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Thursday 29th April

One of the great advantages in working as a freelance sports journalist is that it affords you the opportunity to work for a number of different organisations and develop new contacts and associates that can prove vital in years to come.

One such contact who knew me from talkSPORT work rang me a few years ago to ask if I could cover a commentary on a Champions League tie between somebody like PSV and Fenerbache on a Tuesday night which required me to travel to a studio in west London and commentate “off tube” as it’s called in the business i.e. a game you watch on a TV monitor with the genuine effects of the stadium in your headphones to help you along.

I wasn’t working that night, so happily accepted and did my duty a few days later, thinking nothing more of it. 4 years down the line and I now commentate regularly for the same company on both Champions League and Europa League games which are broadcast not only on UEFA’s website, but also distributed to numerous worldwide TV companies including Al Jazeera for example.

The years I’ve spent doing this job for Tim White and Martyn Hindley (2 of the most knowledgeable sports broadcasters I’ve ever met) are, of course, rewarding in the financial sense, but I’ve found the task of watching non-British sides regularly in these competitions so rewarding for MY knowledge of players who turn up in the Premier League or Championship 12 months down the line.

I was watching Heurelo Gomes make astonishing saves for PSV way ahead of his move to Spurs and conversely knew just how awful Marcelo Moreno would be for Wigan this season having seen him lumbering through matches for Shakhtar Donetsk. And when I heard that Alex McLeish had been out watching Marseille this season in the CL, I spoke to him at length about what I’d seen of the alleged targets he’d gone to check out which I think he found useful!

This week I had the privilege of working on both Champions League semi-final 2nd legs as well as Liverpool’s last hurrah in the Europa League. So I saw Lyon’s abject surrender to Bayern Munich, Mourinho’s masterclass of defending that got Inter Milan past Barcelona and Diego Forlan breaking Liverpool hearts in extra time at Anfield. But I also saw another 40 players who I had to research, read up on and become familiar with prior to commentary. A lot of this research can feel pointless at times, but it’s wonderful when something happens in a game which makes a little nugget of information you’ve found somewhere absolutely invaluable.

All enriching work…which almost helps you forget how bad customer service is in this country, as I’ve spent the last 2/3 months becoming increasingly exasperated at 3 Mobile’s treatment of me as a customer who wants a simple upgrade. Atrocious service from start to bitter end – goodbye 3, hello Vodafone!! :o))

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