At 11am on the morning of the 5th April 2019- I woke up with a good vibe. This was because I was going to a stadium, that I had never visited before- Craven Cottage.
It was even better as I was going to watch my local club- Reading U23s play. This was going to be the first time in my life so far that I was going to watch a Reading U23s game.
They took on Fulham U23s at the Cottage at 7pm (UK time).
The level of the game was raised, as we received off the record news before the game that Alfie Mawson was set to play for Fulham. So seeing a first team player in an under 23’s game made it even more exciting.
However we were in for a more surprises, as Mawson wasn’t the only first team player that played in tonight’s game!
But before that, we had to travel all the way from Cheltenham to London, and the coach trip was really fun and smooth. So that made the day even better before watching the game.
After a long journey, filled with traffic (which was no surprise to me due to the fact that we were travelling to London) we arrived at Craven Cottage at around 5pm (UK time).
From the Coach, seeing the Cottage for the first time was amazing. I loved the fact that the stadium had the old and vintage feel to it. Alot of stadiums nowadays are very modern looking, however this stadium had a lovely historic feel to it.
The Cottage itself was beautiful. It was amazing to see a stadium that was built around a Cottage!
The Funniest moment of my day was telling my friend (John Townley) that Fulham is one of the only clubs in England to have a stand for neutral fans! I revealed this to him once he saw the sign for neutral fans- he was so confused!
The first thing I saw getting off the coach was the sign advertising Fulham’s next game in the Premier League;
The next sight that I saw as we were walking to reception to collect our press passes was the famous Johnny Haynes statue outside the Johnny Haynes stand. Initially I had no idea who this person was. But doing my research has led me to find out that he was regarded as Fulham’s best ever player. He was well known for his passing skill, and ability to read a game. And he was known as Fulham through and through, as he stayed at the club for 18 years!
Unfortunately he isn’t alive anymore, but his legacy will be remembered well by the older generation of Fulham fans. And his Statue, means that he will always be remembered by every Fulham fan.
It was nice to see that Fulham actually had a statue with sentimental sense, after their disaster with the Michael Jackson statue!
The worst part of the day came shortly after seeing the iconic Johnny Haynes statue. This was because we had to wait as very long time for all our press passes to be printed out. It was made even worse by the fact that it was very cold- meaning that we had to wait 10-20 minutes outside the Fulham reception in the cold weather.
Another negative of waiting this long was that It made me want to just go to my home (Stamford Bridge), which was just around the corner!
The only positive about waiting this long time for our press passes, was the fact that it allowed me to properly observe what was around me. It was amazing to see all the runners who were passing us as we were waiting. Obviously, it looked like Craven Cottage is a runner friendly place for runners to conduct their daily exercise.
Another thing I properly noticed whilst looking around me outside the Cottage was the fact that the stadium was just outside a housing estate. So it differs from Brentford’s current stadium (Griffin park) because Griffin park is in the middle of a housing estate, whilst Craven Cottage is just outside one.
Once we obtained our press passes, we had our first glance at the press conference room, and the pitch itself!
The press room was a decent size for a Premier League club. Whilst observing what was around the press room, me and Hannah found an old Fulham team sheet. And it had to be from the Liverpool game! Luckily for Hannah, she was able to keep it as souvenir.
Once we were able to go in the press box at around 5:45-5:50pm, my life nearly ended! This was because as I was walking up to the steps that led to the press box, the sprinklers turned on right next to me and nearly gave me a heart attack. My heart skipped a beat, but luckily nothing drastic happened. It would have been great if Hannah or someone behind me were able to record that moment as it was comedy gold!
Once we settled into the press box, there were about 10 minutes before official team news was able to come out. In that time, I got my line up tweet ready for to publish for 6pm (UK time). I also had to get my updated preview ready to publish as Alfie Mawson started to all of our delights, as most people did a preview based on that off the record news given to us a day before the match!
Here was my view from the press box;
Once teams were announced, warm ups got underway, and it was nice just to watch the warm ups for a good hour. Especially Reading U23s in their shooting practice as they looked very sharp. From seeing them in the warm up, I knew that they were going to score at least one goal today.
Fulham warmed up in Kick it out t-shirts, and that was lovely to see them support that amazing initiative to try and kick racism out of the game, which should have happened already, but there are still a few issues in England around racism in football. Luckily it’s not as bad compared to the likes of Montenegro and Italy.
Here were the two teams warming up;
The most challenging part, aside from writing the Match report on the whistle was trying to fill the 1 hour before kick off with productivity on Social Media. My idea was to give out stats, retweet some tweets and try to be interactive with my Twitter and Instagram followers. Here is one example of what I did in that aspect;
Here are some other examples plus the two teams coming out for kickoff.
Into the game now, and Reading started so brightly and won a penalty early on, after Ben House was wiped out by Fulham goalkeeper Luca Ashby-Hammond. Baldock converted the penalty on his return from injury to make it 1-0 to Reading U23s.
