The 2019/20 Premier League and European football season, like most aspects of cultural life, were forced to take a different form thanks to a global pandemic that shows no sign of abating.
When we spoke to Ian Cheeseman following his beloved Manchester City’s seismic win over Real Madrid to reach the quarter finals of an accelerated Champions League, the ex-matchday commentator and writer reported that the prospect of not being present at the rescheduled matches remains hard to swallow: “When all this started my view was that football shouldn’t have returned until everybody could go back. If that meant that for a year there was no football, then that is fine if it means everyone is safe. But there will be lots of people who strongly disagree with that view and are very happy that football is back and I am glad they are enjoying these matches.”
Ian was due to be at the Champions League finals in Portugal, and was in Madrid when Man City competed in the first leg tie with Real at the Bernabéu back in February, but the prospect of not physically being at another match for a while, after 40 years of only missing a handful, daunts Ian: “It doesn’t look like away fans are going to be welcome in stadiums for some time to come. It feels like it’s never-ending and no one knows what’s going to happen, which I think is why it’s been so hard to deal with.”
But with COVID-19 still looming large over the upcoming season which starts this September, Ian’s experience of the game and the footballing landscape at large means he’s doubtful of being back at the Ethiad Stadium any time soon. Social distanced crowds have been discussed which Ian is keen to be a part of, but he understands that tickets will be the hottest ticket in town and many fans may will be left disappointed for a few months more.
Ian’s involvement with Manchester City has been an active one for many years, ensuring he is now a much-known figure to fans, the club and to key players. After starting out as a steward at Maine Road, Ian left the terraces for the press box to become the club’s official club commentator, including for Clubcall, a dial-up match reporting service, before being encouraged to apply for a job with the BBC Sports team. During 25 years at the Beeb, he’s seen it all, most notably the club’s recent ascendance into the glory years following new ownership, and even wrote a 2009 book about his experiences in ‘Best Job in the World’, which told of a year in the life of reporting on Man City as a fan turned journalist.
Ian’s reputation for documenting the club’s highs and lows has meant that former captain and talismanic midfielder Vincent Kompany even approached him to join forces for his new book ‘Treble Triumph’ about Man City’s treble in 2019, which is out now. It follows another 2005 collaboration with City veteran Colin Bell MBE, in which he co-wrote his autobiography ‘Reluctant Hero’.
Ian’s career, from avid fan, to journalist and to even a stadium announcer, means that the Sky Blues have always been a part of his working life, so it made sense to start his own popular podcast and vlog ‘Forever Blue’ after moving on from radio work. This new wider platform has seen Ian connect to fans around the world, and even more so during lockdown. Manchester City is undoubtedly an internationally renowned club now, and Ian has capitalised on the ability of football to bring people together. Famous fans such as BBC 6Music DJ Marc Riley was a recent guest, while former legendary players are regularly lining up to take part, including Uwe Rösler in August.
His exclusive access to Man City’s biggest personalities has been invaluable to create a knowledgeable and engaging listening and viewing experience. And for many international fans, that’s how they’ve always interacted with their beloved Sky Blues: “My commentaries at the BBC were regularly posted on the club’s website, so I was always aware that people around the world listened and that they knew of me. It sounds corny but I became almost like their friend at the club. So when I made the move to online, I got lots of feedback to say that I was truly bringing the matchday experience and the real people at the games into their living rooms, which you just can’t get from watching a televised match.”
A new platform to talk all things City means that Ian joins the ever-growing trend of podcasting and vlogging, broadcasting to local club devotees, as well as football fanatics further afield. This revenue stream is open for sponsorship and Ian welcomes businesses to get in touch if they are interested in getting their name in front of nearly 20,000 YouTube subscribers.
While Ian is wary of making predictions of Man City’s chances in the Champions League, let alone speculate about how the new season will pan out, it’s clear that whatever the outcome, Ian’s commitment will be sustained, whether he’s at home or away from his treasured club.
Subscribe to Ian’s YouTube channel at CheesyForeverBlue or subscribe to the Forever Blue podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen online.
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