As opening weeks go, this season’s was as good as it gets. We followed our opening day victory at Carlisle with two home wins, beating Coventry 3-2 in the Capital One Cup with a late winner and Shrewsbury 3-0 on Saturday to keep us top of League One.
Good results create a bubbly atmosphere at football clubs and there’s a buzz about our training ground in Chigwell. When I arrived on Monday there were a few players in early getting treatment and Romain Vincelot going through a weights routine in the gym with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” blaring out of the stereo – which makes a pleasant change from the usual funky house.
The players soon got stuck into my hair, which I had down and not up as I usually do. I hadn’t thought much of it, but they weren’t having it and the banter soon escalated into midfielder Lloyd James somehow hacking into my Facebook page and digging out photos of me from when I was 16, which he released with great pleasure on Twitter.
It didn’t help when his footballer mates got involved and before I knew it Nathan Dyer at Swansea (who I’ve never even met) is re-tweeting to more than 100,000 people photos of me with long hair and a hairband wearing a Dagenham & Redbridge kit at a fancy dress party in 2005. Cheers, Lloydy.
I don’t have an office at the training ground so I hop about wherever there is space, which is often in the coinaching staff’s office. Our performance analyst, Matt Hunter, is there throughout the day going through DVDs of previous games and cutting up footage of forthcoming opponents. Players pop in to see him and “go through their bits”, where he shows them clips of their performances from the previous match.
Matt has joined full-time this season. Analysis has really come on in recent years and attention to detail can be the difference. One of the turning points against Coventry was a second-half penalty save from Jamie Jones. In the tunnel after the game, Kevin Dearden, our goalkeeping coach and chief scout, walked past me with a grin and said, “You can stick this in your Independent column!” before showing me a bit of paper from his pocket on which he had correctly predicted how the penalty would be taken and briefed Jamie accordingly.
Off the pitch on Tuesday, things went a lot more smoothly than the friendly games over the fortnight before. I did have to deal with Ian Abrahams, aka “Moose” from TalkSPORT, who threw a bit of a tantrum when his ISDN box initially wouldn’t work, but he calmed down after I gave him a plate of sandwiches.
It’s a sad reflection of my personality that, despite all the action, my favourite moment of the night was that our starting line-up had the squad numbers 1 to 11 in it.
From my point of view it meant writing the team sheet was a bit less stressful than normal, although I still managed to make one error as our midfielder Jack Sherratt reminded me: “My dad says to tell you that you spelt my name wrong on the team sheet.” Mr Sherratt, if you’re reading this I promise it won’t happen again.
Writing up a team sheet can be something of a nightmare.
It is taken from the sheets the clubs hand to the officials and each other. Our assistant manager Kevin Nugent always writes in block capitals and in numerical order, but other clubs can be all over the place.
When you are against the clock, trying to decipher a load of scribble and put it in order, mistakes can happen, as I found out to my great embarrassment last season.
We were hosting a nextGen series game between Spurs and Sporting Lisbon. The sheets were exchanged late and while typing them up over the top of one of our old ones, I put our former midfielder Jimmy Smith on the bench for the Spurs Under-21s side.
I realised later and thought I’d got away with it until the Spurs No 11, Roman Michael-Percil, banged in a late equaliser. The person on the Spurs Twitter account tweeted “goal to Spurs – it’s Jimmy Smith”! I’ve still not lived that down.
On Thursday I was at the training ground for the Capital One Cup draw. We don’t have Sky there so I’d been told to get it up on my laptop, which then typically cut out just when we needed it.
I got the usual tuts and jokes from the gaffer that he will blame me if we don’t get a good draw, but Matt the analyst saved the day with a dodgy internet stream of Sky Sports News. We huddled round to find we have Hull City at home in the second round.
The back-end of the week was manic as it was a dreaded “double programme week”, which meant a few late nights, along with the other odd jobs I get caught up in.
At a club like ours you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and get stuck into different tasks not in your remit. This week I helped the gaffer with some motivational posters for the changing-room walls before desperately trying to find a place in east London that could laminate them in time for Saturday’s game.
I enjoy all that, though, and hopefully the posters have helped in our great start.Reuse content