IN a journalism career that has spanned seven decades, legendary sports commentator John Helm has seen it all.

But despite commentating on matches at European Championships, the Olympics and World Cups, the 79-year-old Baildon-born legend is always drawn back to local non-league football and is often found at matches in and around Steeton.

Having had a passion for both journalism and sport from a young age, he fondly recalls commentating on matches in the playground when he was at primary school.

He laughed: “My first teacher, Mrs Dunwell, remembers me commentating as I was dribbling a tennis ball to school, and on matches in the schoolyard at lunch break when I was a child.

“I was fascinated by radio commentaries and although I had no designs on pursuing that as a career, I did always want to be a journalist.”

Learning his trade as a reporter for the Shipley Times in the 1950s, he made his first big break into the industry with the BBC in the 1970s.

He said: “After 11 years in local and regional journalism, I was gobsmacked when the BBC approached me to become sports editor of Radio Leeds.

“My career really blossomed there in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

“As Sports Editor, I was responsible for hours of output every week and began to commentate on football, cricket and rugby league on a regular basis.

“I also presented the music and chat early evening show.”

Reporting on Leeds United, who were among the best teams in Europe at the time, Helm then began to feature regularly on Radio Two (now Five Live), conducting interviews with manager Don Revie and many of their players.

This led to his selection to represent all 20 BBC local radio stations at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand, and his appointment to a full-time post in London.

In 1981, he moved to ITV’s Yorkshire Television, where he provided commentary for the World Cups in 1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994, alongside Football League highlights and regional football coverage.

Since turning freelance in the late 1990s, he has commented at a host of major tournaments, working with FIFA on their coverage of European Championships and World Cups, and he regularly broadcasts to up to 86 million people on the Indian Premier League.

He has also just been out commentating on the Olympics in Tokyo.

However, Helm is never too far from his beloved Bradford (Park Avenue), the team he has supported since 1953.

He became the club’s vice president 30 years ago, a role he says gives him “great enjoyment and fulfilment”.

Recently taking in a pre-season friendly at Steeton’s new home at Marley Stadium, he remembers using the facilities there in his youth.

He said: “The move to Marley is of particular interest to me as I played there myself for a team called Bingley Holy Trinity.

“It was a very sparse facility there in the late fifties and early sixties, with often muddy pitches and a heavy ball.

“I scored a few goals but remember once winning a penalty, smashing it against the underside of the crossbar, from where the ball hit the ‘keeper’s head and flew over the top of the goal.

“It’s changed a bit, and I hope the club settles in well and builds their identity in their new home.”

When asked what he likes to see on the pitch, Helm praised fast and flowing football but did not hold back in his criticism of new footballing practices or the Video Assistant Referee.

He said: “I appreciate ball-players who are not afraid to take on opponents and try something a bit different, so in that regard, I always look out for Kayle Price (at Steeton).

“As for off the pitch, the internet has made research infinitely superior but on the debit side, there’s no longer a personal relationship between performer or even manager at a professional level.

“And with regards to VAR, I’ve hated it with a passion ever since it was introduced.

“It is taking emotion out of the game we love. Players no longer celebrate for fear of having a goal overturned.

“Referees getting things wrong is part of the fabric of the game, now they hand everything over to the man with the monitor and let him take the blame.

“I have to admit VAR worked much better at the Euros than in the Premier League, with quicker and more decisive decisions, but I still don’t know any old professionals or referees who like it or want it to continue.”