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Hotels, earplugs and a freezing gantry

Steve Wilson | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sometimes I dread meeting people for the first time and having that inevitable "what do you do for a living?" conversation.

Compared to nurses, firemen and teachers, the job of football commentator sounds pretty dumb. Hardly a proper occupation for a grown-up, I think you'll agree.

Generally, just as I am struggling to convey how tough it is being sent to watch football every weekend, I get asked what I do during the week or during the summer.

Given the answer is "more football", I then have to give up and admit that it is pretty much a dream job.

Yes, it's true that there are very few downsides that I can think of to being on Match of the Day, but working every Christmas is one of them. Actually it's not so much the working as the travelling and the nights in hotels.

I remember feeling particularly sorry for myself one New Year's Eve several years ago. Fate had dealt me a cruel hand with an early kick-off on New Year's Day a long, long way from home - Middlesbrough to be exact.

Whilst all the colleagues I was due to work with lived near enough to travel to the ground on the morning of the game, I live near the south coast and had to go the day before.

As Teesside went crazy with excitement when midnight struck, I was going stir-crazy in my hotel room on my own.

You can imagine how delighted I was when about 200 happy revellers pitched up in the room next to mine at three in the morning intent on keeping the party going. Thank God for earplugs.

There is nothing more likely to earn you a puzzled stare than turning up in a business suit for a hotel breakfast for one at half past seven on the morning of New Year's Day.

Some years prior to that lonely Hogmanay, I had spent Christmas Day in the flat I lived in at the time with only the friend of a friend and a Bernard Matthews turkey roast for company.

All my flat-mates had returned to the bosom of their families, but I had to stay in London because Leyton Orient's crunch match on Boxing Day had my name on it.

At least that year I could enjoy a beer with the dinner we cobbled together. I recall driving back to London from my in-laws' house one Christmas night having foregone even the chocolate liqueurs whilst my wife and kids stayed behind.

It was only on the way home that I realised my car had very little petrol in it and that the garage proprietors of Sussex had strangely decided not to stay open on Christmas night just for me. It was a long and nerve-shredding journey.

Having no fixtures this New Year will certainly feel strange, but not as strange as not having an FA Cup third round tie to commentate on over the first weekend in January.

The loss of the contract for the Cup is still extremely keenly felt in the BBC's football department.

Being perched on a scaffolding gantry, eyes watering in the face of a freezing wind watching a would-be giant-killer in action is frankly my idea of a fantastic day. Whatever I do instead that weekend it won't be the same.

In the meantime, I hope you have had a great Christmas and wish you and your team luck in 2009.


  • Comment number 1.

    The River Tees runs through Teesside not the River Tee. Hence the correct spelling of Teesside, Steve.

  • Comment number 2.

    Shame really that the BBC lost out to ITV in regards to the rights for the cup. Thats bad enough. It will be dreadful when we lose the Premiership rights to them as well.

    Drowned down to our throats with silly diabolical commercials every 2 minutes.

  • Comment number 3.

    There are two schools of thought that spring to mind here Steve.

    1. The die hard football fan. What could possibly be better than watching any football match, regardless of the day that it falls on? Most footie fans would give their right arm to do your job.

    2. The football calendar has never been kind to those actually involved. I sympathise with you for all those Christmas mornings that you have been forced to miss with your family and the moderate celebrations at the dawn of a new year.

    Thinking about your New Year's Day in 'Boro', You should have phoned up Robbo Robson and reminded him of the favour he surely owes you.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ali_Don - At least we'll have Andy Townsend's tactics truck to soften the blow :(

    I do feel for you Steve, as much as you're going to get grief for complaining about doing a dream job. It could be worse though, you could have had Lawro as your pundit and had to spend the nights with him... hell on Earth!

  • Comment number 5.

    Yep, apologies for that. Now corrected.

  • Comment number 6.

    its TEESSIDE steve, good research

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice insight into the behind the scenes of a BBC football commentator.Happy new year to you Steve.

  • Comment number 8.

    Steve, please spare a moment for our Sovereign, Her Majesty The Queen.

    That poor woman hasn't had a Christmas Day off for over fifty years!

  • Comment number 9.

    decent blog!

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog Steve.

    "Being perched on a scaffolding gantry, eyes watering in the face of a freezing wind watching a would-be giant-killer in action is frankly my idea of a fantastic day."

    When I read that, I cast my mind back to November 2005 when you were commentator on my boys Chasetown FC when we took on Oldham.

    Will never forget watching back the match and your delight at Nicky Harrison's goal (I don't care that the FA later said it was a Chris Day own goal...)


  • Comment number 11.

    Apologies to all Teessiders for the dodgy spelling !

  • Comment number 12.

    You must like your family. I would love to spend every Christmas away from home. Forced fun - nothing worse!

  • Comment number 13.

    Its a shame the BBC lost the FA Cup contract to ITV as the FA Cup games or highlights are now no longer shown up here in Scotland on STV.

