Archive for the ‘TV Presenters’ Category

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.

Gary Lineker’s boot was the only validation on a moral victory over Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’. It was in Mexico in 1986 that cheating Diego touched the ball over the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The only recompense we got that year was that Gary came home with the Golden Boot, having scored six during the tournament.

Match of the Day is now as much a part of British life as fish ‘n chips; as the presenter of the show, Gary’s enthused hyping of the matches and gentle dissection of tactics feels as familiar as a cup of tea. At some point in my life I probably wanted to be him. I lived in a cul-de-sac and the wall outside our house was our goal. God knows how much time I spent teeing up shots for the other kids, practising my passing and smashing the ball at that wall.

After talking to Mrs Lineker last week, I asked if she would pass me on to someone else to interview. ‘Gary’s here’ she said, ‘Fancy talking to him?’ A week later he was killing time at Heathrow before heading to Dublin to see her and we had a natter about footballers wages, the nature of happiness and being the crisp bloke.

PMO – Thanks a lot for talking to me.

GL -That’s all right I just do what I’m told. Life’s so much easier that way.

PMO -What’s been the more fulfilling for you – the career you had as a footballer or the career you have now as a presenter?

GL- In many ways the broadcasting. You don’t have the highs of the football, with moments of euphoria or even despair but I was born to be in the box not on the box. For some inexplicable reason I had the natural gift of knowing how to score goals but while I worked hard at football, I had to work even harder to carve out a career in broadcasting. It didn’t come naturally to me at the beginning, it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the stage where I was comfortable in front of the cameras and the environment I was working in. The awards that I’ve won in TV give me more satisfaction than those that I won in football.

PMO – It’s strange to hear you say that. When you see people like Wayne Rooney score goals like the one he did last week (a flying overhead kick) and 75,000 people in the stadium go nuts and then millions more across the globe…

GL -That’s kind of my point. You never replace those moments of sheer elation but you never knew you were going to get them anyway which is one of the reasons it was so amazing when they happened. You were never quite sure when your last goal was going to be. That is irreplaceable. I’m not necessarily talking about which gives you the greatest thrill but in terms of personal pride, because broadcasting was very much a secondary profession until it reached the levels which were comparable with what I achieved in football, it makes me reasonably proud.

PMO -When you scored all those goals for England in the ’86 World Cup did you have any sense of what it meant to all the people back home? I was wondering when the last time you were in a pub and how nuts the nation goes when it’s on?

GL – Of course I do because I cover it for the Beeb but you don’t really have any perception of what’s going on back home when you’re playing because you’re cocooned in this protective environment of hotels, security, bus rides and games, especially in those days. Nowadays it’s probably different with technology and computers. You can grasp anything that’s going on back home.  In Mexico in 86 you couldn’t even make a phone call from a landline – we had one phone in the hotel we could use every other day. No mobile phones then, not even phones in the room. In those days you had no idea what was happening at home. Nowadays you do but I think its always a surprise when you come back from a World Cup and see the effect its had.

PMO – Do you think there is more pressure now because of the incessant coverage of the internet?

GL – There’s always been pressure and the great players will always handle that. The spotlight is ever bigger, football seems to grow and grow and it just becomes seemingly so important to so many people.

PMO – Can you describe what its like to be famous?

GL – It’s become part of life, it’s how it is. I’d notice it more now if I wasn’t recognised everywhere with people shouting, ‘It’s the crisp bloke’.

PMO – Do you get that a lot?

GL – Oh yeah, all the time. Its been so long since I was anonymous, half my life, I cant really remember what it was like when I wasn’t known by everybody. I’ve dealt with it a long time. 99.9% of people are really friendly which makes it easy. If you get irked by people being pleasant there’s something wrong with you – you’ll give yourself worry and drive yourself bonkers. We all get bad moods occasionally when we can’t be bothered but that shouldn’t be very frequent.

PMO – When you got divorced and then started seeing Danielle I think a few journalists were a bit catty about that. Do you care what the general public think of you?

GL – Anyone who says they don’t care is made of sterner stuff than most people or just lying. It’s never pleasant. I didn’t start seeing Danielle until two or three years after I’d split up with Michelle. It wasn’t like I left one for another, it was never the case. I got a bit of stick occasionally after the divorce but it was only from people who didn’t know what was going on in terms of their ignorance of the realities of it, so I largely ignored it.

