Crosspool Characters: interview with BBC Sport’s Damian Johnson

Crosspool's Damian Johnson on location

Crosspool resident Damian Johnson on location

Our occasional Crosspool Characters series features interviews with people from our local community.

In this article we put the questions to broadcaster Damian Johnson, who you’ll no doubt recognise from BBC Sport football coverage and Look North.

Damian moved to Crosspool in 2000. Read on to find out more about his career in football journalism and what he likes about living here.

How did you get into football journalism?

I did a postgraduate qualification in journalism at Central Lancashire University in Preston and then became a trainee reporter and newsreader at Radio Hallam before moving into television with Look North in Leeds.

I had always dabbled in sport as well as news and when Harry Gration left Look North in the early 1990s, I switched full time to covering sport and began to specialise in football.

Describe your routine on a typical match day.

I spend the week before making notes about the two teams involved and keeping across any news stories concerning those clubs. I arrive at the stadium at about 1pm and plug in and test my broadcasting equipment usually in the press box or the TV camera gantry. I have lunch in the press room and try to glean any information about the game from other reporters or former players.

I take my place at about 2pm and have a quick look through a newspaper and the match programme. I usually report the team news when Final Score comes on air at 2.30pm on the red button, do a short scene setting piece when the players come out and then stand by to report the game through the afternoon as and when the key incidents occur.

The pace hots up when Final Score switches to BBC One for the climax to the afternoon. It can get very exciting if there is a rash of goals or incidents or significant results.

After the match, it’s down the tunnel to do interviews for Match of the Day with the managers and a couple of players.

What is your proudest moment as a sports reporter?

It is probably reporting live from the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa between Spain and Holland. I was inside the stadium talking to Gary Lineker back in the studio and interviewing the former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf. That was a special moment and I remember talking to the cameraman I was working with about how lucky we were to be there.

Another would be describing how Manchester City won the Premier League title in injury time a couple of years ago. Other than that, you take pride from getting an exclusive story or doing a decent interview.

I’m guessing things don’t always go to plan on live TV. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

I once went down the tunnel to interview the then Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini after the game. There had been some issue or other surrounding his controversial striker Mario Balotelli. As I was gathering my thoughts, the name Mario was uppermost in my mind and I ended up calling Roberto Mancini ‘Mario’ by mistake. He took it in good part but it ended up splashed all over You Tube as an example of my ineptitude.

Football fans don’t tend to forgive or forget basic mistakes like that.

Who is the nicest person you’ve come across in football?

There are many. I think most people assume footballers are all over paid, pampered and high maintenance but most of the top players I have come across are pretty grounded and appreciate that they are privileged.

David Beckham is probably the best example of that. I have always found him unfailingly polite and generous with his time and interested in other people.

How have both football and journalism changed in the time you’ve been working?

How long have you got? Football at the top level has been transformed by the amount of money flooding into the game since I reported on my first match – Doncaster Rovers v Grimsby Town circa 1986, in case you were wondering. The arrival of all that cash into the Premier League has attracted some of the biggest stars in the world, created amazing stadiums and made many players and managers unbelievably wealthy. There are many other positives. The downside is that some ordinary fans are priced out of the game and there is a gulf between the top players and supporters.

On the journalism side, there is far more coverage and therefore more work for people wanting to come into the industry. However, it is harder to have any kind of relationship with the players and clubs try to exert greater control over the flow of information.

If you had the power to change one thing about football, what would it be?

I don’t like the amount of diving that goes on. It is virtually impossible for referees to do their job because too many players are looking to con the ref.

There is also a general lack of respect for the officials. Managers and players offer mealy mouthed expressions of sympathy about it being a difficult job but ultimately they see the referee as another opponent to try to get the better of. Did you say one thing? That’s at least two, sorry.

Will you be going to Brazil next summer for the world cup? How far can England go?

The BBC has not yet confirmed the line-up of people who are going to Brazil. I have been to the last three World Cups in Japan, Germany and South Africa so I am hopeful I will get the nod again. It promises to be a great tournament in an exciting and vibrant country.

I hope England do well, but I think most followers of the England team have had a serious reality check in recent years. We lag behind the major footballing nations when it comes to the World Cup and the Euros but with a bit of luck and a fair wind we might just have a decent run next summer, although I can’t see us winning it.



Which club team do you support – or does this have to stay secret?

I better not say – best to stay neutral.

Will Wednesday and United escape relegation from their respective divisions this season?

I think they will both be safe. I think it is very sad that neither of them is in the Premier League. In an ideal world I would like to see both of them up there. They are both big clubs and Sheffield is such a football-mad city which can sustain two successful top flight teams. Obviously, it might mean a few more games closer to home for me as well if they got back up.


I understand you were born in Hull. What bought you to Sheffield and how long have you lived locally? What do you like about Crosspool?

I was born in Hull and moved to Sheffield for my first job at Radio Hallam in 1986. My older brother already lived in Broomhill. He put me up for a while before kicking me out to take in a proper lodger who was prepared to pay him rent.

I have lived in a few other locations around the city, but had always had a soft spot for Crosspool. When I no longer had to commute to Leeds every day to work for Look North, I took the chance to move here. That was back in 2000.

Crosspool is very relaxed with good amenities, easy access to the city centre and close to the Snake Pass to get to the other side of the Pennines where most of my work happens.

Video: watch Damian’s showreel on damianjohnson.co.uk

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