As the weekend of the 12th of January approached, my excitement levels went through the roof…
For the first time in my life, I was going to experience a Chelsea match from the press box.
Prior to the Saturday, I also got invited to Cobham for Maurizio Sarri’s press conference on the Friday. The main aspect that I learnt from my first Premier League press conference was that it was very intense, and the press conference itself went very quickly. I also had the luxury to report for the @Chelseaecho_ on Twitter, which was a great honour for me.
Onto the matchday now, I woke up at 10am, very anxious to start off with, but as 12pm approached, my nerves started to settle and I started to become more excited.
I left for the train station at 12:35pm, and arrived at Reading station at 1:05pm. My train was scheduled to leave at 1:40pm, so I had half an hour or so free at the train station.
Surprisingly, even though my nerves raised through my body, I managed to eat a Potato Balti pasty before boarding my train to London Paddington.
On my way to London on the train, I decided to watch the rest of the London derby 12:30pm kick-off between West Ham and Arsenal on my phone. When I turned on right at the start of the second half, a few minutes later- Declan Rice scored the only goal of the game to clinch the three points for West Ham.
That result filled me with delight as it had massive implications for the top 4 race. If Chelsea would have beaten Newcastle in the later kick off, then they would open a six point gap between themselves and Arsenal. So that put even more impetus for Chelsea to win tonight.
Unexpectedly, I arrived at London Paddington station with loads of time to burn. However, I used that time to make use of my inexperience with the London Underground.
Furthermore, I arrived at Fulham broadway underground station very early at around 2:40pm, with the intention of meeting Nizaar at 3pm, but he was running a little late, so didn’t meet until 3:15pm.
When I met with Nizaar, we took a walk down the Fulham Broadway to Stamford Bridge, and at around 3:15pm, I could feel the atmosphere building outside the ground.
We arrived at the reception and collected everything I needed to get into the press area. As I then entered the press area, it all felt surreal. At first glimpse, I saw many journalists who I follow on Twitter, and who I aspire to be like in my future career.
Walking up into the press box felt magical. I had to soak it up for a little while before taking my seat and setting up my apparatus, in order to get ready to report live from the game for the @ChelseaEcho_. We were in the press box so early, that we saw the players inspect the pitch.
I was able to take a picture of Newcastle strikers Joselu and Perez inspecting the pitch prior to the warm-ups;
Once I set up my apparatus, I went to get some free food, and I must say that the food was outstanding. Nizaar Kinsella did tell me that Chelsea is one of the best clubs in the Premier League for catering for journalists, and that fact lived up to expectation.
At 4:30pm, the team-sheets were released, and I was surprised that Sarri opted to use the false nine formation with Hazard playing striker, which I was initially unconvinced with as I thought that Giroud would have been better suited to this game. But overall that was the line-up that I expected Sarri to pick.
As kick-off drew closer, my excitement and eagerness levels went through the roof. It did feel strange as the teams stepped out onto the pitch and the Liquidator was ringing around Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join in and support the team like I usually would.
Check out what it was like to listen to the liquidator from the press box;
Into the game now, Chelsea started the much brighter out of the two teams, and deservedly went 1-0 up in the 9th minute when David Luiz’ long ball over the top of the Newcastle backline found Pedro, who dinked over Dubravka to give Chelsea the lead in this match.
However, Newcastle grew into the match and deservedly drew level before half-time. In the 40th minute, a Ritchie corner found Ciaran Clark, who powered his header into the bottom corner past a helpless Kepa to level the game at 1-1.
Rondon caused the Chelsea backline havoc in the first half and was Newcastle’s best player in the first half. The blues needed to contain him better if they were to get the 3 points in the second half.
Chelsea got back into their groove in the second half, and in the 57th minute, a lovely Willian curling effort evaded Dubravka in the Newcastle goal and rattled the back of the net, to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead.
Chelsea failed to build on the second goal but held on in the end for 3 vital points.
We then went inside fifteen-twenty minutes later to listen to both managers press conferences, to hear their thoughts after the game.
Sarri was up first to talk to the press. The main points to come out of his press conference were that he reiterated the fact that Willian is a very important player to his team.
The Italian Coach did admit that he thought Jorginho had a bad game, but he admitted that he had no one on the bench to replace him with, as Fabregas left for Monaco the day before.
The Italian boss was then asked about when Fabregas’s replacement would come in, and he had no idea. He admitted that only the club know.
Next up was Benitez, who looked very deflated coming into the press conference room.
Benitez acknowledged that Willian was the difference in this match.
Benitez did also admit that he was happy at his sides performance, despite the loss.
Benitez also admitted that he was aware the Mike Ashley was at the match, but hasn’t spoken to him about transfers recently.
Benitez also provided a positive update on the injury situation of Shelvey.
After both press conferences, many journalists stayed behind in the press room. However I went back out to the press box to soak up the post match atmosphere. The first thing that I saw when i walked out back onto the press terrace was the Chelsea TV Crew filming a post match analysis show. It was interesting to see the setup of the show.
I also had the opportunity to try and experiment with social media. So what I decided to do alongside posting my match feature from this match, was filming a match review like my mentor and role model Nizaar Kinsella does.
This was my first attempt at a video match review;
As the the sky got darker and darker, it was time to leave Stamford Bridge and say goodbye to an amazing day.
On the way back to Reading on the train, I reflected on what I have learnt from this valuable experience alongside listening to music!
I couldn’t be more grateful for both Nizaar and the club for providing me with such an incredible opportunity. As a young, aspiring football journalist it was an invaluable experience and one that I will never forget.
I also have to thank the FWA for setting up this student mentorship scheme. I hope many other students get opportunities like this in the future.
Seeing first hand the work and effort that goes into such a demanding job as well as learning from people that truly are amazing at what they do is something that will greatly benefit my growth and development as on open LGBTQ Sports/Football journalist.
After this wonderful experience of shadowing Nizaar and reporting live from the Chelsea press box for a Chelsea Premier League game, I have never felt more motivated to work hard and one day, I’ll hopefully be able to call this my job.
By Danyal Khan