There’s a whole side to a football match that you probably barely even spare a second’s thought about, despite it’s integral nature to the way so many people enjoy the game. For an hour and a half it’s the job of the humble commentator to present the game to us, telling us the story and describing the action in all its detail.

Ahead of the FA Cup first-round encounter between non-league Haringey Borough and AFC Wimbledon of League One back in November, we caught up with BBC commentator Steve Bower in the gantry to find out more about his vital role in the game, his preparation and how it feels to be the voice of so many memories…

Your voice will be attached to the footage that many players and fans will look back on. Is it nice to be a part of these memories?

It’s surreal really. I’ve had a couple of players over the years take the mickey because the goalscorers have had my commentary as their ringtone and stuff like that and it’s been the butt of dressing room jokes as you’d imagine. But, I keep saying, it is surreal and very weird, but it’s a nice weird. I’ve had lads that have had ten seconds of my commentary when their phone rings, you know? It’s not something you think about, but it just reinforces what I’m saying in terms of what a moment, and in some cases what a life-changing moment it is.

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Are there any places or fixtures that you’ve not been involved with in the FA Cup that you’d like to cover?

Well the obvious one is the final. I’ve done the final numerous times on different channels, I’ve done it for radio, but I’ve never done it on BBC 1. Steve Wilson got his first chance last year, so – I would say this because I’m biased – but we’ve got a small group of really talented commentators and there’s a lot of respect between each other, so there’s no issue with that what-so-ever. But that's the obvious answer, the one thing missing from FA Cup TV is to do the final on BBC 1. I’ve been lucky enough to present the FA Cup final on other channels and commentate on other channels and commentate on FA Cup finals on Radio, so I’ve been to a lot, it’s just the one on BBC 1 that’s missing.

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How do you prepare for a Round One fixture like this?

Basically, I’ve prepared from Monday onwards for this Friday game. Literally last Saturday and Sunday it’s the Premier League games. Get them out of the way and it’s Monday morning. You know, take the kids to school and sit down at 9 o’clock with a cup of tea and a blank sheet of paper and away we go. Particularly with a non-league side you’re sort of reliant on the character and helpfulness of who you’re dealing with and 99.9 percent are absolutely brilliant and I have to say that this week, this fella Tom Loizou (Haringey Borough manager), he’s been one of the biggest characters I’ve met in grass roots football for a while. We exchanged messages and I spoke to him on Tuesday morning for about and hour and twenty minutes and by the end of that hour and twenty minutes there wasn’t too much I didn’t know about his 19-20 players and several that weren’t here and suspended and all the rest of it. And that is absolutely invaluable.

I’ve been lucky enough to speak to Tom everyday this week, because certain players have been coming back into the country; they trained here on Wednesday night; he went to watch Wimbledon on Tuesday night; they thought they may be able to appeal a suspension which they couldn’t; so he’s been absolutely brilliant. And some people say well he should be if you want the publicity, of course, but you can’t underestimate it. I’ve just been speaking to him now and he’s had four or five hours sleep every night and he looks absolutely shattered because he does everything here and the likes of us and magazines and websites, news crews and all the rest of it are all wanting him. He said he’s never known a week in his life like it.

Again, Neil Ardley, the Wimbledon manager, has been very helpful, but again you just do your own research. We’ve got a great broadcast journalism team. I have to give Craig Barnes a mention for this game. I’ve spoken to him every day as well. So between us we collaborate and swap things. This is why I love this – they don’t normally have squad numbers, Haringey, this is just one example of what we have to learn, and he’s given them all squad numbers for this, but I couldn’t get them off him until yesterday because the only place they could find to embroider the shirts with the necessary logos and numbers on in time was in Spain! So the kit has come back from Spain on the Thursday, so I couldn’t speak to Tom until then, so it”s all those kind of things. It’s been a full week, but that’s what you have to do to give the viewer an hour and a half of telling the story. That’s basically what you’re trying to do.

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Your day today, from waking up at home, what does it normally look like on a game day?

I’d say that when I went to bed last night I probably had 80 percent of my work done. So woke up this morning and I’d go through little odds and sods, sort of going through things. I messaged Tom to find out if anything had changed. No. Luckily I’d been able to message the Wimbledon manager for formations and numbers etcetera, injuries. I found out this morning that Wimbledon’s main striker is out, James Hanson. Significant news like that could be the difference, incase we get a shock or not. Maybe if they miss a couple of chances then he might’ve scored.

