Sunday, November 8, 2015

Liverpool - Southampton - magazine - breathe.

The last three weeks have been nonstop - after attending Southampton's draw at Anfield, I spent the next week pulling together a 32-page magazine for the Lancashire Spinners Basketball Club - I then had to pause to go to Southampton for the 'derby' between Saints and Bournemouth. Upon my return to Manchester, I managed to finish the magazine by deadline before realising the file had one corrupt page. Frantically, I copied the document and sorted it out - it's been a learning curve putting together a magazine but so rewarding having now seen it in print.

And exhale. Three weeks pushed into one paragraph.

After missing out on Southampton's Europa League triumph against Vitesse (before being knocked out of the competition in the following round), seeing them at Anfield was my first chance to see the new summer signings in person. They included Maarten Stecklenburg, Cedric Soares, Virgil Van Dijk, Juanmi, Oriol Romeu and Jordy Clasie. It was also the return of Gaston Ramirez - someone who shines for me on FIFA!

Sadio Mane equalised late for Southampton sending us away lot into a frenzy. As usual, I was with Andrew Mackinnon and his dad Ken, and once the ball crossed the line, Andrew lifted me into the air nearly dropping me into the row in front. I haven't but I feel I should get this graze checked out as Anfield has been there since 1884.

The following week was dedicated to creating a magazine to sell at Lancashire Spinners games in order to bring in a form of income as I wait patiently for a job. I had used a designing programme before to do newspaper design for a university assignment but making a magazine with really no experience was a task. Although with inspiration from Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan, I was able to do so.

The end product was even better than I had expected. The pop-up shop at the November 7 game against Tees Valley sold 20 copies but better numbers should come when we play Manchester Magic on the 21st.

Backtrack six days. My record at Southampton matches is something like three wins, one loss (Doncaster in 2011) and a copious amount of draws. Bournemouth helped me add another in the win column after Saints ran away with the match in the first half on goals from Steven Davis and Graziano Pelle. The better part? Both were scored at our end of St Mary's.

All in all, a decent three weeks. Made In Chelsea is also back so nothing to complain about.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kid Ink and Pia Mia

Alas, I have forgotten about my blog amongst the hours spent playing FIFA 16, watching the new Criminal Minds, First Dates and Modern Family seasons, and of course learning a bit on Educating Cardiff. But always the most important thing - Made In Chelsea is back properly and my educational career is over. Oh, and I have no favourite on the new The Apprentice.

Between all that I have filled out countless applications as I make the transition into the real world. No news there but I don't give up. Hashtag "cliche".

The Lancashire Spinners basketball club's season is now in full swing after a perfect 6-0 record in the National Trophy. It's been a real treat getting to know the new recruits - Nick George, Kyle Carey, Alex Roberts, George Darling, Cian Hickey and Mike Bernard. They all bring a fresh energy to the squad that, despite being in a new league, has show they have the talent to succeed now. And I get to bring coverage to the Manchester Evening News, which is new this year.

Last night, for the M.E.N., I had the honour of reviewing Kid Ink and Pia Mia (w/ special guests) at the O2 Apollo. It was the first gig of its kind that I attended and it is safe to say, I'll stick to heavy metal shows where I know what I'm doing.

All the acts were solid, no doubt, but it was such an interesting introduction to live hip-hop/rap music. What it felt like was going to a club that was built on a slant with live music. I have enjoyed Kid Ink for sometime now - more so since the release of the Almost Home EP. He's a truly unique performer, though one I was pleased to see, and I'm pleased I went.

I can say that the Westfield High School cafeteria had more intense dances (sozz not sozz) - the clothes to people ratio was also about the same. Median age? 15 1/2.

Kid Ink was an experience. My friend referred to it as a journey.

Not sure where he got that from, although he'd been wanting to see him perform for well over a year.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Exhaustion hasn't killed me yet

After three and three-fourths long months … Finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, Allen has come back to his blog.

