Being a reporter is often far from glamorous but not many hacks expect to be bitten by a horse live on TV. 

This is just one of the tales retold by retired sports journalist Dennis Coath, who covered Oxford United at the old Manor Ground, and worked for both the BBC and ITV during his career. 

His escapades also included interviewing the likes of Muhammad Ali, Brian Clough, Peter Shilton, Ayrton Senna and Rod Stewart during a career spanning four decades. 

“When I look back at 45 years, I can’t believe the adventures and scrapes I have got into and the illustrious people I have met," Mr Coath said. 

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"I am sport mad. My career got off to a bad start when I was sacked as a crematorium gardener for playing cricket in the ‘garden of rest’.

"We played for The Ashes.”

Oxford Mail: A cartoon from Dennis Coath's new bookA cartoon from Dennis Coath's new book (Image: Dennis Coath)

The reporter recalled dodging a hail of bricks and cobblestones in Istanbul and avoiding a fusillade of full beer cans hurled by French rugby fans, one of which "took a chunk out" of his ear. 

More terrifying moments during his career included facing the militia's machine guns in Bilbao.

He was also confronted with "a huge black rat, large lizards and cobras" while filming a documentary in Vietnam.

Such tales are included in his latest book Rats, Pies, and Pigeon Poo which looks back at his career as a sport reporter working on newspapers, radio and television.

Although he was mainly based in The Midlands, Mr Coath was a regular visitor to Oxford and he described the Manor Ground as "one of his favourite venues to visit". 

Mr Coath said: "That was a real old fashioned football arena. A hotchpotch of different stands. It was a great atmosphere.

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"When I first saw the U’s they had the Atkinson brothers playing in tandem.

"Ron ‘the tank’ in midfield and Graham up front. ‘The tank’ was an apt nickname for Ron.

"His tackles would have stopped a train, but he was also an astute passer of the ball.

Oxford Mail: The old Manor Ground, once home to Oxford UnitedThe old Manor Ground, once home to Oxford United

"Under his captaincy United rose from the Southern League to the Second Division. Graham is still the club’s record scorer with 107 goals.

"The other Oxford player that always caught my eye was flying winger Colin Harrington. He was a former athlete and would have given a greyhound a race.

"Not many full backs could match him for pace.”

READ MORE: Manor Ground sold for £12m

Away from Oxford, Mr Coath’s most agonising moment was being bitten by a horse during a live TV broadcast.

He recalled: “I was reporting from a stable about the death of the nation’s favourite racehorse the legendary ‘Desert Orchid’.

"I was standing by his old box when the current occupant, a huge stallion, leant across me and suddenly bit through my left bicep.

"I gasped but managed to complete the broadcast.

"Afterwards I took off my coat and jacket to find I had a red sleeve and a huge swelling on my arm.

"I never realised that a horse had such a powerful bite.”

Oxford Mail: Dennis Coath's new book Rats, Pies and Pigeon PooDennis Coath's new book Rats, Pies and Pigeon Poo (Image: Dennis Coath)

His new book Rats, Pies and Pigeon Poo's title comes from his trials which also include "paddling through pigeon poo and eating a mouldy pie" - all in his duties as an intrepid TV reporter.

The book, which is published by Olympia Publishers, has a cover price of £8.99.

It is available to oder at Amazon, Waterstones and other book shops.