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The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Reporter - World Cup blog Day 3 (June 3rd 2014)

The rain finally abated late Monday afternoon - I'm sure you're thrilled skinny for me on that one.

And in even better news, the Comrex broadcast equipment which was still steadfastly on 'everybody out' mode for me was fixed in a matter of minutes by talkSPORT's freshly-arrived engineer Adam Reed - a miracle worker if ever there was one! That meant my interviews on Extra Time and Breakfast were finally in broadcast quality and my mind can focus on things other than...faulty dongles.

Stop sniggering at the back.

The FA organised a drinks do for the assembled press pack at our hotel on Monday evening. This was ostensibly a 'grip and grin' session for members of the England management team with us lot which can turn out a bit wooden and staid, but it turned out to be a very pleasant occasion, heightened by a surprise presentation to BBC 5 Live commentator Mike Ingham, for whom this is his last major tournament behind the mike.

(Actually, it's been suggested that 'Behind The Mike' should be the title of his memoirs, but in keeping with Mike's own self-deprecating nature, he's not sure that anyone would want to read his tales from the commentary box and beyond. We spent the best part of an hour in the hotel bar later that evening convincing him otherwise)

Ian Dennis, the Beeb's chief football correspondent and all round good egg has spent the last year carrying a leaving card and an England shirt for folks to sign on Mike's behalf. He went above and beyond on occasion, including a trip to Rio last year where he cornered Fabio Capello to add his signature to the many of the great and the good of press box and dressing room.

Henry Winter of the Telegraph made a lovely speech in honour of Mike before the man himself was coerced into saying a few words himself. So overcome was he with the surprise and the acclaim he was receiving that Mike found holding a microphone and putting his point across incredibly difficult. A contrast to the seamless and absolutely collossal radio commentaries he's provided listeners for several decades.

Humbled wouldn't even begin to describe his reaction to the evening being in his honour, as the next few hours proved. Mike was visibly shaking at times and had to retire to his room to recover his composure as the individual congratulations and plaudits continually came his way from well wishes. For my part, I merely said to Mike that my only regret having spent a short time in his company was that I wouldn't get the benefit of any further tournaments learning from him.

People - or at least those anally retentive types who seem to care about such things - have the impression somehow that TalkSPORT and 5 Live reporters sit across a press room from one another snarling and making barbed comments over chicken curry & rice. Whilst I'll admit that I have had the occasional run-in with Auntie representatives during the last decade, they've been so isolated as to be barely worthy of note. 

Mike, Denno & Alastair Yeomans (5 live's team out here) typify the friendly and hospitable attitude that I'm shown and I of course extend them the same courtesy by return. All makes for a less stressful World Cup from that aspect at least. 

The drinks evening in the Four Seasons Lounge was augmented by a lounge band - a trio of guitar, bass & sax, although the saxophonist & guitarist might as well have been on a coffee break (or kwaffee break as it is of course known). It was just a tad bass heavy - a bit like listening to a Yes album, only not quite as proggy. Said bassist was certainly in full on shed-building mode all night. Mark King would have been proud. 

To elaborate, The 'Saturday Shed-Building Monster' was a staple of pretty much every guitar shop's bass department at weekends. Musical Exchanges was no exception. Some early 20's chap with a thimble on his right thumb playing a Warwick 5-string through the biggest Trace Elliot stack he could find to plug into, making "KODOOKADAKKK-KAKDOODLEDOODE-KAKKAKKAKKADOOKADKAK" noises where you'd be hard pressed to have said what exact notes he was playing at any point.

I'm currently typing from deep within the bowels of the Sun Life Stadium, where England face Ecuador tomorrow and Honduras on Saturday before flying out to Rio. Certainly the heat and humidity are now at the sort of levels the squad needs to be more prepared for the Amazonian conditions they'll encounter in less than a fortnight. 27 degrees pitchside at 10am is warm, but the humidity is quite oppressive here too - surely not far off Manaus levels.

Frank Lampard and Roy Hodgson took part in a truly bizzare TV press conference before I got the chance to chat to Frank (or should that now be 'Frankie'?) at pitchside. One South American reporter asked 'Frankie' for his views on the 'evolution of Ecuadorian football' to which Roy stepped in and likened that question to the gentleman concerned being quizzed on Crewe's prospects of promotion out of League 1 next season. Quality response.

I couldn't help myself by opening our radio interview with Frank(ie) a few moments later by posing the exact same question for a laugh - it certainly raised a smile with Frank(ie) and he went on to give a great interview, talking at length about his love for the 13 years spent at Chelsea and his desperation to be involved in a 3rd successive World Cup. He missed out in Euro 2012 with a thigh injury, of course - injuries are conspicuous by their absence with this squad at the moment. No one wants to elaborate on that too much, especially Frank(ie), but that's all part of the superstition that goes with footballers, I guess. 

Lampard will captain the side, and we seem to know the vast majority of the 11 that will contest tomorrow's friendly; Foster will be in goal, Jones will be in the back 4, Milner will join Lampard in midfield along with Oxlade-Chamberlain & Sterling, whilst it seems Rooney will start once again. As with yesterday's blog, I think that shows Roy's determination to get Wayne fit, firing & settled within the team framework. Richie Lambert may have to wait his turn for a starting berth, ditto Ross Barkley. We shall see, anyway.

Off to a different type of ball game later - Jim Proudfoot and I are off to the Marlins Stadium to watch baseball. I may get bored, but after the pastrami & cheese on rye sandwich I had here for lunch, I'm keen to get stuck into a beef and a Chili dog to augment my experience of the true taste of America.

It what Homer Simpson would want, I think :)


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