June would seem like a strange time of year to reflect wistfully on the ups and downs of the previous 12 months, but working in the football industry has convinced my body clock that the year is coming to an end. I’m not exactly craving pigs in blankets and sherry trifle, but I do need to put my feet up after a long season. I’ll try not to gorge on Quality Street…
To describe the last year as ‘pretty eventful’ is like saying Ryan Giggs has been ‘a bit of a tinker’. This time last year things weren’t looking particularly rosy. Football Punk magazine, the publication I’d conceived, nurtured and adored from a tiny office in Falmer, was on the brink of going belly-up. I finally realised that our publishers were in a spot of financial bother when, at 7.30 one morning, 27 officers from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs burst into the building… The fact that I’d been on first name terms with every bailiff in Brighton & Hove for the previous few months should also have provided clues to our precarious position, but, like when Stevie Wonder fell for fellow Mowtown singer Syreeta Wright, love is blind.
But when one door closes, another opens. ESPN television, the world’s biggest sports broadcaster, rang me last July to ask if I wanted a job as the star interviewer (interviewing stars, not me being the star I hasten to add) on their Premier League coverage and football magazine show Talk of the Terrace. I needed approximately half a second to think about it. As my doppelganger Danny Dyer would say: ‘I’d had a right touch’.
So, after being dragged back from the brink of the dole queue, I was suddenly racing up and down the country interviewing the biggest names in sport and music, from Liam Gallagher and Ricky Hatton up north, to Usain Bolt, Rio Ferdinand and even Brighton’s very own Gus Poyet, who I met at the giant turtle aquarium in the Sealife Centre of all places.
So, without further ado, here are my top 10 highlights of the season:
10: Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor giving me a darting masterclass at his house.
9: Working behind the bar at the Rovers Return, Coronation Street with Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz.
8: Andrew Flintoff being disgusted at me wearing a cravat during our interview.
7: Hammering Stoke striker Kenwyne Jones at pool.
6: Being snowed in at Tony McCoy’s house on Christmas Eve.
5: Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel admitting to having a crush on Carol Vorderman.
4: Finally interviewing someone shorter than me (Theo Walcott).
3: Getting fashion advice (and free shoes) from Rio Ferdinand.
2: Sharing my homemade Tiramisu with then Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.
1: Comparing seduction techniques with world 100metre record-holder Usain Bolt (instead of cooking for a young lady, he orders KFC…).