His voice is one of television’s most familiar, but all that is about to change. Having read the Saturday-afternoon football results on BBC TV for the past 16 years, 81-year-old Tim Gudgin will put down his micro- phone for the last time this Saturday (4:30pm BBC1).
Having joined Grandstand in 1976, when he read the racing and rugby results, Gudgin became only the second person to read out the football results for BBC television on Saturday afternoons. His predecessor Len Martin died in 1995.
So what sort of preparation is involved for one of the most important jobs in sport? “Well, I don’t bother gargling or warming up my vocal cords,” he laughs. “Occasionally I’ll put drops up my nose if I’m feeling blocked, but that’s it. In the past we used to get a hard copy of the results to read through before doing it live, but nowadays I sit down and read them cold from the same screen that the viewers are watching.”
Those paying close attention might have detected an upbeat note to Gudgin’s voice when he’s reading a favourable Crystal Palace result. “I have to confess to being a Palace fan. I’ve never been accused of favouritism, but old schoolfriends of mine can probably detect some glee in my voice if Palace have won, because when you smile it always comes across in your voice.”
But Palace aren’t in the result he’d most like to read. “That would be a Tottenham Hotspur score.
I’ve met Harry Redknapp and he was very appreciative of my work, so for him I’d love to read: “Tottenham Hotspur 5, Manchester United 0.”
A consummate professional, Gudgin claims he’s only ever read a score incorrectly three times, “but I always managed to correct myself immediately,” he adds swiftly. “I used to dread pronouncing Hamilton Academical, but I mastered that quickly enough. And I was fortunate in avoiding the much-feared “Forfar 5, East Fife 4” result, but Len Martin did actually get that one once, which amused me greatly.”
In fact, it took a notorious rock star to ruffle Gudgin’s feathers. Having written the theme that introduces Final Score, the Fall’s Mark E Smith was once invited to the studio. “He’d had a few drinks so we were all on tenterhooks,” recalls Gudgin. “As I was reading the results, he kept speaking over my shoulder, which was very off- putting. I was worried that the mics would pick up what he was saying. I think we just about got away with it, but it was a close call.”
Gudgin’s radio career began in 1950 on British Forces Network Radio in Germany, before arriving at the BBC two years later to work as a studio manager and newsreader.
“I realised staff workers weren’t getting as much varied work as freelancers,” he says, “so in 1966 I went freelance, which meant I could also do more commercial voicework. I remember doing the voiceover for a TV ad and bought my first house mortgage-free with the proceeds.” A result, even by Tim’s standards.
So who would Gudgin pick to replace him? “Stephen Fry would be excellent. He seems to do everything else, so why not?”