A Fortnight’s Footy

The last couple of weeks has seen me cover all sorts of football, in all sorts of places. There’s been a string of Premier League, Champions League and International matches on offer, both at home and abroad. I could reel off a list of glamorous (ahem) locations visited over the past 14 days, such as Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Glasgow, Liverpool, West Bromwich, Burton-upon-Trent, Lisbon and Ipswich, all of which have played host to matches from different competitions, with different degrees of importance.

It all started at Old Trafford, where Manchester United took on West Bromwich Albion…

 

A burger stall situated on Sir Matt Busby Way, close to Old Trafford
A burger van situated on Sir Matt Busby Way, close to Old Trafford

 

Man Utd’s equalising goal proved a tricky one, from a photographer’s point of view. A free kick from the far side of the penalty box was swung in with pace by Wayne Rooney, with the sole intention of getting it on target so that a deft touch would probably put it into the net, but equally, no touch at all could trick the goalkeeper and the ball could end up in the net anyway. As it happens, the latter occurred. I pre-focussed my 70-200mm lens on the 6-yard line in front of the goalkeeper, knowing that any significant action would be most likely to occur there. Utd players Jonny Evans and Javier Hernandez both threw themselves in the direction of the ball as it flew across goal, but neither of them touched it, allowing it to swing straight into the corner, past goalkeeper Boaz Myhill…

 

West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill is helpless as the ball floats over Jonny Evans (L) and Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and straight into his goal
West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill is helpless as the ball floats over Jonny Evans (L) and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and straight into his goal

 

Man Utd fans sit tight as their team slide to defeat
Man Utd fans sit tight as their team slide to defeat

 

The following day I made the short journey down the A500 to the Britannia Stadium for Stoke City’s match against Norwich City. The sun was out for the early kick-off, so I took the chance to go for a wander around the ground with the 50mm f/1.4 to see what was happening…

 

Signs point fans in the right direction outside Stoke City's Britannia Stadium
Signs point fans in the right direction outside Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium

 

A Stoke fan shows her allegiance as she buys a programme before their match against Norwich
A Stoke fan shows her allegiance as she buys a programme before their match against Norwich

 

Tuesday meant a trip to Glasgow, to see Celtic take on FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League group stages. Celtic have been drawn in a particularly tough group, with some top sides, so I’ll be surprised if this is my only trip up there this side of Christmas…

 

A couple of Celtic fans pose up before their side's UEFA Champions League match against FC Barcelona at Parkhead
A couple of Celtic fans pose up before their side’s UEFA Champions League match against FC Barcelona at Parkhead

 

A huge stash of historic Celtic matchday programmes on sale before the match
A huge stash of historic Celtic matchday programmes on sale before the game

 

A general view of Parkhead as Celtic fans hold their green & white scarves aloft before the match
A general view of Parkhead as Celtic fans hold their green & white scarves aloft before the match

 

Scott Brown of Celtic battles with Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona
Scott Brown of Celtic battles with Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona

 

Adriano of Barcelona shoots past Efe Ambrose of Celtic
Adriano of Barcelona shoots past Efe Ambrose of Celtic

 

Giorgios Samaras of Celtic looks dejected
Giorgios Samaras of Celtic looks dejected

 

After a long drive home with colleagues Simon and Matt, it was back to Manchester the next evening, only this time, to the blue side, where Bayern Munich were the visitors taking on Man City. The reigning Champions had more or less a full strength side, and under the leadership of new coach, Pep Guardiola, proceeded to play City off the park in their own stadium…

 

Bayern Munich players pose for a team photo before their UCL match against Manchester City
Bayern Munich players pose for a team photo before their UCL match against Manchester City

 

Yaya Toure of Man City stretches to tackle Toni Kroos of Bayern
Yaya Toure of Man City stretches to tackle Toni Kroos of Bayern

 

Franck Ribery of Bayern celebrates with teammte David Alaba after scoring their 1st goal
Franck Ribery of Bayern celebrates with teammte David Alaba after scoring their 1st goal

 

Bayern fans wave their arms from side-to-side as they celebrate
Bayern fans wave their arms from side-to-side as they celebrate

 

Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart looks angry with himself after conceding the first of three goals
Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart looks angry with himself after conceding the first of three goals

 

Next it was back to the Premier League, with a trip to Anfield where Luis Suarez was the man to watch. This was his first home game back following his ban, and therefore his first game in this season’s famous red home kit. I had to make sure he was the focus of my attention throughout the day…

 

The Premier League match ball sits on it's plinth before the game between Liverpool and Crystal Palace
The Barclays Premier League match ball rests on it’s plinth prior to the game between Liverpool and Crystal Palace

 

Luis Suarez of Liverpool jumps to compete for the ball with Damien Delaney of Palace
Luis Suarez of Liverpool jumps to compete for the ball with Damien Delaney of Palace

 

Stuart O'Keefe of Palace chases Luis Suarez of Liverpool
Stuart O’Keefe of Palace chases Luis Suarez of Liverpool

 

Luis Suarez of Liverpool appeals in vain
Luis Suarez of Liverpool appeals in vain

 

Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates
Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates

 

The next day, I drove down the M6 to West Bromwich, to see the Baggies take on Arsenal. Offside have a number of clients all over the world, and particularly in France…this made this match hugely significant to me, as there were a number of French players in attendance. Anelka, Amalfitano, Giroud, Flamini, that’s just to name a few. The match needed coverage, both in terms of stock, and in terms of goals, celebrations and incidents. I sat in a position that allowed me to shoot directly into the sun, dulling my backgrounds and creating a nice rimlight around the players. It was the only corner of the ground where the backgrounds wouldn’t be bleached out and overexposed, but unfortunately, it was also the only corner of the ground where not a lot happened, and that included the goals and celebrations.

