Phoenix Nights settings, broken lap tops and suspicious roast dinners

It was a rollercoaster debut season as Ipswich Town reporter for STUART WATSON, with the club providing plenty of on and off-field stories. Here he looks back on his memories of the campaign

IT’S the little things that you remember.

Like interviewing Jimmy Bullard in the cramped changing room of the club shop, with the curtain closed, as hundreds of supporters queued for his signature. That was the only quiet spot we could find that day as I took advantage of his public appearance to quiz him just days after he’d made a mad dash on foot to make the game in time.

I also remember starting this job on completely the wrong foot. I travelled to and around Holland via a mix of planes, trains and automobiles, only for a wary Paul Jewell to give me next to no access to his pre-season training camp. I was even ushered away from a training session.

To make matters worse, in my enthusiastic haste, I tweeted about a goal that wasn’t actually a goal. Don’t ask. I did, however, get my first glimpse of mysterious owner Marcus Evans on that trip. And no, I can’t say what he looks like.

I wasn’t getting too carried away after the 3-0 win at Bristol City on a sunshine soaked opening day of the season because the hosts had been particularly dire.

I will admit though that I momentarily broke press box etiquette at West Ham when Lee Bowyer’s late winner hit the back of the net a few weeks later, quietly clenching my fist in celebration. It may have meant a frantic rewrite of copy as the evening deadline fast approached, but at that stage I really did start to believe that a promotion push could be on the cards.

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Seeing Michael Chopra open up to me, man-to-man, about his gambling addiction certainly put football into perspective. Seeing the phenomenal support of the Portsmouth fans then made me remember how much the game means to people.

Having spent two seasons covering Colchester United in League One, I had eagerly anticipated an improvement in press facilities. Many Championship grounds lived up to expectations, a few were a little more underwhelming to say the least.

At Portman Road we are undoubtedly spoilt.

You can never get bored of the award-winning pies, while the drinks are free-flowing. As my counter-part at relegated Doncaster said on the final day of the season ‘of all the Championship teams, we’ll miss you the most’.

Reading’s sponsors Waitrose laid on an impressive array of goodies, Brighton gave us something hot (sausage and mash, I think), while there were some lovely home-made cakes at Crystal Palace.

At the other end of the scale, Leeds United provided a roast dinner which came with a strange substance that the waiter would describe only as ‘meat’, Peterborough’s media room resembles the nightclub from ‘Phoenix Nights’, while at Cardiff I chose not to make good the voucher which entitled me to the world’s least visually appealing hotdog.

Speaking of hotdogs, a memorable moment came at Palace when an exasperated Paul Jewell walked out of his post-match press conference (situated on the end of a supporters’ concourse) because the fast food man was making too much of a racket with his pots and pans.

Two trips to Hull was unappreciated, not just because of the 400-mile round trip, but also because of the lengthy walk that’s required to reach the press seats. I think a few of the journalist on the, shall we say, less fit side actually camped halfway to climatise.

And there was personal drama at Barnsley when I managed to flip my unstable laptop a good five rows forward using the wooden school desk type tables provided. Thankfully the damage was just aesthetic and I was able to write about that epic comeback.

Travel was, by and large, kind. The roadworks at Huntingdon made for slow progress for a few months, while an ingenious piece of map-reading on my behalf just about got us to Burnley in time for kick-off. Ninety minutes later I wished I hadn’t bothered.

Weather wise we had it all too. Constant snow saw my hands barely able to rewrite an intro late on at Coventry, while less than two months later I was getting a pre-match sun tan in the condemned stand at Watford (which still houses the press box).

Charlton’s promotion is certainly a welcome one though. Last time I was there we got free pick and mix!