And fear not, I have completed six qualification exams passing all but one, handed in two portfolios, an InDesign project and a 1.5K word Masters Project Plan. I travelled back to America – and back – applied for a slew of jobs and has somehow found time to watch Rocket Power, My Mad Fat Diary, Ballers and almost the entirety of Modern Family.

In that same span, I have been mistaken for a 12 year old, a man who appears over 25 and doesn’t need to be challenged when buying alcohol and an individual out celebrating his A-Level results. When under pressure at TSA I told the lady I was 23. Turns out I'm 24.

I have golfed for the first time since playing the New Course at St Andrews. I have had my flight from American back to Manchester pushed back on consecutive days causing me to miss going to St Mary’s to see Southampton back in Europe for the first time since 2002.

And I have written and deleted about three blogposts – my mistake. 

Topics I nearly wrote about: 1) my intense NHL15 GM mode where I've won five Stanley Cups with the Carolina Hurricanes; 2) my Pure Gym pet peeves and luckily none of them include couples workouts like at UNC-Greensboro; or 3) my visit home to America where I got to hang out with four Division I bound softballers, courtesy of my friend Hannah Adamzcyk who is off to UNC-Wilmington to play. I was a bit starstruck I do admit.

Don't worry,  I sim all but the clinching game in the Stanley Cup. Keeping active has been great but left me exhausted. If only I had that gym drive when I was still playing competitive hockey properly, I could've been like those guys in Ballers with a 'fun house' the missus doesn't know about. .. of course I'd need a missus first.

In the end, topic three seemed most apt.

I never pursued it.

Currently, I am knee deep in my Masters Project and by knee deep I mean frantically preparing for a lot of interviews. Luckily my project deals with the Lancashire Spinners, whose website I have written for since the end of March.  Couple that with the fact I am also doing job applications and the workload feels endless. That said, it appears my education is coming to an end. I'm about to become a big boy, despite industry experience.


That last phrase sounded like my applications, apologies.

Welcome back.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bit of an update

April 16/17 - I was honoured to be allowed to have a two-day placement at Manchester United Football Club - one of the world's most recognisable sports teams - with the club journalists and online news team.

On the Thursday I was taken to Carrington Training Ground where I sat in on player interviews of David de Gea and Maroune Fellaini. It was really cool to see how MUTV operated with players like David de Gea who opted to have his interview done in Spanish. As an aspiring club journalist, one of the few who says that from the start apparently, I got to ask various questions about how the press office works, how news is covered - what is and what isn't - and the reach of the website.

Naturally, I was the most insignificant individual at the training ground. Although my parents may say otherwise... When de Gea finally turned up he was shaking hands with folks from MUTV before stepping into the room where he would be interviewed and where I was stood. As he walked by he reached out his hand to shake mine. One of the world's best goalkeepers, shaking my hand. He and I exchanged pleasantries of nothing football related in his native Spanish. Needless to say, he is one of the nicest guys about. 

The Friday was dedicated to seeing a press-conference with manager Louis Van Gaal. He is an incredible intimidating and smart person. According to Gemma, the club journalist who was in charge of me on the Thursday, Van Gaal knows exactly how to use the website and national media to get across his message. At 12 minutes past eleven, he strolled into the room and stared me dead in the eyes. I was the outlier in the room and he knew it. Immense.

I was able to write a number of news articles for the website including ones on Chris Smalling and Jesper Blomqvist. I also did tour profiles for a number of potential clubs United may play on their preseason tour as well as a longer piece on Dwight Yorke for their Legends game in June.

Overall, a crazy experience.

April 25/26 - Nationals were a product of reluctance and caving into my "I feel I am letting the team down by not playing" guilt. With eight skaters, we took to the ice to be smashed by four teams on two different days. That's not so much the story as the wait for Saturday night...

OUR LAST NIGHT. They were a last minute decision and one of the best I've made since seeing Silverstein earlier in the month. OLN, another band I had wanted to see live for ages, put on a tremendous show playing a number of songs off their recent albums which I liked including Dark Storms, Fate, Reason to Love, Same Old War and Sunrise.

