I’m writing this while listening to the Roker Rapport Podcast with Clive Tyldesley. It’s a great listen and has prompted me to write about something close to my heart. My Matchbook!
Why? Because Clive produces exquisitely written and presented match notes. So much so that he now sells them framed, and in the past month he has produced a Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers Wembley match sheet.
I have to admit to having a framed copy in my bathroom.
In the past week, he has posted a video on Twitter of how he goes about planning for a match and it made me think that it would be worthwhile explaining the background to my Matchbooks, as I am often asked about them.
Two are currently on show at the Design Museum in London in a wide-ranging exhibition called ‘Designing the Beautiful Game’, all about football design from boots to balls and posters to programmes.
Unfortunately, the exhibition closes on the 29th though it is moving to the FIFA museum in Zurich. It’s a smaller museum and my Matchbooks may not make the cut, but here’s hoping.
I post a picture of my Matchbook every match for a number of reasons.
A number of fans like to use them as an aide memoire during the match itself while they listen at home. There is a lot of information about the players and the clubs I don’t air, and people find it useful to have ready access to my match page to fill in the gaps.
It’s almost the perfect example of public service broadcasting!
Secondly, I’ve been approached by a number of people who tell me their sons or daughters are aspiring football reporters or commentators and they adore the Matchbook, and it has inspired them to follow their dream.
For me, that is one of the most satisfying aspects of what I do. Just as we want a new generation of fans to follow Sunderland, I want a new generation of reporters and commentators to follow in my footsteps.
It has to be remembered the Matchbook is a working notebook. The way I lay out the pages works for me. It’s my shorthand during a match. Other commentators work in different ways and different forms, and with different styles of note-making.
Some work in longhand, some work on laptops, but ultimately how we work is what makes it easiest during a match to access the information swiftly.
I take great pride in producing each double-page spread for every match. It has become my personal archive, and while I post the pre-match version it’s rare I post the post-match version with all my scribbled notes and crossing out on the match page!
Over the years the Matchbook has gestated into its current form in a Leuchtturm notebook which I use, because it is slightly larger than A4 and teamsheets fit snugly on the page without overlapping if I used a conventional A4 notebook.
Each match takes up four pages. The first page is the info on the opposition with the team laid out from its last match. People often mistake it as my anticipated team, but it’s not. It’s the team that played the last match as it’s a useful pointer to the match versus Sunderland.
I try to lay it out in formation too. The page opposite is the match page. Here are all the scribbles from the game and the info about subs, bookings, corners, goal-scorers totals and bookings and red cards. Over the page, page three, I stick the team sheet and on page four a photocopy of the match programme (if one is produced as a number of clubs have now stopped printing programmes, which is a great shame) and the latest league table.
A few years ago I decided to hand draw all the crests. Happily I have drawn most of the club crests from The Premier League and Championship - and obviously League One - and the beauty of drawing them once means I can photocopy them for future matches.
It’s rare I have to draw a new crest, though already this season I have had to redraw Bristol City’s as they have a new club badge, and soon I will have to draw Huddersfield Town’s crest as bizarrely I have not covered a match involving Huddersfield Town since they played at Leeds Road in 1994. I always have to check clubs haven’t updated their crests. In the past few seasons, the likes of AFC Wimbledon and Morecambe have tweaked their badges.
It can take anything up to five hours to produce a match page but on average it takes around three. The page I post on Twitter is invariably not the final version as I continue to add notes up to kick off.
I counted my notebooks the other week. I have thirty, covering twenty seasons, but some seasons I have used two notebooks rather than one. Using one is the most beneficial but the downside is it gets very heavy in the latter months of the season.
I’ve started on my notes for Norwich this weekend. I’ve noted the team that beat Millwall on Friday night and a note of the team that was knocked out of the League Cup by Bournemouth. It’s the league team I’ll write in my Matchbook for the weekend as that is the team most likely to play - though of course, I will note all the changes Dean Smith made for the cup tie.
One day I plan to publish one of the books or an ‘amalgam’ of all the best bits! I did have a season published as match cards but my dream is to see something in book form.
Clive Tyldesley’s match sheets have formed an idea of maybe producing something similar - for example a print of my Wembley notes from the play-off final, since signed by Alex Neil.
Food for thought as Sunderland have started this season arguably better than anyone dared hope. Fingers crossed the transfer window ends well - and who knows, this season may be a season worth publishing the Matchbook!
In the meantime, the Matchbook will continue as it has for the past twenty years and I will continue to post ahead of every match and hope they continue to inspire and delight fans everywhere, because they are of interest to football fans everywhere.