Tape player was reel thing for radio's Goulden boy

IT all started for Jonny Gould with a reel-to-reel tape recorder given to him by his father Robbie, when he was nine.

"It consumed all my time," he said. "I used to make radio programmes on the tape recorder."

Now, more than 35 years later, he has established himself as one of the UK's top radio presenters.

The host of Talksport's Extra Time and the sports news on Smooth Radio's breakfast programme, Jonny is also the chief executive of Sportsmedia, an organisation which provides more than 150 national and local radio stations and social media with daily sports content.

And he is a regular guest on Sky Sports and ESPN.

Fascinated by radio and sport from a young age, the 46-year-old recalled: "My dad became so worried about my pseudo-religious reading of the back pages that he said I should read the paper from front to back.

"I just told him I was reading it the Hebrew way and that I was going to be a sports journalist.

"He told me I would never make a living doing that."

But Jonny proved his father wrong - despite deciding not to go to university.

"I tried to go to journalism college, but was turned down because they wanted me to have a university degree," he said.

"I promised them that I wouldn't waste the opportunity and that I had the intellectual capacity, but they still wouldn't take me."

However, Jonny secured a job with BBC Radio WM, having already spent three months at Birmingham station BRMB and three months on hospital radio.

"I thought I was going to make the tea, but they told me they were going to put me on breakfast sport," he recalled.

"The first broadcast was like an out-of-body experience - I went dizzy with the shock of being on air."

Born and raised in Birmingham, his family were members of Singer's Hill Synagogue, where his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents married.

Jonny's mother Yvonne still lives in the city, as do his cousins on the Gould side and his mother's Posaner's side.

"I was raised in what you might call a sane Orthodox Jewish household," he said.

"In the old days, you went to the Orthodox shul, but if you married out you went to the Liberal one."

A passionate Aston Villa fan, he explained that years ago, the city's Jews mainly supported Birmingham City.

"My mum's family came from Vienna and they could not afford to live in south Birmingham," Jonny explained.

"They lived in Aston and we lived in Sutton Coldfield, so supported Villa."

When Jonny - who names his favourite sporting moment when Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon men's final - presented the sport news on Channel 5, he made a joke about the country his mother's family had fled from.

"Chile played Austria in the 1998 World Cup and equalised in the 93rd minute," he said.

"When they came back to me in the studio, I said Austria had probably given Chile too much 'lebensbraum' - a reference to the Anschluss between Nazi Germany and Austria.

"I thought of it as my mini-Jewish revenge."

After Radio WM, Jonny moved to Clubcall, a phone information line which provided coverage on football clubs.

He covered Wolves, West Bromwich Albion, Villa, Walsall, Kidderminster Harriers and Birmingham before he landed his dream role - sports editor on Beacon Radio.

Jonny saw his career take off and 18 months later he was working freelance for the BBC World Service, Jazz FM, Kiss FM and BSB, among others.

At 25 he headed to Independent Radio News - becoming its youngest ever sports editor.

From 1997 to 2000, Jonny presented the sports news on Channel 5's evening news show.

"It was a pleasure to do," he said. "I was told it was more difficult to do than radio, but the subjects were the same.

"I just had to speak in a slower way."

When ITV secured the rights to show the Premier League in 2000, Jonny presented its live football scores programme Football First.

He moved on to work for Sky's pay-per-view channel Premiership Plus.

Jonny, who lives in London with his French girlfriend Karine, started at Smooth Radio last summer.

"It is fabulous and a lot of fun - we have a big audience," he said.

"Simon Bates (who presents the morning show) and I go back 16 years, to when we first worked at Talk Radio together.

"He raises the bar - he is a brilliant presenter."

In his career, Jonny has seen sports news become more and more important.

He explained: "In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the sports journalists had their little corner of the newsroom.

"I remember when the Gulf War broke out, sports bulletins were stopped altogether.

"Fast forward 10 years, to 9/11, and I remember Sky Sports News interrupting a report to say that two planes had flown into the Twin Towers.

"Then they went back to the sports news. It seemed to be a parallel world of pecuniary interests and huge money due to the Premier League."

© 2013 Jewish Telegraph