I had already debated on missing Nationals entirely just to see these guys but once I saw the early finish we'd have I immediately booked my ticket. The tiredness the following day was worth it - they're textbook and really energetic. The crowd response was great for a smaller audience than I expected... everyone must've been at the Sheffield date the previous night.

Now who is left to cross off the must see list... Parkway Drive, The Black Dahlia Murder, All Time Low and several more.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Silverstein at Sound Control

Mack and I turned back the clocks at this gig to age 15 - technically 14 for me - as we saw Silverstein on the 'Discovering the Waterfront' 10-Year Anniversary Tour with support from Polar and Blood Youth.

We didn't even know the name of Blood Youth until Shane Told, vox of Silverstein, said it. Although it is possible he said it at the start of the set but Mack and I were both quick to judge... little did we know we had to get through Polar who weren't bad, they just were very generic.

(I personally give them credit because that "Glass Cutter" song of theirs is catchy.)

Naturally, Killing the Dream, The Carrier and Empty Vision will always be my favourite melo-hardcore bands as that's kind of what I'd consider Polar to be. Moving on.

I know I was dressed like a 15-year-old going to a show in "the scene". I had the flannel on, the tight fit jeans, the Nikes and the flat brim on a bit northwest AND one gigantic pimple on my chin. I guess you can add that I was trying to grow some facial hair as I hadn't shaved since Monday.

Meanwhile, Mack was quietly excited. I tend to fangirl as seen when at the I Killed the Prom Queen where I nearly sliced the head of a one Siobhan clean off.

The two of us stood off to the side at the back throughout the night until Silverstein were up. We then moved off the side just a little closer.

For an hour and a half set there was no possible way for either of our frail bodies to last all night - even in our youthful state.

Once Silverstein came on, I was basically speechless. I could only smile as it had been a "10 years in the making" sort of thing to see them live. And they are flawless live. Spot on up there with bands like Within the Ruins, Killswitch Engage and All-American Rejects in terms of quality.

Silverstein's first eight songs were all off other albums, including Smashed Into Pieces and Bleeds No More off their 2004 album and A Midwestern State of Emergency from their forthcoming effort to be released in May.

Brilliance as all I could do was stand there with the occasional arm grab of Mack during "Vices", "Sacrifice" and "Massachusetts".

DISCOVERING THE WATERFRONT in its entirety is not built for words. The album itself is a true work of art, hence why it peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard Independent Album chart and 34 on the Billboard 200.

The first song I ever listened to was "Smile In Your Sleep" and I was hooked from there. It took me ages to discover (not intended) the rest of the album after that song because I would have that one on repeat. But "First Wrapped In Blood" and "My Heroine" are beautiful.

MY HEROINE. Until this point, Mack and I had looked like the coolest 15-year-olds in the place by standing off to the side, arms folded - except for the guy who looked about 40 who knew every word and was going mental. He looked cool.

"Go, I'm right behind you," was all that Mack said.

And then we were just four deep near the front. Never had such watery eyes in my life. And for a venue that had been immense all night, it went up about 20 notches.

In terms of where the night ranks, it is hard to say. Seeing I Killed the Prom Queen was amazing, as was the show many moons ago where I saw Escape the Fate with Ronnie, LoveHateHero and BlessTheFall. Heck, even All-American Rejects was insane and they were being supported by Bo Bice.

No, it's right up there because it was incredible and everything my 15-year-old self had hoped for.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lancashire Spinners away day

It has been a busy week on placement at Sale and Altrincham Messenger, which also oversees Stretford and Urmston Messenger so I didn't get a chance to write this bad boy up when I wanted to.

(The aforementioned placement post will come later as I've been asked back for next Tuesday through Thursday.)

Needless to say, my first proper trip with Spinners basketball was unreal and brought me back to my Junior Hockey days with Springfield Jr Pics. Sidetrack moment: most vivid story that year would be when my roommate left the room to stay in his dad's room in Maine and he had the alarm on his phone meaning I didn't wake up... until Coach Tim Noonan was banging against my door like a madman.

I digress.

6.45am - My second alarm went off. But what follows means I could've at least gotten another half hour of sleep, which would've been nice as I didn't get to bed until around 3am. And I likely would've been awake longer had Eleanor not told me off for being awake when I had to be up early.

