Everyone thought that 2013 would be a slow sports year after the glamour and excitement of 2012...how could a year with no major international tournament in it possibly compete? Well - 2012 was spectacular - but so was 2013. Perhaps it serves to illustrate one of the fundamental truths of sport - that you really don't know what's going to happen (which is a bugger when you're sports editor of a major national newspaper).
The joys of the great British victories of 2013 was that they came upon us unexpectedly - in the slip-stream of 2012 - the greatest sporting year ever. It all began in June with the British and Irish Lions playing the first game of their tour which covered the whole of the month. At the end of the month, there was the Tour De France, then Wimbledon, then at the end of July the Ashes series. A cracking summer full of huge events with great history and evoking great passion.
For the Lions tour we signed up Mike Phillips, the Wales and Lions scrum half, as our man in the camp and he was a star from start to finish. The only complaint was that he failed to grasp the notion of time difference on a couple of occassions, so phoned at 3am, full of apologies and confusion.
As a player he's a tough, uncompromising and committed man, and so he turned out to be as a columnist - working closely with Sam Peters - our reporter in Australia - to give real insight into life in the Lions camp.
The tour was an odd one for me to cover from the office...in the past, I'd always been out on the tours myself - talking to players and picking up stories...being at the centre of the action, and certainly reporting from every game. But role of sports editor is very different to that of reporter and the time I felt the differences most keenly was during the Lions tour.
My job is to provide the best possible coverage - offering insight, bringing clrity, breaking stories and bringing life to the characters on the tour. You want to bring readers something to talk about - down the pub, in the office, on the phone - those so called 'water cooler moments' where you hope people will stop one another and say 'did you see the Mail on Sunday? They had an interview with Jonny Wilkinson in which he said that the Liosn will win the series if they......' You want to provide something that people will talk about because what they've written resonates with them - so you have to be on the same wave-length and thinking all the time about what will spark interest in the reader.
But in addition to that, you want to make readers think....you should be able to make readers think. Most readers are at home, watching it on television - we have the luxury of having one of our top journalists over in Australia, in the camp, mingling with the players and spending lots of time talking to our signed columnist. We really should be able to provide stories, and ask questions that make people think, as well as giving them lots of talk about.
In addition to all this, because we're a sunday newspaper, everything has to be thrown forward to the next week. So, in this day and age - with the internet, smart phones and cable tv - few people are coming to us for the result. They know the result. What can we give them that they don't know? How can we interpret the result? What does it mean? How can you analyse the result without squeezng the life and joy out of the spectacle...after all - it's sport - it's there to be enjoyed. We want to celebrate the glory, fun and overall joy of sport, without failing to analyse, question, call people to account, investigate and campaign for sport to be better, safer and more responsible. If you're on a Sunday paper, you need to do all this in just one hit a week.
What I learnt during the successful Lions tour - and without wishing to becoming corny and full of cliches, is that you really need a good team to cover a tour properly, as you need a good team on the pitch to win it. It's not just about the guy out there, filing his words back to the office (though it helped that we had a particularly good guy out there) - good journalism doesn't end with the words - the words need a stage, they need context and they need displaying well.
The decision about what goes into the paper rests in the office, but the overall effect of every piece you read - from match reports to interviews to investigations - is the result of a journalist, sub-editor, headline writer, photographer, news editor and designer. It's a huge team effort. Good journalism and compelling articles need all of these factors to be right. It's the job of the sports editor to make sure they are.