The toughest broadcast of my radio career

The late former Nottingham Forest owner Nigel Doughty chats to Stuart Pearce

Nigel Doughty was a very generous man.

I mentioned in the earlier blog about the money he gave to his beloved Nottingham Forest, but he also gave seven-figure sums to Newark Hospital, where his mother had worked, and to the Labour Party. 

After his sad passing, there were generous tributes from the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, while Alastair Campbell wrote his obituary for The Guardian and there was a minute’s silence at that week’s Shadow Cabinet meeting. 

I think what I admired most about Doughty was his generosity.

I’d like to think that, if I ever had the kind of money he made, I would love to do what he did with his – become philanthropic, own a football club and support a left-of-centre political party. 

It impressed me that he never forgot his roots, and from my experience, so many do when they make their millions.

I was actually on air when Doughty’s death was announced – it was the hardest programme I ever did.

Forest were due to play on the Sunday against Derby County, which meant that on the Saturday I would present from Meadow Lane, where Notts County were due to play.

But the weather was so appalling that the game (along with most of the other matches up and down the country) was postponed.

So I was presenting the 1.30pm-6.00pm programme from the studios on London Road. To be frank, it wasn’t a programme that would win an award! 

There wasn’t a great deal in it, but what we did have was a lengthy interview with Frank Clark.

He was the Forest chairman at the time, so we were running that extended interview in two halves, with a funky record (of my choosing!) in between.

I was reading the introduction into the first half of the interview, when I noticed that my phone was ringing.

It was on silent, but I could see that Fraser Nicholson – the club’s brilliant press officer – was calling.

I assumed it was something to do with the Derby game the following day, but in any case, I couldn’t answer it as I was reading the cue to the first half of Frank Clark’s interview.

By the time the interview had started, my phone had stopped ringing.

I tried ringing back when the tape was going out on air, but he was engaged.

A couple of minutes later, Colin Fray called and I was able to speak. 

“I’m afraid I’ve got some sad news, which you really won’t be able to believe.”

We chatted for a couple of minutes and Colin said he was on his way into the office.

I must admit I was in complete shock.

I broke into the interview with Frank Clark, announced the news on the radio and we then played ‘You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.’

What else could you do, or say?

We opened the phone lines for people to call in, we extended the programme by an hour and one or two players and ex-players called in to pay their own tributes too.

But, to be honest, the whole thing was a daze. 

The derby game was postponed, and I remember trudging home in the snow much later that evening.

I loved how Nigel Doughty used to listen to Forest games wherever he was in the world.

If you ever called into BBC Radio Nottingham and got put on hold, you’d hear whatever was on the radio coming down your phone.

So, when he was chairman, he’d ring into the studio complex and ask to be put on hold – and he would stay on hold for the entire 90 minutes.

That really made me laugh at the time – the image of a multi-millionaire somewhere in the world putting everything on hold to listen to a commentary down a telephone line.

You may have recently read Paul Taylor’s article in The Athletic, which outlines the amazing lengths he would go to in order to watch a feed of the game.

Forest webmaster Geoff Peabody would often cut a frazzled figure at an away game as he tried desperately to secure a feed for his boss. 

As Alastair Campbell wrote in his Guardian obituary: “The last time I spoke to him was five days before his death, while watching Burnley beat his team 2-0.

“He was in Berlin, following the game via the internet. Businessmen around the world were used to Nigel skipping meetings to watch his club.”

Photos: Dan Westwell

2 thoughts on “The toughest broadcast of my radio career

  1. If and when the day comes when we finally get promoted back to the Premier League, the first person I will raise a glass to is Nigel Doughty. A wonderful man, and the paid of his death still hurts today.

  2. Met Nigel when Mark Arthur invited me down to Colin Calderwood’s unvieling as manager so I could interview him for Blooming Forest fanzine. He was so enthusiastic and clearly loved the club – he was exactly like any of us fans would be owning our team, like a kid in a candy shop!

    I just wish he had better football people around him to help him achieve his dream of taking us to the Prem.

    May he rest in peace.

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