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Focus heads up the hills of Wales

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Dan Walker | 10:41 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wales was an interesting on-the-road programme last week. I always enjoy the element of unpredictability in live television and the Nos Da pub on the banks of The Taff was packed with rowdy punters getting ready to make the short stroll to the Millennium Stadium.

I had been in Wales since Thursday filming bits and pieces for the programme.

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is a crazy Welsh producer called Dave Purchase and we went up a mini-mountain to film our opening for Saturday.

The mountain/hillock is just outside Cardiff and called The Garth and we filmed a little behind the scenes film at the top for you. Before you watch it I should say that sadly we could not use the shot with the remote controlled plane in it because of "technical issues" but hopefully it still makes sense.

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I should mention for all his madness and desire to use explosives to make good telly, Mr Purchase does a good packed lunch. That was the first time in my life I had ever eaten a mini-cheesecake at the top of a mountain and let me tell you it was pretty special.

One of my mates had his stag do dinner meal at the top of mountain. A table, chairs and all the plates, cutlery and food were carted to the top by his pals and everyone had to wear a dinner jacket for the three-course meal! Magical.

Post cheesecake, Friday was taken up with writing scripts, checking locations, editing pieces and filming Friday Focus on the set of Pobol Y Cwm with Robbie Savage. It is the longest running soap opera on BBC TV going all the way back to the early 1970s. I managed to annoy Welsh speakers everywhere by tweeting that I was on the set of Pobol Y Cwn which means 'The Dog People" instead of "The Valley People'. Once again apologies for the mix-up Welsh brethren.

Savage was getting asked for his autograph all over the shop and we even managed to find someone who worked on the set of Pobol and had based his haircut on the Derby captain's barnet.

Robbie Savage

Robbie Savage meets up with his stunt double in Wales

On the day of the programme we all got to the venue for about 9am in order to check the technical side of things. From 1030 onwards, our guests started arriving. The Barry Horns were the first to get there followed by Dixon, Lawrenson, Savage and Mickey Thomas. The last two to join the throng were Miss Wales and Henry Winter.

We got a few questions from viewers about our decision to preview a game that we had no rights to. Hopefully it shows that we are not biased in the stuff we cover and do not ignore events just because they are not on the BBC. From our point of view, it was the biggest story of the day and it is much better to be in the thick of it than a studio hundreds of miles away.

I thought all the main guests were very strong on Fabio Capello's future, the captaincy debate and where England are at the moment. Mr Dixon successfully predicted the England midfield, the formation and the 2-0 scoreline - not a bad triple. Mr Savage also provided a moment of comedy towards the end...

Me: "Robbie what will Wales boss Gary Speed be doing in the two hours before kick-off now. Is he a tea-cup thrower? Is he Churchillian?"
Robbie: "No, he's Welsh!"

A few people also asked about controlling the crowd at a live event like that. It helps to have quality floor managers but I also think that a lot it comes down to communication. There is always a concern about swearing and various hand gestures but when that situation arises I find that, nine times out of 10, if you tell people that swearing - in word or deed - means they will not be on telly, they tend to play along and feel part of it at the end.

The game itself was an interesting one. After being inspired by her appearance on Focus Miss Wales produced the goods with both anthems and also attracted the attention of Signor Capello! Speed has definitely improved the mood in the Wales camp but that does not change the fact that he is desperately short of real quality. Scott Parker, Ashley Young and Jack Wilshere have all been rightly praised and England's 'new' system heralded but it needs to be tested by sterner stuff before we all get carried away.

We have got another on-the-road show coming up in two weeks when Focus comes live from The Grand National at Aintree but this week you need to remember we are on early at 1145 BST because Leeds v Forest is live on BBC One from 1230 BST. We have got Gordon Strachan on the sofa and you will hear from Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Michael Laudrup and Bob Wilson to name a few.

If you want to follow the build-up you can at and if you have comments on the live programme, any questions for Gordon Strachan or any general queries about the show then whack them down.


  • Comment number 1.

    "We got a few questions from viewers about our decision to preview a game that we had no rights to. Hopefully it shows that we are not biased in the stuff we cover and don't ignore events just because they are not on the BBC."

    And there was me thinking that you all were on a jolly at the poor tax payers expense with, no doubt, free tickets to the game. I must be getting cynical in my old age.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Garth Crooks Mountain?

  • Comment number 3.

    Very biased to the welsh coverage, acting like they were a foreign team and the bbc were on there jollys to watch the england play. Do they not realise they are suppost to broadcast for the UK?

  • Comment number 4.

