As she faces up to the biggest challenge of her broadcasting career, Gabby Logan can now afford to reflect on the time, barely three years ago, when she was on the verge of chucking the whole thing in and going into the property business.
Today she starts a new role at the heart of the Radio 5 Live weekday schedule, a job in which she will be required to handle big breaking news stories and political upheavals, broadening her expertise well beyond the sporting arenas with which she is largely associated.
A law graduate of the University of Durham and the daughter of the former Wales football manager Terry Yorath, she will be reporting live from Westminster on Prime Minister's Questions and anchoring analysis of the stories of the day from BBC news journalists around Britain. So important is she to the BBC that her portfolio also includes presenting her own documentary strand Inside Sport, the key role on the Grandstand's Final Score results service on Saturdays, and a trip to South Africa to cover this summer's World Cup finals.
Yet as recently as the last finals, in Germany in 2006, Logan was miserable in her working life and on the verge of quitting broadcasting altogether. At the time, ITV viewers may have assumed Logan was having the time of her life. Not so. "It wasn't very enjoyable," she says, laughing nervously, "because I was being slowly ... er ... moved out of my position."
Talking for the first time about her painful departure from ITV after eight years of service, Logan, 36, says she was the victim of a personality clash. The then ITV head of sport Mark Sharman just didn't appear to like her.
"A new boss came in and didn't really want what I was doing. You look back and it all felt so cruel and horrible," she says. "It's a bit of a personality thing – somebody decides that you're not for them and they want to do something different. It's not good to have that kind of relationship with your boss where you think, 'He doesn't like me, and there's not much I can do about that'."
She quickly realised she had no future at all at ITV. "Because I was the main anchor on the Champions League, they couldn't just shift me to a role that wasn't as high profile because they don't have that much sport there, really. I didn't want to stay and do secondary matches – I wanted to get out."
So badly shaken was her confidence that Logan, who had recently given birth to twins and whose mother runs her own property developing business, thought about abandoning her media career. "I did really doubt myself. At the time I was enjoying doing up the house and I thought, 'Well, I will just do up properties, that's what I will do. I will choose fabrics for the rest of my life. And I will go and write children's books'."
Talking in a private members' club in West London, she is confident enough now in her abilities, though she admits that beginning life at the BBC "was like having to start again and prove yourself". As for her new responsibilities she seems a little irked at the suggestion she may have to demonstrate her political acumen.
Logan studied politics at Durham, before concentrating on law. She briefly considered law school before the media instincts that had been kindled when she appeared on Blue Peter as a teenage gymnast got the better of her. She has interviewed Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg on 5 Live already, though she accepts that weekday broadcasting will be different in tone from the Sunday show she previously had on a network that during weekends is obsessed with sport.
Raised mainly in Leeds, she complains of a metropolitan bias in news. So what really interests her? "Right now, I would say on a micro-level I'm really interested in this election. It's so different from the politics of the Eighties, this is going to be so presidential in its set up," she says.
"I suppose I'm like a lot of people my age – I'm the mother of two young children who is worried about the world we live in and how this country is evolving and how we are going to look in 15 years' time. When you have children you worry about legacy." But when it's put to her that 5 Live is criticised for being too masculine in tone, she rejects this as "a lame argument" and reels off the names of other female presenters on the network.
Then she launches into a tirade in defence of working mums, developing an argument made by fellow broadcasting mother Kirsty Young. "It's a very middle-class thing to talk about giving up work for your kids," she says. "My mum worked, my granny worked, my dad's mum had six jobs. They didn't have careers, they had jobs because they had to work, not because they chose to work. My dad spent most of his time alone because his mum was working in offices cleaning, because she had no choice. It's quite a conceited thing for middle-class people to judge people who work because way more women in this country have to work than choose to work."
So she does not want her show, from 12 noon-2pm, to be an extension of GMTV, seen by some politicians as a key battleground with its audience of supposedly swing-voting stay-at-home mothers. "None of my friends who have kids watch GMTV. Maybe we want a little bit more, maybe we don't just want to fill our lives with baby news. There has been a successful campaign by people like Mumsnet to argue that all people with kids just want to talk about their kids. If you have a modicum of intelligence you realise that the world around us, everything we do, affects our kids."
Married to the Scotland rugby player Kenny Logan, the presenter has demonstrated on Inside Sport that she can bring depth of understanding to a world that is often stifled by cliché. The Observer sports writer Kevin Mitchell described her dialogue with Ronnie O'Sullivan, in which the snooker player described his mental health problems, as "the interview of 2008". She developed the theme, making Mind Games, a documentary on sporting depressives that included illuminating exchanges with the cricketer Marcus Trescothick and boxer Frank Bruno.
Logan hopes to bring a similar clarity to news and politics, expressing the belief that attack-dog interviewing is not always the most productive approach. "When it gets too confrontational, it can irk the consumer. It gets a little bit uncomfortable and the only people that like it are those that really hate that person and want them to squirm. But you are not getting any information out of them and it starts to look like bullying which I think is one of the lowest forms of behaviour," she says.
"Being nice is underrated. You can be nice and get information from somebody. You don't have to be cruel." A lesson ITV could learn.Reuse content