Three hours sleep, a hot shower and I was driving up the Florida Turnpike to the Miami Dolphins Stadium to cover the England team training ahead of their pre-World Cup warm up against Ecuador.
Before I even got into the stadium, the English press pack was on top form. To be fair to the radio men and the hacks, it was the TV people who were kicking off.
The security guards in the stadium had designed a logistical system for journalists to enter – let two through the gate at a time then they go to a table for their bags to be search whilst another two are let through the gate.
It was 1015. England were not due to start for another 45 minutes. But when the ITV man boasted he had filmed the England team entering the stadium with Chips-like Police bikes, the BBC man was a tad angry. It was a small 1-0 but the BBC took it as though they had been knocked out of the World Cup.
Said in the most posh British accent ever, “I need access, right now. I have accreditation. Whats the issue?”. Now I’m probably known as one of the ringleaders when it comes to arguments with stewards, but even I was bowing my head in embarrassment.
A cultural difference? I’d say no. Just pushy southerners!
We all got in and all had ages and ages to chat and gossip before the players came out, saying hello to each other. Some of the media folk here will spend the next 5 weeks together in a Big Brother type environment. Today everyone was exceptionally friendly and happy.
Roy was warming up in the slightly warmer and drier weather compared to yesterday – though the chosen image is for the trash as he appears to have had his arm cut off. As one of my colleagues said, it’s the World Cup, not the Paralympics. It was good practice to edit properly from the start and hopefully keep it that way to avoid the wrath of hyper critical colleagues!
The England FA Press Office came over to say it was 79 degrees and the players were being tested for sweating. There were big American fans by the benches. The writers went into conference, the radio men discussed what was said, whilst it went through one ear and out of the other for the photographers. We had seen the big fans already and had snapped over 100 pictures each of them.
At least it was something to focus on. The local stringers to be fair were clueless and were snapping away at Rooney – because it was Wayne Rooney. England are in Miami to practice in the heat – the problem is though that it is what they call “June Gloom”. Storm Chasers are out in force. The clouds are dark and angry. I guess it’s humid though. No chance of a sun tan on my first week of my ‘holiday’.
Saying that, I snapped away at Gerrard, getting some material that we don’t normally get. At least the players were kicking balls this time. Sometimes they just do stretches and run a bit and that’s the end of the media time and we are all chucked out!
The England staff were running around hectically with large trolleys hell-bent on ensuring the players were hydrated properly.
The story of the day though was Frank Lampard. Frankie was not going to Hollywood but the Big Apple to play in the MLS.
He was also the nominated player for the press conference, walking past a nice display of NFL pictures in the Dolphins Stadium.
A throughly packed small room, I took two frames and promptly left. The radio men came back one by one and waited for Hodgson and Lampard for interviews on the pitch once the TV and scribes had done their stuff. The Ecuador press pack apparently asked Lampard what he knew about Ecuador, the Gaffer stepped in and instead compared the question to the Ecuadorian knowledge of League One outfit Crewe Alexandra.
Ian Dennis from BBC Radio Five Live took a liking to Baggy Bird – well he didn’t really, I explained I was doing a pic-a-day of Baggy Bird On Tour and he kindly obliged to interviewing him.
And then I saw one of the only two England players I know. It was Ben Foster, the WBA goalkeeper, with the other being ex-Shrewsbury Town number one Joe Hart. After a brief hello, I said I had something in my bag.
He had seen Baggy Bird at the secret WBA new Adidas kit shoot I had worked on about a month a go. He is one of the most caring people I know, taking time to talk to quite literally every patient when WBA do their tour of hospitals for Christmas and Easter. Anyway, another Baggy Bird On Tour picture had been done. Had I now got the guts to throw it at him during the National Anthems tomorrow? I don’t want to get him into trouble but it would make a funny picture. Don’t worry the World Cup blog won’t be about Baggy Bird, even though I have to do a picture of him every day.
The stadium wi-fi was more than quick. And they gave us parking lot tickets. That will save us $40! I’ll never complain about the cheeky scousers at Liverpool charging crazy parking fees. The hacks and myself – I don’t know where the other photographers were – mocked the size of the refreshments handed to the media, especially the sandwiches. The ham having one pig in between two pieces of bread. There were no small, just incredibly mega-large, with what seemed like four packs of regular UK supermarket of ham with half a lettuce.
Food was not on the agenda through. Most of us though were downing the cold icy water, feeling a tad guilty for mocking the pampered players with their hydration levels being monitored.
With two publications already found online, at least my fuel for the trip to Tampa had been paid for. Mentally this was important, it’s good to see something published under your belt within the first day or two.
The rest of the day I was useless. Very tired.