25 years on from Northampton Town’s first visit to Wembley Stadium – and our first win there – in the Division 3 Play Off Final, It’s All Cobblers To Me speaks to some of the legends of that era.
So sit back and reminisce with one of our heroes ahead of the Wembley Anniversary event that we’re hosting on May 20th. Click here for ticket details.
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Hosted by Charles Commins, Danny Brothers, Chessie Coleman and Neil Egerton-Scott.
Produced by Vibrant Sound Media
Charles is the founder and main presenter of the award-winning It’s All Cobblers To Me podcast.
He began the podcast after going self-employed in 2018 as a podcast producer and voiceover artist. The original thought being that It’s All Cobblers To Me would be a place to try out new things – like a test podcast of sorts.
As well as being Cobblers mad, Charles is also a ultramarathon runner and has a blog about that that he tries to keep up to date as often as he can.
Hi Charles, I just have to add that Tim Oglethorpe was commentating on the game as well. We split the commentary, uh, across the time, uh, of the game and obviously Tim is still involved now. Um, but yeah, it was me and, and Tim and I think it was Steve Berry was our summarizer that day.Charles Commins (:
You see now I would never have remembered any of that detail. So thank you for that.Mike Sewell (:
I find it hard to go back that far but no, you can't forget a day like that.Charles Commins (:
Absolutely not. Now I'm, I'm sure that your voice is quite recognizable to most of our listeners, but just in case, can you just help jog our memories of where we might have heard you before?Mike Sewell (:t Wembley as a commentator in:Charles Commins (:
Well, as you said, you'd started at Radio Northampton in the October of ‘96. At that point, did you have any inkling of how good the side was going to turn out to be?Mike Sewell (:
Not at all. In fact, I remember I'd obviously got the job, but I couldn't go for some reason. I don't know why maybe I had to cover the editor in Norwich, but I couldn't start until the 1st of October. So I missed the first six weeks of the season, but clearly I was keeping a close on what was happening. And I vividly remember looking at the result from the first game of the season where the cobbles played at Wigan, where I think from memory, the team bus got stuck in traffic on the M6, the team was late. I think they got fined for it. And then they lost 2-1 and had two players sent off. So that was my welcome, to being the Radio Northampton Sports Producer. I was thinking, oh, this looks like it might be a good season. And of course they didn't have a very good start at all. So by the time I got there on the 1st of October, they were fairly low down the table. I dunno what position they were in. And I was thinking, oh my goodness me, what am I taking on here? But as history tells us, by the end of that season, it was a complete contrast. So I would've never, ever expected to be commentating at Wembley. What nine months later?Charles Commins (:
It's funny. Isn't it? How you remember those strange things, especially things like you'd not actually started properly working for Radio Northampton at that time. That's something that sticks in your mind.Mike Sewell (:
What's weird is I can't actually remember what my first game was. I can remember that, but I don't remember - if I went back and looked at the fixtures, I could probably tell you what the first game was from looking at the date. But I don't remember the first game that I did.Charles Commins (:
It must be. Cause I mean, at that point, as you say, you've not done main commentary before, so it's, it's a step up for yourself. So there must have been a lot of excitement for you going into that job.Mike Sewell (:
Yeah. A lot of excitement, I was slightly nervous. It was actually a big deal for me full stop because I had left home when I was younger and lived somewhere else for six months, but this was a big deal cuz I'd left home. My parents, I was living on my own in Norwich, but I moved to a town in Northampton that I knew nobody. I didn't know anyone. I had an ambition that I wanted to get to 5 Live in the end. And so I knew that I needed to do a producer job, cuz I was just a reporter and a freelancer. But at Norfolk there was a guy who had just got the job. There was no chance of progressing there for a few years. So I started looking elsewhere and then of course Northampton, not being far from Norwich, I applied for the job.Mike Sewell (:
