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My Week: Alan McKinlay

Mirror assistant sports editor Alan McKinlay on ingrowing toenails, players tweeting during games and the most miserable man on earth…

SUNDAY JANUARY 22
Been looking forward to this day for ages, which kicks off with what, for once, really is a Super Sunday double bill. In fact it is so Super that it is no longer a big enough description. Today is Showdown Sunday, no less. No worries about what we will lead on the back with tomorrow morning. And thanks to Balotelli once again, we have a great story to go with with two classic matches. Off to the Savoy for the Football Writers’ Association Tribute to Gary Neville and Paul Scholes in the evening. This is the event where partners are allowed to come along, so tonight, rather than be on the Mirror table, I am going as the arm candy of my wife Julie, who works on the back bench of the People Sports Desk. Great event, and the Savoy staff are plentiful and hard-working. Haven’t seen that level of uniformed efficiency since Kim Jong-Il’s funeral.

The interview with tonight’s guests of honour a little long I thought, but that could just be because I couldn’t wait to get home to watch my beloved San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. I did, though, enjoy Gary Neville’s response to Ben Shepherd’s suggestion that he may have followed Paul Scholes’ lead and thought about a comeback, or at least that he had perhaps retired too early. Neville said definetly not and added: “Did you see my last two games?”

MONDAY JANUARY 23
The wee small hours of Monday proved entertaining (last week’s 49ers victory over the New Orleans Saints was the beast NFL game I have seen in 30 years of watching) but ultimately disappointing as the New York Giants beat the Niners thanks to a couple of spectacularly bad plays by the reserve kick returner. I took it badly, but not as badly as my 24-year-old son, who is still in mourning a week later. At least it provided a good topic to write about later in the week, especially as the “guilty man”, Kyle Williams, became the latest sports figure to receive death threats from so-called fans. Today was due to be my gym induction, but that laughable notion was made even more so by my suddenly painful ingrown toenail rendering the putting-on of my dust-laden trainers impossible. The upside? A few more days of not having to go to the gym. The office loved it. My supportive Mirror colleagues are still laughing. Instead of starting a new fitness regime, I attend to failing parts of my body with a visit to the dentist and the chiropodist. Did you know they don’t use anaesthetic when they treat an ingrown toenail?

TUESDAY JANUARY 24
IT’S rare for a story to be greeted in the same way by the warring tribes of football followers, but our back page story “City Fine Tev £9.3m” would surely have provoked the same reaction among all our readers, namely: “Good. I hope it hurts”. Tevez’s list of excuses for his behaviour has changed more often than Manchester United’s 3rd kit. It’s gratifying to know he is not getting away with it.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25
Craig Bellamy scores the decisive goal as Liverpool complete a remarkable turnaround from the weekend capitulation against Bolton to a vibrant victory over Manchester City. Kenny Dalglish is extraordinary. He has perfected the look of the most miserable man on earth during interviews and after defeats, and yet he looks the happiest man on earth when his team scores or wins. Final Bell is our headline as Bellamy books a Wembley showdown against his hometown team. A post-midnight on-air chat with the talkSPORT Sports Bar team of Andy Goldstein and Ray Parlour provides an enjoyable end to a busy day.

THURSDAY JANUARY 26
The Mirror is about to launch a re-design of its website, which will include a column on American sport. I should probably call it a blog as its online. Today is the deadline for the first one, before we go “live” next week. Even though I’ve always been a production journalist at the Mirror, and football is the greatest sport of all, my addiction to American sport means I’ve been lucky enough to cover 14 Super Bowls as well as a number of other US sports and interviewing the likes of Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Jackson. One element of the, er, blog, will be a little section entitled Only In America, which hopefully will feature some of the whackier elements of sport across the pond. I like the first one. It was announced that during the Pro Bowl (the NFL’s All Star game in Hawaii played the week before the Super Bowl) the players will be allowed to Tweet DURING the game. Each team will have a designated tweet zone on the sidelines. Could this ever happen in the Barclays Premier League? You can certainly imagine Joey Barton being sent-off and tweeting his disapproval as he disappears up the tunnel.

FRIDAY JANUARY 27
It’s a toss-up between Mario Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola and Carlos Tevez’s representative Kia Joorabchian as to which one has produced the most ridiculous defence of their client. But this week on Sky Sports News, Raiola out-nonsensed himself to earn him top billing on the Sport On TV column, which I enjoy doing as it offers a chance to do a bit of writing, even if it is only “ a dozen crispies” as our old sports news editor used to say.

I’m often responsible for our Mirror Football eight-page pull-out on Saturday morning, but as tonight’s live games (Watford v Spurs and Everton v Fulham) will take up pages 1, 2 and 3, the opportunity to try to come up with our customarily off-beat cover is denied me. It’ll be back next week though. My last job of the working week is a quick interview with Radio Five’s Doton Adebayo for the Up All Night programme, which is basically a run-through of what we have in the paper the following morning. Apart from the previews of the two “grudge” games (Liverpool-United and QPR-Chelsea) which all the papers lead with on the back, I particularly like the story that Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is taking the Cup so seriously this year that he is even talking about fielding a stronger team in the Cup than in the league to give his team their best chance of winning a trophy.

Maybe Danny Blanchflower’s statement that the game is really all about glory could still be true. Maybe, I start thinking, the Cup really could be on the way back.

SATURDAY JANUARY 28
The busiest day of the week for most FWA members is always a day off for me. As I can’t get a ticket to see my team QPR (offically the worst Cup team in Britain over the last 12 years) inevitably lose to Chelsea, it’s feet up in front of the TV. I am of the generation that grew up believing that the greatest thing you could ever achieve in life was scoring the winner in and FA Cup final. Not World Cup, not European Cup, the FA Cup – and I still love the competition. First QPR go out and then Newcastle, who had immediately become my “second team” in the Cup because of their self-confessed dedication to it, crash out at Brighton. So much for honesty. I discover, when my wife gets home and delivers the early edition of the People, that most of the Newcastle team, plus the manager, were on the lash in the Canaries as part of their build-up to the game. Turns out Alan Pardew is not quite as big a fan of the FA Cup as I had hoped. And they say journalists are the cynical ones.

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