It’s nearing the end of the season. The End is Nigh – signs held up by religious freaks around the old Wembley Stadium in the late 80’s well before I picked up a camera. I remember it well – there was no Google back then, I had to look in a dictionary to see what Nigh meant!
Looking after clients is paramount in this horrible age of under-cutting. Too many times, those with the purse strings settle for a lesser and a mostly dismal service of images but sadly it keeps their bean counters happy. Alarmingly, standards are slipping as those who seemingly need to produce exciting eye-catching publications for people to purchase, accept poor imagery which does nothing but drive customers away in my opinion.
Invest and reap rewards. You get what you pay for and all that!
Thankfully, some of our clients value their sponsors, value their profile and constantly demand imagery that magnetises the public to read more about what they are doing in order to get their messages across and up their profile.
At 6.00 whilst some of my colleagues will still fast asleep, I was on the road to Cheltenham documenting a charity bike run organised by the Shrewsbury Town Community Trust.
Seeing footballers get injured and seeing them obviously down and grumpy because they can not play is never nice. Footballers are humans after all. They work so hard during their rehabilitation, an aspect that fans never appreciate and never get to see – especially with career threatening injuries.
So photographing people I call friends, out for the season with bad knee injuries, up early to cycle 70 miles along with local cyclists for charity was fun and good for the soul – and as ever photographically challenging. I hate being bored!
Images of people on bikes that could have been taken anywhere are no use to anyone. Using local landmarks and signs in context to tell the story of the day was of paramount importance.
Half way through the cycle ride, we received some terrible news. One of our media colleagues, Colin Bloomfield, had lost his battle with cancer. Colin was one of us and only 33. A Shrewsbury Town fan but like me, had to earn his coin away from his home town and thus worked for BBC Radio Derby.
Despite the bad news, I had to be professional and put behind me the bad news and was cheery and enthusiastic as those completed the cycle ride crossed the line at the entrance to Cheltenham Town FC.
Then it was time for the main event, Cheltenham Town v Shrewsbury Town. Cheltenham losing and as a result being relegated out of the Football League.
Shrewsbury Town showed diligence, celebrating like mad their promotion to League One in their away dressing room and not in the faces of their opponents. Capturing the moment is one thing, but getting subtle branding in the image to appease sponsors is equally important. Sponsors pay the bills.
Before going out onto the pitch, some players hugged me and expressed their sorrow in hearing about Colin and proudly wore T-shirts remembering him and another fan Lloyd Burton – more on him later!
Everton v Manchester United followed. Manchester United were woeful. My health is woeful at the moment, but nothing to write about for Hypercondriac Weekly or indeed those who have been far more seriously ill and have lost their lives as a result.
I just have issues with my Thyroxine Levels – but the pills are knocking me about a bit.
However Wrong End Syndrome was back with me when Chelsea nearly cemented winning the league at Leicester City.
B+ for nice pictures, but grade E for editorially relevant material to provide to the hungry media. My pictures were all irrelevant. Until the very end of the day, when Chelsea celebrated.
Back to Shrewsbury Town, to document a very difficult day.
Meole Brace School in Shrewsbury is quite famous. Joe Hart was a pupil there – umm so was I! But as was a pupil called Lloyd Burton. Lloyd was a football nut. When people pass away, people always say nice things, but when people say he was a fantastic footballer this was the ultimate truth. Looking and playing like Messi, the ball never left his feet. He was the type of boy who when changed teams, the team would go on to score 6 because of his fine play. Shrewsbury Town obviously wanted to sign him up – so did Manchester United and Aston Villa. I am no football scout or coach, but Lloyd would have definitely made it as a professional footballer.
That for sure was a certainty before he got his illness, aged just 9.
Lloyd was seen around the corridors of Shrewsbury Town very frequently and on the training field – players and staff pushing with his wheelchair through thick mud, trying to connect with crosses ! Sometimes I wish I took more pictures. Those I have of Lloyd are great, but there could have been far more.
We met Jose when Chelsea came to town. I taught him to say “Obrigado” – Thank You in Portuguese which he said to him after Mr Mourinho signed a painting. Lloyd was featured on Channel 4 for their night long Stand Up To Cancer extravaganza. David Beckham went out of his way to meet him.
Just like Colin, Lloyd beat cancer and like an injured footballer was in rehabilitation. However the cancer came back. Upon his passing, both Jose and Beckham went out of their way to express their sorrow.
With a near 300 strong gathering at Shrewsbury Town it was a very emotional afternoon as people stood up in tears and spoke about Lloyd during his memorial service.
I was very aware and had to be very careful with Lloyd’s 11 year old friends in not causing a scene when documenting the difficult day. Everyone was looking out onto the pitch left wondering why a star in the making had been taken from us.
When working for a club, you have to keep secrets. You can not sit on the fence. There is only one side to be on, that of the football club – otherwise you lose your contract and lose your house and car!
For days I wanted to tell people I knew about Shrewsbury Town’s new away ki! With no foreign travel, doing studio shoots kept me busy. Using four studio lights, the subjects were lit with the intention of cutting them out for editorial and advertising purposes.
I hate cheating with photoshop but when you only have 10 minutes with each player, you have to adopt the philosophy of the multi-million pound advertising giants who pay stars to pose for them and then sometimes paint them in appropriate surroundings.
Again, keeping it simple. Fashion shoots are all about the kits, making sure nothing is creased, sometimes clipping the back of the shirt around a trained athlete’s torso to give the appearance of a superbly fitting garment is required.
There were more celebrations and partying at the weekend as some of the Football League clubs that AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY work for, held their end of season award nights. Sam did Wolves, I did Shrewsbury.
Again good photography reflects on the club. Having about three seconds to capture the moment, using studio lights at 45 degrees to illuminate the darkest of rooms ensured that the pictures were good enough for editorial and promotional use.
Another season of Shrewsbury Town done and dusted. Thats 25 now!
Then finally the day of the UEFA Champions League Semi Finals. I think this is the first time I have missed doing the semi finals in 18 years.
During the day I felt awful after upping my dosage. I will be OK in a couple of days I’m sure, but just because a photographer is not at Camp Nou, this is not an excuse for not getting nice pictures. There are nice pictures to be had everywhere.
Times photographer Marc Aspland said to me something very important when I first met him in 1990.
Treat every job I do is the most important.
…be it the FIFA World Cup Final or a Women’s Final on a cold and wet Wednesday night in Staffordshire.
As Messi was dribbling past half the Bayern Munich team, I was sat shivering in a rain storm at Stafford Town covering the Shrewsbury Town Ladies team competing in a Cup Final.
It is still football, 11 v 11.
Just like when I was in Spain earlier in the year, the requirements were the same – A clean set of images, showing off club sponsors, players in athletic pose, upright for the magazine, landscape for social media of every player – full frame.
40 seconds from full time, Burton Albion Ladies scored a winning goal.
Life is unfair at the moment for Shrewsbury Town.
To make matters worse, the suspension on my car went on the way home. It’s a good job I am up to speed on invoicing as seemingly we have more bills to pay!