I didn't actually expect to get it. I remember the managing editor at the time told me it was a close call between me and somebody else, but they gave me the shot and I was really, yeah, I was excited, but at the same time it was slightly scary because I was moving somewhere I didn't know anybody. And, I had to obviously brush up a little bit on Northampton. I'll be honest. I knew bits and pieces: that George Best game and things like that and the county ground and, and the fact that the fans used to stand around the edge of the pitch. But you have to kind of learn about that club and get into it. And I did. And I got there and it was tough because I also was doing early shifts.Mike Sewell (:
So I was getting up at four o'clock every day five days a week to do the early shifts and then doing games on a Saturday. It was quite full on and I put a lot of pressure on myself. And so the beginning was quite difficult, but I have to say that the whole Wembley experience was massive on a personal level. I know this means nothing to anybody else, but on a personal level, it was a major boost to me cause I did even consider leaving around the Christmas period, cuz I wasn't overly happy. I mean, it wasn't so much the Cobblers. It was just the whole thing of moving to a town where you didn't know anybody and getting up early and not being able to go out in the evening cuz you had to get up so early in the morning. And I remember my parents saying, look, give it the full season, see how you get on, go and share a house rather than live on your own and things like that and give it another shot. And it was them, they were the ones that made me stick it out and, and that whole experience at Wembley the celebrations on the Monday, it just made me, I dunno, I felt it. I suddenly felt at home and yeah, that whole experience really made Northampton home for me. And I stayed for 20 years.Charles Commins (:
I always think with any of the BBC local stations, regardless of who you are and where you are actually from the whole ethos of it is that you get involved in the community and you are representing that community, aren't you with their stories and, and being a voice for them. And so you can't just turn up and go, right, I’m gonna commentate on this football team without having any kind of affiliation towards them whatsoever. Any feelings about them at all? I presume Mike, being a Norwich lad. You're a Norwich City fan?Mike Sewell (:red the goal of the season in:Mike Sewell (:
I seemed to be quite fortunate here cuz the first year I had a season ticket at Norwich we got to the Milk Cup final and we won the Milk Cup. I'm quite fortunate when it comes to Wembley. I always seem to just arrive at the right time. Yeah. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Liverpool because of those days they were the best team in the country, back in the seventies and early eighties. Um, but yeah, Norwich is my team, but of course Northampton, I hope people understand when they're listening to this. That Northampton is definitely my second team. Cause I lived there for 20 years. I lived almost as long as I did in Norwich, but I have, because I have this affinity and like you do with your hometown, it's just something about your hometown and the hometown club.Mike Sewell (:
It's in your DNA. So to speak cuz you’re born there, you grow up there, but Northampton are very much my second team. And it's weird really? You get into it. And like you say, when I first arrived, I had to kind of go back in time a bit to get some of the background. But once I've been there that season, yeah, we had to, we, I had to cover Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering press conferences. Rushden were on the up at the time, we did Silverstone and we had all the local teams like Coughnoe and I made sure I didn't pronounce it wrong when I first got there. And so yeah, you get into it and once you, once you live in the town, once you, once you see the air, I mean I love, I absolutely love Abington park. It's still my favorite park in the whole world. I love it. I used to live down the road from there and I miss it, I miss being able to go there.Charles Commins (:
I always go because obviously when you go on to do the commentary for radio 5 Live and, and you're doing premier league games, champions league games, international games as well, you don't necessarily, well, there's a, there's a much more kind of, you want to just be as unbiased as possible, whereas with local radio. And I know that you get this sometimes in the more northern areas of the country where you'll have commentators who are incredibly biased towards the team that they're commentating on and you get some incredible moments where commentators go absolutely wild and it must be quite difficult at first to almost put that same kind of level of energy and passion into commentating on a team that you, at the beginning, you've got no real affinity with. You'd rather be watching Norwich. And if it wasn't for your your job and being paid to do it, then, then you probably wouldn't go to a Northampton game or you certainly wouldn't have moved there. I would imagine. So it is, is it hard? Is it difficult to get into that mindset of: I'm commentating here for Northampton Town fans? This isn't necessarily for a national audience who might tune into just hear this particular game. Everyone listening is listening because it's Northampton and they are supporting that team.Mike Sewell (:
