My heart has rarely beaten faster than the moment Wycombe scored their opening goal of the season. My mouth went dry and my fingers turned to stone as I dialed into Soccer Saturday via my ISDN kit poised to do my first goal report from Rodney Parade, Newport. The plan had been to make a quick note of what happened- no chance my hand was like lead! Jeff threw to me live, on air, on Sky Sports. Somehow the words came out clearly as I reported a corner was turned in by Peter Murphy on his debut. That was the start of my season for Soccer Saturday and Soccer Special, my first.
It is a real privilege to be involved, even as a small part, in the programme. I used to watch it on the sofa always keeping an eye out for my team and admiring the reporters remembering the player’s names, who had done what and how.
Over the 2014/2015 season I have covered 30 games and 31 different teams across the football league from the Championship to League Two and on one occasion non-league Fylde who played Plymouth in the FA Cup. I mainly was reporting on games across South Wales and the South West, each week learning a new team, formation and often trying to learn how to pronounce an exotic name in case they scored or did something worthy of mention! It has been a fantastic experience with a few games sticking in the memory…
In August in the first round of the League Cup I headed to Swindon to cover them taking on Brighton, a match that went to extra time and ended with Brighton scoring a couple to make it 4.2. Jules was in charge that evening and I was the only reporter left on air as we went through extra time so did a few reports just describing the action- my first of that kind and I loved it! Another game that was memorable was Exeter V Shrewsbury, the Shrews in complete control 2.0 up at half time and Exeter fought back into the dying embers of the game to win 3.2. I also remember fondly the Devon Derby, my fiancé is a huge Plymouth fan, and I like both clubs especially as they have been very welcoming to me. As it was a 1pm kick off it meant no other reports were coming in so I had a bit of extra time to describe what was happening as Jeff crossed to me, Reuben Reid eventually got a hat-trick as the Green Army won 3.1.
As much as I love reporting, at times it was a bit tough. I don’t know if I have ever been as cold as watching Newport play Plymouth on Boxing day in the pouring rain! From November through to March leggings were required under jeans and thermal socks just to maintain feeling in my feet! All the clubs I have visited have been welcoming. I have built up a rapport and relationship with regulars in the press boxes too which has made the time before games fly by.
A typical match day involves arriving at the ground about 1.30pm for a 3pm kick off. It is important to make sure the kit works, sometimes the ISDN kit will be malfunctioning or the line won’t work so I always allow plenty of time. Some grounds give you a food ticket or provide food, otherwise I will take a packed lunch and sit and read the programme for half an hour before the teams are announced. I then piece together who is playing where, what formation and if there are any interesting angles. Kick off soon arrives and you hope for lots of goals!
The hardest part is remembering who did what, so who fouled who for a penalty, or who took the corner? Which defender did a poor back pass? Who was it that sent a 40 yard ball from the half way line? You literally cannot take your eyes off the game and watch football in a whole new way.
It has been a thrilling season in the football league, from the promotion race in the Championship, to the fight for play-off places in League’s One and Two going right down to the wire. I am happy to have been a small part of it, and brought a piece of the action to someone’s front room on a Saturday afternoon.
If you would like to listen to any of my reports they are online here: www.soundcloud.com/michelleowen