It’s not all over yet

Dave Woodhall talks to TV presenter Nick Hancock about his new venture.

Nick Hancock first came to television fame as the host of the sporting game show They Think It’s All Over. Two decades on, he’s taking a similar format on tour. Starring Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson it’s called A Lock In with Tuffers and Dawson. It’s at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham on Tuesday 11th September and we spoke to Nick, who will be hosting the show and he explained how it came about.

“It’s like A Question of Sport, giving us an insight into the characters of the two captains, as they’re telling us about their lives, touring, all these things. I’ve spent a few weeks reading the books Phil and Matt have written, getting to know more about them, and they’re very interesting.”

People forget that beneath the jovial television character Phil Tufnell he was a top-class cricketer, with over a hundred test wickets, and the same can be said for Matt who was a Rugby World Cup winner.

“Of course. You cannot become a professional sportsman without having an incredibly competitive streak and although Phil can hide that behind his TV image he’s very passionate about all sport. Matt’s the same, they’ve both been quite controversial characters in their time but above all they’re both professional.”

It’s the Boris Johnson approach. You have to be very clever to make a career out of appearing to be a bit daft.

“Phil’s got a very serious side and he’s certainly very bright, there’s no doubt about that and so is Matt. They’re both shrewd characters who know their sport.”

If you’re watching a match next to someone who played the game at the top level, as I’ve done a few times and I’m sure you have, they’re watching a completely different game to you.

“I agree. I was watching England playing in a test in Mumbai with Gladstone Small. He said to me ‘Matthew Hoggard’ll be bowling in a minute’ and I didn’t think so because he was going from fine leg to deep long on, which is the furthest possible distance you can move a fielder. I asked Gladstone why doing that made him think that Hoggard would be bowling and he replied that they were the only two positions on the field that were in the shade.

“That’s fantastic – I never have thought of it. Cricket’s such a complicated sport and you think you know the game, then something like that makes you realise you can only get that sort of insight from playing at the highest level.”

I love the title ‘A Lock In’. There’s an entire generation or two who wouldn’t have any idea of the concept of having to lock the pub doors before you could drink after eleven o’clock.

“I know. It’s such a bizarre idea isn’t it? Like closing time used to be in the afternoon. But it shows that you’re going to get something not usually for public consumption, something slightly surreptitious. Remember when you could always know if a pub served after time because they had thicker curtains than usual? It’s something a bit racy, something that’s got a bit of excitement to it. It’s also very informal, there’s no formal structure to the evening.”

And a bar on stage. That could be a bit, er, brave.

“I’m not really sure how that’s going to work but the idea is that the audience can go up and have a drink beforehand so it doesn’t feel too much like an us and them. It’ll be nice to get some sense of time and place feel around the evening, to find out what everyone wants to talk about because I want to use the tour as a voyage of discovery as well. I hope the shows will be different every time.”

It promises to be very different to the sort or sports forum or dinner where the guest speaker makes the same speech and tells the same stories that they told the night before somewhere else and they’ll be telling the next time.

“That’s right, and we’re all conscious of that. There are some stories that bear repeating but a lot that don’t, and I’ll be asking them about things that are current so there’ll be no sense of preparation there.”

It’s going to be hard work to do it differently every night.

“When you think they’ve got their international careers, their club careers and these two have done so much since they retired, and they’ll be given a few challenges to do as well. At the moment I’m trying to cut sections out. I’m hoping that rather than having something predictable there will be lots of new stuff to come.”

It’s a bit of a spin-off from something you did before. It’s a long time since They Think It’s All Over. Do you sometimes look at the TV and sport, especially football, crossover and think “I started that”?

“No, but I do think it was of its time, particularly because it was the first time sportspeople were using a show to subvert what they did. It was taking some of the elements of the dressing room, that sort of ribald humour, into television. Sports people don’t like to be first, that was the great thing about having Gary Lineker and David Gower on there, two big stars and once they did it others followed. And of course Gary in particular went on to have a very successful career, working on his dad’s market stall I think.”

When it was going, twenty years ago, we probably thought that link between sport and entertainment had reached its peak, but here we are now and it’s still growing.

“I think part of it is because football in itself has become a celebrity culture so therefore those people interested in celebrity culture are naturally going to be interested in football, and footballers are looking ahead to a career in the media.

“But what I think is noticeable now is how we’ve got a cricketer and a former rugby union player and the talk invariably goes back to football, and the Premier League in particular. I’t’ll be good to know how they feel about how that reward, that interest, goes towards football and how it draws so much away from everything else.”

“The other reason really looking forward to the show is because I started my career in stand-up and there’s nothing like a live audience. That link, the laughter back, to get that reaction is a drug in itself.”

A Lock In with Tuffers and Dawson is at the New Alexandra Theatre on Tuesday 11th September. You can book tickets and find out more at and follow the show on social media on twitter @TuffersandDaws and onFacebook.