The news broke yesterday that ‘Soccer AM’, Sky’s iconic Saturday morning football show is ending at the conclusion of this current football season. It’s sad, as the show has been a Saturday morning institution for over 30 years, but for me its hey-day was in the 1990s when it was presented by the very talented Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain.
I was Marketing Executive of The Football League throughout the 1990s and I established a great relationship with Tim and Helen and also with Andy Harris, the show’s director. Tim, Helen and Andy were always supportive of what I was doing at The League and in particular with my promotion of the Auto Windscreens Shield, or The Football League Trophy to give it its full title.
I made a number of appearances on ‘Soccer AM’ in those days for The League and Tim used to play for my ‘Celebrity Squad’ in all the charity matches at Wembley ahead of The Coca-Cola Cup and the Auto Windscreens Shield. I remember one show when I went along with Karl Howman and Ray Winstone to do a promotion for the Coca-Cola Cup charity match they were both due to play in and on another occasion I was made to do the ‘Catwalk’ as part of a promotion for the Grimsby Town v AFC Bournemouth Auto Windscreens Shield Final, which was taking place the next day at Wembley. I took my then 14 year old nephew Simon with me that day – ‘Soccer AM’ was his absolute favourite show – and he spent a lot of time with Andy in the control room. Unbeknown to us both at that time, it was to trigger a prophetic interest in TV production for Simon.
Here’s my diary entry for that day:
Saturday 18th April 1998
”Simon and I left about 7.45am and we had a great run through to Isleworth, arriving dead on 9.00am. We were then taken through to the studio by ‘Rocket’. Andy, the director was brilliant with Simon and he invited us into the control room to watch the show being put together. Then the fun started!
What they had planned for me was that I would be brought on by the ‘Letter Man’ and then I would have a chat on the sofa with Tim and Helen. Just before this, Simon was taken into the studio so that he could be part of it.
We agreed beforehand that it would look like I was reluctant to come on and that I would have to be pushed through the door. This worked really well and I then had a little chat with Tim and Helen about the Auto Windscreens Shield Final tomorrow as well as, obviously, the Charity Match. Tim then put me on the spot by asking me who was going to win. I said, ‘Grimsby by the Golden Goal’ and of course the Bournemouth fans in the studio then booed me while the Grimsby fans cheered. Tim and Helen then sent me to sit with the Bournemouth fans for the rest of the show! I then decided to really join in with the fun of the programme and I put on a Bournemouth rosette and a red and white curly wig! Tim then got me to do the ‘Catwalk’ with him and the ‘Soccerette’! Simon thought that this was hilarious, and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.
The whole show was one long promotion for the Auto Windscreens Shield and afterwards I couldn’t thank Tim, Helen and Andy enough for what they had done. After posing for several photographs, Simon and I then left as we were going straight to The Valley for Charlton’s match against Portsmouth.
Simon loved the whole thing, and I loved having him there with me. ‘Soccer AM’ is Simon’s favourite show so to see me on it and to be part of it himself was a great experience for him.”
I mentioned earlier that this visit to the ‘Soccer AM’ studios ahead of the Auto Windscreens Shield Final was the trigger for a ‘prophetic interest in TV production’ for my nephew Simon. Well, Simon Willgoss is now the Chief Creative Officer for Nutopia, an Emmy and BAFTA award-winning TV production company based in the UK and the USA.
Thanks for the memories, ‘Soccer AM’.
NB: Grimsby Town won the 1998 Auto Windscreens Final, beating Bournemouth 2-1, with Wayne Burnett scoring the winning ‘Golden Goal’ in Extra Time!