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1st February 2011 - Putting the hours in

Another week that’s proved no two weeks in my working life are ever the same – and a week in which my club is one step closer to its first major MAJOR trophy.

It’s impossible to overstate how gut-wrenching Wednesday night was for all concerned at St Andrew’s as Blues made the League Cup final for the first time in a decade, and our first MAJOR final at Wembley in 55 years. Yes, we had the delight of John Gayle in ’91 and Paul Tait in ’95, but now that the twin towers have been replaced by the arch it’s going to be terrific to go en masse to the new Wembley to upset the odds and beat Arsenal. No point in going there thinking you’re going to get beaten – glass half full and all that.

Going back to the West Ham game, I admit that when Carlton Cole got the ‘after you sir’ from Barry Ferguson and Craig Gardner to slam the Hammers in front in the 1st half, I feared it was all over red rover.

After all, goals are not Blues’ speciality in any competition this season so far, and the first 15 minutes of the second half, despite the encouraging performance of sub Zigic, failed to raise optimism in the stands – indeed the crowd was just on the turn when Lee Bowyer crashed in his left footed wonder strike, and then suddenly West Ham forgot how to defend and the momentum was with us. Bowyer & Gardner seemed released and unencumbered by the introduction of Zigic as a focal point up front, and the die was cast.

Lots of high-fives and man hugs in the press room afterwards between us Blues reporters/writers who rarely see moments like these – we may never get to Wembley again in our lifetimes after all :o))

Am I going then? Well, I have explained to my bosses at the station the need for Birmingham City ‘balance’ on the day, when you consider Ray Parlour, Stewart Robson and Perry Groves could all be deployed in an Arsenal capacity!! Can’t wait for it.

I didn’t have long to sleep after the win, thanks to the need to be in talkSPORT towers Thursday morning to start a few days of cover shifts. First up was the mid-morning show that day with Mike Graham, as Porky Parry was away on a personal matter. I was really looking forward to working with MG as he’s known, as I’ve always felt he was talkSPORT’s secret weapon when used on overnight programmes before being transferred to the daytime schedule. He’s been equally good since, and he was as gracious a co-host as I could have wished for as we tackled the Keys/Gray issue, McDonalds banning tracksuited customers and on shouting being classed as ‘domestic violence’.

Friday evening was taken up with covering Kick Off along with Neil Ashton from the News Of The World. Neil did his first ever show on talkSPORT with me some time back when he was at the Daily Mail, but there’s no doubt his life (and workload) has changed radically now he’s at the biggest-selling Sunday paper. It’s easy to criticise football journos like Neil for opinions and judgement calls that don’t come off, but there isn’t a writer anywhere in the game that hasn’t written a story which proves to be ultimately wrong or slightly inaccurate (such as Neil’s story about David Luiz moving to Chelsea which initially hit the buffers in midweek only to resolve itself on deadline day and prove him right all along!!)

Neil appears to have wound up Man City fans lately with certain pieces he’s had published and appears bemused by the vitriol he’s suffered on Twitter etc from the knuckle-draggers that can only complete sentences using the f- and the c- word. He’s a top bloke and a very diligent journalist – infact I haven’t met a journo in my dealings locally and nationally who lack integrity or class, which goes right against the stereotype most fans have of football writers.

When I get the chance to cover for Adrian Durham on Saturday afternoon’s Matchday Live, it’s a particular thrill for me. It’s a brilliant round-the-grounds format that Adrian devised some years back with the late great producer Jim Brown at the station and, after a couple of years of 3pm live commentaries, it’s back this season and it’s breathless stuff. Goals keep going in everywhere so you’re checking online links one second, throwing to a reporter the next, then getting Ray Parlour’s opinion, reading out latest scores that suddenly change just as you’re going through them – and repeat for 5 hours.

I was ready to relax after all that and was delighted that Natalie could come down on a train to London herself so we could spend Saturday evening in the capital. Having originally thought we could take in a West End show, we quickly changed plans as it became apparent how much we’d get stung to go and watch Les Mis or We Will Rock You – prices that make tickets for Spurs’ European games seem dirt cheap by comparison.

Still, every cloud etc etc – we elected to go and see The Kings Speech at the flicks and were thoroughly entertained. Not a genre of movie I’d pick out ordinarily, but it was surprisingly funny, touching, and a damn good history lesson to an ignorant heathen like myself. If that doesn’t sweep the board at the Oscars, something stinks.

And as I type this my late train is winding its way up to Brum to get me home after another top Football First show – the week ahead is just as hectic…a talk to a ref’s association, Blues/Man City, Wolves/Man Utd and also my final Dressed To Kill appearance at The Robin, Bilston. Varied…and weird. Bring it on.

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