Win Ian Smith’s terrific autobiography
Ian Smith, a Scotland full-back from 1969-72, was approached to write rugby reports while serving in the Army overseas. The Hong Kong Standard paid him for his efforts, which meant he had to use an alias to avoid breaching the game’s amateur regulations.
Under the byline Peter Stewart, he wrote reports of matches in which he himself played. Discussions would arise in the bar as to the identity of this reporter whom nobody ever met. So to deflect suspicions that it was actually him, Smith would frequently and heavily criticise his own performance!
You can learn about Smith’s colourful life in his autobiography A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Prop – read a review of the book here.
Further down this article is an opportunity to win a copy in our competition. First, enjoy a tale from the book that relates to an encounter Smith had with a broadcasting legend…
My first indirect involvement in regimental rugby happened before I went to Hong Kong in 1971, Smith writes. This was shortly after Scotland had decided my services were no longer required. I had a mysterious phone call, asking if I would like to share the radio commentary for the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) of the final of the UK Army Cup.
That was a shock which turned to absolute delight when the voice said I would be sharing the commentary with none other than the legendary Cliff Morgan. What a thrill to be asked, because Cliff had been one of my heroes from when I was a little boy. I remember seeing him on a grainy film scoring a fantastic try for the 1955 Lions against the Springboks.
What was best of all was meeting this god of a man and discovering he was even nicer than I had imagined he would be. We had a very good lunch in the Parachute Brigade officers’ mess, and Cliff explained how simple broadcasting on the radio was.
He told me we would arrive at the ground, the Aldershot Services ground, about ten minutes before half-time. When the half-time whistle went he would introduce me. All I had to do was answer his questions, plus make a comment about the first half.
The weather was appalling and when we arrived at the ground the players were virtually unrecognisable. As I sat next to Cliff awaiting the start of the broadcast as the first half drew to a close, with the score I believe 3-3, he explained about the lip microphone. Unless it was pressed against my top lip, the listeners wouldn’t hear what I was saying.
As the half-time whistle went, Cliff introduced himself to the listening audience in BAOR. I was introduced as the Scottish international full-back and Army dentist. Cliff finished with, “We’ve just seen an exciting first half, so I’ll hand you over to Ian to summarise.”
At which point Cliff put down his microphone with the words “If you get stuck, just say something like, ‘And what do you think, Cliff?’ and I’ll come back and help you out.” He followed that with, “I’m off to the loo.” And with that he disappeared out of the door.
This left me, with no programme and 30 unrecognisable players, a score of 3-3 and a match that had obviously been pretty awful so far. The rain continued to teem down and I somehow lasted through the five-minute break, at which point Cliff reappeared.
“I was outside the door in case you got stuck,” he said. “But there didn’t seem to be any danger of that. Well done, any time you want a job just call!”
All in all, it was a remarkable afternoon spent in the company of a legend of the game.
A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Prop is published by Arena Sport, RRP £17.99. You can buy it here. We also have six copies to give away.
For a chance to win Ian Smith’s autobiography, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 28 July.
Terms and conditions
Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book ‘A Full-back Slower Than Your Average Prop’ by Ian Smith.
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