Mark Bright

Posted: April 12, 2011 in TV Presenters

Has it really been a month since the last Pass Me On?  That’s hardly going to entice new readers is it?  There’s been a lot of unpleasant adult stuff to deal with in the mean time which is some sort of half sentence towards an excuse.  You don’t want to hear it.  Hopefully you’ll want to hear something on Mark Bright.  Gary Lineker passed me onto him.  ‘Top bloke Brighty’, he said.

Before I talked to him, have to confess I didn’t know a lot about him.  Most famously he played for Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace but for me he was always the guy who got really excited whilst looking off camera at the games on Football Focus.  I liked him for that – someone who showed an obvious passion for the game, even while trying to give considered opinions on the sofa as the results came in.  He wriggles around, joyous at last gasp goals while the director is probably yelling in his ear trying to get him to stick to the punditry.  Lovely stuff.  I also like the fact he fitted our interview in while cycling from South London to White City  because he was in training for a London to Paris bike ride.   We ended up talking about racism, being gay and the pros and cons of Twitter.

– So how long is that going to take, doing London to Paris?

Takes three days, it’s 300 miles.  They’ve got training rides but every time there’s a training ride, I’m doing a game on the Sunday. They go out at 8 in the morning and do 60 miles.

– What’s the longest you’ve done so far?

I got up one morning and and cycled to Brighton. That’s about 54 miles. I got up in the morning and it was nice and I thought ‘Where shall I go?’ I did it on a fixed wheel – I was done for.

– What do you do for a living?

I’m now called a broadcaster.

– You were a footballer and now you’re a broadcaster so which one is better?

Football! By a million miles. Football is all I ever wanted to do when I was growing up. Just wanted to play for Port Vale and play in a Cup Final. Obviously I wanted to win a Cup Final but I just wanted to play in one. I had to get a job when I left school because they said I wasn’t good enough. So – got a job, four years hydraulic engineering. Went to college for one year, three years day release then turned pro with Port Vale. Broadcasting is good but football’s your dream. I love it. I didn’t release how much I loved playing football. Now its all over.

– When retirement was coming up did you know what you wanted to do next?

Yeah, absolutely. I liked being interviewed. Gary Lineker was instrumental in me getting into the Beeb. I played with Gary at Leicester and we remained friends. I started at the Big Breakfast.

– How did that come about?

A friend of my wife’s (Mark was married to Michelle Gayle) knew Johnny Vaughan, who wanted someone to come in and talk about the Cup Final. They got through to me at Charlton and asked me to come in and predict the result. There was me, Richard Keys and Alan Davies. Whoever predicted correctly was to come back in on the Monday and talk about it. Johnny and I just got on. Also I met Eamonn Holmes on a flight. We got chatting and he asked me to come in and talk about football. True to his word, he got me in. I like the fact that you’re still involved with the game but I was combining that with doing my coaching badges as well just in case.

– You’ve got your own column in Metro. I always wonder if name journalists do their own work or if they dictate it down the phone. Do you write that yourself?

I do. I have to write is Sunday evening or Monday before midday. I can choose my subject or I text one of the Editors and he suggests something. I do about 500 words but that can sometimes take me about three hours.

– Do you enjoy the writing?

No. It’s hard. What I have is all the information but I’ve got to structure and take out what I think is important. When you’re at your best is when you talk about your own experiences. A couple of weeks ago I talked about Steve Davies, the England cricketer who came out. That subject interested me because when I was at Sheffield Wednesday I was accused of being gay. Mainly at Sheffield Utd – Sheffield Wednesday games. My sister came to the game and she heard the fans singing Mark Bright takes it up the whatever. She asked me ‘Why do they sing that?’ I said to her, ‘It’s a rumour and I can’t stop it, what can I do?’ and so I just wrote about that experience.

– When you’re on the pitch is it easy to keep your temper? How do you deal with that kind of provocation?

