2010 in review

3 01 2011

So people do actually read this…thanks whoever you are. See more of my features, blogs and interviews at sport.co.uk be merry and enjoy the New Year!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 10 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 30 posts. There were 29 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was July 7th with 99 views. The most popular post that day was Spain v England: a Champions League class apart.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, en.wordpress.com, student-loan-consilidation.com, and it.wikipedia.org.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for spain football, wayne bridge girlfriend, child snatcher, aston villa, and vanessa peronccel.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Spain v England: a Champions League class apart February 2009


Twitter and the twit: How the John Terry affair has granted the press their freedom February 2010


Bitter legacies or best of friends – the top 10 greatest sporting rivalries March 2010
1 comment


England’s World Cup squad as Capello sees it – the goalkeepers February 2010


Sonya Says: England must learn from mistakes or fear punishment March 2009


From Ugo Monye to Gary Mabbutt to Beth Tweddle: My interviews @ sport.co.uk

3 12 2010

What do UFC’s John Hathaway, Patrick Barclay of the Times and Spurs legend Gary Mabbutt have in common?

What links England rugby’s Ugo Monye, Steve Borthwick and Lee Mears to Wales rugby’s Ian Bishop, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny??

What secret does Ryder Cup hero Sam Torrance, Great Britain’s champion gymnast Beth Tweddle and Irish and Lions icon Keith Wood share???

He's got a little secret

The answer: they’ve all had a chat with me, Sam Rider!

Click here, on the highlighted names or click the link below to check out my revelatory, eye-opening, exclusive interviews during my internship with sport.co.uk


REVIEW: News Associates journalism training

11 08 2010

Here I hope to offer up some of my personal experiences of journalism that could help those considering disembarking society and becoming a career hack. First I review my training with News Associates.

Enough is enough. I’ve been completely side tracked. I set this blog up in the first place with the interests of journalism at heart. Specifically to give a firsthand account of the travails experienced in pursuing a career as a trainee in the media. Upstart Liverpool and Man City supporters respectively and of late David Beckham’s Achilles have distracted my attention. So back to the subject at hand…

I tumbled out of university back in 2008, a history graduate, with the big, bad world sprawled out ahead of me. My dissertation studying the portrayal of the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson (please refrain from picturing the beach-bum surfing, acoustic guitar strumming Hawaiian) in the black and white newspapers of twentieth century America turned my attention toward the role media has to play, both for sport, society and primarily for my career.Jack Johnson (right) no watered down lyrics in sight

I perhaps did not take full advantage of the array of opportunities provided at a well run student union. (See Stewart Maclean’s route to The Mirror and a nomination for the British Press Awards Young Journalist of the Year.) I dabbled in reporting for the paper, covering boxing and football events. Yet there is so much more scope for experience at this level and one should take every chance to practise a bit of feature writing, interviewing, sub-editing, broadcast and radio journalism as possible. Even try to take a year abroad and dabble in foreign forms of media if you are ultra keen and focused. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finer things in life along the way. Think Gonzo journalism in Fear and Loathing. Anyway, I didn’t grasp every opportunity. We live and learn.

So in early 2009 I enrolled on the News Associates journalism course. Acceptance on the course is fairly liberal but I did attend a one day taster workshop. Here they ask you to sit a short current affairs test to prove you aren’t brain dead (example: Who is that horrible racist man always in the news? It’s a trick question. They want you to answer Nick Griffin even though we all know the real answer is Prince Philip.) There was also a writing exercise requiring you to show you can cut down on waffle and trim a short article into a shorter article (basically just delete anywhere it says ‘that’ and don’t follow my lead on this blog).Prince Philip dashing and lovingly racist

The course is National Council for the Training of Journalism (NCTJ) accredited and ideal for developing the practical elements essential for a hard-nosed, hungry local newspaper reporter. But herein lies the key word: local. If council meetings and disgruntled neighbourhood watch residents are your thing, and you don’t mind your local celebrity being a ninety year old organ player then this course and above all the public affairs (PA) module will be right up your partially obstructed ginnel (that’s an alleyway in the quaint Yorkshire dialect! Who knew?).

Regardless of this caveat, the skills learnt with News Associates are quintessential for a long and successful career in the industry, at all levels from local to national, so don’t stop reading just yet.

