There are many things that no journalism student can reasonably expect to happen.
Among them would be meeting Rafa Benitez, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher; attending a Europa League press conference at Anfield; sitting in the Liverpool press box to report live from the action; or taking a tour of Melwood to watch the Reds' squad train.
I never thought any of that would be possible at this early stage of my career. Such access to Premier League footballers is extremely unlikely for a student and was something I could only dream of.
But through a combination of hard work and good fortune, I have experienced all of the above during the last month. These things would be unbelievable experiences for any lifelong Liverpool fan, but my priority was how I could learn and improve myself as a journalist.
The idea of access to a press pass for Anfield might seem like a dream to many students but the glamour that may immediately spring to mind is often not the reality. I am proud to have been chosen to use the press pass this website has been given, but I am aware of why I was given the opportunity. I have put in long hours, often at weekends, and had to perform tasks that are far from glamorous.
Many times I have been told that being able to write about football is not nearly enough, and the lessons I learned in our Sports Journalism module were essential before I was ready to take on such a responsibility.
My first press pass, for the Europa League quarter-final
against Benfica, was an amazing experience that I will never
forget. Despite Liverpool’s performance and 4-1 victory, the
night was all about learning.
For the first time in my life, I did not celebrate any of
Liverpool's goals, which was a curious feeling. When the Reds
drew 0-0 against Fulham three days later, I found myself hoping
there would not be a late winner as my match report, which was
written and ready for the final whistle, would have been ruined.
I spent much of my time at Anfield watching other journalists,
seeing how they interact with each other and the managers,
and taking note of their approach to the job.
The day I spent at Melwood had nothing to do with hard work
and everything to do with good luck. My friend won a
competition on the official club website to watch the squad train
and enjoy VIP tickets for a home game. He was entitled to take a
guest and thankfully, he chose me. This was clearly another
fantastic opportunity but again the journalist in me took over the fan.
My change in attitude could be seen in my ambitious idea of asking Steven Gerrard to pose with a JMU Journalism Media Crew t-shirt. My primary thought on the day was not to get my picture taken with a player who has been an idol to me for a decade; it was to secure a photo that I knew would be a great scoop for the website and our team, who all turn up to work in those t-shirts.
Neither has the work been all my own doing. My football reports owe much to the pictures of our Photo Editor Vegard Grott, who I have worked with extensively this year. His professional and committed approach has transformed the football coverage on this website and his photos greatly improved the impact of my words.
The training I have received from journalism lecturer, John Mathews, has also been invaluable in my evolution from fan to reporter. Our Editorial Director's guidance in writing match reports and advice from his career experiences has shaped my technique in recent months.
On both occasions that I have sat in the press box so far, I have been constantly writing and rewriting my match report, often missing periods of the game in the process. As much as you can enjoy the experience, sacrifices have to be made for the sake of the job.
As we say on this website, I have had a tremendous amount of 'Exciting Times'. I have worked harder than I ever have in my life to achieve them, but it has all been worth it.
By Chris Shaw, Website Editor
My Liverpool match reports
Chris achieved a dream by working in the press box at Anfield, including the 4-1 win against Benfica