YOU know a football club has really hit the big time when Children’s BBC start sending a reporter to your press conferences.
Manchester City are that club. And so among the phalanx of journalists gathering to speak to Mark Hughes ahead of Saturday’s match with Chelsea was Gavin Ramjaun from Sportsround.
(For those of you whose knowledge of children’s television stopped somewhere between Chris Tarrant and Michaela Strachan, Sportsround is the Saturday spin-off of Newsround. Yes, Newsround is still going, and no, John Craven doesn’t present it any more. Although, trivia fans, Craven’s late 70s and early 80s stand-in Paul McDowell does contribute articles to Manchester City’s matchday programme. Which brings me back to the City game on Saturday. See how everything fits so neatly? I don’t just cobble these articles together, you know.)
Ramjaun’s day job is slightly more varied than mine – Sportsround recently set him the challenge of trying all 28 Olympic sports in three days, something I would only be able to achieve if making a cup of tea, checking my e-mails and cleaning the cooker were all included in the programme for London 2012. And as a children’s television presenter, he was – by some distance – the perkiest person in the room.
“Hi Mark, I’m Gavin from CBBC Sportsround,” he piped up from the back of the room with a cheeriness which left some of the reporters at the front genuinely bemused. “Do you think expectations have risen a bit too quickly with all that’s happened? And also: how’s Robinho been settling in with his new team-mates?”
Hughes, perhaps sensing the opportunity to spread the City word to an audience which is currently getting indignant about plans to introduce CCTV cameras in schools, answered the question with good humour.
“He’s settled in with his Brazilian team-mates, because those are the only ones he’s seen so far,” he smiled, before leading into a more serious answer, which I presume you’ll be able to see on Sportsround this Saturday at 11.45am on BBC2.
It doesn’t seem to matter what sort of questions Hughes faces, he’s able to deal with them.
He has been particularly impressive when dealing with the media over the last couple of weeks, as takeover hysteria has threatened to overwhelm everything else going on at the club.
Hughes has managed to sound both ambitious and realistic, talking of winning trophies, while warning that it may not happen this season.
His ability to say the right thing in the face of some very tricky questions might, in another life, have made him a very good politician. I don’t think Hughes would have fallen into the trap that caught Barack Obama this week when he responded to Sarah Palin’s claim that she was ‘a pitbull with lipstick’ by saying: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
(And anyway, can you put lipstick on a pig? Or is it unethical, like testing mascara on rabbits? I’m sure Newsround viewers will have an opinion on that one.)
Hughes’ diplomacy skills have been very useful in steering City through an eventful three months since he took over. His football management skills will come in very useful over the next eight months as he bids to steer City to the heights they haven’t scaled since the 1970s.
Get it right, and he’ll be making a few more appearances on Sportsround. A long stay in the big time beckons.