My Week: Darren Lewis

DARREN LEWIS of the Daily Mirror on an offensive Mark…root canal treatment…and getting shirty with Adebayor

MONDAY April 23
MY DAYS always start with a chat with the Mirror’s sports news editor Mike Allen. We talk through stories, ideas, potential issues and plan for that day’s paper. Today I am actually working on non-football stories with the focus on Chelsea’s rematch against Barcelona tomorrow night. We have three men there, Martin Lipton, Oliver Holt and John Cross.

So I am told to focus on the snooker where Irishman Mark Allen stands by his unwise decision to brand qualifier Cao Yupeng a ‘cheat’. Sadly the blast has come with Allen out of the competition. A shame really. On the one hand, he is a talented player and always great copy. On the other, his remarks at the Beijing Open crossed the line into offensive territory. He’ll be back however.

TUESDAY April 24
A FASCINATING day which started out as a brief from the office to cover the draw for the Olympic football tournament at Wembley. It ended with not one but two good stories.

The first surrounding England, with senior FA figures at Wembley for the draw adamant that they would be able to announce a new manager before the end of the season. Given that they have always maintained that they did not want to materially disrupt the season of any club this news was quite a departure.

A couple of phone calls reveal that neither Harry Redknapp at Spurs nor the club themselves have been officially or unofficially approached by the FA over the England job. Yet the FA clearly have something up their sleeves to be this bullish. If it is to be Harry we will find out later this week.

The other story surrounded Stuart Pearce, who is in charge of the Olympic Football Team. In a media briefing for the daily newspapers after the draw, Pearce revealed that the Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is on his shortlist for the competition – even though he has been out for pretty much the entire season. Told Arsene Wenger is against Wilshere taking part, Pearce maintained that as Olympic coach he would have the final say. It will be interesting to see what happens when Wilshere is fit.

Pearce also stuns us by telling us that he will pick an England squad for Euro 2012 if an England manager is not appointed by then. Correctly interpreting the looks of sheer disbelief on many faces, the FA clarify later in the day that Pearce would only pick the squad if he were managing it at the Euros and that they remain convinced they will get their man before.

Not one journalist I speak to today is convinced it will not all end in tears. As for the Olympic draw, Great Britain were paired with Uruguay, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates. There are some good matches in prospect.

COLUMN day today and time for my weekly search for issues to discuss. I always smile when fans bombard Twitter accusing me of being biased in favour of Tottenham because of my articles on the Mirror football website. When I explain to them that Spurs are the club I write about because they are the club I have been designated, it seems not to register. So I don’t bother anymore. Its all good fun anyway.

This week I choose to focus on Luka Modric who has been a shadow of the player that Chelsea fought so furiously over last summer. I believe Spurs should cash in this summer but the word seems to be that, with a long contract, it may yet again be harder than the Croatian thinks to get away this time around.

SEVERAL of my colleagues are taking a well-earned day off after their superb efforts at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night but there are a string of stories to get stuck into today.

The fall-out continues today with whispers that Pep Guardiola is meeting with Barcelona supremo Sandro Rosell over his future. As the day wears on it is becoming increasingly clear that he is set to step down. The story has obvious relevance for us in England as Guardiola is known to be the man Roman Abramovich wants – despite the heroics of Roberto Di Matteo – to bring fantasy football to Stamford Bridge.

Elsewhere details are emerging of an interview the Spurs defender Vedran Corluka – on loan at German club Bayer Leverkusen – has given. In it, he is fiercely critical of Harry Redknapp and insists the Tottenham manager has not rotated his players enough this season.

Suspended John Terry is given clearance by UEFA to join in Chelsea’s celebrations should the Blues win the Champions League final. The backlash is instant on Twitter, however, with fans, journalists and pundits unanimous in their belief that, after nearly costing his side a place in Munich, Terry should do the decent thing and leave it to Frank Lampard.

The story dominates social media and radio phone-ins this afternoon.

Elsewhere the International Players Union (FIFPro) launch an audacious bid to persuade UEFA to scrap the yellow cards that will rule three Chelsea and three Bayern Munich out of the Champions League final. FIFPro point out that in another of UEFA’s competitions – Euro 2012 – yellow cards are wiped out after the quarter-finals, meaning a caution in the semi-final wouldn’t instantly rule players out of the Final. UEFA reject the request but say they will consider it for the future. It surely is a matter of time before the apply it to the Champions League.

Midway through the afternoon I go to the dentist for my first session of root canal. Because my colleagues in London are off duty, however, I need to continue working afterwards.

