Joel Lampkin Q+A – ‘The noise behind the silence’
It was announced very recently that Tranmere’s frustrating 2020/21 campaign would be made into a movie, documenting everything that happened behind the scenes. Thus, I wanted to catch up with the man behind it all in Joel Lampkin. Initially I was slightly baffled as to why anyone would want to film or watch what had been going on footballing wise at Rovers since the start of the COVID pandemic. Since the final away game of the 2019/20 season, a thrilling win at Blackpool, there has been an unfair demotion due to PPG and there has been one or two very ‘annoying’ coaches in the dugout. However, it has been an unprecedented emotional roller coaster and that is exactly why this is one to watch.
Joel spoke to me about a range of subjects, his personal background and the ideas for the film itself. Find out where you can watch it and more below …
Could you describe your sporting background as a child and as a teenager, what sports captured your interest the most and how much of your life did you dedicate yourself towards it?
I’ve always played football, it literally consumed my childhood trying to make it as my idols. I played in the FA Youth Cup with Marine which is something I can always cling to but when that dream faded away I knew I wanted to be involved in football whichever way possible.
Have you always had an interest in media and creative media in particular? How did that interest start and where do your talents lie in the different media related areas?
In school, English and Media were the only class-based subjects that ever excited me. The storytelling, the analysing of different content and I had a teacher who spoke to the class like equals. Getting to sixth form, I never even thought of combining sport with media, I had no idea how people got involved in the behind the scenes of sports, and sports journalism presented itself as an option. I emailed a former student who gave me advice and I put a plan into action of how to reach this new dream. It was not until university that I ever picked up a camera and just like with everything, more and more it started to make sense, why I would do a close-up or a wide shot. Putting all my ideas into editing software and seeing the final product is a great feeling. Thinking back to school to where I struggled to the pieces I can create now, I’m a different person.
What jobs and work experiences have you had within the industry? What are the greatest lessons that you’ve learned tied with the greatest related experiences you’ve had and what would your advice be to anyone who has a goal that they want to reach, regardless of the subject area.
I’ve worked within sports media for the past 6 years, through work experience alongside my university course and this has led to incredible roles with Liverpool Football Club and amazing memories with Tranmere Rovers. My connection to Tranmere saw me end up working with the club’s media team during the National League promotion winning season which was headed up by Paul Harper at the time. Having the credentials for full access to Wembley of all places, was incredible. Being on the pitch and seeing the pure elation in the stands was beautiful and it was one of the most surreal moments of my life seeing that. Alongside that, I was present for Liverpool’s Premier League trophy lift, as a fan it was incredible to see a 30-year wait wash away and the players along with the coaching staff celebrating in the kop but that moment really hit home just how big fans are, it was a moment that should have been shared with those that live and breathe the club. I think with goals, it’s important to take it in short steps. You can always aim to climb the mountain but if you don’t start with a hill or two first – you could get stuck along the way.
How did you first get involved with Tranmere? Were they a club that you had always been interested in and how does working for a lower league club compare to working with Liverpool as you currently have a Technical role for their TV channel.
With Tranmere, I had very little interaction with the club up until the 2017/18 season, I grew up two minutes away from Anfield and when you are young, the Wirral seems far away. When I started doing media bits for the club, it was clear straight away that it went beyond football for Tranmere, it is the most community based club I’ve ever seen, where everyone is just two or three fans away from knowing everybody. With Tranmere being a few leagues lower than the other clubs I had experience of, I was blown away by the access to players, fans and facilities they afford media. You get to see the human side of players and tell their stories that you would never normally get the chance to. Micky Mellon was down to earth, he pulled me aside a few times after seeing my stuff and even gave me advice on how to keep the players happy. He looked after everyone and he made the campus a second home of sorts.
What are the greatest experiences that you’ve had with Rovers? Who are the funniest characters around the training ground? Who do you think has the greatest impact on a day-to-day basis within and around the ground and training grounds?
My greatest experience was undoubtedly going to Wembley, a place where dreams are made. Stepping onto the pitch once that final whistle went and recording the celebrations, it was the culmination of such a hard season, one where I got to know a few players well. From the training ground, the players are much more relaxed so going in with a camera, you either get some shying away or others coming more out of their shell. Ben Tollitt was the first I ever interviewed and he was a joy to work with, taking time out of his day to help TranmereTalk (our former YouTube channel) grow. Micky Mellon helped offer advice on who to speak to and how to record content in a tasteful manner to keep us on the good side of the players. Getting down to the campus has been a non-starter these past two years due to the coronavirus but the era of James Norwood, Connor Jennings, Steve McNulty and alike was a special one. They had a great core and you could see that from the banter on the training pitch, they had a laugh, played jokes but they 100% put the work in.
If you have been to the game in the past year, other than the games that fans were able to attend. What has it been like and what impact do you think it has had on players?
