding hacks and hackesses in the room and many questions were fired my way. By far the most regular query I receive is about getting into the world of broadcasting and how to wedge one's foot in the journalistic doorway.

If you've been reading this blog since the start, you may remember a few years back I spoke about the advice I was given by Des Lynam when I sent him a letter at the age of 11.

For those of you who don't know Des - shame on you - he was a moustachioed Gary Lineker. For those of you don't know what a letter is - shame on you - it's what your nan sends you when you get your A Level results.

Mr Lynam's advice still rings true: get your school qualifications, do a degree in something like history or English and then do a post-graduate course in the area of journalism you are interested in. That's not the only way in but it can put you in the best possible position.

In addition to that insight, whether you see yourself as the next Jeremy Paxman, Henry Winter or Clare Balding, one of the key elements is practice. If you are not prepared to work hard then you might as well not bother.

 

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When I first started, I was working 17 hours a day - breakfast bulletins followed by a news reporting shift then a football commentary at a ground somewhere in the known universe. I had two degrees but I was earning less than £9,000 a year.

The hard work starts long before you get the dream job, though. If you want to be a commentator, commentate.

As a child, I would commentate on everything: myself playing sport, my family and friends playing sport, even old ladies rifling through the frozen-food section of a supermarket. "She makes her way towards the broccoli and AT LAST MINUTE SHE GRABS THE CAULIFLOWER... LOOK AT HER FACE... JUST LOOK AT HER FACE!" If you can make that sound interesting, then live sport is relatively easy.

Talking of commentary, it was nice to relive some of John Motson's magic moments this week. Forty years in the commentary box is a remarkable achievement and to still have the same passion for the game is admirable.

I was saddened to hear that the same sheepskin has not lasted him his entire career, though. Apparently, his latest effort is going to make a debut soon.

Growing up, I would pretend to be Motty or Barry Davies and commentate on myself being Glenn Hoddle in the back garden. Most of my mesmeric runs would end in top-corner finishes followed by the lines from that famous hockey commentary from Mr Davies: "Where were the Germans? And frankly, who cares?"

We have a cracking Football Focus lined up for you this week. We have two former international captains in Martin Keown and Gary McAllister with us, alongside Mr Barton. There will be plenty to talk about with England playing on Friday night against Montenegro.

If you've got any comments, queries or questions for me or our Focus guests, then let me know.
You can also follow all the build-up to the show at twitter.com/danwalkerbbc

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    FELLOW BLOGGERS DO YOU THIN DAN WALKER IS THE JOHN MOTSON OF THE 21ST CENTURY?

    Mr. Walker,
    A plethora of advice fro would be journalists. I stick by last year's assertion that you are the Mottie of the 21st century. Get a s sheep skin man! Go for it. If only I could enlist Dixon & Keown's support here we could have a magic moment on set, perhaps when Mottie retires, a journalist's equivalent of 'handing on the mantle' just the sheep skin instead.

    Who do you think will win the upcoming home nations matches and what about the Rugby quarter finals. Wales V Ireland kicks off at 1AM my time.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've often wondered how people get into being football commentators. I always remember Johnathan Pearce on Robot Wars back in the day, but obviously not everyone can get started like that, more's the pity. So are you suggesting the best way to go about it is to wander into BBC HQ and just start commentating on everything everyone does as though it's the most exciting thing you've ever seen? Because I'd be more than happy to give that a go.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2 Jonathan Pearce was on Capital Gold doing football commentaries at a 1,000 decibels with Tony Gale before he hit the "big-time" with Robot Wars, so he's been doing it for years now.

    #1 Technically, he's the Bob Wilson of the 21st Century, without the playing career behind him.

    England will probably win their final qualification match, on the basis that under Capello they have been very solid in qualification for both the WC and now EC. You can always add the random rubbish modulator with England though on the basis that they always have the potential to muck it up.

    Squirrel Nutkin

  • Comment number 4.

