Thank You 2014

It’s that time of year when tabloid websites provide festive quizzes, when broadcasters produce fancy highlight montages and anybody in a sporting capacity reviews the last 12 months, picks out their bests bits and says a few thank yous along the way.

This is me jumping on the bandwagon!

It’s been a pretty special and memorable 2014 for me and here’s some of my favourite personal moments…

JANUARY

One of my proudest pieces made it to air in January, a 10 week investigation into the barriers that prevent more women getting involved in motorsport. It was an original piece that I managed to source a range of different interviews on and to have finally been able to put it all together was a really special moment. And you can listen to it here:

FEBRUARY

The month started in pretty spectacular fashion when I went to the Stade de France to watch France v England in the Six Nations. Not a bad game to choose for my first international! By twist of fate, I actually ended up sitting next to a friend of mine, fellow journalist and presenter from Loughborough Laura Fell. The game was one of the all time classics, ebbed and flowed and I think France winning in the end almost made the event better. Hearing 80,000 French fans deadly silent and then bouncing up and down is quite something.

A couple of weeks later, Lizzy came to the fore!

On BBC Radio Kent, we’d been building up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi for some time, with West Kingsdown’s Lizzy Yarnold top of the World Cup standings and favourite for gold. I remember asking her in the preceeding months whether she was ready for her life to change if she won and she was so measured with her plan to tour local schools and take it all in her stride, something she did to her credit!

I was fortunate to cover all her four races in Sochi. The first two required an early start at Maidstone Girls Grammar School in the Radio Kent Radiocar decked out in “Go Lizzy” decal. Her final two races the following day saw me situated at another of her old schools, St. Michael’s Prep in Otford, where her mum works. I got to commentate on her final two runs live and being in that environment with that build up was incredible. The children were so inspired, the teachers so proud and to be so close to a moment that captured the nation was pretty special.

I ended up working until 0100 the next morning to produce a highlights package of her success and showing it to her parents a few days later made it all worthwhile when I saw her dad getting a little emotional hearing it back!

MARCH

The beginning of my move to BBC Sport in Manchester started in March when I spent a couple of weeks shadowing various different departments across Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport. I was lucky to be given a few shifts producing the 5 Live bulletins. Dealing with breaking stories, liaising with reporters and presenters and reporters that I’d grown up listening to and learning new software and ways of working was a real honour and totally unexpected to be thrown into the deep end so quickly.

Ben Croucher reporting on Lizzy Yarnold's homecoming parade

Dublin was later the setting for my second Six Nations clash of the year. Ireland v Italy and Brian O’Driscoll’s last game at Landsdowne Road! The eventually champions were in imperious form and O’Driscoll was given a memorable farewell by the fans too.

And I was also lucky enough to be one of the few reporters on the top deck for Lizzy’s open top bus parade through Sevenoaks. Seeing thousands of school kids turning out and seeing how much it meant to her and her family for pretty special. And seeing the sheer quantity of M&Ms and Skittles hidden away to keep the troops going was a novelty as well!

APRIL

Aside from Lizzy Yarnold, Kent had more success in Sochi in the shape of Charlotte Evans, who guided Kelly Gallagher to ParalympicsGB’s first ever winter Paralympic gold medal. Medway Council through a surprise party for the pair. Was again really nice to see up close and personal the people behind the success. So much sporting endeavour isn’t about one person. It’s about a team over decades. From mum and dad to teachers and coaches, it was a real celebration of years of hard work finally coming to fruition.

More shifts in Manchester were BBC Radio 5 Live saw me put some serious miles on the car commuting from Tunbridge Wells but it all paid off as I was offered a permanent role on the Multimedia Sport Guest Fixing team, helping to get guests into Salford and producing Sheilagh Fogarty’s Sports Team too.

MAY-JULY

New job. New start. New city. Really enjoyable. Whilst it took me a while to get my head around the new role, I felt we make great progress getting a huge number of different guests on air around the World Cup specifically and a variety of other sports too. Working on the bulletin desk for the FA Cup final and World Cup final were particularly memorable for the sheer scale, speed and teamwork that was needed. I also started my first full shifts on TV Sports News, cutting pictures and producing items for the sports bulletins on BBC News. I loved these particularly and discovered a real passion for this medium.

AUGUST

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It was more of the same in August with guest fixing and extra shifts aplenty. I took in the final day of England’s Test Series against India at the Oval at the start of the month, where England produced a pretty destructive display to skittle the tourists out before tea. The free champers and salmon tikka went down especially well!

Another highlight was welcoming World Cup winners Sarah Hunter and Katy McLean. I’d arranged for them to come up to Salford before the Women’s Rugby Union World Cup in France and built a strong relationship with the girls and the RFU. So less than 12 hours after arriving back in the country, with the trophy in tow, Sarah and Katy got into a taxi at 2 in the morning (complete with pillow) to come up to do the Breakfast rounds. Seeing them again was really special having head their passion and determination before the tournament. Not only did it provide a nice narrative for our outlets, also provided vindication of the hard work of our team on the ground floor.

SEPTEMBER

Surprising Helen Glover was one of the most complex undertakings of the year. I’d arranged for her and Andrew Triggs Hodge to come in after the World Rowing Championship and Blue Peter wanted to present her with a Gold badge for her inspiring work with the programme.

Sorting timing. Keeping crews out of sight. Technical challenges. Briefing presenters. We were up against it. But we pulled it off. Credit Olly Foster for playing along but the end product was worth it and she genuinely holds the honour a close second to her Olympic Gold from London.

Another momentous milestone was achieved in September too when I had my first ever VT played out on BBC News. On an additional weekend shift, I was assigned the Great North City Games in Gateshead/Newcastle and what was just turning into a couple of clips was turned into a full blown VT when the array of stars on show was realised. Not since my university days of LSUTV had I produced a VT on my own and now I had a couple of hours to turn one around! I made it, with a little scripting help and had my name on screen for the first time. The first of many I hope!

OCTOBER

Another big month career wise but before I made my loan move to TV I was fortunate enough to get hold of a couple of tickets to the Super League Grand Final. A lifelong Wigan fan from afar, it was the first time I’d seen them play live and on such a big occasion, was certainly memorable. Ben Flower’s punch made certain of that. In spite of THAT punch, the game was a terrific spectacle and I gained a new found respect for the supreme athleticism that these guys display.

I also made the temporary switch to TV Sport News at BBC Sport for six months, successfully gaining an attachment. A real positive step up to be working as an assistant producer on a daily basis, refining my VTs, getting my voice out on air more often and getting that buzz back of hitting deadlines and compiling bulletins.

NOVEMBER

The All Blacks! A little cold and hugely soggy after the game, but seeing England v New Zealand at Twickenham was a real treat. A close result but NZ are such a formidable outfit. Not totally impregnable I’d argue ahead of the World Cup next autumn, but even them on a bad day was enough to see off England. Unbelievable atmosphere too singing Swing Low all game long!

And I had my first VT aired in BBC Breakfast on BBC One (highlights of Andy Murray v Milos Raonic). Another tick in the box of what I hope will be many strong steps along my broadcasting career.

All in all a successful 2014. Thanks for being a massive part of it and supporting my journey. From the colleagues who have helped me to the level I am at, to the friends who have kept me sane, to the audiences who have given me the platform to showcase my work, couldn’t have done it without you.

I hope you all have a successful, healthy and prosperous 2015.

All the best

Ben