Daniel Mann

20.03.04

During the week I am morning news editor at Radio City and Magic 1548, but at the weekends I transform into Daniel Mann, football commentator, following the trials and tribulations of Liverpool Football Club.

Today is a must-win match against struggling Wolverhampton. There is always a sense of dread at Anfield these days because of their poor run. I arrive at the ground at about 12.30 mid-day. My co-commentator John Aldridge is his usual chirpy self, full of banter about his bets for the day.

Liverpool are awful but scrape a win with a last-minute goal and move into that coveted fourth place. Wolves play well and boss Dave Jones can count himself unlucky.

On my return to the press box I hear news that puts everything into perspective – an Everton fan has been killed on the way to watch his team play at Leicester. Donning my news cap I return to the station and write up some copy for the morning.

22.03.04

I arrive at work just after 10am – a more palatable start on a Monday than my usual 5am.

The newsroom is awash with talk of one man: building magnate Steve Morgan. The BBC claims he is launching a takeover bid for Liverpool. We revealed in January that he wanted to invest in the club – but we don’t believe he’s planning a takeover.

After some digging, we discover that Morgan in fact wants to finance a new share issue with strings attached.

Explaining the difference between a share issue and a takeover in three or four lines of copy is not easy.

An interview with Professor Tom Cannon helps. He’s an expert in football finance and knows Morgan. He also has a knack of putting things into layman’s terms.

23.03.04

The dreaded alarm goes off at 4am. Back on the morning beat. I’m tasked with putting the bulletins together while colleagues Jane Cheater and Paul Salt go in and out of the studio as part of the breakfast crew. It can be quite a frenetic shift in such a large news patch.

Again, the Liverpool situation looms large. A statement from Morgan is expected from the Press Association. However, due to what we might term a “cock-up” they’ve only sent it to one place – the Liverpool Echo. It would seem that the Morgan show is over for now as the club throw out his proposal. At 1pm I head home to pack – tomorrow I’m flying to Marseilles for Liverpool’s game there.

24.03.04

I’m not the best of flyers, so I arrive at the airport with some trepidation.

Some familiar faces quickly appear – Paul Joyce of the Daily Express and Alistair Yeomans from Five Live.

There’s plenty of good-natured ribbing about my overcoat (“as if you’ll need that in the South of France”) and warnings of huge bar bills to come.

After settling in the hotel near the old port of Marseilles, the radio boys (me, Mike Hughes of Radio Merseyside and three from Five Live) take a cab to the imposing Stade Vélodrome to check our commentary positions.

I grab an interview with Liverpool’s French player, Bruno Cheyrou, prior to training. He is relaxed and confident in front of the French press – Reds fans surely wish his play could be described in those terms. My overcoat is justified as a howling gale makes it feel like a winter’s day in Widnes.

Then it’s out into the old port for steak, wine and Real Madrid’s destruction of Monaco on the television. Later in the hotel bar, the Reds’ press officer, Ian Cotton, backs Liverpool to win.

I learn from a Liverpool shareholder that Morgan will definitely return for more.

25.03.04

I wake up just before 9am for a live link with the Magic breakfast show. It takes some time to negotiate the complexities of the hotel’s phone system and I miss breakfast. It’s no problem, as we’re in the heart of Marseilles – its finest eateries are within walking distance. As an ambassador for the European Capital of Culture I should be soaking up the charm of France’s oldest city but, being hungover, I settle for a McDonald’s.

After a lazy afternoon studying stats I arrive at the ground three hours before kick-off, leaving plenty of time to banish any technical gremlins. Five Live’s summariser, Gavin Peacock, probes me for Liverpool information over a sandwich in the press room. I’m on my own – my co-commentator is in the Liverpool studio watching on TV.

The atmosphere is the best I’ve ever experienced. Liverpool are in total command for half an hour and take the lead, but a controversial penalty gives Marseilles an equaliser on halftime.

Liverpool’s makeshift defender, Igor Biscan, is sent off. My position is down the other end so I can’t tell, but Aldo assures me it was outside the box. The French then grab a winner in the second half.

It gives manager Gérard Houllier a valid excuse to cling to, but Liverpool should have won it in the first leg. His season is all but over – doubtless tomorrow’s papers will claim his time at Liverpool is drawing to a close. But those questions can wait. In the post-match interview we focus on tonight’s disappointment.

That disappointment is heightened for me when I find that my mobile has been swiped from the press box.

26.03.04

This time I make it upstairs for breakfast with a spectacular view of the old port. There’s no time to rest though; we head straight to the team’s beachside hotel for Houllier’s press conference ahead of Sunday’s match with Leicester.

It’s difficult for the radio lads who see him every week to play the hatchet men – you have to sometimes, but it usually ends with Houllier walking out carrying a grudge. We know there are some headlines back home that make grim reading for the Liverpool boss, so we prime Five Live’s Yeomans to ask the difficult questions in our pooled interview.

Houllier laughs off the criticism. A Sky reporter gives him another grilling, and then it’s time to leave for the airport. We head down in the lift with Houllier, who leads us to a toilet convention on the ground floor. It seems strangely appropriate.

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