    To be fair Mr Walker, for what it's worth, I'd say you are half decent at what you do. But calling Lineker the modern-day Des Lynam is quite bizarre, a bit like calling Chris Bevan or Phil McNulty the new Hugh McIlvanney - these people aren't fit to lick the boots of Lynam or especially McIlvenney for goodness sake. You'll be comparing Jake Humphreys to Murray Walker next, or the appallingly bad Willie Thorne to Ted Lowe. Clare Balding is good enough at her job to be called the new Harry Carpenter perhaps, and Steve Cram is in that bracket too, but that's about as far as it goes with the current BBC shower, in my opinion. As you were!

  • Comment number 5.

    I would concur that the boy Lineker is no Des Lynam... I think Gary Lineker's best work was probably that documentary he did on Barcelona a while back. The fact he can speak Spanish properly gave him a lot more credibility plus the fact he played for them of course. I thought his style worked well in that format.

    Keith Chegwin

  • Comment number 6.

    the way to get into football commentary or punditry is quite easy really. you simply have to make it as a professional footballer and when the millions dry up after you hang your boots up you can make the transition like all the others seem to do nowadays. no chance for joe public nowadays anymore

  • Comment number 7.

    John Motson may have come out tops on most occasions and 40 years he should be congratulated but really Barry Davies was far superior........................ you want emotion/observations in your commentators without being OTT (Jonathan Pearce) and information/stats without being OTT (Motson).......... Davies was able in his football duties to convey the balance

  • Comment number 8.

    Im sorry but 'Mottie' is, and has always been one of the most peurile sports commentators on TV. A master at stating the obvious, and exuding a being self satisfied smugness when delivering trivia.

    He can not hold a candle to true experts like Harry Carpenter and Phil Liggett, and the BBC would do well to remember that longevity doesnt equal quality.

  • Comment number 9.

    I heard a rumour that Mottie has discovered veganism, and his latest wardrobe update will now include a hemp jacket and a pair of Jesus sandals.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good blog Dan, as usual. Funny you used to do commentary on old dears buying frozen veg :) I used to do commentary when I would play Subbuteo. Used to have hours of fun with that. Now that FIFA12 on x-box and PS3 are the norm, does not give kids the same fun...a sad development if there ever was one. Maybe they could turn down the sound, or try watching a footie match on TV with no sound and do the commentary yourself. What is fun, is doing the half-time punditry yourself, with no sound on, trying to take off Hansen or Lawro. Great laugh!

    Big Ron`s Early Doors

  • Comment number 11.

    personally i think the beebs current crop are decent, granted their not what they once were but compared to itv's steve rider, andy townshend and jim beglin amongst others they're great,

    but to have broccoli and cauliflower as the only food mentions this week is just poor, that scene should've happened in the biscuit aisle.

    Mr Kipling

  • Comment number 12.

    Just whilst we're comparing the current beebs crop. Does anyone else think this looks like the new Robbie Savage?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/14901438.stm

  • Comment number 13.

    I do like Motty's stats, but for some reason I don't really enjoy his commentary. He often gets things wrong and fails to correct himself and gets things such as player names mixed up.

    Let's not forget though, the guy is a legend make no odds about it

  • Comment number 14.

    Being the next John Motson? - does that mean finding the modern day Brian Clough and being put in your place?

  • Comment number 15.

    #12 Sargey Bargey... funny comparison!!! I like it.

  • Comment number 16.

    I know the theme is BBC but I would like to mention the best television football commentator of all time - in my opinion. I hate ITV for sport but for me, BRIAN MOORE was head and shoulders above them all.

  • Comment number 17.

    I enjoy John Motson's commentaries - he brings a good sense of humour to them - but Barry Davies does tend to have more memorable sound-bites. England penalty shoot-outs won't be the same without him exclaiming "Oh no!" after the inevitable miss!

    The Golden Condor

  • Comment number 18.

