So, my first blog post of 2012....... here it goes.
I sit here writing this in my room of the house i'll be staying in for the rest of the year. The same place I spent last year (when we weren't slogging it in a hotel half way across the country). I also sit here with lots of thoughts going round and round in my head. I remember this time last year, i'd not long got my work visa sorted out after a trip down to the Embassy in London. Kansas City was completely alien to me at that time, i'd always travelled to cover games in England, but this was something else! I remember being slightly nervous, but very exited as I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life thus far. I remember speak with my best friend, Carl, on my final day in England and it hitting us both. He said 'this is really happening isn't it?' in a confused manor. After a tearful goodbye to my loved ones at the airport I felt an over sensing feeling of excitement but nervs as well. I had no idea about Kansas City, I had no idea how friendly people were going to be, had no real idea of how good the TV broadcasts would be, I had no idea i'd make some of the best friends i've ever made. At the time, it was a huge risk and many questioned why I would leave everything i'd ever worked for and knew all behind. It just so happened that the risk was well worth taking and my love for this country, this city, its people and soccer in the USA has grown day by day. Last year was an amazing year and according to most, this year is going to be even better!
I remember departing KC to head home and it was funny, because I had recognizable feelings. I had to have a giggle to myself about it. I thought of all the people i'd miss, all the people I care about in KC and thought for a second 'hold up, i recognize this feeling'. Never the less it was great to head back home for the off season. I got to spend a lot of time with the people I care about back in England and have a good old catch up. It was very rewarding to be able to recharge to batteries and spend some quality time with family and friends over Christmas and New Year. Can I share a secret with you though......... if i'm honest, I could have come back a month earlier! When I saw the wonderful coverage on mlssoccer.com (which our Sporting KC TV crew produced) of the Combine and the Superdraft, I really wanted to be there. I suppose being back in England I always felt as though there was something missing, I think that thing was a mixture of Kansas City and Sporting KC, because I wasn't involved in the day to day TV stuff. I only worked once when I was back in England for ITV's FA Cup coverage. I could have done more but I didn't want to miss out on opportunities to see people who I knew I probably won't see until December this year. Either way, I had a great time back in England, I really look forward to going back, but right now, there's work to be done :)
I can not express how excited is was to come back to Kansas City and get our season underway. It meant I got to see some people I deeply care about once again, but it also meant the season wasn't to far away from starting up again.
I have to admit, pre season in England is completely different to pre season in the USA. Not saying I didn't enjoy it back home, but I really did enjoy being surrounded and speaking to so many people involved with Major League Soccer. I spoke to so many players, coaches, fans, scouts and fellow broadcasters. It certainly further backed up many people's view that MLS is one big family. The set up was very good down in Orlando, we had mixed weather but mostly glorious sunshine throughout. Our production set up was once again very very good for a live stream (once again produced by the Sporting KC TV team, @abnerha, @the_doubledown, @ctwyche and Craig who isn't on twitter!!). The boys from MLSsoccer.com were also helping out with the camera's whilst Jon Yardley (@jtyardley), Simon Borg (@simonborg), Jake Yadrich (@jakeyadrich) and I would handle play by play duties. It was great to speak with so many people and get that first hand opinion on players..... "no chance, he's still 2 weeks away from being fit", "he is a bit of a loose cannon, but a great player", "ye we took a good luck at him before they took him". I love being involved in that sort of conversation with the coaches and scouts and get it first hand from them. Not going to lie, I love soccer gossip!! Another lad who loves a bit of gossip and is always good company, Mr big time himself Arlo White. I remember going through my notes an hour or so before the 2nd evening and heard a shout of "oi, oi" (typical English greeting). I had a good chat with Arlo that night about the whole NBC broadcasts and their set up for MLS this year, all i'll say is, its going to blow you away!! Spoke several times with Arlo throughout the trip in Orlando and also had a good chat with some of the lads from Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. The voice of MLS on TSN, Luke Wileman and I get on quite well and once again, both being ex BBC boys we often have plenty to talk about, this trip was no different. Also did an interview with Pete Schaad, the voice of Vancouver Whitecaps for his radio show and in return he came on mine for a chat as well (1 big family).
For those of you worried about Sporting KC's performances/results down in Orlando, its simple, don't. Its only pre season and the players looked fit and even though they didn't win, to my knowledge the coaching staff got what they wanted from that trip. Evaluation and fitness were the keys, mission accomplished.
So I write this to you on the eve of the first week of 'First Kick 2012' and i'm chomping at the bit to get going (i recognize this feeling). Last year was incredible, anybody fancy doing it all again?
See you on Saturday from RFK Stadium ;-)