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After clocking up 42 years at BBC Radio Stoke so far; Nigel Johnson is somewhat of a legend in the Stoke-on-Trent region.
His voice has been heard in thousands of homes, projected to the masses as he commentates on each Stoke City game. Nigel has seen several different eras of football in his time, each I’m sure as enjoyable as the last. From the days where players received a modest £20 for their labours, to recent times, where top players can warm the bench and then retreat to their mansion, a six figure pay packet clutched under their arm. Or, that is how I imagine it.
So when I was afforded the opportunity to meet the man dubbed ‘The Voice of Stoke’, I could hardly contain my jubilation. I’m sure, as my life progresses, I will always be able to recall the first interview I ever conducted: Nigel Johnson. It was a thoroughly interesting experience; an encounter filled with wisdom and advice. From Nigel’s end, I hasten to add.
Previously a head teacher, Nigel began at Radio Stoke in 1969, entering into a vocation that he continues to work in now. Prior to this, he would balance broadcasting with his day job, with some far-flung matches being a step too far.
“Say if there was a match in Portsmouth, that would have been too far for me at the time.” Nigel said.
No such travel restrictions prevent Nigel now, as he travels up and down the country reporting on Stoke’s games.
Such a profession is a dream of mine; and Nigel had a few words of advice for me.
“Never turn down opportunities as if they are beneath you, you’ve got to work your way up.” he said.
Nigel told of how he has encountered budding journalists who are upset at their current position on the employment ladder; and make it unequivocally known.
“I should be on Five Live, reporting on the biggest games.” demanded one reporter.
It’s ironic, the ones who tell you relentlessly where they should be, will never attain such goals.
Nigel explained: “I used to commentate on cricket, and out of three games, I would do the least interesting one. That was just what you did.”
When asked of his most memorable Stoke games, Nigel thought of two: last season’s 5-0 Wembley thrashing of Bolton, and a curious occasion at Cardiff’s former home, Ninian Park.
Stoke were behind 2-1, Cardiff in the ascendancy. Sensing an impending victory for the Bluebirds; the stadium announcer took the opportunity to inform the Cardiff supporters not to enter the playing area at the whistle.
As there was still 10 minutes remaining for Stoke to fight back, it was an arrogant remark, one that Nigel duly noted. Stoke obviously didn’t read the script, equalising and continuing on to seal the win. Not the announcer’s finest hour.
The best piece of advice I extracted from my time with Nigel would be: Never refuse work, as people will respect you for persevering.
I would like to thank Nigel for his hospitality, and look forward to meeting up again soon.
As my nan would say; up the Potters.