Whenever I asked an agent or a former player about the possibility of securing Stan Collymore to join us in Malaysia for a stint on Astro Supersport, I nearly always got shot down. The typical replies were that the former Liverpool striker ‘would not fancy a gig here’ and he is ‘exclusive for talkSPORT radio in the UK.’ This went on for so long I began to see getting him to Asia as a personal challenge. Get Collymore and I can quit my job happy!

I was never a Liverpool fan growing up but Stan’s larger than life presence was unavoidable. Whether I was reading ‘Shoot!’ magazine, collecting posters and stickers or watching him bang in EPL goals on TV, he was one of the 1990’s most iconic English players. When Collymore finally hung up his boots at the incredibly young age of 30, he quickly developed a strong reputation as a fearless broadcaster who was not afraid to speak his mind. Exactly the kind of pundit we want to bring to our viewers’ screens on Astro.

Finally getting the great man to Malaysia though was more to do with the power of Twitter than it was an endless barrage of phone calls to the UK trying to track him down.

When another of our big name guests, Jermaine Jenas, touched down in Kuala Lumpur, we tweeted a photo of him arriving at KLIA. As usual, we had fans reacting to the tweet. One ‘tweeter’ congratulated us on our ‘signing’ then tagged in a certain Stan Collymore, with the suggestion that Astro SuperSport make him our next big name visitor. Incredibly, just a few minutes later, Collymore himself started to follow the Stadium Astro twitter feed and dropped us a direct message. A couple of messages later and we exchanged contact details.
Finally, it appeared we were making progress but I was trying to not get too carried away. Many a time have we made contact with a big name former player only to be shocked by some outrageous fee demands that make little business sense and simply cannot be justified.

The next day I sent Stan a message and prepared myself for the disappointment of an established UK pundit with a solid schedule of work in England being out of our price and date range with a shopping list of diva like demands. I needn’t have worried. Inside of ten minutes, the deal was done.

Collymore brings with him a certain reputation and people still ask me what he was like to work with. All I can say is this. Stan takes his broadcasting craft very seriously. He takes an enormous amount of pride in his work and both these traits were in evidence from the moment he stepped off his plane. Stan’s flight into KL was delayed and affected his schedule that afternoon. We had initially planned for a radio interview before his Wonda Football Countdown recording. But with over an hour lost due to the delay, we had to cancel the interview. Stan had just three hours to get over his flight before he needed to be at our studios for his first show. Even though I let him know we could reschedule the radio to another day he insisted on doing it AFTER Countdown was in the can. Straight after he walked out of the Countdown studio he wanted to know if I thought the show went well and off to the radio we went.

The other thing that struck me is how he would stop to greet everyone in the buildings we visited. Whether it was the cleaner, the dispatch driver or the security guards, Stan made a point of saying ‘hi’ to everyone. The only other time I remember someone doing that was when Hannah Tan appeared on our variety show Football Overload in 2012.

One thing that isn’t uncommon with our visiting ex football stars is their passion for exercise in their playing retirement. Tony Pulls, Gus Poyet and Luis Garcia were all in the gym everyday during their stay in KL and the first thing Collymore did after checking into his hotel was to go for a run!
Being polite and fit is one thing but ultimately I have to judge our on air guests on what they add to our shows and Collymore was a constant source of innovative and thought provoking insight. During his 1 on 1 chat on #YouAsk, I was intrigued when he spoke of the difference between his Liverpool side of the 90’s and the dominant Manchester United of that era. He talked about how both teams were comparable talent-wise, but the Liverpool squad was made up of young players who needed some guidance and discipline. Which a certain Sir Alex Ferguson provided to United’s ‘kids’.

Over the course of the next few days, Collymore spent a lot of time working with former Manchester United right back Paul Parker on our live Premier League and Champions League coverage. Parker is not easily impressed but at the end of the week, Paul gave a powerful endorsement of working with Collymore, saying that he was ‘easily the best pundit I’ve worked with’ since he moved to Asia.’

That tells you a lot.

And your Astro team and I agree whole heartedly.