Following the soaring success of the last TF interview with author Tim Andrewartha its about time for another one. Whilst in the legendary Gonpachi (a.k.a. the ‘Kill-Bill’ place) restaurant in Nishi-Azabu I sat down with BBC Radio Leicester’s football commentator Ian Stringer. Having been interviewed by him at Meiji Shrine a couple of days earlier for a feature on the stations breakfast show I decided to turn the tables on him and probe him about his thoughts on Japan, Leicester City and commentating.
N.B. This is just a condensed sample of the interview. If you want to hear the full interview then its available as a podcast on iTunes. Click here to get it for FREE!
So what brings you to Tokyo Ian? The Tokyo Marathon is why I’m here. I’m taking part on Sunday for the Leicester baby loss appeal. (You can donate here). It’s one of the six world marathons and a relatively new addition to the marathon scene and Tokyo’s where I wanted to go.
And what’s the backstory on your Marathon stuff I started in 2012. I ran my first marathon in London for the Leicester City Foxes Foundation; Alan Birchenal’s one in a million appeal. He convinced me I should give it a go so I did. I raised a few quid for the foundation, I think it was 19 grand. I got bitten by the marathon bug after that so that year I ran in London, Windermere, Wolverhampton, Leicester and Bangkok and then the following year a few more. It’s just a personal thing. I started in 2012 so I’m still relatively young in my marathon running experience.
You’ve clocked up a fair few there! Yeah that’s 8 and it will be 9 if I finish the Tokyo one which I hope so!
I can see you have a very interesting diet so can you tell us a bit more about it? It’s kind of a Palio diet really. I’m not eating potatoes, bread or grains so lots of meat, vegetables and fruit, a bit of dairy but no refined carbohydrates because of the way in which they’re digested. Certainly no sugar! I’ve had no sugar for the last four months and its going well but the Tokyo marathon will be the first time I’ve tried to run the marathon without the aid of sugar.
What are your impressions so far of Japan ? Well I’m basing my impressions on a visit to the capital city of course as I’ve not been anywhere other than Tokyo but I love it, absolutely love it. I adore the place. Its clean, incredibly efficient and seems crime-free. I think I’ve seen one police car in four days. I’ve not seen any litter. Trains are on time. There’s somebody looking after every job. Everyone takes pride in what they do. The food is magnificent. We’re sat in a restaurant now where a guy has cooked me on open coals a fish which I imagine wasn’t caught too long ago. So everything’s been positive so far. It’s a wonderful city. I’ve met some wonderful people, (seen some) incredible views and I’m very fortunate to even be here…and of course I’ve met the Tokyo Fox!!
How did your Leicester City story begin as a fan? Where did you used to sit or stand? My dad took me to my first game when I was three and we’d go down to Filbert Street a couple of times a season. My first experience was in the Double Decker (stand) but from the age of, probably seven, I was in the Kop, in pen 4. I was pushed down to the front by my dad. He stood at the back with his friends. I was mascot when I was ten, away at Wolves. We lost 2-1. Colin Gibson scored the goal of the season but Steve Bull scored twice; the first one before I’d even got out of the changing room! So mascot, season ticket holder, member, Junior Fox, visits to Wembley more times than I can remember so very early I fell in love with the club because my dad forced me to but when its a club like Leicester City you rely on your offspring being the future of your club and thats certainly the way with my little boy.
So how about a time when you think you called it to perfection. …in terms of goals away at Leeds was an important goal. Nugent scored with four minutes to go and I feel I got that one right. We actually have a commentary coach; a guy called Rob Noffman who works for 5 Live and he gives us some very formulaic insights into our commentary. He’ll listen to our 90 minutes and tally how many times you say the score, the time, identify the station and he’ll also mark you on how you can beat the crowd to an incident so when a shot comes in if you hear the crowd go “ooooh” you kind of don’t need to say whats happened because people know. Its too late. Now I’ve got the advantage of having the speed of sound on my side so we’re marked and assessed on whether we can beat that and be on top of the goals and say where was the ball, who scored, how long to go and encapsulate what your audience will be feeling at local level when that goes in. National level as well but when its international football Mike Ingham calling an England goal will have a degree of partisan approach to the commentary whereas if it was Fulham v Arsenal he’ll be relatively balanced for a goal but its knowing your audience and calling it right at that time, there and then.