I haven’t been to a game in the past year, due to the pandemic and my job role almost always coinciding with Tranmere games, it just hasn’t been possible. Speaking to those that have been there such as Jay Spearing, he said it was hard at the very start, and you can imagine it was. It takes away the celebration of a goal when the roar of the crowd is removed. At some point it becomes the new normal but there will always be something missing, especially playing for Tranmere who averaged some of the higher attendances in previous years both home & away. With fans coming back I expect an acclimatisation period again due to the sheer roar when the Kop end goes berserk.
Your film, to be released soon, displays what last season was like for the club that were coming to terms with an unfair demotion from the starting point of Mike Jackson’s reign to the play-offs in which Ian Dawes and Andy Parkinson were interim gaffers. How would you describe the last season and what has it been like filming for this project? When did the ideas for this first enter your mind, what was your inspiration and aspirations for it?
The idea first came from Alex Garbe. He’s a young lad with an interest in media and he asked if he wanted to partner up. This was great from my point of view as the workload was huge and having Alex to edit certain portions was a big help. Last season was one that was destined to get worse before it got better. Having Mike Jackson take over from Micky Mellon meant that years of stability were almost undone, and despite Jacko being in Micky’s backroom staff, he would have had his own idea of how he wanted Tranmere to play. From October onwards it was like a rollercoaster of relegation threatening to potential title talk. There were so many talking points from the managers, to injuries, to the relegation itself and this is in the middle of a pandemic. It was an interesting season that Alex and I both felt needed documenting and there were plenty of people who graciously volunteered their time to give their opinion and help shed light on why certain things occurred.
How can those interested watch the film? How much will it cost to purchase and if you had to sell it to those who want to find out some more about it, how would you go about pitching your film’s idea and narrative as it was a fairly poor campaign so people may be slightly put off😅?
The film will be on YouTube (hopefully) once it’s approved by the club due to using their content. So it will be free to air without monetization so no money will be made by anyone. I think from what Tranmere have experienced the past four seasons, this season itself will be looked upon worse due to the constant changes and the outrage toward the EFL. This film has been made to make sure that the club’s story, and the story of the fans is not forgotten. Yes, there were low points but there were always incredible moments such as Papa John’s run, with interviews from those that played in those games, watched from the stands and wrote analysis. The SWA knows how this story ends, coming full circle with Micky Mellon so there will be a happy ending!
Going forwards, what are your personal working aspirations and what impact do you think the re-appointment of Micky Mellon will have around the club?
My personal working ambitions are to get into Digital Marketing, it is an area with endless capabilities that will only advance as technology improves. Media will always be an effective tool within this industry so hopeful somewhere down the line I can combine the two in the sports industry. Having Micky Mellon back at Tranmere is wonderful, the anticipation over who would settle the club going forward was making me nervous but it is almost as if all the wrongs have been erased. Don’t get me wrong, he has a massive job to undertake and his team of two and three years ago are no more but unlike anyone else that would come in – he has already bought into the ideologies of the club and loves the people. The style of football, with an emphasis on attack will be an easy one for players to buy into also and I think Tranmere enter League Two as one of the favourites for automatic promotion.
Extra question, to see the greatest players that you’ve had the pleasure of watching! Who would make your all-time 11 that you’ve watched in flesh, from any club and any league?
Alisson, the saves he has made for Liverpool has seen his hefty price tag look like a bargain and he was imperative to winning their sixth Champions League in 2019.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, it sickens me that Trent is still so young and despite transitioning to a role he was never expected to – he has made the RB position his own and showcased himself to be one of the best in the world.
Steve McNulty, Macca dominated the lower leagues, I have never seen a player be two or three steps ahead of a player as much as him. He read the game excellently, had a touch of Ronaldinho and could win any header he wanted.
Virgil Van Dijk, probably the best defender in the world at this time, injuries aside. He’s cool, calm, collected and clearly reads everything McNulty has ever written on The Beautiful Game.
Ashley Cole, he’s a player always brought up in the conversation of greatest fullbacks of all time and I saw him at his peak, it was pointless having a right midfielder at times.
Steven Gerrard, the passion he played with never faded from a young lad to a 34-year-old whose back was breaking carrying a team for a decade. He had it all and still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
Luka Modric, even at 35-years-old he’s got some of the best ability in midfield in the world, he never relied too much on pace and has players around to cover but he’s always in the right moment at the right time.
Cristiano Ronaldo, I saw him play at Goodison as an 18-year-old and he was frighteningly good; nimble, agile and the best player on the pitch
Mohamed Salah, watching Salah on the TV and in person are completely different, he is such an intelligent player, he may be greedy but his stats are off the chart and can flip a game on its head in a moment.
Neymar, saw him play for Barcelona against Celta Vigo and he played just like I imagine a child playing on the streets of Brazil – desperate for the ball, but when he got it, you knew magic was coming.
Lionel Messi, same game as above. He barely broke a sweat, glided past players with ease and still got a goal and assist. He looked like an alien on the pitch in the way he controlled the game. Time seemed to stand still when he was in possession and like the air was sucked out of the Nou Camp waiting for a goal.