  • Comment number 14.

    Oh how my heart bleeds!

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm working Hogmany and New Years Day, bet you're better paid than me though....

  • Comment number 16.

    Hard life want to swap for being a postie ....oh well worth a try :p What i would like to know is which team does which commentator support we know some but not all.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yes, a pity the BBC lost the F.A. Cup to ITV and will lose the Premier League highlights as well.

    With just a bit of co-operation between the BBC and ITV they could have taken on Murdoch and beat him years ago, but they continued to bid against each other for the scraps off Sky's table, and let the satellite monster hold the English football loving public to ransom.

    They couldn't even manage to get the last package of live matches withheld from BSKYB and Setanta (who were they?) bought them.

    It appears the BBC and ITV were so used to battling each other for top-dogs they couldn't move with the times and now are second-raters in the TV world.

    The real losers are the fans who have been let down by the myopic bosses at the BBC and ITV, who can't afford to go to games or afford the rip-off subscriptions required for SKY.

  • Comment number 18.

    Good blog Steve

    Definately a shame that the BBC lost the rights tot the FA cup. I always loved watching some team I never heard about play one of the big English teams on rainy, cold Saturdays in January. Since I live in Holland, and the BBC is the only English TV channel over here, that time is over.

    P.S. I couldnt help noticing that the picture on the sport homepage above your blog link is a picture taken at a Dutch league match between AZ and Ajax. That game was back in November I think. Luckily for Dutch commentators we have a winter break.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog Steve and the BBC is the best place for FA Cup football, but money rules!

    Which leads me to say, that why do the dept. for organising where you are at make sure you all have a more local game? It would also save money, for us tv licence payers!!

    Oh maybe it doesn't matter as you all live in the South and don't like us Northern folk!

    Either way its the usual throwing money away for no reason thing again!

    Apart from that I am a happy man!

    Happy New Year

  • Comment number 20.

    which is the coldest football ground you have had the pleasure of commentating at, Steve?

  • Comment number 21.

    I can't understand the dread at meeting people bit. I would love to tell people that I commentate on football, or cricket or any sport.
    It was a dream of mine as a kid to be the new Ken Wolstenholme, but alas I never made it beyond subbuteo in my bedroom.
    "Oh what a save, off the keepers base and out for a corner, but wait, Francis Lee has a problem, I've just snapped his arm off."
    Mum! you got any glue?

  • Comment number 22.

    Why no new year's fixtures this time around?

  • Comment number 23.

    boro on new years day? you lucky chap

  • Comment number 24.

    How about having to tell people that you are an IT consultant like I do?

    That's usually end of conversation.

  • Comment number 25.

    You lot have it easy. How about telling people that you are an estate agent? Cue some strange looks and gimmicks behind your back.

    Nice read though.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm slightly confused. Firstly you say that it is a downside having to work around the festive New Year period i.e. the loud neighbours and early nights/mornings and travelling.

    Then at the end, you express your disappointment at the BBC not having the rights anymore to FA Cup; and how you miss the wet, cold, wintry afternoons watching giant-killers.

    Clear this up by any chance?? Is it a hate it and love it at the same time job??

    Anyway, nice read :)

  • Comment number 27.

    I know this is a bit random, but anyone know what the photo is they used for this link to bring me here? It looks like Arsenal v Chelsea, but I never remember the two teams playing in the snow????

  • Comment number 28.

    Cool blog - how do i become a football commentator?

    I'd never thought about the loss of the FA cup from that perspective before, I presumed the BBC would still send radio teams out and it'd be pretty similar, unlucky mate - but I bet it'll be back when nobody watches it on ITV

    and 2. Ali_Don

    they already had it a few years ago - remember 'the premiership'? - I don't think they'll be trying that again

  • Comment number 29.


  • Comment number 30.

    *comment number 2*

    BBC is dull in terms of commentry, sound and picture. ITV will only put on Adverts at break and so do Skysports but Skysports beats all with the fantastic Jeff Stirling and his pundits, Kammy and also Andy GRay and Martin Tyler!

    Atleast BBC still got MOTD and the F1 rights!

    In relation to the qoute at the beginning 'commentators being a dumb oppucation'. Commentators aren't dumb nuts, I certainly don't see that in Andy Gray! There's not a better commentator in the world better than him!

    Anyway thanks for the support, I do hope 2009 will turn out well!

  • Comment number 31.

    Nice Blog! Would you care to tell us how you got here (ie a commentator) in the first place?

  • Comment number 32.

    #18 - it's 'definitely', not 'definately'. You'll be spelling Teeside wrong next you muppet.

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't feel too sorry I am afraid, you moan about being on your own at the festive time but you have a job and a family, many people in the world do not and have to spend Christmas and New year on their own with no, or little money and no one to even call on the phone. You are extremely lucky with your job and your family and should not use this blog to complain about having such a privileged position in the world.


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