On screen since 1995, Sky TV show Soccer AM has become essential viewing for many football fans as part of their Saturday morning routines. Mixing long-running jokes with celebrity guests and clips of all the week’s football action, the show maintains a heavy influence on football culture – if you don’t know where ‘tekkers’ and ‘taxi’ came from, you’ve obviously not been watching! But what’s it like to work on the show? As part of our ongoing series going Behind The Scenes on jobs in football, we spoke to producer Chris Nutbeam about what it’s like to be part of the Soccer AM squad. Here’s what he had to say…
Your work obviously follows the football season Chris, is that a benefit of the job?
‘I’ve always said it’s probably the closest job you can get to being a footballer without being involved in a football club. You work in a team, you’ve got to perform on a Saturday and then immediately you turn your attention to the next game.’
What does the job of producer on Soccer AM involve?
‘We each have our own role, my main roles are to book footballers to appear live on the show, and also filming opportunities for slots like Team Mates and I Love Football, I set those up throughout the week. I also do sketches for the show, new ideas for features, all that kind of thing. And I also book other sports stars for the show, so for instance this week we’ve got Greg Rutherford, the gold medal-winning long jumper on, I do all the research around him.
This season I’ve written a new feature about memorabilia, called Fantiques Roadshow, where the idea is fans write in with interesting memorabilia they’ve got. We then send Helen or Max round to chat to them and we’ve got a sports memorabilia expert to valuate it for them. So hopefully that’ll be an interesting addition to the show.
I know it’s a cliché, but no two days are the same, this week I’m probably off to Dublin for one feature, then I might be filming a sketch, or travelling somewhere with Tubes, so it’s a very varied job. It’s great to work somewhere that you can have a laugh with everyone while you’re doing it as well.’
How did you first get involved with the show?
‘I applied for work experience at Sky after leaving university, and I was given a week on Soccer AM and a week on Soccer Saturday. I turned up for my first week, and got on well with the team at Soccer AM, and so I asked if I could do another week there instead. That turned into a third week of work experience, and at the end of that week I was offered a job as a runner. That was nearly ten years ago now! It’s a difficult job to want to leave. Anyone that comes down and sees the show will see the great relationships we have amongst the crew, the fun we have, and the work we put in, and I think the show would be very different without it.’
The show has become part of many fan’s pre-match ritual on a Saturday. How does it feel to be part of that?
the crew love that, the fact that people get up on a Saturday morning and watch
the show as part of their pre-match preparations before going off to the game.
It’s a great feeling, especially now that Twitter has come along and you can
interact with people during the show, that really comes across then. People
feel part of Soccer AM because they’ve been watching it for so long.’
Who would you say is the biggest guest you’ve booked for the show?
‘The biggest name I’ve ever booked is probably Evander Holyfield, and when you book someone that big you’re always worried that they’re not going to turn up! Rafa Benitez was another great one, and booking Patrick Kluivert has to be up there. It’s hard to get time with footballers, players and agents can be apprehensive about appearing on a live show. What you have to tell them is that anyone that comes on the show is in there with us, they’re part of the team and we’re not getting them on there to stitch them up. It’s my job on a Saturday morning to strike up a relationship with the player within an hour of them turning up before the show, getting them relaxed, up for it and ready to go on. I always tell them it’s a bit like playing football, 10am is kick off and they need to be ready for it. ‘
The show is famous for pranks and wind-ups on the crew – what’s the worst that’s been played on you?
‘The worst prank is probably one I pulled on myself, when I was supposed to book Shaun Goater and booked Barry from Eastenders (Shaun Williamson). It was only at 7 o’clock on the Friday evening before the show that I realised I’d booked the wrong Shaun, and that’s probably one of the worst moments of my life. I had to explain to the Soccer AM guys what I’d done, and luckily for me Max, Helen and the team were crying with laughter when I told them, and the rest is history. Obviously, they’ll never let me forget it, and I still get fans tweeting me every week about it, so it’s hard to escape it!’
As a Southampton fan, does that clash with working on the show?
‘Yeah, that’s one of the only drawbacks of working on the show, as you finish at lunchtime on a Saturday it’s hard to get down to St. Mary’s for a game. Also, for the job you become really engrossed in every game, not just your own, so I don’t go to as many games as I’d like. I’m a very passionate Southampton fan, but I can’t be as committed as I’d like to be due to the job. You’ll always hear me on the show though, as soon as Southampton are mentioned I’m shouting in the background. As soon as I have an idea in the office involving Southampton everyone rolls their eyes at me, but I do my best to get them into the show. At least this season now that they’re Premier League again everyone becomes a bit more interested in them! Our office is absolutely over-run with Spurs fans, so we have to put up with a lot from them…’
Who would be your dream guest for the show?
‘My dream Southampton guest would be Matt Le Tissier, but being in the job we’re in and his work on Soccer Saturday, I meet him quite a lot. It’s great to be able to say hello to him or get a phone call from him. One of the best things about working at Sky is that you can look up any game and watch it, so I spend a lot of time watching highlights of Saints games. He was a phenomenal player, so it’s hard to look past him from a Saints point of view. Maybe a cheeky bit of Marians Pahars as well? But if you’re looking for a big sports guest that everyone would tune in for, it’d have to be Beckham. When you book a Premier League player it’s always a big deal, if you can get one booked in you’re buzzing for the rest of the week then.’
Do the guests have to be
football fans to appear on the show?
‘It can be a factor, first and foremost we’re a football show and always will be, but there’s a big entertainment factor as well, so if we can get someone on like Sean William Scott or The Rock and broaden it out a bit, that still works. You’ll be surprised as well, it’s rare that you meet someone that doesn’t have any football stories, and that’s a way in. We do get a lot of people on who arrive thinking ‘what’s going on?’ and then when they leave they’re absolutely buzzing because they’ve enjoyed it that much.’
Finally, what’s been your highlight during your time on Soccer AM?
‘Playing the first ever game at the new Wembley, that’s got to be up there. Getting a run out there was immense and pretty hard to beat!’
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to speak to us – Soccer AM returns this Saturday, 10am, on Sky One HD and Sky Sports 2HD.