I HAVE, to my knowledge, only been picked out in the crowd by TV cameras at a football match three times. Fortunately, none of them were particularly embarrassing.
One was at a Premier League match in the early 1990s, where I just happened to be behind the goal to which a happy scorer ran to celebrate. Never the most demonstrative of fans, I can be seen smiling and clapping politely.
Another was at an Autoglass Trophy semi-final, televised live on Sky, probably around the same period. I happened to get a seat right at the front of the stand opposite the cameras. Whenever the ball goes out of play on that side anywhere near the halfway line, there’s a close-up of me chatting away happily to my dad, only half-an-eye on the action going in front of me.
The third (actually the first, chronologically) was at a pre-season friendly between an Anglesey Select XI and Sunderland in the summer of 1990. It was during a family holiday, and my dad took me along to the Holyhead Stadium (one stand and a couple of hillocks) to watch a team who had just been promoted to the First Division huff and puff to a laboured 3-2 win over a team of part-timers.
A camera crew turned up to film the game for the local news – and as Sunderland’s third goal goes in, there I am, standing right behind the goal, leaning casually against an advertising board. There was tremendous excitement in our caravan the following evening as we watched the goal clip on our portable TV, I can tell you.
There’s little chance of me getting picked out in the crowd at a match these days. For a start, I’ll probably be in the press box – and shots of journalists tapping away frantically at laptops doesn’t really appeal to TV directors. And even on the rare occasion when I still manage to get to a game as a fan, you won’t see me blubbing hysterically or wearing face paint. (Life inflicts enough humiliations, without needlessly adding to them.)
Of course, there is another way to get yourself on TV at a football game if you’re not the demonstrative type, and that’s to sit in or near the directors’ box. Do that, and you’re guaranteed a close-up shot – especially if you are on the coaching staff of a Premier League club.
Last night’s final match: Bolton 1 Aston Villa 1
Commentator: Ian Gwyn Hughes
Poor old Eric Black. There was Wigan’s assistant manager, taking in Bolton’s uninspiring draw with Aston Villa at the Reebok, perhaps feeling a little tired after a hard week. So he allowed himself a little yawn.
Unfortunately for him, at that exact moment, one of the many cameras filming the game zoomed in on him, sitting alongside his boss Steve Bruce, for a close-up shot.
“Well I think everyone would agree with Eric Black’s assessment of this game,” chuckled Ian Gwyn Hughes, while Black – blissfully unaware that he has been caught on camera – finishes his yawn and tries to focus on the struggle being played out before him.
He saw Ashley Young give Villa the lead with an intended cross which evaded John Carew – and everyone else – to sneak in off the far post, and then he saw Tamir Cohen fire Bolton level from close range after an hour. Martin O’Neill must be wondering if Villa will ever win a match again. It’s not 12 without a victory since they won at Blackburn on February 7. Remarkably, they are still fifth.
But here’s a statistic that might get Black excited: It was Aston Villa’s first away league draw of the season. No? Oh well, I did my best.
Sitting next to Black, Wigan boss Bruce didn’t look that much more thrilled by what he was seeing – which made me wonder why he had decided to go to the game in the first place. The logical reason is that Wigan play Bolton next Saturday, and so Bruce was just getting in some scouting.
Then again, perhaps he was trying to boost Wigan’s Gubbometer standing by being seen at the final game on Match of the Day. Sorry Steve, it doesn’t work like that.
But don’t worry, I’m pretty sure that Wigan v Bolton will be on last next Saturday anyway. Just make sure your assistant isn’t yawning during that one. You never know when there might be a camera pointing in his direction.
UPDATE: Wednesday, April 29: Curiously, the cameras at the ground did not – at least according to the highlights coverage – catch a glimpse of Fabio Capello, although I have read a couple of newspaper reports insisting he was there. Fabio, if you had wanted to get yourself on TV, you should have tried yawning.
1. Fulham: 9 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. West Brom: 7 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
3. Wigan: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
4. Middlesbrough: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
5. Bolton: 6 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
6. Capello: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +5)
7. West Ham: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +2)
8. Arsenal: 4 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
9. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
10. Gubba: 3 (GD: +3; CD: +1)
11=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Hull: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14. Tottenham: 2 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
15=. Aston Villa: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
15=. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
17. Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
19. Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
20=. Chelsea: 0
20=. Liverpool: 0
20=. Manchester United: 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.)