“You’re The MasterChef Bloke!” Gregg Wallace On Life As A Millwall And Wasps Fan

The TV judge talks The Sportsman through his favourite sporting memories
10:00, 18 Apr 2020

Best known as TV’s MasterChef judge, Gregg Wallace, 55, is also a rugby fan, player and certified coach. Born in Peckham, South London, Gregg began life as a Millwall supporter but made the switch to rugby when he started playing the game at The London Nautical School, “a rugby loving Grammar school that didn’t play football”.

After leaving school, Wallace didn’t play again until his thirties, when a fortuitous encounter with Eton Manor RFC’s scrum half (a friend of the team captain of Gregg’s local pub pool team in Bermondsey) saw him lace up his boots once again and take to the field. The birth of his son saw Gregg transition from player to coach, and he now holds two certified coaching badges. He is also an avid Wasps supporter.

I don’t play anymore but I still stay fit

In fact, so many people have asked me how I stay in shape, I have put together a six week program that you can watch on my Instagram channel @greggawallace. I did it with the help of my trainer, Danny Rai. It’s basically a circuit of five exercises that you repeat two, three or four times, depending on how fit you feel. The best bit is that it doesn’t require any equipment at all, part from a chair and two tins of beans.

The first game I ever went to see was Millwall at The Old Den 

I would have been four or five and sat on my father’s shoulders. My Grandfather used to buy my family a season ticket every season, so that was it, from the minute I could walk I was at Millwall, it was never going to be any other way. I was a dyed in the wool, Peckham boy, Millwall supporter from birth.

Millwall's Old Den holds a special place in Wallace's heart
Millwall's Old Den holds a special place in Wallace's heart

I have a Millwall lion tattooed on my chest. 

I probably missed two home games a season from the age of five to the age of thirty, when I started playing rugby. I had lots of tattoos, and I had every one removed except the Millwall lion. When my son was born I did alternate between the Millwall and Wasps, but Wasps just had a happier environment at the time.

The only thing I say no to at games are selfies. 

And I always say when asked, “Please don’t take it personally, stop and have a beer with me”. But I don’t want to start something I can’t finish and once you start selfies, it will be the end of the afternoon. And you know what, so far every single rugby fan has said fair enough. 

I often go to Wasp away matches on my own. 

Rugby is such a friendly thing that I’m more than happy to get on a train and walk into the ground. People recognise me from the television, so I know I can go to a rugby stadium and share a beer and a bit of banter with the fans and I enjoy it very much. If you took the socialising and beer away from rugby it would only be half the game. That to me is where it wins hands down over football, the fun. I also go out of my way to talk to away fans at home games. If I see them parked up, I’ll ask if they know where they are going, and invariably they’ll say, “You’re the MasterChef bloke!”

Wallace alongside his partner-in-crime John Torode on the set of MasterChef
Wallace alongside his partner-in-crime John Torode on the set of MasterChef

Where I sit during Wasps games depends on my son.

Truth be told, I now watch the games in the Wasps boardroom with the owner, Derek Richardson. Now, Derek doesn’t know this but my son said to me, ‘Dad, do we have to go in there? I would rather be out in the stands.” So, when I’m with my son I’m in the stands and when I’m on my own I will go up and have lunch with Derek and often sit with him during the matches. 

My son’s first rugby game still makes me emotional 

I don’t know why really. He was five-years-old, playing his first competitive game of rugby. Non-contact of course, and he was good at it, of course he was, his dad was the coach! Still got the photographs and yeah, the memory of it always makes me emotional, I was just really, really proud.

I’m a Wasps fan because of Lawrence Dallaglio 

When we moved to South West London and my son was young, I started taking him to see both Harlequins, who played at Twickenham, and Wasps who at that time were at Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers. We hadn’t quite made our minds up who to support, but then we moved to Petersham, just down from Richmond, and the Wasps captain, Lawrence Dallaglio lived around the corner. We bumped into him a couple of times and that was it, Wasps won out over ‘Quins. It could easily have gone either way.

Local neighbour Lawrence Dallaglio won Wallace over when becoming a Wasps fan
Local neighbour Lawrence Dallaglio won Wallace over when becoming a Wasps fan

Of any game I’ve ever seen, Chatham House Vs Sutton Valley is still the most exciting

Funnily enough, another game my son, Tom, played in when he was fourteen. He went to a grammar school, Chatham House, and they were a good team, but there was a really good private school, Sutton Valley, who they had never beaten. Tom’s team turned up with only fourteen players, but they played anyway, and it was the best game of rugby I’ve ever watched.

The lead changed hands five times and it was ferocious out there. I’ve actually got a mate, whose son played with my son that day, and he swears it’s the best game he’s ever been too. They beat Sutton Valley, for the first time, and they did it with fourteen men. On the Monday morning the headmaster got them up on stage and they were applauded by the school. Of all the internationals I’ve seen, of all the Wasps games, that was the best.

My funniest moment at a game involved the Welsh.

It was an Easter weekend and we were watching London Welsh play Henley in a relegation battle. The Henley winger took off and a huge Welshman started shouting, “Nail him! Nail him!". And an even bigger Welshman stood up and said, “You can’t say ‘nail him’ on Easter Weekend.”  

The most miserable I’ve ever been was at an England Vs Ireland game. 

It was a couple of seasons ago when Ireland won the Six Nations. England were woeful under Eddie Jones that year and I just remember it was freezing. Ireland were rampant and everything they did worked, it was just a miserable day. I went and got some pasties and I said to my son, “Are you not going to eat that?” and we were so cold he said, “No, I’m going to cuddle it.”

I’m no fan of Southern Hemisphere rugby playing style

I’ve got a mate, Scott, and whenever we discuss rugby it’s the style of play that we always end up arguing about. He watches too much Southern Hemisphere rugby and thinks England should play like New Zealand, and I think, just like Clive Woodward thought, that England should develop their own style and that should be strength through the set piece. Scott wants to turn the bloody game into basketball! Everyone eleven stone, throwing the ball around with reckless abandon. Mind you, I’m sure if you ask Scott he would say Gregg just wants to turn the game into one enormous scrum.

Millwall’s last game of the 87-88 season means the most to me

It was Millwall’s last home game of the season, we were already champions that year and we had been promoted to what was then the First Division, the elite of English football. I had watched Millwall my whole life and I used to say to my Granddad, “We will get to the First Division one day Grandad,” and he used to reply, “It hasn’t happened in my lifetime, I don’t know why you think it will happen in yours.” And then, a couple of years after he sadly passed away, it happened, Millwall got promoted.

It was such a party down at The Den that day because we were already champions so it didn’t really matter what happened in the game. Everybody was drinking, happy, and the flags were waving. I think we lost two or three nil, I suspect the players were drunk too, it was just a brilliant occasion. We had waited so long.

Get Fit At Home With Gregg Wallace will be available from Monday on Gregg’s Instagram channel @greggawallace