Meeting John Roder (BBC MOTD)

 In General, Sport

After a career in teaching and now 5 terms into semi retirement, it was a joy to sit in on a series of workshops led by Match of the Day (MOTD) football commentator John Roder yesterday afternoon. He was the guest of Falmouth University’s School of Writing and Journalism (TruthFal).

Why was I there?” you may well ask. Well I have a lifelong passion for football and have watched MOTD from its early days when Kenneth (“They think it is all over…. It is now!”) Wolstenholme was the commentator.  But primarily I was taking advantage of  my recent association with TruthFal and Truro City FC;  I film and edit the games with 4  Falmouth students who commentate and conduct post match interviews on a rotation basis. With all of the bad weather, we’ve only done three matches. Ex BBC man and TruthFal School of Writing and Journalism lecturer, Kevin Bishop, has been my point of contact at the University.

So I was keen to see what “my students” were up to and what they would learn from their esteemed guest speaker – John Roder. I must be honest, I rarely watch MOTD these days. I am not the greatest  Gary “Line-acre” (Mick Channon, ex football pundit) and his team in the studio. They are no match for Jeff Stelling and the boys in my view. Their humour seems to be less scripted. I also think that there are far too many replays in the highlights videos. Is it one per minute? It certainly seems like that to me. Sky has been my preferred viewing choice for many years until I recently switched to BT after they acquired rights to the Ashes. Now that was stupid of me.

The  job of commentating at professional football football matches all over the globe must be one of the best in the game – and I really I hope that I can, in a very small way, help Joe, Sam, Ed and Tom carve out a career for themselves in sports journalism.  John Roder came across as both a true gent and able teacher/mentor. He certainly kept the students’ attention with his workshop activities, feedback and anecdotes.

Against the backdrop of an Italy v Japan international fixture, John got the students to do a series of short live reports from the game. Not as easy as it looks!  This was later followed by a 100 word introduction to this week-end’s game that John is commentating on for MOTD: WBA v Leicester. A third task involved guessing the anticipated running order for Saturday’s MOTD.

John then went on to talk about the importance of researching the players and writing brief stats and biographical information for each player on a team crib sheet. I hope that I am not infringing any copyright legislation or taking a liberty by including John’s personal crib sheet (thankfully out of focus) of the Argentine players who played in the 2016 Copa America Centenario Final against Chile:

Here is a short clip that I captured on my iPhone of John doing some formal lecturing on the topic of disseminating stats on the players:



Had I been one of the students embarking on a career in Sports Journalism I think I would include the following takeaways from John Roder’s presentation:

#1. Don’t overlook the importance of appearance – what do your clothes say about you? You may need access to the boardroom as well as pitch side.

#2. Take on any job related to the media, even if it is just making tea for your local BBC radio station. That’s where John Roder started and you never know where that job is going to lead to.  So just say “yes” and get your foot inside the door.

#3. If asked whether you can do a job or not, always say “yes I can.

#4. Get experience with media outlets and don’t just rely on the university course solely to get you a job.

#5. You should have the following four main qualities (I can only remember 3): aptitude, enthusiasm and likeability. Endurance?

#6. Start each question with “How,” “What,” “When” or “Why.”

#7.  Go to and find out what your Brazilian name would be on one of their football shirts. Mark Huckle is: MILDO!!!!? I wish I hadn’t bothered.

For me personally, I  felt a real buzz when John analysed Sam’s recent commentary of the Truro City v Wealdstone game. I was later given his notes on the commentary and suggestions for improving my video coverage of Truro City FC. (I will pass them on to you Sam!) He wondered why I did a straight cut rather than use a dissolve when I do my slow motion replays. So there’s a blind spot for me. I also came away realising that I could do with a second camera with a long lens to get those vital shots that capture the emotion of the managers, players and fans. Also I didn’t realise that there is a set format / sequence in professional football coverage at the at the start of each game involving the shots of both managers either side of the team sheets.

All in all, it was a fascinating afternoon and lovely to be on the receiving end of another person’s wisdom and insight. I shall watch this Saturday’s MOTD with a renewed interest and understanding. Now what will be the order of play? Southampton at Newcastle to headline the show with their 3:2 win?


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