For most football fans on the Indian subcontinent, Joe Morrison has become a household name. Popularly known as ‘Joe Footy’, Morrison presented the hit shows ‘Countdown to Kickoff (C2K)’ and ‘C2K Extra Time’, on Ten Sports between July 2010 and June 2014. Starring alongside his two pundits John ‘Budgie’ Burridge and Carlton Palmer, he would present live broadcasts of the UEFA Champions League, La Liga and the Capital One Cup.
C2K quickly became one of the hottest sports shows to be broadcast in the region, largely due to the interaction between fans on Twitter, and the often hilarious banter between Budgie and Carlton. The lovable football pundits would argue with each other incessantly – with only Joe Footy there to keep the peace. It was during this era that ‘Midnight Football Party’ first became a hashtag.
In an exclusive interview with The Karachiite, the Newcastle-born, Dubai-based television personality was kind enough to take an hour out of his busy schedule and re-live some of C2K’s greatest moments…
How did you get into broadcasting?
I started at a newsagent’s shop where a commentator for BBC Radio 5 live would see me every day. He encouraged me to get on radio because I had good opinions, sound knowledge of football and a great voice. After two years thinking about the offer, I started at the BBC and made my way up. I was never involved in newspapers, like most sports presenters are. I didn’t take that route. I know fabulous written journalists but when they progress to television they are dull. I am lucky because I was never involved in print journalism, very lucky.
Was the banter between the two pundits scripted?
Budgie and Carlton were organic and natural. They genuinely loved and hated each other at the same time. Two things important on TV: 1. Chemistry and 2. Chemistry. Chemistry is interaction. You can’t make this up. The show was not scripted. We were passionate about football. Budgie and Carlton were not from wealthy backgrounds and both appreciated how much football changed them for the better, as it allowed them to travel the world among other perks. They never took it for granted. Even to this day.
How were Budgie and Carlton off air?
We would sit and watch amateur games, I-league, and we had the same passion off air as we do on air. We would shout about the same issues and jump for joy on the same brilliance, as we would do for any other league. They would argue off air as well just like on the show. You can’t fake it. Games can be boring. You can’t fake it, you can’t con the fan, can’t con the audience. They would even argue about whose turn it was to make the tea.
Tell us more about C2K?
Some of the stuff on the show was accidental, and some was deliberate. No one likes stat junkies who make themselves look smart. Stats are easily available but entertainment is important. Some of the things we did from build up to kick-off were very deliberate – we didn’t have huge budgets. Nowadays you can easily get the facts — so many websites and social media. It’s not about boring people to death or making us (as presenters) look smart. It’s about the passion for the game… Nobody likes a know it all.
Was it your idea to read live tweets during transmission?
I wanted to get a third pundit in the studio. I was discussing it with the executive producer Jason Offord, who is an amazing guy, but we just didn’t have the budget. This was when we started chewing the idea of live Twitter interaction, and it was able to connect the studio to fans’ homes. A lot of shows do it, but we weren’t like them… Others are manufactured, scripted. Live is live. Anything can happen!
How do you feel about your show appealing to non-football fans?
I am honored when someone tells me mother watches the show, or siblings or dad. You are doing something right when you are broadcasting to everyone, not just the hardcore fans. It gave us a much wider audience. I used to get 1000 tweets every night. In 2010, Twitter was not too big in India and Pakistan, but Facebook was. Twitter was just starting to take off… But it’s exploding now. Social media is the greatest thing for television. Viewers can pass judgment and it’s all in your face.
What made C2K unique?
Energy is a fundamental part in presenting. Not all presenters have energy. It is not about raising voice… It’s about physical energy, mental energy. Presenters are privileged to do the job we love. The show was broadcasted late at night so it was important to be energetic from beginning to end.
What would you say makes a great presenter?
Great producers translate to great presenters because they know how things work. There are so many presenters I can tell if they missed that part going up the ladder or were top producers. Knowing your audience is very important.
What are your thoughts on other television presenters?
Most TV journalists are boring. They have a fabulous journalistic CV but no personality. You’re on TV for God’s sake, at least have some personality! They think it’s a translation of the written word on a different media platform. Personality is important. Sometimes the game isn’t great and no matter what, you can’t pretend that it is when it isn’t. Sometimes presenters go over the top for no reason and I think, really?
Who are some of the more famous football personalities you’ve interviewed?
I have interviewed hundreds of top stars. Sir Bobby Robson was my boss at Newcastle United. Other notable names include Pele, King Kenny Dalglish, Jose Mourinho, and Sir Alex Ferguson.
How do you feel about clubs and passionate fans?
Football is a culture. Clubs are nations without borders because of their passionate fans. They will defend their club first before their own country. It’s incredible!
Has the modern football fan become an ‘expert’ courtesy of the internet?
I’ve sat down with managers and what they say on-and-off camera is different. It’s difficult to criticize your team on air. Armchair fans only take what’s presented by the media. That doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re not involved in football or the media, it’s impossible to understand and appreciate what’s going on. You can’t say stuff that’s libelous or can be legally challenged. Because you’re a fan doesn’t make you an expert. Expert means knowing more stats to some people, but that’s not the case. The behind the scenes stuff is important.
How would you sum up your experience at Ten Sports?
Absolutely loved it! I took a football channel that hardly anyone watched and turned it into a popular football show… And I’m proud of that.
What future plans for the great @joefooty?
I am educating myself in online digital TV platforms – streaming and online channels is the way the television industry is going and anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded.
On a personal level, I will always be eternally grateful to Joe… He and his two wingmen (as I like to call them), got me through some tough times in the four years they ‘did their thing’. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we see the three musketeers back on the air.
After all, this midnight football party’s just getting started!