Yeah. I don't think it takes long to naturally find yourself immersed in it. Certainly in my case, by the end of that season, I was fully immersed when you first arrive. Obviously I didn't know anybody, I didn't know Ian Atkins to chat to, but after a few months of doing press conferences and matches, you get to kind of get an affinity and then you, because you are sort of in it and you're doing every game and every little element of the team and what's happening. You do find yourself consumed by it. There may not be that natural affinity that I had with my hometown team. But yeah, I would say within a few months, well into it and I mean some of the players and, and I, I, wasn't one of these people that felt that I needed to be mates with anybody and, and I didn't didn't feel that was right anyway.Mike Sewell (:
I mean, some people who work in the industry get on well and become friends with players and things. I didn't, I never really had that, but I always felt they were good people to talk to. Woody was obviously the main one and I've bumped into him several times over the years since, and I’ve had numerous chats with him in tunnels around the country and Ian as well. I bumped into Ian a few times at Birmingham and Villa and places like that. And you sort of, you still got that connection. It's quite nice to sort of have that connection of, even though I didn't play in the team and I'm not gonna take any credit for happened, but you are involved and it's, and looking back now and you're doing the celebratory podcasts, and they've got the big event on the 20th of May, it really brings it all back and you realize how much it meant, even though, even though I wasn't, I'm not a Northampton fan, I didn't play in the team, but it means a heck of a lot.Mike Sewell (:
And I say this, and I don't say this lightly. And I know I said this before when they had, I think the 10 year celebration, even then and now, and like you said, I've worked on Premier League, I commentated on the World Cup. And that was a big thing for me and a massive moment to be able to commentate on a world cup game, but as an individual moment. And that weekend, that is still the standout moment, the Frain goal, and what happened afterwards, that is still a standout moment in my career, that goal at Wembley. And, and I'm not saying that just to do it because I'm speaking to you, it's still, when I sort of think about it. And I watched funny enough, I watched the highlights when, when you contacted me and said, you wanted to speak to me, I thought I'm gonna watch of highlights again, because I can't remember much about the game other than the Fraine goal and the Heggs volley at the beginning. And I wonder, and I'm sure there's thousands of Cobblers fans out there thinking what would've happened. If Heggsy’s shot hadn't been saved by Woody. If Woody hadn't saved that shot, that game could have been so differentCharles Commins (:
Absolutely. Let's talk about that game, the build up to it. Obviously it's the first major event that you will have commentated on, setting you up quite nicely for what was to come in your career. I think we've heard from players about how their preparation kind of goes. And obviously there's an awful lot of trying to keep the nerves at bay, trying to keep the excitement down and trying to treat it as any other game that you might be wanting to play, but slightly different for you. There's not really the same kind of pressure on yourself, but obviously you are wanting to do it justice. What was the build up like in that week or so from the moment that we'd got through having beaten Cardiff in the semi-finals to then the appearance at Wembley? Was it a fun time or were you actually quite worried and nervous that you'd do it justice?Mike Sewell (:
I'd say that there wasn't enough time to think about it being fun or even being nervous because all local radio producers at the BBC will tell you this, they work really hard. They have lots of things to do. They kind of take on everything themselves, certainly in those days. And I remember it just being manic in that week, we had to book lines at Wembley through 5 Live’s production manager. We had to make sure we had the right ISDN lines. The news team had to book a spot outside Wembley to be able to speak to the fans on the way in. Obviously there was all the news programs that went around it, and I obviously was contributing to that. And they're saying, well, we wanna speak to this player and can we do this? And there was the pre-match press day at Sixfields where they had the band didn't they?Mike Sewell (:
