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“From the first moment I arrived, I have felt welcome"

If you’ve ever tuned into our matchday commentary service, you will have heard the dulcet Geordie tones of our club commentator, Jack Cunningham. Jack has used this lockdown and extended close season period to enhance his CV further by commentating on the Bundesliga and the Premier League. Jack has certainly risen through the ranks after his first experience of commentating in the 18/19 season. 

“I first started commentating during the 2018/19 season for Hampton & Richmond.  This started because my university, where I did my MA in Sports Journalism, had a link with Hampton, and I volunteered for their media team for the 2018/19 season.”

Having jumped at the opportunity to commentate on his first game, although it wasn’t the most glamorous of occasions, that didn’t put him off. “The first match I covered was against Gloucester City on a freezing cold day in December, the game ended 0-0 and was arguably one of the worst games of football I had ever watched. However, I was hooked from that moment on and tried to commentate on as many Hampton games as possible until the end of the 2018/19 season.  

Following Jack’s stint at Hampton and Richmond, Jack briefly returned to his native North East where he spent some time commentating for Blyth Spartans. But a return to London life saw him contact us to join our media team and he did so in January of this year. “From the first moment I arrived, I have felt welcome, by both staff and players and think that my commentary is appreciated. It has been great to see the feedback from fans who enjoy what we are trying to do.” 

Although football hasn’t been kicked at Vauxhall Road for some time, Jack popped down to the ground a few weeks ago to catch up with the rest of the media team as well as meet new manager, Lee Bircham. “We now have a new management team and place, but from my first conversations with Lee, I have a great feeling about this season. I can’t wait for the upcoming season, and the fans should be excited by what we have planned as a media team.”

But with no football being played in non league, that did present a new opportunity for Jack and one that saw him commentate on some of the biggest names in world football. “My boss at work owns a company called Total Football Analysis that aims to provide more tactical insight into the game we all love. He saw an opportunity to use the HotMic app to cover games from all leagues and wanted me to be part of it after listening to some of my non-league commentaries. So, far this has seen me cover the Bundesliga and the Premier League, so it is a great opportunity and can only help me improve my coverage of Hemel fixtures.” 

It might be easy to think with this new opportunity, Jack has been busy travelling up and down the country as well as across the water to Germany. But no, this was all done from the comfort of his home. So what are the challenges in commentating when you’re not actually there? “The main difference is that I don’t travel anywhere or see anyone, which means I don’t really experience that matchday buzz. In terms of the game, there is no crowd noise, so it is up to me to dictate the flow of the game, and I can’t use the crowd to help me- so that can be difficult. Overall, though, it has been good and has allowed me to cover some of the biggest teams in football.” 

Some may be forgiven in thinking commentators just turn up at a game, turn on the mic and away they go. But in establishing our commentary service last season, we knew the importance of ensuring that our fans receive the best service possible. “Preparation is the key for any commentator, and if I am not prepared, then the commentary suffers, so I take research very seriously.  My usual process is to research the clubs first, so form, previous meetings, the manager’s record against the club.  The next step is individual player research, so goals and assists, past clubs, and anything else that I feel would interest listeners.”  

So as you can see a lot of research and preparation goes into Jack’s commentaries each week but is there a game that sticks out in the memory? “After my stint at Hampton, I received an offer to return to the North East to be the matchday commentator for Blyth Spartans, and my favourite game I covered was one of those.  Blyth won 3-1 against Telford, their first league win of the season, and Callum Roberts scored a magnificent hat-trick, so that was probably my favourite game I have covered.  The atmosphere was incredible, and it was just a brilliant day. However, I am sure that the Tudors will provide me with some equally special moments this season!” 

In any sport, many coaches, players and even spectators will have some sort of pre-match ritual. Putting the left boot on before the right, sitting in the same seat or getting to the game nice and early...but do commentators have any pre-match rituals? “No, not me. I just ensure that I am suitably prepared and have enough information on both sides, and I always have a bottle of water as talking for 90 minutes can be thirsty work.” 

We’d like to place on record how proud we are of Jack as he continues to enhance his career and we feel we are incredibly lucky to have someone of his talent.


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