You’re from Manchester, so how did you end up Down Under?
I have a Manc mate who I used to work with at the BBC in England – he emigrated over here some years ago. In 2002, I came to see him for a holiday and he told me to bring a tape of my work, as SBS were looking for a commentator/presenter. I did, and three months later they wrote and offered me a contract. I was just in the right place at the right time, I suppose!
How hard is it being on the other side of the world when Man City look to be having their best season for decades?
Well, I’ve only just got back from a trip home, where I saw City twice. Needless to say they didn’t win either, so my City supporting mates told me to sod off back to Oz sharpish! You can see most of the games live now [on TV], so I don’t feel like I miss out too much… But there’s nothing that beats being at the game!
Australia’s A-League is three seasons old now. Will football ever really take off Down Under?
Where have you been the last three years? It HAS taken off – massively! Three million people got up in the middle of the night to watch the Socceroos at the World Cup –
one million watched the Asian Cup game against Japan on Fox last year. Audiences for the A-League have grown in each of the last three years, and the competition’s average attendance is now just one thousand below the average of the NRL – all in three years… and we still have many new vistas to explore through Asia. It’s only going to get bigger.
Have you got used to hearing football being called ‘soccer’?
You hear it a bit in England and other places too – it’s not really a problem. But I do get annoyed when I hear people saying it HAS to be called “soccer.” People can call our game what they like, but to me it is football – and to a lot of other people too. The game’s governing body is FIFA – the second F is for football. And now the Australian governing body is the FFA, so I don’t see why it’s so hard. If you’re confused – ask!
You commentated on Socceroos matches during the 2006 World Cup. How emotionally involved have you become with Aussie football?
I’m very emotionally involved with football in Australia – I’ve become almost evangelical about it. The A-League excites me more these days than the Premier League (Man City excepted of course!), because it’s new, it’s working, it’s growing – and we’re all helping to build it. It’s hugely enjoyable, and because of that I have a big personal investment in it. Who would I support if England played Australia? I would hope to be commentating, so as ever, I’d be neutral!
And in other sports?
England of course! You can’t deny your birthright – nor would I want to. I’m both a very proud Englishman, and a proud new Australian.
What do you like most about Australia?
The concept of “a fair go”. I think that assessment is spot on. If you work hard and have ability, this country will reward you. I like that approach.
How Aussie are you – do you say “thongs”, “arvo” or “pash”?
Can’t say I’ve ever said “pash” or “arvo”, but I do say “thongs” these days. The other one I can’t get my head around is “bottle-o” – I still say the “offy” (as in off-licence).
How much travelling have you done in Australia?
I’ve travelled pretty much all over Oz with the job – but my favourite spots are a few holiday destinations. Hayman Island is beautiful, Broome’s Cable Beach and a gorgeous spot close to Canberra where we stayed in a luxurious hotel. It’s near the Bradman Museum in Bowral – lovely rolling hills and wonderful countryside smells! It reminded me of being in the UK countryside when I was a kid.
Where in Oz do you plan to visit next?
We’re planning to go up to Port Douglas at some stage this year, so the kids can snorkel the reef. I’ve actually done it before – and loved it – so thought we’d go back! Other than that, I’d love to visit Uluru – that’s definitely on my agenda!
And lastly, have you ever got ‘jiggy with it’ in a dorm bed?
Nah – I’m too tall for dorm beds. I’d fall out – I need a king size!
Simon can be seen regularly presenting Premier League football on Fox Sports. For more info, visit www.foxsports.com.au.