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Last night at the age of 28 I achieved my #1 lifelong ambition – here’s the story

For those of you who read this who have known me for many years you’ll know what my lifelong ambition was. Those who haven’t known me for that long probably won’t know. Some might think it’s to become an MP and maybe in time Prime Minister. That isn’t it. Some might think it’s to find a partner and live happily ever after. No it’s not that. Some might think it was to become a professional sportsman. Nah I’m afraid from a young age my minor disability pretty much put pay to that. Some might think that that it is to become a published fiction author. Whilst that is an ambition it has never been the most important goal of mine.

My number one ambition from a very young age was to become a sports commentator – not for TV – but for radio. I had no ambitions to call an England World Cup game for the BBC (although heck if happened I wouldn’t exactly be complaining) but it was to call a football game live on radio. It didn’t matter if it was a small community station or a large national network. The act of calling a live game was what I wanted to do.

Well last night – Tuesday 9 August 2011 – I achieved my main life ambition. I co-commentated on Southend United v Leyton Orient live for Southend Hospital Radio and the blind inside in Roots Hall. I had been asked before but turned it down as I wanted to wait until it was right and I could get into a rhythm. This off season I was asked if I’d like to takeover the position on a semi-permanent basis and I agreed and that semi will be withdrawn once the incumbent finally moves away which is what he is looking to do. So for this season it looks as though I’ll be doing the majority of evening games with a few Saturday’s thrown in as and when.

I must admit that I thought I’d be a lot more nervous than I was. This was my main life goal I was about to achieve and I just got on with it. I met my co-commentator briefly last Wednesday and last night was the first time we had a real conversation. Yet we gelled extremely quickly and we had a very simple system. David was the play-by-play guy and I was the analyst. I didn’t want to talk over him so I used the technique I know Murray Walker and Martin Brundle used when they first worked together – if I had something I wanted to say I’d just touch his arm and he’d finish up what he was saying and allow me to speak. He’d also come to me at various moments during play to summerise what that attack had gone etc…

The broadcast box at the back of the Directors Box had BBC Essex, another station, Sky Sports News and us. Therefore we were sat next to Tony Colliver who was doing the game for the Gillette Soccer Special. That was pretty cool. The most bizarre thing is you had three channels doing live commentary and you can hear them all very clearly so you have to zone out of everything around you and just tune into your broadcast partners voice. BBC Essex were extremely lively (and was David) so it was probably good that were at opposite ends of the commentary box!

As for the game itself well it went to Extra Time & Penalties. I just had a feeling that it would. First game and we were made to work overtime. We threw back to the studio at half-time but from the start of the second half until the penalty shoot-out was over it was all us. So the best part of two hours non-stop. I also did play-by-play briefly a couple of times whilst David was helping Tony out with a couple of things. I remember once finishing my sentence and realising David was busy talking to Tony so had to carry on. The call of the penalty shoot-out was terrific as I was talking most of the time between each spot kick so I could get into a flow and a half.

I know some of say ‘pfft it’s only hospital radio and for the blind so who cares’ but I’d reply that the people listening in the hospital and the blind at the ground care. I’m 28 now and my aspirations in the media industry are pretty much in the rear view mirror. I do radio for fun and not for a career. In my time I’ve been the editor of the most popular two sections of one of the top ten football sites out there at the time, been a Sports Editor of a network of 47 websites, been featured in The Times and the Wall Street Journal and for a couple of years provided snapshot match reports for The Observer. I’ve been interviewed live in the Sky News studio (although I still have never watched it back – but it is on YouTube if you fancy watching it – just search for my name and it will come up) and read the news on Local Radio and been interviewed for many national radio stations. So I have done a fair bit but that is mostly in my past I think. If something comes up that changes that then so be it but I’m happy enough just to do it for fun and my career isn’t exactly doing awfully in another profession and I’m not sitting on the breadline.

I must admit that I do think that doing this (and other Hospital Radio stuff) makes me feel like I’m doing something for the community and giving something back. I’m a relatively selfish person. I live alone and work from home but I am happy to give my time and energies to causes that I feel are worthwhile. As someone else said last week at the radio whilst I was doing my Wednesday show ‘if only one person every few weeks rings up and says that you’ve really made their stay in hospital more bearable then we are doing ok’. You don’t want to get patted on the back every day or every week but just so you know that people are helped by what you do every so often then that is all that matters and it makes the whole process more than worthwhile.

I don’t know when my next game is but it won’t be far away. David who has been doing it for yonks said he felt it came across really well and I’ll speak with the Programme Controller tonight to see what he thought about how it came across (he was presenting from the studio end). I’m my own worst critic as anyone who knows me well will attest but even I thought it sounded very good and it just worked extremely well. If I didn’t think I was doing it justice then I’d say so and not do it any more but that was good. I’m sure of it.

One thing I need to write as I’m a name-dropper. Just before I left last night I got a good luck message from pop star Gabriella Cilmi. I’m sorry but that is totally awesome. Thank you to her and to all the other good luck messages I got on Twitter, Facebook, E-mail and via text. They were all very much appreciated.

So that is my main life ambition done. Let’s look at the opening paragraph again and see what I can work on next. Let me see…

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Published inHospital Radio

One Comment

  1. Nice one Neil. You’re a natural commentator. Much more to come!

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