And I remember Ian Sampson playing the drums and it was, yeah, it was full on. And you don't really have much time to think. I guess probably the time I had to think was on the journey up there. I'd obviously done my prep and I sat in the car and I was, I don't even remember if Tim drove or I drove or somebody else drove. It's weird that the day itself, I remember bits of the day, but I don't. I remember very little about the game I really do apart from I remember the Heggs volley and obviously the Frain goal, but it's so hard to remember the match. I think it just goes so so quickly.Charles Commins (:
I mean, it was a game that most would say was probably heading slightly towards 0-0 and extra time and penalties. It was literally right at the death that the free kick is awarded. And John Frain obviously has a go, first of all, only for, I think it was encroachment of the wall that led to it being retaken. And then obviously this moment happens where John Frain scores, I wonder, first of all, do you still have that?Mike Sewell (:
You're not gonna ask me to re-create it?!Charles Commins (:
I'm not, I'd be interested to know whether you've still got a copy of that.Mike Sewell (:
I do. It's on a cassette somewhere here in my study, but I've got it. I haven't listened to it for a long time now, but it does honestly gives me goosebumps, partly because I listen and I cringe, cuz my voice, it was the day my voice broke in my career cuz my voice went very high after the initial, when the ball went in and then I said something along the lines of John Frain has sent Northampton into the second division, something like that. And my voice got really high. The one thing I remember about just before the free kick was taken was, when you are commentating and I know you received an award from John Murray at the end of last year, didn't you?Mike Sewell (:
Obviously I work with John and John is the master. He's the master of spotting things around the stadium whilst everybody else has got their eyes focused on the pitch and on what's happening, John's got his binoculars out and he's looking over there cuz he spot somebody, he spots a steward or he spots someone doing something else or a guy down the corner. And anyway, I'd always remembered that from being told these things by Peter Drury and people, and that day between when the guy jumped the wall and the free kick was gonna be retaken. I looked down towards the bench cuz we were on that side of the stadium and Ian turned around and walked back towards the dugout and it was a fair walk and he pulled out, I think it was a St Christopher. It might have been a cross, but I think it was a Saint Christopher.Mike Sewell (:
He pulled it out from underneath his shirt and he kissed it and put it back in. And I mentioned it in the commentary. And later, at a later date, I spoke to him about it. I think it was given to him by his late father. I think that was a really nice moment to see that. And then literally 15 seconds later, Frain hits the ball in the bottom corner and all hell breaks loose. But yeah, that encapsulates that moment between Ian walking back to the dugout and John scoring and everybody mobbing him that encapsulates the whole, the whole experience really.(:
I saw Atkins just then kiss either a cross or a St Christopher hanging his neck. He senses that this could be the moment that Cobblers make it in to division two. They're gonna get a second go at this. Frain took the first one. Maybe Hunter will take the second free kick just outside the D. John Frain and Roy Hunter, Lee, Grayson and the like in the penalty area. The referee blows his whistle. Frain steps forward, left footed and he’s scored!(:
John Frain has scored and there's jubilation away to my left and that surely sends Cobblers the division 2. three and half minutes into injury time, it looked as if it was going to extra time and John Frain, his second free kick goes wide of Roger Freestone’s right hand into the corner of the net. And there's absolute jubiliation here.Charles Commins (:
When the ball goes in the back of the net, are you on your feet at that point? Has that got you up off your seat?Mike Sewell (:
I don't remember. We were right at the back of the stand. This is old Wembley obviously. And so it was about three years from being knocked down. Wasn't it? So we were right next to the closed booths. We were in the open area and then me an Tim and Steve were sat side by side. I don't remember whether I stood up or not. I mean, I have done in commentary since, I must have done, unless I was wedged in like you are at Sixfields where you can't possibly, you can't move your knees for two hours.Charles Commins (:
