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Staying 'Focused' on job in hand

Steve Wilson | 12:33 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Every Tuesday the editors, production staff and reporters of Football Focus gather at TV Centre in west London to chew over the events of the weekend, discuss the merits of the previous Saturday's programme and throw around ideas for the week ahead.

This season Martin Keown, the former England and Arsenal defender, has been joining us, and, from my point of view, it's been really beneficial having him there. The opportunity to ask him about Arsene Wenger before interviewing the Gunners boss was invaluable.

The meeting this week was well attended. As well as Keown, there was Garth Crooks, Mark Bright, John Motson and Jonathan Pearce and without wanting to pat us on the back too much, I thought last Saturday's programme previewing the FA Cup fourth round was a terrific watch.

Watford v Crystal Palace

The rights to the FA Cup are in the hands of ITV and Setanta at the moment, which means the BBC is unable to show any archived Cup action from the last 10 years. Given such restrictions, sometimes necessity is the mother of invention - and the team came up with some really creative ideas at the weekend.

Rugby commentator Eddie Butler's reflections on his support for Cardiff City and singer Tony Christie's visit to boyhood heroes Doncaster Rovers were real gems. (Is this the way to hammer Villa?)

After the FA Cup, it's back to the Premier League and, with a full programme of midweek matches to savour, Match of the Day makes a Wednesday night appearance this week. I'm at West Ham's game with Hull City and it will be interesting to see the Hammers, who have improved significantly in recent weeks under Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke. Last time I saw them was at Old Trafford back in October and while their 2-0 defeat was hardly a shock, their limp performance was.

West Ham's Jack Collison celebrates

One big bright spot for the Hammers has been the emergence of Jack Collison, who, it turns out, is related to my old headmaster. John Gwilliam, or "Sir" as I would almost certainly find myself calling him if we met again, was the captain of one of the great Welsh triple-crown winning rugby union sides of the 1950s. A stickler for neatness and discipline, he was not exactly what you would call a football fan. In fact, we were not even allowed to play football in school. What he must make of being related to a modern Premier League star-in-the-making, I am not sure.

If Collison turns out to be as good at his chosen sport as Gwilliam was, at his, then Welsh football will have real cause for optimism.


  • Comment number 1.

    My fist first comment, Wahoo!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    "Staying Focused On The Job In Hand"

    A strange title for such a muddled piece of writing. What exactly is your point?

    Football Focus did a good job given the limitations of footage? (They did OK)

    West Ham are better under Zola? (Maybe)

    You vaguely know some Welsh guy through an old schoolteacher? (Big deal)

    Very poor.

  • Comment number 3.

    The sooner the FA Cup is wrenched from ITV and Setanta's hands the better. Dire commentary, direction by the same guy who made Battlefield Earth, and they left out the tie which epitomised what the FA Cup is about: Kettering v Fulham. That was such a faux pas of an omission, I was so certain they'd televise it that the thought of it not happening didn't even cross my mind.

    It double annoyed me because a guy I went to school with was acting captain for Kettering on the day.

    Get the rights to BBC, Sky, UKTV Food, WHOEVER! Just get it off ITV now.

  • Comment number 4.


    I think the briefness of your blog probably sums up the link between the BBC and the FA Cup this year.

    Rather than criticise the blog for the sake of it though, can I ask for your honest thoughts on the following:-

    Should the BBC have bid more for the FA Cup rather than spend money on F1? Discuss...


  • Comment number 5.


    Most deffinately they should have. I would have seriously thought more people would be interested in the FA Cup than the F1 (Which can i just say was rediculously overpriced!). But then i might be wrong, a lot of people dont care about the FA Cup these days, especialy bigger clubs, which is a shame. I feel that by not being more commited to the FA Cup, the BBC might have just re-enforced the notion that its not as magic a competition as it once was. I mean, the BBC and FA Cup allmost went hand in hand. I dunno, maybe im just venting, but i feel that the Lewis Hamilton bandwagon was jumped on far too quickly

  • Comment number 6.

    ITV and Sultana coverage is so poor. The BBC Coverage is better but the pundits are awful, all the most boring people under the sun, Ian Wright even said so.

    Sky is only slightly better, but Sky love the Redknapps and Andy Gray is the most boring and miserable bloke on the planet. All he does is moan about Refs.

  • Comment number 7.

    Fully agree with comments on the quality of FA Cup coverage. ITV's has been wretched and I've found myself having to seek out the London version of the channel as STV have been bizarrely averse to showing the games in Scotchland (we care about the FA C.p too, guys!!).

    I can't comment on the quality of Setanta's coverage because I haven't seen it. The FA Cup should be on terrestrial TV. Period. We should have to pay to watch it.

  • Comment number 8.


    Ian Wright saying something most certainly does not make it so.