    "And there was me thinking that you all were on a jolly at the poor tax payers expense with, no doubt, free tickets to the game. I must be getting cynical in my old age."

    What a silly comment. I applaud the BBC for actually focussing on the big events in football, and not just what they have the rights to show (for example, a very well known satellite sports news broadcaster seems to go a little quiet around the time of the FA Cup). Was a good episode Dan, although having seen Pobol Y Cwm's Savage, my money would be on that he's a better player than Sav...

  • Comment number 5.

    Great blog - and am really enjoying Robbie's 606 contributions - I don't always agree with the fella - but he's always interesting and entertaining!

    Am looking forward to this week's show and WAS looking forward to the live Leeds v Forest match - but looking at the listings - it doesn't look it will be shown in sparkly HD ???

    Any idea why???

  • Comment number 6.

    Wow! Michael Laudrup - that will be one to look forward to.

    Where I live backs onto Aintree Racecourse, this FF appearance will count as one of it's all time highlights along with the Michael Jackson concert that was held there in the late 80's supported by Kim Wilde.

    What I'd like to know from Strachan is: How does he feel the current Celtic and Rangers sides would fair in the Premier League. As he brought down some big hitters from the SPL who subsequently struggled at Middlesbrough.

    Phillipa Forrester

  • Comment number 7.

    Post 1

    Leave it out, it was clearly the biggest football story of the day and they were right to cover it, thought it was a nice touch as it gets on my nerves when TV stations only cover the stuff they will show.


    Good job with the show, you need to get Savage signed up as soon as he hangs up his boots, speaks his mind, is a funny bloke and looks daft as a brush all the same time.

    I love mini food, had mini Kievs the other day....stunning

  • Comment number 8.


    Mini kievs?! You'll have to let me know where you found then, they will be part of my weekly shop from now on. Had some gorgeous mini fish+chips in a cone recently, wonderful finger food. Brightened up my Asset Management conference no end....

    Dan, would love to hear how Hitzlsperger is finding his time at West Ham, and his return to English football; seems since he came back from injury things have picked up for the Irons, would love to hear his thoughts.

    Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

  • Comment number 9.

    The most boring blog in a long time...

  • Comment number 10.

    @tomefccam...we must live quite close by then because I'm just around the corner from the racecourse...just past the retail park! Anyways, might come down and meet you Dan, I'm thinking of going on the Saturday.

  • Comment number 11.


    Not far at all. We know Dan enjoys his food, you could probably advocate the 9 Dragons as an excellent place to grab a nose bag.

    Wonder how accessible FF will be though, the Racecourse is huge, well policed and i'd imagine they'll place Dan and the lads well out of the way.

  • Comment number 12.

    I live at the foot of the Garth, might've seen you flying your plane around had I looked out of the window!

    Evgeni Malkin

  • Comment number 13.

    @tomefccam Yeah, the 9 Dragons is a great shout. I'm literally a stones throw from there without giving too much away. True about the security and getting in; its probably not even an option. Bet they have them in front of Red Rum!

    Dan, Prego isn't bad either if you like your pizza's and pasta's. I bet you do!

  • Comment number 14.

    The Garth was the Hill/Mountain in question for the film "An English man who went up a hill and came down a Mountain" Quite apt!

  • Comment number 15.

    #9 The most boring reply in a long time...

    I think Robbie Savage bears a certain resemblence to Wagbo off Harry Hill's TV Burp. It would be amusing to see the pair of them lined up together.

    I think the Michael Laudrup interview is also likely to be the most interesting interview as well - is there a particular angle/reason for speaking to him? I'm sure it'll be good regardless.

    Edd the Duck

  • Comment number 16.

    Could it be possible? It is, by jove i've done more than I ever possibly hoped to achieve.

    Hey everyone , everyone look, can you beli....

    Oi if you not all gonna look then I'm not gonna show you, yes I meant you too, I don't care you look outstanding in braces, a little attention and a moment of your time was all I required, but Bioko, you don't have to see what little old me has acheived, infact I bet nothing would please you more than if I was to destroy it!

    There, are you happy, it's on fire and will burn never to be seen again, happy now are we braces? I hope you feel really bad!


    Dan we will have to postpone the business meeting, I know longer have anything to show you.

    Sorry about that.

    Leo sayer

  • Comment number 17.

    Really interested in hearing the Michael Laudrup interview. What a player he was and doing well as a manager!

    As for the England stuff, 4-3-3 is a better formation but England are still miles behind the best and will be for generations to come.

  • Comment number 18.

