Behind the Camera: Simon Barclay

A freelance sports photographer based in South Tyneside, Simon Barclay has covered games at a growing number of local non-league football grounds including Gateshead, Hebburn Town, South Shields and Boldon CA. ¡Viva Northern League! spoke to Simon about how he got started in sports photography and his plans for the coming season.

How did you first get into photographing local football?

When my son Joe started playing football about six years ago I completed my FA Level 1 Certificate in Coaching and coached the team (Nissan Inter Under-6) for one season. They were a great bunch of kids. My son still plays there and from the original nine that we had in the squad, eight have gone on to playing 11-a-side in the Russell Foster league. At the time, I had to give coaching up due to work commitments but I still wanted to put something back into the team. I’ve always had cameras – my better half would say too many! – so I decided to take some pictures at some of the games and it progressed from there.

You’ve taken photos at several local non-league teams including Gateshead, Hebburn Town, Jarrow Roofing and Whickham. Are any grounds or teams a particular favourite of yours?

I always enjoy going to Gateshead as they are a pro team who sometimes get decent sized crowds which always adds to the atmosphere. The downside to Gateshead is the crowd are so far away from the pitch and much of the ground is normally empty. I’m looking forward to them getting their new stadium built. One of the things I enjoy most about photographing football is being so close to the action, which is where grounds like Hebburn and Jarrow are really good and not just for photographers but also for the fans who can be just a metre from the pitch.

You’ve spent a lot of time at Gateshead and Hebburn Town in particular. How much co-operation do you get from the individual clubs?

I’ve got to say that the co-operation from all the clubs I’ve been to has always been excellent. Both Jarrow and Hebburn have provided me with cups of coffee at half time, which is especially helpful during the winter months.

Talking of the winter months, are there any downsides to the job?

The cost of photography kit. The cameras and lenses are hugely expensive and I’m not using anything nearly as good as the full time professionals use. Other than that, no. I’m quite lucky in that I can look back at a match as I process the images in the hours afterwards, remember what happened in the game and view it in detail.

So far, you’ve mainly taken photos of games in Gateshead or South Tyneside. Any plans to venture further afield?

I’m hoping to get to some of Gateshead’s away fixtures this season so venturing outside of the local area is something I expect to happen as a natural progression.

I think my favourite photos are the somersault celebrations from South Shields United’s cup final against Stocksfield, which turned out to be one of United’s last ever games. Are there any shots you’re particulary proud of?

The thing about the cartwheel picture is that I actually missed the best bits of it. I was taken completely by surprise – it’s certainly by far the best goal celebration I’ve seen while taking photos. My favourite is Adam Rundle playing for Gateshead against Rushden & Diamonds. I also like the shot of Sammy Ameobi from the Newcastle vs Gateshead friendly – you can almost work out what he’s thinking – and the Hebburn Reyrolle celebrations after one of their cup finals this year. I’m working on a new version of the website which will help showcase my favourite images.

You can see more of Simon’s photographs on his website, SB Sports Photos, or follow him on twitter here.

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