    A mate said to me the other day that watching a game with no commentry is really boring. After thinking, I kind of agree and a great commentator (of which Mottie is a fine example) really does improve the whole experience. I am in my teens and hope one day to go into some form of journalism. This blog has helped me more than anything else I have read and will hopefully put me on my way on the long road to Match of the Day! Thanks Dan, your great.

  • Comment number 19.

    what about peter drury on itv?! beautiful delivery, poetic phrases and a great sense of occasion. surely the best...

  • Comment number 20.

    I thought the only criterion for being a commentator was how much trivia you could spout about 1966.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 22.

    When I first started, I was working 17 hours a day - breakfast bulletins followed by a news reporting shift then a football commentary at a ground somewhere in the known universe. I had two degrees but I was earning less than £9,000 a year.

    The hard work starts long before you get the dream job, though. If you want to be a commentator, commentate.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The equivalent of 20k in 1994 full time was fantastic for doing your dream job (and many others who love football) so a little more humility please in these difficult times! Hard work? Get a grip!

  • Comment number 23.

    Whoops!

    My eyesight is pretty poor nowadays so didn't see the 17 hours per day (rather than week) until just now. Sorry Dan. However, I would have given an arm for that opportunity. Hard work though is up for debate, long hours is a bit different.

  • Comment number 24.

    The BBC has had the best well known Commentators.
    Motty, Murray, McLaren, Lowe..you can roll them off the tip of your tounge.

    I have a confession - I like commentating on all Games, whethere I would imitate Murray on F1, talk like Motty on Football and even on Games which dont have commentary, I would just add my own or namedrop commentators and have you tried being 2 Commentators at the same time? I have, it works!

    No-one will ever replace Motty, like no-one will replace Murray, McLaren and no-one will ever replace David Coleman, the best Commentator the BBC ever had, his excuberance and the famous 1 NIL line for Football always claim that Coleman will never be matched.

    But to match Lynam to Gary Lineker is wrong, can you see Lineker with a 'tache? No!

    I mean, the BBC have the best Presenting line up now and then, Rider, Lynam, Coleman, The Late Greats of Vine and Carpenter, now you have Barker, Irvine, Balding, yourself Walker, Lineker, Bhasin, Murray...list is endless but as you can see, you cant replace Lynam but you can see in a few years time that you cant replace Lineker.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    Jonathan Pearce's habit of declaring "game over", "that's the points wrapped up" or similar, long before the end of a match, is so irritating. He once announced the game was "over" as a team, playing against a team in the same league, went 2-0 up around the 65 minute mark and he often does it long before the 80th minute.

  • Comment number 27.

    You could just be institutionally biased towards England in all its forms; that would be the best way to 'emulate the commentary great'. What absolute drivel. He is distinctive in voice alone; an asinine whine, with an alarming preoccupation with the banal over the necessary. He's fractionally less irritating than the ghastly Alan Green, that's about as much praise as I can muster.

  • Comment number 28.

    Have to say I have nothing against Motson, but when he is paired with Lawrenson in the commentary box the levels of smug sarcasm are just too much. Commentary in general these days is the same as the general media attitude when it comes to things like England matches. Not winning by half time? Poor performance. Win 2-1? Not good enough. Wilshere touches the ball? Orgasms...

  • Comment number 29.

    Personally I can't understand why the average football follower would want to hear a running commentary on a football match.There aren't many weeks in the football season when I don't attend a football match and I manage quite well without someone reeling off mindless drivel about what I am watching, a players latest hairstyle and pointless statistics and the quality of the pies. Admittedly these commentaries could be beneficial to the visually impaired or someone new to the game, but for me just give me the sound of the crowd and occasionally you can pick out the biased inane comments of the local Joe Bloggs, which are usually similar to and just as valid as these "voiceovers" and "pundits". PLEASE GIVE US AN OPTION ON THE RED BUTTON "NO COMMENTARY" JUST THE CROWD.

  • Comment number 30.

    #19 - I hope that was a joke....Peter Drury is SHOCKING

    #27 - Yawn....!

  • Comment number 31.

