Wet January Football

Everyone knows it’s been a wet January. News reports won’t stop reminding us, which makes it that little bit harder to get motivated for football matches, knowing we’re going to be sitting still in that rain for at least 90 cold minutes, usually 3-4 times a week. There’s only so much water a camera, lens or laptop can take, but still, we push it all just that little bit further. Some of us can look forward to the summer months covering the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, but it’ll be their so-called ‘winter’ by then too, and the climate can vary so much from one region to another that the chances are we’ll have our fair share of downpours there too.

January’s always full of surprises…the FA Cup throws up odd results, as do the latter stages of the League Cup, and, with the opening of the transfer window, clubs are able to restructure squads in a bid to turn around their fortunes.

For me, the month started with the FA Cup 3rd Round…traditionally a chance for smaller clubs to pit their wits against the big guns. I trekked up to Ewood Park on the Saturday to see Manchester City take on Blackburn Rovers, before heading to Manchester the following day to see United host Swansea City…

 

A Man City fan on his mobile phone before their match against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park
A Man City fan on his mobile phone before their match against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park

 

Alvaro Negredo of Man City sticks his tongue out after missing an opportunity to score
Alvaro Negredo of Man City sticks his tongue out after missing an opportunity to score

 

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Man Utd battles with Neil Taylor  (L) and Chico of Swansea
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez of Man Utd battles with Neil Taylor (L) and Chico of Swansea

 

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez of Man Utd scores their 1st goal
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez of Man Utd scores their 1st goal against Swansea

 

Then it was on to Manchester, to see if West Ham United could do anything to stop the Manchester City goal machine in the 1st Leg of their Capital One Cup Semi-Final tie. As it turned out, West Ham were useless, and had no idea how to contain the power and depth of their opponents…

 

Edin Dzeko of Man City (R) celebrates another goal with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov
Edin Dzeko of Man City (R) celebrates another goal against West Ham with teammate Aleksandar Kolarov

 

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce looks dejected as he stands in the rain
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce looks dejected as he stands in the rain whilst his side crash to a heavy defeat away to Man City

 

The rain continued to hammer down, and when the weather’s bad, there are few worse places to visit than Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium. Up on a hill, exposed to the elements, there would be no hiding from the rain that had been forecast. And the forecast was right. It was torrential, all night long, and couple that with being at the wrong end for the winning goals and major talking points, I couldn’t wait to get out of there…

 

Peter Crouch of Stoke battles with Martin Skrtel of Liverpool
Peter Crouch of Stoke battles with Martin Skrtel of Liverpool in the rain

 

Villa Park was my next stop, where Arsenal were the visitors. Doubling up monsieur Leech, we decided I’d shoot the managers during the first 45 mins, before moving to the end of the pitch for the second half. Although (again) the winning goal went in at the other end, I came away with a couple of offbeat pictures that I was happy with…

 

Olivier Giroud of Arsenal leaps to control the ball against Aston Villa
Olivier Giroud of Arsenal leaps to control the ball against Aston Villa

 

Arsenal substitute Lukas Podolski stands on the ball during half-time against Aston Villa
Arsenal substitute Lukas Podolski stands on the ball during half-time against Aston Villa

 

Liverpool vs. Aston Villa – another late kick-off. Saturday evening, 5.30pm…

 

Luis Suarez of Liverpool battles with Ciaran Clark of Villa
Luis Suarez of Liverpool battles with Ciaran Clark of Villa

 

And then came the Zoopla story…a story which emerged in the news shortly before West Brom’s home game against Everton. Pepe Mel was to take charge of his first home game for West Brom, but all the talk prior to the game was surrounding their controversial French striker Nicolas Anelka. He’d recently celebrated a goal using a controversial gesture, and in the lead-up to this match, the club’s main sponsors, Zoopla, announced that they wouldn’t be renewing their sponsorship of the club at the end of the season, in light of the bad publicity Anelka’s so-called ‘quenelle’ gesture had given the club and their brand.

Queue lots of pictures of their logo, lots of publicity, and, ultimately, lots of nothingness…

 

An advertising board on the side of The Hawthorns stadium claims the club is proudly sponsored by Zoopla
An advertising board on the side of The Hawthorns stadium claims the club is proudly sponsored by Zoopla

 

New West Brom manager Pepe Mel waves to the crowd before his 1st home match in charge, against Everton
New West Brom manager Pepe Mel waves to the crowd before his 1st home match in charge, against Everton

 

That next week, Man Utd hosted Sunderland in the Capital One Cup Semi-Final (2nd Leg) trailing 2-1 from the first match at the Stadium of Light. All eyes were on David Moyes, as pressure was beginning to mount on him to make a decent challenge for some sort of silverware, or at least just a victory! Unfortunately for him, it didn’t quite go according to plan…

 

Phillip Bardsley (L) and Adam Johnson (R) of Sunderland challenge Adnan Januzaj (2L) and Danny Welbeck (2R) of Man Utd
Phil Bardsley (L) and Adam Johnson (R) of Sunderland challenge Adnan Januzaj (2L) and Danny Welbeck (2R) of Man Utd

 

