Last on MOTD: Just call me AJ

THIS may sound daft, given that I once went to interview Thaksin Shinawatra under strict instructions to ask him about his human rights record from my boss. But the most nervous I have ever been before an interview was when I spoke to the former Bolton goalkeeper Seamus McDonagh about six years ago.

I realise that makes no sense whatsoever. The only explanation I can give is that, in my twisted mind, there was more scope for cocking up the McDonagh interview than any other I’ve done. And I like to avoid unnecessarily offending people.

McDonagh was born Seamus, but during the peak of his playing career in the late 70s and early 80s, he was often referred to as Jim, the Anglicised version of his name. If you come across TV coverage of any of McDonagh’s games from that period, the commentator always calls him Jim. A lot of people still refer to him that way.

Although he was born and raised in Rotherham, McDonagh is very proud of his Irish roots, and chose to play his international football for the Republic of Ireland. So it’s totally understandable that he would want to be referred to as Seamus, especially given that’s his name.

Before I interviewed him, I was told by a fellow journalist that McDonagh wouldn’t take kindly to me calling him Jim. I’d no idea if that was true, but I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of finding out.

I was so worried that I would slip up that, before I phoned McDonagh, I wrote ‘Seamus McDonagh’ in black biro on a post-it note and fixed it to my computer screen. I avoided getting his name wrong, he gave me a good half-an-hour going through the ups and downs of his career and it made a nice ‘Where are they now?’ article for the paper I was working for. (He was running a pub in Nottinghamshire, if you’re curious.)

I’ve got a bit of sympathy for people who are sensitive about their names, whatever the circumstances. If you had a surname like mine, you would be too. I pronounce it ‘War-ley’, after the town in East Lancashire. Most people say ‘Wally’, which I don’t have a problem with. (After all, that’s how Whalley Range, about 10 minutes from where I live, is pronounced. And when I won a football kit on Granada TV’s Kick Off in October 1989, that was how Elton Welsby read my name out. Mind you, Elton used to pronounce Kevin Kilbane’s surname as ‘Kilblane’, so I wouldn’t use him as a guide.)

Occasionally, I’ve had ‘Whaley’ (as in Simon Whaley, the former Bury, Norwich and Rochdale midfielder currently on trial at Doncaster Rovers). And I’ve also had ‘Wh – wh – how do you say that?’

But the best mispronunciation of my name came during a Geography lesson when I was at high school in Preston. My teacher was reading out the results of some test or other we’d done, looked down at my name, was obviously befuddled by the sheer number of letter Ls in front of her and called me ‘Michael Macmillan’.

You might say I’d never had it so good.

Last night’s final match: Newcastle 0 Fulham 0
Commentator: Steve Bower

I’m sure there was a time when Fulham striker Andrew Johnson was known as Andy, in the way that footballers’ names generally are shortened if they can be. (Unless, it seems, they’re called Steven. Or Stephen.)

There was never, as far as I’m aware, any Andy Cole-style announcement that Johnson should be called Andrew. But Andrew it is.

Steve Bower referred to Johnson as Andrew all the way through his Match of the Day commentary at St James’ Park, where the striker made his first Premier League start in 21 months after recovering from a knee problem.

It was a fairly gentle reintroduction to the league starting line-up for Johnson, whose most dangerous moment was ended by an excellent Mike Williamson challenge.

Fulham’s away record in the Premier League has never been brilliant, but it has taken a nosedive over the last year-and-a-half. Their last victory away from Craven Cottage in the top flight was at Portsmouth on the opening day of last season. Judging by the dark green away strip Fulham sported at St James’ Park, Mark Hughes has turned to camouflage in an attempt to end that run.

It almost worked in the second half, as Moussa Dembele escaped his marker to hit the bar. By that stage, though, Newcastle pair Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Carroll had both been denied by the bright yellow-clad Mark Schwarzer, so a draw was probably about right.

If you’re ever unsure how to refer to a player, your best bet is to ask the club. Bower got the definitive answer on the Johnson issue from Hughes after the game.

Bower: How pleased were you to get Andrew Johnson on from the start today?
Hughes: Everybody’s delighted for AJ.

Ah. Turns out we’ve all been getting it wrong.


1. Wigan: 4 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
2. Fulham: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 0)
Bolton: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
4. Wolves: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
5. Everton: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
6. Stoke: 2 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
7. Blackburn: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 4)
8. Birmingham: 2 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
9. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
10. West Brom: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 0)
11. West Ham: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
12. Sunderland: 1 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
13=. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
13=. Tottenham: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
15. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
16. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
20. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)

2L=On second last (Wigan 1 West Brom 0)
3L=On third last (Man City 0 Birmingham 0)

(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in Mogadishu, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Paul and Rachel Chandler, Tony Gubba and some Somali pirates, with music from Ultra Nate.)


2 Responses to Last on MOTD: Just call me AJ

  1. Chopper says:

    Andrew Cole was on MOTD2 last week claiming that he’s never made such a request and he was happy for people to call him whatever they liked. Interesting though that Cole was also at Fulham when he apparently requested the name change. Maybe Mo has some irrational dislike of people called Andy and insists on them adopting the full version instead.

  2. mikewhalley says:

    That’s the most logical explanation I’ve heard about the Cole name saga yet!

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