The last day of the Premiership
In this job, match afternoons are usually the most enjoyable two hours of the week. All being well, our planning comes to fruition and the running order and script are yet to be written, so we just sit down and watch half a dozen or more games on different screens. In the company of people who've played the game at the highest level.
It's always a privilege, but there's usually a distinction between the old pros calmly dissecting the action and the production team who try, and often fail, to rein in the emotions we feel as armchair fans. Sunday - and Sheffield United v Wigan in particular - was different. No-one who was in the office supports either team, but everyone found themselves cheering, groaning and leaping out of their seats. It was impossible not to be swept away by one of the most extraordinary matches any of us have ever seen. Goodness only knows what it was like for a partisan supporter, or indeed for the managers. No wonder Paul Jewell has subsequently decided to take a break from football!
Having discussed intercutting and the various running order options here last week, in the end it became a relatively simple scenario. West Ham, by holding and then beating Manchester United, were never in the bottom three all afternoon, so it was simple to show that game first. With the Hammers safe, the Bramall Lane game became a straightforward play-off for Premiership survival. The main problem was finding enough time to do the game justice. In the end, it was given 18 minutes, which is probably the longest match edit of the season.
We analysed both games jointly afterwards. One or two people have emailed to say we didn't say enough about the Carlos Tevez situation on the night. Firstly, the post-match interviews did show that there may well be other chapters to come in that story, and secondly, our panel were very strong on the subject of West Ham's punishment in the week it was made public. We illustrated the difference Tevez has made and said we probably haven't heard the last of the matter. We also showed that Manchester United were, perhaps understandably, not firing on all cylinders, but it did seem like a day to reflect on the incredible action, particularly from Sheffield. The rest of it is a matter for all parties involved, and their lawyers, in the coming weeks.
With 10 games in total to show on the day, the length of the Sheffield United edit meant that most of the others were on the short side. Apologies if you felt your team was short-changed (mine certainly were!) but hope you understand in the circumstances. Like the relegation picture, the other unresolved issue became relatively clearcut in running order terms. Everton and Spurs both did what they needed to do to qualify for Europe, so those games ran first. Bolton drew, so left the door open for Reading if they'd won. They didn't, which then left Pompey needing a win to pip Bolton. Graham Poll (correctly, as it turned out) made sure their game finished 0-0 so we went back to scenes and quotes from the Reebok.
There was nothing much at stake in the other three games, which we ran together, keeping enough time back for a word on the departing Robbie Fowler, Sam Allardyce's imminent arrival at Newcastle, and a quick summary of the Premiership season, which all concerned thought had been one of the best in the competition's history.
The viewing figures would seem to back that up - I'm told that 32.6 million different people have watched at least 15 minutes of MOTD and MOTD2 Premiership highlights this season. And, no, I don't know how they work that out, but it sounds impressive!
Now for the FA Cup final's return to Wembley - I'll try to post something on that subject later in the week.