The secret to Kammy’s success? Warmth, charm and just having fun | Football

Anthony Vanden Borre is not a player that many remember. He played 28 times for Belgium. He played for some good European teams: Fiorentina, Genoa, Anderlecht, Montpellier. You may not remember his 19 appearances for Avram Grant’s Portsmouth in the Premier League 13 years ago.

And you’d be forgiven for not instantly remembering the moment in the 60th minute of a goalless draw with Blackburn on April 3, 2010 when he received a second yellow card for a deliberate handball by Steve Bennett. Morton Gamst Pedersen knocks him down the line for Martin Olsson and Vanden Borre reaches out – it rules him out of an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

In your defence, there has been a lot of football and a lot of life since. The thing is, you all know that moment.

“We are leaving for Fratton Park where there was a red card, but for whom Chris Kamara?

“I don’t know Jeff, do I?” I must have missed that.”

Cue offscreen the laughs of Paul Merson and the rest of the Sky Sports Soccer Saturday studio. “Chris, haven’t you looked?” I didn’t,” asks an already smiling Jeff Stelling. “I don’t know where that came from Chris. I have no idea what happened there. What happened Chris?

“I don’t know Jeff! Kammy replies, doubled over in hysterics.

It’s simply a brilliant piece of television. The best bits are always when things don’t go as planned. Stelling advises Kammy to count the players. Now Kammy is completely falsetto. “No, you’re right, I saw him leave, but I thought they were bringing a sub on Jeff.”

Match highlights have less than 600 views on YouTube. the Football Saturday clip has millions. It’s so good not just because of the timing – obviously Stelling is a master – but because of the wonderful sheer honesty. So many journalists would have tried to bluff or find an excuse. There is a strange desperation in always being right and never being wrong, and certainly never admitting to having made one. But Kammy owns it with a warmth and charm that has been a constant throughout his 24 years at Sky.

Kamara announced this week that he is leaving Sky Sports. The key to its enduring popularity is something so simple. He always has fun. This is a salutary lesson for us who work in the industry. No need for your little fiddles – and I appreciate that after the last two nights it’s not the week to complain – but it can be exhausting. Football never stops. #Wegoagain – that’s too true. Weird waking hours, incessant travel, thinking of another superlative for Liverpool. Should I watch the championship tonight? And it’s before you consider all the depressing issues in the game that you have a duty to read, report, and discuss.

Kammy enjoyed every minute. And in a sport where so many people take themselves too seriously or issue hyperbolic opinions every five minutes, he was a sweet interviewer and had a great ability to laugh at himself. And he had almost no inhibitions. On the “Kammy-do-it?” feature on Soccer AM, he did it all: a full stand-up set, coming out of the tube on Take Me Out to a very bewildered set of potential suitors, and, if memory serves, a real rodeo where he fell off his horse. One afternoon we both got stuck on top of a scrambling net in the middle of a forest on a ridiculous obstacle course.

There are a few things to remember about this red card clip. First of all, I’m sure Kammy would agree that while he was the Eric Morecambe of the Soccer Saturday team, he relied on dozens of Ernie Wises across the country – your Gwynns, your Boultings , your Carruthers, your Michelle Owens — delivering slick, impactful updates from every division. That’s why it worked – the slight relief among the important information. “The Incredible Jeff”. It’s hard in a football setting or any setting to say amazing without an unwitting Jeff dropping you before you’ve had a chance to think it over. Kammy did it.

But secondly, you can’t last that long without really studying and knowing the game. He would get to work almost in the middle of the night before Goals On Sunday to find things that Match Of the Day hadn’t noticed. He kind of struck a balance between serious football and being downright silly. Few people can bridge that gap – nor can they get into light Saturday night entertainment. It’s a completely different world.

Viewers noticed him struggling with his tongue in Rotherham last week. He explained that he was diagnosed with apraxia, a neurological disorder that can affect your speech. “When it’s bad it shuts down the signals going from my brain to my mouth,” he told Good Morning Britain. “It messes up the words. People think is it OK? Is he drunk? What is his problem? I try to use parts of my brain – I have one! – to try to speak fluently. Despite this, the good news is that it will continue to host Ninja Warrior and will no doubt continue with other projects. I wish him much luck and happiness.

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It’s always worth remembering what a privilege it is to get paid to watch football and to have airtime or space to say what you think. Kammy has done almost a quarter of a century – far longer than he has played. It’s a generation of football fans who watch and appreciate his work. This first Saturday of next season will be weird for him. But the clichés are true – life moves fast, the game goes on.

Someone else will be at Fratton Park next season. They will probably notice the red cards. And because of that, most of us won’t even realize they happened.