Gerry Cox of Hayters on being mocked in public by Alec Stewart…a strangely attractive slag heap…and a truly Super Sunday
Monday May 7
Bank Holiday Monday so two things are guaranteed – it will rain and I will end up working on my day off. I have promised the kids we will have a family day out after spending the weekend working – Aston Villa v Spurs on Sunday and Arsenal v Norwich before that. My report in the Telegraph started as a thinkpiece on Van Persie’s future, after I interviewed him on the night he won his Footballer of the Year award, but ends up as a few pars of wire copy about Bacary Sagna’s broken leg.
Rain puts paid to the great active outdoors so look for alternatives. Younger son is fascinated by warfare and the history of human conflict, but decide against West Ham v Cardiff and take them to the Imperial War Museum instead. Two very moving exhibitions there – War Story is told by those brave boys serving in Afghanistan, and the Holocaust says it all. See the uniform worn by a friend’s mother when she was taken to Auschwitz at 15. She donated it last year shortly before she died. Both exhibitions bring home how lucky we are – and it is good that the kids appreciate this. Get updates from Upton Park among the calls and emails with work-related queries. Good to hear the Hammers have won, though feel for Malky Mackay, who was excellent when I interviewed him last month.
Stroll along the embankment before driving back through the city voted last week “the world’s best place to visit”. For all the cost and hassle of living in London, we are fortunate to have so much on our doorstep. Catch the last stages of Blackburn v Wigan, answer the last calls and emails of the day and start planning the week ahead.
Tuesday May 8
Up early to walk my boys to the tube and get the papers on the way back. Mirror leads on Abramovich offering Guardiola silly money to be manager, but my source close to the Russian has told me to ‘put my house’ on Mourinho going back there. I ignore him of course. Not a big fan of gambling since Hayters almost went under last year when a rogue employee stole over £100k to pay William Hill rather than pay VAT to HMRC. He’s on the run from the police now.
Walk my daughter to school and answer emails and texts on the way home. Japanese TV want us to interview Pat Rice about Financial Fair Play. I suggest this may not be his strong suit, and a look back over 44 years at Arsenal might be better. They agree. Quick trip to the gym to a) keep my knackered knee in some sort of shape, and b) work off two roast dinners from Sunday, one at Villa and one when I got home.
Then off to QPR’s training ground for an interview with Nedum Onuoha ahead of his first return to Manchester City. He talks intelligently and candidly about everything, including the Garry Cook affair. Desperately hope QPR can stay up – not only a local club, but their press office is friendly and helpful – a rare combination these days.
Quick dash to the office, to find a Chinook hovering over Tottenham, which feels more like a war zone every day. Then on to the Aviva Rugby awards in Park Lane to shoot a video for the sponsors. Players happy to stop and talk including Chris Robshaw, the new England captain and deserved Player of the Year. I haven’t covered rugby for 20-odd years, but Julian Bennetts, one of our bright young things, knows what he’s talking about and the sponsors are very happy. So am I. The fee for this job is the equivalent of covering 60 lower division matches for one of our leading national newspapers! Back around midnight to catch the highlights of Chelsea’s humiliation at Anfield and wonder if John Terry has played himself out of contention for England while Andy Carroll plays himself into the squad for Euro 2012.
Wednesday May 9
Just been told that our request for a second press pass at the Olympics has been approved so get my details into the accreditation office on deadline day. No idea what work we might do at the Games, as most desks have not even done their Euro 2012 planning. We have a meeting at Hayters to discuss how we will cover the tournament. There are likely to be four of us out there, and I will be in Donetsk for most of it. The official UEFA guide talks about the city’s ‘striking socialist statues’ and ‘strangely attractive slag heaps’ – and that is about it as far as sightseeing goes. I can’t wait.
