Here is a selection of 2014 articles for you
Cup Final Here We Come...
The FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Reading has definitely got me going for the big one at the end of May.
I've really enjoyed the competition this season right the way back to that first Friday night game where 2.5 million people watched non-league Warrington beat Exeter City.
There was a real bounce to Wembley throughout the day and much of that came from the championship side. They'd laid out over 30,000 blue and white t-shirts on their supporters seats and the entire squad and staff were clapped into their dressing room by the local Mayor and dignitaries. I'm assuming it was the mayor judging by the size of his gold chain. I suppose he may have been related to BA Baracas!
I was live on BBC Breakfast at 8:30am and then Martin Keown and Danny Murphy joined us for Football Focus. It was freezing early on but my big cost turned out to something on a sweatfest in the midday sun.
In addition to all the normal football stuff we spoke to the Wembley's executive head chef responsible for 86 kitchens, 300 other chefs and 6500 hot meals. I got to sample of the starters - beef carpaccio, with smoked quails eggs and some posh green stuff I didn't quite catch the name of. Mark and his team never get to see a single minute of the match.
It was also lovely to meet blind Arsenal fan Peter Gosnell at the end of the show. He's one of the 64 fans who'll be singing 'Abide With Me' on the pitch on cup final day as part of the Songs Of Praise choir.
Reading were brilliant in the game itself. I watched it sat next to Captain Keown just behind the dugouts. As I worked my way through a family pack of chocolate Hob Nobs it was great to listen to Martin's assessment - like your own personal commentator.
Mr Wenger admitted afterwards that he was surprised by Reading's quality and intensity. Sadly they were undone by a painful blunder from the otherwise excellent Adam Federici. The keeper was inconsolable afterwards, weeping as boss Steve Clarke tried to keep him from running down the tunnel. I had a chat with Jamie Mackie about an hour after the game and the players knew they'd let a huge opportunity to make the final get away from them. I offered him my last Hob Nob... he declined.
So it's the holders Arsenal who'll face Aston Villa for the big shiny thing at the end of May. Watching hours of build up to the cup final with Des Lynam was always a wonderful way to spend a morning. There is something strangely mesmerising about an aerial shot of a team coach edging towards Wembley! It'll be a pleasure to be part of the coverage this time round - though I might leave the big coat at home.
Dan will be part of the BBC's coverage of the FA cup final, live from Wembley on Saturday May 30th.
Middle Class War
Check out my Middle Class War piece in Shortlist Magazine this week....
THE FA CUP IS BACK!
“Kerry Katona’s from Warrington”
“I’ve found a Donkey called Dandy”
“Has anyone got a phone number for One Direction?”
Just some of the conversations we had last week all related to the return of the FA cup to the BBC.
The powers that be have thrown everything at the early rounds – we’ve got Friday night live games, a Football Focus roadshow on Saturday, a special Sunday Final Score with goals as they go in and then on Monday it's that posh draw show.
The balls have been kind in round 1 with a number of league sides making those dreaded trips to dodgy pitches to take on a bunch of plumbers, plasterers and the obligatory milkmen!
We start our coverage with the sort of game we’ve all missed. If you've seen the TV advert involving the worst penalty (taken by Len Goodman) since Diana Ross at the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony you'll know we are off to Warrington.
Warrington Town are the lowest ranked side in the competition and have already had to win 5 matches to reach the 1st round for the 1st time in their history.
Their opponents - Exeter City - took Manchester United to a replay 10 years ago which was quite a feat back then (sorry Louis).
They are led by the only cravat wearing manager in league football who’s been in his dug out for longer than any other boss other than Arsene Wenger - Paul Tisdale.
Martin Keown, Trevor Sinclair and Doctor Robert Savage have all been promised a warm welcome at Cantilever Park. The pies are apparently rather special.
And if that’s not enough excitement for you – standby John Cleese, Jeffrey Archer and anyone who’s pushed pennies on the pier at Weston Super Mare – Football Focus is heading to the Somerset seaside. We are driving straight down from Warrington to watch the Conference South side trying to down the mighty Donny from League One.
We’ve spoken to their super-fan and reserve team superstar Louis Tomlinson about what makes the FA Cup beautiful! I’m sure he hopes his side will be heading in one direction - the second round.
There are 56 teams in action on Saturday afternoon and the BBC online warriors will make sure you can watch all the goals from all the games that night.
Then on superlative-free Sunday, there are 10 more matches and all the goals will be on a special FA Cup Final Score. Fans of Gosport, Braintree, Aldershot, Maidstone, Worcester and Forest Green will be hoping to upset league opposition and Norton and the mighty Blyth Spartans will be trying to make round 2.
It will be manic but magic and in the early evening Manish will have more considered highlights of all the weekend games at 6.30pm on BBC2.
It's not over yet because on Monday night the new-look draw show will be in front of a live audience at the National Football Museum.
That's just the telly. You'll get the usual comprehensive service on 5 Live and everything will be on that BBC app we are always going on about too.
I know this sounds a bit like a sales pitch but we are genuinely excited to have FA cup back. I think you're going to love it. If I had a big pair of scissors I'd cut a ribbon! Let the cup commence.
A Healthy Start to 2014
Like many people out there, I have decided to start 2014 with some sort of fitness regime. It’s similar to the one I did for Men’s Health a few years ago but involves less food and – thankfully - less fake tan!
The plan has been formulated by the warriors at Born 2 Move. They are a very friendly bunch of personal trainers who work out of Bakewell in deepest Derbyshire. They have devised a programme that involves eating for an 8 hour window each day and cutting out the vast majority of sugar from your diet. All that means an emotional farewell to Double Deckers, Frosties, Jammy Dodgers, Fig Rolls and lots of other tasty (but evil) treats.
Thankfully I’ve been given some assistance by the lovely people at Nature’s Sunshine and Maximuscle so I am fully supplemented up and ready to embrace 9 weeks of sugar-free life… sort of.
If you are interested I will also post up the Born 2 Move exercise plan that goes with it. It splits the 9 weeks into 3 chunks of 3 and involves an almost illegal amount of squats.
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