Diary of a BBC Sports Reporter

My month started with a trip back to The Valley, the ground where it all began for me on BBC Final Score two seasons ago. My last visit was a memorable one, after I parted with my hard-earned cash (albeit very little) to have a small wager on the game (it’s difficult not to as there’s a bookie’s stand just inside the Millennium Suite). I found myself a few quid up after predicting the first goal would be scored between the 35th-45th minute. Up pops Southampton’s Adam Lallana and my first cocktail of the evening (I like Mojitos and Cosmopolitans in case you wondered) is paid for. After being forced to stifle my celebrations as the press box was surrounded by irate home fans, I resolved this time round that all bets were off, plus I’d not got any cocktail supping evenings planned this time.

But, this visit to the Valley was to prove just as memorable. In all the games I’ve reported from, I’ve never before seen the referee stretchered off and replaced, but that’s exactly what happened in this tie. In fact the stretcher made two appearances, nearly three. As well as the ref tearing his Achilles (although I can vouch for the fact he still managed to hobble into the bar for a post-match drink), loan-defender Federico Bassone was also stretchered off.

Incidents like this, although not so favourable for the ref, or for Bassone, are reporting gold. The stretcher became a running theme in my reports – if only I had planned another night out necking a few cocktails and the stretcher might have made one more appearance that day!

Overall, it was an entertaining League One game. Five goals, the referee and a player stretchered off, plus a new page created in Charlton’s history books. Manager Chris Powell unbeaten in his opening four games in charge; he’s the first to achieve that feat in the club’s history. I used that stat in my ‘summing up’ report and yes you guessed it, reporters curse struck, poor Chris went on to lose the next four games!

Next up was a visit to my old stomping ground Leicester. I’m an ex-Loughborough student, back in those days I spent a fair few nights at music venues such as The Charlotte and visiting friends at De Montfort Uni. I also returned to the area in 2008/9 when I was working for BBC East Midlands Today. So, with a few friendly faces guaranteed, I was looking forward to going back to The Walkers Stadium, but there was another reason why I was looking forward to the journey too – my new car Smurf!

For the past few years, driving up and down motorways, to and from football grounds has been i) uncomfortable and ii) a tad embarrassing.

Let me explain the discomfort factor first. Philip my old silver KA (names after silver fox Philip Schofield!) had become a bit temperamental – no heating, rickety noises as soon as I went over 50mph all made for interesting match-day travel, especially during winter. Then there was the onset of feeling down right ashamed of poor old Phil. I can’t say it did much for me driving in to grounds behind a string of Audi’s and BMW’s. First, I’d got to get ticked off the list by one of the stewards (they all looked a little surprised when they realised I was a reporter, explaining I’d got heavy kit in the back of my tiny boot) and then I had to park up next to some flash cars. I needed an upgrade and quick. So Smurf (a medium sized, bright blue mean machine) would suffice and now with heating and air con working, I could drive to Filbert Way in true comfort and hold my head high as I scampered in to the press area.

Were I to write a reporters handbook, first thing in it would be get a reliable car with a big boot and fully functioning heating. It really is THAT important and makes such a big difference.

Talking of reporters handbooks, if there is one out there (although I’ve never seen or heard about it) I hope it also explains the colour coding for the club pies. At Leicester, I found myself with a familiar pie dilemma. With lunch hunger pains growing I had another game of what feels like an unhealthy, savoury version of Revels. Presuming that the brown foil is for steak & kidney and yellow is for chicken balti – I was left stumped by the silver bottom. I grabbed it, more out of curiosity than anything, and still to this day I have no idea what flavour it was meant to be. If anyone knows please put me out of my misery!

As for the game, play-off chasing Leicester were held to a 1-1 draw by Coventry – those dropped points might prove critical come the end of the season.  

My final trip of the month was to St Andrews for the Premier League clash between near neighbours Birmingham and West Brom. I was fortunate to be at the first game for the Blues following their Carling Cup win over Arsenal at Wembley. Having not won a trophy since 1963, as you can imagine ‘lively’ doesn’t even sum it up when it came to the reception the players got as they entered the pitch to warm up. It was so loud that the sound engineers couldn’t hear me when I dialed up to do my usual check for mic levels prior to kick-off.

There was a video montage of highlights from the Wembley final set to some dramatic music and it really whipped the crowd in to a frenzy. It was therefore a shame that what followed was the dullest first 45 minutes of football I have seen in a very long time.

I had hardly scribbled on my pad, which with my doodling ability was a rare thing! Cameron Jerome with two efforts on target, but on any other day they would not have been worthy of a mention.

Thankfully something happened in both team talks at half-time that made the second half barely resemble the first. It’s amazing how many times that can happen. The impact of the half-time team talk, given by the right manager is a powerful thing. In this case, Roy Hodgson had done more rousing than Alex McLeish, who in fairness may have still been nursing a Carling Cup hangover. Four second half goals meant I had more to talk about, but with three going to the visitors it was a result set to spoil the Birmingham trophy party. Reality was starting to set in that the Blues are likely to be in a relegation dog fight between now and May 22nd, especially if they fail to capitalise with their games in hand.

A mixed day all in all. It was great to be at St Andrews for the pre-match hysteria, but watching the fans mood turn over the course of 90 minutes served as a reminder that in football you really are only as good as your last result.

And as for me, the gridlocked car park served as a reminder that it doesn’t matter what car you’ve got, getting away from football grounds is a pain staking process. At least I had heating, and at least I could add another team to the list entitled ‘Premier League strugglers’, being a Wolves fan that provided some comfort.

Lynsey Hooper

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