Man Utd manager David Moyes speaks to his players before extra-time in their Capital One Cup Semi-Final (2nd Leg) match against Sunderland
Man Utd manager David Moyes speaks to his players before extra-time in their Capital One Cup Semi-Final (2nd Leg) match against Sunderland

 

goalkeeper Vito Mannone saves a penalty from Rafael Da Silva of Man Utd to win the match
Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone saves a penalty from Rafael Da Silva of Man Utd to win the match

 

Craig Gardner of Sunderland (C) celebrates victory with Steven Fletcher (2R) and goalkeeper Vito Mannone
Craig Gardner of Sunderland (C) celebrates victory with Steven Fletcher (2R) and goalkeeper Vito Mannone

 

Sunderland players celebrate their victory over Man Utd in the Capital One Cup to reach Wembley
Sunderland players celebrate their victory over Man Utd in the Capital One Cup to reach Wembley

 

FA Cup 4th Round – Rochdale vs. Sheffield Wednesday. Torrential rain once again, a quagmire of a pitch in places, and, as it turned out, no upset…

 

Programme stalls lined up before the FA Cup 4th Round match between Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday
Programme stalls lined up before the FA Cup 4th Round match between Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday

 

An overhead view as the players walk out of the tunnel for the FA Cup match between Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday
An overhead view as the players walk out of the tunnel for the FA Cup match between Rochdale and Sheffield Wednesday

 

Jamie Allen of Rochdale battles with Jose Semedo of Wednesday
Jamie Allen of Rochdale battles with Jose Semedo of Wednesday

 

The biggest transfer news of the month so far had to be Juan Mata’s move from Chelsea to Man Utd, said to have cost the Reds £37m. Being outside the ‘news’ loop, it was hard to ascertain exactly when there might be a photo opportunity. Fortunately, some colleagues of mine were more in the know and told me to be at their Carrington training complex at 1pm that Monday. We were given a small window to photograph their new signing together with manager David Moyes on one of the practise pitches…

 

New Man Utd signing Juan Mata poses with manager David Moyes
New Man Utd signing Juan Mata poses with manager David Moyes

 

That evening, I stayed around in Manchester before heading over to the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford to photograph the Barclays U21 Premier League match between Man Utd and Man City. As I’ve said before, these games are the perfect opportunity to photograph the potential stars of the future, and the freedom to work anywhere around the pitch means we can often get everything we need. I thought there may have been more fans there than there were, and the match itself didn’t have much going for it, but stock was the aim of the game…

 

A general view of the AJ Bell Salford City Stadium before the u21 match between Man Utd and Man City
A general view of the AJ Bell Salford City Stadium before the u21 match between Man Utd and Man City

 

Davide Petrucci of Man Utd U21 battles with Emyr Huws of Man City U21
Davide Petrucci of Man Utd U21 battles with Emyr Huws of Man City U21

 

The following evening, Man Utd hosted Cardiff City in the Premier League, in a game that saw new signing Juan Mata make his debut for the club. With Robin van Persie also back in the starting line-up, they looked a different side from the one which had been struggling to get results for the past month. They looked relaxed, confident, and lethal, and came away with a 2-0 victory…

 

Wayne Rooney of Man Utd battles with Ben Turner of Cardiff and Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall
Wayne Rooney of Man Utd battles with Ben Turner of Cardiff and Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall

 

New Man Utd signing Juan Mata on his debut for the club, against Cardiff City
New Man Utd signing Juan Mata on his debut for the club, against Cardiff City

 

Robin van Persie celebrates with his Man Utd teammates after scoring their 1st goal on his return from injury
Robin van Persie celebrates with his Man Utd teammates after scoring their 1st goal on his return from injury

 

The next evening I ventured down to Villa Park again, to see Aston Villa take on West Bromwich Albion in one of the many variations of a Midland derby. Once again, it was a wet evening…it rained all night long, but there were pictures to be had, which is more than can be said for some Premier League games. What better way to warm yourself up for a cold night ahead than with a trip to the chippy beforehand…

 

Fans gather outside The Villa Chippy before the match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion
Fans gather outside The Villa Chippy before the match between Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion

 

Claudio Yacob of West Brom challenges Christian Benteke of Villa with a high boot
Claudio Yacob of West Brom challenges Christian Benteke of Villa with a high boot

 

Christian Benteke of Villa scores their winner with a penalty to make it 4-3
Christian Benteke of Villa scores their winner with a penalty to make it 4-3

 

Nicolas Anelka of West Brom looks dejected as his side slump to a 4-3 defeat
Nicolas Anelka of West Brom looks dejected as his side slump to a 4-3 defeat

 

The final match of the month saw me travelling over to the FA’s HQ St. George’s Park, to cover the England U17 team in a friendly against Belgium. Once again, stock was at the top of the agenda, although one of my first pictures (which wasn’t a stock shot) turned out to be one of my favourites…

 

Callum Cooke of England U17 battles with Dylan Damraoui of Belguim U17 during the friendly match at St. George's Park
Callum Cooke of England U17 battles with Dylan Damraoui of Belguim U17 during the friendly match at St. George’s Park

 

A grid of stock pictures from the U17 friendly international between England and Belgium at St. George's Park
A grid of stock pictures from the U17 friendly international between England and Belgium at St. George’s Park

 

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