It was an opportunity I would never have expected to get at such an early stage of my career, and I’ll admit – in my eyes – quite a daunting job in some respects.
So when I turned up at Anfield for Liverpool’s final Champions League group game against FC Basel, it’s safe to say I was feeling a little on edge – and that wasn’t just because I was trying my hardest to keep my Mancunian dialect under wraps whilst surrounded by thousands of Reds fans.
The fact that I am also a Manchester United supporter meant nothing on the night, I was there to be strictly impartial.
My task? To write a match report for JMU Journalism in which I would describe how Liverpool either qualified for the next round or were dumped out of the competition depending on which way the result went.
This is a dream job for so many and I can see why. There was a buzz in the air as we collected our press passes under the Shankly Gates. This was Anfield on a massive European night, and as we were sitting in the media lounge before kick-off it was an experience in itself. What could I be nervous about?
As we took to our seats, I remembered the importance of having “ice in your veins, not stars in your eyes”, which I would argue applies to most things in life.
I have to say I was fortunate that the game started slowly as this enabled me a fair amount of time to get as much colour written into the piece as possible before the key events in the match unfolded. This was a special occasion and you’d be lying if you said that the famous Kop roar of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ didn’t give you goosebumps.
However, I was also lucky that I had a colleague with me who could keep his eyes on the game as I sat furiously typing, I have to admit praying that Liverpool wouldn’t score before the final whistle after Steven Gerrard’s free-kick had levelled the game at 1-1 following Fabian Frei’s opener for Swiss visitors, Basel.
Liverpool needed victory to stay in the Champions League but couldn’t find a winner, in what was an exciting but at the same time excruciating finale for me. Had they scored, the majority of my already half-written report would have been made invalid, requiring the dreaded frantic late rewrite.
In all fairness, I wasn’t working to anywhere near as strict a deadline as the professional journalists sat in my company, but this made the experience a real eye-opener, because if I had I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done the job nearly as well.
What I think I learned is that nothing prepares you as much as doing the real thing. And while for now these opportunities will probably remain few and far between, I have to say this was certainly one that I won’t forget any time soon.
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