The 2 Robbies interview: Making connections with soccer fans on TV and at fan fests

Recently, World Soccer Talk took a stroll with Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle — better known as The 2 Robbies — to find out more about their connection with their viewing audience, what it means to be involved in a Premier League fan fest, and how they’ve been able to create a strong chemistry on set via the NBC Sports network.

Here’s our exclusive interview with The 2 Robbies:

 

Christopher: How difficult has it been to integrate the tactics board into what you’re doing on TV? In terms of analyzing games, where it’s completely seamless and you may be able to get your point across more effectively. Because it seems to me that you’re using the tactics board less than what you did originally, or maybe it’s just me?

Robbie Mustoe: I think it’s a couple of things. I think the tactics board is not always easy to use and we’ve had some issues with its reliability, technically.

I think our shows are so quick, that it’s tough to allocate the time.

Robbie Earle: We’ve got four or five minutes to do that. We watch Monday Night Football and they can take 15 minutes over one piece. We get something really deep and have good discussion, but we just don’t have the time on the show.

Robbie Mustoe: And I think, I’m sure you know, but shows here are very different and the production is very different. So, it’s much quicker, much punchier [here]. So that stuff, which we love. I mean, I could spend all day on it.

Christopher: Even for the viewer, sometimes it’s a bit awkward watching the tactics board. I know the point you’re trying to make, but for the viewer, sometimes it’s a bit clunky.

Robbie Earle: If the technology’s not enhancing the point, doing its job, that’s sometimes the issue. But, we don’t have all the capabilities to show the runs, to do this, to move things. So, you’re only getting half the message across. So, when that’s the case, we tend to go, ‘Let’s not use it and let’s not confuse some issues.’

Robbie Mustoe: I hope it gets improved because it’s an important part.

Robbie Earle: People are becoming more sophisticated as they watch. People understand tactics more, maybe more even than when we started seven years ago. So, we’ve got to make sure we’re upgrading and staying ahead of that and giving viewers that insight.

 

Christopher: What do you guys owe your chemistry to? Both of you work together so well, as well as with Kyle Martino and Rebecca Lowe, but is that something that came naturally or is it something you’ve had to work on?

Robbie Mustoe: I think it started from before. We both worked for ESPN and that was more in a studio and Rob was in, were you in London?

Robbie Earle: I was in L.A.   I was in London first and I used the L.A. office. And every six or eight weeks, I’d go out to do a week in [Connecticut].

Robbie Mustoe: And ESPN producers always liked it when we could go back and forth. So, maybe it started from there and there’s nothing we’ve worked on.

Robbie Earle: What we tend to find — Mustoe is very forensic and scientific. I said he’d be a surgeon if he wasn’t a football analyst. I’m a little bit more hearty, throw some big stuff out there and let’s see. But, we tend to get to the same place, but in very different ways. That’s kind of the great juxtaposition that I think seems to work.

Robbie Mustoe: I also think, which is really important for me, is when I disagree, hopefully I do it in a respectful way, but I’ll poke him. ‘Well, what do you mean? What? What do you mean by that?’ And I want more from him. I think I just like it when we go back and forth.

Robbie Earle: I see his nostrils flare, then I know I’m on guard. (laughs)

Robbie Mustoe: But that’s an important little detail, that we totally don’t mind, [we] call each other out. When we disagree, it’s time to have some fun with that.

Robbie Earle: Professional disagreement is important. With most viewers at home, maybe it’s split on these things anyway. Can Leicester win the title? Mustoe will tell me they won’t. “Oh, of course they can,” and there’ll be some who believe they can and we try and represent both sides of an argument, but in a respectful manner.

Robbie Mustoe: And we’ve never fallen out. That’s not good TV, if there’s an awkwardness.

Christopher: So, there are no egos. None of that? Right.

Robbie Earle: And we only do it if we feel it. We don’t manufacture it. I think that’s important.

 

Christopher: How cognizant are you that you’ve raised the bar on soccer coverage in this country?

Robbie Mustoe: I don’t know, that’s I guess for others to make that judgment. All I know is, I’m so comfortable in the way that we’re doing it. When we interviewed right at the start with Pierre [Moossa, executive producer at NBC Sports responsible for Premier League soccer coverage], I remember (being) at the bottom of 30 Rock in the city and his first line was, “We want this to be intelligent analysis.”

Christopher: So, would you both agree that working with NBC Sports has helped to improve you both as analysts?

Robbie Earle: I always think players of today have got no excuse of not being the best they can be. You look at the training ground, look at the science, look at the people around them, the money, the care that they get. With some respects as analysts, we get that at NBC. We get research, we get conversation, we get opinion, we get support.

Christopher: Access to the tapes, I’m sure?

Robbie Earle: Access to all manner of information that gives you the best chance to do your job properly.

 

Christopher: So, what about the fan events? It seems to now be an event where people are flying in from around the country to these things. How does that make you feel?

Robbie Mustoe: Well, I think it speaks to the success of the fan fest. It speaks to the promotion that we give it. We talk about it a lot before we do one. I really hope that they enjoy watching them at home, the events that we’ve done.

Robbie Earle: I think it also plays to the development of where the game is. I think seven years ago, it would’ve been really ambitious, a one day fan fest and I don’t quite know that you’d have got what we get now.

I think this also gives us a chance to show there’s another side to us. So, the fan fest, there’s a few things that are a bit lighter.

Robbie Mustoe: People get to know the sides to our personalities a little bit more.

Christopher: And I think that’s a big reason why people are tuning in every week, not just for the Premier League, but also they feel like they have a relationship with you. They feel like they get to know you a little bit better, whether it’s with your remarks or some great analysis or having fun sometimes, but also being serious at other times. There’s that connection that’s made.

Robbie Earle: It’s perfectly true. Sometimes, especially on my coast, where I live on the west coast, you go into people’s living rooms or bedrooms at 4:00 A.M in the morning, you feel like you’ve supported a family.

Christopher: It’s like a sacred space.

Robbie Earle: That’s the thing, you meet people and they talk to you as if they know you.

Christopher: That’s probably a way to have more of a long lasting relationship with some of these viewers, that they come here, whether they meet you in person or see you from a distance, they feel a part of it.

Robbie Mustoe: And a big part of it for us too. And you’ll see the way that they feel about us and the show. So, they’re so pleased to meet us. I was in Texas, I mean everybody said, ‘Thanks for coming down and bringing the party down there,’ which is lovely to hear.

Robbie Earle: But as well, the other thing that I was going to say, I’ve had a lot of times in New York, where people will come up and just say, “Thank you. You help bring my family together.” People are getting up on a Saturday morning with their kids, put the (blanket) on the sofa and watching the games together.

 

NBC Sports and the Premier League are traveling to Philadelphia for the next Premier League Mornings Live fan festival, on April 4-5, 2020. The two-day fan festival will take place at Dilworth Park, located outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall in Center City, and features live action from nine Premier League fixtures across five match windows.

The Premier League Trophy, club mascots and special guests will be in attendance at the event, which soccer fans can attend for free by signing up here.

NBC Sports’ studio team of host Rebecca Lowe and analysts Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe will broadcast Premier League Mornings Live from the event on NBCSN beginning at 7 a.m. ET on Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5. The group will be joined by several special guests throughout the day and will bring the celebration to viewers across the country.

The Philadelphia fan festival is the third and final Premier League Mornings Live supporter event that NBC Sports and the Premier League will present this season, following October’s event in Austin, Texas, and December’s event in Miami Beach, Florida.

If you’re interested in going to Philadelphia, RSVP for the Premier League Fan Fest.