Marcus Buckland Interview
Marcus Buckland started his career on the radio before joining SKY TV as a sports presenter back in 1997. To date he's commentated on hundreds of live games over the past five seasons - making him one of the most recognisable faces and voices on SKY today.
How did you get into sports presenting and journalism?
From university I joined the BBC postgraduate journalism course where they sent you to various local radio stations and trained you up as a news reporter - although even at that stage I was keen to get into sport. I thought the best thing was to get into the BBC. Then I did my bit as a local radio reporter, then a job came up at Radio Merseyside - which is obviously a football hotbed - it was the late eighties when Liverpool were just coming off their pinnacle. They won the championship for the last time when I was up there in 1990. Actually, while I was there Tranmere were the big success story, they kept going to Wembley for various cup finals and playoffs.
I had a good time there and, having got into that it was just a case of moving on. The biggest break I had was when Radio Five Live started up in the early nineties and they needed sports broadcasters, that gave me a chance to come down to London and become part of the network sports team - and that's how I got to do more exciting things.
And then SKY came up after that I suppose?
Yeah. I'll always remember this producer at the BBC went to SKY and we all heard how he'd doubled his money in the process - so I told them to give me a call if they were ever looking for another presenter. Three years later he did. They took me for a screen test; which I thought was an absolute disaster. I heard nothing for about four months and then finally they asked me if I wanted the job.
Screen test? I think we know how that works for films - but how do you screen test for sports reporting?
They have a show called The Sports Centre - a thirty-minute sports news programme. After the show had been broadcast I was sent down into makeup, had some put on and was then put in the seat to do the show as if it was live - so I had all the scripts for that evening. I'd been in a TV studio for one day before that on a BBC course about four years before.
So I sat there with all these hot lights and producers and directors talking in my ear. They deliberately made things go wrong to see how you'd react. It was horrendous, I'd never really seen my face on camera before and I thought, "I can't really look like that!" It was absolutely horrendous.
I had the most thumping headache afterwards. I remember going home and thinking I’ve got a face for radio. And then when I didn't hear from them I was sure. But they were obviously desperate so they rang up.
How, as football commentator, do you manage to stay impartial when your team are playing?
Well, it's difficult. In fact, last month I had to go up to Birmingham for a Worthington Cup tie that Spurs were playing. The big plus is that you get to see your team at first hand…and Chris Waddle, who is a Spurs legend, was my guest - all that's great. Spurs were winning at half time and I thought, "this is the greatest job in the world".
Then in the second half they typically fell apart and lost and it's awful. You've got to remain impartial but inside you just feel terrible and you have to say nice things about the opposition.
In a couple of weeks it's Spurs against Arsenal…I've always said the worst part of my job is saying nice things about Arsenal. But somehow you just have to forget who you support. Actually, the professional side starts to kick in and in some ways it makes it easier because you're concentrating on doing your job well and to a degree you actually forget who you support until afterwards - I get a lot of stick in the process.
Well, yes - particularly Spurs. Is it because you're from the area?
I was born in London; my father wanted me to be a QPR fan because it was much easier to get to Loftus Road. But most of the rest of the family had a long of history of association with Tottenham and my brother warned me that if I didn't support Spurs he would never speak to me again. I was six I think. When you're six you get influenced and that was it - I had to be a Spurs fan after that unfortunately.
It could be worse... it could be Arsenal!
I wish it was! The thing is at least Arsenal have won the league. I was talking to my cousin who hasn't missed a game in 20 years and we were saying that we're both in our mid-thirties now and Spurs haven't won the league since 1961. Forty years ago. There's no reason they'll win it in the next forty years either. We could go through our whole lives and never see Spurs win the league, which is a horrible thought. At least Arsenal fans have had all that success.
There's always a great deal of pride in supporting a team that isn't enormous.
That is true. At least we can look forward to maybe one day reaching that pinnacle. We've got it all to look forward to with any luck.
Just one more on Spurs. Sol Campbell?
Yeah. How many swearwords can you print in one answer? Not my favourite player is the only quote I can come up with about him.
Do you intend to stay in sports presenting or do you plan to move on? Do you think you could move into something else having been a sports reporter for so long?
Good question. It's difficult. I pleased that I've got a show on Capital Radio at the weekend because it's going back to my roots and radio is a good contrast to TV. I'd love to extend and do a wider range - I'd love a chat show type thing and to break into more mainstream entertainment.
But you're right; you do get a bit typecast when you're in one line of business. Even people like Des Lynam have tried to broaden their horizons - with Holiday and his chat show. But as a rule it doesn't tend to quite work. You get used to someone in a certain environment and it's quite difficult to break out of that. In some ways it's better to be a master of one than a jack-of-all-trades. But certainly, if the opportunity arose, I would love to do other things. But for now I've got to concentrate on the sport. I love sport - I'm very lucky to do something that I'd watch as a hobby even if I wasn't being paid for it.
Do you tend to find that people stop you in the street and think that because you're a sports presenter who specialises in football that you are the fount of all knowledge?
Yes, sometimes. People who know me now don't tend to keep tricking me with footballing questions. If you do meet people at grounds they're normally quite pleased that you're a fan - as long as they're Spurs fans, you get a bit of stick from the other teams.