Published on May 14th, 2013 | by maxbloggs


A Day In The Life – At Wembley

Well, well, well – another trip to Wembley, and just as I was starting to think it was all becoming easy and routine for Manchester City, it all went terribly wrong – though, of course I HAD seen this story before.

I drove down to “the smoke” on the Friday, in the BBC van, accompanied by three of the Radio Manchester team, including my commentary sidekick Fred Eyre.

My first role down at Wembley was to be part of our Friday night programme live from the Holiday Inn Express, presented by Jack Dearden, but we arrived early enough to allow me the time to go for a run – yes a jog as some might call it.

I’m running the Greater Manchester 10k for Paul Lake’s charity Jumpspace at the end of May, so every bit of training I can squeeze in will try to prevent any potential embarassment on the big day. I ran for an hour, around the stadium, under the arch and in and around Brent – I reckon I ran about 6 miles.

Quick shower and then it was time for the broadcast.

Paul Rowley, who’s covered Wigan Athletic for Radio Manchester for years, joined us to balance out our debate but within seconds of starting I’d noticed the betting on Roberto Mancini being replaced by Mauel Pellegrini had gone to 4/1 ON, and one or two rumours had started on twitter.

To be honest the rumours had started back in January and many of the former City players I speak to and other journalists (the ones who have the time to chat to agents and foreign journalists) had also been telling me the same thing.

Down at Spurs a few weeks earlier, it seemed like everyone I spoke to was saying the same – Mancini will go, regardless of the result in the Cup Final.

For this story to suddenly be gathering pace on Cup Final eve was heartbreaking, a potential banana skin ahead of the big game against the underdog.

I’d interviewed Will Greenwood – a World Cup winner in Rugby Union, and “City fan” a week earlier. When I asked him if he was confident City would win, he said “like all City fans, I’m very confident”.  I doubted his credentials to claim this, especially when I concluded with, “but Wigan can be a very good side” and his reply was “Wigan Schmiggan”. A touch dismissive I thought, and dare I suggest a little “United like” in that answer.

As our pre-Wembley broadcast continued, the story grew bigger and as reluctant as I was to talk about a potentially damaging story like that, as a BBC journalist, I couldn’t ignore the facts. Not the best prematch mindset for the Final, for the club or me.

Matchday for me consisted of recording a few short interviews for transmission during the morning, with fans enjoying their breakfast and the guy putting a fresh lick of paint on the VIP areas. I was going into the stadium by noon, and the first person I bumped into was Kevin Keegan, who was happy to give me a five minute interview, expressing his hope City would win, and his opinion that Roberto Mancini’s team would win, after which the “rumours” would be quelled.

Inside, I watched rehearsals of the brass band and the singing of the National Anthem while setting up our broadcasting equipment, before grabbing one of the free flags for fans and posing for a snap to be tweeted shortly after.

On the way back outside, en route to the BBC bus on Wembley Way, I “bumped into” Paul Dickov and Jason Roberts – so an interview was quickly recorded with each, a picture for twitter, and then onto the bus.

From 2pm Jimmy Wagg was broadcasting live from there while I chatted to fans, on and off the mike. My friend Val arrived from Romania, though I had little chance for small talk, my wife and 17 year old son, and my mate Charlie.

Loads of live interviews, posing for pictures later and it was soon 4pm, my time to go inside Wembley again.

I had ten minutes to grab a bite and spend a penny before I took over presenting from the press box and then prepared for my commentary.

I was well aware of the story – if Wigan won it was a huge upset, the nation would be delighted – if City won it would be three major trophies in three seasons, but how would it unfold?

With Fred Eyre and former Wigan manager Ray Mathias as my summarisers, I had to give a balanced commentary, follow the story and keep my own feelings in check – afterall this is Radio Manchester.

The story went Wigan’s way, and I must admit, if it wasn’t to be City’s day, there’s no better club to have their moment in the sun. I commentate on a lot of Wigan games, even though City fans think doing the Blues is all I ever do.

Roberto Martinez is a great guy, and the Dave Whelan story is (and was to his club) inspirational.

My son Daniel had asked me a couple of days before the final if City would win and I told him how Wigan had grown from Springfield Park, under Whelan and about his “dream” – Daniel was more cautious going to Wembley than Will Greenwood had been in that interview.

After the game I congratulated Martinez, telling him they’d deserved their win. He said: “Coming from you, such a big City fan, that means a lot.”

Down in the tunnel the atmosphere from the City camp was strange. Brian Kidd said hello, and promised to come back for an interview, though, not surprisingly, he didn’t.

Normally I get to interview Mancini or someone from the management, but not today. Eventually, the always gentlemanly Vincent Kompany stepped up to the plate, apologising for the display and promising a reaction next season.

Rumours that Mancini had blamed “people in the club” for not controlling those Pellegrini rumours, were on everyones lips.

It felt flat and suddenly the journey home seemed daunting, though I can’t deny I was pleased for Wigan and proud that many City fans had stayed to respect them receiving the Cup.

It wasn’t as bad as relegation against Luton or even Stoke, but it was an empty feeling.

I stopped at Warwick services on the way back, there was no tension between fans, which is how it should be, but I was glad to get home in the early hours of Sunday morning,

The lucky balloons in our house that have been up for 2 years – yes you read that right – are coming down now, and in a few days I might watch the video of last season again, to prove to myself that 13th May 2012 wasn’t a dream – 13th May, as Mancini was officially sacked (and 11th too) are days I wish were not the nightmare they turned out to be.

Don’t you just love being a Blue!

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