Jim van Wijk on a gay Dutchman, a bad back and how a PA reporter’s work never seems to stop
MONDAY JANUARY 16
Day off, which I guess is as good a way to start the week as any. However, with a young family, you are never really, off are you? Today is Daddy Day Care, so help with the school run and then at home with my 3-year-old son, who would, you suspect, rather be at his pre-school than stuck at home – still, Bob The Builder to the rescue. Few errands, including the little man’s first haircut, a snip at £11, which at least keep me away from the latest chapter of Arsenal’s meltdown after their 3-2 defeat at Swansea. Heard George Graham on talkSPORT saying the Gooners needed Chris Samba after his transfer request at Blackburn, while Chelsea sign Gary Cahill for around just what Arsenal could have got him for in the last window. Caught some of the Wigan v Manchester City game on the radio in between Brownies drop-off and pick-up. Win when you are not playing well is the sign of champions.
TUESDAY JANUARY 17
Was back at the Docs this morning, more tests following on from a Lumber Puncture in October. Can’t say I can recommend having fluid drained from your spine. Apparently I am an enigma. Sounds painful. Still, sleep or no sleep, it’s off into Press Association HQ in Victoria for a legal refresher along with my London reporter colleagues. Not often we are all seen in the same place at once, well, maybe apart from the manager’s post-match press conference AND down the mixed zone, but that is a special art. All interesting stuff from PA’s long-serving legal eagle Mike Dodd. Qualified privilege from a press conference is indeed a wonderful thing, although don’t get me started on the minefield which is Twitter. Once managed to defame myself with an infamous “Norwich sign big-Gay Dutchman” intro, but we don’t talk about that any more. Cahill does his first interview with Chelsea TV. “It was never about the money”. It never is son, it never is.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 18
Duty reporter from home today, covering all of the London clubs, oh and the eastern most outpost in the top flight, which is where the first news breaks with confirmation from Leeds that Norwich are in for captain Jonny Howson. Fee “understood” to be around £2million. Next up, hold the back page as Fulham sign 17-year-old midfielder Jack Grimmer from Aberdeen, as well as “highly rated” Danish Under-17 international Lasse Vigen Christensen from FC Midtjylland. Not content with that, there is also a new contract for evergreen Mark Schwarzer, who targets 2014 World Cup with the Socceroos. Hoover up a bit of Spurs as captain Ledley King tells talkSPORT no-one is talking up a title tilt at White Hart Lane after the euphoria of that battling draw with Wolves. Had hoped our intrepid reporter Simon Peach would pull something out of the bag from what had looked a decent job with Scott Parker at a football centre launch. Would have been nice if he could have actually spoken to the serving FWA Footballer of the Year, rather than watch from afar – along with a couple of national newspaper men and even Sky. PR and disaster spring to mind. Not finished there, though, as some JT doing the rounds, with the Chelsea skipper happy to see desire of unhappy players at warming the bench. Such is the talk of champions, right? FA Cup replays in the evening kind of pass me by, as does El Clasico. Guess there is only so much football one man can take. Watch DVD of Norwich’s UEFA Cup run. Hopefully sweet dreams.
THURSDAY JANUARY 19
Sadly the thoughts of Jeremy Goss and company did not do the job as I endure another near sleepless night. Still, maybe the boys down at LOCOG’s anti-doping lab in Harlow can come up with a concoction to help. Olympics closing fast, which means more interest for all things London 2012. Will be covering the judo and Taekwondo in the summer (used to be a bit handy myself at the old Ashi-Guruma back in the day), but weigh in with anything around the edges which may come up – and nice to cover a ‘local’ job for a change. Quick dart down the M11 and make it through the heightened security at the GlaxoSmithKline base for a briefing with Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and Professor David Cowan, or “London 2012 anti-doping chief” as he would become in my nightlead. Quick story filed off the press release, “no place to hide for drug cheats” warns Robertson – writes itself really, and then it is off with the video camera (yes, that’s right, now we are multi-tasking, white balance, focus and the lot) through into the lab. All interesting stuff, if you are into that kind of thing. BBC sports editor David Bond is certainly in his element, white lab coat and safety glasses to boot. Story gets decent coverage on national and regional news in the evening. Let’s hope the only positive to come out of the lab in Games times is 6,000 negative tests as they work around the clock to stay ahead of the those who would cheat the very foundations of the Olympic ideal.
