Ed Chamberlin on growing up with sport, charity work and working with Matt Le Tissier
PUBLISHED: 10:41 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:40 03 November 2017
© Sky Sports / Andi Southam 12th September 2011
Obsessed with sport from a young age, Sky Sports' Ed Chamberlin talks to Andy Greeves about his love for Southampton FC and how the city's hospital saved his life
If the games children play offer an indication of their future career, broadcaster Ed Chamberlin was always destined to work in the sporting world. Growing up in the Hampshire village of St Mary Bourne, Ed was, by his own admission, “mad about sport from the year dot”.
“I loved football and cricket especially,” he says. “I was always throwing a ball against our home pretending I was Graham Gooch or my favourite Hampshire players, who would have been the Smith brothers Robin and Chris at the time.
“Football was and is a massive passion. I quickly became a Southampton fan and my first ever game was against Liverpool at The Dell (September 20, 1980). I remember Graeme Souness scoring for the Reds in that match, which finished in a 2-2 draw. It’s ironic to now be working with Graeme on a regular basis on Sky Sports all these years on.”
Born in Shepton Mallet, Somerset on February 6, 1974, Ed and his parents lived on the outskirts of Andover prior to their move to St Mary Bourne. His father was a soldier, so Ed spent time in Germany and Hong Kong as a youngster - but his family always maintained their Hampshire home.
“My dad was based at the Peninsula Barracks in Winchester,” explains Ed. “That was a big part of my early life. I remember the Pass Out Parades taking place on weekend mornings. Even though we moved around a lot when I was young, because of dad’s military commitments, Hampshire was always ‘home’ for me.”
Ed himself has been settled in the county for many years now. He moved with wife Charlotte from King’s Somborne to Broughton four years ago after seeing a property “we thought could be our forever home”. With two children, Sam (6) and Polly (9), the Test Valley area has proven to be a perfect place to bring up their youngsters.
“It’s a vibrant, young village with lots of things going on,” smiles Ed. “My son has just joined Broughton under-7s football team and my daughter sings in the girls’ choir in church. It’s Hampshire village life at its finest here and we love it. We’ve had a Thai restaurant move into The Greyhound Inn in Broughton, which is life-changing! It just means I need to go to the gym more often now with the amount of times I eat there!
“We live close to Mottisfont, so we visit there a fair bit. The National Trust are great at organising activities for children… so it’s always a real family day out there. We get to Winchester a fair bit too. That’s where Kyoto Kitchen, my favourite restaurant in the county, is! Down the road, Middle Wallop is a lovely village and when I get some spare time, I do play a fair bit of golf! I’m a member at the Leckford Golf Club in Stockbridge.”
His life, enriched by his family, dream job and charity work, is being lived to the full. The sports presenter has always had great joie de vivre but perhaps even more so after overcoming cancer as recently as 2009.
“I was diagnosed with stomach cancer and it was obviously a devastating thing to hear for yourself and your family,” he reflects. “The staff at Southampton General Hospital were fantastic in the care they offered me, and in doing everything they could to help get me through. I made a number of life-long friends on the wards.
“My family and friends were a constant for me on my road to recovery, and sport played a big part too. I can remember being on the High Dependency Unit after my operation and they let me have a TV to watch the Champions League Final, which I was pretty pleased about!
“I got in to trouble watching the Champions Hurdle in hospital where a good friend of mine, AP McCoy, was riding Binocular and I was shouting him on from my bed. It was far from ideal circumstances as I was hooked up to a chemotherapy drip! The staff at the hospital realised how much sport meant to me and they let me get away with quite a lot in there! A few sports people came in to see me too… Dominic Cork was one of those, who was playing for Hampshire at the time. His visit was great for boosting morale on the ward.”
During his time in hospital, Ed was saddened at the number of children that required care. The image of youngsters, each with their own challenges and struggles, would inspire his involvement with the charity WellChild (www.wellchild.org.uk).
“My director (at Sky Sports) Duncan East ran the marathon for WellChild four years ago and that was how I first discovered them,” comments Ed. “I met with them shortly after and I was blown away by the incredible work they do for children and young people in the UK with a long-term or complex health condition.
“Seeing what children and young people were going through in hospital was the thing that really stuck with me from my own experiences in hospital. That’s why the WellChild charity instantly struck a chord with me. One of the most important things WellChild do is help get children home from hospital by providing the funding for nurses to care for them at home. I was flattered when they offered me the opportunity to become an ambassador, and of course I jumped at the opportunity.”
Chamberlin hosted WellChild’s annual awards ceremony last year – an event he describes as “inspirational and heart-breaking in equal measure”. Aside from sharing great warmth and empathy with the children he gets to meet through the charity, his passion for sport resonates with many of them.
“A lot of the youngsters have an interest in football,” he says. “They ask me questions about what my job is like, what it’s like working with Gary Neville, Jamie Redknapp, Thierry Henry, etc. It’s so heart-warming, funny and incredible for them to ask me those questions. One child we’ve met through WellChild is going to be coming along to an Arsenal game with us and meet his football hero Thierry Henry… I can’t wait to see his reaction!”
Ed has got to know a number of his own football heroes through his work with Sky Sports, most notably Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier.
“I’ll never forget the first time we worked together on a Gillette Soccer Special on a Tuesday night,” beams Ed. “It was a ‘pinch yourself’ kind of moment.
“Matt is as nice an individual as you could ever hope to meet in football. He has got time for everyone and is incredibly laid back…except for when it comes to playing golf! He is very self-depreciating and modest, especially considering what a great player he was. I’ve presented a few after dinner events with him and it’s fantastic talking to him about all his memorable goals.”
Working with Le Tissier is one of the many highlights of Ed’s career to date. His vocational journey from bookmaker to magazine editor to television presenter has perhaps been a slightly unconventional one, but he has certainly seized every opportunity with great vigour.
“I first got a taste for it (television presenting) when I used to go on Bloomberg television to promote the magazine I edited (Sports Advertiser),” he says. “I then got the opportunity to join Sky Sports in 1999. I used to appear on a programme called 90 Minutes talking about odds ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, in which my bookmaking background came in handy! I didn’t initially think that broadcasting was for me, but I was quickly bitten by the bug and loved it.
“I started on Sky Sports News in 2003 and did other shows like The Full SP with (fellow Hampshire resident) Jeff Stelling, both of which were amazing experiences. I spent nine very happy years on Sky Sports News in all and I also got the opportunity to present Gillette Soccer Saturday. After that, the first match I presented live was Fulham-Newcastle United on a Tuesday night in 2011. It wasn’t my finest hour, but I was up and running as a football presenter.”
Full of positivity for the New Year, Chamberlin has a simple set of resolutions. Unsurprisingly, many are of a sporting nature!
“I’d absolutely love to get fitter in 2016,” he laughs. “I want to get my golf handicap down to single figures and also for Southampton to finish in the (Barclays Premier League) top eight. I’m pretty confident about my resolution about Southampton at least!”
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