Matisse: Hi Chris! Thanks for joining us at All Things Chelsea. Firstly, let’s start with your career within the sporting world. I think many of our readers will be familiar with your work with the ‘Miked Up Podcast’ for Chelsea FC USA. Firstly what’s it like working with the club, and how did you get into podcasting as a whole?

Chris: I’ve found it to be a top class experience. They clearly know what will help elevate a podcast in terms of having players and guests on and have never really given us any creative road blocks, which in my experience is highly unusual. They flew us out for a week to conduct in person interviews in one of the coolest weeks of my life, which ended with us at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the away end as Chelsea beat Spurs 2-0. As a whole, my career began in radio and my first main assignment as an intern was editing the podcast for Mike’s radio show, The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz then for 790 The Ticket in Miami. So, I guess I’ve been in podcasting from the beginning. Podcasts are my favorite way to consume content and I’ve been an evangelist for the medium for as long as I’ve been aware of its existence.

Matisse: In terms of Podcasting on Chelsea you’re effectively on the biggest possible platform, how much of a dream is it to be able to talk about the club you support on a constant basis?

Chris: If you listen to the show you know I’m the ‘neutral observer’! But honestly, I don’t believe particularly in a hate-filled football fandom. I first became a fan of the English game and the Premier League before I picked a side to support. So I just find it incredibly awe-inspiring to meet players, coaches, and even the chairman of a world giant like Chelsea. Anyone who even casually loves football would be floored by some of the people we’ve had the chance to meet and the experiences we’ve had the chance to have. I count myself incredibly lucky to be a part of this.

Credit: Kristen

Matisse: You’re coming off the back of an Interview the one and only Billy Gilmour! One of the great future prospects at Chelsea. What’s it like to directly speak with players and does it change how you watch them thereafter? 

Chris: It absolutely does! I think I’ve developed a real affinity for all of the players after we’ve spoken to them. Billy was a podcast favorite even before the interview and his status was only further cemented for me. I think particularly with him and when we had the chance to interview Jorginho, I love digging into the cerebral aspect of the game and how they approach organizing chaos. But I felt similarly interviewing Tammy Abraham about scoring goals and every other player we’ve had on.

Matisse: From listening to the podcast, and from a podcast lover and creator myself. You clearly have a brilliant chemistry with Mike, just how important is that natural connection in a podcast and how do you balance giving the listener the info they crave whilst entertaining them? 

Chris: I think in this context in particular it’s fundamental. Mike and I had a language for talking about football even before we started doing this from hanging out in pubs and participating in myriad group texts. Talking about football is ultimately going to be the backbone of the show, so it was really helpful that we’ve done that for years. I had only sparingly worked with Mike in an on-air capacity, but I think it came pretty naturally once we did. My opinion on that balance you ask about is that people first find the podcast because they’re Chelsea supporters and want to know more about their favorite team but people stay because of the dynamics of the show. I don’t think with so many options, people would choose to devote 40 minutes if they also didn’t grow to become fans of the whole show, not just the subject matter. So we will occasionally go on tangents about non-Chelsea related things because that’s how our conversations go sometimes. But we structure the show to make sure every important Chelsea subject is well covered.

Matisse: I certainly got that vibe from the intros, it doesn’t feel like a podcast solely on Chelsea, you can tell there’s some banter and natural flow to it, which I like. I think it’s underestimated just how difficult it is to create a good podcast. Of course without visuals, the listener is going only off tone of voice and words as a source of entertainment. Did you study the art of podcasting, have any previous experiences before this role in order to master the craft?

Chris: Yes. I had the opportunity to co-run a podcast network that focused on Miami sports called Five Reasons for about 18 months. In that context, growing and developing shows made you think about it differently. But I think most important is listening to a wide variety of podcasts. Interview shows and panel shows and quiz shows and sports shows. There’s just so much out there that having a broad base of experiences as a listener and on-air personality is huge. Also, in the coronavirus working from home situation, we’ve also had to make this work doing the show from our homes as opposed to being together. So we’ve had to make our dynamic translate over Zoom and I think have mostly succeeded. Given the circumstances, I’m immensely proud of the quality of podcasts we’ve produced without there being football.

Matisse: You also got the opportunity to interview Jon Champion the lead MLS commentator for ESPN and Jason Cundy of talkSPORT and Chelsea TV. I often ask, is commentary a route you see yourself heading towards or any other area within broadcasting/presenting/radio in the football industry?

Chris: Yes it’s something I’ve been doing for 5 years. I’ve worked at Univision, beIN Sports, ESPN+, among many other places here in the States. Play by play commentary is my co-favorite thing to do in sports media, level with podcasting. Jon Champion is a genuine hero to me. He and Clive Tyldesley might be the guests I’ve been most excited to talk to because I admire what they do so immensely.

Matisse: There’s a real art to commentary not many appreciate I must say, even as a co commentator timing is everything. Following the club from overseas must be a challenge at times with kick off times for European matches etc. Have you had the opportunity to go live to any matches and if so, which one was most memorable for you?

Chris: Yes I’ve had the chance to see Chelsea live 4 times on 3 separate trips to London. The first was with Mike and our friend Ibrahim. We did a Boxing Day trip to the UK during which we took in 8 football matches in 9 days in London, Southampton, and Manchester. We saw Chelsea play away at Watford in a 2-1 win and to a 0-0 draw with Southampton the day it was announced that Christian Pulisic would be joining Chelsea, which made meeting some Americans at a pub near the ground a particularly incredible experience. I also went back to the UK with family and saw them win in the Europa League and the aforementioned trip to Tottenham, which was most certainly the most memorable. Beyond the win, the away days experience is extraordinary. We were there early so we got to see the travelling group of Chelsea fans marching from the train station to the away end escorted by police horses. One of the searing images in sports I will never forget.

Credit: Kristen

Matisse: Haha welcome to British culture, I guess. I’ve seen wild scenes and police at home to Grimsby outside the ground so I suppose there’s always a tribalistic vibe no matter the level of opposition. This season has certainly represented a long term project with so many young players and a young manager leading them into uncharted waters. Who have you been most surprised with this season, in terms of progression? 

Chris: Reece James. I just think the world of his attacking ability from right back. The crossing is jaw dropping. He’s got real strength on the ball and just effortlessly glides down that right hand side. If there’s a player in this crop that for me most represents potential world class talent, it would be Reece. I was also a big fan of how Fikayo Tomori commanded games before his injury. Finding quality center backs is among the hardest thing to do in world football and I think Tomori can absolutely become one.

Credit: Manuel

Matisse: Finally, to wrap up. Unfortunately the season was put on hold for obvious reasons, but in hypothetically if the campaign was to finish without any issues. I love to ask this question. Would you prefer a Top 4 placed finish, guaranteeing Champions League Football or an FA Cup win in our historical kit at Wembley? Remembering this would be the first trophy for so many of the young players and Frank alike… I know I’m evil haha

Chris: The allure of a trophy is certainly huge for a club that has staked its reputation on winning them, but I think the Champions League is always the greater prize for the long term future of a club. Especially as Chelsea could enter a post pandemic world in better financial shape than most, being in the Champions League and the prize money that comes with it is fundamental to attracting the next crop of big Chelsea signings that will help them to get back to competing for titles and perhaps getting their hands on another European Cup. 

A well thought out answer to say the least, I try to catch everyone out with the taste of cup success with the World’s most prestigious cup competition but it doesn’t seem to catch many out. Thanks for coming on Chris it’s been a pleasure. Thanks to you the reader also, hope you’ve enjoyed, see you next time!

One thought on “The Chris Wittyngham Interview.

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