    John Motson is most irritating with his commentary.
    Why is he legendary?He should have been replaced years ago,but that's the Beeb's old boy network for you.
    The boring statistics he pours out together with his non stop exclamations of Oh!
    His stupid sense of humour,which he alone continues to laugh at now that his sidekick Brooking has moved to join the FA mafia.
    Thank God for the mute button.

  • Comment number 32.

    Nice blog Mr Walker! Good advice as well, wish this blog had come out about 10 years ago before I decided spending most of my college days in the pub was a good plan! Whatever you think of Motty, you don't last 40 years if you're rubbish. The man is still a legend and I don't know what people find so irritating about him. He does talk some rubbish sometimes but that's part of his charm, I remember the camera panning across the England bench a few years back, it got to Theo Walcott and I heard Motty say "Theo Walcott - He's got a driving licence!". Not sure what that has to do with football but hey, it's all informative!

    Anyway, back to the important subject of food. Are the broccolli and cauliflower references a new healthy twist for the new season? Are the days of biscuits, chocolate and sandwiches gone? Do we have to discuss our favourite salad now? If so, I'd like to put forward rocket. Lovely with chicken between 2 slices of bread...

    Colonel Mustard

  • Comment number 33.

    @4

    what an idiot. Times change and whil yes you may remember these people with great nostalgia, Lineker and Humphrey are very good at their jobs. There is nobody better out there NOW who could be there instead. Yes you may have preferred Lynam to Lineker - but Lynam is an old man now and very unlikely to return to Sports broadcasting.

    I don't see how you can knock Lineker, he's been an apprentice in his trade for over 20 years now and was getting involved during his playing days whenever possible. Not to mention he is one of England's greates players of all time.

    Alan Shearer on the other hand...

  • Comment number 34.

    @19 & 30

    Peter Drury was fantastic until I witnessed some kind of own goals and gaffes show that he did, 60mins to ruin a lifetime of good work.

    Sgt. James Doakes

  • Comment number 35.

    Everybody has their own favourite commentator and I believe the best one's only commentate on one sport.Whether you like him or not 40 years of commentating on your chosen subject is something to be proud of.It wouldn't be a good thing to make commentaries the same for one thing the audience are made up of various age groups from a mere child to a pensioner.So a bubbly excitable Jonathan Pearce might get a young fan interested but a senior citizen may prefer a Mike Ingham.New kid on the block Colin Murray was one that took a bit of getting used to.I watched him with Pat Nevin on Channel 5 and found him hard going. He is witty and I smile when he comes on but for God's sake keep Kenny Dalgleish away because with that pair in the studio I would need Carlos Tevez's interpreter.Colin does grow on you and MOTD2 is becomming his baby just don't get excited Colin!

  • Comment number 36.

    Greetings all.

    Danke schon for your entries. Commentary is an odd one because one man's legend is another man's clown. No denying the skill involved though. Brian Moore was another true great and nowadays I love John Murray, Guy Mowbray, Andrew Cotter, Mike Costello & Simon Brotherton. I still can't listen to Brother Brotherton's commentary on Jason Queally winning gold in Sydney without weeping like a small boy. I also love Clare Balding on the golf but then she's top at everything.

    I'd be embarrassed if it was 17 hours a week Mancbas #22 so I'm glad you re-read it.

    Delighted some of you have found this helpful & interesting. I'm off to get things reading for tomorrow.

    See you soon

    Eddie The Eagle Edwards

  • Comment number 37.

    I remember Barry Davies doing commentary on a Staring Contest for the comedy series Big Train. A true art form!

    Roman Solowka

  • Comment number 38.

    I currently work as a Broadcast Journalist and I can relate to what Dan has said as I am currently going through it myself. I also think there are one or two things that need to be said.

    Before I got my current job, I was doing freelancing and got to cover the pre-match press conferences at Fulham and Chelsea. As I wanted (and still want) to be a Sports Journalist, it was a great experience. The downside was, and this is usually the case when trying to get into this sort of thing, is that I had to do it for free.