    Forget the football, the burning question is surely whether or not Dan got to fly that nifty little remote control plane?! Hours of fun on a windy day up a mountain in Wales.

  • Comment number 19.

    Now come on... Motihur Rahman #9

    "The most boring blog in a long time"... You clearly haven't read all of mine!

    Thanks for the comments so far comrades. I knew this blog wasn't going to spark much debate but we haven't had a behind the scenes vid for a while AND there was a man wearing a bow tie!

    My wife called my tonight to laugh and say how few comments there were on here.

    Anyway... thanks for reading it and I'll return next week with something that doesn't involve cheesecake.

    #1 I'm glad you don't edit our programmes boss. We are trying to bring you the best shows from the best locations. That means sometimes you have to spend money.

    InKKWeTrust #3 I personally think that's a bit harsh. It was a well balanced show I thought.

    No Brad-Scott #18 - I didn't get to fly the plane.

    Dave Concorde

  • Comment number 20.

    Great blog as always Mr Walker. I am going on my stag do this weekend and the formal dinner on top of a mountain is a genius idea!

    Celtic fan with questions for Mr Strachan:

    1. Who was the best Celtic player he coached while he was manager?

    2. Does he feel the Celtic fans never forgave him for sticking two fingers at them when he was a player with Aberdeen? Or because he isn't a Catholic man with Irish roots?

    3. Will Glasgow / The Old Firm ever get over the sectarian issue? What needs to be done?


    Shunsuke Nakamura

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks for the response, Dan. You must've been disappointed you didn't get to fly that little bad boy though?! I'd have made it a prerequisite! Looking forward to Saturday's show. All the best.

    Ricardo Gardner

  • Comment number 22.

    # 20 ... as a Celtic fan I dont think you should need to ask question 3... unfortunately its never going to change much..

    I liked Gordon.. thought he was a bit off at times and wished he would answer things straight at others but he loved managing Celtic and you could see he loved us winning.. the 'Celtic Man' issue was a problem dreamed up by internet forums and media.. there were a certain generation who didnt like him purely because of his time as a player at Aberdeen but this was more to do with his actions on the park and not his commitments off it..

    Dan good blog and could you ask Gordon what has been his favourite game he managed a club in?

    A Whole Lotta Rosie

  • Comment number 23.

    Good blog again Dan, think yours are probably the most consistently entertaining on this site, several food references never go amiss as well!

    Quick question for Sir Strachan, does he think he inspired Ian Holloway in some way with his post-match interview comments - including my favourite:

    Reporter: There's no negative vibes or negative feelings here?
    Strachan: Apart from yourself, we're all quite positive round here. I'm going to whack you over the head with a big stick, down negative man, down.

    I loved how he answered pretty daft questions with a suitably daft response, never seemed to take himself too seriously.

    Quickly have to say about Robbie, I used to think he was a complete prat (Mainly because of his quite frankly ridiculous hair) but after seeing him on Focus and Late Kick Off a few times I'm coming round. Seems like a reasonable bloke, probably a good laugh over a few bevvies!

    Mr P I Staker

  • Comment number 24.

    Where else would it makes sense for FF to be on a international derby day? Also Cheesecake is the devils invention and you should be ashamed of yourself. Clearly Cherry Bakewells are the only acceptable desert for formal mountain top soirées.


    Mr Kipling

  • Comment number 25.

    Whose the bloke in the suit next to Sav?

  • Comment number 26.

    Greetings Dan

    Are you telling me that you had a packed lunch that included cheesecake for desert!?! What a treat that must have been, myself I usually just get a Taxi bar or a 5,4,3,2,1. Imagine if you pulled out a cheesecake in the playground, there would have been uproar! But for all I know maybe cheesecake in a schoolboys packed lunch is standard issue these days..... such is the youth of today!

    Lando Calrissian

  • Comment number 27.

    I'd like to know if Laudrup still embraces his legendary status amongst his countrymen. Dan Agger recently said in a Liverpool programme that everything M.Laudrup says and does is still front page news in Denmark. Surely this is a little tiresome by now?

    Also, where does he see himself in terms of his standing amongst the legends of the game? Personally, I think he's one of the greatest players of the last 20 years, if not of all time.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great blog Dan :)

    I regularily read your blog every wednesday and it's a perfect way to spend my free at college, never commented before, felt compelled to do so today!

    Have a gud 'un

    James Corden

  • Comment number 29.

    23. At 09:39am on 31st Mar 2011, stevedave86 wrote:

    My favorite Strachan quote is after a Celtic game where they lost as he was going into the dressing room, a reporter said:

    "Gordon can we have a quick word"

    His reply:


    as he slammed the door! Legend!

