How Blues legend Paul Mariner ended up on my rock music radio show

Frans Thijssen and Paul Mariner congratulate John Wark on opening the scoring in a 5-1 trouncing of

Paul Mariner, pictured with John Wark and Frans Thijssen, died recently aged 68 - Credit: Archant

The recent death of former Ipswich Town and England striker Paul Mariner brought back wonderful memories of the first time I met the Portman Road legend.

It was in December of 1982 when we did a rock show together on Radio Orwell and Saxon Radio.

I had, of course, been watching the great man for years before that. To say he graced the shirt would be something of understatement. He was the complete centre forward. He had the lot and for many years was one of the very best strikers in European football.

As anyone who met Paul will tell you, he was a thoroughly decent and affable man with no hint of an ego. As soon as I landed the Headbangers’ Ball rock programme on Orwell and Saxon I made it a goal to get the music-loving Town star on the show to share with us some of his heavy metal favourites.

Paul mariner Ipswich cornhill

Foz and Paul Mariner on the big screen during the 2008 celebrations on the Cornhill marking 30 years since Ipswich won the FA Cup. - Credit: Archant

I hadn’t long landed a full-time job at Electric House and was as green as the jerseys goalkeepers used to wear in those days. I’d heard Paul liked his rock music so I wrote to him to see if he fancied guesting on my Wednesday night musical celebration of all things loud and proud. Within days he accepted the invitation and went about some of his favourite tracks.

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The big night arrived and for one glorious hour we talked music and football. I had to pinch myself as the Town number 9 spoke fondly of his close friendship with Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan and not so fondly about Mick Mills’ love of the music of Neil Diamond! Remember, 40 years would pass before Sweet Caroline became a footie anthem.

I still have a cassette copy of my show with Paul Mariner and I’m very much hoping the programme will be aired again soon. If that happens then it might also be time to resurrect a similar programme I did at around the same time with another heavy metal fan in the UEFA Cup winning side - Terry Butcher.

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A decade after we first met Paul and I shared a microphone together at the first of two 1978 FA Cup reunions held at the Corn Exchange. The second of those celebrations in 2008 saw us chatting again, this time on the Town Hall balcony as part of an outside broadcast and once more indoors during the gala evening in the Grand Hall.

My work in broadcasting has afforded me the privilege of getting to know and work with so many of my football heroes. One of my favourite photographs is one taken at the launch in Bury St Edmunds in 2011 of the Sir Bobby Robson Breakthrough Cancer fundraiser, organised by my very good friend Gina Long. I was part of the organising committee which included many Town legends.

Ipswich Town fundraisers

Charity fundraisers at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds in 2011 - Credit: Archant

The death of Paul Mariner and the loss in 2018 of Kevin Beattie in has really made me appreciate more than ever just how important those guys have been to me. Their exploits on and off the pitch have been well documented. No player can ever be bigger than the club itself although Paul and The Beat did come mighty close.

The very sad news of Paul Mariner’s passing came only days before the funeral of another person I knew well - Bob Lawrence. Bob was a regular voice on Radio Orwell in the 1980s when he was a member of the Suffolk Police team of officers who used to broadcast traffic bulletins.

On Tuesday of last week I read the eulogy at Bob’s funeral service. Written by his widow Gloria it told of a life well lived by a man much loved. Like so many others, I’ll miss you Bob.

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