@Peter Smith first became involved with football Media in 1982 when he began volunteering with his local Hospital Radio station, Radio Burnley.
He’s a familiar face on Sky Sports Soccer Saturday and a recognised voice on the Independent Radio News network.
Peter is unique in the fact that he is the only contemporary working journalist who spent twenty five seasons with Sir Alex Ferguson at ManchesterUnited, twenty of those were on the inside, as a reporter for Manchester United Clubcall/Radio.Their relationship ranged from friendly to fractious and confrontational to cordial
Having completed thirty consecutive years as a professional sports journalist, Peter possesses an expansive knowledge of the industry. He has enjoyed various roles in a part time guise with several universities and now wants to offer his media coaching to a wider range of interested parties.
Pro 30 Sports Media Coaching has been devised to offer an authentic preparation and insight into the real world of football and sports journalism, and is designed to offer assistance to those who have a genuine interest in engaging with the industry.
Courses short and long will spell out the reality as to how the sporting media operate on a daily basis.The skill set taught will centre around the type of tasks that those gravitating into their first industry employment will be expected to carry out efficiently on a daily basis. Seminars will focus upon tabloid, broadsheet and in house writing styles, interviewing, feature writing, broadcast work, radio match reporting, radio commentary, TV commentary, the public relations dynamic between organisations and the mass media and more besides.
For employees embarking into the world of football and media, their new found environment can often come as something of a shock. A significant part of the course will be to raise full awareness of exactly what to expect in that respect. It is Peter’s intention to make his courses the most authentic and sought after in the country. One thing is for certain, he will tell it you as it is.
YOU SPENT 25 YEARS WORKING WITH SIR ALEX FERGUSON, 20 OF THOSE ON THE INSIDE AS MANCHESTER UNITED CLUBCALL/RADIO REPORTER. WHAT WAS IT LIKE ?
Looking back now it seems quite surreal, but it was amazing being at one stage close to a man who is being described as the greatest manager who ever lived.
Our relationship at times was very bizarre. There was a long period when I was genuinely close to him, he afforded me unbelievable privileges, letting me in the United dressing room after major triumphs, allowing me on the team coach on certain occasions and keeping me updated with what was going on.
Then one fateful night for me that dynamic changed for good.Inadvertently I got on his wrong side, it was the worst possible period for that to happen from a personal and historical point of view and to a small degree it still rankles with me. For around three and a half seasons, he had me in the dog house. There were times when we were like Hinge and Bracket, thankfully things eventually thawed somewhat.
I’ll always be grateful for a massive kindness that he afforded a family friend, despite his abrasive manner on occasions, he could be and still is extremely kind and generous in so many ways.
Away from the grind of management, he was great company, and loved to have a laugh. The problem for me was that the majority of times I was in his presence I was chasing a line or a story.
I can, and often do speak to media students and business people as to what it was like being around him. As I’ve stated it certainly wasn’t all fun, but I was in many ways privileged to have had the experience and looking back on life I genuinely appreciated it.
WHAT HAPPENED FOR YOU TO GET ON THE WRONG SIDE OF SIR ALEX, AND IF THINGS WERE SO BAD BETWEEN YOU FOR SO LONG, WHY DIDN’T YOU RELINQUISH YOUR POSITION ?
For me it was a something and nothing thing incident and still is. It is something I talk about to small groups and it certainly divides opinion, but it happened at the worst possible time in my working life as I was unable to enjoy the greatest football achievement ever.As for being in the dog house, that was character building from my own perspective, if you can cope with that, you can cope with anything that the football world will throw at you.
That particular period really helped shape me as a journalist and I had to draw on those experiences many times when I found myself in prickly situations with other managers whilst on Sky Sports News duty. I believe that withstanding that hugely difficult period was the best journalistic training imaginable, nothing could really phase me after that.
