Media Week: Following Northampton's fortunes via local radio
“He’s running towards goal, and did the referee bring him down? It’s a foul, well done Marlon Jackson there”
30 seconds later…
“He’s given a penalty Geoff.”
“Has he? Oh yes, he has, it’s a penalty to Northampton Town here.”
These quotes can only really be taken from one place: local radio.
At the time of writing, the commentators on BBC Radio Northampton’s coverage of ten-man Northampton’s attempt to hold onto a 1-0 lead at Northampton are speculating as to the prospects of being able to see more “super” Marlon Jackson in the second half. Pray why? Because he’ll be playing on their side of the pitch, writes Haydon Spenceley.
Northampton are playing in yellow tonight – “the Bradford kit as I call it… because it reminds me of Bradford” says our man with his finger (and his eyes apparently) on the pulse. Best of all, of course, is that every time our esteemed opponents do anything (attack, defend, pass, tackle, shoot, maintain possession, pretty much anything) it is not a particular player who achieves the act. No, not Sammy Moore, or Jack Midson, or Seb Brown. It is in fact Wimbledon, or The Dons. Said with such dexterity and panache that you’re inclined to believe that it is the whole team who have committed the act rather than an individual. Local media research budgets apparently don’t extent to knowing the names of opposition players these days. Damn those pesky cutbacks. I blame George Osborne.
We’re all used to (relatively) stellar coverage on national radio of matches both crucial and mundane. BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSport (despite the Keys and Gray aberration) lull us in to a false sense of security. If you support a Championship club, or even one of the bigger sides in the lower divisions, you may be used to a higher calibre of reportage from your local media representatives, but not me. I was given the dubious honour, privilege and pleasure of being born in Northampton.
When I was six I convinced my father to take me to watch the legends on display at the ramshackle County Ground. Barnes and Adcock. These were my heroes. Terry Angus and Steve “boom boom” Terry were the equal of anything Manchester United or Liverpool could offer my six-year-old mind in the way of footballing education and entertainment. Along with my “choice” of team, I also gained entry into a small but dedicated band of followers of the Cobblers whose hopes for our victory on Saturdays and Tuesdays from August to May are variously brought to life, and crushed, often in the space of five minutes, by BBC local radio.
Obviously, I have long since grown up and out of these shockingly naive opinions about the quality of my team and hopes for their future success. Over the years I have often lived away from home and relied on local newspaper websites and online sports bulletins from various correspondents who have called the Shoe Town theirs in recent times. Even when I am at home, and the team are playing a game I am unable to reach, due to that poxy having a life issue, I rely on my local radio men to keep me up to date with our “progress”.
Those who write for local papers, and commentate on games for local radio have a challenging role. In this internet age, there’s not much danger of breaking a story which will capture the national (or even, often, local) imagination. Neither is there a real way of making the often torrid and turgid football on offer week after week sound like anything better than it actually is. But, they can inform and entertain. While naming members of the opposition must often seem like a chore, it actually helps those listening to feel more immersed in the game when one can be aware of what is going on and who is involved.
Is that too much to ask? I love local radio. I enjoy feeling closer to the action than I might otherwise do. I value the regular interviews with our current (not so) glorious leader, where he informs me that, contrary to the evidence provided to my mind by my eyes, we are in fact a very good team, on the way to promotion, who attack with poise and purpose (and at times like a porpoise), and who defend like terriers every game, without fail. I know I shouldn’t complain, or take the coverage provided by the BBC for granted, and long may it continue.
It isn’t half funny though.
Oh, and it’s 3-0 now (three).