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Jack Woodward profile: Life of commentating and crooning
Paul Brown chats to Jack Woodward.
6th Dec 2012
Jack Woodward profile: Life of commentating and crooning


Brown

Wherever you go. Whichever way you turn. You can't miss him.

He fronts the pre-match show on AVTV as he introduces our star guests each week.

He does a regular weekly podcast crammed full of his commentary clips.

He's the man on the spot on matchday too, bringing you blow-by-blow action on the airwaves before interviewing the headline-makers post-game.

His voice also echoes out of the I15s, the giant video boards situated around our historic ground.

In short, he's here, there and everywhere. If you stop and pause at any point around Villa Park, you're likely to hear the dulcet tones of Jack Woodward on rapid repeat.

Some think he's omnipresent.

In fact, David Strudley, chief executive of Acorns, always greets Woodward at community events with the comment: "Ah, it's the voice of God."

But he's not always been all-knowing, all-seeing and all-encompassing.

He has had to work hard to get to where he is now, the top of the claret and blue commentary tree.

When Woodward was a bright-eyed student at the University of Sheffield doing a history degree, he entered a "sports reporter of the year" competition with the top prize the chance to report live on a match for radio station Hallam FM.

Woodward sent in a segment of commentary he'd recorded while playing 'Super Soccer' on his Super Nintendo.

He eventually made it on to the shortlist and got the chance to muck in behind-the-scenes.

For the first few weeks of the placement, he admits he simply made tea and coffee before impressing bosses with his pun-tastic style on morning bulletins - calling Sheffield Steelers "puck-smashing ice warriors", Sheffield Sharks "slam-dunking superstars" and Sheffield Tigers "shale oval supremos."

That led to his big break, reporting on the unevenly-matched Exeter against Doncaster Rovers game live.

None of the staff reporters fancied the trip, particularly with Rovers cut adrift at the bottom of the Football League.

So Woodward gratefully accepted the task, even if he was out of pocket at the end of the day.

They paid him £40 and it cost him £120 to get there and back!

He remembers practising his introduction about one hundred times the night before the game and can even recall it to this day: "Exeter is a city renowned for its architecture and Rovers have designs on an away win."

There began a career of wordplay!

He said: "Doncaster lost 5-1 but I was hooked. What a buzz and adrenalin-rush it was going on air. I loved it. It was like a drug and I just wanted more.

"I still get that same buzz now, whether it's against Man Utd at a packed Villa Park or a cold afternoon at Sunderland's training ground for the U21s."

After climbing the rungs at Sheffield Hallam FM, he moved to TFM in Middlesbrough as the station's 'voice of sport' on breakfast show 'The Cereal Thrillers'.

Then an advert for Birmingham BRMB asking "can you paint pictures with words?" drew his attention.

He applied and got the job working for Tom Ross. His first game was West Brom v Burnley, commentating alongside Tony 'Bomber' Brown.

He had many memorable moments with the respected radio station and it was where his love affair with Villa began.

Woodward

After departing to try his luck at freelancing - working for companies such as BBC Sheffield, TalkSPORT and ITV Digital - he was offered a way back into the claret and blue sphere when Radio First set up The Villan Radio Station in 2001.

It was a thrilling experience - and all-go - at one point he was presenting the breakfast show, doing a one-hour sports programme and ALL the commentaries.

It was certainly an exciting time with Villa top of the Premier League the week of launch, following a win against Bolton.

In fact, his first week saw a thief steal all his commentary equipment while he was interviewing Lee Hendrie - but Woodward bounced back.

He continued: "They were fun times. I remember Thomas Hitzlsperger coming into the studio, which was based in the bowels of the North Stand, and confusing everyone with his German/Brummie accent. And I also recall vividly Peter Crouch nearly knocking himself out as he came in, banging his head on the door!"

While things were going great for Woodward as he progressed and established himself as the voice of the club, an incident occurred that made him realise the uncertainty of life.

He narrowly escaped the first of two near-fatal car crashes on the way to Charlton for a Monday evening game.

He hit a signpost on the M1 and that's about all he can remember.

Other than the car being a write-off and a kind doctor staring in his eyes and asking him who the Prime Minister was.

Woodward said Andy Blair rather than Tony Blair. But it didn't signal brain problems just the fact he had been due to pick up the European Cup winner on the way to the game - but didn't make it!

He continued: "That was a scary moment. At least I didn't say Winston Churchill. I remember I had to stay in a geriatric ward because there were no spaces elsewhere. I had one old man who kept exposing himself and shouting out his wife's name Beryl while I apparently kept screaming out my car registration when I fell asleep. Thankfully I was soon back on my feet!"

But disaster almost struck again two years later when his new car span out of control and left him facing the wrong way down the M42 near the services in Tamworth.

He continued: "For about 15 seconds I thought I was a goner. It wasn't as bad a crash but this time I remember every moment.

"Thankfully I managed to bring the car to rest near the central reservation. My life didn't flash before my eyes as some people say. But it has made me appreciate what I've got. I now commentate every game as if it's my last, that's for sure.

"I've had no major problems since, other than crashing my car into the entrance bollard in the team hotel car park. Over £3,000 later and my radiator was finally fixed!"

