World Cup excitement mounts with Rooney meeting
I am writing this on the train to Manchester. I am accompanied by a small bag of salad gums, an iced bun and a banana (for health purposes).
I am on the way to get some goal scoring tips from Bolton's Kevin Davies for Sport Relief. You will be able to see me embarrass myself on Saturday's show and it will probably make an interesting blog for next week... as long as I don't disgrace myself.
This week I want to blog about another striker. Last Thursday I went to see Wayne Rooney at a World Cup launch event at Earls Court hosted by a World Cup sponsors. Hundreds of competition winners got the chance to see their hero and have their picture taken with the world cup.
We had five minutes with the man who can't stop scoring and our latest behind the scenes piece will give you a good idea of how it all came together...
BEHIND THE SCENES
You can imagine that the whole place was full of PR warriors, bouncers and sponsor types. Rooney was due to arrive about 3:30 and in the 15 minutes beforehand things started to get a little crazy.
Wayne is actually very laid back about it all. I first interviewed him seven years ago when he won the BBC North West Young Sports Personality of the Year Award.
He has matured immeasurably since then and not only seems to understand the responsibilities that go with the job but is now able to give genuine insights when answering questions.
The sponsors were obviously delighted to have him there. The event had been planned for six months and they were desperate for everything to run smoothly. That desperation can sometimes lead to a little panic... "Can you turn your camera off please? Wayne will be here in 10 minutes" said a slightly tense security guard. "Can you clear the area please? We need space for Rooney" barked another - pointing at the vast expanse of floor that could have easily supported about 30 Twister mats.
"He's not royalty mate" came the cry from the back. The heckler was correct. This was another example of football going 'Hollywood'.
The stars are no longer 'just footballers' but are right up there with the George Clooneys of this world and with that comes the super-celebrity baggage. It certainly won't be Rooney - because he is well looked after - but I don't think it will be too long before I go to interview a player and someone tells me I can't look him in the eye.
I used to work at a radio station in Manchester and in my first month there George Michael came in to talk about his latest album. There were no fans allowed within 100 yards of the building.
I was frisked on arrival by Mr Michael's private security and told, under no circumstances, was I to enter the cordoned off area inside the building. Half the joint had been plastered with that bright yellow 'do not cross' tape and even my regular loo - was frustratingly the wrong side of the divide.
As I made my way to the newsroom an officious looking woman was telling everyone the 'rules of engagement'. "Please don't look directly at George and you're not allowed to talk to him". Bonkers!
A few years later Westlife turned up when they were at the peak of their powers. The station got a phone-call 10 minutes before they arrived asking for 32 hot meals for the band and their entourage. I tried to get it pushed up to 33 put the boss was having none of it.
And then there was the time that Robbie Williams came in. We used to have one of those garden goals in the office and after I'd interviewed him about football, and his latest tune, he fancied a knock about so we settled on a penalty shoot-out. Robbie took his five first and bagged three of them.
As he then went in goal I jogged to get the ball that had rolled around the corner. I was followed by his security dude who said, under his breath, "You better let him win... all right?". I thought about it for a moment and then unleashed some inappropriately fierce penalties for such a small room. Four nestled in the back of the net and - although Brother Williams was fine about it - his burly security guard looked at me in the same way Mark Groves had done at primary school just before he gave me a massive Chinese burn.
Football is thankfully a long way away from all that but when I interviewed Rooney last Thursday there were 26 people in the room! Half of them were media types but that is still a considerable throng to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The event itself went off without a hitch. Sadly I only discovered the highlight as I was leaving... a stall handing out free pies. I nailed a chicken and mushroom number and pocketed a beef beauty for the way home.
As I left I saw two young girls squealing and comparing pictures of Rooney on their phone. There were hundreds of happy punters delighted to catch a glimpse of a man who, hopefully, has a big summer ahead.
It certainly got the World Cup juices flowing but football has to keep a careful eye on itself or the new Maradonas of this generation could very easily become pre-Maradonas!
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