What’s criticisms are labelled at you or the radio coverage and whats your response? Twitter is an interesting place to gain information but remember that its only a certain proportion of your audience who are tuned into social media. The masses will listen and potentially enjoy…..silently. I mean how many people write into ‘Top Gear‘ and say great show, well done, keep going! You don’t do you?! You’ve got to assume that you’ll have some happy customers given the listening figures at the moment are very, very good. Negatives are some people don’t like certain elements. There are purists out there who believe that they should know where the ball is every second of the game.
Which City players would be in your all-time XI and you don’t need to name the whole team! Kasey Keller was a very good goalkeeper and Kasper Schmeichel is a fine goalkeeper too. Simon Grayson will live long in the memory. Steve Walsh and Matt Elliott defensively. Mancini would be in there. Neil Lennon. Muzzy Izzet. Steve Claridge is my favourite Leicester player ever so my front pairing would probably be Lineker and Claridge.
What’s the most famous number or contact you have in your phone? Maybe Sven. Gary Lineker maybe. Those two will do for now!
Who are your favourite commentators on TV and radio? I’m a big fan of Simon Brotherton. He’s on top of everything. He calls the action very, very well. I admire the pace in his voice. Your job is to convince people that at that second they should be turning their radio up by changing your pace and pitch and allowing the listener to sit on the edge of the seat and feel for their volume control and up it because something could happen and I think Brotherton does that very well. Obviously Mike Ingham and Alan Green are the BBC’s top guys but then you can’t look past Ian Darke, Alan Parry and Jon Champion. There’s an awful lot out there. Darren Fletcher. I think he’s a very good commentator. I like him a lot and he’s brilliant on 6-0-6.
Is there another sport you’d like to try your hand at in terms of commentating on it? Sumo!! The temptation of course is to say Formula 1 because of the glamour attached but I’d probably say that at the minute with Andy Murray’s strong position in the tennis world it would be a real blessing to follow him around the world. Likewise, Justin Rose is probably in the peak of his career right now. Can you imagine calling a Ryder Cup putt?
I think many people think you and our manager Nigel Pearson hate each other. I don’t believe that so what’s going on when the mic’s not on? Nigel and I get on really well. He’s very guarded as an individual, not just with us. He’ll never come out with soundbites like Ian Holloway! Always a handshake pre and post-interview and usually a whack on the back! There was one at Birmingham the other day when we were talking about Jack Hobbs and he’d been linked with the club and I knew it was ‘agent-talk’ but we’ve gotta ask it and he played the game and said he wasn’t sure about that and that he didn’t comment on speculation. I said “well you could end the speculation by telling us” and afterwards it sounded really frosty but he gave me a massive whack on the back with a huge smile as he walked off and he winked as if to say “I’m playing the game.” He’s a man of principle, honour and trust and he’s a man who, as a journalist, you’ve gotta do your ground work with. I don’t think we have a bad relationship. I think we have a good solid working relationship and I have to say he’s one of the best football managers Leicester City have had.
If you could choose any guest to have on the Football Forum (Monday’s 6-7pm) who would it be? It would be Martin O’Neill because I think our audience would enjoy it. You can’t pick your guests on who you individually want. I think he’d be desired by our audience. I think he’d make an incredible guest and I’d love to get him on. He’d offer great insight so maybe one day!
Ian did of course complete the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday 23rd February. His time was 3 hours 55 minutes. Congratulations to him for all his efforts and for allowing Tokyo Fox to interview him.