After one particular Old Trafford defeat, he threw me out of the dressing room area for good and into the tunnel permanently over and issue that I had no part to play in whatsoever. There was one game when I really rattled him with a line of questioning, the next time I saw him he gave me the hair dryer big style. On that particular occasion I really had, had enough, so I took a big gamble and thankfully it paid off. Our working relationship thawed and we started getting along famously again. These types of experiences I share in full with media students,fans business people and societies.An hour can fly by in no time.The good and the bad, these were fantastic life experiences, I’m still a massive fan of Sir Alex and appreciate fully the many years I was around him as a football journalist. I was very very fortunate.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN FOOTBALL JOURNALISM ? http://soccernostalgia.co.uk/my-day-of-destiny.html
A fateful day once changed my life for the better. I’m a believer in fate. Being realistic as a school leaver in 1981, the chances of me forging a career in football media were close to nil. Apart from one inspirational teacher, I’d had no uplifting assistance from anyone at school. The careers officer thought I was a dreamer and offered condemnation rather than encouragement. It was my mother who suggested that I should make some enquiries at the local Hospital Radio Station. She worked as a nurse at Burnley General. It was something that I promised myself that I would do, but in truth I was never going to get around to it. Then as fate would have it, I took an alternative route home from the green grocers stall that I worked at one Saturday afternoon and walked into a Hospital Radio outside broadcast. It was a now or never moment and I very nearly bottled it. Within weeks I did my first interviews with Kevin Keegan and Emlyn Hughes, two massive heroes of mine and great iconic figures at the time. By the end of the season I’d interviewed the immortal Brian Clough, it was an astonishing period of my life. As a Hospital Radio reporter I visited all 92 Football League grounds collating interviews and material for the sports show and started commentating on games at Turf Moor. Ironically my first commentaries were on the worst football games ever witnessed there during desperate times in the old Fourth Division. Even though I’ve covered games all over the world, the famous cliff hanger against Leyton Orient in 1987 when Burnley nearly dropped out of the league, ranks as probably the most incredible and manic football occasion I ever witnessed, as the many who were present will testify. I explain to everyone in a motivational sense that if I’ve been able to achieve what I have from absolutely nothing, anyone can achieve anything with the correct focus and application.The five and a half years I spent as a volunteer at the Hospital Radio proved my best investment ever. Wonderful times and so much valuable experience was acquired to take into a professional life.
IS IT TRUE THAT YOU SHARE SOMETHING IN COMMON WITH THE FAMOUS ACTOR JOHN SIMM ?
Strangely yes. I have never met John before, but he is someone that I admire greatly. Although he was born in Leeds, he actually lived in my home town Nelson Lancashire. He ironically lived in the same street as my Grandad and Auntie. I never recall encountering him, but the year I left Edge End High School, he started there. John cites their head of drama Brian Wellock as a massive influence in his acting career and I can understand why. Mr Wellock inspired me in more ways than one. He was simply brilliant in his approach and everyone to a boy and girl simply loved him. He encouraged youngsters, spoke to students on an equal level and made people believe in themselves. He set terrifically high standards, nobody ever messed with him, he wasn’t a softie that is for sure, but he was such a colossal teacher, nobody ever wanted to mess around..I really hope that many of those traits have rubbed off on me in the way I try to coach sports journalism.
As kids we relished his lessons, he made them immense. When John Simm recites Mr Wellock listening to his aspirations to become a professional actor and offering wholehearted encouragement, I can relate to it one hundred per cent. I once had a similar conversation with Mr Wellock and told him I wanted to become a football commentator. Unlike the careers officer, he didn’t belittle me. I recall bumping into him in town during my Hospital Radio days and he was full of encouragement, urging me to stick at it. I remember bumping into his wife at a football game when my career was taking off and she passed on his genuine delight.Sadly in 2006, Mr Wellock passed away aged 63. Terrible that someone so immensely popular should be taken away from us so young. I genuinely hope that in John and I, his legacy lives on. Neither of us will ever forget him, that is for certain.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO OFFER WITH YOUR MEDIA COURSES ?
