The true blue voice of err .... Norwich

PUBLISHED: 15:25 22 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:33 03 March 2010

THE sound of Rob Chandler is a particularly familiar one to his weekday Norfolk radio listeners – and also to the thousands of devoted Ipswich Town fans.

THE sound of Rob Chandler is a particularly familiar one to his weekday Norfolk radio listeners – and also to the thousands of devoted Ipswich Town fans.

Here, Debbie Watson finds out how this passionate Blues supporter, and daytime DJ, tackles life and work in the Canaries' homeland.

IN a small studio slightly north of the Suffolk border, Rob Chandler is preparing to wake up the county.

Dressed in shorts and a welcoming broad grin, he settles into his seat and taps a stray pen to the cheery vocal sounds of Kylie Minogue.

This is the man who has roused many a weary soul from beneath their duvet on the bleakest of East Anglian mornings. And today is no exception.

It's 6am and the feeble early sun is reluctantly breaking the clouds above Norwich. The city is going to need a helping hand to get to its feet – and Rob is the man to give it.

On the dot of the hour, together with his co-host Chrissie, Rob lets himself breezily into the bedrooms of his many listeners, and yet another weekday has begun.

For some 17 long years, this Suffolk-born presenter has been a familiar voice on the Broadland FM airwaves.

He has chatted, teased, and tantalised the listening population every day of this popular breakfast slot – helping to get the region's workers on their way to the office, and the youngsters out to school.

And even at this unearthly hour, when the majority of us could barely contemplate a mouthful of milk-drenched Cornflakes, Rob simply radiates enthusiasm.

"I love this job," he said with a grin. "There's not many people who get to be this excited about the work they do."

He shoots a smile at Chrissie from across the hi-tech studio desk. "Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we're being paid to do this," he beamed.

While Rob's cheerful voice may well be a familiar one on the radio airwaves of Broadland, it also happens to be a really important asset at Portman Road.

Not only is this 42-year-old known for his DJ profile – he is also a staunch Ipswich Town fan who happens to keep the club's homeground in high spirits at every match.

"About four years ago I was asked to be an announcer at the ground," said Rob. "It was a real honour because Town is really in my blood and I have been following the team since I was a young lad.

"When you're that passionate about something – you almost feel like you're dreaming when you get an offer of that kind."

A former pupil at Cliff Lane primary and Holywells High, Rob-the-youngster was literally raised on devotion to the Blues.

His mother, his father and his elder brother are all undisputed addicts.

"Football is a big part of me," he confessed with a boyish grin. "One of my earliest memories is of kicking a ball around with my dad in the garden of our home.

"We used to head down to Holywells park, or mess around in the streets playing matches. Those were really great times in my life, and a part of my youth that I really treasure when I look back on my Suffolk upbringing."

In fact, it's a wonder Rob didn't make more of his early footballing obsession instead of stumbling into the world of radio.

"Well, I did want to be a footballer when I was really small," he grinned. "I even got picked for an Ipswich schoolboys tour.

"I suppose it could have been very different, but I was such a home-boy that I backed out and didn't go. I wanted to stay with my family."

Regretful or not, Rob doesn't show it. Besides, he went on to forge a successful career in his other love – music – and fitted comfortably on to Suffolk's airwaves with a post at Radio Orwell.

"I was only about 20 when I first went on the air, and initially I was kept on as a part-timer, so I worked at other places in Ipswich at the same time."

He said: "In 1981 I was given a full time show and I stuck with Orwell until I heard about a new studio opening in Norwich.

"I felt that a new challenge would be good for me – so I took the chance."

That challenge brought him to his current career-home, Broadland.

Since 1984 he has been working in rival football territory, but Rob Chandler has quite simply refused to make his love of Ipswich a secret.

"When I first decided to move jobs, I think a lot of people were shocked because they knew what a mad Ipswich supporter I am, and that Norwich is the arch-enemy.

"At the time of arriving here, Ipswich was on a real high after some great wins and so I was certainly not going to be discreet about my passion."

He said: "As things turned out, Ipswich quickly took a dive after Broadland started, and Norwich picked up.

"I still look back on 1984 as being one of the worst times in my life because listeners would bombard me with stick about the Blues. It was like a bad dream. There we were in Division 2, and here I was, a hardened Ipswich fan in the thick of Norwich."

Today, Rob is delighted to talk about the fact that 'his' team have now turned full circle again, and the evidence of his devotion sits on the studio wall in the former of an Ipswich Town banner.

But even so, Rob has learned to outwardly quell his enthusiasm somewhat.

"I tend not to go on about Ipswich too much now," he commented, somewhat more seriously.

"I get some comments, and most of it is good natured stuff from my listeners or my friends, but there is always an element of those people who take it further."

Rob recalls one particular incident where he went to Carrow Road to report on a match.

"Completely out of the blue I was confronted by two men in a threatening way, and they were telling me that it wasn't a 'good idea' that I was there," he said.

"I've also been booed when I go to present trophies at the Norwich ground, and from time to time you get verbally attacked.

"Basically, I'm known as 'The Ipswich Fan', and that's going to bother some people. I just refuse to get wound up about it, and as I say, most of it is really good-natured."

Rob's status as 'The Ipswich Fan' can only have been enhanced in recent years, since finally accepting the announcer's role at Portman Road.

Despite some initial doubt, he says it is a job he is still ecstatic about.

"At first I worried about taking the post because first and foremost, I am an Ipswich supporter," he admitted.

"I didn't know whether it would be right to mix work with my absolute passion, but now I get a huge buzz out of it, and wonder what I ever had to think about."

Whenever Rob visits the Blues' home ground, he still feels intoxicated by the same love, excitement and energy which got him hooked as an 8-year-old child on his first visit.

He still recalls his smiling young face as he stood on a box, peering over the wall.

He still recalls his first football hero – Danny Hegan>>> - and how he met him as a young boy waiting for a train at Liverpool Street station.

It is all these such memories which keep Rob's heart exactly where it belongs – in Ipswich.

"I think a lot of Norwich, and I have even married a Norwich City fan, but Ipswich will always be my real home," he said.

"There is something really special about it, and I know that one day, whenever it might be, I will head back home, to the place where my team – and my heart – will always belong."


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