My Mentor: Ian Payne on David Coleman

He told me: "Believe what you're talking about. Just mean it."

David Coleman was one of the main BBC commentators from the late 1960s until the late 1990s, when he was still going doing athletics. Football was his main sport and he did Grandstand and Final Score, the World Cup and the FA Cup final, but he'd also front the Olympics. He was really a jack of all trades and an expert in each one of them.

He was one of the main people you watched when you were younger and we all practised commentary in our bedrooms as little boys do. He had a really good economy of phrase. When someone scored he wouldn't try to describe it; he'd just say 1-0 or 2-0. Commentators don't need to talk too much, particularly in television. You're just there to supplement the pictures and add a bit of expert analysis.

He had a very good sense of the drama of it all and a strong voice. He also had a very lively brain. In the 1970s open talkback - the instructions he gets in his ear from the production team - was total mayhem. Yet he somehow managed to put everything in order and make sure everyone understood it.

I was lucky enough to do a little bit of work with him towards the end of his career. We did short track speed skating together at the Winter Olympics, which is very odd. In normal athletics when there's one lap to go they ring a bell but in short track speed skating they ring a bell at two laps to go, and neither of us realised this. Of course, as they crossed the line with a lap to go, we thought they'd finished and we both said: "And the gold medal goes to..." As they carried on we realised our mistake. I just stopped in my blundering way and sounded awful, whereas he sort of put a comma in his commentary, and said: "But wait a moment ... is he...?" He then carried on to the next lap, which made it sound even more dramatic than it was. So I learnt a lot that day!

He was quite an intimidating guy but once you got to know him he was great company. He taught me that there isn't a right way and a wrong way to do it and said: "Believe what you're talking about. Just mean it."

Ian Payne presents Ford Monday Night Football on Sky Sports

Comments