Quite simply to offer the best and most realistic insight into the sports media world as is possible. Having been involved since 1982, having survived 30 years as an industry professional, contributing to numerous media organisations during that period and dealing with some of the biggest names on the planet, I feel well qualified to coach and pass on tips and information to those who also wish to work in the profession. I feel there is a need to offer a course that concentrates on the skills and practices that people who break into the industry are going to require on a daily basis. These days roles within football club media departments and positions in local newspaper offices tend to be contemporary starting points. The competition is tough, but my aim is to make people good at the tasks they are certain to encounter and to explain what will be expected if they climb the journalistic ladder. High standards need to be set. Knowing the type of environment they are going into is another massive factor that I will work on with students. It is so underestimated. There are occasions for new comers when it can be hugely intimidating. I learned all about that when I started for real in Manchester back in 1988. There were a number of well established journalists, who shall we say, didn’t take any prisoners. I had to wise up to the surroundings very quickly indeed. I could easily have been trampled on.
I believe this to be a fact. Those who work in the media are the only people who properly understand how the business operates. It can genuinely be a complex and crazy world at times, but I’m adamant that those who I coach will be under no illusions what to expect when it eventually comes to frequenting the media world for real. There is so much I can pass on from my time with Sky Sports, my three decades of radio experience, and experiences with Sir Alex Ferguson and other big personalities.
I’ve worked with Chris Irvine of The Times in a University setting and I know what he is all about. I can well understand why he is regarded as the best written teacher in the business. He possesses vast knowledge and experience, particularly in the world of Rugby League and Rugby Union.
As for Bill Blackburn, what he doesn’t know about camera work and editing isn’t worth knowing. The three of us are still active in our respective fields of the media, but have a passion for coaching and passing on experience and knowledge.
Not everyone wants to spend three years and the associated costs attending a university course. I believe my classes can be a superb alternative. that said,I am more than happy to advise people on the right university choices if that is the path they wish to go on. There are several that I would recommend.
EXPLAIN MORE ABOUT YOUR MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING AND AWAY DAY IDEAS ?
This is something that I am keen to do more of. As I stated previously, I came from a terraced house in the working class town of Nelson. My Dad a PE teacher, my Mum a nurse, they were not connected to the media world in any way and I really don’t think that I benefitted much from my time at secondary school at all.
I just went out and made things happen and I firmly believe that certain stand points I took can be used by anyone. Being around Sir Alex Ferguson taught me so much as well in a life sense, observing from close quarters the traits that made him a great. I’ve devised a talk, factoring with Fergie and the top managers. Being around Sam Allardyce and observing his methods for many years offered another incredible insight. I’ve stories relating to Pele, Beckham, Cantona and many other great names and situations that I found myself in. Friends who work for companies tell me that the away days and bonding sessions that they are forced upon under sufferance are bland, fruitless and pointless exercises that they all adhere to, as no one dares to tell the bosses what they really think.
I’ve devised a sporting programme that has a motivational side based on my experiences of being around sporting icons.
It has a light hearted side with tales of media misdemeanours and funny stories, followed by team building exercises where small groups will be offered journalistic challenges in match reporting, feature writing, interviewing and public relations. It is aimed at enjoyment rather than being judgemental, but I hope this could be a company away day when employees would come away and actually say they genuinely had a good time and benefitted.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER.
The best ever feeling was probably allied to some of the poorest games. For me covering Manchester United’s World Club exploits in Tokyo Japan and Rio Brazil were amazing. In truth the football was something of an inconvenience. Here was a boy from the back streets of Nelson who began his working life on a greengrocers stall, suddenly in two of the most glamorous cities in the world. Due to the eleven hour time difference I couldn’t sleep and I remember watching a Japanese sunrise. Pulling back the curtains to the copacabana beach for eleven days was also fantastic
HOW MUCH DO YOU ENJOY WORKING ON SOCCER SATURDAY ?
Massively. It is great privilege working with Jeff Steling who for me is the best in the business by a mile. He is an astonishing character, I really enjoyed his company when I joined him on his march for men walk. His fitness as Kammy would say is unbelievable, and he takes the fight against prostate cancer very seriously indeed. The stories he told of those he’d met who succumbed to the disease were very moving indeed. I hope for his sake that Hartlepool United return to the Football League very soon. His passion for the club is very genuine. Must add also that Julian Warren is an absolutely brilliant presenter as well.
