2010 has taken me to 31 sporting events across four sports and (I think) 11 countries, finding my way to no less than 30 different stadiums/arenas on the way.
It’s fair to say I’ve enjoyed my first full year as a sports journalist.
With that in mind, I have decided to look back at the best and worst moments I experienced during 2010.
Best spread of the year – New Meadowlands, New York
As if taking in the New York Giants’ opening NFL match at their brand spanking new stadium wasn’t enough, the spread they put on for journalists was out of this world. Forget your pre-match sarnies and Bovril, the Giants have their own restaurant for journalists that serves up food and drink whenever you want it. Suitably hungover from a night out celebrating my cousin’s birthday, it is fair to say the full English option went down a treat. Furthermore, so did all the other foods they plied us with throughout the day. I should take a moment to doff my hat to the Bradford Bulls, whose pre-match selection of English and Indian cuisine was superb.
Worst press facilities of the year – Oakwell, Barnsley
Despite tough competition from Portsmouth’s Fratton Park, the award must go to Oakwell whose press facilities are truly atrocious. At first the fact the archaic press benches look nice, but as soon as you try to get a laptop on them you’re in all sorts of trouble. No leg room, the bench flies up, poor wi-fi, barely any sockets and, worst of all, a pathetic selection of fodder. Must try harder.
Hard work of the year – Sheffield United
During the 2010/11 season I have covered two Blades matches, firstly against QPR in August and then Barnsley earlier this month. After the prior, Kevin Blackwell did not turn up to the post-match press conference. It later transpired he had been sacked so it meant me racing down to the car park to see a glum looking Blackwell trudging to his family’s 4X4. Gary Speed replaced him but, lo and behold, he also left United after I covered them, plumping for the Welsh national team job rather than sorting out the mess he had made at Bramall Lane. Fun times and extra copy.
Honour of the year – Brazil v Ukraine
For some unbeknown reason, the five-time world champions ended up playing Ukraine on a cold Autumn evening at Pride Park. I do not think I’ll ever know why, but reporting on the likes of Daniel Alves, Robinho & Co was pretty bloody good. Interviewing Brazil manager Mano Menezes after the match was pretty sweet as well.
Nightmare of the year – City Ground, Nottingham
Every journalist has technical issues and the like to deal with at some stage or another, but my main issue was with a shitty motor. Having driven down from East Yorkshire my car decided to pack up less than a mile from Forest’s ground. Having pulled over in what turned out to be a pretty awful council estate, I was later saved by an odd pick-up man. The experience put me on a self-destructive path that saw me head for a night out in Goole *shudder*.
Best place to file copy this year – Glanford Park, Scunthorpe
Yes, it may be Scunthorpe but where else in the world do you get a chance to file copy from the manager’s bench? With the so-called press room lacking any wi-fi coverage and the managers post-match interviews outside, the bench is the best place to be. Saying that, I did almost come a cropper when I left my laptop to interview Gary Hooper in the stands and had to run off mid-interview as the sprinklers lured dangerously close to it.
Disappointment of the year – Southampton v Plymouth
Living nearly 250 miles from St Mary’s, it may have been wise in hindsight to stay up north seeing as it was on Sky Sports. I chose against my better judgement and set off at 5am for the midday kick-off, before seeing my beloved Saints thoroughly beaten on home soil. Great.
Blag of the year – Emirates Stadium and Wembley
It’s a tough one – especially as I accrued a free copy of Football Manager 11 – but my days in London are pretty hard to beat. It was pretty swish when MP & Silva put myself and a colleague up in an executive box for the Emirates Cup, especially with all the wine and posh food you could stomach. Saying that, a few weeks later the Club Wembley experience for England’s friendly with Hungary was incredible. The Thai dinner will go down long in the memory (as will the football, of course).
Good deed of the year – Stadion Albert Flórián, Budapest
Having hitch-hiked from Yorkshire to Zadar, Croatia the previous year, I decided to travel more than 2000km from Sheffield to the Hungarian capital with a mere budget of £15. Surprisingly I managed to pull it off thanks to some crazy drivers, sound people and numerous sleepless nights. Having made it there, I met up with Ferencváros – sister club of Sheffield United – and spent the morning with Craig Short, the staff and players. To help us raise money they gave us a signed ball, signed shirt and the like, publicising our cause throughout the country. It also meant I got to cock about on the Stadion Albert Flórián pitch.
Stadium of the year – New Meadowlands, New York
Without a doubt it has to be the NFL’s newest stadium. The place is simply insane, which I’m sure you can see for yourself…
Oh, and should anybody care this is where I ended up over the past year: Bramall Lane, Sheffield; Elland Road, Leeds; St Mary’s, Southampton; Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, Bologna; Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg; Na Stínadlech, Teplice; Stadion Albert Flórián, Budapest; Oakwell, Barnsley; Craven Park, Hull; Glanford Park, Scunthorpe; The Jungle, Castleford; Edgeley Park, Stockport; Odsal, Bradford; KC Stadium, Hull; Emirates Stadium, London; Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Goole Town; Wembley Stadium, London; New Meadowlands, New York; Air Canada Centre, Toronto; Rogers Center, Toronto; Fenway Park, Boston; TD Garden, Boston; Red Bull Arena, Newark; Madison Square Garden, New York; Citi Field, New York; Pride Park, Derby; Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield; Stade de France, Paris; Old Trafford, Manchester; Fratton Park, Portsmouth