    Working long hours and putting in the leg work is one thing when you're getting paid , but doing it for free is frustrating and disheartening. It even gets to the point where you feel like throwing it in and getting a proper job. My advice to anyone who is thinking on embarking on this wonderful career is to think about the prospect of having to work for free and decide if it's what you really want to do. Be prepared to make sacrifices; I wanted a part time job to help me along, but considering the eratic nature of breaking into the media, I had to go without.

    I made the decision because I was eager and it paid off as I am now working for a Radio station (shame we don't do any Sports news though!). Always be positive!

    Right, back to the editing, script writing and forward planning. Typical Friday.

  • Comment number 39.

    Mr Walker,
    I understand there are cuts at Auntie at the moment.
    I will pay you five English pounds if you ask Mr Barton, that he still thinks he should be in the England squad based on his personal performance at Fulham?
    I'm a Rangers fan, I like Barton, but I thought he went missing on Sunday, and looked off the pace (wasn't the only one). Too much late night Fifa, Twitter or time spent at Ascot the day before a local derby?
    Anyway, five of my best pounds if you do it.

    -For what it's worth, I think he could do a job in that England squad, if he plays like he did against Newcastle and Wolves!

    Lot's of love
    Mark Falco

  • Comment number 40.

    Have to disagree regarding Clare Balding (and you can throw in Hazel Irvine who is even worse). She's okay with the horses on a Saturday afternoon but I don't like her commentary with the golf. However, who on earth thought Hazel Irvine should be fronting golf coverage needs their head examined. I remember coming across her commentary for the first time during a past Olympics many years ago, and I just couldn't stand it. She hasn't improved either in the years that have passed!

    My favourite commentator annecdote was from Rory Bremner when he was on Top Gear as the Star in a Reasonably Priced car, and he was talking about when he met Murray Walker at some do or other. He asked Murray who had been the most impressive person he had met in Formula One, and he came back with the response (in Murray's voice), "Jim Rosenthal". Classic.

    Minnesota Fats

  • Comment number 41.

    Mottie is still one of the best. Martin Tyler comes close. Some of the others really do not come close. Knowing your subject is the key to doing anything well.

  • Comment number 42.

    I would love to hear Hazel Irvine announce that the Scottish FA are introducing a variation on goal-line technology, known as (with Scottish accent) "Hawk-Eye: the new". Yes, I know it's awful, but I'd love to see her face when she realised what she'd said.

    Terry's Pyramints

  • Comment number 43.

    The BBC commentator that irritates me the the most is Ian Gwyn Hughes. His pitch goes up and he ends up squealing. He also does some glaring errors e.g. mixing up Blackburn's Tony Parkes with ex-West Ham goalie Phil Parkes. The former looks like Mr Bean, the latter looks like a cross between a Yeti and an Afghan hound. How he was picked from BBC Radio Cymru instead of the infinitely superior John Hardy is beyond me. Who else could have said of Vinny Jones "temperamental is a perfect description for him, half temper, half mental." Quality.

  • Comment number 44.

    Sorry, am I the only one in the world who does not rate Motty as a commentator? If you are after someone to commentate by reacting to the ongoings on the pitch with the speed of a sloth then Motty is your man. His ability to state the blindingly obvious and try to pass it off as some amazing fact that perhaps no one else has picked up on staggers me.....and don't get me started on his pronounciation of Drogbaaarrrrr!

    For me, he should have hung up his mic a long time ago.

  • Comment number 45.

    Since the days of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer on the Commodore 64, right through to PES or FIFA on the PS3, commentating whilst I play computer football games has been my secret shame. I even do the co-commentary.

    I am 36 years old.

    "Bomber" Pat Roach

  • Comment number 46.

    Incidentally, if anyone doesn't want to live in a hole in the ground, get up before they've gone to bed, eat a bowl of warm gravel then pay a radio station owner to work 28hrs per day etc etc then I would recommend a degree in engineering.

