My route into the media
Last week, I went to talk to a bunch of university students about life - and possible careers - at the BBC. They supplied the prawn vol-au-vents (not sandwiches if you're reading this, Roy) and I provided the insight into a career in the media... at least that's what it said on the flyer.
The truth is that there are many doors that give you access to the broadcasting castle.
Some people start early and work their way up, some go crazy with the qualifications and then there are those who have a slow-burning passion and eventually realise that any other job just isn't good enough.
I was one of the middle lot.
I wrote a letter to Des Lynam when I was 11 years old. I complemented him on his excellent moustache and asked him how to get his job.
To my surprise, he wrote back within a few days (it might have been his secretary, but I am convinced it was the man himself). Des told me to get through school, do my A-levels, go on to study something like History or English at university rather than Media Studies and then do a post-graduate course in journalism and get a job in local radio.
I didn't really think much about Des's advice until I got my first job after university. I wrote back to him to say thanks and tell him to 'watch his back'.
Des Lynam gave me some early career advice
Within a few weeks, I was off to Key 103 in Manchester as a commentator and sports reporter, but my career was almost over before it had begun because of an elementary error of judgement. Let me explain.
In my third and final year in Sheffield, my then girlfriend - and now wife - was working in a bakery honing her monumental pastry skills. One Saturday afternoon, she was listening to Hallam FM when they announced that they were running a football commentary competition.
We met up that evening and Sarah gave me one of the brown paper bags from the shop with the details and address on it - and some mayonnaise!
After that week, I returned home for Easter weekend. In order to enter the competition, you needed to provide a tape with no more than two minutes of commentary on it.
I dug out my Dad's old tape machine. It predated The Ark and had an in-built microphone so, in order to record my dulcet tones, I had to press play and record and hold the machine up in front of my face.
That weekend I recorded Match of the Day and the following Monday I watched it again and selected the goal I was going to commentate on.
I had spent much of my life 'commentating' on all sorts of things but this was for real.
The first attempt was rubbish. I didn't feel that I gave it full gun and it sounded like I had called him 'Adam Shearer', so I rewound the tape and went for take two.
The second attempt was equally pants. I struggled to get my words out and when the crucial moment came I sounded like an eight-year-old girl. This was not going too well.
I needed an authentic football crowd. I called my Dad from the other room and while he was impersonating 58,000 Geordies in the background I finally managed to hit the spot. Within an hour, the tape was on its way to Sheffield.
About a month later, I was back in the north and I received a phone call from one of the sport producers at Hallam FM to say I had made the shortlist for the final.
Alan Shearer scored the goal which helped to launch my career
He asked if I could make sure I was near the phone on the following Saturday between 5 and 5.30. I obviously agreed, but it was only afterwards that I remembered our university had a big cup final to play on the same day - kick-off at 3pm.
I didn't expect to win and I was desperate to play in the final, so I asked my housemate, Ed, to sit near the phone and pretend to be me... just in case they called. I would be home in time anyway - as long as the match didn't go to extra-time and penalties.
Sadly, that is exactly what happened. I scored one of our five penalties and at about 5.15 the cup was ours. In truth - in the euphoria of cup victory - I totally forgot about the radio competition.
When I returned home clutching a little trophy, I was met by these words... "You are in big trouble, you goon!" - he was right. The radio station had called - I had won.
That was the good news. The bad news was that after playing my commentary clip they then spoke to my housemate.
They were understandably not too happy that the cockney commentator sounded totally different to the broad Yorkshireman claiming to be him on the phone.
They had threatened to take away the prize, so I called them straight away, explained the situation and eventually they said I could still have the work experience.
That was my route in, but, like I said, there are many different ways to start out and I always feel that if you are good enough - and you work hard at getting better - you will get there.
We had a camera for a few hours on Friday afternoon, so I was going to film the next instalment of 'Football Focus: Behind the Scenes' in the office.
The slight flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan was that no-one was in the office because they were all busy elsewhere. I'll have to do that at some stage in the future.
Instead, I thought I'd give you a little tour of the edit suites where much of the Focus magic comes from.
Assistant producers spend hours in there on a Thursday and Friday perfecting and tweaking their pieces for the programme. Hopefully this will shed some light on the way it all comes together.
See you soon, comrades.