Hello Wembley! NCTJ student reports from Championship play-off final

Tom Crocker was awarded first prize from The Football League on 8 February at the Student Council forum at MSN in London for his outstanding NCTJ sports journalism exam performance.

Tom studied at Up to Speed Journalism Training in Bournemouth. Until recently he was chief match day reporter at AFC Bournemouth, writing match reports for their official website and interviewing staff and players for their online TV service, ‘Cherries Player’. Tom has also done some freelance work for the Reading Post covering Reading FC, as well as regularly contributing to MSN Sport and a number of online football blogs.

To read Tom’s match report, click here.

NCTJ student reportTom: In what was billed as the £120 million match, I was privileged enough to be right in the thick of the action as a whole host of big names from the world of sport descended on the Wembley press box for  the Championship play-off final between Crystal Palace and Watford.

I have been to the national stadium on numerous occasions as a fan but it is completely different from the other side of the fence with such a brilliant view and perfect working conditions and press facilities, just as expected.

It is a bit of a daunting experience at first just walking into the press lounge and seeing all the faces which pop up on national television or in national newspapers everyday, but as soon as the game kicks off you just focus on the task in hand.

The game itself didn’t quite live up to the billing with the scores still goalless at 90 minutes but that in itself brings its own challenges.

The skills I learnt during my NCTJ course really helped to ensure I had my match report prepared in case there was late drama whilst also keeping a close eye on matters on the pitch.

A headline which looked to be in the making for months was for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha to net the winner on his last appearance for the club and he very nearly did just that in stoppage time.

Instead the fairytale ending saw 39-year-old Kevin Phillips score an extra-time penalty sparking wild celebrations from the Palace fans.

I was looking forward greatly to the post-match press conferences and you learn a lot just by being present. I used my experiences from my NCTJ training to pick out the strongest lines and tweet them out from the presser to round off a brilliant day.

The whole experience increased my hunger further to be back in press boxes like Wembley on a regular basis in what I hope is a long career in sports journalism, which NCTJ has helped to become a realistic possibility.