He’s been the voice of Solitude matchdays for supporters around the world all season long and, with the 2020/21 campaign now in its final week, Cliftonville Football Club places on record our sincere thanks to in-house commentator Roger Mottram.
Alongside Marc Smyth, Roger has talked the Red Army through every high, low, twist and turn of home games over the last seven months and, as we catch up with him to reflect on a season like no other, we also extend our gratitude to broadcasters 247.tv, the dedicated behind-the-scenes team who have engaged so closely with us in the build-up to every match, Marc Smyth and indeed cameraman Marcin Koscielny, who has braved Solitude’s infamously unpredictable breeze to ensure our supporters did not miss a single kick of the action while lockdown restrictions prohibited them from being at the games alongside us.
Roger, did you have any interest in or link with Cliftonville (or any Irish League Club) prior to becoming our Matchday Commentator?
I did some work for BBC Sport NI before and I was often posted to Solitude, where I was always treated well – one of if not the best place to be from a media perspective – so I always had a soft spot for Cliftonville from that, but I didn’t have any actual affiliation to the Club until now. If I had to pick one Club to support, it would be my home town side, Bangor.
How did your role as Cliftonville’s Matchday Commentator come about?
I had contacted a few people about doing an interview before the season kicked off with volunteers of every Club to try and tell a story. I then got an email from David Begley asking for a meeting, so I assumed it would be about that. In actual fact, he asked me to be the Matchday Commentator. I think hopefully I made a good impression at Solitude during my time working for the BBC, but I also think that David said he don’t know anyone else that could do it without swearing!
Can you talk us through your traditional matchday routine at Solitude?
I’ll get to Solitude about 90 minutes before kick-off. I’ll go straight to set up for the pre-match interview and try and catch Paddy McLaughlin or Kris Lindsay’s attention. It’s a very busy time so it often depends who’s free and for how long who I get. I record that interview and send it off to get put into the show and that takes about 10 minutes. After that, it’s just setting up the rest of the commentary and filming equipment and testing, making sure we can try and produce a quality stream. Then I’ll panic waiting for Marc Smyth to stop talking to all the current and ex-players and get him set up about 30 seconds before we go on air.
How much of an assistance has Marc been as your Co-Commentator?
He’s been vital. The first one I did was really nerve-racking mostly because I was on my own. I know nothing about football so I’m hesitant to give my opinion on my own. Since then I’ve had Marc every time and he really knows his stuff, both from a player perspective and tactically. He has a clear support for the Club and is behind the scenes every day and all of this knowledge is so important to draw on in dead games. It still surprises me every time how he knows everything about the game and exactly where a team has been successful or a failure. He also can have a laugh with me and I feel we have a good dynamic.
Was there any match or moment that particularly stands out to you, for good reasons or bad?
As I mentioned above, the first one really stands out, it was against Glentoran. Other ones that stand out, even before the commentary, was a 4-0 win over Warrenpoint Town, mostly because of Conor McDermott’s goal. I can also remember my first North Belfast derby for the excitement and the other one that sticks out because it was difficult to commentate to a Cliftonville audience was the 4-0 defeat to Ballymena. There have also been a few moments in matches I can remember – Barry Coffey’s screamers in the last few weeks I’ll definitely remember!
You must be very pleased with the feedback that has been received from not just Cliftonville supporters but rival fans also?
I’m delighted with it, yeah! I’ve always wanted to do commentary and this has reinforced that desire. It’s a kind of job that will never please anyone and I know I’m new to it so any constructive criticism is welcome, but I do feel that as a team we’ve managed to put a professional package across most times and hopefully the dynamic between Marc and I has been unbiased so it’s provided a fair reflection of the game for both sides.