Thursday May 10
The SJA have organised a lunch in the Old Cock in Fleet Street with Alec Stewart and the former England captain is forthright in his views on cricket – and Chelsea. Takes the chance to mock me publicly over Tottenham’s lack of Champions League participation and says beating Bayern and knocking out the 4th team would be a double whammy for Chelsea fans if it is Spurs. Take the chance to stroll down Fleet Street for old times’ sake and wander past the old Hayters office in Gough Square where it all started for me under the late, great Reg Hayter. Visit Dr Johnson’s office for first time, having missed out during all the years I worked next door. Starts pouring down with rain so I pull up a chair in his garrett and tap out a piece from the Alec Stewart lunch. Somehow fitting, though I doubt Samuel Johnson had the benefits a MacBook and wi-fi.
Then off to an evening with Gareth Southgate and Alan Smith in Victoria. I’ve known them for the best part of 20 years, since they were at Crystal Palace and they are both top blokes – even used to be shareholders in Hayters. Interesting to hear Gareth’s views about the choice of England manager and whether Terry and Ferdinand can both go to Euro 2012. Not sure I agree with him.
Friday May 11
A few calls and emails, as well as a preview of Chelsea v Blackburn for the Telegraph, then off to QPR’s training ground for Mark Hughes’ press conference. He is in remarkably relaxed mood considering the doomsday scenario QPR face if they go down. The club’s media team bring round tea and coffee before and after the press conference, and I wish them all the best on Sunday. Dash off to a meeting next to Queen’s Club in Baron’s Court with an Australian TV company who want to buy video content, and quickly agree a deal that should hopefully work out well for them and us.
Then back home in time for tea, while writing up my Sunday pieces from QPR.
Saturday May 12
One of those rare events – a Saturday with no work. Am at a loss what to do. At least I can spend a bit more time with the under-14 side I coach at the Brentham Club, where Peter Crouch played football, Mike Brearley learned his cricket and Fred Perry started on the road to tennis greatness. Trying to encourage kids to pass and move – and talk to each other – is not easy. Simple things take an age to sink in, but when it comes together – even for fleeting moments in games – it is enormously rewarding.
As 3pm approaches, I start to feel restless, knowing I should really be somewhere else. Decide to attack the garden, where the once lush lawn has been reduced to something resembling Derby’s Baseball Ground circa 1974 by my kids trying to perfect their slide tackle technique. Make a mental note to ask Wembley’s groundsman what is the secret to perfect turf.
Sunday May 13
Judgement Day, Super Sunday, the Day of Reckoning – call it what you may, this is clearly going to be a huge day in the Barclays Premier League. Pick up the Sunday Mirror to find my QPR preview has not made it in, but plenty of stuff from the other Hayters lads. First sunny Sunday for weeks so I am all for taking the kids out on the golf course that backs on to our garden, but persuaded to take them swimming. Feel like a fish out of water – and swim like one too. Realise I am distinctly under-tatooed, with some striking – and horrendous – body ‘art’ on show. And that’s just the women.
Then off to Stamford Bridge for a dead rubber,with Chelsea and Blackburn’s positions fixed already. Chelsea put out a second string except for those suspeneded from the Champions League final so the only way we will get a story is if someone gets injured, and you wouldn’t wish that on anyone. The pre-match food, however, is superb, easily the best in the country, with an exotic array of cold meats, fish and salads, followed by steak and kidney pie and a ridiculously rich choice of desserts.
Struggle to concentrate on the Chelsea game, especially as goals start to go in at White Hart Lane, West Bromwich and Stoke. By half-time, Man City are top, Spurs are third and Bolton are safe, but by the final whistle at Chelsea, everything has changed. Arsenal have nicked third spot, Bolton are relegated and City on their way to an unlikely defeat. But of course there are five minutes of ‘Fergie Time’ at Eastlands and the rest, as we know is utter Madchester madness. Chelsea follow their win with a lap of honour, and the press room looks like a bling-laden creche with all the wags and their kids waiting to join the players on the pitch. Roberto Di Matteo is hard work as we try to glean what the coming weeks might bring, Steve Kean is cocksure that his future is assured, and I more or less turn off the lights as the last one out of Stamford Bridge once again – with another season almost over. Just a week to go to discover the fate of Chelsea, Spurs, Drogba, Bale, Di Matteo and the rest – and then we head for another summer of probable discontent with England.