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Looking forward to Sports Personality of the Year

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Jake Humphrey | 14:27 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I distinctly remember David Coulthard saying, "Have a good winter off, son", as we boarded our plane home after the final grand prix of the year in Abu Dhabi. You'd have thought that after 15 years in F1, David would know by now that there is no such thing as a 'winter off' in a sport as ceaseless as this.

Driver moves aplenty, Renault calling emergency meetings to discuss their future, Toyota's sad but not wholly surprising departure from the sport. And talking of surprises, who really expected Jenson Button to make the move to McLaren after both he and Brawn GP claimed it was 99.9% likely they'd remain together just weeks earlier?

I was actually with Jenson on the day his dramatic move was announced.

The two of us were in a boardroom at Brawn's Brackley base as I was interviewing him for Sports Personality of the Year (more on that later).

With a delicious irony to which JB would have been totally oblivious at the time, he was actually describing his emotions the very moment he crossed the line in Brazil as my phone buzzed. I looked down to see the simple message "Jenson announced at McLaren". If that wasn't surreal enough, he disappeared off a few moments later to thank the factory staff for all they'd done for him that year... Mmm, I'm guessing their phones were buzzing moments before as well!

Lewis Hamilton's new playmate at the McLaren Technology Centre is certainly the biggest news of the off-season so far but I suspect the most welcome was this week's fantastic announcement that, finally, the British Grand Prix has been saved and Silverstone is once more the home of the race.

I was fielding question after question every day on my Twitter account about what the 'inside news' on the negotiations was, and while we all hoped for the best, everyone I spoke to felt genuinely in the dark as to the specific details.

However, 17 years seems to be a contract duration that gives Silverstone the security it needs to do the work to the circuit we'd all like to see. In fact, I think it works for all concerned, as I know the teams were very pro-British GP, and let's remember F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is a motorsport fan at heart, too, and certainly realises the importance of having a race on his home soil.

I look forward to seeing lots of F1 fans over the race weekend, and I suspect I'll see a few more in Sheffield in just a few days' time when the Sports Personality of the Year juggernaught rolls into the city.

For years Sports Personality was a pre-Christmas tradition in the Humphrey household. Dad Rex would hold court on the sofa, enjoying just a glass of strong cider with Mum Liz, while us kids were allowed to stay up a little later to see the sporting year reviewed - and we loved it.

That was back in the early 1980s. My sister was delighted when ice dancers Torvill and Dean did the business in 1984, and I remember seeing Nigel Mansell winning his first trophy in 1986 after finishing second in that year's F1 championship.

What was incredible was that Sports Personality always seemed to remain relevant to me.

I remember Des Lynam coming into his own as the show moved away from just being a straight awards show to also offering an entertainment element, which I always enjoyed. Sportsman of the Century being given to Muhammad Ali and Pele's lifetime achievement award just four years ago are two more recent stand-out memories of a programme that's always been part of my life.


So, it was against this backdrop that I almost fell of my chair when my bosses asked if I'd like to walk in the footsteps of Des, Frank Bough, David Coleman and Steve Rider. What I didn't consider was that the sheer scale of this show can be quite daunting. A roaring V8 engine and a busy pit lane has nothing on this.

I remember Sue Barker telling me that I'd start off being delighted by such an opportunity, but that those feelings would quickly give way to abject fear. How right she was.

Last year, Sue, Gary Lineker and I were pacing about in the backstage corridor as the famous theme tune rang around Liverpool's Echo Arena. I was just wondering how someone who won the French Open and a former international footballer could possibly be nervous about the big crowd. My previous experience of such an audience was performing 'Jake The Peg' at the Hillside Primary School Talent contest in 1988!

That was the year Steve Davis pipped Adrian Moorhouse to the title and this year looks to be as hard to call as ever.

Three years ago the nation thought Darren Clarke would win it, but Zara Phillips took the crown. Twelve months later Joe Calzaghe upset the odds, and last year I remember everyone telling me Lewis Hamilton was the winner - but people hadn't reckoned on the power of the Olympic stars, particularly Sir Chris Hoy, who has been an excellent ambassador for the award.

So how do you split world champions Jenson Button, Tom Daley, Jessica Ennis, Phillips Idowu and Beth Tweddle? Does Ryan Giggs deserve it for such a stunning year on the football pitch? How about the fact we've once more got a heavyweight champion of the world in the shape of our very own David 'versus Goliath' Haye? Then there's cycling star Mark Cavendish, Ashes winning England cricket captain Andrew Strauss, and world tennis number four Andy Murray.

Thankfully, I only have two hours of live TV in an 11,000-seat arena to worry about, not the much more daunting challenge of picking a winner!