  • Comment number 47.

    Forget Motty - how do I become the next Alan Partridge?

  • Comment number 48.

    #47 You need to get yourself on Radio Norfolk, have spectacularly bad breath, and live in a Travel Lodge. Oh, and get a friend called Dan. Dan?

    Dave Clifton

  • Comment number 49.

    #47 You need to gorge on Toblerone and drive to Dundee barefoot, before "bouncing back"

    Lynn Benfield

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    The Beeb ran a contest for a new Commentator way back when... and I think the winner was a Welsh chappie called "Idwell Robbling" (sp?) who - in my faded memory - disappeared without trace after just 1 or 2 matches. What where HIS qualifications and where is he now ?

  • Comment number 53.

    No wonder Motty is a part-timer these days. He is, by far, the most enjoyable of the bunch, but seems to be looking at (and quoting from) his trivia list rather than watching & describing the game. So many times he says something akin to "Well I'm not sure what happened there..." as he waits (most likely) for the instant replay to show him what he had missed. On many occasions... it's been followed 10 seconds later (amidst on-field hugging, kissing and dancing) by... "Oh... and it's a goal..."

  • Comment number 54.

    Jonathan Pearce is an excellent commentator. The way he so often calls "game over" when a team goes 2 goals ahead at any point in the second half really adds to the viewing experience.

  • Comment number 55.

    Early in his career, Motty was labelled (by an unknown person) as "Cherub Motson" presumably for his chubby cheeks or youthful status in the Commentating Corps. Not many people "respected" David Coleman for instance, and on "the other Channel" only Brian Moore could hold a Candle (Disputed) against the Beeb crew. If only this "Red Button" thingie could eliminate the Commentary and enhance the crowd sounds, Footy matches on the Telly would be more life-like.

  • Comment number 56.

    Dear 54 (kamikita) Mr. Pearce knows his stuff, but (to me) has an irritatingly higher-pitched voice. (not HIS fault of course... sorry JP) Did he commentate on the Newcastle-Arsenal game by any chance ? 2-0=Game Over would have seemed to be a bit of a silly thing to have said at the time. :-)

    P.S. Lampard's disallowed "Goal" against Germany (WC2010) is a pay-back (conspiracy) for Sir Geoff's 1966 "never in a million years did that cross the line" effort. Good job he scored the 4th.

    I wonder what Motty thinks about THAT "goal"...

  • Comment number 57.

    Used to love Motty when I was young, but went off him during the 2002 world cup, when he seemd to be obsessed with the fact that games were kicking off before breakfast time in England. Ever since then he seems to miss the live action and then comment on the replay instead, as 53 pointed out above.
    Guy Mowbray is good, but someone should tell him he has a microphone and doesn't need to shout. Dan - maybe you should have a word with him.
    I like Alistair Mann on MOTD these days - he always seems to get the likes of Blackburn and Wigan games though.

  • Comment number 58.

    When I was in my twentysomethings back in the late eighties and was a lot angrier than I am now I used to despise Motty cos he was an abysmal commentator. The best example of his rubbishness was during the 89 cup final when he came out with the sublime stat "Ian Rush is the first substitute to score two goals in the Cup Final since, er, Stuart McCall".
    Motson hasn't improved any during the last twenty years but I have mellowed and he no longer grinds my gears.

  • Comment number 59.

    Re 56, Mike, I agree Pearce knows his stuff, except when it comes to stats on how frequently teams come back from a 2 (or more) goal deficit. "Game over", "that wraps it up" etc sound dramatic but to call a game, between two teams in the same division with no red cards having been shown, over at 2-0 after 65 minutes, as Pearce once did, is bizarre. That wasn't a one-off, he routinely calls "game over" long before it's the case.

  • Comment number 60.

    Re Pearce, it's not just 2 goal deficits either. The first goal going in anytime after about 85 minutes is frequently greeted with the same "points wrapped up" type response, which is of course very premature.

 

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