There’s a guy who I’m friendly with now who I used to play against. I won’t name him because its a long time ago and he’d be embarrassed but he kept saying to me ‘Shirtlifter, shirtlifter’. Most footballers have got an arrogance to them and very few will play the game how its supposed to be played. If they think that by saying that they’ll make you lose focus and maybe take a swing at them, get sent off, they’ll do it. Or they just do it to completely wind you up.

– How easy is it to turn the other cheek?

Because I’m black, I’ve been used to it since I was young, by opponents or by people on the side of the pitch. You’re always told ‘Don’t retaliate’. But to have a guy who’s calling you nigger or whatever…it’s difficult. Friends would say to me ‘I’d punch him in his mouth’ and I’d explain that I’d get sent off and they would say ‘Well they wouldn’t say it again’ but they were missing the point – they would say it again to get me sent off again. You have to keep your composure because if you get sent off all the time, you’re no good to anybody.

– There’s a school of thought amongst fans who pay £40 or £50 a week to get into a game that they can say what they want.

People think footballers are fair game because of the job that they do, the exposure they get and the money they get. People think it’s ok, because he gets paid x amount a week and I don’t, if I want to call him a black whatever, I can do.  There’s an element of that in football but there are rules. Homophobia and racism in football – its against the law. You can’t do that in public, and its no different inside a football ground. No one deserves to be abused.

– Do you think its got better over the years?

Yep. You’ve got to remember that most weeks Wrighty and me used to get it. We used to dread going to West Ham, Newcastle, Liverpool or Everton, for example. But you know what? You used to love scoring against them!

Brighty with Wrighty (Coppelly in the middle)

– You’re an amazingly prolific Twitterer. Why do you love it so much?

I love Twitter. I’ve been doing it for three years. I got it. If you don’t get it straight away….we’re talking about a platform, we’re talking about feedback and being in touch because no one is accessible. People phone the BBC publicity department and ask for an interview with me. ‘Whats it about?’ ‘They just want to talk about this that and the other.’ And I’ll say ‘No, you’re alright’. It’s a stage but unfortunately its open to everybody. You get a few who want to say you’re this that and the other. You can block ’em but I usually reply to everybody. I’ve had quite a few people starting off abusing me and then ended up having a proper decent debate about their team with me.

I like to think that I’m in touch. I use the tube, I use the train. People approach me and talk to me, they ask questions. Sometimes they say that I’ve got a stern look on my face but I might be with my boy and they take up my time.

– Sometimes when you see famous people it can be a bit intimidating.

I was in the tube and there’s this guy looking at me and I can see that he’s trying to work out where he knows me from. Then he says ‘Nah man – I’m not ‘aving you.’ The tube is packed. ‘I see what you wrote about Arsene Wenger in the Metro’ he says, so I said to him ‘Take your headset off cos you’re shouting’ and he took it off and spoke in the same tone. I went warm with embarrassment. ‘Nah man’, he’s saying and just shaking his head.

It’s just a view, everything’s debatable. Twitter’s good. People ask questions every day. If I’ve got time I’ll say ‘I’ve got an hour free I’ll take questions.’  Also you can ask fans if you need a laugh. You can tweet ‘Name the best and worst player your club has ever signed’ and everyone’s got an opinion on that.

– Who’s the funniest person you work with?

The guy who does the accounts at BBC London who’s dry as you like and knows nothing about football. Other than that, Lawro is funny. Lawro is dry. If you get him, he’s funny.

– Is there anyone that you’d like to meet that you haven’t?

I’ve met most of my heroes. I met Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. I met Stanley Matthews at a marathon and I introduced Pele on the Big Breakfast.  There’s nobody that I’d be intimidated by. People are just people. It’d be nice to say hello to Obama but he’s going to forget me in ten minutes.

– Who’s the best player you ever played alongside?

Chris Waddle in 1992. He was the best player in the country. He’d just come back from Marseille, played with me at Sheffield Wednesday and I knew he was good but I didn’t realise he was great. His knowledge, his passing, his finishing, his touch – he was a great player for me.

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