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Q&A with NBC Sports Premier League studio analyst Robbie Mustoe

Though he has lived in the United States for some time now, until recently Robbie Mustoe was better known in the rest of the world than he was here.

Q&A with NBC Sports Premier League studio analyst Robbie Mustoe

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(Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)
(Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)

STAMFORD, Conn. - Though he has lived in the United States for some time now, until recently Robbie Mustoe was better known in the rest of the world than he was here.

The former Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder worked for ESPN's international channel from 2008 until this summer, when he joined NBC's Premier League studio team. Soccer fans around the world got to know him as a game analyst and pundit on Press Pass, ESPN International's top soccer studio show.

Press Pass launched in 2002, but didn't make it on to American televisions until last year. Prior to that, you would only have seen Mustoe infrequently. He did color analysis for European Championship and World Cup games, and some studio work on Premier League broadcasts. There wasn't too much else.

On Saturday, Mustoe was front and center on NBC. It did not take long for him to win acclaim for his smart, understated commentary style.

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Mustoe talked with a few reporters after NBC's first day of Premier League coverage wrapped up. Here's a transcript of the conversation.

Talk about the move to NBC after spending a long time at ESPN International, where American soccer fans didn't know that much about your work. How does it feel to be in this kind of spotlight now?

It's great. I appreciate what ESPN gave me at the start, an opportunity in broadcasting with commentary and Press Pass. I felt like I was on a journey at that point. We covered a lot of European leagues, which was great for my knowledge base. There was Spain, Italy, the Europa League, the Champions League. That all held me in good stead.

Getting the phone call from NBC to do this was fantastic. This is what I watched as a kid, what I played in, what I have analyzed for the last five years with ESPN. It's a great match, and hopefully I can do it justice.

What do you make of the scale of NBC's production? There are so many broadcasts, and you've got quite an ornate studio to work in.

It feels special. I think - and this is no detriment to ESPN, or soccer within that - it felt inconsequential. Here, of course, NBC has paid so much money for it. They're so focused on doing a good job for it, from the studio to the preparation, the back room staff, everyone that's been hired. It's just been incredibly impressive.

We feel relevant. It's great to see the resources, the attention to detail, the ads, the promos. I'm not used to seeing that with something I'm about to do.

NBC has a chance not only to present the Premier League, but to bring the sport of soccer as a whole to Americans in a way that has not been done before. You could become the culmination of soccer becoming truly relevant in this country. Does being advocates for the sport in general mean anything to you?

Of course it does. It's in our blood. We'd love to try and explain what it means, and Robbie [Earle] and I have tried to explain what it feels like to be at Old Trafford. Or what it feels like to get an injury in a big game. Hopefully we can bring that in.

On my street where I live, there's probably 30 to 40 houses. Maybe one or two might be interested in our sport. If I walk down the street and somebody says, "Oh, soccer! That was good," then that will be great.

And not just the Premier League. I'm very sensitive to MLS growing, and it is growing. I'm a big believer that it is going to be big in the not-too-distant future. If I can help towards that, and provide some insight to make it a bit more - not just entertaining, but also to get the public to see the nuances that we get excited about. That doesn't necessarily mean a goal. That would be our goal, I guess.

Was the transition from ESPN to NBC made easier for you by the fact that you were already living in this part of the country?

It was easy, because from where I live just outside Boston to Bristol was two hours. This is a little bit further. When I heard NBC had won the rights, I said, "Ooh, I heard they're in Stamford. That's drive-able."

Of course I totally respect where I came from at ESPN. The guys there groomed me, and I'm very grateful for that. But this opportunity is just phenomenal. I think we all knew what the company was going to put in, and this has lived up to it.

One of the things that you got a lot of praise for on the broadcast was going quiet during "You'll Never Walk Alone" before Liverpool-Stoke kicked off. People on TV are paid to talk, so what was it like to have that much silence while on air?

That moment is a particularly sacred, special moment. I've been there at Anfield and experienced it. I've walked down those steps and under the "This is Anfield" sign, and it was special.

I think all the broadcasters here know that's pretty special. It was suggested that we lay out, and it made total sense. It's a credit to the back room people here and the producer, Pierre Moossa, that they nudge us through those crucial moments and say "Let it breathe."

We've got all day to say our bits and try and educate, and be insightful and intelligent about it. But those moments - of course they're fantastic.

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