  • News Associates
  • NCTJ accredited pre-entry journalism certificate
  • Wimbledon or Manchester centre
  • News writing | Media law | Public Affairs | Shorthand
  • 20 weeks fast track | 40 weeks part time
  • £3,150 – £3,500

As for PA, tedious is not even the word but it is useful, just painstakingly so. The news writing module gears you up for all the local community-centric predicaments you could get yourself into but the exam is an absolute bitch! On average only half the class passes this first time, something they conveniently chose not to divulge until you’ve handed over the cheque. Always remember to read the small print.

By contrast, the fundamental learning offered on this course is shorthand, learnt in teeline with a target of 100 words per minute, and media law. Get your head around the Sexual Offences Act, 2003, defamation and contempt of court and you’re halfway to being hired by lawyer-loathing editors up and down the country. Another essential item to walk away with is a shiny, sparkling folder containing all the fruits of your labour, emblazoned with that pride-inspiring four syllable word: PORTFOLIO.Gobbledeegook aka. shorthand

As News Ass’ managing editor James Toney says: “It’s difficult to get a foot in the newsroom without qualifications, it’s impossible without a portfolio.” Another memorable adage to live by is coined by head of journalism Andrew Moorhouse: “The future might be digital but teeline is around to stay.”

I’ll give you a further insight into how I went about accumulating this work of art on my placements in part duo shortly but firstly a couple of further things to remember about this course.

It will cost ya. Roughly £3,500 to be precise, although there seems to be an early payment discount available these days at £3,150. Why didn’t I have that option!?! And there are two locations, two timescales of study and two intakes a year I believe. They like to do things by halves. The centres are in Wimbledon SW19 London of Henman Hill and Murray’s Mound fame or in Manchester centre. I attended the centre up in Manc but there was a catchment area as far reaching as Leeds for me and the Wirral in Liverpool if you can stand the commute.

This commute was just about digestible as I chose to take the course in small bite-sized, part-time chunks. That’s 40 weeks, a full Saturday and Monday night per week with a six-week break in the middle culminating in a set of exams at the end of each term. I started in January 2009 and graduated (woohoo!) in November. The alternative is a 20 week fast track, full-time, full-paced, frenetic dose of journalism straight up with no mixer. A day out of the five is devoted to placements which help no end with the aforementioned portfolio.

Friends who have taken this full-time hit survived, just. You need to have the funds and energy to deal but they also said the intensity helped get their head’s around shorthand and peaking with the 100wpm. Those on my course on the other hand found it difficult to maintain speed and this seems to be the biggest dividing point between the two options. Both courses supposedly offer sub-editing and sports writing modules although I am yet to receive my training…suggesting potential organisational teething problems.

Richard Parsons, News Associates tutor. sterner than he looks Lastly, a further bonus of the Wimbledon office is its proximity to a fully fledged, leading sports news agency: Sportsbeat. Located directly under News Ass to be exact on the first floor. Don’t let the grimaces on their faces fool you, they are always happy to take on students for the one day a week placement; posting you out to far flung theatres of football such as AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow among others.

Ultimately it is the tutors who truly sold this course to me. They are utterly invested in your training and have a great wealth of personal experience to bring to the table; be it when they were flogging up and down the M1 to do through the night subbing shifts in an empty newsroom or when they were going toe-to-toe in an interview with their sporting hero or the latest corrupt politician. They are always available for assistance, whether for the course itself or for personal assistance. They understand the difficulties we are facing post-uni, pre-employment better than anyone.

Now if any aspiring journalists happened to stumble upon this nugget of insider information and find a morsel of use within, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any further questions. Hey, that’s what the comment box is for after all, not just to slate me and hurl obscenities please!

Back demands Leeds eliminate errors

24 09 2009

Ravaged Leeds look to make amends against Shane Geraghty’s inspired Saints.

Published date: 24 September 2009

By Sam Rider

Neil Back in happier timesNEIL BACK has challenged his Leeds Carnegie players to do the basics right and minimise mistakes in their bid to kick-start their season against Northampton Saints on Saturday.

"The players and management were disappointed," admitted Back, speaking at a Thursday press conference about the 56-7 mauling at home to London Irish . "But if you make mistakes it can be brutal, the opposition will take full advantage.

"The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story and I question some of the decisions. I think we chased the game a bit and that was a thing we have to learn from.

