WOLVERHAMPTON — Relaxed in the NBC Sports Winnebago in the parking lot at Wolverhampton Wanderers Molineux Stadium, the entire Premier League broadcast team had been assembled in the UK for opening weekend.
Discussions flowed from Lee Dixon liking peanut butter with marmite on toast, to summer vacations, to what formation Wolves would be playing as two studios, a gantry position and a full production team were on site to see in the new 2018-19 season in style.
From Manchester to Wolverhampton to London, an army of NBC Sports employees were on hand.
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As the 10 a.m. ET games on the opening Saturday kicked off, there was a huge buzz among the trucks, studios and many NBC Sports staff on-location for the week-long trip to the UK. The first multi-game window of the season had commenced and everyone was talking about which players they couldn’t wait to see, the teams who would impress and how much they’ve missed the action this summer.
The epicenter of this chatter before, during and after the game was on the two sofa seats facing each other in the Winnebago.
Arlo White, Graeme Le Saux and Robbie Earle were sat in those seats and had just completed a piece of pitchside analysis at Molineux before settling down to watch the 10 a.m. ET games. Their next live video hit was at half time of the Saturday rush. With a printer ticking away in one corner of the Winnebago, coffees being made and production members flitting in and out to chat with Arlo, Graeme and Earle about various plans, this was it. It was go time. They were back.
As the voices of Rebecca Lowe, Dixon and Kyle Martino hummed away in the background from the studio about 150 yards away inside the stadium, plus those of Robbie Mustoe and Derek Rae who were on the call for Newcastle vs. Tottenham elsewhere in England on opening weekend, the entire crew felt inextricably linked at all times.
With English candy packed in the upper compartments of the hot, slightly stuffy Winnebago being heavily consumed, banter being chucked back and forth (mostly by Le Saux) and a joint discussion about Wolves’ tactics and nailing down where each player would start, it was all go. As rain showers circled Molineux there was also plenty of talk about umbrellas, jackets and a route to the gantry for the match commentary. Again, this was England, in August, and the UK’s summer-long heatwave had well and truly been and gone.
Sat alongside Arlo White, Graeme Le Saux and Robbie Earle during the opening Saturday of the season, the banter flowed as we had a chat as several screens showing the four 10 a.m. ET games fluttered with the bright colors of opening weekend in the background.
Guys, you’ve all been together on these trips to the UK a few times now, what has been the key takeway from this trip so far?
Robbie Earle: Kyle Martino’s a wuss because he doesn’t like Marmite. That’s a big takeaway…
Graeme Le Saux: That my jokes haven’t gotten any better.
Earle: Kyle Martino cheats at NASCAR racing, he tampers with your car before it starts.
Le Saux: That’s underhand.
Earle: I’m just trying to think if there are any Kyle Martino lines…! And it’s great to be back. After a great World Cup everybody is buoyed about football and we’ve had a good start. The stories with Pogba captaining United, scoring a penalty. Luke Shaw scoring his goal. Seeing what the new Chelsea are like under Sarri. It’s nice to get back to Premier League.
Le Saux: It’s always great when the whole group is together because particularly at the start of the season, I think it sets the tone for the whole season. It’s such a team effort so when you have the whole team over, the talent, everyone behind-the-scenes, I think it does set the season off on the right tone and furthers the relationship. It feels big. When you have pitch side studios, a studio and everything that goes with that. It is certainly a special occasion.
What was it like watching the World Cup this summer in England? Were you longing for the PL to return?
Arlo White: There has been a combination of things that happened with England this summer and it was England going to the semifinals of the World Cup, which was absolutely incredible. And there’s been an unprecedented heatwave. I’ve never seen so many smiles on people’s faces. Nobody, really, has anything to moan about. Which is unusual! It has been a very nice place to spend time this summer. It is good to get club football back.
As Graeme said, to start with the three venues but also for me, to start with the Transfer Deadline Day and Preview show the day before, it just feels like this season you are completely across everything. It’s a nice position to be in going into the sixth year, where you have seen all of these teams being put together and we can deliver something from a standing start with the Deadline show on Thursday which was a lot of fun to do.
Looking at the new season, what is the most compelling storyline for you?
Le Saux: I would say it’s Man City, still. That’s maybe an easy option but because they set the bar so high last year, winning back-to-back Premier League titles has only been done twice before and I think they are more than capable of achieving that. But that then throws up all of the competition and Liverpool in particular have thrown a huge amount of money and shown what their intentions are. City’s standard is the story that effects everything else. I think that’s why you’re seeing a couple of goalkeepers coming in for a fortune because suddenly everyone is saying ‘we need a goalkeeper who can play with his feet.’ So they’ve set a trend and the standard, City.
Earle: I would probably just go Liverpool. Daring to dream. They haven’t won a title since 1990. They filled all the holes, virtually, that need filling. They are maybe a center back short of saying ‘that’s it, on you go’ so I think it’s kind of time. It feels like it’s time. Klopp has had a good look at the league. He’s been backed in the area he wants. The squad is deep now. Liverpool used to be the first 11 were as good as, but not much beyond that. Now they virtually have two players for every position. It is kind of time now. They’ve spent big money on a goalkeeper, you’ve got your defense. Midfield you’ve got Keita and Shaqiri is going to be great. Sturridge could be a new signing type player. It feels like ‘come on then’ it is time.
White: I agree totally with the lads but the two things for me, Spurs’ stadium. We are planning something quite special at the opener against Liverpool.
Le Saux: We are firing Arlo out of a cannon!
White: That’s my walk and talk. More of a fly and talk, really.
Le Saux: You will do well to remember your lines as you’re flying through the air…
White: Let’s end on that bombshell.
Le Saux: Literally a bombshell!