Wednesday December 2, around 10am. The mood changed perceptibly in the Sky Sports newsroom. The producer of the upcoming noon to five shift had just received an email from the higher echelons of the organisation, containing some astonishing and truly unexpected breaking news.
The email was only forwarded on to a few people, those who could design the big yellow graphics for on screen, those who could put together montages of the man’s career so far. Yet everyone seemed to know something was going on. It’s like a sixth sense that you get when you work in journalism for a short period of time – that, and the inevitably of something big happening after the same producer told us in the morning meeting that today would probably be a quiet day.
Meanwhile, the work experience lackey, who was attempting to tag along with the graphics team and ask such incisive questions as “What’s this?”, “What’s that?”, and “Why do you do that?”, was suddenly finding everyone a lot less friendly than previously, a lot more stressed too. I was sent back to the junior sub-editor I had been sat with before, slightly confused.
“It’s because of this”, said the sub-editor, pointing to the first line of a draft script that had been put into the system. I read it. It made no sense to me.
“Gary Neville has been appointed head coach of Valencia until the end of the season”. But, I thought, it will be a bit embarrassing when the presenter reads it out on air, and they’ve picked the wrong Neville brother. I know Phil is in temp charge, and maybe he’s brought Gary in as an assis… wait. Gary’s the new… Valencia? I mean… really?
(A quick thought on Gary’s appointment – he is in charge until the summer of 2016. Roy Hodgson is set to leave the England post after Euro 2016. I have already made clear that Gary Neville should be the next manager of England. Is this whole Valencia shindig an elaborate dress rehearsal? It is possible.)
It was remarkable to see how quickly the journalists worked – how swiftly old clips of Gnev putting in crunching tackles and lifting trophies as Man United captain were uncovered, fact files drawn up, experts rung for their expertise to be shared on air.
I was down in the gallery, where the director and producers put the show out live, when the Neville news broke, and it was an unforgettable experience. It was summed up by the moment the FA released a statement on Neville’s appointment and continued involvement with England. I have never seen anyone find a statement, copy and paste it, check it for errors, put it in the auto-cue and get it on air quicker. The whole process took a minute. It takes me longer to make a sandwich.
Being in the Sky Sports studio for this was fantastic. Also, if you were wondering why there was a discussion on how Neville needs to win his first game in charge to keep Valencia in the Champions League, that’s because I pointed it out in the gallery. Just call me Jim White.