PRESS boxes at football stadiums are thoughtful places of work allowing radio and newspaper reports to be proficiently compiled by well-trained correspondents.
Everyone is helpful and affable to each other. Indeed, true lifetime friendships are formed throughout the close-knit media ranks. It is always good to catch up with fellow journalists to see how they are getting on in their day-to-day lives.
Furthermore, we are truly privileged to be allocated the best seats in the house. Therefore it is a dream job for me as a committed football fan. In fact, I am paid for pursuing my hobby. So what could possibly go wrong?
Well sometimes, unusual events can occur! Let me tell you about a couple of scary unforeseen incidents where I was heavily involved.
Specifically, an angry octogenarian physically accosted me in a press box and I also avoided a surprise stream of projectile vomit by millimetres!
Firstly, I can recall covering a pulsating fixture between Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers on Saturday 12th March 1994 at Carrow Road.
This ding-dong affair provided an unexpected high scoring outcome defying the football betting odds. Norwich led 1-0 at half-time but Rangers roared back to win 4-3.
At the time, I worked for top London radio show Capital Gold Sport. Led by the great innovator Jonathan Pearce, our reporters were encouraged en masse to hysterically shout and scream on air to build up theatrical fever pitch excitement for listeners.
For example, my most notorious commentary described a goal by QPR talisman striker Les Ferdinand. I adopted a mock ragga deejay style before descending into a voice as deep as Barry White:
“FERDINAND IS MASSIVE
FERDINAND IS MASSIVE
To this very day, R’s supporters still keenly remind me on Twitter of the outrageous BOO-YAKA episode. A few people actually think I was being serious at the time which continually amuses me all these years later.
Anyway, swiftly returning to the Norwich game in 1994. As the Rangers goals rattled in, I became louder and louder in my commentary.
And when QPR centre-forward Devon White grabbed the crucial fourth via a crafty right footed finish, I almost spontaneously combusted in describing the ball hitting the back of the net:
…GET IN THERE YOU BEAUTY
… DEVON WHITE…WHITE…WHITE…”
Unfortunately, a group of Norwich City season ticket holders were sitting directly in front of the press box. And one old boy – he must have been 80 years old – had enough of me and my Capital Gold techniques.
He turned around, grabbed my precious matchday statistical notes, ripped them up and threw them in the air whilst yelling venomously into my microphone:
“IT DOESN’T SOUND ANY BETTER IF YOU SHOUT YOU KNOW!”
His heated outburst went out live on Capital Gold and was heard by two million listeners across London.
On another unforgettable occasion, I was reporting on Brighton & Hove Albion in an eagerly anticipated Championship encounter.
It took place on Boxing Day 2005 at the Withdean Stadium – an athletics track that had been converted to give Brighton a temporary venue.
I admired how the homeless Seagulls were doing everything they could to survive. Even so, it was a terrible place to watch football and really wasn’t up to Football League standard. In effect, the media facilities were extremely basic with just two rows of cramped seats.
I arrived early and sat in the front row alongside my radio broadcasting equipment. As usual, I filed my first report 10 minutes prior to kick-off outlining team news and a preview of the action. But no betting expert could have predicted what was about to unfold.
Suddenly, a highly respected national newspaper scribe positioned in the row behind inadvertently decided to violently regurgitate his Christmas lunch.
The multi-coloured vomit shot up in the air and whistled past my right ear. Unfortunately, it landed directly on a Brighton local radio reporter sitting next to me.
An exceptionally nice chap who shall remain nameless. However, he ended up absolutely covered in spew from head to toe including an ample portion of diced carrots matted into his hair.
The poor man was totally distressed. Consequently, he had to rush off to the dressing rooms for a shower before reappearing to flawlessly report on the match wearing a borrowed club tracksuit.
*Credit for the photos in this article belongs to Tony Incenzo*