Catch Seventy7

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My first England cap: Some brief thoughts and recollections on joining the Wembley media corps

So, I got the chance to cover England’s opening Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria at Wembley. As my first game covering the Three Lions as an accredited member of the media, I thought I’d better note down some memories…

Wembley way: My view from my privileged position at the home of football

I never thought I’d get an England call-up at 23.

Okay, so Theo Walcott or Wayne Rooney might not be particularly impressed with my achievement — nor any player to actually get a proper cap for England, for that matter — but when your professional football dream falls apart at the age of 12 and you subsequently try to make the media your career like I have, then your first appearance in the hallowed press zone at Wembley seems like a milestone worthy of some note.

I wouldn’t call it a debut to remember by any means, but I think I got through the 90 minutes with enough nice touches to suggest I might one-day have a future at this level. A nervous start (my wide-eyed fear and hesitancy upon entering the media centre seemed to only convince the security attendants I harboured terrorist intent) eventually subsided into an enjoyable and slightly more self-assured second-half performance, and by the end of it I was… blocked from entering the mixed zone.

So, er, still work to be done then.

Nevertheless, it was a great experience. Wembley, as you would expect, is run like clockwork, with helpful and seemingly endless numbers of staff making sure you don’t get too far off the yellow brick road. One polite lift attendant (believe it) even indulged in small talk with myself and the BBC’s very own ‘expert’ Mark Lawrenson on the way up to the media centre, with the former Liverpool man even opining that “with programmes costing £6, I’m in the wrong game.” The attendant was happy to agree with him, which I can only assume was out of politeness, as spouting inane clichés about football every Saturday evening seems about as a good a ‘game’ as you can be in to me.

But I digress.

The media centre itself is something of a joy to behold, divided as it is into two sections. The first, slightly smaller in size, looks like a high-tech library with its rows of identikit cubicles with ports and wires for every computer accessory known to man. Continue reading

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September 6, 2010 Posted by | Comment, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Tom Brady gets the job done, but what next for the NFL International Series?

After another successful game on these shores, the NFL seems confident enough in the potential of the International Series to consider taking it to the next level. But, after a sizeable number of fans left Wembley early after the game was already won, is there really a next level to reach?

NFL_NE_TB_Wembley

Crowd pleaser: UK fans were once again drawn to the NFL's glitz and glamour, as Wembley once again played host

The third NFL International Series match at Wembley went with the form book, as quarterback star Tom Brady led his New England Patriots passed the much-maligned Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady’s three touchdown, 308-yard textbook performance was only blotted by two underthrown interceptions. But it was still more than enough for the Patriots to ease to a 37-7 win as Brady’s opposite number, Josh Johnson, struggled to keep pace.

The 22-year-old former fifth round pick threw an interception on just the Buccaneers’ third play of the day, an error that was returned for a touchdown by Pats cornerback Brandon Merriweather.

From then on, the 85,000 strong Wembley crowd knew the result was not in question.

A second interception from Johnson in his very next series allowed Brady to get away with an uncharacteristically slow start, and once the Pats’ considerable offence got rolling they regularly put points on the board.

Indeed, such was the one-sided nature of the game, both teams were able to change their quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Brady was replaced by his understudy, Bryan Hoyler, after a solid day’s work had been done.

Johnson, on the other hand, was replaced by Josh Freeman, the organisation’s 2009 first round draft pick who head coach Raheem Morris has high hopes for. With Freeman considered the man for the future, Johnson might not get the starting job back when the Bucs return to action in two weeks’ time.

Few of the fans inside Wembley will spare much thought for the No. 11’s plight, however. It was Brady who was the game’s undoubted star attraction, and he said all the right things in the aftermath of a performance that satisfied the expectant crowd, if not quite blow them away.

“It was like a Super Bowl, all the flashbulbs going off and the fans waving their flags for the first five minutes of the game,” Brady said. Continue reading

October 27, 2009 Posted by | NFL, Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Tom Brady ready to live up to expectations at Wembley, as Tampa Bay fear the worst

The third iteration of the NFL’s experiment abroad continues on Sunday as another two teams venture to London for the International Series. 86,000 fans will be looking to one person — Tom Brady…

Focus of attention: Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Focus of attention: New England Patriots main man Tom Brady will face a bunch of expectations from the UK crowd

Tom Brady is coming off the back of one of the best weeks of his career as his New England Patriots travel to the country that resides in their name to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady threw a franchise record five touchdown passes in the second quarter (six overall) of the Patriot’s 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans, before being withdrawn in the third quarter with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Now he gets to fly across the Atlantic and show off his talent to a different, equally appreciative audience.

“I think this is a game we’ve been looking forward to since we heard we’d be flying across the Atlantic to play,” Brady said in an interview on Tuesday.

“It’s not often we fly east to play a game and to play in Wembley Stadium will be great – it’s as historic a stadium as there is in the entire world and all our team is very excited about that.

“This will be a game we’ll all remember for the next 40 or 50 years of our life so we just want to go out there and play at our best.”

Brady and Indianapolis Colts No. 18 Peyton Manning might be widely considered as the two greatest quarterbacks in the modern game, but Brady will have to perform at his illustrious best if he is to impress an English audience that witnessed two other fine exponents of the position last season. Continue reading

October 21, 2009 Posted by | NFL | , , , | Leave a comment