Johnny’s letter this week is to the only football media performer who is a reporter, an analyst, an interviewer and a presenter. That’ll be Chris Kamara, then…
Why the Love?
A year ago, Chris was featured on my Football People on TV piece and it was clear that he is held in high affection by many for his occasional and now legendary mistakes, his blank looks to camera, his excitement at the football and his charming ability to laugh at himself. Because we all know what it’s like to get your words mixed up or just have a brain fade, the fact that Chris does it on TV means we see ourselves in him. And it’s hard not to like someone who goes about his work with such cheerfulness.
But in a way, as nice as all that is, I think his other substantial talents are overlooked because of the funny clips and his ability to find humour in situations.
At this point I would normally put a link in to one of his infamous clips but today I’ve chosen not to. Partly this is because we’ve all seen them many times, but also because I’ve come to feel that they, a little unfairly, overshadow everything else he does.
If Kammy was just a clown, he wouldn’t be held in such high regard. There are other performers in the football broadcasting firmament that just seem included as a figure of fun or to be the subject of ribbing. They do become very wearing. But the fact that Chris has been on Sky now for so many years is simply because he’s an excellent broadcaster. Yes, it may on occasions be funny, but that should be seen in the context of his ability as a brilliant communicator.
When you’re appearing as a giant head on people’s TV’s there really is no place to hide. Every flicker of the eyes, every insecure glance, every twitch is visible in 52” high definition. It’s easy for the whole thing to become impersonal and cold, but Kammy’s screen presence never veers near to that. He’s always a welcome guest in our houses and no broadcaster can hope for more than that.
Although he seems kind of ageless, Kammy is actually and quite remarkably 60 on Christmas Day this year and thus is from a generation who grew up in very, very tough and racist times.
Speaking in 2010 he told Four Four Two: “It was shocking in the early days, but it was different then: you had to live with it. Some racist fans used to chuck bananas at the players and I even played with some racist players. I would get in the team bath and then one or two – I won’t name names – would get out….we had to put up with a lot.”
He is also a cracking thief-taker having chased and caught a street robber in Brazil during the World Cup. What did he do? He made light of it on Twitter, of course, posting a picture of himself next to the arrested man.
“Not lost me pace!!! I just caught this street robber. Done in now though.” And it’s easy to think that was followed with a trademark Kammy laugh.
Accidentally and organically he created his own “unbelievable” catch phrase out of his excitement at the football he was reporting on. Somehow it has become part of the Kammy brand and he now uses it in his betting ads.
One of the major commentators who has worked alongside Chris in the past got in touch with me to say:
“A lovely man, always a pleasure to be at the same match. Did you know that the camera into which the in-vision soccer Saturday reporters look into is known universally as the Kammy-cam? He knows everyone, and of course everyone knows him. Personally I’d like to hear Chris do co-commentary again, as he was very good at it when he did the football league live matches some time ago.”
When it comes to Goals on Sunday he puts in a superb performance on three fronts in a manner that no-one else has to do. First he has to be a presenter who greets the viewer, chats with his co-host and introduces the highlights. Then he has to become an action analyst and it’s clear he’s really done a lot of work in order to breakdown play and analyse moves. He is also good at making judgements on the performance of referees, by not just being critical, but also sometimes sympathetic.
But it doesn’t stop there with GOS because he has to deploy a third talent: that of chat show host. He has to deal with the guests on the sofa, which requires chatty bonhomie and banter with wide range of player, ex-players and managers and of all ages. These are three very different skillsets and I can’t think of any other football media person that does it. Some are presenters who facilitate pundits. Some are just pundits. Some do interviews. But no-one else is a presenter, pundit and interviewer all in the same programme.
When you add to this trifecta of talents to his reporting for Soccer Saturday and we can see that Kammy paints with a much wider brush than anyone else on football TV.
His other TV work always reveals a man who seems at ease in his own skin, who seems good-natured by instinct and has a quick charm. It is all very endearing.
