2008 slightly skewed: July to September

MY random and heavily-biased review of 2008 reaches July, as I reach for a couple of segments of chocolate orange. Mmm, tasty.

July

Comedian Robert Webb (aka Jeremy from Peep Show) provided arguably the most astute analysis yet of Jose Mourinho and his methods while appearing as a guest on BBC1’s Would I Lie To You? (The panel game that Angus Deayton is allowed to present.)

Having watched a clip of Mourinho’s infamous final press conference as Chelsea manager, in which the Portuguese went on at great length about how you need the best eggs to make the best omelettes, Webb went into the following rant:

“He’s launched fearlessly into this extended egg metaphor in a second language, and he’s a football manager – not the most eloquent, chatty guys, usually.

“And towards the end, he starts to slightly smile, as if to say: ‘I even amaze myself.’

“And then you get these arse-licky sports journalists chuckling along, going: ‘Oh, Jose’s off on one again. I love it when he goes off on one. Oh, what a character!’

“What a boring twat.”

Webb’s rant was made all the more impressive by the fact that sports journalist Gabby Logan was sitting around six feet away from him at the time.

Mourinho had, of course, returned to management with Inter Milan by the time the show went out, but has continued to be linked with a move back to the Premier League, most notably with Manchester City.

I realise there are people who would love to see him back in English football. They forget how boring his Chelsea team were to watch, and how far his press conference theatrics had to go to disguise that.

Even so, I realise there are people who would then say: “Ah, but he got results.”

This, to my mind, only matters to the exclusion of entertaining football if:

a) You support the team he is in charge of.

b) Supporting that team creates such a large part of your self-esteem that you are the sort of twerp who strides into your office on a Monday morning to chant ‘one-nil, one-nil’ at your colleagues, oblivious to the fact that they all hate you for your smugness and lack of personality.

In other news, Rafael Nadal won the most dramatic Wimbledon final since Borg-McEnroe Take One. By the time he clinched a final-set victory over Roger Federer, it was so dark that anyone just tuning in might have thought they were watching an episode of EastEnders.

Even more astonishingly, there was a British winner too. Laura Robson claimed the girls’ singles title by beating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, to the delight of whoever had to engrave the trophy.

August

What other sporting event could get under way with Sarah Brightman singing in Mandarin on top of a giant globe?

Forget Eurovision, forget Strictly Come Dancing, forget The X Factor. There is no camper spectacle than an Olympic Games opening ceremony.

This one went on for so long, that even the relentless perky Hazel Irvine started to sound bored.

The most absurd moment during the endless parade of athletes came with the entry into the stadium of Nauru’s team, consisting of one competitor – weightlifter Itte Detenamo – surrounded by five officials.

(Although the most absurd part of the entire ceremony was the Milli Vanilli moment, when a Chinese schoolgirl mimed along to another Chinese schoolgirl who wasn’t as pretty, but could sing better.)

Great Britain’s cycling team grabbed a large share of the glory, winning eight of the nation’s 19 gold medals – their best tally since 1920. Chris Hoy’s three golds would eventually ensure him the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year prize, Bradley Wiggins went home with two, while Vicky Pendleton (a strong contender for the mantle of ‘nicest person in sport’) finally started to get the kind of profile her hard work deserved as she won the women’s individual pursuit.

Despite that, they were nearly all upstaged by Boris Johnson, who gave an extraordinary speech at the Olympic handover ceremony in which he declared “ping pong’s coming home”.

September

I have worked in journalism for 10 years. I have never had a more stressful day than I had on September 1.

That was the day Manchester City were taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and my job was to keep on top of all the transfer speculation surrounding the club.

This was no easy task, given that City were being linked with pretty much every decent player in Europe. I spent most of the day watching Sky Sports News and trying to phone anyone at City I could get hold of to find out what was going on.

Sky Sports News came into its own on transfer deadline day. Reporters stood in windswept car parks telling us of players arriving for medicals, while back in the studio, their colleagues tried to make sense of it all.

The three reporters who stood out that day were Bryan Swanson, Andy Burton and Alan Myers.

Swanson is possibly the most cheerful man in sports journalism. If he were sent to report from the middle of a nuclear explosion, he would no doubt grin out the words, “We really are seeing history in the making here” as his face disintegrated.

But while Swanson was getting incredibly excited over the slightest thing during the day, Burton cut a much more tense figure as the midnight deadline approached. There was a look of genuine agitation on his face every time a presenter asked him a question he wasn’t sure of the answer to.

It was Burton, with three mobile phones spread out on the desk in front of him, who was trying to get to the bottom of Robinho’s possible switch to Manchester City as midnight approached.

But it was Myers, standing in the rain outside Eastlands trying to deliver live reports with City fans jumping around in front of him, who had the toughest task of all. When Robinho’s signing was finally confirmed at midnight, Myers disappeared under a scrum of chanting supporters. I actually feared for his safety.

In the days after the takeover, Noel Gallagher quipped that every time a Manchester United fan filled up their car with petrol, they were adding to City’s transfer budget. To which the only sensible response is: Noel, why can’t you write songs as witty as that any more?

City’s takeover created such a hoo-hah that even Children’s BBC sent a reporter to the press conference ahead of their game against Chelsea.

But my strangest sporting experience of September was still to come. It happened at Pride Park on September 13 where, at the 37th time of asking, Derby County finally won a league game, beating Sheffield United 2-1. It ended the longest winless streak in English league history.

I spent the match sitting next to Gabriel Clarke from The Championship, a man so frightening that he managed to scare the living daylights out of me just by peering over at my laptop.

I got the impression that he was distinctly unimpressed by the report I was writing. Gabriel, I did my best.

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