Once a Twatt……….

TwattRuthless self-assessment or not, Martin Emmerson, a BBC presenter and sports commentator as well as Sunderland fan, invites Salut! Sunderland to widen the audience for this damning photograph.

It was taken during a visit to Orkney, where he drew on all his reserves of professionalism to commentate on a local football match on the very day that SAFC were recording half their wins so far this season.

It was the opening game of the season when Martin, BBC Radio Newc**tle duties permitting, would normally have been in his seat in the West stand.

Instead of watching Michael Chopra’s last-gasp winner against Spurs, except on a pub television, he was reporting on the mighty Parish Cup Final between St Andrews and Sandwick at the “Pickie” centre in Kirkwall.

If you read on, you’ll see how the Sunderland Echo covered this bizarre diversion in its eminent local resident’s work. Guess who wrote it……and if you follow this link, you’ll see Martin’s essentially gloomy view – pre Fulham – of our prospects for the season.

The beat of a radio commentator the Echo reported, can often be a wide and varied one. But BBC Radio Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson has taken his radio mic from one extreme to the other during the last two weeks.

As Sunderland got their Premiership campaign underway against Spurs, Martin was in the Orkney Islands to commentate on a football match, while catching the Sunderland game in a pub!

Then last weekend he commentated on Durham’s record victory in the Friends Provident Final at Lords, calling the last ball as the county won its first piece of silverware since turning first class in 1992.

The round trip from his house in Roker Marina, Sunderland, to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands was 908 miles. The trip to Lords and back added another 562 miles to his week.

The 36-year-old joined the BBC nine years ago and spent four seasons commentating on Sunderland’s matches in the Premiership from 1999 to their relegation in 2003. Since then he’s presented the Friday Drivetime Show while commentating on cricket, athletics and football.

He said: “An email came from BBC Radio Orkney in March. They were looking for a commentator to cover the Parish Cup Final. Obviously I’d heard nothing about that cup whatsoever. They don’t have football commentators up there because they normally have no need for them.

“As soon as I said I would be prepared to travel they booked the tickets next day. But I have to admit there was a sense of panic when Durham got to Lords because I thought the matches would be on the same day. Thankfully they were on separate weekends.”

BBC Radio Orkney is part of BBC Radio Scotland but only broadcasts for around an hour a day. But this year the station decided to broadcast live from the County Show – the highlight of the summer in Kirkwall – and then the Parish Cup Final later the same day, meaning a massive seven hours of live radio for the islands.

Martin added: “The Parish Cup is a big event. There are so many islands which form the parishes. It is their FA Cup. The final is at “The Picky” centre in Kirkwall and that game regularly attracts 2,000 spectators.”

The rules are strict. You can only play for a parish team if you were born there or have lived there for so many months. This year’s game saw the current holders St Andrews play Sandwick, who’d won the cup more than any other team. Martin’s co-commentator was a local author called Jockey Wood who’d written a book about the history of the competition.

Martin added: “I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The commentary went down well and they have invited me back next year. I was a little worried about some of the names at first because a few of them have a Scandinavian sound, but that wasn’t a problem in the end.

“Apart from that, as long as I have a team sheet and the players have numbers on their backs, I can commentate anywhere. A few strangers even bought me a pint afterwards so I couldn’t have been that bad.”

The final went to extra time before Sandwick won 3-2. Earlier in the day Martin was the only one in the pub to celebrate when Sunderland got their late winner at home to Spurs.

Then last weekend it was onto Lords.

“I’d been looking forward to that final for so many weeks,” added Martin. “To be at Lords commentating on a Durham win was fabulous. Martin Speight, the former Durham and Sussex wicketkeeper, was in the commentary box with me. Below us there were around 26,000 at the Home of Cricket and the atmosphere was fantastic.

“Steve Harmison came in to do a bit with us as well and a number of other players made the climb up to the media centre to add their thoughts. All in all it was a cracking weekend and Durham couldn’t have played any better.

“I even got an email from a man in the Orkney Islands who was listening to the cricket online. The only reason he’d tuned in was because of the Parish Cup commentary. Although he admitted to knowing nothing about cricket he said he was supporting Durham and that was good enough for me.”

* Last word from Martin:
There were around 2,000 people at the final…. despite covering many thousands of miles as a football and cricket commentator over the years, I have to say this was one of my most interesting trips yet.
They have asked me back next year. It was the first time BBC Radio Orkney had carried football commentary and it went down very well. Thankfully the two Twatt brothers did not make it into the final 16 on the night which was a relief.

* ANOTHER last word, from Salut! Sunderland

What do other visitors make of Orkney, and the people of Orkney of them? Look at this song, and the add-on verse, for an explanation……..

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