Local Match of the Day man’s book is football trivia heaven

BBC Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson has a book signing session at Waterstones Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1526072 SUS-151117-183828001

BBC Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson has a book signing session at Waterstones Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1526072 SUS-151117-183828001

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A Horsham-district commentator has swapped his microphone for keyboard to recall some of his greatest memories from the Premier League era.

The majority of football fans will recognise Steve Wilson’s voice from Saturday nights as one of the main commentators on the much-loved institution that is Match of the Day.

With a glittery 25 years in the business, the 48-year-old has spoken to pretty much everyone in the game and has covered five World Cups, five European Championships and three African Nations’ Cups.

Combine that with a further two Olympics and the Commonwealth Games as well as commentating on Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup finals, the once hotel and catering undergraduate has reached the pinnacle of the game off the field.

As a self-confessed football-stat fanatic and with extensive research required for games he covers, the Tranmere Rovers fan wanted to share some memories of the Premier League history since it’s inception which have come in the form of Match of the Day 365.

The book - which has been on the Amazon best sellers list since it’s release in September - recalls a memory for every day of the year across the history of the Premier League and with so many to chose from there are some bonus moments along the way.

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Wilson said: “I had never written a book before and I have really enjoyed the process, it’s been hard work - but it has been great to just immerse myself in football history, not that I need much excuse.

“Early mornings, late nights, whenever I could, and football trivia is my idea of heaven.

“It was my idea and I think where I was researching stuff for games - having worked as a commentator since the early 1990s - during the Premier League era I would dig up things that I had half forgotten and find interesting.

“From 23 years of Premier League stats there was stuff that would take me by surprise, so much has happened in the history and it is worth remembering some of that.

BBC Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson has a book signing session at Waterstones Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1526088 SUS-151117-183904001

BBC Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson has a book signing session at Waterstones Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1526088 SUS-151117-183904001

“The point of the book is for people in my generation, to remind them about stuff they may have forgotten and for younger people, to tell them stuff they never knew - like Norwich almost winning the Premier League in its very first season.

“Another one amazing story is when you think now the Premier League is in massive stadiums, like a West End show, the lowest ever crowd was in 1993 of 3,039 - it’s incredible that happened.

“It’s packed with results, great goals, transfers and some of the biggest stories. I wanted it to be a history of the football played over the Premier League era rather than a history of the league - so it includes the Champions League. You cannot ignore things like Liverpool winning that or David Beckham being sent off against Argentina.

“It’s a book you can pick up and put down, FourFourTwo described it as a ‘perfect toilet book’ which I am taking as a compliment!”

Wilson’s passion for the history is quite remarkable and although he struggled for a Christmas Day memory, overall he struggled to keep the word-count down, especially for his favourite commentary moment.

He continued: “I am so lucky that I have actually seen and met everyone in the game at some point. I was commentating when Beckham scored from the halfway line, but I think the game in there which people will ask about in 20 years time is the Brazil 1, Germany 7 in the World Cup semi-final.

“That’s probably the most incredible game I have ever seen and will see. For Brazil to lose 7-1 at home at a World Cup finals was absolutely unprecedented - they had not lost a competitive home game since 1976.”

Wilson’s first broadcasting experience came on University Radio Surrey in 1985 and he went on to study English Literature at Liverpool University, where he wrote about his beloved Tranmere Rovers for the university newspaper.

Birkenhead-born Wilson followed Liverpool during his studies and was on the Leppings Lane terrace at the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.

He began commentating at London’s Capital Radio in 1990, working with Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce and Bobby Moore. Eight years later he joined Radio Five Live and a year on joined Match of the Day.

He recalled: “My mum and dad were more into rugby than football, but we lived really close to Tranmere’s ground - I could almost see the floodlights through my bedroom window.

“My dad took me to a game and I thought it was fantastic, it was only with about 1,500 fans but I loved it. In the early days I was only interested in watching my team, but now I watch everything.

“Back then 35 years ago, if Manchester United and Arsenal were playing in the back garden I would not have opened the curtains. But as you get older you become more of a football fan as a whole and that’s how I see myself more now.

“It’s more a love of the game and it’s a massive, massive privilege to have done it for 25 years and 18 with Match of the Day.

“I am quite critical of my own commentary, we have to watch it back afterwards, but I am definitely not sitting there hanging on my every word!”

And Wilson, who is an infrequent watcher of Crawley, Horsham and even Brighton - due to his author wife Juliet West being a fan is happy to remain heard and not seen.

He added: “It’s quite nice doing it and people not knowing who you are. It’s not very often I am on TV, the odd Football Focus sometimes, but I always think for people that are on TV it’s a double-edge sword.

“It’s nice people are interested and nice to be recognised, but I quite like that I can go out without being a TV personalty.

“Although, if I guess there is one downside to my job then it’s always working on football days and being sent to the matches that your bosses want you to cover and you find they are not always the one you would choose to do.”

Meet the man behind the voice as Steve Wilson talks goals, matches and memories with his Match of the Day 365 book at Horsham’s Waterstones.

The well-known commentator will be signing copies, answering questions and meeting people at the store on Wednesday, December 2.

The free event starts in the Carfax shop from 6.30pm until 8pm. It is a ticketed event, but they can be acquired without charge by calling in at the store or calling and reserving one from them on 01403 268088.

Wilson said: “Hopefully, people will come along and enjoy it, ask questions and I can sign a few copies and tell some stories.”