I often sort of wonder about that when you are sort of, I mean, nowadays it obviously, we often see don't we what's happened in the studio when a goal has gone in, so like Match Of The Day are on and they've got, I dunno, Ian Wright and Alan Shearer in the studio and it's an England game of the world cup or something. And, and they'll show what happened at that point in the studio when whoever it was for England scored and they all go absolutely crazy. Just like any other fan has done in the stadium on that day. And I always think it must be so difficult sometimes for commentators to keep their cool in any of those kinds of moments.Mike Sewell (:
Yeah. When I’ve heard that since, for a while it bugged me that my voice had sort of cracked and gone very high pitched. And I was really unhappy with it after the actual commentary, I wished I'd done it differently. I wish I'd reigned it in and kept my lower tone, but that's how it was. That was the emotion, wasn't it at the moment, no one was expecting it. And you just, you can't preempt what you're gonna do in a moment as big as that. You can’t script it and it would be wrong to script it. That's just the way it came out. And I eventually accepted that and it was just my emotion and yeah, I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of grown men in the stands at Wembley whose voices went very high at that moment.Charles Commins (:
Yeah. You probably weren't alone. I'll say that. Definitely. I've seen a lot in the last couple of years. People like, well, I think Clive Tyldesley is now making a side business out of it where he's actually taking his notes and you can purchase them and get them framed. What were your notes like? I mean, I'm not necessarily saying that you've got them now to look at, but were yours as detailed and as, I will say as flashy as his were?Mike Sewell (:
No, probably not I didn't have as much time to prep in those days cuz I was the producer as well. And we were trying to sort out the logistics. I know my notes evolved over the years and they now look very different to what they were. Although I will say I still write, I don't type. I did have a go at putting it on an iPad when I got on iPad about 10 years ago and it just doesn't work for me. I like to write it down. Cuz if you go over your notes while you're writing them, you actually go straight into your head. So you may not even need to refer to your notes come the game because you've written it the night before, a day before and it's in there, but I've never been one for over starting anything or doing…Mike Sewell (:
I mean some of the guys and there's a few guys, there's a guy called Daniel Mann who works for Sky who I've never seen notes like it. He writes very small, but incredibly neat. And he laminates it as well. So if it's windy or rainy in the press box, which it often can be, he's set and he's got notes on both sides. All he does is flip his laminated sheet one to the other. I know Sam Matterface, a few years ago, Sam started doing it electronically and I was like, oh, that looks fantastic. How did you do that? And so everybody has their own way of doing it because you know where your head to head is or the referees notes are, or the player's appearances or the goals they've scored this season, you know how to get there and you just, over time, you gradually think, oh, I've gotta put that there and there, but mine are nothing special, pretty basic really compared to, certainly to Daniel and to Sam.Charles Commins (:
After the game then, I mean it's bedlam on the pitch. You can see all the players are just going absolutely mad with excitement and rightly so, you've got to, at that point collect yourself I suppose, because I mean literally the goal goes in right at the end and that's probably what makes that goal even better because if it had happened maybe in the 26th minute, it might not quite have the, the gravitas. If we’d had sort of 60 minutes or so minutes to have got over the fact that we are winning the game at that point and probably biting our way through fingernails because there’s so long left, but because it happens right at the death, it just adds that little bit of something. So you've gotta collect yourself and then get either yourself or Tim's going down to interview the manager, players, et cetera. Is it really difficult at that point for you to concentrate on just doing your job or are people wanting you to get involved with the celebrations?Mike Sewell (:he had this huge, cuz this is:Mike Sewell (:
I did that job for 5 Live for about five years in a row at the cup finals after I'd left Northampton. And it's brilliant because you are right in the midst of it and you are on the pitch at Wembley, speaking to a player, but you are kind of having to think on your feet incredibly quickly and it just, you just do it, you go with the emotion and I think all of us, we just, we just did the job cause we'd been doing it. We'd been up and down the country all season going to places like, I dunno, who was in the division that year? Fulham was in the division. Were they in the work division?Charles Commins (:
