|(From top) Joe Morrison with Sunil Chhetri; John Burridge; Carlton Palmer at Hyatt
Regency last week.
Pictures by Rashbehari Das
An Englishman, living in the Middle East and showcasing primarily European football to the Indian sub-continent. Ten years ago, did you see yourself here?
No, not at all. I did not see myself in the Middle East, I did not see myself in Calcutta. Ten years ago I was at Newcastle United under the legendary Sir Bobby Robson. He taught me a lot about life and football and the pressures of being in the public eye.
What are the skills needed to be a sports presenter? Is this your dream job?
You need two things — knowledge of the game and being able to transfer that to the screen. The second is more important. Just be yourself. Just be natural.
Of course this is my dream job. I was a news agent before this. I used to start at 4am everyday and I did that for six years before I got into media. I know a few people, not taking any names, who do not enjoy this job. If you dont do so, you are an idiot.
Describe your six years with the Ten Network in a word.
Long. (Laughs.) The Ten Network has given me the freedom to push football in a cricket-loving country, and that I appreciate more than anything else.
Whats the biggest challenge you face?
Sometimes, its information outlets. In the Premier League there are so many media outlets. But in the La Liga, for example, there are not too many places you get information about players and clubs. Same goes for the I-League.
Having worked at Newcastle United, whats a better word to describe Geordie fans: passionate or deluded. Why?
Deluded, in recent years, just because they have not got a trophy for such a long time. They get such huge crowds, such passionate support, so not getting success makes a fan deluded.
A few experiences from your many interviews that stand out?
To name one, my worst interview was my biggest name, and that was Pele. I was so starstruck that words just did not come out. I have always enjoyed the company of Sir Alex Ferguson. He is a mans man. You ask him a straight question, he gives a straight answer. You try to be stupid with him, he will kill you.
Weve always seen you as a neutral but which team do you really support?
Your favourite footballer?
Alan Shearer is a hero to me. Peter Beardsley, because he went and did trials at so many clubs and they rejected him, yet he did not lose the belief. But if I have to name one, its Paul John Gascoigne.
The best football league you have covered?
Premier League, of course.
Which do you think is the best footballing derby in the world?
Great question, this one. I was really excited about the Calcutta Derby, but for me, its Newcastle United vs Sunderland.
What do you think about Calcutta and footfall?
Great. I feel at home here. There has to be a revolution in Indian football, and it has to begin here, the place where people have the passion for the game.
What will it take for India to compete at the Asian level?
I dont believe that in a country so passionate about football and with 1.3 billion people, you cannot get 11 players to compete at the Asian level. You are not looking. I think you should get players out, get coaches out to European leagues, get European coaches here, just get the infrastructure sorted out.
Spanish clubs have finally relented to the demands of Asian fans and scheduled earlier kick-offs...
The Spanish fans have to understand that if they need the money to keep the Lionel Messis, they have to agree that the fans from Asia and the Americas have to get access to the games.
Is co-host Carlton Palmer as serious off-camera as he is at show time? And is John Burridge (Budgie) always a bit of a nutter?
Carlton Palmer is always about football. So yes.
He (Budgie) is absolutely crazy. He has actually been in rehab, because he suffered from depression when he finally had to retire!
Would Budgie, 59, be interested in coming out of retirement to play in India?
Ssshhhh…. I bet if today someone at East Bengal or Mohun Bagan had said, John we need a goal keeper, I am sure he would have jumped on board. The guy will never stop playing the game.
• EPL or Spanish La Liga?
EPL, it’s more competitive.
• England or Dubai?
Sunshine in Dubai, rain and cold in England.
• Carlton or Budgie?
You have me in the spot there. Neither, I hate both of them! (Laughs.)
• Red and gold or maroon and green?
Nirmal and Sunil Chhetri are both good friends, so can’t answer that!