The long shot which proved to be a tap-in: How ChronicleLive bagged a transfer exclusive
Craig Connor, photojournalist at ChronicleLive, takes us behind the lens of an exclusive photo which delighted Newcastle United fans far and wide…
On the first Wednesday of 2022 the big story every Newcastle United supporter and football journalists from across the world were waiting to break was the imminent transfer of England international Kieran Trippier from Spanish champions Atletico Madrid to Newcastle.
That morning looked like any average early January weekday in the city, apart from on social media which was alive with chatter from Geordies and sports journos eager for Trippier news.
My colleagues at ChronicleLive and I knew the story would be huge — not only here on Tyneside but around the world. Trippier was set to be the club’s first signing of the January transfer window by Newcastle’s ambitious and wealthy new owners after years of frustration during Mike Ashley’s tenure. The Toon hadn’t seen a transfer story like this in years.
On Twitter there were several conversations speculating Trippier would be boarding a flight to bring him to Newcastle directly from Madrid, citing a specific private plane, an Embraer Phenom 300, and even the time it would be taking off. All the information seemed to add up but could it be true?
I told our morning news editor Peter Tennick that I felt confident I could get a picture of Trippier if the private jet came into Newcastle International Airport, as I thought it would likely land at a small executive jet facility located on the south apron of the airport, well away from the main terminal building and close to the perimeter fence. It was a long shot but well worth taking a gamble on.
I was sitting alone in my car, staring at FlightRadar24.com, an amazing flight tracking app which shows the location of every aircraft in the world, while drinking a hot coffee in an otherwise empty car park just before 10am. Trippier’s arrival still seemed very far off, and as the plane departed and headed across northern Spain toward the Bay of Biscay its destination was unclear, the app showing ‘MAD (Madrid) to N/A’ — but it was heading in the right direction. The gamble felt a little more certain.
I’ve never tracked a flight in this way before. My eyes were glued to the little aeroplane icon on my phone screen as it crossed the English Channel just before midday. I was genuinely excited to see ‘’MAD (Madrid) to NCL (Newcastle)’ as it was added to the flight information which was already displaying the aircraft’s exact whereabouts, speed and altitude.
I messaged the newsdesk to tell them ‘’this is the one’’, and set off for the airport. Nobody knew at the time but I was just one of more than 3,000 people keeping an eye on the flight which was the most tracked aircraft anywhere in the world on that morning. As it approached North East England, speculation about the flight was reaching fever pitch on social media too.
The scene at the far side of the airport was eerily quiet as I parked up. It was a sunny and clear winter’s day. A few other cars arrived in quick succession, all Newcastle United fanatics who had tracked the flight just like I had, hoping to get a glimpse of Kieran Trippier too. One of them pointed out an executive, blacked-out Mercedes-Benz people carrier waiting on the tarmac which looked ready to pick up a VIP. It was the first real evidence I’d seen that Trippier was heading right this way. A quick phone call from the editor got me on my toes, as everyone on both the news and football desks was waiting to hear if Trippier had arrived. We now had reporters at Newcastle United’s training ground and fans were arriving there too.
The jet roared in to land just before 1pm and I was able to capture several shots as it came to a standstill on the tarmac only a few metres away. It was the gleaming white and navy Embraer Phenom 300 I had seen on my phone screen all morning as it travelled from Madrid. Its passengers were taking off their seatbelts and gathering their luggage as I pointed my camera lens at one of only five porthole windows on the side of the plane. I could see it was Kieran Trippier, wearing a baseball cap and a face mask but it was clear it was him. The gamble had paid off.
There was a sudden flurry of activity as staff approached the plane to secure it. The people carrier followed quickly behind, and within a few seconds out came Kieran Trippier, down the steps on the door of the luxury jet to be greeted by a Newcastle United staff member who promptly whisked him off to the club’s training ground to meet up with club officials, undergo a medical and agree the personal terms ahead of his multi-million pound transfer deal.
Although Trippier was only in sight for a few seconds, I couldn’t have had a better view of him and managed to get lots of photographs which I filed straight away. Meanwhile, Lee Ryder, the Chronicle’s chief NUFC reporter who had been all over this transfer deal since day one, had already written a quick piece on the big arrival and was waiting for the pictures to drop. Within minutes of Trippier touching down on Tyneside, our exclusive story was published online and on social media, attracting thousands of readers to ChronicleLive.
What had seemed like a long shot felt like a tap in the end. Trippier’s signing wasn’t officially announced for another two days, but his arrival had the Toon buzzing. It was a great way to start the new year, with a good, old-fashioned scoop for ChronicleLive, and the Chronicle and The Journal where it was both front and back page leading news. All thanks to the digital technology we have at our fingertips on Twitter and Flightradar24.com.