I think so. Yeah. They finished second.Mike Sewell (:
Yeah. We'd been all over the shop and then it all came down to this, but it's yeah, I suppose it's, it's your experiences and your training. You just go with the flow and I dunno how much longer we were on air for, we must have been on for at least an hour, maybe two. And we were waiting for players to come up and I know there were various people, one or both of the Barry’s came and spoke to us. MPs, various people that were sitting close to us all came up and it was just, it was great. And, obviously when we did the parade on the Monday, that solidified the whole, that was just an incredible day. I just have these images of people at Sixfields when we left cuz I was on the top deck of the bus doing live interviews.Mike Sewell (:
So I was in a very, very privileged position to be up there and we left Sixfields and obviously there was just droves and droves of people lining the streets of Sixfields and the Whedon Road. I remember we got through Jimmy's End. It's funny. I was standing close to Woody and Dave Martin, I think he was a defender. He was a fringe player at the time, but I think he'd been on loan or something and him and Woody were getting quite lively and they suddenly said “we’ve run out beer!” and we got to Jimmy's End and basically through the crowd of players, Woody and Dave Martin exited the bus and went into the Black Lion on Mairfair, went in and came out with a crate of beer, back up to the top deck and we carried on again.Mike Sewell (:
But when we got to the top of Mairfair and about to go into Gold Street, my word, what a site that was just looking down towards All Saints and yeah, I mean for the players themselves at the front and, and guys like John Frain and Ian and Woody and, and all those guys that were involved, they must, it must have been such a special moment, but I literally remember it being a sea of people from the bottom of Gold Street through to All Saints around the corner, up The Drapery and then into the market square. And then obviously the market was packed as well. And yeah, it was just incredible. And then from my memory, Ian Atkins got the microphone off somebody, the PA microphone. And at this point he'd had a few beers and he started singing from the top of the bus. “He's fat, he's round, he's worth a million pound”, in his brummie accent, “Johnny Frain, Johnny Frain.” And that's one moment I remember from the market square and everybody else started singing it as well. What a day, what a weekend. It was just absolutely phenomenal.Charles Commins (:
It was, wasn't it, it was such a good weekend and such a good experience. And I know that although everybody does, obviously they remember the game or, at the very least they remember Frainie's goal at the end, but for many, they will also remember the commentary.Mike Sewell (:
It's nice to have been a part of it in a little tiny little way, in a small way, just to sort of be, be a part of that day. And I do remember you mention people listening to it. I was speaking to somebody, it must have been long after I worked there. I don’t remember which supermarket it was and I'm pretty sure they worked there and they said, oh, we had the radio on, we had your commentary on cuz we couldn't watch it. Cuz we had to keep working. They were stacking the shelves and doing whatever. And they said, when the goal went in, there was this massive, this big cheer and everybody, well, the few people that were in there doing the shopping, obviously taking advantage of the quiet day gave out a cheer. So those sort of things are really nice to know.Charles Commins (:
Brilliant. Well look, thank you so much for chatting with me, Mike, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on.Mike Sewell (:
It’s been a pleasure for me as well. Really, really nice to go down memory lane. It's really nice. And I, I think it's great that you're able to get everybody's experiences of that day. Cause everybody's got their own individual experience. 32,000 people that were there, all got their individual experience. They remember the day what they did, where they went, what pub they went to before, where they went afterwards, the journey home and then all the people back in Northampton who probably went straight down Welly road after the game had a curry and the rest of it.Charles Commins (:
Thanks to Mike and BBC Radio Northampton for allowing us to use Mike's commentary from that fabled day. We'll be back with more from the class of ‘97 in the coming weeks. And don't forget to book your place at the anniversary event on Friday, the 20th May at Sixfields, you can book a place for our forum with some of the club legends involved from just a fiver, by getting in touch with the club or visiting the club website. Thanks for listening. And we'll be back again soon.