"The players know they can play better. It’s about doing the basics well."

Ravaged Leeds face a daunting proposition at the fortress of Franklin’s Gardens, where Saints were only defeated once last season.

Yet, despite the setback at Headingley Carnegie, Back insists there were signs that the team can make this a successful season.

"There’s lots of positives. Our scrum was strong and our line-out went really well. We created opportunities and demonstrated we can compete."

And the Northampton model is one Back hopes to emulate after Saints’ consolidated their Guinness Premiership status on the back of promotion in 2008 and have confirmed themselves as championship contenders with Shane Geraghty in dazzling form.Franklin's Gardens where Saints rarely succumb to defeatSiting their home form as the key to success, Back said: "When Northampton went down they had a great squad and retained all their players. They had a lot of internationals and kept them together and concentrated on the home games."

In terms of team selection for the 3pm kick-off, Back hinted that captain Marco Wentzel and Seru Rabeni could be available which would serve as a much needed boost ahead of the tough away trip.

"We’ll have a late announcement but there are a couple guys we’re looking at," he said.

"There’s only six days between these two games. It is a short turn around but we will be ready to go."

Yorkshire Post article: Guide to the ICC Champions Trophy

21 09 2009

Tournament offers a welcome change for Strauss despite the challenge of Smith’s rampant Proteas.

Published date: 21 September 2009

By Sam Rider

StraussFIFTY-OVER international cricket takes centre stage at the ICC Champions Trophy, which begins on Tuesday. Looking to follow up on the success of the World Twenty20 held in England this summer, South Africa, who take the mantle of favourites, play host to the top eight one-day teams across the globe.

Andrew Strauss’s England will look to draw on the glimmer of hope taken from their solitary victory over Australia in staving off a whitewash during the recent NatWest series.

"It’s the Champions Trophy, it’s one of the big events, to be honest," said the England captain, whose side open against Sri Lanka on Friday.

Contrastingly Australia, the holders who won in Mumbai in 2006, are looking in rude health after bouncing back from Ashes defeat and along with South Africa will be the ones to beat. Ricky Ponting, reinvigorated in the one-day 6-1 series win, remains the major threat.

Despite the momentous victory over Australia in Test cricket, Strauss knows a lot of hard work is required to make any impression in South Africa.

"We can be proud of ourselves the way we played in the Ashes," he said. "As a Test side, we have got a lot of the component parts in place; as a one-day side, it’s clear we have got some work to do still."

Still without the injured Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, Joe Denly’s ability to hit over the top during the powerplays will be crucial in offering the impetus for any success.

Speaking about the fresh challenge, Strauss said: "We are going away thinking at least we don’t have to play Australia again in the next game, and you never know.

"I wouldn’t be at all surprised if particularly the likes of Ravi [Bopara] go out there and see it as a fresh challenge and smash them all over the place."

South Africa, despite a lack of competitive games recently, boast the prodigious talent of Albie Morkel and present the greatest threat of demolition to an inconsistent England.

Proteas captain Graeme Smith said: "We have really focused hard in the last three weeks to train as well as we can by making it as competitive as possible.

"The guys are motivated and excited and I think we can use the freshness to our advantage by getting in and playing good cricket up front."

India captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and superstar Yuvraj Singh are the top two ranked batsmen in one-day cricket respectively and will be identified as the key wickets in haulting their charge to victory.

And  Pakistan, surprise victors in the latest World Twenty20 will draw on a lethal bowling attack led by the cunning Shahid Afridi to progress from Group A.

 Champions Trophy

Since its inauguration in 1998 no team has retained the trophy whilst England’s best performance came in 2004, when they lost in the final to the West Indies.

The tournament, transferred from Pakistan last year due to security concerns will be played in Johannesburg between September 22 and October 5.

It consists of two groups of four, with teams playing each other once. The top two go through to the semi-finals and the final takes place at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Group A:

West Indies

Group B:

New Zealand
South Africa
Sri Lanka

An away day at Pride-less Park

9 01 2009

Is it harmless banter or malicious intent that fuels the football fans chanting and taunting from the terraces?

As I set off East Midlands-bound for Manchester United’s Carling Cup semi-final encounter with Derby County at their Pride Park stadium on Wednesday I reluctantly anticipated a footballing upset. Sure enough the upset materialised, but in later reflecting on the events of that night what I found most distressing was in fact the behaviour of the football fans, in what was a thoroughly pride-less display.

