One of my jobs on a matchday was to speak to a player live on the radio after a game. There were a few players who seemed to enjoy the experience, and were happy to be there.
But, let’s be clear. Most saw it as a chore that they had to do.
Some players were good at it, and effortlessly seemed to find the right note to strike – they ‘got it.’
Others were less good at it, and despite their outward confidence, found it difficult.
And that’s fair enough.
Imagine it the other way around – just because you can talk on the radio about the game, we’re going to let you play!
And a surprising number of players were actually quite shy – they were happy to parade their skills and put their reputations on the line in front of 25,000 people every week, but put a microphone into their face and they’d go into their shell.
But often an interview after a game can define a player in the eyes of fans for quite a while – who could forget the words of Joe Worrall after a defeat to Wolves. His passion and commitment really came across, and has set the tone for the rest of his career at The City Ground.
I’ll talk more about post-match interviews later in the blog, because there was often a lot of focus (understandably) on them at certain times in history.
One thing I don’t think was known by many was that I often didn’t have an idea of which player would be the interviewee until they came out of the dressing room and plonked themselves in front of you.
In the early days, you could request who you’d like to – and thanks to the club’s outstanding press officer at the time, Fraser Nicholson – by and large, you’d be granted the request.
Usually, the request would be along the lines of the outstanding player, or someone who’d signed a new contract etc.
But in the last few seasons, it was more of a lottery. I know that some managers sent players out pre- and post- match on a rota basis. So that all of the players took turns, and it was deemed fair.
I could understand the theory of this, but if a player was about to face his former club for the first time since leaving, or had great insight about the opposition club’s manager, or had scored a hat-trick in the game, you’d want to speak to that player – and not the player whose turn it was.
But, while presenting on air at the same time, it was sometimes difficult to get the questions right with a player post-match because you didn’t have any time to prepare for the interview.
I’m sure there were lots of times you’d have shouted at the radio saying “why doesn’t he ask him about X?” – that may have been the reason!
But if certain players appeared, I would (at least internally) have a little smile to myself.
Understandably, I’d have my favourites – those I found it easy to talk to, got on with, and they understood what their job was, in relation to my job.
One of those was Robert Earnshaw – I knew we’d get a considered, intelligent interview.
So it was a pleasure to speak to him again for the blog, as he looks to return to coaching. He was always one of those players you could see going into coaching and/or management, as he was very thoughtful about the game.
It was a shame, to me, that Earnshaw left in the Summer of 2011. It came after the defeat at Swansea, which left the Reds again cursing their fortune in the play-offs.
Surprisingly, Earnshaw didn’t start in South Wales, and wasn’t introduced into the game until it was practically too late – he scored one goal, a couple of minutes after coming on and then struck the post late in the game against Brendan Rodgers’ side.
What might have been.
As it turns out, it was Earnshaw’s last game in the Garibaldi Red. Davies was sacked, to be replaced by former England manager Steve McClaren – and Earnshaw was out of contract.
“About five months before, the club had come to me and said ‘we want you to stay,’ can we start the process of discussing contracts?
“I was trying to stay,” said Earnshaw.
“But after that intitial chat, there were no official next steps. And it can take a few weeks (sometimes months) to sort out.
“But I was calm, I knew I wanted to stay. But at my age, and being at the level I was at, and the club were at, I needed to be sure. My number one choice was to stay.
“But after losing to Swansea, and Billy getting sacked, there was then the issue of who the new manager would be. It was a tricky time.
“I was still holding out for Forest, and I didn’t want to make a definite decision. I went on my holidays, to have a good think – I was still hoping to get things sorted.
In the meantime, Forest appointed Steve McClaren.
“I had a long discussion with McClaren,” reveals Earnshaw.
“He said he wanted me to stay, and I still wanted to stay. But I’m not sure what happened. Whether it was budgets, or some changes to contracts, I’m not certain.
“When I sat down with Steve McClaren, I told him that other clubs were interested, but if you can put something together we can still negotiate and I’ll stay.
- “Right club at right time” – Part one of my chat with Robert Earnshaw
- Billy Davies, press conferences, FFP, social media abuse and a Perth beach…
- When things got personal at Forest
- When I couldn’t talk to Billy Davies – the most difficult year of my career!
- Why always Nottingham Forest?
- Making history at Elland Road
- A suit, a shave and the sack
“Blackpool and Cardiff were interested, and wanted to take me. There were also a few clubs around Europe, and one in China, who were keen.
“It’s not the way I’d have liked it to end,” admits the Welshman.
“But I had to make a decision. Going back to Cardiff was a big pull (his former club).
“It was tough, as I felt at home at Forest. But in the end, I went home.”
PICS – DAN WESTWELL