FRIDAY JANUARY 20
Off to London Colney for Arsenal press conference with Arsene Wenger ahead of Manchester United game on the Sunday. Arrive around an hour ahead of kick-off as usual, which is later than my video colleague who rolled up at half eight after being told it was a 0930 start by the office. Plenty on the agenda as always. Wenger questioned about gap on the top four, flat bats usual transfer enquiries, some interesting views on feeder clubs, which he feels would go against the ethos of the English game. Inclined to agree with him. Oh, and of course the regular inquiry from Japanese journalists over Ryo Miyaichi. When we break off for the embargoed newspaper briefing, Wenger goes on the offensive over perceived injustices. Some guy in Sweden has done a study which showed if all decisions were correct Arsenal would have been second last season. Erm, okay….. Key question comes from Daily Star’s David Woods, following up from his excellent interview with chairman Peter Hill-Wood. “Would it be a disaster if Arsenal don’t finish in the top four, Arsene?” .. “For me, it would be, yes.” Thank you very much. It’s not over there, though, as on to the “Sundays” section, which again must be held back until agreed slot, which this time is late on Saturday night. Wojciech Szczesny is on the agenda, how was the confident young Pole after shipping eight against United at Old Trafford in August, and a bit about Theo, who had a “bit of a dip over Christmas”. Still worth a new 80K a week deal, though, heh? Bash out Wenger rally cry and bit on feeder leagues, not forgetting team news, then it is back around the M25 just ahead of the Friday afternoon rush. Mrs vW is having a well deserved night off, out at bingo, never know, she might get lucky, so juggle kids and dinner (not literally) before the laptop comes out again to finish off embargoed copy and dig around for some additional material for “early” Saturday slot to run before main piece on Szczesny. Found some Robin van Persie tucked away on website, which will do just nicely, or so I thought…
SATURDAY JANUARY 21
Awake from yet another night of broken sleep – was never this bad when Logan was still feeding – and it is an early start to my home town for the small matter of Norwich v Chelsea. E-mail from the desk alert me to RvP interview in The Sun, which kind of scuppers my plans as covering much of the same ground. Thankfully Arsenal Player save the day again with some Szczesny on Wojciech, which can be padded out with the manager defending his (non)transfer policy which did not get much airtime with everything else from yesterday’s briefing. Listen in while munching a steak & kidney pie in Carrow Road press room (not quite Delia Smith, but tasty nevertheless), and then also bash out the embargoed piece before kick off, as well as page one of five in running copy. “Chelsea striker Fernando Torres was handed another chance to break his goal drought with a start against Norwich at Carrow Road.” 90 minutes later, it was always going to be “Fernando Torres fired another blank as battling Norwich held Chelsea to a goalless draw at Carrow Road.” Even through yellow-tinted glasses, this has been some season by Paul Lambert’s squad. Another solid display, okay against an out-of-sorts Chelsea, but nevertheless things look on course for survival. Hope that’s not the kiss of death. Post-match is usual scramble for manager and follow-up quotes. The old second tape recorder comes into it’s own, as I “pick up” Lambert’s Sundays briefing, while making sure am there when AVB speaks to the Monday papers. Copy again strictly embargoed until Sunday night. But by now, it is all part of the game. No Chelsea players were made available ahead of their sunshine break in Spain, so grab a few words with Norwich defender Zak Whitbread. 6ft 3ins Texan born – and raised in Liverpool. Says it all really. Then it is on with the “live” quotes, as AVB rues over what could well be a costly missed opportunity, or indeed a good point depending on what happens on Super Sunday. Back up the A140 and, for a change, I am home in time for tea with the family, and a rare bit of Saturday night tele before the old girl is fired up again and it’s on with the “follow-ups”… no fewer than two for each club, one with resourceful “leftovers” to make sure PA customers have something ahead of the embargoed copy, which will run later on Sunday evening. Lambert hailing how far Canaries have climbed since he took over at bottom of League One, and AVB on efficiency deficiencies will keep things ticking over nicely, before Norwich keeper John Ruddy gives his take on a wonder save and possibly changing his wedding plans if he does get an England call-up this summer and some strong words from AVB about how fans should lay off Anton Ferdinand in next weekend’s FA Cup tie with QPR. More on that sure to come you feel. All done just in time for MOTD, if I can stay awake.
SUNDAY JANUARY 22
FWA Gala Tribute Evening to honour Gary Neville and Paul Scholes is upon us again. Lots to organise at home ahead of departure with wife for our annual night away, so once rabbit is cleaned out, laundry done, cupboards stocked up & everything sorted for kids usual hectic Monday morning, we set off for what turns out to be a relaxed slow drive into central London. Arrive in time to catch some of Arsenal v Man Utd with none other than esteemed FWA colleague Chris Davies in hotel bar, which goes kind of how I expected – apart from RvP missing a sitter. At least the final result meant our guests of honour who arrive in a decent mood, if a little late. Help out pre-dinner at Savoy, making sure our video man is in place, who provides footage for the association’s new-look website & also gets some copy out on the PA wires (been there, done that!) Finally get a chance to relax, catching up on much-needed quality time with the wife & some old friends – one of whom had just flew back from China, with no dinner suit & had to ‘borrow’ my shoes, which were a size too small. (he is a Norwich fan, so guess understandable). Food was excellent as usual (wonder if the crab was shipped in from Cromer – and if not, why not?) From an organisational point of view evening goes well, with touching tribute from Sir Alex Ferguson & Ben Shepherd hosting Q&A, which the missus said ‘dragged on a bit with all that talking about football’, but guess you can’t have everything – especially at £13 for a vodka & coke. Cheers.