The subsequent conversations with the news editor are comedy, consisting of him talking and me grunting until the anaesthetic wears off.

FRIDAY April 27
HARRY REDKNAPP’S press conference is a tetchy affair.

Confirmation is coming out of Spain that Pep Guardiola has indeed stepped down as Barca coach.

But as I am covering Tottenham’s bid to bounce back from their nightmare Barclays Premier League run on Sunday, my focus is on the club’s pre-match gathering at their Chigwell HQ.
The normally jovial Spurs manager comes out fighting against claims from one of his own players that his lack of rotation may have cost the club a Champions League place.

Vedran Corluka, on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, twists the knife by insisting Tottenham’s season will have been a failure if the club do not finish in the top four. Redknapp cites the examples, however, of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Leo Messi as players who don’t need – or want – resting.

He also snaps at a question I ask about fans questioning his tactics. As the questions from other reporters continue you can cut the atmosphere with a knife. Later in the press conference he mellows somewhat as the attention turns to other subjects. But the pressure of the England situation, Tottenham’s poor form and Corluka’s criticism starts to tell.

I AM one of two staff men deployed to a Championship club today. Mike Walters is at Southampton, who will be promoted to the Barclays Premier League if they beat relegated Coventry at home.

I am at West Ham, who will go up in the Saints’ place if the south coast side fail to win and the Hammers win by three or more goals.

The possibility lasts just 16 minutes, however, as that is all it takes for Southampton to score the first of four goals to go up. The post-match interviews are all about the play-off semi-final which will now be against Cardiff on Thursday May 3 and Bank Holiday Monday May 7. Hammers midfielder Mark Noble is upbeat but manager Sam Allardyce is completely the opposite, insisting he is dreading the tension of the play-offs.

We can’t wait. Maybe it will stop raining by then.

SUNDAY April 29
A busy finish to the week begins with an early morning trip to the Sky News studios to talk through the previous day’s football.

Goal of the day has to be Luis Suarez’s 45-yard effort for Liverpool to crown his superb hat-trick against Norwich.

Result of the day, however, has to be Wigan’s 4-0 demolition of Newcastle.

There is better to come, however, as Chelsea thrash QPR 6-1 to render the Anton Ferdinand/John Terry affair a sideshow.

I catch the first half at home before travelling a couple of miles down the road for my second game of the weekend, Tottenham’s must-win affair at home to Blackburn.

White Hart Lane is tense with the knowledge that anything other than the three points will surely leave them with too much to do in their bid to finish in the top four.

Spurs are at it from the start and their pressure is rewarded with the opening goal from Rafael van der Vaart. But the bench is nervous as Aaron Lennon misses from point blank range, Sandro and Gallas hit the bar and other chances fall by the wayside.

The press box at White Hart Lane is situated directly behind both benches meaning reporters hear far more of the exchanges between managers, players, referees and coaches than at every other Barclays Premier League ground. There is amusement in the press box as Spurs misfielder Giovani Dos Santos is told to warm up after Lennon goes down injured. But when Dos Santos is told by his manager to get stripped to come on he takes an age.

Redknapp shouts: “Come on Gio we need you.” The Spurs boss’s expression tells us all a lot about why Dos Santos does not play more regularly than he does for Tottenham.

Kyle Walker’s screamer seals the points and eases the tension at White Hart Lane. Blackburn are awful but even bad teams can fluke a share of the points against better organised ones.

As the game approaches the 75-minute mark my colleague, Mike Walters, points out that Rovers have not had a single shot on target all game. We check through our notes on the match action. It is true. And, for a Premier League club fighting relegation it is truly remarkable. Even more amazing is the news acquired by the daily reporters that Rovers defender Gael Givet actially swapped shirts with Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor at half time.

I include the incident in my match report while Mike, who is writing quotes pieces for the back page and the front of the Mirror’s Mania pullout, puts it to Blackburn boss Steve Kean.

He refuses to comment. Then comments. His answer, however, is unconvincing. His expression suggests he may be a bit more so when he next sees Givet. Mike also asks Harry Redknapp about his future. The Spurs boss, as he has always done, insists no-one [from the FA] has been in touch with him.

The reason why filters through soon afterwards as it emerges the FA intend to speak to the West Brom boss Roy Hodgson about the England vacancy. I finish and file my match report and make a check call to the desk (on handsfree) during the drive home.

The England story is now running the news and sports channels. A few phone calls establish the fact that Hodgson really is the only candidate and that the job is pretty much his to turn down.

Incredible given the fact that Redknapp had been the red-hot favourite for so long. The reaction to this will be fascinating tomorrow.

As one newsworthy week ends, another begins.

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