As a small kid I had mimicked the top football commentators of the day in my front room. If the top window was open I swear passers-by thought murder was about to be committed when I rehearsed Barry Davies at the height of excitement. It wasn’t particularly difficult seeing my voice had yet to break.
So many years later when in 1994-95 on the back of my Sports Mail Column I was asked to do match updates for the now defunct Radio Victory I was chuffed to bits.
Suddenly I saw the beginning of a new adventure from columnist to commentator which just about fulfilled every dream I had harboured as a school boy.
Anyone who listened to the extremely luddite first football updates that Radio Solent used to do of games in the mid-1970’s will be acquainted with the format back then.
Along with Southampton and Bournemouth the station would go to wherever Pompey were playing to get a 15 minute update of proceedings or a goal flash.
At the time it was innovative however and a great leap in mankind from waiting for Pompey’s final score to come through on the Grandstand teleprinter.
It was a time when Pompey seemed to be playing away pre-dominantly up north and in those days this was equally Luddite compared to today where local radios dispatch their own commentators to grounds.
They instead used to nick the local guy up there who was predictably northern and who would always sound though he was speaking through a glass. Much of the time they were.
Given this was a time when Pompey were truly awful and diving quicker than Tom Daley off a springboard it was always the next depressing thing to actually being there.
“And there’s been a goal at Saltergate lets go over to our man at Chesterfield Tommy Craven” chimed out the presenter.
Now even in these days if you doubted which team had scored you would be enlightened before the dulcet northern tones of Tommy Craven by the roar of the crowd.
There also seemed to be a stock opening sentence at this time. “Bad news for Pompey fans’” chimed out Tommy Craven as he went on to reveal the inevitable news that they had gone behind after 17 minutes of intense pressure on their goal.
The regular updates and goal flashes would proceed in this way as did Pompey’s defeats consisting of any ratio from 1-4 goals as the norm.
If it was an evening game then the updates and goal flashes would interrupt a Tuesday Night music show.
So the melodious tones of Leo Sayer singing ‘When I need you’ would be interrupted by the presenter proclaiming a goal from Vale Park.
Cue Harry Thomas taking through a glass revealing ‘bad news for Pompey fans’ who were a goal behind after twenty minutes of intense pressure on their goal.
I would mimic this all to the letter playing music on the stereo at the end of our front room, taking the needle off record half way through revealing there had been a goal from Feethams, making the appropriate crowd noise and then revealing through a glass that it was bad news for Pompey fans after 30 minutes of intense pressure on their goal.
It was entirely appropriate that over twenty years down the line therefore that my Radio Victory debut came at Middlesbrough where Pompey lost 4-0 and were under intense pressure for most of the game.
It allowed me all the stock phrases such as ‘Bad news for Pompey fans’ as the roar from the Boro fans could be heard and the fact it was done behind perplex even gave the talking through glass an authentic ring.
Two goals by Paul Wilkinson and another brace by Craig Hignett spaced out between the 27th and 75th minute gave me plenty of leeway for the ‘bad news’ intro.
It was hard to believe that having taken numerous auditions of this all this in my front room I was now doing it for real at Ayresome Park where 17,185 were gathered,
Now at this point I have to be honest and say I’m not sure just how many were listening given that it was the first of a month stint where Victory had been awarded a temporary licence.
And to be fair given its temporary reprieve it wasn’t at this time the most professional or polished production. Probably my five pre-match pints would have been frowned on also.
I was given a mobile phone, long before I had heard of them, to send reports through when presenter the late and great Jim Ware phoned me up.
Which didn’t actually happen on the 15 minute period agreed but more like 25 minutes which coincided on air with the Hignett goal.
With my powers fully concentrated on relaying the first twenty minutes in twenty seconds I didn’t have a clue who had actually scored it, even less how it had come about. This had never happened in my front room.
Whilst in mid-flow I learnt from my press colleagues of the scorer but from there completely blagged the goal and how it came about.
Luckily the other three goals came about at slightly more convenient times and I ended with what I thought to be a very clever line when proclaiming: “It’s 300 miles from Portsmouth to Middlesbrough but today it just as well have been on the moon so far apart were the two teams.”
Anxious to catch the train my post-match analysis after the classified football results was conducted walking down Middlesbrough High Street where anyone listening would have been greeted with the odd sound of a car horn honking and people chattering. I’m not sure too many match round ups if any would have happened in this way.
My one and only Fratton Park debut came a week later in a 1-1 draw against Reading where the battery completely died on me after 75 minutes.
And the following week I did a Friday night preview from Nottingham in a public phone box after the mobile had died yet again.
Post-match reports in high streets and match previews from phone boxes was not quite how I had envisaged my fledgling commentary career and certainly the glamour I once associated the vocation with was a world away from reality.
I did make a temporary comeback towards the end of the season at Swindon when Victory were granted another short term licence though checking in an hour before the game I found I could hear Jim Ware but he couldn’t hear me.
So you know what? I switched the thing off enjoyed Pompey’s 2-0 victory from the press box and decided that it was far more fun doing it in the front room though a glass where the same amount of people would have tuned in.