Read an Extract from Where Am I? by Phil Tufnell

Read an Extract from Where Am I? by Phil Tufnell

I made my first appearance on A Question of Sport as a guest in the early Nineties, soon after I made my debut for England. Bill Beaumont and Ian Botham were the captains and we all went up to do the recording on a Sunday. A nice Sunday lunch, with quizmaster David Coleman sitting at the head of the table, made it feel like a family get-together. Beefy brought out the red wine and we all teetered off into the studio to do the show.

I absolutely loved it – it really was a dream come true. When I was a kid, Mum, Dad, Greg and me all sat round the telly watching the show and playing along, so to be asked to actually appear on it – well, I thought I’d made it.

I’ve always thought I know quite a lot about sport – I follow cricket, football and rugby in particular – but the prospect of captaining a side on A Question of Sport makes me start to doubt that in the week before filming the show.

After Bill and Ian, Ally McCoist and John Parrott took over as skippers in 1996, with Frankie Dettori replacing John in 2002 and Matt Dawson – when he had hair – then replacing Frankie in 2004. I probably appeared half a dozen times on the show during those years. In 2007, Ally goes off to become assistant manager at Rangers FC and for a while the Beeb invite various guest captains to sit in Ally’s chair – including Jamie Redknapp, Darren Gough, Ricky Hatton, my old spinning nemesis Shane Warne. . . and me.

I’m very chuffed to be asked to have a go. Strangely enough, I was never asked to captain a side during my eighteen years as a professional cricketer. For some reason, I was not marked down as a potential leader of men except, perhaps, to the bar at the end of the game.

I’ve always thought I know quite a lot about sport – I follow cricket, football and rugby in particular – but the prospect of captaining a side on A Question of Sport makes me start to doubt that in the week before filming the show. I don’t exactly revise for the show like an exam – not that I ever revised for an exam in my school days – but I watch the sports news on telly a bit more closely than normal. Then on the day of the recording, on the way to the studio on Wood Lane, Shepherd’s Bush, I get the driver to stop off at a garage and, rather than buy the Daily Star, I pick up copies of the Daily Telegraph and The Times. Scouring the latest stories in the broadsheet sports pages for a few minutes, I’m sure I will soak up knowledge of the entire history of sport.

At the studio, as I’m waiting to go on set, I get chatting to one of the guys working behind the scenes who I’ve met before:

‘Go on, tell us – who’s the mystery guest this week?’ I say.
He looks horrified: ‘You what?’
‘Go on, give us a clue, I won’t tell anyone. . .’
‘What?’
‘Well, you know, I’m just a bit nervous on my first show as captain, I don’t know too much about other sports.’
‘Oh no, sorry, mate. All of that is top-secret. I wouldn’t ask anyone that again, if I were you.’
‘Ooh, crikey, er, only joking. . .’

It’s like I’m asking him to help me steal the Crown Jewels.

It is dawning on me that looking over the papers for half an hour on the way to the studio might not be sufficient. Unlike They Think It’s All Over, which was a comedy panel show with a quiz element, A Question of Sport is not scripted at all and no clues are given about what to expect before you get out there. It’s a sports quiz first and foremost, with a bit of banter thrown in, and I think that’s one of the reasons it’s maintained its popularity for so many years.

Presenter Sue Barker will ask one of my team-mates if they wanted to ‘go home or away’ on their question and I’ll just be sitting there quietly until I remember I’m captain and supposed to be giving them advice, getting them talking and helping to drive the show.

Aside from the last-minute swotting up and unseemly attempt to cheat, I’m not panicking too much though. I’ve been made to feel so at home as a team member in the past, I plan to just go on and enjoy it.

Once I’m in the studio, however, I soon realise that the dynamic completely changes when you are captain. Previously, I’ve been expected to know my cricket and if I get a couple of general sporting questions right too, happy days. As skipper, you’re supposed to have a bit of a wider knowledge of sport so you can help your team-mates out. You’re also expected to lead the conversation. Sometimes even the most confident, successful sportspeople aren’t so comfortable appearing on a show like this, so you have to help them along.

Presenter Sue Barker will ask one of my team-mates if they wanted to ‘go home or away’ on their question and I’ll just be sitting there quietly until I remember I’m captain and supposed to be giving them advice, getting them talking and helping to drive the show.

That takes some getting used to, but Sue and the production team are very helpful in guiding me (well, helpful within the rules).

In the absence of any great depth of sporting knowledge, I revert back to my days in a cricket dressing room, making fun out of whatever’s available. I’m terrible at remembering the dates of when things happened, though, and I give an answer that’s a good decade out.

‘Is it 1982, Sue?’
‘No, 1995.’
‘Well, the Nineties were a bit of a blur for me. . .’

My team loses to Daws’s by a country mile, but we have a laugh doing it, have a drink in the green room afterwards with everyone, get in the car and go home. I thoroughly enjoy the experience, but don’t really think about it again until I get a phone call a few months later from Mike saying that the producers want me to do a full series as captain. I’m amazed and abso­lutely thrilled. It’s a real wow moment for me: ‘Hold on – me, a captain on A Question of Sport?’ All those legends who’ve done the job: Cliff Morgan, Henry Cooper, Freddie Trueman, Brendan Foster, Gareth Edwards, Willie Carson, Bill Beaumont, Beefy Botham. . . and now me? I do feel immensely proud and honoured to be asked.