  • Comment number 30.

    #29 - He's come out with loads of classics! Another one of my favourites is

    "I've got more important things to think about. I've got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Agustin Delgado."

    and after an unbeaten run had ended, a reporter asked if he could take it, he said "No I think I'm going to crumble into a wreck. I'll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge"

    There's more here (If the mods don't take the link down of course). He's my favourite ginger person ever. Except Paul Scholes, winner of World's Best Tackler every year since he was 7.

    Alan Shearer's Filet O' Fish meal

  • Comment number 31.

    I just read an article on black british managers finding it hard to get jobs.

    i was wondering, is this really an issue? or is it just because there aren't many black managers that we make it an issue?

    in the article, Paul Ince says it is ""really hard to comprehend" that would-be managers could lose out on jobs because of their colour". If that is his perspective, maybe there is less of a problem than we think?

    has anybody looked into how many minority players attempt to become managers? if there isn't many, why?

    maybe the issue isn't one of racism, maybe it's political correctness. after all, this was supposed to have died out in the english game long ago. or perhaps i was just hoping that.

    do you think focus would look into this more deeply? or perhaps inside sport? at the moment, all the talking is coming from Gordon Taylor, so what do people in non-executive positions think, and the fans?

    Carl Marsalis

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting how Strachan is hated in Coventry.

    As a neutral I always thought he did a good job, and was unlucky to get relegated. His 99/00 side was possibly the best in recent times with Keane, Breen, Chippo, Hadji, McAllister amongst others.

    The Bellamy signing in 2000 did not quite work out and John Hartson was brought in a bit too late, but looking on their subsequent careers they did well, as well as George Boateng who came and went and Magnus Hedman who he also brought in. He had a good eye for a player and made profits on Keane, Dublin, Huckerby and possibly Noel Whelan.

    The fans really don't like him down there.

  • Comment number 33.

    Nice Blog Dan,

    Long-term reader, first time poster.

    I woulld just like to defend yourself and the BBC for covering the game on Saturday. Firstly I don't know what else you could of covered this weekend football wise. Secondly am I right in saying that the game was covered on 5Live. I' not certain as was playing myself but usually it is.

    The coverage didn't appear to be biased in any way so therefore I give the show a thumbs up!

    Nathan 'Duke' Ellington

  • Comment number 34.

    Dan, top blog again! Best Gordon Strachan quote ever:

    Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie deserves to be in the England squad?

    Strachan: I don't care, I'm Scottish.

    Thoroughly looking forward to seeing Michael Laudrup on the show on Saturday, he's probably my favourite ever player. His role in the 1986 side was legendary. Anybody who dismisses footballers as thicko's should engage themselves in conversation with either Michael or Brian Laudrup, both highly intelligent with some excellent views on the game.

    A few questions for him please, Dan:

    Who did he connect better with on the park - Preben Elkjaer, or his brother Brian?

    Will he go for the Denmark job when Morten Olsen retires?

    How would he fix the current mess at his old club Ajax?

    And Dan, as for miniature food? I see your cheesecake, and raise you mini-hot dogs. Genius.

    Flemming Povlsen

  • Comment number 35.

    you point way to much in this vid.

  • Comment number 36.

    Hey Dan,

    I've been super-impressed by your hosting of FF. Modern, relevant and always with a sense of humour. Nice.

    I never post comments on anything, but was finally moved to post whilst watching the show on Saturday. Particularly, watching the coverage on the financial state of clubs.

    The segment served to highlight something that has been mildly grating me for some time; Some of the established pundits you have at the beeb. There has been online outcry about Alan Shearer in the past, and a little around Alan Hansen even, but watching you ask Mark Lawrenson for his opinion on Platini's Law was a struggle to watch, as it just highlighted the lack of interesting opinions on show from some of the more established pundits.

    I know that the financial state of clubs in 2011 is a bigger, more complex subject than some of the usual couch conversations but, for me, it just served to highlight a lack of imagination in picking pundits with interesting or left-field opinions to accompany your style on the programme.

    Otherwise, great stuff.

  • Comment number 37.

    Great blog, as usual.
    FF worked well on the day but I find it bonkers that Robbie Savage looks set to pinch another lucrative career.
    Regarding the lack of coverage of the actual event. A couple of years ago, Inside Sport did a feature on Joe Calzaghe ahead of his fight on Setanta (I think) but then made no mention of it the following week... Broadcasting rights gone mad I reckon!
    The Midnight Caller


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