    Personally, I like the BBC pundits. I always watch MOTD and never both with Sky's Football First. I prefer to watch MOTD so that I have a flavour of all of the matches that day.

    As for Andy Gray, he really is one of those that's wise after an event but describes it too you like he knew what was going to happen all along!

    As for the criticism of ref's by pundit's, I'm afraid Lawro has been guilty of that as well. Listening to the FA Cup Merseyside Derby on the radio, he was rather scathing of the ref, claiming the ref was trying to get centre stage when making decisions.

    It really doesn't help 'respect' when commentators do this fully knowing how difficult it can be for officials to make decisions in a split second, rather than sitting in a comfy studio with the benefit of replays. Poor form Lawro.

  • Comment number 9.

    To be fair to Setanta their coverage lasted 6 and a half hours and the presenter and pundits did a good job. To say now that it should be on terrestrial is silly when its been on the more expensive Sky for years now.

    ITV do a great job of the Champions League but their FA Cup coverage seems worse for some reason. Do they ever have a match without Andy Townsend (who would be good if not overused)?

    As for Football Focus, it has become one of the most boring programmes on TV. I'd rather watch the first hour of Soccer Saturday than watch it.

  • Comment number 10.

    All these is comedy to my ears. i dont know why i read the blog or every comment afterwards. guess am just addicted to the blogs

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • Comment number 12.

    Perhaps the author of the blog might do us the honour of responding to the points.....

  • Comment number 13.

    at #12, maybe he has been busy?

  • Comment number 14.

    #13, maybe, but what's the points in a blog is the blogger doesn't comment on it?

    Surely, it's there to prompt responses so if he's not about, why do it?

  • Comment number 15.


    Spot on redtimbo. Football focus used to be good to watch but it has become far too boring. Soccer Saturday is much more interesting.

    As for the issue of tv coverage, Setanta's coverage of football this season has been vastly superior to last season and the pundits are significantly better than the likes of Martin Keown etc. Apart from the champions league, ITV's football coverage has been sketchy the last 10 years or so.

  • Comment number 16.

    andy townsend is a complete idiot. bbc fooball coverage is ok, (apart from MOTD2, which is brilliant!)

    but ITV's FA cup was dire. though they do good champions league coverage.

    setanta is passable. there should be live prem on the BBC though.

    just get rid of shearer and mark lawrenson, and put lee dixon and gavin peacock (where has he gone) on motd1.

    lineker is alright.

  • Comment number 17.


    I think Gavin Peacock is currently studying to be a minister in Canada (or something similar. He's definitely following his faith abroad anyhow.)

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry but the blog doesn't really get going at all. It's mentioned on the sport home page to tell us of some young gems of the Cup this year yet only Collison is mentioned? Please explain.
    As a United fan I shall not be blowing the 'Danny Welbeck trumpet' but there are certainly others who have shone.

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • Comment number 20.

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

  • Comment number 21.

    Steve, this is really quite a patronising blog.

    You're obviously going to have meetings to discuss what to do in football focus at the end of the week. In addition, there's no need for you to tell us what's in football focus. I'm sure if people want to know they can quite easilty find out for themselves.

    And the jack collison story is really a nothing story.

    I'm sure it would be far more interesting to read about more personal stories, like your thoughts on co-commetators and pundits and what makes a good one etc. Tell us something we don't know!

    Having said that, I do think you're the best commentator the bbc has got at the moment

  • Comment number 22.

    Nice insight, Steve, but can you blog a bit more about the inner workings of the BBC? And I agree about Eddie Butler's piece. He's a genius. C'mon the Hammers!

  • Comment number 23.

    ITV Fa cup coverage is poor.

  • Comment number 24.

    I must agree this is a particularly aimless piece of 'staying focused' writing.

    West Ham, as ever, still have a top rate acadamey (Lampard, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand) - and its good to see this continuing with the emergence of Freddie Sears and Jack Collison.

    Man City too having a quality academy, the ranks of whom will now sadly struggle to break into the first team, as the pursuit of 'superstar' players builds pace. (Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson, Michael Ball, Daniel Sturridge).

    Football Focus is still far behind Soccer Sunday on Sky Sports News - Jeff Stelling, Paul Merson, Matt Le Tisseur and Phil Thompson never fail to amuse. The Beeb however hold onto know nothings such as Garth Crooks, who must be crowned the worst pundit on TV. As for ITV ; the only channel willing to give David Pleat a job! The man who never pronounces a foreign player's name correctly, and just like poor Garth, seems to know and contribute little of value apart from a drab opinion.

    As for the FA cup, such drama should be available to all but i must agree that money is truely ruining not only the players but also game coverage. Histon v Leeds was a great game for the neutral, despite the poor commentary on ITV.

