Voice behind the vision 

22 March 2021 tbs.pm/72594

 

TVTimes cover

From the TVTimes for 15-21 December 1963

HE is the faceless one of Anglia Television… the man you never see when the football is on, but whose voice is heard every Sunday night commenting on the Match of the Week.

Forty-one-year-old bachelor John Camkin doesn’t mind being just a voice. “When people switch on to see football, they don’t want to see me,” he says.

He is tall, solidly-built… a comfortable figure in tweeds, usually smoking a blackened pipe. His face has a round geniality and he has mild brown eyes.

But don’t be misled. Here is a man who weighs carefully what he sees, whose shrewd sizing up of the strength or weakness of a team in action stems from an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game.

In cold weather, Saturday fans can see John Camkin in the commentator’s box wearing a fur hat.

“I bought it in Moscow for a few roubles,” he said. “Marvellous for keeping the ears warm.”

Match of the Week has made a name for itself because of the new ground it has broken. For the first time, on television, tactical moves on the field are analysed.

Camkin and director Bob Gardam were quick to seize the initiative when it was decided to transmit a Saturday match on the following evening. Here was the perfect opportunity to look harder at each game.

John Camkin commentating

Camkin told me: “I enjoy doing this programme. It is satisfying to know that we are helping people to appreciate the subtleties of the game, showing them on the TV screen what are good and bad tactics. I like to think, too, that we may be helping junior clubs to see these points — the youngsters who are the footballers of tomorrow.”

He comments on the match in the usual way, while it is on. Then, on Sunday morning with Bob Gardam, he sees a run through on closed-circuit television at Anglia House, where it is carefully edited and the analysis fitted into the commentary.

His preparation follows a set pattern. On the morning of a match he will meet Bob Gardam for a drink and a sandwich. Then Gardam goes off to see that everything is set up satisfactorily for the recording, while Camkin talks to members of the teams and managers.

He said: “I usually discuss tactics and style of play with the managers and gather a few background notes on their teams. After that, I have a talk with a few of the players.

“All this can help identification on the field during a game and it will give me some idea of the moves to watch for, the shape the game will take.”

Camkin, whose home is at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, is an authority on football, a man who lives and breathes the game. His father was Managing Director of Birmingham City. John is a director of Coventry City.

At Oxford, he captained St. Edmund Hall, and, in the early 40’s, he was in the Birmingham City reserve team.

He said: “When I left the Royal Air Force in 1946, I joined the Birmingham Gazette as a sports reporter, moving to the News Chronicle in 1949 and later becoming chief football correspondent. On the death of the News Chronicle in 1960, I moved to the Daily Mail in the same job, but resigned after a short spell.”

He travelled all over the world reporting football. Now he has left Fleet Street and runs his own travel agency in Leamington Spa. “I got the idea from my travels,” he said with a smile. “You know, you never see an old football correspondent — they merely fade away.”

As a travel agent, he can organise parties of football fans to big matches abroad. He said: “I invariably include myself in the party. I can’t resist it. Anyway, I can look after my clients’ interests — and enjoy the football.”

 

 

He has missed only two England matches anywhere in the world since 1950. He keeps fit by playing cricket — he is captain of Wellesbourne, a local club and one of the oldest in the country — and tennis.

What does he dislike most in football today? He said: “I dislike the attitude of clubs who think they have the divine right of big attendances every Saturday, without studying methods of presentation or attempting to give the fans good football.

“It’s time they worked harder for the crowds.”

At the Match of the Week games, some fans pull his leg. “They shout up to me, asking how Coventry City is getting on,” he said. “The other Saturday, somebody asked me if I were Richard Dimbleby!”

 

The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: Well, there’s a thing. Match of the Day, a brilliant idea in 1964 by BBC-2 to pick a football match and dissect it on air… is here, at least a year earlier, from Anglia and even using a very similar name, Match of the Week. What a coincidence(!)

The News Chronicle was a firmly Liberal newspaper and its takeover by the far-right Daily Mail came as a culture shock, so Camkin’s quick resignation is no surprise – he wasn’t alone in leaping from that rat-infested ship. He had been a BBC radio commentator for the various World Cup matches before he joined Anglia, so he was a natural for being included on the team for ITV’s coverage of the 1966 tournament, held in the UK. He sold his travel agencies to Lunn Poly in the 1970s and concentrated on his sports directorships and sports management. He died in 1998 at the age of 75.

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