FC Isle of Man crest

A VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX: Rob Pritchard

FC Isle of Man are extremely lucky to have Manx Radio’s Sports Editor Rob Pritchard commentating on most if not all home games. If you have listened to Manx Radio on a Saturday evening or purchased the stream from the club, we are sure that like us Rob will have blown you away with his expert commentary and knowledge. We recently caught up with Rob for his ‘view from the press box’.

When were Manx Radio first approached to see if they could provide full matchday commentary for the FC Isle of Man games? And were they happy to get involved?

So the concept of providing live commentary at FC Isle of Man home games was first put forward by myself to the management at Manx Radio, conversations were then had at Manx Radio about how it could potentially work and quickly we saw a possible way of doing it. It was after this we then spoke
with the club to let them know what we had in mind and how it could come together in a good way for both parties and again, relatively swiftly, we all saw a way to get the ball rolling from November 2021 as the large string of home games in that season began. From my personal perspective I’m delighted that Manx Radio was so open to exploring the concept from the outset and giving me and the team the opportunity to help the live commentary experience grow. And here we are now in the third season and I remain very grateful to Manx Radio for the faith they show in keeping the live commentary going and also
to FC Isle of Man for how incredibly accommodating they’ve been to us as a broadcaster from the start.

What is your usual matchday routine?

It’s a busy one! In the morning I begin with spending a couple of hours doing my research ahead of the match on FC Isle of Man and, just as importantly, their opposition – I consider having as much knowledge as possible on all aspects of the game before the first ball has been kicked as a top priority so as I can be as informative for the listeners as I can be during the match. At lunchtime, after a quick preview of the match on Manx Radio’s Saturday Live programme, I then spend the afternoon reporting live from one
of the games in the Isle of Man football leagues. After this, it’s straight to The Bowl for around 4.30pm to begin setting up for kick-off at 6pm. Once the match has finished, I’ll conduct a couple of post-match interviews before heading back to finish things off with the match report.

FC Isle of Man usually kick off at 6pm, after local games on a Saturday have finished. Manx Radio also provides excellent coverage of the local games, but that must make for a long day for the sports reporters. How do you balance reporting on local football and FC Isle of Man fixtures?

Providing the right balance between coverage of the Isle of Man leagues and FC Isle of Man is incredibly important! Proper coverage of the local fixtures has been and remains a vital part of our sports output as a whole at the station and something which I think the team has excelled in doing for many years now and long may it continue!

Combining that and FC Isle of Man games does indeed mean some long hours on a Saturday, and I’m indebted to my brilliant co-commentator Tony Mepham for his passion and commitment over many years now to reporting on local matches and agreeing to be alongside me for FC Isle of Man live commentary. I can’t completely speak on his behalf, but my day roughly runs from 10am to close to 10pm – it
may seem long but that doesn’t phase me as I love doing what I do!

Are there any moments that particularly stand out during your time commentating for FC Isle of Man?

There are several and if we’re talking matches, there are three in particular that stand out
straight away. The first was in the first season (2021/22) when FC Isle of Man hosted West Didsbury & Chorlton, the match was a commentator’s dream! On the pitch, a sensation- al contest between the two top sides at the time in which FC Isle of Man scored twice in second-half stoppage time to win
it 4-3. Off the pitch, the atmosphere created by both the FC IoM and WDC supporters was sensational! As a footballing experience, it had everything!

Another was the promotion play-off final at The Bowl against New Mills in the same season – a occasion and an incredible spectacle of a packed-out stadium – with FC Isle of Man going on to win and gain
promotion, it was a momentous conclusion to a debut season that wouldn’t have looked out of place
in a Hollywood script in my opinion.

Finally in the last campaign (22/23) when FC Isle of Man welcomed Bury (still known then as Bury AFC) – an entertaining game but it was the atmosphere created around it that whole weekend that felt unique,
hundreds of Bury supporters not just attending the game but enjoying their time on the Island as well, there seemed to be an extra buzz everywhere – that to me, as a lifelong football fan, is what the game is all about!

Do you always have a co-presenter with you for commentary? [this must make role easier, not having to talk for 45mins straight!]

Apart from only a couple of occasions, yes I have and always prefer having a co-commentator
with me – the vast majority of the time it’ll be Tony Mepham but I’m also very grateful to those
who’ve stepped in at times across the last three seasons such as Steve Burns, Sam Palmer, Darren Timson and even for a couple of games last season… Sean Doyle! All of whom have been superb and I can’t thank them all enough! I think it’s very important to have a second voice involved and having
someone else to bounce things off – from my perspective, it’s another set of eyes, ears and
views on everything happening and for the listeners it provides extra insight and helps keep the pace and energy up.

How do you think FC Isle of Man have performed this season?

The way I like to describe things right now is whilst the first season was the ‘honeymoon’, the last campaign and this one are the ‘reality’ of playing and growing as what is still a very new club in the
English non-league system. I think it’s clear there’s been progress in terms of results and performances from this time last season (the table doesn’t lie!) but in a division as competitive as the NWCFL Premier

Division, the team is still having to learn a lot of tough lessons about what it takes to grow and succeed at this level, and I think this has been reflected in some of the results they’ve had so far. As I speak now, whilst FC Isle of Man’s mid-table position is not a bad place to be, I believe there’s still more growth as a unit needed to take things to the next step, particularly if the club is still looking to be in the hunt for
promotion in the short-term. For the players as individuals and as a squad, this sort of growth doesn’t happen overnight it takes time and dedication but there’s evidence things are moving in the right direction. The club as a whole will be learning all the time too, it’s an extremely young club compared to others in this league and elsewhere at this level who’ve built and established themselves over decades and some for over 100 years!

To summarise, I think the team may have ‘found its level’ for the timebeing, but I don’t think that’s
a bad thing, it’s part of the long-term process – I believe there’s potential for far more going forward in the years to come, how that turns out

Do you ever get to watch the game just as a fan?

Yes, I’ve had the chance on a handful of occasions to watch as a neutral at away games – two
seasons ago at AFC Liverpool; last season at Kendal Town and then twice this campaign at Burscough and then West Didsbury & Chorlton. As a football fan myself it’s nice just to soak up the matchday atmosphere and support the local game where possible outside of work. From the away matches I’ve seen, it also looks very encouraging to see a dedicated and growing number of fans
supporting the team on their travels – it’s a big commitment of time and money to do that for a lot of people and hats off to all those showing such passion and enjoyment for the experience.

What interests do you have outside of football?

Up until not too long ago I’d spent around 15 years playing hockey, firstly over in the UK and then for a couple of years here on Island after moving here in 2018, in the last two years though I’ve stepped away from that due to work commitments. I’ve also previously played darts competitively and it’s something I’ve considered getting back into. One thing I am still involved in though after many years and since I moved here is in the local acting scene. I’m currently part of the Service Players and taken part in a
number of productions, most recently one in November. But football is never far away as my evenings sometimes consist of playing the Football Manager video game (FC Isle of Man aren’t in the game though it seems… maybe time to have a word with the developers?!)