No, not just the mutterings of the school’s careers teacher when a 14-year-old Sutcliffe revealed his masterplan for the future but also the response of strangers when the staple question of social gatherings everywhere crops up: ‘So, what do you do for a living?’ Football writer, like chief taster for San Miguel or Liz Hurley’s personal dresser, is very much considered to belong in the category ‘hobby’ as opposed to ‘occupation’.
Having done this job for more years than I care to remember and, as of last night, having chalked up 1,000 matches for The Yorkshire Post, it is a viewpoint I have heard quite a lot.
Mostly, I will nod along in agreement. Covering Yorkshire football for this newspaper can feel like that at times – and especially when one of our teams is celebrating promotion or a big victory. Witnessing, at close quarters, the joy that success can bring – and, sometimes, share in – is a privilege and one that should never be taken for granted.
Nor is getting to know personally some of the county’s biggest characters, genuinely good guys such as Steve Bruce, Neil Warnock, Chris Wilder, Simon Grayson and a multitude of others. Sitting in the manager’s office and listening to people who have more stories than Walt Disney can be great fun.
Equally, though, there are moments when life does not feel quite as charmed. Motorway closures at the dead of night – and the subsequent diversion round random villages in the back-end of nowhere – when still 100 miles from home are a long way from fun.
So, too, are the times when an interview in the immediate aftermath of a relegation or shock Cup defeat feels like intruding on someone’s private grief. The pure, unadulterated pain etched across Richard Cresswell’s face an hour or so after Leeds United’s slide into League One had been confirmed in 2007 is still with me today.
The poor fella was so crest-fallen, he seemed badly in need of a consoling hug. “I’m glad you didn’t,” laughed Cresswell when we reminisced about that down-beat interview many years later during his brief spell as York City caretaker manager.
Still, as Bertie Bassett would no doubt say, it takes all sorts and that certainly sums up those first 1,000 games reporting for the YP.
There have been thrills, spills and, in the depths of winter, plenty of chills while covering this fine county’s football teams. This includes reporting on 15 play-off finals, while last night’s trip to Fleetwood with Bradford was my 33rd semi-final.
There have also been 48 England internationals, including a magical month at the 2006 World Cup, and seven penalty shoot-outs. One of those, Harrogate Town’s FA Cup exit at Hastings United in 2012, triggered one of those rare ‘this job isn’t fun’ moments as I defrosted the car with the dashboard clock flashing ‘11.05pm’ knowing a 276-mile drive lay ahead. Bleak.
Much more enjoyable to chart has been Hull City’s rise, the Tigers accounting for 285 of those 1,000 assignments for the YP. Only Leeds United, whose ability to hog the headlines for good and bad reasons remains unrivalled, have featured more often on my roster of games with 299.
The first of those trips east came in League One at home to Stockport County, a tame goalless draw hardly serving notice of just how eventful the following years would be when trundling along the A63.
Four promotions, two relegations, Wembley visits, an FA Cup final and a brief foray into European competition prove it really is never dull in Hull.
Personal highlights include those Europa League trips to Slovakia and Belgium, plus City racing into a two-goal lead inside nine minutes of the 2014 Cup final against Arsenal.
Being at Hillsborough when 8,000 Tigers fans made the trip in midweek for a 4-2 victory in League One also felt to be a big step forward for the club – if not my blood pressure after a laptop failure 15 minutes from time meant dictating two different versions of an 800-word match report for the East Riding and south Yorkshire editions. Deadlines were not so much missed that night, as smashed to smithereens.
Thankfully, such technological malfunctions have been rare. That, though, has not prevented some heart-stopping moments along the way.
Late goals are a nightmare for any reporter up against a tight deadline due to a hasty re-write invariably being needed.
Nick Powell’s late 11-minute hat-trick to clinch a 3-2 win for Wigan Athletic against Barnsley was the type of chaotic end to a night that made me pine for the calm of last season when one week brought five consecutive goalless draws.
Atdhe Nuhiu missing a penalty in the very next game left me wondering if I would ever see the ball hit the net again but, thankfully, the big Sheffield Wednesday striker made amends by ending that barren run a few minutes later against QPR.
Other challenging nights on a par with last month’s defeat for Barnsley include the visit of Steve Evans’s Crawley Town to Valley Parade. A pitched brawl at the final whistle led to five players being shown red cards by referee Iain Williamson.
Our problem in the press box was that all these dismissals came out of sight in the dressing rooms, meaning a swift post-match enquiry to the officials was required along with an even quicker amendment to the already filed match report.
Tresor Kandol being sent off just a few seconds after coming off the bench for Leeds at Norwich was another genuine ‘what the hell happened there?’ moment of indiscipline that took some unravelling.
Trouble off the field has been mercifully rare, though there was one night at Chesterfield when the frustrations of the Rotherham United fans at a 5-0 defeat spilled over at the final whistle.
This led to a police escort being laid on to get visiting buses out of town – allowing the Yorkshire Postmobile to nip in and jump every red light at breakneck speed en route to the M1. Quite a thrill at the time, as was being on the pitch at Walsall immediately after Barnsley had booked their trip to Wembley in last season’s play-offs.
I was not supposed to be there. But, wanting to secure an interview or three for the YP’s upcoming Wembley supplement, a steward looking the other way was all the chance I needed so on I went. Getting an up close glimpse of just what that victory meant to the players and supporters was a special moment. The look on the less-than-happy steward’s face as he saw me leaving he field, dictaphone in hand, 10 minutes later was enjoyable, too.
With play-offs season now upon us, let us hope there will be more Yorkshire celebrations to capture very, very soon.