They soon made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, when Teddy Howe’s through ball found the run of Been House, who slotted past the onrushing Ashby-Hammond.
Fulham U23s grew into the half, and had two chances to pull one back through Neeskens Kebano (another first team player who played), but Jaakkola saved his two shots well.
Into the second half, and both teams had chances to score, but no one was able to add to the scoreline until the dying moments of the game, when Reading substitute Tyler Frost slotted the ball past Ashby-Hammond to make it a more convincing win for Scott Marshall’s side, as Reading U23s ran out 3-0 winners to my delight.
During the game, we had to start constructing a 200 word BBC style match report, which had to be published on our blogs, and sent to our lecturer- Jon Palmer on the whistle, or a few minutes after the whistle. And I was doing ok, until Reading scored their final goal, as that I meant that I had to change some of my match report in the last minute.
Thankfully, I didn’t get too flustered as I managed to get my report submitted before the deadline.
Here is my match report from the game;
After that panic, it was time to go to the press room, and listen to Fulham U23s player: Matt O’Reily, and Fulham Media assistant: Adam Micklewright- who graduated from the Sports Journalism course at the University of Gloucestershire.
As I entered the press room early with Hannah- we decided to sit at the back of the press room to watch the conclusion of Southampton vs Liverpool. I choose to sit at the back due to the fact that Hannah was so nervous going into the last 15 minutes of that game. Luckily, goals from Salah and Henderson calmed Hannah’s nerves, and that meant we could enjoy the press conference.
First up was Matt Matt O’Reily, and it was good to hear how ambitious he was for his own future. It was also interesting hear about his good relationship with Scott Parker, and the fact that he believed that Fulham being relegated from the Premier League didn’t affect his sides performance tonight.
Next up with Adam Mickelwright, and he was a delight to listen too. He spoke so well about his time at uni, and gave us so much advice. But the thing I took the most, was how glowing he was of what the course taught him. He stated that the course taught him everything for the job except one thing…. PR (Public relations skills).
But when I later clarified with Jon Palmer, he said that the course has evolved since, and next year we have a topic about PR! So it is good to see the course I love develop as the Industry develops.
This was also a good piece of advice that Adam gave us:
So as the press conferences/talks finished, the evening drew closer to an end. Here was my last goodbye to Craven Cottage;
The Coach trip back was fun- listening to people chanting and singing at the back of the coach, and having good conversations with Hannah and Jon Palmer.
We got back just after midnight!
But I would like to say that from every trip so far, I feel like I am developing new skills each time, and overall I feel like I am developing as a Sports Journalist who will be ready to get a job as either a media assistant at a football club, or a broadcaster for TV or radio.
The night before the 9th of February 2019 was my most nervous but excited night in a long time. This was because in the next day, I would be attending my first ever Madrid derby between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Another bonus which made this very exciting, was that I was attending the Madrid derby with 3 close friends from my course (1st year of Sports Journalism) at the University of Gloucestershire. I could guarantee that Hannah, Josh, Billy and I were as excited as each other, but there was a catch…
We were all traveling to Madrid, but without a member of staff. So the 4 of us would be students in a foreign country on our own. However we all worked together and helped each other out when we arrived in Madrid. And thanks to Billy with his expert knowledge and planning of the Spanish Metro underground system, we knew what routes to catch in order to drop our bags off at the Generator Hostel in Madrid, and then make our way to the Wanda Metropolitano via the Spanish Metro.
Surprisingly we arrived at the Wanda Metropolitano with at least one and a half- two hours spare. This allowed us to explore the surroundings of the stadium.
However, there was not alot to do around the stadium. To be honest, the Stadium was in the middle of nowhere to my surprise. Therefore, this made it difficult for us to find any places to get lunch before the game.
With all that in mind, we strolled around the stadium looking at market stalls selling both Atletico and Real merchandise. Amazingly, as we were walking past one market stall, a few scarfs caught the attention of Hannah and I. This was because on two particular scarfs, there were two iconic faces to English football that attracted us to the stall. Fernando Torres most known for his successful time at Liverpool attracted the eyes of Hannah, and Diego Costa most known for his successful time at Chelsea attracted the eyes of me.
We instantly enquired about the prices of both scarfs, and after hearing that they were selling the two scarfs for a reasonable price, Hannah and I decided to buy a scarf each. We were both delighted that we had Atletico scarfs with players that were well known to a Chelsea fan in me, and a Liverpool fan in Hannah.
After buying scarfs, we walked up to our gate and queued up, waiting for the gates to open. In that time we were treated to some pre match entertainment;
At around 2:45pm (Madrid time- 1:45pm UK time), the gates opened, and we were at the front of the quee, therefore we got into the stadium fairly quickly after going through security.
