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‘Studying at Sunderland ranks high among best decisions of my life’

A Sunderland graduate has landed his big TV break reporting on England’s Test cricket series in the West Indies – fulfilling a life-long sports presenting dream.

Joel Manning has been watching and playing cricket since he was a schoolboy. His passion for the game led him to travel 7,000 miles from his home in Barbados to Wearside and take up an MA in Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland.

Less than two years after graduating, Joel is now a cricket reporter for BT Sport, currently covering the West Indies vs England Test series back home in the Caribbean alongside pundits and legends of the sport such as David Gower.

The role came on the back of working as the Digital Insider (digital presenter) for the ICC (International Cricket Council) at the U19 Cricket World Cup in January this year.

The 29-year-old said: “This is pretty much a dream come true for me, to be working alongside some of the biggest names in cricket, presenting and production.

“My role over this Test series as a presenter is to bring the vibes and energy of the Caribbean to the live coverage. Many individuals back in the UK are unable to travel down and be here in person so my job is to help them experience as best I can what is happening at each venue.

“The series started in Antigua, then to Barbados and now finishes in Grenada. My day-to-day activities so far have included player interviews during the Tests, daily features on anything interesting at the venues, and live chats with Mark Butcher and David Gower.”

Senior Lecturer in Sports Journalism, Neil Farrington, who taught Joel during his time at Sunderland, said: ”It’s wonderful – but not a surprise – to see Joel having made such progress in his career so quickly.

“His knowledge of cricket is only matched by his love of the game, and we saw at first-hand the instinctive broadcasting skills that he has.

“But that’s not to say Joel did not work very hard to make the most of the opportunities that our Masters programme offered – particularly work placement opportunities.

“His segments during the first Test in Antigua were certainly more entertaining than the cricket on show, and we all look forward to seeing much more of him on our screens.”

Joel, a popular public speaker and event host in Barbados, had long wanted to break into the field of TV sports presenting. But opportunities in his hometown, Saint Michael, were limited.

Joel said: “I got invited to go to Jamaica to do a screen test for a sports presenter TV role. Although I made the shortlist, I didn’t get the job. But somebody saw my audition and gave me a lot of positive feedback, suggesting I should study sports journalism in the UK.”

Joel found out about the University of Sunderland after carrying out some research into the sports programme on offer. He arrived in September 2019 and admits the temperature took some getting used to.

However, he added: “I thoroughly enjoyed the programme thanks to my lecturers.  They made me feel welcome even before I journeyed from Barbados to Sunderland.

“The programme opened my eyes to all of the possible careers that can come from the Sports Journalism degree. It was also a very hands-on, practical course, one which allowed me to hone my skills in reporting, how to frame questions and understanding various media environments.

“There were definitely several highlights; the first one being the trip that we took to Germany which allowed me to see Dortmund football stadium.  Another highlight was my lecturers going above and beyond to connect me with various media professionals in the industry and I cannot thank them enough for it!”

So, what is Joel’s advice to students thinking about studying at the University of Sunderland?

“My advice would be to sign up, sort your accommodation and enjoy!

“As a university, Sunderland has a lot to offer, and the lecturers are invested in your development beyond just the academics.

“Studying at Sunderland ranks high amongst some of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’d recommend the experience to anyone.”

On what he learned about himself during his academic journey, Joel says: “I can adapt to major change better than I think. The move to Sunderland climate-wise was quite a different one coming from Barbados but as time went on with the help of the friends I met at Sunderland and the lecturers I had, I was able to adapt.”