Hospital Radio Commentator Celebrates 80th Birthday and 40th Anniversary
Wednesday, 23rd Dec 2020 10:19
Veteran Hospital Radio Ipswich commentator Terry Betts is celebrating his 80th birthday on Christmas Eve, 40 years after first taking up a microphone at Portman Road.
Terry, who lives at Stowmarket, first commentated on games at Portman Road back in the Blues' glory days under Sir Bobby Robson in 1980 but had spent the previous few years doing so at another club not so far away.
“For eight years I was doing it up the A140,” he confessed. “I moved here in 1980 for my career development.
“It was 1972 when I started commentating when I finished playing amateur football. I ruled out refereeing but a friend of mine suggested commentating as he commentated for the hospitals at Carrow Road.
“I thought that that sounded better, the best of both worlds, seeing football but no aggro from players or anything like that, and I very quickly got integrated into the squad of commentators at Carrow Road.
“I was in the civil service, I got a promotion that meant I had to come down here. It didn’t go down well with the family, but nevertheless I came.”
Reflecting on his move to following Town 40 years on, he said: “My transition was painless as far as I’m concerned. My family up there couldn’t believe how I transformed. I hate them with a passion now, I really do! I argue like hell with them, I just hate them, I can’t see beyond the Blues.
“And what a time it was to move to Ipswich Town. They were halcyon days and the set-up they had at Ipswich for the hospital commentary was so fantastic.
“I felt like I’d died and gone to football heaven. That’s how I felt because I wasn’t just made part of the hospital commentary team, it was completely run by the Ipswich Supporters Club.
“I was also asked to become one of the auxiliary workers of the Supporters Club who were expected to do other things around the club and my job pre-match was to do an hour and a half in the souvenir shop.
“Phil Houseley [later the chairman of the Supporters Club] was one of the commentators and the other was [future Radio Orwell and BBC Radio Suffolk commentator] Bryan Knights. That went on until they went different ways and I ended up being the main commentator on the team and still part of the Supporters Club.”
Hospital radio, which began at Town in 1971, used to be based in a booth at the back of the Cobbold Stand when it wasn’t only hospitals to whom Terry, pictured above with fellow commentator Tim Ward, and his colleagues were relaying on-pitch events.
“When we started, we were not commentating just to the hospitals, in that box over in the Cobbold Stand, we had 10 seats adjacent to that box for blind supporters,” he recalled.
“That was something unique, I don’t think any other clubs in the country had that at that time.
“Those blind supporters got the atmosphere of being in the crowd and were cabled up from that box. We had a cable all the way along the back of the top of the stand into headphones and they listened to our commentary.
“When we moved over to the other side, we moved into the 20th century and we gave them all remote headsets and another guy still does commentary for them now.”
Hospital radio moved across the ground to join the rest of the media at the back of what’s now the East of England Co-op Stand in 2005 when Terry says they upgraded their output.
“We totally revamped our programme and slowly brought into what it is now, which I believe, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet, is something which is valued by hospital radio.”
It’s no surprise what he remembers as the best match of his 40 years commentating at Portman Road, although it’s trumped by an away game from his early days following Town.
“It’s got to be the Jim Magilton one, the Jim Magilton hat-trick [in the 2000 5-3 play-off second leg victory over Bolton],” he said.
“But the one that still sticks out in my mind, as an event more than anything, wasn’t at Portman Road it was having the honour of going to the UEFA Cup final. That was just immense in my history.
“Having only been there a matter of a year and become so much a part of the club, being there and the tension of that 5-4 aggregate victory was just immense.”
Covid has meant Terry has been unable to broadcast from Portman Road this season with hospital radio giving updates every 15 minutes rather than their usual show.
“We can’t put out our usual two-hour programme,” he said. “It’s not just a commentary, it’s a link with the patients with requests for them from people outside or themselves and we go round to the bedsides and get predictions.
“We involve them in it during the course of the commentary. So all that has gone down the drain with Covid.”
He says he doesn’t yet know whether he’ll be back on the microphone once the full programme is able to return.
“My love of football hasn’t changed,” he reflected. “We must wait and see how long Covid goes on and my decision as to whether I wish to continue will be made when the new normal arrives, which unfortunately I can’t see happening this season.”
You can find out more about Hospital Radio Ipswich on their website here.
Photos: Tim Ward
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