Often Partisan

A Day Out In Bristol

As you may well know, I was at the FA Womens Cup Final yesterday, and although I’ve already posted a match report I wanted to write something about the day – both about the quality of the game and about what it was like to be a member of the press.

The day started for me very early – as I had to be in Bristol for around 10am and because I was at the tender mercies of public transport it meant I had to leave my house at around 6am and be at New Street for 7:30. The lack of WiFi on the train down meant I couldn’t do any of my last-minute prep I was hoping for and thus when I did get to the ground I still felt a bit unsure that I knew enough to be able to do the job properly.

Ashton Gate is what I consider to be a proper ground; old-school stands that don’t necessarily match and that hark back to an era when blokes stood on the terraces wearing rosettes and waving rattles. Having picked up my press pass I made my way into the room set aside for the press – which also happened to be the press conference area.

As someone who’s not really done this sort of thing before and is still very much a greenhorn in the world of journalism it was a bit nerve-wracking. As various journos came in I was conscious of not doing or saying something stupid. There was tea and coffee laid on along with some bacon rolls but it wasn’t quite the prawn on ciabatta experience that you might expect.

One thing I also noticed was that most of those that came in hadn’t covered these teams much before. I was indebted to Patrick Day, who writes the reports on Birmingham City Ladies (along with the away reports for the men’s side), as he went through the squad with me discussing how he thought they’d line up and who to watch for.

The press-box at Ashton Gate was something else. Right at the top of the Williams Stand, it was an enclosed area with powerpoints and desks and the like – but it was a bit on the cramped side. As a rather, shall we say husky gentleman the panic set in that if the box was crowded it was going to be very difficult not to bump into other people but thankfully that didn’t come to pass.

As you can see the view was maybe not as good as you could get out on the main stand either – the guy next to me struggled to see either goal because of various things blocking it. I thought journalists would be in competition with each other and would keep things to themselves but there was a lot of discussion in the press box and confirmation between journos over who exactly did what on the pitch.

Let me tell you, it’s hard up there. I had decided to try to do things properly and to write my report as I was watching, like the other journalists, as well as tweeting via the @often_partisan twitter account what was happening. The pressure is on to do all three as you’re having to concentrate on the game, on what you’re writing and what people are saying. We also didn’t have the benefit of replays – for example we all thought Rachel Williams’ effort that was chalked off for being offside was rightly disallowed but as people quickly told me on twitter that wasn’t the case.

I went to the game having only seen one Women’s football game before – an international friendly between England and Iceland at St Andrews and thus I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I think it’s unfair to compare it to a standard of the men’s game because it is slightly different. It felt continental in some ways as it had a slower tempo, there was more time for players on the ball and there was an emphasis on a passing game.

I was impressed with some of the forward play from both teams; Karen Carney for Blues and Dunia Susi for Chelsea both showed good skill in how they beat their marker time and time again and the build-up to Helen Lander’s goal was really good in the way she controlled the ball and then nutmegged Laura Bassett with a cute flick to give herself the opening.

It was full-blooded too; these ladies weren’t shrinking violets and there were some proper 50/50 challenges with all the blood and thunder of the male game. Whilst there wasn’t any truly agricultural challenges there were a few players booked and I did see a bit of needle between a couple of the women.

Whilst last-minute equalizer and extra time equalizer are exciting out on the terraces you can see the consternation it provokes in the press box. There were some loud exclamations when Rachel Williams bundled the ball home and then frantic tapping as copy was being rewritten, and then again twice in extra time. The advantage of it being an early kick off was that there was a bit of time for deadlines to be met so it wasn’t as stressed as I guess it could be – I can only imagine the blood temperature rising when it goes to pens in a late game.

I sat in on both the press conferences and that was an education in itself. Whilst there were the obvious questions about the game, there was obviously an angle being worked by the journos asking both managers about the interruption to the broadcast of the game due to sky going to the red button. Both managers flat-batted it and it seemed to me at least that it was disappointing that the press were focussing on something beyond the control of the managers rather than the game itself.

For example, the Chelsea manager Matt Beard talked about how they thought the ref had cost them the game because he didn’t agree with the free kick that Carney scored from, or the fact Karen took it quickly. Yet no one challenged him on his opinions on this compared to the penalty that Blues Ladies should have had for the challenge on Laura Bassett, or the wrongly disallowed goal.

Parker and Carney were both obviously just happy to have won; they both stressed how much of a team effort it was, praised the opposition (something else Chelsea didn’t really do) and talked about how much it meant to the team and fans – and Birmingham City in general.

It was a great day, and I’d like to thank Adam Baker at Bristol City for giving me the chance to do it, Andy Walker, Chris Coles and Patrick Day for all their help on the day and all of you who corresponded with me on here and on twitter.

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8 Responses to “A Day Out In Bristol”

  • pierre says:

    will you be our midland correspondent on talksport.instead of listening to the “moose” bigging up west ham constantly!

  • BiG says:

    Good luck with the journo work, hope it develops into something for you.

  • DoctorD says:

    Like I said on Almajir’s match report on his blog yesterday, I spotted him after the game, having bought tickets for the part of the stand just below where the press box is. I recalled his “husky gentleman” appearance from a picture on this blog of him presenting the OP player of the year award to Chris Burke and went up to say hi after the match.

    I’d never been to a women’s match before and I was quite impressed with the quality — it stayed pretty consistent throughout the two hours. You could tell the players were properly match fit and knew what it takes to pace themselves through a full 90-minutes game (120 as it turned out).

    Although the game seemed much slower than the men’s, there were plenty of solid tackles and good old-fashioned defensive headers. Blues definitely seemed the better team though and deserved the win on balance I reckon. And all that for £10 for two adults and two kids… I spent more on the half-time pies!

    Obviously the atmosphere was pretty tame — I think a few lads started up a quick KRO near the end but it soon fizzled out. There were lots of kids so plenty of squeaky voices to be heard. But hey, “we” won and that felt quite good.

  • only-me says:

    I watched the game on tv, and not being one who has watched much Ladies football, I was aware over the last year or so that Blues had put together a team to rival the likes of the Arsenal Ladies, I have to admit I really enjoyed the game, it satisfied my fix of football and more.
    I love to see Birmingham win, and to win with so much drama was impressive.

    Id like to say congratulations to the Ladies who deserve the plaudits, they showed a lot of skill, and true Blue spirit, I wont hesitate to watch another game supplied by the Ladies of Birmingham City FC.

    KRO Girls and good luck in the future.

  • Aussiebrum says:

    Great article mate, really excellent. Well done.

  • BowThai says:

    Good insight into the world of football scribes on matchday.I hope you get the opportunity to do more.All the best for the close season.KRO

  • Wingman Blue says:

    Hope this commentary thing pans out for you Al, too – your articles have been both enlightening and steadying through a rocky and unpredictable season. Well done for all your Bluenose support.


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