FIRST FOOTBALL MEMORY.
Probably watching the 1971 FA Cup final on our black and white television in Nelson and seeing Charlie George lying down after scoring the winner.
FIRST GAME ATTENDED.
My Dad and his best friend Uncle Jack took me to Liverpool 3 Manchester City O on the 26th of February 1972. When I got back to the house afterwards I told everyone that the game had been in colour.
BOYHOOD FOOTBALL HERO
Kevin Keegan, he scored in the first game that I ever went to, I really did idolise him. He is the first player that I ever interviewed after he scored four goals for Newcastle in a 5-1 win at Rotherham. That particular day ranks as one of the most memorable in my life. My Dad took me. Whenever I visit Rotherham United’s hugely impressive New York Stadium, I take a short walk up to the old ground at Millmoor for a period of quiet reflection. It brings back hugely powerful vibes of my old fella, and reminds me where my career started in earnest.
BEST PLAYER EVER SEEN.
I’m tempted to say Kevin Keegan, but having covered the Manchester soccer scene for thirty years, it comes down to two. Eric Cantona was simply brilliant and won games out of absolutely nothing. Sergio Aguero is up there as well. His goal scoring range has been phenomenal. I actually commentated on his famous winner against Queens Park Rangers for Independent Radio News. The commentary isn’t as famous as Martin Tyler’s or Guy Mobray’s, but it does get an airing from the IRN archives from time to time.
BEST GAME COMMENTATED ON.
That would have to be the last ever FA Cup Semi Final replay in 1999, between Manchester United and Arsenal. Two great teams, huge drama throughout, and the wonder goal from Ryan Giggs that probably ranks as the greatest I’ve ever seen. The Arsenal back four that Giggs beat to score that goal stands comparison with any back four ever. That’s how good a goal it was.
BEST STADIUM VISITED.
I’m really fortunate to have worked at all of the world’s iconic venues. I got a massive buzz out of being in the old Maracana Stadium in Rio back in 2000. The Bernabeu Stadium and Nou Camp are fantastic to visit, as is the San Siro in Milan. Boca Juniors Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires was an incredible venue to attend, but my favourite is The Macron Stadium Bolton. Somehow it just feels like home to me. The viewing and facilities there are fantastic. I was very instrumental in setting up the in house TV Channel there when it opened in 1997. I have some outstanding memories from the venue, particularly in the Big Sam era of four consecutive top eight Premier League finishes. Jay Jay Okocha’s free kick against Aston Villa in the 2004 League Cup Semi Final and his time wasting skills against Arsenal by the corner flag a year earlier were simply legendary.
BEST EVER ATMOSPHERE.
The 1987 Burnley v Leyton Orient game I commentated on for hospital radio. This really was a you had to be there, to appreciate it encounter. People tend to forget that Burnley could still have lost their League status with a victory, results had to go elsewhere and did. The raw emotion of that day still lives inside me.
The atmosphere at Galatasaray v Manchester United in Istanbul in 1993 literally had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Turkish fans create possibly the most intimidating atmosphere on the planet. South America is brilliant for atmosphere, Argentine games are unreal at times.
Has to be Sir Alex I suppose, he smashed the old firm monopoly in Scotland, ended Manchester United’s 26 year title wait and produced great team after great team. We should never under estimate Bob Paisley, if we discount his first season, he won 6 titles from 8, 3 European Cups. 3 League Cups and a UEFA Cup. His football and his teams were as good as anything ever. Joe Fagan is legendary, he succeeded Paisley and won three trophies in his first season, and he won the Lancashire Combination for my home town Nelson in the early fifties. Brian Clough, Jock Stein and Sir Matt Busby are all giants of the game as well.
To continue working in the media as long as possible. I became great friends with Syd Parkinson who was the oldest football physio in the world. He was still representing Barnoldswick Town in the North West Counties League at 94 years old. I’d love to become the oldest sports broadcaster in the world, not on a sympathy vote, but on merit . It is a burning ambition to make Pro 30 Sports Media Coaching a huge success and to continue producing young people to progress into the industry.