The following is in no way the view of The Killie Trust as a board more the opinions and feelings of a guy who happens to be on the board.
This time last week i was sat squeezed inbetween two gentlemen, on my right as i look out, a representative of Hutchy Vale B.C. whom i am assured have produced many Scottish professional footballers over the years and on my left, Barry Richmond, chairman of the Killie Trust and who will be for the rest of this blog post be called Baz. In front of me was DUFC and national team coach Peter Houston, SPL man Neil Doncaster, SFL man David Longmuir as well as Mark Wotte the new chief of youth development and other such people making up a kind of whos who of Scottish football. We were sitting waiting on the panel of Steven Pressley, Rod Petrie, Craig Levein, Stuart Regan and Jim Traynor taking their seats in front of us so Rob Maclean could kick off the taping of Scottish Football: The Debate.
Why i was in such illustrious company? Why i was dressed so casually? I will try and explain now.
At work that afternoon i had a voicemail from Baz asking me to call him back when i got the chance, Baz is quite downbeat on an answering machine, i thought i had ballsed something up in my role as press officer/communications/social media type thing i try and do. I hadnt though, its just his telephone manner, he was calling to see if i wanted to go to this debate thing which was a follow up to Traynors documentary Match for Europe shown the night previous. Having watched the doco and commented to friends and colleagues that it was half an hour of stating the obvious, we’re rubbish, germany and holland have the right idea, grass roots football is way forward, i still decided to go.
I did delay my decision to check in with the wife, only five months married and have arsed up plans before so just made sure i hadnt committed to anything prior. I had, ikea, but i brushed that aside like the alpha male i am (agreed to give up my saturday to go instead (pussy)) and called back to confirm late afternoon.
Now at this point i was completely unaware as to what we were going to, in my mind it was going to be like Question Time with a panel and a assorted audience of varying backgrounds and a fans of several clubs. I did know it was invite only at this point, though not to the extent of its exclusivity.
With the QT idea in my head i rushed to get ready post work, pre pick up. I would normally have worn a tshirt and jeans but actually consciously chose a shirt as didnt want to seem too underdressed but in a biggish crowd it woudnt make too much of a difference anyway. Oh the irony.
The drive up we spoke of how neither of us really knew what we were going to but Baz had been filmed for a segment of the doco which was left on the cutting room floor. That footage i am sure would have given some good insight into fans views and given that it was a show about improving a product to make it more attractive to fans some input from said people was sadly lacking from the broadcast. In my mind it seemed that this was why we were asked, the interview was cut but here is an invite, in fact here is two, bring someone else. Me.
On arrival we got our visitors passes and were taken to the green room by a nice woman. Out of the car i reflected that under his overcoat Baz was dressed much like me, check shirt and jeans though he paired this classic look with shoes, im still young and trendy so i had plumped for my trainers.
We entered the green room and my heart sank, shirts, ties, blazers and brogues and nowhere near the amount of people to constitute a big QT style audience like the one in my head. We took a seat and had a quick look at the set up of where everyone would be in the studio and its at this point we realised the rarified company we were keeping.
A look at the photo above shows who was all there. It also shows that originally Baz and myself were to be behind one another over at the end as far away from panel as could be. Imagine my surprise when i got downstairs to the studio and there on the back of the seat dead centre on the back row (of two rows) John Spiers and Barry Richmond. Now i decided against pulling up the spelling error on my surname because i was excited and nervous about being in a tv studio. Plus i bottled it. Baz and i then took off our jackets to reveal the extent of our father and son style nearly matching outfits. Side by side in tablecloth glory our check shirt look seemed likely to stand out.
We were asked to say our names and how we got to the studio to test levels and our reaction to the boom mic. In hindsight given my harbouring ambitions of being a stand up i should have looked dead on down the cameras lens and told them i swam the clyde to their pacific quay building in my Calvin Klein suit and only had the attire i have on now to change into which would have both got my comedy schtick over to a new crowd as well as address the elephant in the room which was the “brokeback Killie fan” look being sported, but i never, bottled it and told them i was John Speirs and i came by car while glancing at the boom and getting a wee silent look of a telling off by the director.
The show itself came and went in a flash, there was probably as many people working behind the scenes as there was in front of it. The debate was less a debate and more a running through the ills of the game with opportunities for the panel and certain members of the audience to deliver carefully considered soundbite filled answers. Well, i presume that they were carefully considered, i also assume that they were pretold what they would be asked in order to formulate an answer, some people on our row even had notes though i guess i have no real way of knowing what those notes were. They might have been a message list for Asda (probably Sainsburys) on the way home. However one person who wasnt pretold his question, is said pretelling was done, was Baz. His came out of the blue and he did well to pull together a decent answer to the question posed.
While the show is being taped there are big tv screens showing what is been filmed (effectively the edit of the show) on the studio floor. On these I was able to see when i was in shot at any given time and watched myself wriggling around a bit. The twitching and the scratching wasnt any attempt to stand out in anyway i should add, more a reaction to the heat of being between two bigger guys and only having one bum cheek on each of the two chairs i was spread out over.
When it was done and they checked to see if the show was actually there (if for some reason it hadnt taped we would have had to have tried again, in hindsight maybe this would have been better for both halfs of the Killie Trust representation, i could have shown off some rapier wit on the sound test and Baz could have retooled his earlier answer in some way and removed the use of the term leisure dollars i would expect) we were taken back upstairs for something to eat and drink. On the way up we spoke about the shock of being put on the spot like that, i mentioned the leisure dollars thing and Baz asked me who said that, when i replied it was him he burst out laughing.
The canapes, if i can be so bold as to call them that, were great and Baz and i stood on the outside of the throng of Scottish football pressing hands and chatting earnestly. They probably all knew each other already though there did look to be a bit of networking being attempted by some in search for a bit of gravitas, if there was a baby in the green room i would suspect it would have been in danger of being kissed if you know what i mean. Feeling a little left out but reluctant to join in it was nice when a representative of The Spartans FC came to talk to us. He told us about the ownership model his club uses which was very interesting and we discussed the evening we had just experienced. We left soon after so as to be home for the screening on BBC1.
During the screening itself i dont think i have ever taken as many pelters online and through text and phone calls about anything in my life before. The wardrope malfunction was a keen talking point as on the 19in tv in my bedroom our bright shirts stood out a mile. Looking back on my facebook timeline it was mostly about the shirts, the rest of the discussion was actually about Scottish football and points raised in the debate, looks like i will be giving the SFA a month to approach us to donate the shirts to the museum at Hampden or i will have to torch mine for fear of putting it on to go out without realising and someone digging me up about it when out.
All in all it was a great experience and i was chuffed to bits to be involved in something with so many important people. Personally i think we might have been a bit stitched up and put dead centre in order to give the impression of two ordinary punter fans (in the broadcast Baz had his name come up on the screen as he spoke describing him as Kilmarnock fan rather than as Killie Trust Chairman as he was invited as) maybe it was naivity on our part to underestimate the importance and exclusivity of the debate or maybe it wasnt. All in all it was a nice bit of exposure for our Trust and got people talking about Scottish football. I enjoyed it, Jim Spence said hello to me.