After climbing many stairs we arrived at our stand, and this was my photographic reaction to first seeing the Wanda Metropolitano pitch for the first time in my life;
As we sat down, and soaked up the atmosphere which was building minute by minute, the first notable event which caught my eye was when Thibaut Courtois entered the pitch to start his warm up. The reaction from the Atletico fans were simply astonishing…
What wasn’t shown in the video was the Atletico fans throwing toy rats at Courtois! There is so much hate from the Atletico fans to the Real Goalkeeper, due to the fact that the Belgian use to play at Atletico, and the fact that he transferred from Chelsea to their local rivals in the summer, was seen as a betrayal.
As the clock ticked towards 4:15pm (Madrid time), my anticipation grew alongside the atmosphere in the ground!
Into the game now, and both teams started nervously until the 16th minute when a Real Madrid corner led to the first goal of the game through Casemiro.
Atletico grew into the first half, and equalised in the 25th minute, when Griezmann slotted through Courtois’ legs to level the game at 1-1.
However Real took the lead before half-time after Vinicius Junior drew a penalty in the 41st minute, which Ramos just about converted in the 42nd minute to give Real Madrid a 1-2 lead at half-time.
Into the second half of this game, and nothing seemed to go Atletico’s way, with Morata scoring a goal midway through the second half, which was ruled out after a VAR check for offside!
Things got worse for Atletico as the second half went on, as Bale came off the bench and killed off the game in the 74th minute to make it 1-3 to Real Madrid.
However, there was alot of controversy in Bale’s celebration, and this has led to recent news coming out that he is facing a 12 match suspension for his celebration!
Things got worse for Atletico in the 80th minute, when Partey received a second yellow card for a challenge on Toni Kroos.
The game ended 1-3 to Real Madrid, which meant that the Los Blancos moved up to second place in the table, and this game established the fact that they were going to be the closest challengers to Barcelona in first place.
This Madrid derby also established the fact that Real Madrid are on the way back under Santiago Solari.
Here are the full highlights of this Madrid derby for anyone interested (you may need to click on the link that says watch on youtube in order to watch the highlights from this match).
For shorter highlights;
So as the game ended, it was time to say goodbye to the Wanda Metropolitano… but only for one night as we were going to return for a stadium tour the next day!
Onto the next day now (10th February), and after a lovely morning exploring the Parque de Retiro in Madrid, I was a little apprehensive to go on the stadium tour of Atletico Madrid due to the fact that Chelsea were playing Manchester City. However after watching the first half an hour of the match, I couldn’t wait to get out and start the stadium tour as Chelsea were 4-0 down at the time!
So when we arrived at the Metropolitano, I put the Chelsea result to the back of my mind (6-0 loss), and looked forward to exploring this massive new stadium.
When we arrived, we were surprised by the fact that the we had no one showing us around for the tour! It was a self walking tour around the stadium. The best thing about the tour was seeing the beauty of the stadium at night, especially the Atletico pitch.
Seeing all the new facilities at the stadium was amazing, but what caught my eyes about the Wanda Metropolitano was the size of the press room. It was bigger than my main lecture theatre!
But overall the Wanda Metropolitano was a wonderful stadium. It gave me vibes of Wembley. However what let it down for me was the lack of history at the stadium due to it being brand new. This is something that the Vicente Calderón Stadium would have provided if it was still Atletico’s stadium.
With all that in mind, It was still a great stadium to visit on two occasions. Here are some of my pictures from the stadium;
On the Monday we didn’t go and visit a stadium, however we visited a Journalist who is famous in Spain for covering all the big matches in La Liga. Sid Lowe is a famous English Speaking Journalist who covers La Liga for the Guardian.
We had a lovely talk with him about his career, and I found it very interesting how he got into his job, through a PhD in Political History! He also spoke about the differences between Newspaper agendas in England and Spain.
The next day was our last day in Madrid. However we still had something special lined up… A trip to the Santiago Bernabeu to do a stadium tour of this historical ground.
When we arrived at the stadium, I was amazed by the historical look of this wonderful ground. The main difference between the Bernabeu and Wanda was the historical outlook. Real Madrid had a massive museum which was open to the public, however it still remains to be seen whether Atletico have a museum at the Wanda, as it wasn’t part of the stadium tour…
Here are some of my pics from the Bernabeu;
As we finished the Bernabeu tour, I realised that the trip was coming to an unfortunate end…
I would just like to say thank you to all the team at the University of Gloucestershire for making this possible. It was amazing to visit two historic clubs in a spectacular city like Madrid. I would also like to say thank you to all my Sports Journalism mates who I experienced the trip with. It wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t shared this experience with all my friends on the course.
I have now been to 3 parts of Spain (Madrid, Malaga and Seville) and I must say Spain is a lovely country for its culture and obviously its football pedigree.
I look forward to next year’s trip with the Sports Journalism team, and I can’t wait to visit more football stadiums and to learn more about different cultures.
Early indications are that the trip could be to Germany, which would be amazing as that’s a country that I have never visited before.
Also Germany is home to the Bundesliga, so if we were able to watch a Bundesliga match then that would be fantastic. Plus Football is relatively cheap in Germany compared to many European Countries….
I certainly can’t wait to find out where exactly the trip for next year will be. We will soon find out…