Saturday’s game at Sunderland will be a milestone for BBC Oxford’s Nathan Cooper.
Nathan, BBC Oxford commentator and the voice of the Kassam Stadium on home matchdays where he is Matchday Announcer, will make it 1,000 Oxford United games in a row when he travels to the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
“I’m quite, ok very, superstitious, so didn’t want to mention it yet. Let’s get to the Stadium of Light first without a puncture or something and then think about it” he laughs when asked about the landmark. “I knew I hadn’t missed a game for a long time but it was Dave Pritchard, formerly of the Oxford Mail who did the Maths. He remembered the 750th game and worked it out from there. It’s only after the Bristol Rovers game I remembered, and double checked.
“I’ll be really happy, and proud, to reach that personal milestone, but it’s not something I ever set out to do and there have been games where I thought the run would end: Woking away in the Conference comes to mind where I was in agony with a bad back and should never have gone. I was with the OUFC media team for that day and they basically carried me in on a door! We hit a speed bump at some speed going into the car park as well and that was the precise moment I thought the run was ending!”
“My mind always goes back to Andy ‘Womble’ James who was on a similar run and then his car broke down on the way to a game,so let’s get to Sunderland before we celebrate!”
“The pandemic was another when I obviously thought it was over. I commentated just on iFollow. It helped the club, and, to be honest, helped me too, as it gave me something to build my weeks around and maintained a sense of normality”
That feeling was never more important then when Nathan’s wife, Becky, was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.
“She basically ordered me to carry on going to matches, to try and keep our lives the same and not constantly focus on the hand we’d been dealt
“That’s sometimes overlooked, the role that this amazing football club can play. She once said “The football was here before I was and it will still be a massive part of your life when I am gone.” That’s the important role this football club plays in so many people’s lives. She died in 2013, and the club were great, often letting me bring our daughter to games. She would help out in the press room, serving biscuits, although after Jake Wright gave her £2 for a free custard cream, she realised it would never get any better and has barely been since!”
“I owe a huge degree of thanks to family and friends who have stepped in to look after Neve on match days, and match nights, allowing me to keep coming to games. And especially to everyone at United, and the BBC. I’ve never taken longevity as a given that I’ll continue to be involved each season. I’m always a bit nervous in pre-season, waiting to see if I’ll still be involved.”
“I think United as a club helps more people than they realise, and not just what happens on the pitch. That feeling of family, of comradeship, is massive. It was probably away games that helped me even more in the early months after Becky died. Yes, I was going to work, but sharing the banter, the laughs, and just talking to people who are friends first, and colleagues secondly, was huge.”
“That’s why the Covid games were so strange, travelling alone and then not seeing familiar faces on the away terraces. I remember the trips to Hull and Plymouth, and coming back from Burton in the driving snow. Occasions when we’re usually all together in the BBC wagon, and you’d see the Yellow Army in a service station”
Nathan has always combined covering United with a full time job, and recently set up Bucks Radio, a station serving Aylesbury and the wider county, a project that takes up a lot of time, but told us he has no plans to stop his United love affair in the foreseeable future:
“It’s a privilege to be at the games and not something I would ever take for granted. To have reached 999 games in a row is incredible really but I’m not looking to stop any time soon.”