Colin Bloomfield – an inspiration and a friend

Where do you start? Well, I guess the beginning is as good a place as any.

I first met Colin Bloomfield in the old Press Box at the back of the Centre Stand at the Gay Meadow. His dad, Lawrie, the man at the helm when BBC Radio Shropshire was launched 30 years ago, had a regular seat alongside Brian Binnersley, helping write plenty of column inches for the national press, and Colin would accompany him to matches.

My seat was right at the end of the Press Box and, as I reported Town’s fortunes to Radio Shropshire listeners, Colin, who was still a schoolboy at the time, would be stood right behind me. Even though there were nine years between us, we quickly hit it off.

His warmth and passion for Shrewsbury Town shone through and a couple of years later, by which time he had taken the first steps on his successful broadcasting career, he became a regular passenger in the Radio Shropshire car travelling up and down the country to away games.

Colin would often supply the music – eclectic probably best covers it! – and he was a great story teller, often setting himself up as the punchline to his anecdotes.

He was always such good company: warm, friendly, engaging, honest, loyal, funny; a journey with Colin – and there were countless trips over the years – and the miles would fly by that much quicker.

James Bond offered the first chance to try his hand at football commentary, covering the old Telford United, and we enjoyed sharing the commentary together on Radio Shropshire the season Town and the Bucks met four times (twice in the Conference and twice in the FA Trophy – we’ll gloss over the results…).

Colin was always a joy to work with, so polished, so professional, and we described some classic Town wins together, most notably perhaps the 7-0 victory at Wycombe in the JPT in 2008. As the goals poured in, we looked at each other with increasing incredulity.

As I sat by his bedside at Severn Hospice a couple of weeks ago, I was trying to recall the last match we commentated on together. Quick as a flash, Colin came up with the answer, a 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United last February.

That fairly nondescript match at Bramall Lane suddenly seems much more significant.

I was proud of what Colin went on to achieve at BBC Radio Derby, becoming the breakfast show presenter after spending several seasons commentating on Derby County.

I well remember the night he phoned to tell me he had been offered the coveted role. He knew it would mean he couldn’t watch his beloved Shrewsbury Town so much, but I had to remind him it was a fantastic opportunity to cover the fortunes of a big club.

His time behind the microphone covering the Rams coincided with Town knocking Derby out of the Carling Cup at Pride Park one memorable night.

Myself and Steve Cross were commentating for Radio Shropshire and a couple of seats away sat Colin, a Town fanatic, describing the game to Radio Derby listeners. His face was an absolute picture as Town raced into a 3-0 lead, not that his impartiality could ever be questioned, of course!

I will never forget the first time Colin told me had skin cancer. It was shortly before kick off, New Year’s Day 2003, and we were stood in a concourse at Nene Park, the home of Rushden & Diamonds. Town went on to lose 5-1 that day – but, suddenly, it seemed pretty irrelevant.

He overcame his initial battle and all seemed well until he rang a few weeks after the end of the 2012-13 season to say there was a problem.

From then on, Colin’s story has been well documented, and the way he tackled the biggest fight anyone could ever face was truly inspirational.

He would never introduce it to the conversation, even on the days he was feeling pretty lousy, but he would always speak with such incredible honesty about what he was going through and what effect it was all having on him when you brought it up.

Colin may have developed quite a profile, particularly in Derbyshire where he spent much of his working career, but he was always just Colin, the lovely guy, the Town fanatic from Montford Bridge to me, just a naturally warm person, and my wife Claire together with my two young sons, Harry and Charlie, just adored him, always looking forward to seeing him when he paid a visit.

Throughout recent seasons, having relinquished his Derby County commentary role, Colin had again become a regular at Town games, rarely missing a match, home or away.

He was admitted to hospital in Birmingham for a couple of days in October, so missed the cup tie with Chelsea, but he was back on board for the League Two trip to Dagenham the following weekend.

He probably attended 80 per cent of this season’s matches with his last away trip to Portsmouth on March 28. As if decided by fate, it had to be Fratton Park, the ground where his Portsmouth-born and Pompey mad father spent so many happy years. What a great day we had on the south coast and Colin loved it.

Despite clearly starting to struggle, Colin was determined to make it to the Meadow for the Good Friday win over Dagenham, conducting an interview with Ryan Woods for the club website after the 2-0 victory.

Colin was not well enough to come with us to Mansfield on Easter Monday and two days later he called to say he had been admitted to Severn Hospice.

It was a privilege to visit him most of the days he spent in the Hospice – what a wonderful place with wonderful people – and the memory of those visits, together with the fortitude Colin continued to show, will never leave me.

The last time I saw Colin was on Friday, April 24. I spoke with him, reminding him of some of the great away days from down the years, telling him that Town, his team, were on the brink of promotion, and thanking him for his friendship.

His mum Alison called early the following morning to tell me that Colin had passed away.
What followed at Cheltenham later that day was written in the stars, Town achieving their promotion dream, but how I wished that Colin had been there, as he so often was, to share the special day with us.

Pictured: It was always so enjoyable to commentate with Colin. Here we are covering Shrewsbury Town’s visit to Sheffield United for BBC Radio Shropshire last February.