Stevenage Q&A: Steve Watkins

PUBLISHED: 15:08 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:54 12 January 2018

Steve Watkins in the press box at Wembley

Steve Watkins in the press box at Wembley

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Read CometSport’s Stevenage FC Q&A, the first in an occasional series on the personalities in and around the club. For our opener learn more about experienced BBC3CR broadcaster Steve Watkins.

The BBC's Steve WatkinsThe BBC's Steve Watkins

Tell us a little about yourself? How did you become the BBC’s Stevenage reporter?

It really is a strange story, as I kind of fell into the role! I wanted to get involved when I first started watching Boro’, so got myself known to the matchday program team of the time, and helped with that. It was Paul Fry that was the editor then. Victor Green was chairman and Paul Fairclough the manager. Then I started what I believe was the first website that the club had, unofficially at first, but then it became the official club website.

I was writing reports for the web, and occasionally for the local papers. Darren Isted was then the man who covered Stevenage for 3CR, and if he was unavailable, I would step in to cover the odd game for them. We would just do short reports into the game of the day at the time, and none of the commentary we now offer. When Darren hung up the mic for good, it must have been 1997/8 I guess, I was asked to take over permanently, and have done so ever since.

Steve Watkins on the pitch at the LamexSteve Watkins on the pitch at the Lamex

Years watching the club?

I first saw Stevenage in the Conference winning season back 1995-96.

First game?

Steve Watkins taking a penalty at the LamexSteve Watkins taking a penalty at the Lamex

My first game was at Broadhall Way, on a Monday night. I think it was Dover that were visiting. I had decided to take a look at what all the fuss was about at Stevenage, after hearing so much about them. It was memorable for me in that I had not long packed up playing rugby at the time. We entered the ground in the North/West corner and it had only just kicked off. Play immediately swept to the corner where we were and out of play for a corner. We looked at the referee and it was Mark Halsey, who we knew well from playing rugby at Welwyn RFC, where he was full-back. Needless to say, he got lots of stick from us that night, as did the rugby referee’s when he played, which cost us many, many yards over time! After that I was hooked in and have missed only a handful of games in the last 15 years or so.

Favourite game and why?

So many games stand out for me. Orient, Swindon, St James Park, Wembley, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane, and many more. But winning the Conference title at Kidderminster, sealing the promotion into the Football League that had been denied several years earlier, was probably the favourite. I still have a recording of the commentary somewhere, and you can feel the emotion in the voices of myself and summariser Barry Rust. A really great day in the short history of the club.

Worst game and why?

Neil Trebble, Andy Medlock, Keith Stewart, Steve Watkins and Stephen Hibberd, outside The Lamex Stadium where they will set off for the start of the cycle ride to AmsterdamNeil Trebble, Andy Medlock, Keith Stewart, Steve Watkins and Stephen Hibberd, outside The Lamex Stadium where they will set off for the start of the cycle ride to Amsterdam

One that stands out was the FA Trophy defeat at Dorchester under Peter Taylor. We went there as odds on favourite to win, as we were the current holders of the trophy, but we actually stunk the place out in an embarrassing afternoon! It summed up the football that we played that season, and I am not sure that I would have been covering Stevenage the following season if the manager was still in charge. A man I had huge respect for, but an era of Stevenage football that I hated.

Favourite player and why?

George Boyd. Simple as. I remember seeing him in the youth team as a scraggy teenager that would get blown over in the wind, and seeing him turn into something really quite special. His last game could not have been more apt as he almost single handedly tore apart a high-flying Aldershot side, earning a standing ovation from everyone inside the ground, including visiting supporters. Everyone knew that we had seen the end of something very special.

Nick Witcombe, Andy Prior, Steve Watkins and Jason Scales show off their medals after completing the London Marathon. Photo: Supplied.Nick Witcombe, Andy Prior, Steve Watkins and Jason Scales show off their medals after completing the London Marathon. Photo: Supplied.

Worst player and why?

A bit of an unfair one! Ian King always sticks out for me though. Let’s just say he never really won the fans over!

Pre-match routine?

The commentary box's version of Statler and Waldorf - Dean 'Deano' Thompson with Steve WatkinsThe commentary box's version of Statler and Waldorf - Dean 'Deano' Thompson with Steve Watkins

Nothing routine about me other than I try to get to a ground, either home or away at around 1pm, in time to get the kit set up and ready to go on air at 2pm. Doesn’t always work like that though! In the morning, I like to try and get to the gym or do the Stevenage Park Run if I can. Away days are usually out the door early and on the road.

Prediction for the season?

If we can keep injuries and suspensions to a minimum, there is no reason why this squad can’t be competing for at least a play-off place this season. The sides coming down are not as strong as those that went up, and I really do think it will be an even more tightly fought league than last year. Darren has the lads working hard for him, in his way, and gradually we are seeing his brand of football coming to the fore.

Ben Wilmot of Stevenage goes close against Reading (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Ben Wilmot of Stevenage goes close against Reading (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Who do you see as Boro’s biggest rivals and why?

In the past I would always have said Woking, a rivalry borne out of a mutual respect for each other, and a knowledge that both sides competed for several years, very fiercely! Now I would suggest it is Luton. Certainly for me personally. I am not sure that all fans from either club would agree, but I don’t think anyone would deny it is one that we look for when the fixtures are announced.

What makes you proud about Boro?

Joe Martin of Stevenage and Leandro Bacuna of Reading battle it out (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Joe Martin of Stevenage and Leandro Bacuna of Reading battle it out (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

I find pride in a club that has achieved far more than their finances or fanbase would suggest. Just how far the club has come in such a short time is amazing. I love that fact that the likes of Luton fail to recognise us a derby game. I love the fact that teams used to despise playing us. I also love the way the fans stick together. The recent North Stand Bond scheme is the example I will put forward. If ever the chairman was wondering if he had the support of Stevenage fans, the raising of £600k in double quick time would surely back that up. What a statement that was.

One thing you would change about the club?

The Press Facilities. It is dire! Not enough room, uncomfortable, and unwelcoming. Carole does a great job when you book in, but once in the ground there is not so much as a cup of tea available to people that can’t leave their post and spend a lot of time there. Please can we get it updated!

Jonathan Smith of Stevenage and David Edwards of Reading battle for the ball (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Jonathan Smith of Stevenage and David Edwards of Reading battle for the ball (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Do you think social media has made the game better or worse for fans?

Much better, and for everybody. With one exception. It is fantastic that fans can voice their opinions of games immediately, and interact with each other, and argue their points. It is also great that the media and fans can instantly get opinions from others that have been at a game, not just some blinkered old twit offering his opinion on local radio. But I do draw the line at players. Don’t let them anywhere near a keyboard, for it far too often ends in carnage. Give the fans a platform to voice their opinion, but please keep players off Twitter!

Who would you have as a statue outside the ground?

Jim Briscoe. I spent many years travelling up and down the country with that man, and there was nothing about Stevenage football in any of it’s guises that he did not have a valid opinion about. I miss him dearly as do many people in the club. Simply Mr Stevenage FC.

All time Boro XI?

Pretty sure this lot would give anyone a run for their money! GK - Chris Day RB - Lee Harvey CB - Mark Roberts CB - Mark Smith LB - Darren Rodgers RM – Dave Venables CM – Michael Bostwick CM - Steve Berry LM - George Boyd ST - Barry Hayles ST - Steve Morison SUBS – Des Gallagher, Carl Alford, Matt Godden, Ben Kennedy, Ronnie Henry, Efe Sodje.

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