Monday December 5
Monday morning. Column day. Some Mondays you wake up with a few scratchy thoughts and a dauntingly empty page to fill. Thankfully this is not one of them. Today Platini gets it, with both barrels. Load, aim, fire…
The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar is far and away the most outrageous and illogical in my time covering sport. I remember visiting Doha before the vote and laughing out loud at the idea that a World Cup could come to this tiny Emirate where people die either of boredom or heatstroke.
For Michel Platini to have voted for Qatar will forever compromise him and he’s been blathering about it again. One of the easier columns I’ve had to write. And I suspect it won’t be the last time I return to that subject. Only 10 years of campaigning left….
In between writing that column, it’s a drive to Gerrard’s Cross to meet Chrissie Wellington, Britain’s four-time world champion at Ironman. Chrissie is a great interviewee; bright, robust with plenty to say, especially about the BBC SPOTY furore. Quite understandably, she is angry about the absence of a woman on the shortlist and even more so at the failure to have any women on the voting panel. It’s a huge cock-up by the BBC.
Tuesday December 6
Write up the Wellington piece, all 1700 words of it. Again, one of those articles that flows easily (I wish they were all like that) because there is a newsy issue and so many great quotes, from her
disdain for Gary Lineker over the SPOTY row to her explanation of how on earth you keep going for more than eight hours in an Ironman. And then there’s the stuff about how you make emergency toilet stops but you probably don’t need that here…
Head to Chelsea against Valencia in the Champions League. I’m at Stamford Bridge as the feature writer which means having to engage brain before kick-off about likely themes. Thankfully Didier Drogba, a walking melodrama, is in the mood, scoring twice, setting up another. It’s a great win for Chelsea though eyebrows are raised in the media room afterwards when Andre Villas-Boas says that the win is a “slap in the face” for his critics. Steady on, AVB.
Wednesday December 7
It’s a train to Manchester for City against Bayern Munich. It isn’t a bad game, and there’s a tale to be written because, for all the squillions spent by City’s Arab owners, they are heading out of the Champions League. But occasionally you know that you are not where the real action is taking place and the news that Basle have taken the lead against United confirms it.
City and United are dumped in the Europa League and suddenly we are all looking up when the final of that competition will be played (May 9) and where (Bucharest). Thursday nights just got busier.
Thursday December 8
Day off which means travelling back from Manchester, making various phone calls, tweeting (which remains annoyingly addictive even on the days when you despair at the abuse) and researching a book. This is a job which easily expands to fill all the hours in the day.
Friday December 9
Up at 5am for a flight to Madrid to preview the clasico. It’s going to be my fourth clasico of 2011. The first three have produced nine goals (four for Messi), five red cards (plus Mourinho dismissed), two mass brawls and enough fireworks to mark a new Millennium. So here’s hoping.
Plane is delayed by an hour and a half so land in Madrid, sprint through the airboard, dive into a taxi, dash to the training ground and….. Jose isn’t turning up. Not really a surprise given that he’s been on best behaviour since the eye-poking at the Super Cup. But disappointing nevertheless. Aitor Karanka, his assistant, is not a man who is going to sell newspapers.
Dinner in Madrid with Marc Aspland, the best sports photographer in the business, Sid Lowe of the Guardian and Guillem Balague. Perhaps a little too much Rioja consumed.
Saturday December 10
El Clasico. The biggest club game in the world. Not a bad climax to a busy week. There’s a mad scrum outside the Bernabeu as I’m walking around. Rafael Nadal has just arrived. This is a game that everyone wants to see.
A goal for Real after 23 seconds sets up a great night of football. If Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t in abject form, perhaps it might have been different but Barcelona hold their nerve, trust in their possession game and eventually dominate a match they might have won by more than 3-1 to leapfrog Real at the top of La Primera Liga. Mourinho talks afterwards about bad luck but even he must know, deep down, that Real have been comprehensively outplayed. A short piece for online is my only requirement so I can enjoy the spectacle.
Sunday December 11
Fly home. Write up 1000 words of Clasico report. Someone has seen that I’ve been to the Bernabeu and tweeted “you have a great job”. After a week like that, I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing.