My trip to Wayne's world
Manchester United are a large football club that gets countless requests for player interviews. You only have to spend five minutes in the press officer's room at the club's Carrington training ground to see emails flying in from all over the world.
Despite that, Monday was rather fruitful. At 1300 in Executive Box 30 in the East Stand at Old Trafford, I was due to interview Wayne Rooney, while next door Dimitar Berbatov was going to have a chat with his boyhood hero... Alan Shearer. You'll be able to see the Rooney interview this Saturday, while the "Shearer meets Berbatov" extravaganza will make an appearance in the next couple of weeks.
Just to make the day slightly more showbiz, the Stereophonics were also scheduled to show up. Lead vocalist and guitarist Kelly Jones is a Leeds fan but he and Wayne have become quite friendly. Wayne lists them as his favourite band and has the words "Just Enough Education to Perform", the title of their 2001 album, tattooed on his right forearm.
So we had two big-name footballers, the Premier League's all-time leading goalscorer and one of the biggest bands in the country all within five metres of each other. Add in a smattering of agents, managers, photographers and press officers, and it represented quite a throng. They weren't quite coming from the four corners of the globe but various trains and cars were travelling from Newcastle, Birmingham, London and Staffordshire.
Sitting down with Wayne Rooney - yep, I've got a camera sticking out of my head
Weeks of planning went into getting everyone in the same place at the same time, and my normally resilient phone battery was on its last legs by midday on Monday. I was checking with agents that people were going to be there on time, giving directions to various band members, talking managers through our plans, telling a photographer bloke that we would not be wearing make-up, making sure the club had set aside rooms for us to use and ringing my wife to see how potty training was going with my children.
As we - that's producer Anton, producer James and I - left Euston station in London at 0920, it seemed that everything was in order. I settled down to my prawn sandwiches and Yum Yums, and went through the questions we were going to ask Wayne. My mind went back to the previous Thursday, when we made the same journey to interview Joleon Lescott. I was hoping for a smoother journey this time round...
As we waited to board our train almost a week ago, the following announcement was broadcast across the station: "Ladies and gentlemen, due to major delays on tonight's Virgin trains to the north-west, tickets for the 1900 and 1920 will now be valid for the 1950 train to Manchester Piccadilly, departing from Platform 5".
Cue crazy stampede to Platform 5, where old ladies were jostled and young men with briefcases elbowed their way to the table seats.
"You can't reserve seats, you stupid women," shouted a red-faced man at a terrified teenage girl. "It's for me mam!" she hollered back. "What do you think this is? Happy Families?" he responded.
Just when everything seemed to have died down, there was another eruption. A young chap, who looked a bit like a drama student, went toe-to-toe with an old guy who was in his seat. "Look at my ticket... 32a... why are you sitting in it?" "Because it's also my seat?" The stand-off lasted 10 minutes before the elderly bloke played his trump card. "Look, I'm sitting here," he said. "I'm not moving and if you want to do anything about it you'll have to lift me out of the chair." The drama student realised that he didn't really have the bicep power required to remove the rotund individual, so he made a hasty retreat to the catering coach.
I tried to lighten the mood by handing round some Percy Pigs to the passengers I was wedged against in the gangway. A guy with an iPod on full blast looked at me as if to say "if you shove those little jellied pigs in my face again I will throttle you with my earphone wire". Just when I thought the trip couldn't get any worse, a man got on at Milton Keynes who honked of cheese. He was either a cheese-worker or he had smothered himself in Stilton whilst waiting on the platform. Sadly, he stood about six inches away from me all the way to Stockport!
In contrast, Monday's trip was a complete delight. We arrived at Old Trafford at 1145 to meet our three cameramen and sound warrior. Q magazine were already set up for their photoshoot, but, sadly, the room we had wasn't big enough to fit Wayne and the band in so we thought about doing it outside. As simple as that sounds, we were required to make another round of phone calls to managers, agents and press officers to check that everyone was happy to step out into the chilliness. The band were keen and their manager assured me that if Kelly wanted to go outside, it would happen.
Dan prepares to interview Wayne and Kelly on the side of the Old Trafford pitch
Slowly but surely the protagonists arrived. Guitarist Adam was first up at 1230, followed closely by Kelly and Stereophonics manager Dan at 1245. Two minutes later, in walked Wayne and instantly went for a chat with his favourite musicians. Tony, the keyboard player, was late so we decided to press on. It all went very well. Wayne got his tattoo out, the boys chatted music and football, while Kelly pulled out a rather inappropriate gift for his footballing friend... a Leeds shirt!
Back inside we went. Wayne met Alan, who had just arrived, and then, as we disappeared for a one-on-one interview, in strolled Dimitar. He was really nervous meeting his hero and admitted during the interview that as a young lad he supported whichever team Alan was playing for... Southampton, Blackburn and eventually Newcastle.
By 1455, our work was done. We bade farewell to everyone, I had one last look at Kelly's enormous hair and we headed back to London. I tried to sit in seat 32a, but a bloke who looked remarkably like a drama student was in it!
You can see the Wayne Rooney interview and our chat with Stereophonics on Saturday's programme. We are live at Fratton Park this weekend for the build-up to Portsmouth against Manchester United, so we'll hopefully see you at 1215 on BBC 1.