Back to top

Eine Kleine Dantmusik - Euro 2024 Day 5 18/6/24

Stuttgart - or at least the part of the city that we are staying in - is charming. Our hotel is on the fringe of a little community suburb with nice houses and a very relaxed vibe indeed.

The hotel itself is lovely too. As you’ll no doubt have experienced at one time or another, booking a hotel is something of a lottery as you never quite know what to expect when you arrive, check in and then open the door to your room to see what you are presented with.

These hotels are booked for us by management of course - they have dozens of staff to accommodate on trips like these in multiple cities all at once, moving around every few days in a sort of elaborate dance. For my part, I’m just happy if my room has a bed, a working shower and doesn’t smell funny; I can only think of one occasion on the many trips I’ve taken for major tournaments where a hotel picked for us was, shall we say, substandard. And that was rectified pretty damn quick too. (The Inbetweeners would have baulked at staying there!)

Getting a good nights sleep isn’t always possible, no matter how comfortable your surroundings. My natural thoughts about trying to do the best job possible behind the mic can keep you awake far longer than it should, but typically on this tour I’ve snatched 5 or 6 hours a night, which is less than I’d normally get back home, but it’s enough here…and I appreciate that some reading this would LOVE to get 5 or 6 hours sleep just once in a while. So, you know, perspective…

It was off to the Stuttgart Arena mid-morning to get our bearings and check the broadcast lines a day ahead of commentary. Sometimes, you can have as many directional arrows and maps from UEFA as you like, yet finding where the Broadcast Compound or the Media Hub are located can get a bit stressful, especially on a hot day when we’re dragging all the heavy equipment along with us. As we wandered about like lost little lambs, we came upon the Swiss side training on the pitches next to the stadium. I didn't know it was them as quickly as Darren Bent, who pointed out the unmistakeable stocky figure of Xherdan Shaqiri within seconds. Breel Embolo looks even more imposing close up than he does on television and it was brilliant to see him score in that opener against Hungary after a horrendous season of injury at Monaco. Switzerland always get overlooked but they're always up there in the FIFA rankings (in the top 20 currently) and can bloody more than the odd nose or two. They will provide very tough opposition for Scotland in Cologne, make no mistake.

Eventually, we worked out where we needed to go and we shortly got to our commentary position up in the gods to set stuff up. Similar capacity to Hamburg here (51k) but a markedly different feel to the stands. This place used to have a running track around the outside of the pitch, and when it was removed, the angle of the stands was adjusted so that the pitch wasn’t miles away from the front row in any of the 4 stands. West Ham fans I talk to still aren’t happy with how London Stadium has been adjusted for their needs over recent years - maybe Karren needs to have a butchers here…the Stuttgart team are certainly doing alright. 2nd only to undefeated Bayer Leverkusen this season in the Bundesliga.

Some light, inoffensive jazz music tumbled out of the stadium speakers whilst Darren, Izzy and me were up in the stands. Not the sort of thing you’d be expecting to hear ahead of kick off itself, but pleasant enough in an empty ground. I say empty, but with UEFA technical staff and volunteers constantly flirting about, you’d be surprised at just how busy a host stadium is 24 hours away from a match. Incidentally it was sad to hear of the passing of DJ Dario G - he of 'Carnaval de Paris' fame, one of the most recognisable football terrace anthems - us Bluenoses associate it immediately with Christophe Dugarry's spell at St Andrew's in our first Premier League season of 2002/3. What a few months that was watching that man play such beautiful football. And Dario's music seemed the perfect accompaniment to a montage of his best moments with us. RIP Dario G.

Back to our hotel in the afternoon and thus prep time for Germany/Hungary to come. I don’t prepare that differently for tournament matches than I do for Premier League or EFL commentaries on talkSPORT. The major difference is that this is the only game in progress at the time (aside from the 3rd group stage games of course) and so your attention is not also having to be focused on multiple kick offs elsewhere to keep track of for the benefit of your listeners. I do pride myself on that regular aspect of my work on 3pm Saturday games and midweek fixtures too (although my knowledge comes a distant second to the mercurial Adrian Durham’s when it comes to Saturday afternoon goals and the significance of who’s scored them), but it is nice to just have one game in focus on occasion.

Also, whilst I have prepared as diligently as possible for all eventualities during the game, we talkSPORT commentators have an in-game stats service provided by Jonny and James back at home who can pick out nuggets of information during the game that they fire over to us on WhatsApp to be used as and when required. These stats that come through are always relevant, not frivolous and add to your commentary if used correctly. Sometimes they send a stat through that you’ve already researched and have in your written notes, but it’s nice to have that stat confirmed by guys as good as these crunching the numbers whilst you’re on air giving it your all. I don’t thank them enough.

Stats can be dangerous, though, if used too liberally. My old boss Tom Ross at BRMB had a saying “If I want stats I’ll buy a book…”, meaning that he felt his listeners were not interested in that kind of thing and would rather hear what’s going on in front of him on the pitch as we radio folk are your eyes and ears during games. He’s right of course, but breaks in play do allow you to utilise one or two nuggets of info relevant to something that’s just happened or something that looks likely to happen. Less is definitely more, and as I’ve said on blogs before and to university students I occasionally lecture, I probably use 10-15% of the stuff I’ve written ahead of kick off. It’s there as a failsafe really. Not to prep in such a way, however, would leave you horribly exposed if things happened in a game to a certain player or team and your knowledge wasn’t up to scratch. Fail to prepare etc etc.

Myself, Darren and Izzy had failed to prepare for the possibility that an Italian restaurant we’d been recommended for dinner nearby would not accept Visa or Mastercard. This only became apparent once we’d finished our meals (which were delicious) and my pigeon German was put fully to the test by the manageress as she explained the “cash only” principle. I apologised for the mistake on our part and asked for directions to the nearest cash machine. Thankfully I know my 'links' from my 'rechts' and soon found a cashpoint a 5-minute walk away as she had directed. I did return with Euros in hand half expecting to see Benty and Izzy decamped to the kitchen making a start on the washing up as penance, but thankfully they were still quaffing their Apple Spritz’s at the table and after more “Es Tut Mir Leid”s we made a swift exit to head back and catch the Turkey/Georgia game in progress.

Probably the game of the tournament so far from what I saw. Arda Guler of Turkey is one young player I saw taking Wales apart and scoring a beauty (his first from his country) in a Euro qualifier a year ago. Even Dean Saunders on commentary with me had to admit he was the difference between the two sides that day (although he probably said Wales had more chances - he usually does regardless!) , and Guler scored a goal every bit as glorious as that one 12 months ago in the 2nd half in Dortmund to put Turkey 2-1 up. Georgia have their own talisman in Kvaratskhelia (or “Kvaradona” as he’s known in Napoli) but even his wonderful skill and the slick passing of his teammates couldn’t get Georgia level a 2nd time and the classic “concede a 3rd when your keeper is sent up for a late corner” climax ensued.

Then, Lukas Provod smacked in a beauty of his own from 25 yards to put Czechia in front against a Portugal side who had utterly dominated them up to that point. I made it roughly 5 seconds between Provod’s thunderbastard hitting the back of the net and the TV director panning to Cristiano Ronaldo’s face for his immediate reaction. I see that sort of thing happening a lot with La Liga TV directors in Spain. If a goal goes in during El Clasico, rather than see the wild celebrations of the scoring team, the cameras instead go one by one to each opposition outfield player as they trudge back to the half way line. You rarely see anything in my experience other than someone spitting, picking his nose or looking down at the turf.

Personally I’d much rather see the euphoria of the other side at that point, but maybe that’s just me.


Add new comment