SPOTY595.jpgOlympic cycling champion Chris Hoy beat Lewis Hamilton and Rebecca Adlington to last year's award

Talking of the arena, once again we've escaped the confines of Television Centre and I'll be on the train to Sheffield on Friday morning as Sports Personality arrives in a sporting city that is well deserving of hosting such a prestigious evening. In fact, we're live at the Sheffield Arena, home of the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team. Let's hope the atmosphere doesn't heat the arena up too much as I don't want to swim to where Beth Tweddle is sitting!

And Mum and Dad? Well once more I get to watch the show in their company as they're traveling from Norfolk to see their boy in action. I'll just have to politely let them know that sitting in their finery with a glass of scrumpy really isn't the right look!

P.S. I'll be posting regular updates and sneaky backstage photos via my Twitter account during the build-up to the big night. Follow me at


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm a big F1 fan and would love to see Jenson win it (along with everything else this week it seems) but there would be something great seeing someone like Jessica Ennis win it. She has had a great year and a truly great personality.

    Sports Personality is a truly great event for this country (do any other country's have such a huge event celebrating it's sports stars like this?). Good Luck Jake!

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done Jake, great coverage of the F1 this year, so you fully deserve a shot at the big time! Bring on 2010!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Fascinating insight to such a great British sporting occasion and done in your own easy to read style while still packed full of interesting facts and historical references, a great read, well done.

    Don't under estimate your pedigree, performing 'Jake The Peg' at the Hillside Primary School Talent contest in 1988, at the age of 10, is to be commended and ranks second only to the Malcolm renditions at Christmas Lunch.

    Have a great evening on Sunday Jake, good luck and well done to everyone involved and congratulations to all the eventual winners.

    Finally a suggestion for next year, we move the bingo and ITV move the X Factor final to another weekend!! Role on F1 2010.

  • Comment number 4.

    After your superb job on the F1 coverage this year, I have no doubt you'll do a brilliant job of presenting SPOTY :-) Hope your Mum and Dad have a good time watching you! Looking forward to the behind-the-scenes twitpics ;-)

    I don't suppose the Beeb could be persuaded to pop some (or all!) of the 2009 races on iPlayer, or on the site, could they? Would love to re-watch them during the off season :-)

    It's brilliant news about the British GP, and I'm thrilled to already have my tickets, and to be taking my Dad to his first GP after years of watching it on the TV. Can it the 2010 season start now, please?!

  • Comment number 5.

    I actually think Jenson winning would be a bigger surprise than if he loses, especially after three years of upsets. He earned his title but the fact still remains that he did so on the grounds of a great start and a bit of luck during a poor patch that lasted most of the rest of the season. That shouldn't matter, but seeing as Hamilton was consistently getting on podiums both last year and the years before and failed to win the award on either occasion, the only thing that makes me think this could be different is that Jenson did at least win more races than anyone else.

    My money's on David Haye purely because his achievement was the most recent of the lot, but I hope Andy Murray finally makes the top three as it was ridiculous that he wasn't there last year (though fair enough, it was Olympic year).

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm sure you'll do great on the night Jake, I've being enjoying your stint on Final Score too!

  • Comment number 7.

    Well Jake, back to the awards show in which many people critised you last year when you nabbed the F1 Job a few weeks before and then did a really great Job of the F1 alongside DC and EJ
    I hate people who critise those that they dont know personally, you have shwon you have a great personality, a Quality Presenter and a great Anchor of Sports.
    Im sure you wont get nervous like last year, you have the experience of the Studio and director shouting in your ear telling you to get onto it and Gary and Sue have the more experience I suppose!

    Lets hope for a JB Win, would cap off a brilliant year of F1, one that the BBC excelled that.

  • Comment number 8.

    Jenson gets my vote, great story and he and the team worked really hard for the WDC and the constructors.

    I will look forward to the show.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ryan Giggs should win it. He is the most decorated footballer ever. He has just played his best ever season and is still going strong at 36. As much as I applaud Jensen and the rest of the top 10, this really is a special achievement and deserves to be recognised with this special award. For his dedication and for the great example he sets he is way ahead of the rest of the field.

  • Comment number 10.

    Jake, brilliant coverage of the F1 this season, was entertaining to watch, both for the debates you sparked between DC and EJ, and also EJ's fashion did you put up with that?

    In terms of who should win the SPOTY, I agree with BulletMonkey in that Lewis Hamilton won the F1 championship in only his second season and was on the podium almost every race and still didn't win SPOTY. Jenson Button has been in F1 for 9 Seasons and granted, for 7 of those seasons he didn't have the car to win the championship (The 2 seasons i haven't quoted are his 3rd place championship for BAR a few years ago and his most recent Win with Brawn). But even the season that he won the championship, he won the first 6 of 7 races and then was extremely quiet, taking points here and there, I think that if Sebastian Vettel didn't have so many engine problems then he would have won the title this year!

