Tribal loyalties, incorrectly-coloured Christmas trees and unexpected spin cycles could not deflect the PA news agency’s band of fearless football journalists from doing their jobs during the 2020 lockdown.
As clubs’ weekly press conferences migrated en masse to Zoom, they threw up a series of unlikely scenarios which served to thrust PA to centre stage.
Here, we pick out some of the highlights.
Simon Peach v Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
PA’s chief football correspondent is ribbed for his alternative allegiance.
“Impartiality is key in journalism and at PA we pride ourselves on objective coverage, but I have never attempted to hide my allegiance to Southampton given we are a largely inoffensive club and I cover Manchester United. That does, though, lead to the odd joke at my expense when the sides play, and last month it was manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s turn to rub salt into the wound. Having turned around a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 at St Mary’s, I was inevitably given the opening question of the press conference. ‘You don’t sound too happy there, Simon – I don’t know why,’ he said with a grin.”
Carl Markham v Jurgen Klopp
PA’s Merseyside football reporter is accused of having a blue Christmas.
“I’m usually the last to ask questions in Liverpool’s press conferences and there’s been a bit of an ‘And Finally’ feel since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in 2015 – and to be fair he’s completely embraced that. Recognising this, the club’s head of press Matt McCann often tees up the manager for a quip or one-liner, so when he led into my question with ‘…in a very festive house’ a stern-faced Klopp instantly responded: ‘With a blue Christmas tree, sorry?’. I quickly showed Klopp the red baubles on the bottom half, which was enough to assuage the German.”
Jon Veal v Jose Mourinho
PA’s Tottenham reporter has Jose Mourinho in a spin.
“I was doing the Spurs press conference from a table in my kitchen and was in the middle of asking Jose a question about Harry Winks when my washing machine suddenly lurched into a high-speed (and volume) spin cycle. Mourinho heard the noise and asked what it was, which meant I had to confess. Little did I know it would go on to be the most famous washing machine in England! In my defence, we’ve just had a new baby, so the washing machine is always on.”
Mark Walker v Marcelo Bielsa
PA’s Leeds reporter is gifted a surprise exclusive.
“Bielsa told me during his Zoom press conference before the recent home game against West Ham that either Luke Ayling or Kalvin Phillips would fill the gap in central defence caused by injuries to Robin Koch and Diego Llorente. When I then asked if he would keep West Ham guessing, he appeared a bit nonplussed. After consulting with his interpreter, Andres Clavijo, he insisted that wasn’t the case and promptly reeled off his entire starting line-up. This isn’t so radical in South America apparently, but even Andres was smiling as he translated.”
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