    And as for those old games on ITV4 - The Big match (?) - quality. Nothing like watching men stand up after nearly being snapped in half from a poorly timed challenge and not surround the ref demanding action. Take a page from rugby refs - TAKE NO BACK CHAT OR ATTEMPTED INFLUENCE - especially from Chelsea but then im biased!

  • Comment number 25.

    You're all very harsh on Steve. I've read a few of his blogs and like what he has to say. Some are more interesting than others, granted, but they all help build up a picture of his life as a commentator. Give him a break. Lots of you seem to love having a pop. Peace out!

  • Comment number 26.

    Why dont you address the points that Steve actually said in his blog, rather than the ones he didnt?
    Some people are just being cynical for the sake of it.

    Back to the point, I hate watching games on Setenta. The commentary is dull and void of any real enthusiasm. Being a United fan, about 80% of their games over the past 2 months have been on Setanta and quite frankly I nearly resorted to listening to radio coverage.

    I quite like ITV however. I think Peter Drury and Clive are very good in their roles, and always seem to have a few interesting statistics up their sleeves. Whereas Martin Tyler points out the plain obvious and waits for his sidekick Mr Gray to respond with his so called in depth analogies. I always choose to watch the Champions League matches including the final on ITV.

  • Comment number 27.

    #2 - thanks for your support!!! Wasn't meant to be an earth shattering exclusive - just some musings which you may or may not find interesting. Obviously you didn't - and that's fine!

    #4 - as a football commentator obviously I would have preferred to have kept the FA Cup and England contract. If I was a Formula One fan I might feel differently and obviously there is a responsibility to serve as wider segment of the viewing public as possible. Anyway I don't think that one contract was sacrificed in order to gain the other; but would I swap football for cars? No.

    # 12 - Sorry have not had chance to reply to any points raised before now, I was at west Ham most of yesterday.

    #13 - thank you I have been.

    #15 - I like the Soccer AM format - Tiswas with football if you remember Tiswas. Soccer Saturday and Score on BBCi are both great products too but not at all the same kind of programme as Focus, which if you haven't seen recently you should give a go.

    #21 - I hope my blogs are all interesting to some degree - some more so than others obviously but was can't all be brilliant all the time!!

    Excuding people with I work with on Match of the Day who I will not rate as I have too much respect for them all, here are my favourite commentators and pundits.

    Pundit - Jim Beglin - great delivery of interesting and intelligent points - fantastically nice guy too.

    TV commentator - Clive Tyldsley is rarely anything other than excellent - and a shout for one of my best mates, Ian Crocker of Setanta.

    Radio Commentator - the late Peter Jones was a genius - if you get chance to hear Mick Lowes of BBC Radio Newcastle you should take it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Thanks, Steve, for taking the time out to respond. Ignore the knockers.
    So how were West Ham last night?

  • Comment number 29.

    With the extra football on the BBC next season I am sure Football Focus will improve. Sorry but whilst I like Soccer Saturday the pundits are over the top and have become parodies of themselves. They witter on about managers doing this and that, have their favourites and every shot, save, refeering decision is a shocker. You get a balanced view on the BBC. For what it is worth I rate the blogger highly as there are too little people able to articulate a great game anymore

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi Steve, hope I'm not too late to contribute.

    Firstly I have to agree, the editions of Focus before the last two rounds of the cup have been great watches.

    I hadn't even realised you were not allowed to use any archived cup action from the last 10 years. It seems stupid to me, you held the rights during those years I think you should be able to show clips whenever you want.

    The Eddie Butler piece in particular was really good, he alwasy does good pieces like that with the rugby as well.

    Being a toon fan I love Mick Lowes he is a great commentator, Five Live have used him occasionally in the past covering other local teams and even hosting 606, he is a great broadcaster.

  • Comment number 31.

    Never too late David. Nice to hear a discerning voice on the blog!

    When you buy the contract from the FA you buy use of the archive material with it.

    This season you may have noticed ITV getting their current commentators to put their voice on archive material as though they were actually commentating at the time when in reality they were not. This is their only alternative to using BBC voices on some of those famous Cup moments.

    Smoke and mirrors!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Steve,
    Apologies for the very late response to your blog... fascinating to have such a good insight into the runnings of Football Focus, espescially the bits I am sure the likes of ITV do not want us to know!
    Well it's the end of the season and I am sure a long well earned rest is ahead of you now, but I'd quite like to know what BBC Sport has planned for us for next season? With the fantastic news that the Premier League contract has been extended and with the BBC taking the Football League rights as of next season this should surely mean football mania next season.... Do you have any plans to have a Soccer Saturday style show to replace both Football Focus and Score? Surely it would be better to compile both shows into one fantastic bumper saturday afternoon extravaganze? Also I think that the current format of everybody sitting on a sofa on the BBC just a little too relaxed... if you know what I mean.
    Well done for some great commetaries this season, and I look forward to hearing your response.

  • Comment number 33.


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