The Stacey West meets Kieran Agard

This is one of those slightly indulgent posts that doesn’t feature as much about Lincoln as it should. In the mire of galleries, match reports and the like, I feel occasionally I’ve lost a little of that personal touch that many of you remember from the early days.

It’s not as easy with being on News Now to talk about myself or the Imps’ related stuff I’ve done, but today has been something I really wanted to share with you. Some of you will be newer and won’t be aware of the path that has led me to being a writer, some will. I’ve decided just to do a bit of a refresh and tell you about today.

I started this site as a way of coping with a tough time personally. I’d been managing a Builder’s Merchant, the industry I’d been in for well over fifteen years, but as I’d climbed the ladder I’d liked my job and myself less and less. It suits some, but the pressure of working for this particular one, a brand of kitchen that shall remain nameless, took its toll. I ended up coming off with stress, suffering from sleepless nights, anxiety and all sort of other symptoms that made me very unhappy and to a degree, continue to do so.

To get around much of that, my partner suggested I write as an outlet. I’d always been interested in it and I’d written for the Echo, a few different sites and even had my own ill-fated blog ‘The Mascot Diaries’, but management put a stop to it all. I penned a blog or two, you lot read them and things snowballed from there.

I always wanted to be a proper writer, someone paid to go out and interview players and do write ups. The internet and social media meant that after a while I binned off the nine to five (let’s be honest, half six until at least six) and made a little doing a few writing bits. Last year I got offered permanent freelance work with Football League World meaning that I’d achieved what I told a suspicious careers advisor I always wanted to be. A journalist.

Today, that dream took another step as I was asked to go to MK Dons to interview Kieran Agard after he won the PFA Player of the Month for November. I know it won’t please many hardcore fans who surely want to see me slate the opposition and of course, MK Dons, but here’s a few words covering my afternoon.

 

I had to meet the PFA rep at their ground for 1pm and me being me, I made sure I was there for 12.30. I prefer to be an hour early than a minute late, but I rang the rep anyway, to let him know I was there if he was. I’d glanced at the name on the email but not paid it much thought, but as soon as a broad, Brummie accent answered I put two and two together: George Berry.

Berry played for Wolves and Stoke and anyone with a collection of old Panini sticker albums (guilty) will have recognised his huge afro. He’s shaven-headed now, but there was no mistaking him at all. I had tried to sneak in a cigar before I got to the meeting point, but as he caught up with me he sparked up a smoke himself. I’d never believed I’d be stood outside MK Dons stadium praising nicotine with an ex-pro. 

We had a coffee and a chat before going into their ground and whatever you think of their history, or lack of it, there’s no denying their facilities are spot on. They’re a nice bunch too, the chap who met us to show us around was friendly and wasn’t at all bothered that I had a Lincoln City phone case. I was due to film the interview, but George offered to do it instead, which meant I didn’t have to take the phone case off.

Their set up is impressive, the changing rooms are top quality and the whole area is smartly decorated. I was impressed, thinking that their ground was the benchmark. We got chatting about the players and the rep told me they’d been at their training ground. He said facilities there were not good and the ultimate aim was to have a ground they could spend all week at, like a proper top flight club. That made me swell with pride because that is exactly what we’ve got. if their ground is the aspiration for us, our training ground is the same for them.

Kieran is a player I’ve always liked, a nippy centre forward with a knack for scoring goals and just because he plays for our rivals doesn’t mean I should instantly dislike him. Anyone meeting him would be hard pushed to do so because he’s a lovely guy. He greeted us like old friends and smiled all the way through his interview, much like you’d expect Matt Green to do. The other players filtered through at various times, some nice and friendly, others eyeing a group of unknowns in the home dressing room with suspicion, much as you’d expect from any set of players. Like a bit of a fan boy, I asked for a photo with Kieran, just as a memento of the day.

