Craig Priest reveals some of his memorable moments on the road with the Mansfield Matters team...
So far in this miniseries I’ve written about travelling to the game and experiencing road rage and have spoken about some of the people I’ve shared the seasons journey with – today I truly delve behind the scenes and reveal some of the more interesting tales of how the Mansfield Matters show actually gets on air, those of you that think it’s simply a case of turning up and pressing a few buttons are in for a shock – if only it were that simple!
Covering the Stags this season has been a pleasure and like everyone else I have people that I look up to, admire and aspire to be like, however sometimes I wonder how those covering the premier league and championship would cope outside the football league as quite often, conference grounds don’t have the best of facilities! I must get on record that there is always someone willing to help from every club hence why our coverage both of league matches and friendly’s has continued throughout the season, I’d very much like to thank them for that, however you still have to be prepared for a challenge from the moment you press ‘Send’ on your email requesting press passes – I may joke around and moan a little, sorry dad and everyone that’s took an ear bashing, however I think the challenge of actually getting on air in the first place, has made the job more rewarding and the season more enjoyable. I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve had sleepless nights before games wondering about what I’ll face to bring coverage, sometimes I’ve woken up in a cold sweat, no matter how twisted this sounds – I can’t wait to do it again!
Chasetown holds memories dear to me, yes Barrow was where I was discovered and made my radio debut, but Chasetown’s scholars ground was the place I did my first solo live full match commentary in the FA Trophy quarter final during the 2010-11 campaign, to this day I’ll never know how I got through it not just because of the nerves, but because I was full of flu, could hardly speak, had a throbbing headache and had a nose like a running tap, I woke up the next day slightly high after a concoction of Power-Aid, pain killers, soothers, energy tablets and vics vapour rub had finally taken their toll! Because I couldn’t remember a thing about the scholars ground I was delighted when we had a pre-season friendly with them last season, this time it was a beautiful warm August day rather than a misery midweek evening, however any chance of a pre-show relaxing sit in the sunshine was scrapped upon entrance to the ground where I discovered a lack of press facilities as the area given to us during the cup match had been handed back to the fans and the press hut moved to allow redevelopment of the ground.
The press hut had been placed in the corner of the ground and offered just one seat, taken by the PA announcer, what were we to do as covering the Stags were three other journalists. In this job we stick together and the essential thing for any modern day journalist or broadcaster is power, nobody likes handwriting a report to type it up later, especially with deadlines to meet, whilst nobody wants to listen to full match commentary done from a mobile phone – I don’t like the phone bill either! In search of a power point I found two, one was offered through a kitchen window to the seats we had in the trophy, however this was to be a last resort – the other was in the press hut in the far corner which had a sheltered seated stand behind the goal and an open terrace, with a side view of the pitch – having experienced the nightmare of commentating from behind a goal at Boston the previous week, I opted for the open terrace and ran a 50M blue extension cable along the floor and the side of the pitch to an area with a decent view.
The next problem was desks, we had far too much equipment between us to simply hold and work – off to the supporters bar to borrow a few tables and chairs, the locals were fantastic in helping us manoeuvre them to and from the bar, amidst bemused looks though as none of them could really see the draw of this mammoth effort for a pre-season friendly! My power cable despite being extraordinarily long only had one working plug socket; we needed at least six so began linking smaller extension cables into each other, you’ve not seen wiring like it, All this from a man who at school preferred writing and acting in the Drama studio (well classroom with a wonky table and effects light) to messing around with a soldering iron. A few things I’ll never forget about that day in Chasetown, my equipment being on a wonky workman’s painting table, the looks from the locals who enjoyed laughing at my ‘genius’ as much as we enjoyed the banter and the worry at half time when it started drizzling, it’s a miracle really we’re all still alive to tell the tale.