In the bars and pubs around Derby – I can only account for those that allowed themselves to be overrun by the travelling United fans – the singing and chanting rang out loud and clear from our vocal support. Anyone who ventured near, including the local police who bravely entered a number of times, would have certainly been impressed by the bold, brash and unwavering chants that reverberated about the streets. Yet despite this merriness, the closer it got to kick off, the more malevolent and ominous the chanting became as the atmosphere began to take on an uncomfortable air as if some were preparing for conflict.

One chant in particular struck a nerve and set my mind in motion for this post you have before you. This song I speak of put lyrics and verse to the tragic event of two Leeds United fans that were stabbed to death in violent clashes with Galatasaray fans in Turkey on an away European night in 2000.

As kick-off approached and the songs followed the throng of fans out the pubs we made our way to the stadium which was already resounding with rumbling noise as it was filling up. As we queued at the ticket collection point my friend let out a show of frustration for the delay in his ticket arriving only to hear vulgar racist insults spurted out in his direction by a fellow United fan.

For the full 90 minutes the volleys of chanting rebounded between both sets of fans. The United faithful were only to be silenced momentarily by the jubilation erupting from three sides of the ground when Kris Commons’ thunderbolt crashed into the back of the net, yet the fans exuberance could not be transmitted to the players and the Premiership champions floundered to a 1-0 defeat. As the final whistle went it appeared that the vociferous chanting from the away end had to take on a more physical form and so, just on cue, kids as young as 12 proceeded to kick in the Derby stadium seats in vain attempts at salvaging the last laugh while being chased away by fluorescently attired stewards.

“Best fans in the world,” quoted Wayne Rooney recently. I find it hard to believe that this behaviour represents the pinnacle that is on show in this institution’s supporters. The pride I exclusively hold for my team was quickly wearing thin for this contingent of my fellow travelling fans.

Heysel Stadium Disaster

As we trudged back toward the station surrounded by several equally disgruntled United fans sounding out excuses for the defeat, my friend recounted a particularly terrifying confrontation with opposition fans outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium barely a year ago after a United injury-time victory. In recognising his thick Manchester accent a group, shrouded by hoodies and scarves over their faces, caught up with him and his two friends and proceeded to kick seven shades of sh- out of them in broad daylight. The current threat of clashes between football firms that undeniably persists from its most savage days of the 80s is clearly still alive and evidently kicking.

There is no love lost between Manchester United and Liverpool FC on the pitch no less than between the two cities inhabitants. The history of skirmishes between the two fierce rivals is well documented by the teams’ supporters eager to get the terraces going in reminding the opposition of the tragedies of their past.

Most recently, the Michael Shields incident occurring in Istanbul and the possible incarceration of an innocent man has encouraged ridicule from the Stretford End of Old Trafford. These chants would undoubtedly be sparked off or responded to by references to the Munich air disaster of 1958 and insufferable imitations of plane engines which constantly pierced my eardrums when travelling to Old Trafford on the Manchester Metro last season. Then again, this would only encourage the retaliation of the chant “Murderers…murderers…” by the United culprits in reminding of the tragic Heysel and Hillsborough Disasters of the 80s resulting in the deaths of 39 and 96 fans crushed and trampled to death in the melee and mayhem of matches both involving Liverpool fans. 

In witnessing the infectious animalistic chanting that pours down from the football terraces across the country, I question whether this method of supporting the team closest to your heart has lost all sporting meaning and given way to a malicious mob like mentality.

So what is it that churns up these primitive emotions at Pride Park and every other football stadium on Saturday afternoons? What is it that keeps people coming back for more generation after generation? Can this behaviour be accepted or must it be excused as part and parcel, just a bit of fun, all part of the game?

Just as with Wazza (Mr. Rooney) take away the fury that burns the fire in his belly and you’ll lose the spirit and enthusiasm of his performance – rid the game of these away-day duels and terrace taunts and you’ll lose the passion at the core of Britain’s football tradition.

But for me, the more sung about the history of the club and the players, and the less said about these supporter feuds and past conflicts the better; to ensure these future away-days remind football fans to protect the pride of the tradition and lose the prejudice of the game.

What their team means to a United fan