How ironic it is that Woodward should see his reputation firmly enhanced by a driving challenge.

Woodward had, by now, moved from The Villan to the club's in-house Communications Department, which housed the website content team, the matchday programme staff and, of course, the new video station - Villa World [which eventually became AVTV].

Woodward decided to add more strings to his bow by taking up video as well as radio work.

He began hosting the preview programme before each game as well as fronting interviews with manager, staff and players.

As the video content's value increased, so did the extravagance of the features attempted.

This was encapsulated with the 'Bullring to Bullring: Mission to Malaga' test, thought up by marketing chief Russell Jones.

It entailed Woodward delivering the new home kit to the likes of Brad Friedel, Stiliyan Petrov, Ashley Young and Nigel Reo-Coker in Spain.

But not by plane, no that would be far too simple.

It was via car, with two high-performance vehicles driving the ace Acorns kit to the team's pre-season training base, via holidays spots in England, France and Spain, including Benidorm!

Woodward was joined by website editor Paul Brown and the pair were given chauffeurs - and tasked with creating engaging video and text content en route.

The duo managed that successfully, with Woodward's hilarious video clips proving a major success with fans across the globe.

There was his sleep commentating clip, an impromptu rendition of Bryan Adams classic 'Everything I Do' at Carcassonne Castle - the scene of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves - and his close relationship with McGregor the Gnome.

The journey, which created national headlines, guaranteed Woodward a place in the hearts of the club fans.

He delivered the kit for them - and he's been delivering on the airwaves since too.

Woodward

Woodward picks out Everton v Villa in 2008 - including Ashley Young's last-gasp goal - as his most exciting moment on the airwaves, along with the 2010 League Cup semi-final 6-4 win over Blackburn.

He's interviewed John Motson, Des Lynam and athletic ace Michael Johnson during his tenure here.

He's been a mainstay of every UEFA Cup game played and each pre-season tour, with USA, Canada, Sweden and Hong Kong the faraway destinations encountered.

He enjoys a fine relationship with players and management staff in his role, which takes him to Bodymoor Heath regularly from his usual Villa Park base.

You quickly find in Woodward's business that if you're the subject of banter it means you're accepted.

Former boss Martin O'Neill affectionately called him a "dunderhead" once after he performed poorly in the manager's team during a pre-match quiz in Hamburg.

He even jokingly booed him off after a spell on the stage doing karaoke in Marbella one pre-season.

But he soon changed his views on the crooner's singing skills by asking him to entertain the fans on the way back from Moscow with a rendition of Sound of Music classic 'Edelweiss.'

Gabby Agbonlahor still keeps jokingly asking him if he's due a free transfer anytime soon.

But, more than anything, that demonstrates his appeal.

Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton are just two of the current stars to have sat next to Woodward for commentary stints in the press box and that's predominantly due to his fine repartee with the training ground regulars, a relationship built up over the 10-years plus he's worked at the club.

Other more permanent pundits have included Ken McNaught, Tony Morley, Paul McGrath, Peter McParland, Mark Delaney, Pat Heard and Bobby Thomson.

But it's not just audio and video where he excels, Woodward is literally a 'Jack' of all-trades.

He regularly does pitch-announcing - and never to such a large crowd as that day in 2010 when he walked on to the Wembley pitch for the Villa v Man Utd final to rapturous applause.

He was charged with reading out the team line-up for Villa.

Man Utd's equivalent played it straight and didn't raise so much as a smile.

But Woodward threw himself into the task and his "Spanish Matador C C C C Carlos Cuellar" alone will surely go down in oratory folklore.

He also hosts the end-of-season awards dinner where the stars of the season are presented with their prizes.

Maybe one day Woodward will win an award. He'll certainly have earned it!

The Woodward Files

Best Bits

On Paul Merson goal against Coventry 2000: "The magic man said abracadabra and out popped the white rabbit from the black hat."

On Peter Crouch goal against Bolton 2002: "He looks like Rodney Trotter. He's scored against the Trotters. He's not a plonker. It's lovely jubbly for Aston Villa."

On Joey Gudjonsson goal against Boro 2003: "Gudjonsson? Good goal son!"

On Lee Hendrie goal against Everton 2004: "The day before Halloween and that strike was sweeter than a piece of pumpkin pie."

On Villa win over Portsmouth: "Remember. Remember. The fifth of November. Goal power, screamers and shots."

On Juan Pablo Angel goal against Chelsea 2003: "Juanderful. Juan in a million. Juan Pablo Angel!"

On Villa 6-4 win over Blackburn 2010: "I've been to the West End. I've been to Broadway. I've been to the Moulin Rouge. But I've never seen drama quite like this."

On Villa win at Arsenal 2008: "Villa's message for the Wenger Boys. We're going to I-Beat-Ya."

Funny Bits

To John Gregory: "How's Juan Pablo Angel's [coughs over voice] English?" JG: "Better than yours by the sound of it!"

To Barry Bannan: "What makes you laugh?" BB: "Your commentaries!"

To Martin O'Neill: "It's the weekend of the London Marathon, are you looking for a sprint finish to the season?" MON: "Are you serious Jack?"

Snap up your tickets and back the boys against Stoke.

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