Travel down here, then once you get to the ground you talk to the programme editor about how we’re doing things, you speak to your co-commentator, you speak to your producer, just all the finer details that hopefully will sound smooth on the air. Then once we come to this time, bit like a player really, you’re just trying to get into match mode and double check when the team sheets come out that the information that we’ve been given is correct and then about an hour before kick off we’ll go to our garden shed and Kevin and I will have a little chat and the match director Pete, who’s obviously very important about the pictures that we cut up and the stories that we tell.

We’ll have boot watch, and boot watch is what colours they wear, because when a free kick gets whipped in and there’s 22 players, the colour of yellow boots can sometimes be… I remember that actually, at Warrington Town there was a perfect example, he had green boots on I think, and it was a corner whipped in and the only way I knew who scored was because I saw he had green boots. Now if that’s being whipped in and it’s Firmino or Sturridge or whatever, then we know who they are, but we haven’t got that luxury tonight, we have to earn our spurs. It’s a little bit of an insight; long hair, short hair, beards 6’3, 5’7, skins, short sleeves, all these things for player identification at this level are absolutely key.

At least it’s not muddy tonight...

No, but I quite like when it’s muddy for a tie like this. it’s a bit of a leveller. I don’t want to tempt fate, but this time last year we were at Hyde United and MK Dons were in terrible form but after about five minutes they thought, oh this is nice, a true roll of the ball, a true bounce, and they started pinging it about and showing their quality, where sometimes on a Warrington Town mud heap, it’s a bit of a leveller.

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Once the game’s over tonight and the broadcast’s over, is there a comedown for you?

Depends on the result, you know. Seriously, if you get what you know is a magical moment – that Warrington Town game (against Exeter City in 2014), I used to get in the car for two or three weeks after and the FA Cup promos would be running on 5 Live and all they were using were those eight seconds of my voice. It’s that type of moment, you know. If you get one of those then you do feel like you’ve played. The adrenaline rush is pumping, you can’t sleep straight away – although I’ve got to try and sleep tonight because I’m at Crystal Palace Tottenham for Match of the Day tomorrow. But it does depend on the result to an extent, if you get that moment then the adrenaline rush is much greater.

If it’s 3-0 to Wimbledon tonight, it’s still very enjoyable and it’s still a story and it’s brilliant having Haringey having done so well, but we hope... It’s a bit like playing really. I was speaking to Ryan Giggs about this a few weeks ago and he said he never really enjoyed playing, and I said "but you won 13 league titles?!", and he said "yeah, but when you go out in front of 75,000 people you just want to make sure you do your job, and once you’ve done your job you never really enjoyed the win, it was just on to the next one and you were worried about doing your job again." So nowhere near the same pressure point, but you just want to come off. You asked me how it feels when the broadcast is finished and you just want to ask yourself, did that go OK?

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Do you get feedback?

Yeah. Well what I would say is if there’s an issue, you know about it! Touch wood generally there isn’t, but I think probably again, like playing, in my case late teens, early 20s you used to worry a lot more, you scrutinised a lot more. I think the older you get you get a bit more confidence in your experience and your ability. But still, on a night like tonight, you’re challenged that little bit more. I think the first thing you say to yourself is did that go OK? Did I make any mistakes? No. Did I get that right? Yes. Phew. So I can kind of see what the players mean really. Did you enjoy that? Probably tomorrow I’ll say I enjoyed it, but today it’s just, let’s get it right. Let’s get a nice clean broadcast.

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When you get off air do you have the feeling that it went well or not?

Again if you go and play five-a-side every Monday you won’t perform to the same level, so sometimes you’ll go in the pub and say you know what, I had a great game tonight and then the next Monday you might sit down with a pint and say oh, I gave the ball away and I did this and didn’t play that well, but I got through it. I think we’re all in that situation in our jobs, so you try and maintain a certain level and in our job I always say sometimes we can only be as good as the game we’re given.

If it’s Huddersfield 0-0 Cardiff then there’s only a certain standard that you can reach because there’s nothing to feed off, and that’s no disrespect to those teams. Cardiff 0-0 Newcastle was mine that sticks out from this season, because you get your stinkers and you can not polish something that isn’t there. So if this is 1-0 Wimbledon tonight and not a memorable cup tie then I’ll think then there’s not really a lot that I could do with that. If it’s 2-1 Haringey in the last minute then you can do a lot more with it. Sometimes you can only be as good as the game you’re given and I think that's the right way of putting it.

The BBC will be covering the FA Cup third round across TV, radio and online, including Newport County v Leicester City on Sunday, January 6 (BBC One & BBC iPlayer from 4.30pm) and Wolves v Liverpool on Monday, January 7 (BBC One & BBC iPlayer from 7.45pm).

Photography by Elliott Wilcox for SoccerBible.