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SOCCER MAYHEM; We go behind the scenes at the cult footie show everyone gets a kick out of.

Byline: BRIAN McIVER

A SKINNY Elvis fixes his collar up while a senior producer runs around in a dodgy bald wig, and a leggy brunette in a Charlton football top tries to keep her mini-skirt smoothed down.

In the middle of the madness, a gorgeous blonde is going over her lines, while some assistants dressed as swans play keepie-uppie, surrounded by TV cameras worth thousands of pounds.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum and live football fans' show Soccer AM is ready for broadcast.

The Sky Sports Saturday morning magazine show has become a cult classic.

It's the satellite channel's most watched programme after live football, and presenters Helen Chamberlain and Tim Lovejoy's mix of music, jokes and football action has had it rivalling The Saturday Show and SM: TV in terms of weekend popularity.

The three-hour broadcast showcases the best English and Champions' League games every week, and features star guests as well as bizarre comedy sketches and characters, penalty kicks and `fans of the week'.

But if the programme seems madcap on screen, it's even more frantic off it.

The programme's producers invited the Daily Record behind the scenes at their flagship show at the weekend and it definitely didn't disappoint in terms of backstage antics.

In the final minutes before the show was due to go live on air, the team's crew were preparing for the first sketches of the show with one producer trying to fit a receding hairline wig for a Level 42 sketch while another was dancing in a swan costume.

Meanwhile, on the famous Soccer AM couch, Tim who also produces the show was double-checking his notes and Helen was touching up her make-up.

Nicknamed `Hells Bells', Helen has been the star of the show for the last nine years and provides a bit of early morning glamour.

Dressed in jeans, a sexy vest top and glitzy sandals, Helen looks every bit the TV babe she has become over the last eight years on the show, but is quick to deny she is a sex symbol.

The self-confessed Torquay United obsessive says: ``To be honest, I don't think of myself that way at all. I'm just a football fan and I see myself more as a big sister than anything like that.

``I'm a presenter who's also a football supporter and I think the show works because me and Tim are both fans. People know we're just like them and want to see the same things as them.

``I hope that does come across, because we are honestly just like we are on TV, and we try to make everyone on the show feel at home.

``When we get the fans in, they can sometimes be a bit nervous at first, so we go over and chat to them about how `effing lucky' their team was last week a few swear words usually help them relax a bit.''

Helen got the Soccer AM job after working as a presenter on kids' cable TV channel Nickelodeon, where Sky Sports bosses noticed she was always mentioning football between introducing cartoons such as Rugrats.

She says: ``They realised I was a huge football fan and offered me the job when it started nine years ago, and I couldn't think of anything more perfectly suited.

``A year after I started, Tim came along and took over the show and it's been getting better and more popular every year.

``Every Saturday, I think I've got the best job in the world and we really are having as much fun as it looks on the telly.''

The live show is like a mix of TFI Friday and Fantasy Football League, with a bit of Tiswas thrown in.

While Tim and Helen take charge of the three-hour circus and provide the links between the various segments and sketches, it's the tireless and constantly costume-changing crew who provide the atmosphere.

They do all the ``come on'', ``have it'', and ``get in'' whoops during the show.

Guests for the day were England rugby star Matt Dawson and Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown plus Candice, this week's sexy `Soccerette'.

Wearing the shortest skirt on TV at that time of the morning, the chirpy Charlton fan spent the whole time trying to maintain her long-legged modesty while cheering with the rest of the crew.

And she was looking especially sheepish when they all ventured outside for a penalty kick contest in the Frank McAvennie car park named after the cheeky Scots star who remains one of their most popular guests of all time.

Tim explains: ``Frank is definitely one of our favourites. He came on and took part in the goal competition, but hit the post with his shot and when he went to hit the rebound, the ball smashed one of the guys, Fenners, right in the face.

``It was the funniest thing I've ever seen, so we had to name the car park after him.''

While Helen is the face of the show, Chelsea fan Tim is the brains. He is the show's main writer and producer, and has turned it into the most popular hangover cure on satellite TV.

But he is also unassuming about the show's success. He says: ``It's not rocket science. We put together a show that we think people like us want to see. It's a mix of football, laughs and music and it's not hard to see why it's popular.

``We basically think about what makes people laugh and write the jokes and the script over the week.

``It's a lot of work getting it all ready for a three-hour show, and things do go wrong, but that's just live TV and you have to adapt and work around things as they happen, although most of the time it does work out alright.

``But it's not a bad job to have. We get to watch a lot of football and have a laugh and people seem to like it.''

CAPTION(S):

GLASS ACT:; Soccer AM's Scotch drinker character; FOOTBALL SKITS: Tim and the crew enjoy hamming it up; FAN-TASTIC: The; fans of the week and the Soccerette are always made to feel at home by Tim and Helen
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 26, 2003
Words:1033
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