8.20am - I finally get picked up by Yomi "Ty" Taiwo who lives around the corner and who I rode with to Birmingham. This morning it's Kendrick Lamar and Drake that we're listening to. On our way to B'ham we connected through music and our love of Young Jeezy amongst others.

8.20 was 20 minutes past the said pickup time and we had to be at the pickup point for half eight and with the detour we took [information withheld] we clearly weren't going to arrive by then.

All the calls from player-coach Ste Gayle... the horror.

9.07am - Ty and I arrive at the pick up point 47 minutes late. FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES. I'm hauling a** down the road with him following behind -- probably the only time I'll ever outrun someone 6ft 5in plus because I was scootin' as they'd say.

The look on Ste's face when Ty got into the mini bus was fantastic. Words can't describe it but it was that "you're 47 minutes late" face.

Now, I'm not the most punctual individual myself as I find a way to be late after I was early, but I would've felt terrible had we been late even though it wasn't me driving.

The drive included serious banter between the players, namely involving Conor Porter, Mark Rangeley, Anthony Kuczaj and Ty and Ty Ogunneye.

12.00pm - Our first takeaway of the day is McDonalds somewhere along the extensive M1. I'm going to say somewhere near Luton. Just picture a 5ft 4in -- I'm being generous -- walking into a service station with a bunch of folks over 6ft. I hardly looked out of place standing in queue with the team.

1.56pm - The mini bus arrived into the East London borough of Newham and NewVic College where London Lituanica play out of. After some technical difficulties getting through the main gate, we bustled out of the van and were into the gym.

3.00pm - Game time. Or so everyone thought as only one referee was present.

3.56pm - The second referee strolls in after being stuck in traffic but #cmonman, what else do you expect in London? Tip off, 56 minutes late.

6.00pm - Not really the result Spinners were looking for but still plenty of positives came out of the team's regular season including a 19-3 record, Patrons Cup triumph, a second-seed and promotion.

Back in the mini bus and it's back to the north.

8.00pm - Time for the second takeaway of the day which is KFC. All I could think about was how great the gym was going to feel on Monday and about all those ab exercises.

I think I fell asleep pretty much when my butt hit the seat. I was crushed when I found out the services we stopped at were only in Milton Keynes - home to many roundabouts.

11.20pm - Back at the pickup point 14 hours later and all I could taste was my bed...

12.00am - ... to write two articles for the Bury Times.

It was a long, long day but so enjoyable. That's what it's meant to be right? Because that's what I've signed up for.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A well needed update:

I realise it has been quite some time since I last posted anything and I do apologise, but I have been kept busy by an amount of various things.

Firstly, I "starred"in my first ever podcast! I spoke for around 30 minutes with the folks at Low Limit Futbol about everything Southampton. Leading up to my spot, I was filled with nerves as I hadn't done anything like it before but it was something I've wanted to do for some time. I enjoy the likes of Dan Le Batard and Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio and to get a chance to share my opinions was awesome.

(I believe I come in somewhere along the 15.30 mark as my voice may not be as recognisable as new acquaintances keep telling me I sound Scottish when I clearly don't!)

Next, the sport pathway of my MA Journalism course has a community project built into it where we get to go out and cover different sports to gain experience. Most of the content we generate goes into weekly papers such as the Rossendale Free Press or Accrington Observer and when I finally got a chance to write about basketball I seized the opportunity.

My assignment was to produce a report and quotes piece for Lancashire Spinners, who had won the Patrons Cup. Through that, I somehow talked my way into being just a student with no power at the MEN in terms of coverage. The General Manager - thrilled at my own excitement to cover basketball - asked if I was interested in producing reports for their website whilst basically giving me free reign in the process AND another byline in the Bury Times. Claire Cameron at the Bury Times was kind enough to allow my name to be on the report as I'm writing them a second report with a slightly different angle to the website.

