Football provides some memories that you can not hide from sometimes. After leaving college, without any thought – a journalist I new suggested that we take two weeks off and go to the not yet official country of Croatia. We went to Yugoslavia to document the day Croatia became a new country. Basically I went to cover a civil war.
Watching mortar fire at night, far better than any firework display I have ever seen but knowing when each bomb lands, houses were being destroyed and people were being killed quickly hardened me up from my humble background of sleepy Shropshire.
I found myself at the front line. Not knowing what to photograph, I kind of wish I could do it all again and take better pictures but experience counts for everything. I was taught it is good to be lucky but not lucky to be good by a great guy called Paul Jenks who worked for AFP. I will never forget the day I saw his face on TV! I asked people what was being said and a girl told me in perfect English that he had been shot dead by the Serbs.
It suddenly became all too real and soon I was back home with my trusty 600mm lens photographing Shrewsbury Town and doing what I do now.
Croatia is a lovely country. The people are so proud of their country. They are a very hard nation but very sincere also.
So I have a bit of a soft spot for Croatia. Who did I want to win? I don’t think about the conclusion to my thoughts on this one! I marvel at the images taken in 1966. Would it be my time to document my home nation achieving glory? Some of my colleagues were very nervous. Even though I wasn’t, I don’t think I have the same affection for my nation. I am more in love with Japan than the UK.
I am still seeking different pictures. I notice a Croatia player with a Russian doll tattoo. I am happy that I have this picture and I am even more relaxed when my home nation are bricking themselves watching on TV.
So there is a free kick. I spot England players in deep conversation. Normally I would use a long lens to just get the kicker but I am half convinced that they have some sort of training ground plan. Players are mulling around the Croatia wall.
I was wrong, Tripper, 1-0! For once the celebration comes my way. It has been such a long time but Mr T goes to the spot where I have been sitting for most of the tournament as today I am behind the goal and not on the side.
I have done this too long to make my ego explode with delight. You think you have nailed it and have THE picture only to see a picture from someone else which firmly put you back on the ground. I have reasons to be dour and be dismissive to my friends but I simply have NOT got a great shot as there is better out there. A picture editor is not going to choose my picture as there are better ones from elsewhere.
England look good but do not score. The first half goes quick. Kane is denied another goal. In domestic football I doubt I would even send this picture, but this is the FIFA World Cup. Every challenge, every opportunity is scrutinised and upon reflection, even the least harshest critic would suggest that he could have done better.
In the second half Croatia get an equaliser.
This time the celebration is in front of me, but it means nothing. Its just a goal to make it 1-1. Trippers WAS the winning goal as it was then 1-0.
We need another goal – I can not be bothered with the hullabaloo of penalties again!
I was brought up shooting film. My instincts and what I do are still born from that. With digital cameras many now shoot ‘loose’ and can crop in. I kind of think that is cheating. I always strive for the perfectly framed shot every time.
But Croatia score and I do not perfectly frame the shot.
If this was Shrewsbury Town I would go home content. But it is the World Cup. Reuters have a better picture than me. My picture probably won’t get used. End of!
England lose. Croatia are in the final I am at the Croatia and and take pictures of all their wild celebrations. I do not even take notice of the England players! However, I look up and see them in front of the thousands of traveling fans. I take a picture, send it to my editor and in a bizare fashion it ends up on the front page of The Daily Telegraph.
Moaning again, my favourite pictures, the ones I like are never used! By my heart is happy with the Russian doll tattoo. The Daily Telegraph use will help chip away at this very costly exercise!
There are some sad English colleagues in the media centre.
The French ask if I will be singing, “Allez les Blues” on Sunday.
Another team is knocked out of the tournament.
There are only two left.
Life goes on as normal in the 24hr Moscow Metro as I make my way back to what I now call home.
I have a vodka in the hotel bar. I ask for the strongest they have. I do not do beer or Guinness. The Russians make mighty fine vodka. But it has been light outside for many hours now. At 5am when I go to sleep – I know tomorrow will be another sleep day.
Only one last time will I now have to charge batteries, check servers as there is only one match left to do – the FIFA World Cup Final – France v Croatia.