Looks ten years younger than he actually is. Appearance is dominated by a lifelong ‘tache and always looks like he’s been dressed at a quality gentlemen’s tailoring retailer. Very smart suits, shirts or ties. Surely owns a heavyweight cashmere coat to keep him warm in the stands. Possibly buys leisure wear at Wishbone Ash, an independent store in Wakefield that I used to sell waistcoats into over 20 years ago.
What The People Say
– Excellent pundit, really knows his stuff. It was a shame when they took him off co-commentary. A good bloke with an interesting background.
– Should have gone on to be a great manager, showed huge potential at Bradford before crazy sacking. Tv gained though, brilliant viewing.
– The worst thing about him is his moustache, and I bloody love his moustache. He’s a national treasure.
– Stole the series on #murderinsuccessville when interviewing Cara Delevingine
– Clearly enjoys his job, and he doesn’t hide it.He’s wonderfully innocent in his mannerisms.Strikes you as a really good egg. Can’t fault him
– He simply loves his football and if his enthusiasm doesn’t rub off on you then you have a problem
– Just makes me smile
– Top man. Used to watch him at Brentford when I was a kid. He played a game of touch once with me and friend after a game once. Legend.
– Met him on the tube after 5 a side. Even though he was obviously pissed he insisted on hearing how our match went.lovely chap.
– I think he’d be great on the Goals Show panel with @acjimbo
– A Saturday afternoon at my mams house during soccer Saturday never passes without “I went to the same school as him”
– In a time when not a lot of pundits seem “likeable”, Kammy comes across as being a really good bloke. His enthusiasm seems genuine too. Imagine he’d be a great company over a pint too.
– Bradford City fans love him- he took our club to its first ever Wembley appearance, winning playoff final. “Chris kamara’s bradford army!”
– Impossible not to like, and beneath the bumbling persona is a very keen analyst.
– Saw him play for Leeds in friendly v Altrincham. Bizarre. Spent most of time arguing with team-mates & gave big grin to crowd when Carl Shutt got subbed off
– 1991-92 Eliminated #lufc frailty at RB in minutes. Then the final match. That cross. Right onto Chapman’s nut. Goal. 2nd Div title.
– Remember meeting him as a kid a few times when he was visiting his brother, who was looked after by my Gran. Really.
– He looks like a member of Heatwave. No greater praise from me.
– He’ll always be in my good books for coming over to see the all Ireland Gaelic football final, top bloke
Genuinely good fun, whilst also showing his knowledge and skills on his Sunday slot
– Seems just happy to here. And by here, I mean alive. Joyous chap!
– Fine guy who does great charity work..Apparently he also does a fine Brown Eyed girl karaoke and lovely host at his pub in Tenerife
– He is Sky’s Ian Wright. He knows football is supposed to be enjoyed so brings the fun but underneath that really knows his stuff.
– Not many cult figures survive becoming self-aware. That Kammy did is a measure of his charm and essential decency.
– A man without egos whose enthusiasm makes up for the occasional gaffe…. would swap him for Merson or Thompson in a heartbeat.
– Seems like a lovely man who can’t quite believe they pay him for this.
Has branched out into making other programmes including Saturday night shows like Ninja Warrior and this very good doco with Jeff Stelling.
His wiki page suggests he’s featured in 20 programmes in the last couple of years, and that doesn’t even include football work on Sky. On top of that he’s been doing a lot of very popular ads.
While many of us are, to say the least, queasy about the betting industry as a whole, it is hard to begrudge him the opportunity to fill his boots while he can as he moves into his sixth decade. And quite dispassionately they’ve obviously been made to exploit his on-screen talents.
Chris has managed a quietly brilliant thing and that is to be popular on the TV simply by being himself. That talent suggests that he’ll always have a gig for as long as he wants one. Whatever, he shall always be one of the fine town of Middlesbrough’s favourite sons.