A working week in the life of Mike Parry, programme director and breakfast show presenter for talkSPORT
It’s the morning after the night before when wonder-boy Wayne Rooney made his first start for the full England team. He was a sensation and I was thrilled to be at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Before the game I had eschewed several offers of corporate hospitality to be on the streets with the English and Turkish fans. After the game I went back to my hotel in the beautiful city of Durham. Nobody wanted to go to bed because of the huge excitement generated by Rooney – but unfortunately being a breakfast show host brings its own unique disciplines.
The alarm call came at 4am. That’s a lie-in for me because in London I get up at 3am. But we’re broadcasting today from the north-east because of the England game.
Jim Brown, our head of outside broadcasting, has built a studio in a bedroom which is just down the corridor. I rendezvous with Jim and Alan Brazil, my co-host at 5am and we do the newspapers, catch up on all the developments over-night on the war, search the websites and start talking to London about a running order.
A team of producers back in our headquarters near Waterloo Station have been around since 3am. We go on air at 6am, and for the next four hours Brazil and I battle it out between us and turn the Breakfast Show into a Rooney-fest. I didn’t want to spend as much time on it because I am a life-long Everton fan and I get accused of bias. But the young striker has become an overnight phenomenon.
At 10am we wrap up the show, de-rig and pack up all the gear which Jim has transported to his truck. He’s driving back, while Brazil and I are going on the train.
It’s a lovely day and on the train we encounter a collection of England and talkSPORT fans. Everybody is very well-meaning but there is still a lot of work to be done on the phone. Before I go to bed I have to re-pack my bag because we are away again tomorrow afternoon.
The clock goes off at 3am. The car comes at 4am. Parker, my driver has to be totally reliable because of the critical timings. When I worked in newspapers you could always send your deputy into morning conference if you were late because of last night’s excesses. Unfortunately my boss Kelvin MacKenzie would work out pretty quickly that I wasn’t around. The world is still talking about Wayne Rooney and it’s a joy to share their infectious enthusiasm.
When the show finishes at 10am I try to lock myself in my office for an hour to go through the mountain of paper-work that builds up when you are out of town. Programme schedules have to be sorted while we have to consider proposals for all of our programmes from all over the country at dozens of different sporting events.
There is also a ton of personal correspondence for both Alan and I. Some of the dozens of letters and 200 e-mails we receive each are very abusive but most are warm and some very kind – like socks with our names on from a lady fan in Plymouth called Lucy.
After a set-up meeting for Saturday morning’s breakfast show I go over to the Football Association in Soho for lunch with two of their press-officers. Then I jump into a cab and catch the Heathrow Express where I team up with Alan and we go off to Manchester and eventually Liverpool for tomorrow’s Grand National. We meet up with some old mates who are Everton fans in The Crowne Plaza. It’s a beautiful evening and we wander off in the direction of The Pier Head for dinner.
It’s lie-in day and I don’t have to get up until 6am. Saturday’s are a luxury for Al and I because our show doesn’t start until 8am.
We make our way to Dickey Lewis’s, a pub in Liverpool city centre where we are doing the show. It’s a special racing show but there is also a huge televised football match in Manchester where Liverpool are playing at Old Trafford in a 12.30pm kick off.
The doors open at 8am and by nine o’clock everybody’s got a pint in their hands and the place is rocking.
People tend to get very excited and there is an art in broadcasting of holding a microphone in your left-hand while fending off over-enthusiastic sports fans with the right. By 10 o’clock we can’t hear ourselves think which is why Jim, our producer, has fitted us out with lip-mics which close out all the atmospheric sound.
Being out on the road is a fantastic experience but as we battle to get out of the pub it’s like being in a football ground.
We shoot off to Aintree where we are the guests of attheraces, the TV channel whose races we broadcast on talkSPORT. We take in the big match on the screens. At the end of the afternoon we both have empty pockets.
In the evening we go to Jallons, the restaurant owned by our old mate, Steve Smith the Olympic bronze-medallist high-jumper who captained the national squad at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, where we first met. We have a great night.
I always wake up by 5.30am because my body-clock has shifted backwards by about three hours. Alan and I travel back separately because he lives in a beautiful converted barn in Suffolk, near to Ipswich where he played his best football.
I take the train south. It is full of exiled Liverpool fans who had been to Old Trafford the day before followed by a night out in the city. Most of them are OK, but there are one or two who dislike me a lot because they think I put their team down in favour of my own, Everton.
I get home to Surrey at 3pm, just in time to take in Everton versus Newcastle United on television. Rooney, scores so my weekend is complete.
The clock goes at 3am and I always bounce out of bed looking forward to the day ahead. I go through all the text channels to catch up on the night’s events, although if anything major had happened I would have received a call. Parker turns up just after 4am.
The 25 minutes it takes to get into London are the most productive of the day. No phones ringing, nobody talking your ear off, no screens flashing images of war and no Brazil. I can speed read all the tabloids and talk to my producers three times before I get to work.
It is very tense with the war. I am genuinely nervous for our correspondents in Iraq. I feel almost uneasy talking to them because I have nightmares that they are in terrible danger and may be harmed by some renegade mad-man. I wish I was there in their place.
Usual briefings and meetings follow breakfast and at 4pm I go over to Langan’s Brasserie for a part business, part pleasure meeting with a team of PR’s who represent a dozen footballers on the brink of retirement and hoping to develop a career in the media. Langan’s is the footballer’s watering hole and I meet one former-England captain and a Premiership manager during the course of a very enjoyable evening. I get home at 8.30pm and go straight to bed.
Normal start and working day. After the Breakfast Show I head off to Kent with Brown, to check out the facilities at Sandwich, from where we will be broadcasting for four days during The Open golf competition in July.
Our main studio on the course is 120 feet above the 18th hole and I find it quite nerve-wracking because I suffer from vertigo. It’s particularly difficult to get up the scaffolding stairs after a lunch-time visit with Brazil to The Bollinger tent.
I get back home in time for the Real Madrid versus Manchester United game on telly. A disappointing result but hopefully United still have a chance.
Following the Breakfast Show and having set-up meetings for the following day, I have a meeting with the commercial director and his team of salesmen and women.
We work very closely together because as a commercial business we are always looking at new opportunities to raise revenues. Some of this involves Alan and I going to events like fans forums and race-days. We go through the list and realise we are away virtually every week between now and Autumn. York races, a social club in Manchester, and later on England’s away game in Macedonia are among our venues.
I go home at 3pm and spend the evening watching more European football.