Martin Smith

08.04.04

5.20am: Shower, throw breakfast/ lunch into a carrier bag as I talk back to Guy Ruddle and Micky Clarke on the kitchen radio. Thursday’s a big day at The Star – today’s paper to finish early, then tomorrow’s 16-page weekend Preview supplement. Olympic swimming trials just down the road at Ponds Forge will help. Barnsley FC reporter off, so call new manager Paul Hart. First time I’ve spoken to him.

He’s not known as a talker, but he’s pleasant in a “yes, no and not really” kind of way. Manage to squeeze a back-page story for Barnsley edition and a preview piece out of him. Seems decent enough.

Rare after-work schmooze and freebie opportunity at local bar/restaurant refurbishment. Nice. Champagne flowing reasonably freely, excellent canapés, but too small and flimsy to offer anything but a fleeting suggestion of sustenance. Small crowd splits into two camps: journalists on one table, lawyers on another. Luckily, we’re all driving and have to leave early. Home and watch PSV and Newcastle on the box.

09.04.04

Usual picture panic solved by swimming championships. Good images, loads of records broken, back-page colour sorted. Anything but Ken Bates and Sheffield Wednesday again – his beard haunts us all. Can’t get away from him though. He’s going to sack the manager and the chairman if he gets control of Sheffield Wednesday, makes back-page lead.

Talk to Hart. He’s nothing much to say. No story, I’ve gone off him now.

Being Good Friday it’s a bit dead.

Sheffield United playing Sunderland later. Fill overnight pages, finish 3pm, go to gym. Watch United suffer more at Sunderland than I’m suffering on the treadmill. The 3-0 defeat means they are out of the play-off places.

Hard to watch.

10.04.04

Not working. United manager Neil Warnock gifts us a back-page lead by blasting his players for being “too soft” against Sunderland. Paint teenage daughter’s bedroom after strict adherence to evacuation and fumigation procedures. Radio Five Live football afternoon.

11.04.04

Not working. Ten-year-old son playing in junior cup final against a higher-division team unbeaten all season. All kids and parents really keen. Sheffield Wednesday under-10s playing on next pitch. Spot Chris Waddle in tea bar. Recognise those unmistakable sloping shoulders from behind as he sits hunched over his breakfast. At the age of 43 he can still provide more entertainment eating a bacon sandwich than most players can muster in their prime. Son’s team lose final 5-1 but with honour. Parents not so chivalrous, several threatened with expulsion for barracking referee.

Kids tut-tut and shake their heads.

12.04.04

Bank Holiday deadlines mean 5.45am start. Hellish scramble to finish 16-page Star Sport supplement started by Sunday evening planner.

Olympic swimming trials, US Masters golf and Brian Lara very helpful. Usual Monday afternoon forward planning meeting cancelled. Write up feature on nine-year-old kids who walk miles across the toughest estate in the city to go to a football training night run by a Wednesday coach. Two of the lads already in Wednesday’s academy.

Home to two hours of football kickabout on the school field with my own dead-end kid. Going great until the penalty shoot-out. First round ends 4-4. I score, then save his sudden-death effort and aggravate old thigh injury.

He stomps off hurt because I won. I limp behind and ask myself if I really had to try THAT hard to stop it. Great save though.

Doncaster Rovers have been a team on the up in South Yorkshire for two years and they are promoted today for the second time in two years with a 2-0 win over Cambridge. In 2000, Rovers were in the Conference and Wednesday were a mid-table Premiership side. Next season they’ll play each other in division two. Call chairman John Ryan at loud after-match party to congratulate him and get a few quotes.

Rovers were favourites to be relegated when they came up last year, but Ryan was always very confident about promotion and his side being in the First Division in five years.

13.04.04

This week there are two Monday mornings. Full Easter football programme means 10 live pages again today. A 5.45am start, brisk morning but fairly smooth.

Finish work at 10am to take family to Magna Science experience in converted old steelworks in Rotherham.

Some good ideas and 10-year-old takes to it. Has had great reviews nationally but felt slightly disappointed at £60 for four of us – including a miserable lunch from the “restaurant” with service standards of a bad Seventies works canteen.

14.04.04

Sheffield’s Premiership referee, Uriah Rennie, is in trouble again.

Wolves manager Dave Jones will be in even more trouble for calling him “arrogant” and his performance in the Wolves v Bolton game “diabolical”.

There’s a chance that Rennie may be dropped from the list of Premiership referees. Speak to him at work in Sheffield. He’s pleasant but very cagey.

No comment, no off-the record, no nothing. Promises a “proper interview” in the summer. I think I’ve heard that one before. Try to get hold of Premiership referees’ manager Keith Hackett – also from Sheffield – but his mobile’s off and there’s a layer of protection around him at the Premier League. Eventually get a call back from a press officer, but deadline was two hours ago.

Arrange reporter cover for opening of the Embassy World Snooker championships in Sheffield. Steve Davis is first there to start proceedings. He’s always branded as boring but, as ever, he’s polite, charming and helpful.

Trying desperately to get out of a black-tie, eve of tournament charity dinner. Start work on planning Doncaster Rovers Promotion Special Supplement.

At 5pm go home to try to avoid canapés, decorating and penalty shoot-outs.

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