I've just had the most marvellous of mornings. I was invited to visit the England training session at Giants stadium in NJ (scroll down to the start of the pictures, they are in a loose chronology from the bottom up). Even after the invite I wasn't sure that this would really happen and my two friends who picked me up this morning weren't totally sure that this wasn't some kind of a cruel joke.
We thought that perhaps we would have to sit in the stands and observe from afar, that we would have a chance to take some distant, smudgy snapshots and possibly, just possibly grab a quick word as the players scuttled back onto the team bus.
It all seemed to be going that way when we arrived at what seemed to be a deserted stadium. Of course we didn't realise that the entrance was on the other side so we walked all the way round to find guys with ID badges sending folk this way and that. We introduced ourselves and to our relief were escorted to a press tent. There we were given our 'credentials' and told to go with Jeremy who would show us around.
Still thinking this was all too good to be true our hearts faltered as New Jersey's slowest moving security guy told us that our 'credentials' were not the right 'credentials'. Jeremy gets on a walkie talkie and eventually scurries off, leaving us alone with grumpy security guy. At this point we bump into Robert Green's parents. The NYCanaries had come along to present the Norwich goalie with his player of the year award. He won the award after we had decided that him winning it and us having to present it to him in person would be a fantastic way of getting us to meet the rest of the England team.
Jeremy returned with a smooth looking guy in a suit who essentially told security guy to let us in.
We were put in a large area containing a variety of photographers, a mad Columbian TV crew and Robert Green's parents. I strolled over to the corner flag where I could play with my fancy new camera with it's lenses and stuff. I also bumped into Green's mother who was telling me how it's all very nice to visit New York but she would really rather be shopping or at the beach. I asked her, "The million dollar question, Do you actually like football?" "Of course I do, I just don't really like all this stuff". Still, like everyone else she was super nice, thoroughly approachable and happy to chat.
By this point the players were chasing about in the near half of the field, going through the motions of a press day/fake training session. The stands above us were filling with kids and the mad Columbian was yelling in his mike. I thought that this was as good as it was going to get but then the liason from the Football Association strolled over and told us that we were about to have our ten minutes with Robert Green.
We were sent from the media area onto the pitch.
Onto the bloody pitch!
The pitch where David Beckham was hanging out just a few yards away. The pitch where Michael Owen was being all moody. We got to present Rob Green with his award and share a few polite jokes and all the usual 'fan meets star player' smalltalk. 'Greeno' actually hung out with us for about 20 minutes and was super nice, a bit sweaty but appreciative of the award and easy to get along with.
I took a bunch of pictures and have thrown some up on the blog. I also got a few shots of David Beckham who was wonderful, friendly and relaxed and inches away from me.
One of the best aspects was that once we had presented Robert Green with his award and he had wandered off to chat with friends and family, the nice people from the FA sort of forgot that we were there. We were able to hang about on the pitch taking pictures and chatting with players.
It all seems a little too bizarre to be real but I have the pictures and for now that's good enough. I'll come down in a day or two.