Q&A with Mike Wedderburn – host of the 2016 Cross Sports Book Awards
1. Do you have a sporting hero?
Hero is actually a strong word. My parents are my heroes, as they went without so much to give me a chance. That was truly heroic.
I have sportsmen that I admire though.
(i) Muhammad Ali. Not just for his prestigious ability, skill and bravery. But for his bravery in the face of a sort of pressure that most of us can only imagine. He hung on to what he truly believed was right despite criticism and hatred. A colossus of a man.
(ii) As is Viv Richards. Quite simply the greatest that I ever saw hold a bat. An individual capable of putting the fear of God into a whole opposition team and on occasion a whole nation. Simply brilliant!
2. Who or what was your inspiration to get involved with sport as a youngster?
You couldn’t grow up in my house and not love cricket. My Dad lived and breathed the sport and if you link that with the mighty West Indies side of the 70’s through to the 90’s what chance did I have?
3. What advice would you give to aspiring sports journalists and presenters?
Don’t be a Wiki journalist. Be thorough, don’t cut corners. Check and check again. Specifically for the presenters watch closely and learn from the good presenters but that said be yourself. That is the only person you can authentically be. And be careful. Presenters are always one word from the sack so regret what you didn’t say not what you did!
4. You’ve been the longest serving presenter on Sky Sports News, what is the biggest story you’ve ever broken?
Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United was pretty big. We knew it was coming but just not exactly when.
Phil Hughes’ death. So shocking, sad and difficult to get right. But for sheer shock value it has to be when Sol Campbell left Spurs for Arsenal. The producer said to me something is going on at London Colney, Arsenal’s training ground. We were only expecting Arsenal to sign a third choice keeper but there’s a lot of security around. He said maybe Sol Campbell has gone to Arsenal. I uttered the immortal words. “That will never happen!”
5. Is Leicester City winning the Premier League the most surprising story to happen while you have been working at SSN?
Yes without doubt! They are like a pacemaker in a long distance race who the others let get away who says. “Do you know what I can win this” The others I don’t think took them seriously until it was too late.
6. Are you an avid reader and what are you reading at the moment?
I read all the time. I regularly have three books on the go at any once. Because I travel a long distance to the studios in the dead of night, I listen to audio books in the car. At the moment the brilliant Shardlake Series by CJ Samson. Set in the time of Henry VIII Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer/sleuth. Brilliant! I’m also reading a Harlan Coban thriller about a man picking people up on Dating Sites, robbing them and murdering them. Again a brilliant read. Finally I am really enjoying Fire in Babylon about the great West Indies cricket team. It feels like reading about old friends. Just wonderful.
7. What is your favourite sports book of all time?
That’s really hard. Love autobiographies. Tony Cascarino, Tony Adams and Nasser Hussain’s all hit the spot. Fabulous, candid and revealing of human nature. All wonderful books.
8. We think sports books make great Father’s Day presents, have you ever given or received a sports book?
I’m a former professional sportsman and a current sports presenter. All I ever get is sports books………and socks!
9. What do you think makes for great sports writing?
I’m not interested in someone telling me they scored this goal and then they scored that goal. Apart from being well written and engaging I want to be told something that I didn’t already know.
10. You were a professional cricketer with Hampshire and a Harlequins and Wasps rugby player. What’s your greatest sporting achievement.
Funnily enough it was losing the 1980 Pilkington Cup final to Bath. The week before we had two players unjustly sent off and so had to get Paul Ackford (former England lock forward) out of retirement (he hadn’t played for a year). Bath were the best team in the country but we matched them and really should have won. The only lineout that Ackford lost all afternoon was deep into extra time which allowed Stuart Barnes to drop the winning goal, with the last kick of the game. We were devastated but after a few tears we realised we had played as well as we possibly could. So we partied. Hard!
11. What sporting event are you most looking forward to this year?
Well I was hoping to see my beloved Manchester City in the Champions League final in Milan. Impetuously I booked a hotel room which it turns out is non-refundable. Mrs W not best pleased to be spending a romantic weekend in Milan with hoards of Atletico and Real Madrid football fans!
So it has to be the Ryder Cup. Golf isn’t really my thing but I truly believe that the Ryder Cup is the greatest sporting event on the planet. So much drama, so many quick changes in fortunes in such a short space of time. Can’t wait.