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Saturday 10th April

Had a lovely Easter break with the family down in Cornwall and promised myself not to watch any football whilst away treating the children to a Haven Holiday, so as to give them the attention they deserve. Did pretty well and missed the lot – Robben putting out Man Utd and Messi messing up Arsenal’s Champions League, as well as Torres inspiring Liverpool to beat Benfica and Fulham pulling another rabbit from a hat to make the Europa League semis with them.

Thank Trevor Francis for youtube at times like this – there’s always someone who’s posted the match highlights or, as in the case of Robben’s goal at Old Trafford, posted a clip of his volley in the slowest of slow motions so you can watch the flight of the ball onto his foot from Ribery’s corner, watch the perfect connection he makes 20 yards out and watch the faces of the United supporters change frame by frame from mild disinterest to moderate disbelief to total horror. Must’ve been a sadistic Man City fan who posted it.

Caught up with all the highlights I needed to in the press box at Ashton Gate. Having returned home from Cornwall late on Friday, it was straight back on the M5 a few hours later to get to the early kick off at 2pm between Bristol City and Swansea City – hardcore, you might think…but the wife did all the driving from Hayle back home so not really.

Had a nice chat over a Cornish pasty and a cuppa there with Ralph Ellis, a journalist of nearly 30 years experience working the Midlands patch for various newspapers. I’m still a pup by comparison at 12 years as a reporter/commentator, all in the Premier league era, whilst Ralph, as we discussed, has seen the changes over the decades in the relationship between the football writers and the clubs they predominantly follow. Anybody who is thinking of a career in journalism and believes it to be a chance to get close to managers and players is deluded. The days of, say, Brian Clough having a close relationship with several journalists and giving them real insight into training sessions, team selection and even giving them stories to ‘break’ as an exclusive for their paper are long gone.

Ralph and I wondered whether the next generation of managers would be even less approachable in 10 years time. After all, some of the players now who will doubtless wish to continue in the game after retirement as a coach or a boss are the same players who currently walk past the press wearing their ridiculous ‘Craig David’ style headphones plugged into their R’n’B iCrap or with their Blackberry pressed to their ear pretending to be deep in conversation so as not to have to speak to us great unwashed types on their way out to the Chelsea Tractor Park.

Some are eminently approachable, but they are usually the foreign players (especially Scandinavian I find) who are seemingly trained to deal with papers, radio & TV intrusions post-match with a minimum of fuss - Olof Mellberg at Villa and Sebastian Larsson at Blues spring to mind straight away. That’s not to say all British players are wholly ignorant. Joe Hart was charm personified when I asked him for an interview on talkSPORT after Blues had drawn with Arsenal recently.

Maybe it’s the greater proliferation of media outlets these days that leave players and managers heads spinning. “Who do I trust? How do I divide my time between the demands of all these people who want to interview me?” Ralph had a great idea – a select trusted few (4 national writers, 2 local radio stations and 2 local paper guys) who get the access ‘old-style’, whilst the rest continued as they do now. It’ll never happen of course, but it was great to pick Ralph’s brain ahead of kick-off.

Bristol City won 1-0 with a Nicky Maynard goal late on, supplied by the flying winger Ivan Sproule to leave Swansea looking a little nervously over their shoulders for fear they might drop out of the play-off spots just as their bitter rivals Cardiff City did on the final day of last season. They certainly seem to lack a goalscorer – bags of creativity it would seem, but no end product. I can think of a load of prog rock bands who fit that description.

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