Behind the scenes

My matchnight: Des Kelly

The chief reporter and interviewer for BT Sport spoke to us when Liverpool played their home game against Rangers – and explained why he doesn’t mind when managers are horrible

Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

My matchnight: Des Kelly
Behind the scenes

My matchnight: Des Kelly

The chief reporter and interviewer for BT Sport spoke to us when Liverpool played their home game against Rangers – and explained why he doesn’t mind when managers are horrible

Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

Penalty Pedigree

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Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Do you have a lot of questions in mind in advance of interviewing someone? 

No. I’ll have a few – I scribble down some notes. You use those if you are not getting much back. I try to make it a conversation as opposed to an inquisition. It isn’t Frost-Nixon. There is a bit of warmth, which normally helps people open up a bit. But however nice and pally these interviews are, there is often a point where you have to ask a horrible question: are you going to be here next week? But everyone knows that.

So no preparation, really?

We’ve had a lot of occasions where things happen really late, so you just do it on instinct – there isn’t much to prepare. It’s just about capturing some of the emotion in that situation, not overthinking it. You try to avoid a few cliches, perhaps. But if you are in the middle of the pitch you feel you are part of the circus – and your job is to transmit that through the television. You can prepare all you like, then everything goes out the window in the 98th minute. It is a bit of tap dancing.

How long did it take for you to feel comfortable in that environment – interviewing high-profile, often emotional figures? 

I am never, ever comfortable. You are aware you are live and every answer is a potential career-ending moment – or a meme forever. One interview in 100 goes a bit pear shaped – but that is a pretty good average. And I feel really privileged to walk onto the pitch. The first time you do it, there is a bit of imposter syndrome. But after a while you realise that it is much better to do an interview there, in front of the crowd. Everyone is buzzing, plus there is colour and stuff happening all around. You go inside, in front of the boards, and it is a bit more sterile.

Have you had to work on not being intimidated? Managers can be horrible…

Any manager can be horrible when they lose – and I don’t blame them. I have a certain amount of empathy. If somebody came up to me straight after my interviews and said, “Ooh, that didn’t go very well, did it?” I’d probably react in a similar way. I know they are talking in the heat of the moment. If they have a bit of a pop back that’s fine – if it goes on too long, that is a different scenario. I also think managers are quietly savvy.

How so?

If you go back 20 years it was often a fairly awkward situation; now they appreciate the worth of the platform they have. They can say things to their fans, their directors, the public. And if they do go off on one, it doesn’t necessarily reflect well. It might get a lot of interest but it could be interpreted as a manager losing their grip. And I also appreciate the fact that managers sometimes bail me out of a terrible question by being very good interviewees. That often happens. You think, “That didn’t sound right” – but somebody is generous enough to give you a good answer.

And what’s it like interviewing a player when his team have lost?

If a team loses, a player gets dragged in – and they are in the hairy end of the coconut shy. They are the characters you look up to and enjoy talking to; they are not afraid of tough questions. They know they are going to get one and will give you an answer. Virgil van Dijk, James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson: they are all examples at Liverpool. They don’t get over-heated or too despondent. That is the most difficult interview: when you get thrashed. Everyone is great when they have won.

Do you have to butter someone up before asking a hard question?

The strictures of time are a problem – you can’t build up to the question. But if it is worth it, you can self-edit the way it goes; you can change things, ask for more space or keep it running. We’ve had a few instances where they’ve tried to wrap me up but I’ve not got where I want to go. I had a debate with [Jürgen] Klopp that went on for eight minutes and some people were trying to wrap me up – but I thought, “I’ll keep going.” If they want to cut, they can: they can take me off air, go to something else. But I don’t do it too much; you try to work with the team.

Driving home, an hour down the road, do you ever think, “Why didn’t I ask that?”

Hour down the road? I have social media – it takes about 30 seconds. 

You actually look at what people are saying?

Ah, I do – but it’s all right. Sometimes things go wrong; my job isn’t a perfect science. It’s a ping-pong game, so if you get out of there unscathed, it’s good. If you get out with a good laugh and a joke, it’s great. If you get proper analysis and a very good interview, you are pleased with that. But sometimes you get it wrong.

Do you still enjoy your job?

The Champions League is an incredible thing to be in – unbelievable, unforgettable moments. To be in the middle of all that fuss and chaos and celebratory joy is an absolute privilege.

And you never become jaded?

I have one of the best jobs on the planet. I get to watch football for a living, talk about football for a living and jump in the middle of it all after it has happened. So I can take the odd bad interview.

Penalty Pedigree

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