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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 12:26 GMT
In the footsteps of a legend

"And how do you feel about following Bill McLaren?"

So asked the highly paid BBC professional prompting me to write this article ahead of Scotland's game against Romania on Saturday.

I could only think that following Bill McLaren behind a microphone is a bit like being up after the Beatles on stage, going out with Britney Spears, and making a speech after Churchill - all rolled into one.

You would have to get the feeling that somebody before you has done a much better job. And by comparison you will be naff.

I can still remember things that Bill McLaren said about me in commentary: "I just wish John Beattie would do something! They'll be crying in their beer at New Anniesland after that knock-on".

Only joking, only joking. But I swear that all the images I have of me playing international rugby are with Bill McLaren commentating.

Retired BBC rugby commentator Bill McLaren
Bill McLaren is a legend in rugby circles
Will I be nervous? No, I'll have the smiling and incoherent gnome from Melrose, my mate Gary Parker, alongside me.

He might not be that good looking, and he might be very, very noisy, but he is a great summariser with an insight into every conceivable way to cheat. Well, he's a top level coach based in the Borders.

Will I be as good as Bill? Look, nobody will ever, ever be as good as a legend. Will I copy him? Only in that I'll try to get all the names right.

I don't have a Hawick accent, mine comes from a childhood in Borneo and Malaysia, and his encyclopaedic knowledge was frightening.

The luckiest thing that's happened to me over the years is to have worked beside Bill Johnston from Jedburgh who is head and shoulders above many of the other commentators.

The momentum he generates and his sheer passion for the game will be heard on Radio Scotland, and I will miss him.

Rugby is a great game. Having played it I think it's the best game in the world with the best people and the best jokes. I enjoyed playing it, and I've always enjoyed talking about it.

Actually, I thought I would be scared of Saturday coming. But it's just like a big game, or a big party, in that you want it to come as quickly as possible so that you can enjoy it.

The most important thing is that Scotland want to win, and we want to watch them do it.

I wonder if there are such things as one-cap wonders in commentating?

See also:

04 Nov 02 | International
30 Oct 02 | International
13 Jun 02 | International
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