BLOG: From the bedroom to Bescot Stadium
Sitting in a cold, cramped press box in the West Midlands, neck hunched and fingers numbed from the chill in the air, clasping onto a lip mic for dear life as if without it I’d fall through the flimsy, plastic seat beneath me… This wasn’t exactly the picture of football commentary I’d dreamt up when describing scenes of England glory on Fifa: Road to the World Cup ’98 for the Nintendo 64. However, there’d be no time for trading places last Saturday as Mark Chapman uttered the words “Here’s Ore Oduba” for the first time on 5 Live Sport.
Sixteen years on from the ‘Bedroom Stadium’ I was reporting from Bescot, home of Walsall, where league leaders Brentford were held to a 1-all draw, ending their record 8-match winning run in League 1. Growing up, I may have aspired to run out in front of the 10,000 watching supporters… Instead, after 90 minutes I’d completed my debuts on two of the BBC’s flagship football programmes – 5 Live Sport and Final Score – broadcasting to several hundred thousand people.
On what was quite an intimidating new venture, I couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming club and I thank everybody at Walsall for putting me at ease. Football reporting, I gather, is a rather solitary practice – in the lower leagues you tend to travel alone and you’re the sole person responsible for getting yourself set up and on-air – so to have had everything I needed in place (and working!) was a real help.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the past weeks and months to have received the best advice and training from some of the best broadcasters in the business. Before Everton vs Stoke at Goodison Park, I momentarily unnerved John Murray in telling him I once had him on that same bedroom wall – no Britney Spears posters, instead a shrine of newspaper cuttings featuring my favourite radio and TV commentators! To be amongst them on a Saturday afternoon, joining in as they bring football to life was an incredible feeling. Easily a career highlight.