The questions I asked were pretty much set and it did surprise me to have them vetted first. I imagine this is standard, Kieran even had a read before we started. I wonder if Danny might like that on press conference day, or at least not have ‘how important is the crowd’ asked three different ways in the space of a minute. It’s not something I’ve seen at Lincoln but I would imagine the media team have more say when it comes to the PFA or independent media companies turning up.

I was the only journalist there and after a short video session we just chatted for ten minutes or so. It was interesting to hear their opinions on crowds. The comment was made that having 5,000 or so in a 30,000 stadium can be a help, especially with Paul Tisdale’s patient build up. The crowd doesn’t get on the players backs, or at least the atmosphere isn’t cranked right up. That means they can kick on and win games late on. I pointed out we’re the other way, when the game is flagging in the 70th minute or so we get the crowd behind the players and that could fire us on, case point being the league match earlier in the season.

That got a chuckle, which was good. 

It does seem that they’re looking forward to us going there in April. I asked about the sort of allocation they give to away teams and was told ‘as many as they’ll take’, but was warned their fans will match visiting fans when the noise is loud, but it’s hard to bounce off each other when there’s forty fans from Forest Green in one corner. That got a chuckle too, especially from me.

The general feeling in MK is if April’s game is between two sides more or less guaranteed promotion, it will be job done. Oddly, we’re bitter rivals on the pitch, but off it the feeling is very much the same, there’s a certain shared desire and camaraderie that is perhaps hidden to most. They want promotion, they’ll be happy if it’s top three and they think if they finish above us, they’ll be in League One. Those exact words weren’t said, but the conversation was not unlike ones I have at the ground with our staff all the time.

All too quickly it was time for Kieran to get his lunch and the rest of us to disappear. I snapped a couple of shots on the way out, shook hands and said all the thank yous, then hit the road; five and a half hour round trip for twenty minutes in the ground. I’m not bothered one bit though, it’s an experience, one I wanted throughout my school years and never imagined I’d get when I was arguing with an angry builder about 3p on his bags of cement.

I’ve had a text message from George this evening, the most down to earth bloke you’ll ever meet, wishing me a Happy Christmas. Hopefully the winner of the December award will be within driving distance of Lincoln and I can get to another ground and meet another player with my Lincoln City phone case, sharing a smoke with a former Stoke legend on the way into the ground.

It’s not the most ground breaking blog I’ve ever written, I won’t share it on social media and search desperately for likes because that isn’t why I’m writing it. I genuinely feel today my wishes as a kid came true. It keeps happening, I always wanted to write a book on Lincoln which I’ve done, I’ve always wanted to get paid full-time for writing which I do and now I’ve gone out in the real world, met people and done some proper journalist work. It doesn’t sound so phenomenal, but on my 37th birthday I stayed at the depot I managed until 7pm doing a stocktake, then went back in at 5am to recount the stuff my staff had got wrong, before arguing incessantly over missing bits, late deliveries and prices for nine hours. I may have glanced at a newspaper or an article online, written by someone I wished I could be, or wished I’d tried harder to be.

Three years later I’ve made it happen, thanks to you, my partner and my supportive family and every single day I wonder how the bloody hell I managed it. Thanks for indulging me.

 

7 Comments

  1. Gary, a most enjoyable article. Consider yourself thoroughly indulged. If our paths don’t cross on Saturday have a very happy Christmas. PS Got any parking tips for Cambridge?

  2. Keep up the good work Gary . Well done for following your dream. Your new vocation in life is brilliant and provides a superb insight for us all. UTI , Merry Xmas, Charlie

  3. Nice one. I stood next to you in wetherspoons on Saturday (pretty sure it was you anyway) and wanted to say I liked your work but I’m a bit awkward socially (sound familiar?) so I just got my beer and walked off. Anyway……I enjoy your work ??

  4. You deserve it Gary for bringing “life” to the after match commentaries that other press failed to do and yours are not restricted.
    Keep up with the great articles and match facts.

  5. Good for you Gary! And long may your new career continue to flourish and bring you (and us, your readers) continued happiness. I’m guessing it’s made a significant difference to your anxiety issues, now you have more control over your life?

Comments are closed.