As far as experience, it's exactly what I want because I want to be a part of an organisation's media team as a career. There is just something about being able to develop close relationships with the players that is cool and exciting. With my first post game interviews the players were really pleased with my knowledge of the game as I asked about zone defences and about their productive inside-outside game leading to wide open looks.

Interviewing players and the podcast has definitely helped me to break out of my shell as, would you believe it, I'm a typically shy individual. I still stumble over my words every so often but that is to be expected as I'm still learning.

In terms of proper school work, I have become more confident with shorthand after being promoted back to the fast group after a short two day stint in the second group. Still plenty of room for improvement as I'm just starting to nail 70 words per minute ahead of a 60 words per minute exam but I am pleased with my progress thus far.

Aside from that, I have played a hockey game with eight skaters. I played somewhere between 50-52 minutes of a 60 minute game. Nothing to be proud of but I am.

I've also been called a "tabloid hack" on a Macclesfield Town FC forum. Brilliant scenes and sooner rather than later it will be on my twitter bio. Never been more proud of ridicule.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Manchester Evening News

Following a week of three brutal exams, I was rewarded with a week -- well three days -- of work experience at the Manchester Evening News (MEN) on the sports desk. I would end up with a few bylines in various weekly newspapers, my name being spelled correctly.

The scenarios I got myself in will sound typical Allen. Context: the MEN is located all the way out in Hollinwood, which is just inside the M60 ring road around Manchester. I'm sure that means little, but it was an hour journey via a tram change. The second tram will become important to the narrative on day two.

On day one, I arrived into Hollinwood tram station 30 minutes before I was supposed to. Fair enough right? Well I somehow turned that 30 minutes into being 15 minutes late because I happened upon the wrong turnstile to gain entrance into the premises. There are apparently three. Even after calling into the switchboard, I couldn't figure out why security wasn't letting me in, but a few workers finally pointed me in the right direction.

When I finally did get into the building, I was put right to work producing a match report for League 2 team Accrington Stanley, who had lost to AFC Wimbledon, as well as a quotes piece for the back page.

To be fair, I was put to work by 11a.m. as no one could remember the password for the computer.

Day two was far more exciting. Or frustrating (depends on how you look at it).

To get to Hollinwood, I catch the tram from Eccles into city centre. From there, I walk to the Market Street tram stop where trams leave for Bury and Rochdale. I get on a tram to Rochdale which spits me out right outside the MEN offices.

I had no issues on Monday but Tuesday... On Tuesday, a car got in an accident with an Altrincham-Bury tram. Thankfully, I wasn't on that tram but I would once again be late -- a great way to impress potential employers.

So on one of the coldest mornings I had to wait 30 minutes for a tram to arrive.

Once I did arrive, I had plenty to do. There was a rugby report and a few football reports to take care of and it goes without saying, I know nowt about rugby. I made use of some online rugby glossary but even that wasn't enough. Oh, how lost I was.

All week, I was under the supervision of Richard (surname withheld), who was very informative about the industry and answered any questions I had. I learnt the politics of a newsroom and how big editorial changes can be.

Richard decided for Wednesday my time would be best served NOT trying to chance the trams and to work from home.
Smart. On Wednesday, I was assigned a 1p.m. deadline to complete a match report for Accy's 1-0 loss to Bury the night before. The process to write a match report is simple: in my own words, combine what Accy and their opponent wrote about the match. But for Stanley, also known as "the club that wouldn't die", their website sure did since someone didn't pay the bill.

It made it difficult but I was able to piece together a somewhat coherent report.

Overall, the quotes pieces were my favourite thing to do: watch a video of either the manager or player speaking and then write a 400 word article with an angle of my choice. It felt like journalism.

And because these pieces were to go to into the Accrington Observer, I was told not to slate the team even if they weren't playing well, which they weren't.

I remember reading articles other course mates had done whilst on placement. Unlike mine, some had theirs posted online and the comments were brilliant. Not word for word, but comments ranged from positive discussion to, "can't believe the rubbish journalists bring out these days". I would've hoped for the latter!

I couldn't get my hands on the Accrington Observer until the following Wednesday but when I did my name was on three of the four stories on the inside page of the sports section. How cool.