    Winner of SPOTY should be Ryan Giggs, more for what he has done since he came into the premiership, only player to score in every single premiership season, over 800 appearences, 100 goals in the premiership, helped Man Utd to numerous FA Cup, Carling Cup and Premiership Titles, not to mention 2 Champions League trophies. Last season he was instrumental in Man Utd retaining the Premiership Trophy and seems to be getting better with age as so far this season he has been impressive as well!

    Who do you think should win Jake? I know you may not be able to say as your hosting, but would be interesting to get your insight into who most deserves the SPOTY award.

  • Comment number 11.

    jenson will win ive got him at 1/100

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    "11. At 09:22am on 09 Dec 2009, ben hakes wrote:
    jenson will win ive got him at 1/100"

    Those are some awful odds, I think you've been had!

    I don't reckon Button will win it, the voters don't seem to care much for motorsports.

    I do think Brawn should be handed team of the year though, what a story. No doubt it will go to England's cricketers though having struggled to win a 50/50 biannual 'tournament'.

  • Comment number 14.

    "13. 11.02am on 09 dec 2009, pegsinho wrote:
    I do think Brawn should be handed team of the year though, what a story"

    Couldn't agree more! This story is a 'fairytale story!' Its by far one of the best stories of the year, I don't think the ashes team should get it (although it was an amazing success). Brawn came from having no team, no sponsors and no winning the Drivers title and the Constructors title by a massive margin! Hats off to the team, especially Ross Brawn who in my opinion is a GENIUS!

  • Comment number 15.

    Ok I dont want to devalue the fantastic achievments of some great sports people this year, however surely for the fairytale story, and the fantastic achievements it has to be Jenson for spoty, and Brawn GP for team of the year! Sorry, to have f1 take over the show but this is an amazing story. Shame not to see any of the Lions team up for the award this year, lets hope Gech wins coach of the year.


  • Comment number 16.

    Jake, Can you try to fit in a Canaries mention on Sunday? Cheers and best of luck for Sunday

  • Comment number 17.

    It would be as much of a travesty if Ryan Giggs won this year than when Zara Phillips won. Rooney, Ronaldo and Ferdinand played better for Man Utd last year. He's played well this year, but the rest of the people on that list are at the pinnacle of their sport. Giggs is not. If this was the case with Ryan Giggs, why wasn't he voted European footballer of the Year or even Fifa world player of the year. Any vote for Ryan Giggs is a vote for a good player, playing consistently over a number of years and would be based on sentimentality and not their achievements in 2009.

    Personally, I think Brawn should get team of the year - I agree with many of the other posts here. With regards to the award for SPOTY itself, anyone but Giggs would be a worthy winner.

  • Comment number 18.

    jenson will win it without fail he hasnt just won one race he was consistant over 17 races people like david hayne just walked around punch some big lazy bloke for 20 minutes not only that hes also a nice bloke and deserves to win it

  • Comment number 19.

    SPOTY is a joke and sums up the BBC. How can you ignore some of the great achievements by some British sports men and women this year is beyond me.

    It seems unless in most cases the sport is either an elite sport or shown on BBC (lets face it not many sports are shown live on BBC)then they are not interested for SPOTY.

    Good luck with your program and crowning another joke of a winner this year

  • Comment number 20.

    I whole-heartedly disagree DANINPBORO, you're accusing the BBC of ignorance yet your post is full of it.

    Anyway, the SPOTY Awards is always good TV imo and highlights a year of sporting achievement in every field! Jake has done a superb job of presenting the F1 coverage and come the GP in Abu Dhabi, you could be forgiven for thinking he'd been doing this sort of thing for decades - so hats off to you mate, you've become a great presenter already in my eyes.

    As for who deserves to win SPOTY.. well, all of the top 10 possibly. It would be unfair to argue against each of them, as they have all excelled in 2009 and given Britain success in a lot of sporting areas. For me, the winner has to be Jenson Button - he's given us months and months of excitement, every weekend was an edge of your seat GP in terms of anticipation and on/off track happenings. He surely has to win this award.

    BrawnGP for team of the year aswell, I hope to christ it's not the Cricket team!

  • Comment number 21.

    SPOTY shows what's wrong with sport in Britain.
    Some are calling for Button to win, why, as he's proven this year it's the car and team behind it, not the driver that wins in F1.
    Then there's Murray, well the same goes for him as for all golfers, come back when you've won a major.
    Giggs, you're having a laugh, a legendary player but what exactly has he done THIS YEAR that see him in the top 10?
    Strauss, yes a great player and a very good year, but isn't his nomination just because he was an Ashes winning captain?
    Cavendish is a top sprinter who should have won the green jersey in La Tour, but didn't, so again, why the nomination?

