"Take the job .You never know where it might lead you." That advice ended my far-from-promising stint as a non-League footballer and put me on to the path to 30 years of television commentary on the game that I still love with a passion. It came from Jimmy Hill, and it changed my life.
The job in question was editorial assistant on the football programmes made for ITV by London Weekend Television. Jimmy had been the inspiration there, but he was on the point of leaving to join the BBC. Through a mutual friend and another big influence, the renowned journalist Brian James, I had been helping with the research for some of the many writing commitments Jimmy had at that time alongside his television work.
As my direct mentor it was a short stint, but he'd had a similar effect on those he left behind at ITV back in the Seventies, such as Bob Gardam, a pioneering director of TV football, who took time to listen to my first commentary attempt.
When I first met Jimmy, he had already been a footballer who made the most of his ability, a players' union man who opened the way to the riches on offer today, and a football manager who had revolutionised Coventry City.
Since then, he has spoken up for the game in a crusading way in a variety of roles, from Match of the Day's major analyst to his current show on Sky Sports, Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement. He is always opinionated but always informed, and always fair - and even now a source of energy to me and many others.
Oddly, I am rather worried about our next meeting. I now coach two of his grandsons, Danny and Tom, and he wants to come and watch them play in their primary school team, which I manage. We are doing quite well, but are my tactics up to the scrutiny of the truly great Jimmy Hill?
Martin Tyler commentates on Arsenal vs Real Madrid on Wednesday on Sky Sports 1 (kick-off 7.45pm)Reuse content