It wasn’t just pre-season where press box problems arose, in fact in this division if you’re not armed with a long extension cable and a bit of creativity, you won’t get anywhere – something proved at Braintree in just our second away trip of the season back in August. It’s all well and good having the aforementioned things however sometimes there no good if you can’t even get through the gate. I tend to book my press passes nice and early to give clubs notice and take into consideration the relevant clubs, if I don’t get a reply I tend to worry as I can get paranoid and certainly was on this particular afternoon, being so new to them game I just needed to know our email had been seen – a yes coming finally as we we’re halfway there following numerous phone calls meaning I could relax and enjoy a pre-match McDonalds, however my paranoia made me head straight for the ground and boy was my paranoia correct! After parking up and being given a space due to our name being on the parking list as requested, we all headed towards the gate and found a gentleman sporting a high-visibility vest holding a clipboard with a biro behind his ear. “Hi mate, Craig Priest from Takeover Radio” I said in my usual friendly manor, the reply was “Not on the list, turnstiles are round the other side” obviously I opposed this statement and argued our case, which basically meant pointing at my name on the sheet! Even then I wasn’t allowed in with the radio kit, being told the press box was full I was told I had a complimentary seat and that the kit would have to remain in the car. Eventually I marched in cursing WITH the kit whilst Scott and my dad waited outside and I’m told, comforted a crying James Williamson who was also refused entry with his camera and had been sat on this grass banking having a breakdown for the best part of an hour. Inside the ground I dropped the stuff next to the press box and hunted for power, all of which had been taken – more cursing followed before Scott walked in having basically sprinted into the ground with James after clipboard man had gone for a cuppa, challenged only by another steward who said “yeah it’s fine!” in regardless to them being in the ground with the press. Technically we can work without power but the standard of coverage one I’m not happy with and after Stephen Thrikill from the Chad had also arrived in a similar “you’re not on the list” fashion, we decided to “do a Chasetown” and make our own press box in the seated area with power from another source, trouble is bar from the press box there’s very rarely a power point in the stadium elsewhere.
Eventually after seriously considering wiring ourselves up to a burger van, we found a power point in a turnstile just down from the seated area and asked if we could use it, fortunately the guy said yes and plugged the 50M blue cable in. My dad spotted us and then helped sort the wires out, going over the top of the turnstiles and then throwing the now live cable over the top of the porter-loo’s through some tree’s and into the stand where we did the rest with a maze of other wires! I’m amazed how nobody got an electric shock and at how the whole thing unfolded from what was animosity at first into a rather pleasant afternoon, it’s just a shame that we only took a point home. Again I’d like to get on record how helpful the Braintree staff we’re in helping us to resolve the issue during a time they where upgrading the amount of press seats and power to meat conference regulations.
The season just gone has seen us do literally anything to get the show on air, from wiring up a turnstile to postponing an afternoon’s dominoes by taking a table or two at Chasetown! We’ve also had times where we’ve been sat on a wooden bench with complex wiring, saw bags and boxes used as desks and sent people into fits of rage because of our choice of seats – that one a story for another day!
I hope that any broadcasters out there looking to cover the BSBP have taken notes, always have these essential tools, a LONG extension cable or three, a spark of creativity and charm, a calm nature and most importantly: LIFE INSURANCE! There are lessons to be learned too, always check things twice, avoid men with an NVQ in clipboard management and most importantly; never expect things given to you on a plate, if you want to feed on the rewards you need to face the challenges, rise too & concur them. I value my job highly and am so grateful to those who lend a helping hand, I can’t wait for all of this to start again in pre-season remember the golden rule: THE SHOW MUST GO ON!
Reflecting on things now, not only must I remember all of the above, I must also remember that if I’m ever out in town and a girl turns the tables and uses the old classic chat-up line ‘are you can electrician because when you walked into the room you sent a current racing through my body’ on me, I must remember to smile, say no and respond with something equally cheesy rather than say ‘this one time, in Braintree...’
Until next time, thanks for reading.
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