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Busy Mann gets his rewards at Euro 2016

GOOD TO TALK: Leon Mann interviews Wales captain Ashley Williams

SURREAL IS probably the best word to describe the last few weeks. As some of you may have seen, I’ve been working for ITV at Euro 2016 - and it’s been amazing!

My role initially was to follow Northern Ireland, Wales and Ireland - and it couldn’t have gone any better with all three making the knockout stages. I must admit that I didn’t anticipate all three would progress, even if I did hope it would happen.

Being there when Wales destroyed Russia to top a group including England was an experience I didn’t think could be topped. But then the next day Northern Ireland pull off an incredible performance against Germany to reach the round of 16, followed by Ireland blowing my mind with a late goal to beat Italy and get through too. All huge achievements.

To be the man with the mic interviewing these countries' heroes and doing pitch side presentations - to audiences of millions - is an honour and a privilege I’ll never forget.

The hardest part of this tournament has been being away from my young family. My youngest is only 7 weeks and eldest 4 years-old. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife who also works in the industry. Clearly I’m very lucky to be in France - and I’ve gained a greater appreciation for all the parents who regularly have long spells away with work.

There is also the increased scrutiny that was a little odd. Having been working in TV for 6 years now I’m used to the odd comment popping up on Twitter about my work - both positive and not so positive - and accept it as part of the gig.

PALS: Mann with ITV co commentator and Republic of Ireland legend Andy Townsend

However, I did chuckle when I saw the level of discussion my suit jacket for a game caused! I’m surprised it wasn’t trending on Twitter. But in many ways this opened my eyes to the level of interest in all things about the Euros, where TV audiences for football can easily reach a few million in the season, during an international football tournament the big England games get 14 million tuning in.

Teamwork is vital at these tournaments - and I’m not just talking about the players - we reporters also need this in abundance. We have a producer, Rachael, technical producer, Rupert, and cameraman, Roger, all making me look good (well trying…!). Without these guys I’d be totally lost - so I’m grateful to have such strong professionals and good people alongside me out here.

I’ve been trying to give everyone a look behind the scenes at Euro 2016 on social media. When I was young I would have loved to have seen how the reporters prepare for the games we see on TV.

I’m hoping I can help to inspire young readers of this column and those on social media to also aim to report from a World Cup, Olympics, AFCON or European Championships in the future.

I worked hard to get here, and I’m enjoying every minute.

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