PMO – When you started seeing Danielle did you realise that the papers might get a bit excited about it?

GL – Course because I hadn’t been seen with anyone. I hadn’t met anyone that I’d got close to wanting to introduce to my kids or be seen in public with. I always knew there would be a great deal of interest in ‘the next woman’ if you like.

PMO – Danielle mentioned that some of the press intrusion was underhand and intrusive. How did you feel about that – were you wary of it, did you expect it?

GL – When we first got caught by the paparazzi she was sort of laughing about it but I just said to her, ‘You have no idea what’s about to happen.’

PMO – So you were trying to prepare her for the worst?

GL- I tried to but there was an investigation into every aspect of her life with people trying to talk to her friends.  That becomes very intrusive for a while until they get bored and move onto someone else. They’ll dig and dig and dig but that’s how it is, you have to put up with it. Overall the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Also the PR can be very useful, the self PR for a start, PR for a company you’re working for like Walkers or the BBC, charity stuff. The only thing that really gets to me is untruths which are written, which happens on a fairly regular basis.

PMO – Do you ever think about suing?

GL – I’ve sued a number of times now, it’s the only way. If you don’t sue quickly it becomes ‘true’. It goes onto the internet and it stays there unless you sue. I wish I’d got onto that a bit earlier. There were one or two things written earlier on that I left alone and I should have dealt with it. I’ve found things are much better when you take action when people write wrong things.

PMO – Do you think footballers get paid too much?

GL – They do and they always have done, including when I played but footballers will get paid the going rate. If people are prepared to pay them that it’s not their fault. You could never sit there and justify their wages in comparison to people who do real work. They’re in the entertainment business. Whether its football, basketball or baseball, acting – top actors get paid fortunes, thats how it is. You’ll never justify it.

PMO – How important is money to you?

GL – It makes things easier but it’s not what motivates me. I dont think I’m greedy. I get well paid and I get that. I think we all get paid the best wage we can if I’m honest. I’ve been offered lots of things that I’ve turned down. I dont do things just for money.

PMO – Do you think money can bring happiness?

GL – Happiness is fleeting anyway isn’t it? Happiness is something that is there for a while, then goes away, comes back again. I don’t think there is an eternal happiness. It’s one of the aspects of doing well in whatever you do. Earning a good wage is one of the things that can make life a lot easier.

PMO – When was the last time you were very happy?

GL – I’m very happy now. As happy as you can be waiting for a flight! I’m absolutely totally aware of how fortunate I’ve been in life and to have two really enjoyable and successful careers and lots of kids. Life’s full of ups and downs but generally I’ve been blessed really.

PMO – You’ve been successful in two careers – do you have any ambitions left to fulfil?

GL – I’ve done what I do for quite a long time and more of the same would be fine but I’ve veered away from branching out into entertainment: TV shows, quiz shows, I don’t feel comfortable in that genre. Various things have been thrown at me over the years that I’ve knocked back. I don’t want to be that busy, I’m not that greedy and I don’t want to go too far out of my comfort zone. I think I’ve got a niche that works around football and there’s a danger that you can put your head above a parapet and I’m in a position where I don’t need to do that. One ambition I do have that is largely out of my hands is that I’d love to do a live broadcast and utter the words at the end that England have won the World Cup. That would be very special. I fear it may never come true!

PMO – You’re 50 now so I guess you might have another what, 10 World Cups left?

GL – 10 World Cups! 40 years – I’ll be 90!

PMO – You’ll probably make that, you’re a fit bloke.

GL – Christ almighty, 90! I wont live that long!

PMO – How come you’ve always got a tan?

GL – I’ve got olive skin, same as my mother and her mother, it’s that side of the family. They’re from Norfolk so something’s gone on somewhere along the line. I’ve definitely got something in me from overseas somewhere. I do tan very quickly and we do try and get away occasionally. I don’t spray or go on sun beds!

PMO, Lastly, you’re always pretty well turned out when we see you on the telly. I wondered if you could help Mark Lawrenson out with his haircut?

GL – Lawro’s hair is beyond help now. It’s a frizz thats gone beyond a frizz.