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“The Clare Balding show is a chance to see sportsmen and women as themselves”

As the brand-new series of The Clare Balding Show hits BT Sport 1, Clare reveals some of her special guests, reflects on her favourite interviews, and tells us who drove for six hours so he could appear on the same show as Jose Mourinho…

Clare Balding

Who can we expect to see on your sofa in the new series?

The show I’m about to record is with Bernie Ecclestone, who makes very, very few appearances on chat shows. Mark Cavendish plus Hollie Webb and Maddie Hinch, who were in GB’s Olympic gold medal hockey team, are also on.

We have a really good show with Harry Redknapp, Alex Scott and Karen Carney. Alex and Karen are in the England women’s football team that’s going to the European Championships. That was great, because Karen is big a Birmingham City fan. She was very excited to meet Harry.

Charlotte Edwards is also on that show in her first major interview since she lost the job as England cricket captain and she was very honest about that.

I’ve been keen for ages to get a golfer on, which is very hard to do, because they’re rarely in the country. But we managed to get Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston. Wow! What a character! He appeared with Damon Hill and Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover. They had a putting competition and they worked really well together. I just love that mixture of people from different sports – it brings out the best in them.

We also have Carl Frampton with Greg Rutherford and Martine Wright, the Paralympian who lost her legs in the 7/7 bombings. She’s written the most amazing book about how you get through something like that. It’s extraordinary, particularly in light of what’s been happening recently.

You’ll enjoy the stories Harry Redknapp comes out with. I think Bernie Ecclestone probably won’t pull any punches. Martine Wright gives a very moving interview and may change your view on life; I can’t recommend anything more highly than that.

Describe the show to anyone who might not have seen it before?

It’s different to anything else on TV in this country. It’s a chance to see sportsmen and women as themselves. The studio at BT Sport lends itself really well to this type of show. It’s showbiz and classy, but at its heart it’s real sport.

I was doing something with Bradley Wiggins recently and he said, “When’s your show coming back? I love seeing people sit and talk about their lives and about sport,” and I thought, yes, that’s what it is. We also try to have some fun as well, because I think that brings out an important side of a person’s character we don’t always see when they’re competing.

Which guests have provided some of the most memorable interviews?

Looking back on the programme we did with Paul Gascoigne when he came on with Stuart Pearce and David Seaman, it was terribly sad, but he was also very funny and I think he enjoyed it – and they were brilliant with him.

I also remember with great sadness, but also great fondness, Jonah Lomu. He was fantastic, a gentle giant of a man.

Boris Becker came on with Judy Murray and Judy hadn’t spoken to him for a long time because of an article he wrote on how Andy needed to get away from his mum. What Judy said was a lesson in how to handle someone when you want to say something to them, but don’t want to be rude.

Which guests would you love to have on the show?

I’m still mad keen to get Andy and Jamie Murray on. I’m also mad keen to get Anthony Joshua; I met him the other day and he wants to do it. I was asking him whether he thought I should interview Tyson Fury and he said, “I think you should. I’d watch that.”

Sometimes you have to give people a chance to challenge and respond. I had Joey Barton on and I read a list of offences to him so he could defend himself – or, as he did in some cases, say, “Yes, guilty.” We did a similar thing with Danny Cipriani. They don’t often get the chance to tell you the context in which these things happened. And I think it’s always worth giving somebody that opportunity. You either like them more by the end of it or you like them less, but at least you feel you know them a bit better.

I’ve made it a bit of a mission of the programme to promote sportswomen. I think we do it in a way that makes sense and gives them an opportunity to really shine. They don’t get many chances to be seen away from their sporting field and they often have stories you haven’t heard before because nobody’s asked them – at least not on TV.

How does the mix of guests across different sports work?

They have long chats in the green room afterwards, they swap numbers and they understand each other, because they’re from the same environment. They’re having to perform under pressure or they’re struggling with injuries or working on fitness. It’s fascinating to see them interact.

What would be your fantasy line-up of guests?

I’d have loved to have talked to Muhammad Ali. But in terms of right now, I’d say Anthony Joshua, Rory McIlroy, Andy Murray and Serena Williams. Carrying on from that, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, who are massive stars. Wouldn’t it be great to talk to them?

What was it like interviewing Jose Mourinho shortly before he was sacked by Chelsea?

That was almost perfect timing. I was quite keen for him not to be sacked until after the show came out! But he was definitely very tense and clearly things weren’t right. The interesting thing about that show was that Steven Gerrard had travelled down from Liverpool in a car and it had taken him six hours to get there. He said he wouldn’t have done it for just anyone, but he wanted to be on the show with Jose Mourinho because, of course, Mourinho had tried to sign him in 2005. So there was a real mutual respect there and I thought Steven made Mourinho seem a bit more human.

Watch The Clare Balding Show on Thursday 29 June at 8pm, BT Sport 1