As I type this, I sit cramped in the back of an automobile heading to Yeovil. Thing is, the date on my notebook says “27/12/2011”. I’m off to visit family. The dramatic 3-2 win was yesterday.
This has been the story of my year, days before it draws to a close. When Charlton Athletic are kicking a ball around, there’s a chance I’ll be elsewhere.
Working at another location? Wandering the market square of Wroclaw? Witnessing the unfurling of a massive tifo in Dortmund? Wasting money around Vegas? Wiling away the hours with friends? All these breaks from live Addicks action have felt strange.
I bring this up because despite the skipped matches and feeling out of the loop when I arrive at the next one, I don’t actually feel like I’ve missed much at all.
You could say this is down to modern technology. After all, within 24 hours video highlights are up on BBC Sport or 101greatgoals. And thanks to social networking, I’m never too far from my fellow hacks and stattos for any withdrawal symptoms to kick in.
But I disagree. There’s something more to it than that. And it finally sunk in on the 23rd, when I received the call from Eurosport to offer me a full-time editorial position following months of being groomed for the role in pretty much every spare day I had.
I wasn’t spending too little time at The Valley at all. In fact, I was covering Charlton exactly as much as I should have been. That actually hurts for me to admit – I’m not only a loyal Addick, but the club has been the nexus of my professional life.
Within weeks of graduating from Greenwich University, I was turning my experiences as a season ticket holder into the Covered End Gospel for Dan Bream’s Addickted.net. That winter, I convinced communications manager Matt Wright to let me write reports for the under-18 side.
That was four years ago now. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of other names crop up underneath Academy league reports which I couldn’t attend. 90% of them no longer care for journalism, now they’ve had that bitter taste of the unpaid afternoons entrenched in the muddy rain watching a bunch of unknowns with no aid of game clocks or media kits. I must’ve been doing something right.
Most of those absences came thanks to meeting Paul Green, sports editor of the local paper News Shopper, through an old Uni comrade who worked in their subbing department for a little while. Paul needed someone who was willing to venture north of the Watford Gap, as he sure as heck wasn’t.
Nothing could be worse than torrential downpour at Sparrows Lane, right? Count me in!
Three years of zipping across the country to cover Charlton (as well as those other South London clubs) put that theory to the test, hard. But for each last-gasp postponement at Walsall, laptop breakdown at Gillingham, brush with the keystone cops before Rochdale and accidental inebriation (yes, accidental, honest) the day of Reading, there were truckloads of day trips I’ll never forget.
The lap of the country in 12 hours for Carlisle away back in ’09 was such a hoot, the defeat thanks to Graham Kavanagh’s brace meant nothing. The long and winding supporters’ bus to Tranmere was made oh-so-worthwhile by a resounding 4-0 away win and some superlative Reds fans on board. And any away trip completed via club reporter Gary Haines’ road trips was a guaranteed highlight.
It was in 2010 that I wondered whether this was enough for me. That was soon remedied when I began to finally make money from my scribing through agencies such as Wardles and PA. And later that year, I finally found that extra added dimension to my passion thanks to Charlton Live.
The radio run ended in May, and I’ve been described as having ‘left the team’. The funny thing is, truth be told, in my eyes I was never part of the CL ‘team’ to begin with.
Does that mean I regret helping them out when they were short-staffed and results on the pitch were depressing? Of course not. But as much as I wanted to convince myself otherwise at times, that position was never really mine.
After a volunteer drive, Dave and Pete found the people they had been looking for. And much like when I was pitchside at Sparrows Lane freezing my bits off, they’re busting their humps to make it.
My time on the show did convince me there’s a broadcasting vigour to my work as well as the written word. With the able assistance of another Liver, Terry Smith, and BBC local radio’s fantastic play-by-play man Jamie Hill, I caught the commentary bug.
I can say without hesitation that bringing live verbiage to the under-18s has been the biggest highlight of them all for me.
And that brings me here. I won’t regret any missed games or failed opportunities to catch up with my comrades, because everything important to me remains very much alive, Eurosport or not.
I’ll be at the training ground whenever my schedule allows, drumming up features and reports on those youngsters who may well unlock doors in Charlton’s future. I’ll be in the gantry for as many games as possible, working on the double act with Mr. Smith for CAFC Player. And you couldn’t keep me away from the Player of the Year ceremony if you bossed an army.
Above all, I’ll be there. Enough to have never really left, enough not to drift out of touch with the friends I’ve made on this five year journey: the Garys, the Matts, the Finchys Daves and Terrys, the Olly Groomes and Paul Greens (but not Paul Glover or those other bleedin’ techies).
I’ve worked too hard to just walk away from my duties here. And besides, we’ve endured plenty of misery during those years – I deserve to soak up the lads’ current form, even part-time.