Mark Robson

Mark Robson
Autobiography

Autobiography

I’m not a huge autobiography fan to be honest. All a bit too egotistical for me but a few chums have talked me into putting together some of the funny stories and escapades from my life and career. I’ve included a few draft chapters here for you to have a look at. If you like them it might inspire me to write some more and complete the darned thing. This is very much a work in progress. Have a wee look and let me know what you think

Autobiography Chapters

Click on Tabs below to read chapters from Marks Autobiography

Mega Star Hunting

It all started at the Belfast International Airport. June 1986 and here was the over excited puppy that was Mark Robson. Quivering at the check in queue for leg one of the long haul to Mexico for the 1986 Football World Cup. I was 25 and this would be my first major tournament for the BBC. The perennial joker and one line Grand Master Jackie Fullerton, then of Ulster Television, joined the queue behind me. The self appointed legend – and he was probably right – scanned my jam packed over sized suitcase. Always on the ball Jackie said, “I see you’ve brought your cliches – but obviously not all of them”

We were off. My brief was to cover the Northern Ireland team as a reporter but also to commentate on all of Northern Ireland’s matches for Radio Two (the embryo of Radio Five Live) with the great man of football commentary Peter Jones. A true craftsman. He was the man who painfully, emotionally but brilliantly described the unfolding tragedies of Hillsborough and Heysel.

The Wrath Of Sevy

Sevy was one of my heroes. They say you should never meet your heroes but of course in my line or work that is inevitable. I’ve met quite a few. Sevy was close to the top of that list. For a number of years I commentated and presented golf’s European Tour. I worked for SKY Sports and also for the Mark McCormack conglomerate IMG doing “World Feed” commentaries mainly on the European Tour.

This occasionally, or to be more accurate, often, got me into trouble especially with the then Director of the European Tour Ken Schofield. I’m not sure that Ken particularly liked my rather left field and sometimes controversial style. In fact if he’d had the choice I suspect he would have quite happily smashed me out of bounds very early in my golf commentary career with no opportunity for three off the tee.

Seek And Destroy

In my early days covering Irish League football the Belfast Big Two Linfield and Glentoran dominated. The Blue of Linfield versus the Red and Green of Glentoran. When they met it was called the “Bel-Classico”. These were always fractious affairs and sometimes violent. The riot police were usually in attendance. At one Irish Cup final in 1985 at the Oval the home of Glentoran in East Belfast the Glens fans had somehow managed to smuggle a piglet into the stadium. This was during the height of the troubles and body searching was regular. At Big Two games it was usually rigorous.  How did they get it through security ? One can only assume that the pig had a ticket.

The manager of Linfield was the hugely successful Roy Coyle who won over 30 trophies in his time at Windsor Park. Naturally this made him a bit of a hate figure at the Oval (Ironically he went on to manage the Glens !) During the game the piglet was released onto the pitch from the Glens fan’s end. On the side of the swine, sprayed in blue letters, was the word “COYLE” Funny unless you were the terrified pig …. or Roy Coyle. A cockerel then appeared. The cockerel was embroidered on the Glentoran badge. Their nickname was “The Wee Cock and Hens” …. as in …. “Glens” The game ended with the usual riot between the fans but the helmeted shield holding police were ready and used their snarling Alsatians to great effect. Pigs, chickens and dogs. A final straight from “Animal Farm”

The Battle Of Brive

One of my favourite people in rugby is the former England International and British and Irish Test Lion Dewi Morris. An absolute nugget of a scrum half and a bloody good bloke. He was part of a British and Irish Lions side that won a series in New Zealand. Dewi was that good and someone I respected hugely and worked with a lot in my early days at Sky Sports. In the office they called us “The Blues Brothers”. We spent a lot of time together and were a commentary team for several years. Sky had a programme, produced by Jez Mann, called the Rugby Club and Dewi was a resident studio analyst alongside Stuart Barnes.

Dewi lived near Manchester so would fly down for the midweek recording of the show in the London based studios. Morris, or “The Monkey” as his England International colleagues called him, used to stay at the rather grand and very posh Petersham Hotel in the well leafed suburbs of Richmond.

Denver Crush

I only ever did cover one Churchill Cup … or the “Churchill Stag” as it was better known. But it was eventful, raucous and ultimately sloppy. And when I say sloppy think of the literal sense of the word. Not the sporting interpretation as in “Ireland having to deal with sloppy ball” No I really do mean sloppy.

The Churchill Cup was a tournament designed for International “A” teams and with a few competitive Tier Two Nations added to make for a spicy festival of rugby. The 2009 version was held in Denver, Colorado. Mile High City. It coincided with a British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and to be honest, while we took the broadcasting seriously, as every game was live on SKY Sports, outside the TV windows the boys made absolutely certain that they enjoyed themselves. The players and the travelling media.

Death On The Ramparts

Our base for the 1986 football World Cup was a fabulous hillside hotel overlooking the noisy and dusty city of Guadalajara. These were the good old days when the players and media generally stayed in the same place. We all felt part of one team. Journalists and players chatting at the poolside. We knew the no go areas and what was on and off record. There was a sense of respect and Omerta. A long way from the modern day paranoia that exists around most professional sporting teams.

I had arrived in Mexico sporting a nasty injury picked up six weeks before the tournament. I had ruptured ankle ligaments and cracked a bone playing rugby in a University Exiles Match. I came into the office the following Monday in plaster and on crutches. My Boss at the Beeb, the exceptional but bullish Joy Williams, took one look at me and said, in her own rather fruity and inimitable style, “Robson what the FUCK have you done ?” Joy, a leader in the suffragette style, could melt a wheelie bin from forty yards. I told her the story. She said, much to my horror, “If you’re not off those sticks and walking in a month you’re not going to the World Cup. I need a mobile reporter not some limping dickhead. How do you chase stories on crutches ?”

Bad Day At Blackrock

As a cub reporter in the early 80’s my greatest joy was covering Ulster Rugby. These guys were my heroes and Ulster was my team. I had once been selected in the Ulster Under 20 squad. It was the best and worst week of my short and very average rugby career. Picked and then a few days later the Ulster branch informed me that I was two weeks too old and I was withdrawn from the squad. So close to pulling on the white shirt. But never did. Des Lynam once said “If you can you play. If you can’t you write. If you can’t write you broadcast” For me it was the lower trough of that particular food chain.

There was a time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, when the media and the players actually got on very well together. In fact we were all part of the same happy band. There was trust and that critical sense of omerta. Which, by the way, I still respect to this day. We, as journalists, instinctively knew what stories we could run with and which stories would remain, as Inspector Cluasseau once famously put it, “Under the covers”.

Marks Travel Blog

Mark is a Broadcaster for Sky Sports, and follows his beloved Ulster team. His passion is walking, and has pursued any opportunity to explore his local hills, the Mourne Mountains. Beyond that, he’s travelled all over the world, and has the stories to tell. Enjoy the read…

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