Don Jones on his first impressions of the sports department

The first day was really amazing because I was given a desk, and I was told that me and another guy had been taken on at the same time, and one of the lads in the office said I’d been described as the hardworking journalist who would bring some kind of proper sports reporting to the job. And the other guy was an ex-town planner, but quite a quirky character, who would bring some great ideas and have some flair.

 And who was that?

That was Spencer Campbell. So we started on the same day – we ended up sitting opposite each other – and Spencer went on to do lots of things including documentaries and then went into drama and ended up producing Cold Feet. So, you know, we came from completely different backgrounds and he had some TV connections I think. But we were two completely different characters but we got on like a house on fire and we had to stick together because it was a really fearsome place to work.

 In what way?

Basically, for one thing, we were following in certain footsteps. The previous person who’d sat at my desk was Paul Greengrass, who went from being a researcher in the sports department to working in documentaries and on World in Action, and then subsequently winning Oscars. We were left under no illusions that the guy who preceded us was, you know, a really good operator who was full of great ideas and you know, got things done. I think the key word there was ideas. Because Doherty (Paul Doherty, head of sport) expected everybody to come up with really great ideas all the time.

Where would the ideas go? What was the output? Was Granada doing live matches, or highlight programmes?

We were doing a football highlights programme on a Sunday afternoon and we were doing things like darts and snooker – there was nothing Doherty wouldn’t take on. If he thought something was going to be popular, he’d take it on. But the flagship programme was Kick Off, which was the Friday evening football preview programme, and Granada was the only region in the country at that time that did a football preview magazine programme. Nobody else did it, but because the North West had so many great football clubs…

There was a wealth of content to go at, and he drove it, like I’d never seen anybody drive anything before or since. He was relentless. And in terms of the type of programmes we did, the type of items we did in those programmes, the guests that were on those programmes, we were getting network guests. We would get the England manager, we would get Brian Clough. It wasn’t a case of, oh we’ll get somebody from Rochdale or Blackburn or Burnley – we were doing big stories. And it was very innovative, so just to give you an example, I remember one day we did a survey of the football grounds in the North West to see who had the best catering. And we actually had an Egon Ronay inspector who stood on the terraces and ate the pies, and then marked them and later came on the studio and discussed how awful some of the catering was at some of these grounds. This was completely ground-breaking stuff for a football programme.

The opening titles of Kick Off in 1978-80 when Don Jones joined Granada TV featuring presenter, Elton Welsby, can be seen here.

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