    Clearly the only viable contenders are those who become world champions and in sports where it is all their own work ie without mechanical help.
    So it should be between Daly, the youngest ever world champion diver,
    Tweddle, Britains only ever European and World gymnastics champion, Ennis, for destroying the field to win a world title, Haye for showing talent can overcome any opponent when he became heavyweight champion, or Idowu, for finally winning a world title after being so close so often.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well done, Jakey boy. Think of it as a well deserved reward for the amazing job you did with your first stab at anchoring coverage of a major sporting season. You (DC and Eddie) have been a breath of fresh air!

  • Comment number 23.

    I am far from ignorant, perhaps look at your response d4mo85 and praise of the mainstream is just the ignorance these awards promote.

    Where is Tony McCoy, Chrissie Wellington, Phil Taylor, many of our other cyclists, sailors, Daniel Keatings and Lee Westwood?

    These are just a few of the many who have done amazing and yet they are not there.

    SPOTY used to be about giving everyone a shot at the award. Now realistically its between Murray and Button and neither deserves it.

  • Comment number 24.

    Who do you think's going to win X Factor, Jake?

  • Comment number 25.

    Good luck for Sunday Jake. That picture of you, Gary and Sue has started to go up on advertising boards around Sheffield City Centre. I'm looking forward to being in the audience on Sunday night.

    I'll also be at your Fighting Talk debut on Saturday morning. Don't want to make you nervous, but do you know what you've let yourself in for?

  • Comment number 26.

    Irrespective of whether Jenson Button wins SPOTY or not there is always a BBC compilation of their achievements with snippets from others in their sport etc. I am not sure whether anyone else has noticed it, but Jenson does have a slight nervous “tic” when interviewed and that is phrase “budum” an interjection presumably meaning “but I’m pausing to consider what I say next”. However, I wondered whether the sound boffins at the Beeb could get enough sound bites of Jenson saying “budum” and set it to the theme from the Pink Panther movie for screening at SPOTY? Show of hands from all those in favour please??

  • Comment number 27.


    Good Luck Jake!
    But why is it that people outside the UK cannot vote????

    Have a great show.


  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Jake
    I for one am looking forward to seeing you back on screen regularly and can't quite wait. For me the you, David, Eddie combination was a winner!
    Wondered if I could ask a wee favour to make a good day for a special boy absolutely fantastic?
    I shall be taking my eldest nephew Ryan (14) to the British (and his 1st) Grand Prix weekend next year and we would love to find a way to meet the trio 'live'. I could tell you about lots of reasons why Ryan from Edinburgh really deserves this chance but teenage boys don’t like that so I’ll respect it! Thanks

  • Comment number 30.

    This year there is no refuelling, so we loose one of the wild cards. In 2010 we continue to have to use both compounds of tyre. Could we consider instead of giving teams soft and supersoft, or hard and medium, instead they choose two compounds. Then one team could be on Soft and supersoft and another in the same race could be on supersoft and hard. It would throw in a wild card.

    A way to save costs would be to cut down on travel. Next years calandar away from europe bounces from one side of the world to the other. If we started east and continue west it would save on fuel and time getting to each race.

  • Comment number 31.

    Really looking forward to F1 2010, I have a feeling it's going to top last year for excitement and entertainment! The only thing left to find out is when are you back doing the blog Jake??? We're all missing you!!

    Have a good year fella!

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry Jake but you are not the right person to present F1 on BBC. The first part of this blog is just one of many reasons. Who do you think you are to " correct " David Coulthard who as you say has been in F1 for 15 years whereas you have been involved for 15 minutes ? I have just seen a picture of you in today's Metro newspaper with your foot on one of Ayrton Senna's cars !!! Would you have put your foot on Bobby Moore's 1966 World Cup football shirt ? Would you have done the same to Sir Ian Botham's 1981 Ashes cricket bat ? Of course not. You have no idea about the history of F1. I try to miss your part of the programme and only turn on the tv in time to see Martin Brundle's grid walk. He is amazing and it was a masterstroke by the BBC to ensure that he stayed in the commentary box when they took over F1. Martin Brundle is one of the main reasons I still watch F1. I have nothing against you personally, however you spoil my enjoyment of F1, a sport I have been following since 1978.

  • Comment number 33.

    Jake what is the point of having a blog when you don't use it.

    Wake up fella the season's started!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Jake, while we are all waiting for the season to start, any chance the beeb could sort out the 2010 F1 iCal for us?

  • Comment number 35.

    Thought this might be of interest - just read a great interview with BBC’s reporter Jacqui Oatley (she was the first woman to commentate on match of the day) here:

    I thoroughly recommend it!


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