On days like that, you just have to knuckle down and do the job and get as much out of the 90 minutes as you can, and I feel I did that, despite being in the wrong place for the next day’s news stories…

 

Nicolas Anelka of West Bromwich Albion takes on the Arsenal players
Nicolas Anelka of West Bromwich Albion takes on the Arsenal players

 

Jack Wilshere of Arsenal encourages his team to press the opposition
Jack Wilshere of Arsenal encourages his team to press the opposition

 

A general view as the sun begins to set after the match at The Hawthorns
A general view as the sun begins to set after the match at The Hawthorns

 

Next up was a trip to St. George’s Park once again, the England national team’s Staffordshire training base. After Joe Hart’s calamitous mid-week performance against Bayern Munich, newspapers were quick to question his position as England’s number one goalkeeper, and with substitutes John Ruddy and Fraser Forster enjoying a rich vein of form, all eyes were on the men between the posts during our allotted 15 minutes…

 

A bag of England footballs seen before the training session at St. George's Park
A bag of England footballs seen before the training session at St. George’s Park

 

In a bad week for Joe Hart, his fellow England goalkeepers watch on during a training session
 Joe Hart dives for the ball, as fellow England goalkeepers Fraser Forster (L) and John Ruddy watch on

 

Despite covering England’s training session, my brief for the international break did in fact include a trip to Lisbon, to spend an entire match covering arguably the world’s most famous player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Israel were the visitors to the Portuguese capital for their FIFA World Cup Group F Qualifier, and after an early drive down to Luton Airport and an easyJet flight over to sunny Lisbon, I’d arrived for my first match at the Estadio Jose Alvalade. I always look forward to visiting a new stadium, be it in the UK or abroad, but after my working experience at this stadium, I won’t be in a rush to return.

From the moment I arrived, things were made awkward for us as photographers – I had to climb a flight of steps that would’ve made any UK Health & Safety officer have a heart attack, from the moat that our Photographers’ Room was located in up to the pitch level. Once up there, there was no WiFi signal whatsoever, in terms of modern stadia, the floodlights were pretty terrible, both in terms of strength and colour, and then, when the teams emerged for their national anthems, we were kept back at the corner flag, unable to shoot player headshots, manager portraits and general stadium views. The anthems finished, and we were still held back. The players tripped off their jackets for a team photo, and we were still held back. It was only as the players crouched down – 30 yards away from the photographers that they were posing for (side-on) that we were finally released, like a herd of sheep as we raced to get the team photo before they decided against it. I dumped my 400mm lens down on the grass, lifted my 70-200mm and blasted for what felt like a millisecond before they were up and away.

I’ve never witnessed such ridiculous pre-match behaviour anywhere before. And to top it off, when the coin toss had been performed and Portugal ended up attacking in the opposite direction, were told we couldn’t walk across to the other end…we had to walk around the entire perimeter of the pitch to get there. By the time I’d sat down – more than 5 minutes into the match – not only was I exhausted, but I was also annoyed and aggravated, not a good mood to be in when trying to compose yourself for 90 minutes’ concentration…

 

 

A general view of the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon, prior to Portugal's match against Israel
A general view of the Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon, prior to Portugal’s match against Israel

 

Portugal players pose for a team photo ahead of their match against Israel
Portugal players pose for a team photo ahead of their match against Israel

 

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal makes a point
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal makes a point

 

Cristiano Ronaldo gestures to his teammates as they struggle to find a way through
Cristiano Ronaldo gestures to his teammates as they struggle to find a goal

 

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is pressed by the Israeli defence
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is pressed by the Israeli defence

 

Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected as Portugal can only manage a draw against Israel
Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected as Portugal can only manage a draw against Israel

 

After flying back into Luton the following morning, I decided to head straight over to Suffolk to spend the weekend with my family, before going to Portman Road in Ipswich on Tuesday evening to cover the England U21 side, in action against Lithuania U21 in a Euro Qualifier. Some big emerging names were in action, as well as some new faces, so it was a chance to stock up on those who’ll be pushing to make what we now know will be a definite World Cup squad for Brazil next year…

 

England U21 players Wilfried Zaha, Ravel Morrison and Tom Ince walk out before their Euro Qualifier against Lithuania in Ipswich
England U21 players Wilfried Zaha (L), Ravel Morrison (C) and Tom Ince walk out before their UEFA U21 European Championship Qualifier against Lithuania at Portman Road in Ipswich

 

Tom Ince of England battles with Daniel Gunevic of Lithuania
Tom Ince of England battles with Daniel Gunevic of Lithuania

 

Ravel Morrison (R) scores the 1st goal of the night for England U21
Ravel Morrison (R) scores the 1st goal of the night for England U21

 

Ravel Morrison of England U21 breaks through the Lithuanian defence
Ravel Morrison of England U21 breaks through the Lithuanian defence

 

Saido Berahino scores a penalty to give England U21 a 5-0 victory over Lithuania
Saido Berahino scores a penalty to give England U21 a 5-0 victory over Lithuania

 

Saido Berahino celebrates after scoring the 5th and final goal
Saido Berahino celebrates after scoring the 5th and final goal

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s