A day in my life
I have received a few letters and emails from regular Focusites over the past few weeks, wanting to know what actually happens before the programme goes out on a Saturday.
I have therefore decided to address that very issue in this week's blog. What follows is not a journalistic masterpiece but rather a one-day diary. We shall begin when the clock strikes midnight on the Saturday, 2 October...
00.17: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button finally ends. Is it the longest film in history? I think my wife Sarah and I started watching it on Thursday! Off to bed to dream about the programme.
02.13: Susanna, my eldest daughter aged two-and-a-half, wakes up after a bad dream. Cuddle required.
05.11: Jessica, my youngest daughter who is only three months, has decided it is time to rise from her slumber.
05.13: Feed Jessica and chuck on last Sunday's Match of the Day 2 for entertainment.
06.00: Iron shirt. Gone for the plain blue this week. Simple yet sophisticated... sort of.
06.15: Destroy two pieces of toast and a mug of tea. Read Jessica a book about frogs. Select trousers from the wardrobe without trying to wake Sarah up... epic fail.
06.25: Take a shower.
06.45: Susanna decides to join the fun. First requirement is to help her build a farm. The farm is very much the toy of choice at the moment. Last week, it was a miniature plastic golf club.
07.05: Family breakfast. Another piece of toast for me and a bit of scrambled egg goes down a treat. Slightly concerned that we might have to reshape the whole programme if the rumours about Harry Redknapp prove to be true. Listen to Harry on Radio 5 live saying he's not going anywhere.
07.15: Read Susanna her favourite little book about the man who built his house on the rock rather than the sand. She sings her own interpretation of Twinkle Twinkle. I flick through the book about frogs again.
07.35: Leave for BBC TV Centre at Shepherd's Bush.
08.02: Arrive at the Beeb. Perhaps the best perk about being the presenter of Football Focus is that you get a car parking space right out front. Run the gauntlet of people waiting for the arrival of Strictly Come Dancing types and head for the BBC Newsroom.
08.10: My first duty of the day is to speak to the presenter of the breakfast sport bulletins on BBC 1. Today it's Mike Bushell. I have to go on the programme at 8.35 each week to talk about what's coming up on Focus. Mike is keen to play in the clip of Robert Plant talking about his love of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
My first makeover of the day
08.18: Head downstairs for the day's first application of make-up. The first time I appeared on TV was an ITV evening bulletin back in 2003. I remember telling the producer that there was no way I was putting any gunk on my face. When I watched the bulletin, back I looked like a polar bear who'd had cranberries sellotaped to various parts of his face. Make-up is a necessary evil.
08.25: Wait outside the studio and spot the catering trolley. Destroy a chocolate croissant and a little lemon puff thing. Jot down a few notes and head into the studio to get my microphone on and wait in the wings while Mike does the first bit of the sports bulletin.
08.35: I sneak in after the package about England getting mullered by the Aussies in the Champions Trophy. Mike throws to me and I talk about our big investigation into the Gael Kakuta situation and how a number of clubs are exploiting loopholes to sign young foreign talent the minute they turn 16.
08.36: I tell Mike that Simon Grayson is on the programme and he gets a little excited and reveals that he is a Leeds fan. Mike has managed to keep his allegiance a secret for his entire distinguished career but now the truth is out.
08.37: Hand back to Charlie and Susanna on the news desk and decide to throw Charlie my pen live on air. Still can't really explain why. He drops it.
08.38: Remove make-up, steal another lemon puff and head for the Focus production office.
08.45: Arrive in the Focus hub to find Mark Cole (editor), Kelly Faulkner (director) and Katherine Morgan (producer) busy at work.
08.50: Time for the Focus tradition of bacon sandwiches. I don't tell anyone I've already had two breakfasts and conquer the bacon with another cup of tea.
08.55: Talk to Coley about what's in the papers. There is a nice piece about the deepening mess at Newcastle and a quote from Arsene Wenger about Lee Dixon being a potentially brilliant manager.
09.02: Lawro arrives. His pre-programme ritual involves reading every single Saturday paper.
09.03: Head down to VT, which is where all the pieces for Focus are edited and then played out from during the programme.
09.05: The Wenger montage to celebrate his 13th year at Arsenal is still being edited but everything else is ready to view. We watch all the pieces, including Dan Roan's eight-minute epic on the French academies. Coley and I watched a half-finished version at about 19.30 last night but this has now been polished up and looks a lot more interesting than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
09.30: After watching everything, Coley suggests a few last-minute changes and we head off back to the production office. But not before pocketing a three-pack of Jammy Dodgers. The humble Dodger is definitely in my top five of biscuits and, were it not for the Fig Roll and Garibaldi, would challenge for top spot.
09.45: Spot Joe Calzaghe in a lift. The poor bloke looks petrified about his Strictly performance. I assure him that everything will be all right and offer him a Jammy Dodger. He declines, complaining that his trousers for the night are already too tight.
09.50: Back in the office, it's now time to make alterations to the script and discuss the talking points. The French piece takes a bit of getting your head round but eventually we settle on a cue.
10.00: Katherine prints the script and gives a copy to everyone who needs it.
10.15: Head off to make-up for the second time. Dorota is the lady in charge today. She is Polish and each week asks me to give her a new word to add to her vocabulary. Last week's was 'plethora' and today's offering is 'myopic'. She writes it down in her diary.
10.29: Lee Dixon arrives and is looking for a cup of tea.
10.30: I disappear for some essential pre-match preparation.
10.45: One last check on the scripts and then it's into the studio for the rehearsal. This is crucial not only for the director to practice all the shots they want to use but for the presenter and editor to do a final check. Sophia is the autocue warrior today. You may have seen her waving frantically at the camera on The One Show recently.
11.30: The opening link to the programme needs to be recorded this morning, so both Lawro and Lee are needed on the studio floor to look interested in the background. Lee is still looking for a cup of tea.
11.35: Coley and I talk Lee through the various discussions we want to have on the programme. Lee is more interested in the lack of beverage and is now considering an official complaint.
11.45: Lee finally gets his tea and all is right with the world. Lawro has started tucking into a box of Celebrations on the table. I eat a Crunchie and jot down a few questions that I want to make sure I ask the boys during the programme.
12.00: Final check that everyone is happy.
12.05: Last powder from Dorota before taking my seat on the sofa and plugging in all the necessary leads.
12.10: Lee and Lawro arrive on set. Coley checks that everyone can hear talkback. That enables him, the director and anyone else to chat to us all during the programme if needs be.
12.15: Coley tells us all to have a good one. I say I'll see him on the other side. The red light goes on and we're off.
13.00: Quick debrief with Coley. He seems pretty happy with it all. Gabby Logan and her Final Score panel have arrived in the building to watch the early kick-off in the Championship. Steve Claridge, Garth Crooks and Les Ferdinand are on the sofa today. They are all impressed with Gabby's papal gown.
Garth, Steve, Lee and Les ready for the day's football action
13.30: Shake hands with Lee and Lawro, take a handful of Celebrations and head home ready to do it all over again.