Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Alan Green: Chelsea v Manchester United was a game that makes it all worthwhile

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Gary Cahill of Chelsea (R) fails to stop Javier Hernandez of Manchester United (C) scoring their third goal with a header during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Have you ever wanted to quit your job and live the life of a football commentator instead? Being offered a prime seat at all the best games and not having to pay for it? Better still, someone is paying YOU to be there!

Well, beware: even in my work you have to take the rough with the smooth; as on Sunday.

The ‘problems’ began late Saturday afternoon when British Airways announced which flights they’d be canceling in and out of Heathrow the following day in order to minimise disruption: yes, really — before a single flake of snow had fallen in London!

And, of course, they included my mid-morning Sunday flight from Manchester to do the Chelsea game.

At least, I was alert to the likelihood and switched to an earlier flight that was still going ahead: the 8.20am departure.

I got up at 6 to get to Manchester Airport.

When I arrived I was told the earliest ‘slot’ for the flight was now 11.30, still offering, just about, decent time to get to Stamford Bridge.

There was then a completely unexpected call for boarding at 8.45 and we actually left the gate at 9.

Five minutes later we were back ‘on stand’ hearing that Heathrow wasn’t ‘accepting’ any planes before midday now.

The captain was a right comic: thinks he’s Billy Connolly. “The earliest we’ll be taking off is after twelve, it could be later or it could be tomorrow!” Wasn’t that hilarious?

NowI didn’t know when or if I’d get to London: 5 Live’s plan to introduce ‘single commentators’ might be introduced earlier than forecast.

And, if I didn’t make it, where would I present 6-0-6 from?

The plane took off finally at 1.45 pm, nearly five and a half hours late. It’s a thirty five minute flight. After my recent heart bypass surgery, I’m meant to be avoiding stress!

I hopped into the car that had been waiting for me outside Terminal 5. I think the driver’s name was Lewis – Hamilton!

He made it to Chelsea in around twenty five minutes. My eyes were closed most of the time.

So, I was in my ‘prime seat’ just in time to digest the team news and wipe the sweat from my brow before the 4 o’clock kick-off. Then came the ‘smooth’

My commentary colleague and dear friend, Mike Ingham, said the first half was a “slow burner” but neither of us has witnessed too many more event-filled second halves.

That Mata goal that could only have been bettered from a Chelsea perspective had Mata crossed the ball and Torres volleyed in: the brilliance of Manchester United’s comeback and the controversy thrown up by Howard Webb, supposedly England’s best referee.

So, yes, the ridiculous travel hassle may have taken a year or two off my life but was just about acceptable given the game. Football STILL makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning.

Oh, I nearly forgotmy flight back to Manchester was delayed for an hour and a half with everyone forced to sit on the plane. Still fancy a swap?