Last on MOTD: Hello, Ray

PAUL Ince had a rather novel way of doing post-match interviews when he was Macclesfield manager. It wasn’t the normal way of going about things in League Two at all.

At lower-division clubs, the general post-match practice is for a manager to come up to the press box after a game to do a reasonably laid-back interview with a grizzled local radio journalist who has been covering the club home and away for the last 300 years.

Once this interview has been concluded, the sports editor of the local paper (generally a lad in his early 20s who hasn’t shaved for three days and is dressed in whatever fell out of his wardrobe that morning – I should know; I was once that lad) will ask a few questions, while any other reporters covering the game will crowd around with their tape recorders, trying to avoid asking anything themselves in case it exposes the fact that they haven’t bothered to do any research (I should know; as this is kind of where I am at now). 

Ince, however, didn’t go in for any of this scrummaging with the media. He always sent his assistant Ray Mathias to do the local radio and general press interviews instead.

There was, however, one particular reporter he would speak to. And so after every Macc home game, this reporter would go down to Ince’s office in the tunnel, tape a five-minute interview, and then bring it back up to the press box for the rest of us journalists to listen to so that we could use the quotes.

At away games, where access to the tunnel and dressing rooms was more difficult, things could get a bit more complicated. And even if that access was made easier by a friendly home club, it didn’t necessarily make life any more straightforward.

I remember covering a Macc game at Bury two seasons ago. Ince had, for reasons I can’t remember, left the ground pretty much as soon as the final whistle went. Mathias came up to do the post-match interviews, as genial and friendly as ever, but I still needed to try to get some comments from Ince.

And so it was that I found myself back at home that Saturday evening, waiting for the reporter responsible for getting Ince’s post-match comments to ring him, and then ring me with those precious words. It was the most roundabout way of doing a post-match interview I have ever come across. Amazingly, I got what I wanted, thanks entirely to this particular reporter putting in far more effort than I warranted.

I never really understood why Ince fought shy of post-match interviews, as he was willing to chat to both the local and national press at other times. But I wondered back then how he would cope if he achieved his ambition of getting a Premier League job.

Surely he couldn’t keep on putting up his assistant for Sky and the BBC once he was in the big time?

Last night’s final match: Blackburn 1 Hull 1
Commentator: Alistair Mann

Oh yes he could. For who should pop up in front of the BBC camera after Blackburn’s draw with Hull but Ray Mathias!

In fairness, Ince did face the cameras after Blackburn’s 3-2 win at Everton last week. But going on past form, I really wouldn’t be surprised if Mathias ends up doing a fair bit of the TV and radio interview work over the next nine months.

And I would be genuinely pleased if he did. Mathias is one of the nicest guys in football; always willing to chat, and always open and honest in his assessment of a team’s performance. It’s great to see him getting a spot in the limelight.

Seeing a former Macclesfield assistant boss discussing a Premier League side on Match of the Day was a bit weird, though. I remember Mathias standing in what passes for a press box at Accrington giving his thoughts on Macclesfield’s chances of avoiding relegation to the Conference – and that was only 16 months ago. It’s a bit like seeing a mate from the pub suddenly turn up in Heat magazine. You just don’t expect it.

What next? Gil Prescott stepping in to give his thoughts on Arsenal v Liverpool? John Askey on the MOTD sofa alongside Hansen and Lawrenson?

I wouldn’t be surprised now.

Gubbometer

1=. West Ham: 1 (Capello difference: +1)
1=. Wigan: 1 (Capello difference: +1)
1=. Capello: 1
4=. Blackburn: 1
4=. Hull: 1
6=. Gubba: 0
6=. Arsenal: 0
6=. Aston Villa: 0
6=. Bolton: 0
6=. Chelsea: 0
6=. Everton: 0
6=. Fulham: 0
6=. Liverpool: 0
6=. Manchester City: 0
6=. Manchester United: 0
6=. Middlesbrough: 0
6=. Newcastle: 0
6=. Portsmouth: 0
6=. Stoke: 0
6=. Sunderland: 0
6=. Tottenham: 0
6=. West Brom: 0

(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)

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