With the scarcity of football currently available in that annoying period between an international tournament and the start of the domestic season, it leaves me with seldom topics to explore for writing articles. It got me wondering how I actually got involved with sports writing in the first place. As a stereotypical male, I naturally liked football during my early secondary school years (although when I started properly watching the beautiful game, I wasn’t that interested in women, alcohol, wrestling or whatever else males were supposed to like at that age) but after realising I wasn’t very good actually partaking in a kicking-a-ball-around-a-pitch scenario, I decided it wasn’t the career for me. Up until the age of 16, I always thought I was going to be a musician. My parents had shelled out vast amounts of cash on piano and guitar lessons and I was fairly decent at that, often playing the odd classical piece in several local concerts. Nevertheless, that dream died when I achieved a C in my music GCSE – a grade which I didn’t consider good enough in order to pursue music making as a career.
I wrote my first article for my previous blog, BeeTeeSports, three and a half years ago. I’m not quite sure how I got involved in the whole blogging shenanigans but I recall that I used to fancy myself as a writer. My first article was a preview of an upcoming Champions League game between Tottenham and AC Milan, a match that clearly excited me enough in order to write both a preview and review for it, scrawling illegible notes throughout the match and wondering how I could incorporate humour into them at the same time – one of the qualities that I still think is important in order to create an entertaining article, as long as the issue isn’t too dour. If you wish to read my first ever article, you can do so clicking here, where I’m sure you can find an abundance of successful stand-up comedian potential.
After accumulating a few thousand views on BeeTeeSports over a year which gradually increased the size of my ego, I started looking for opportunities to expand my audience, which I managed to do by getting a place on the writing team for transfersblog.com in July 2012. The task was simple: find interesting transfer stories/hearsay from various different sites, rewrite them and then post to the website. Although this was initially stimulating to begin with as I felt like a professional journalist, it began to get progressively more tedious, especially when there was a certain lack of transfer news to write about during the spring and autumn months. I think I wrote over a hundred pieces for the website before finally calling it a day – wanting to be more challenged as a writer.
I wrote sporadically for several other publications before finally being approached by Mark Godfrey, who had a website called The Football Pink. This turned out to be one of the bigger breaks of my career since it was the first time I actually had been able to earn money from writing – something that had become an ambition of mine when I initially entertained the thought of football writing as a career. Mark had managed to assemble a team of creative types to write for his website before suggesting one day that The Football Pink should become a publication available for purchase. Without trying to sound like a try-hard from an Oscar-winning acceptance speech, I felt very privileged to become part of such a project, since I considered myself to be one of the youngest and least prolific writers among those chosen. The sales of the first issue meant I managed to earn £6, which doesn’t seem like much but was more than a sufficient amount to spend on a day’s supply of alcohol. The article that I had written was complaining about how mediocre England was as a footballing nation, something that I enjoy writing about for the mere sadistic pleasure. The Football Pink has since evolved dramatically and has recently released its 5th edition on the subject of war, where I have written a piece on Crimean Football… ORDER IT NOW> http://footballpink.net/2014/07/31/out-now-the-football-pink-issue-5/
Once I moved to Nottingham in September 2013 I suddenly discovered a lot more journalistic opportunities, largely thanks to university staff such as Andrew James, a commentator for BBC Final Score. I had the opportunity to experience non-league football at Ilkeston’s New Manor Ground with the journalist Rod Malcolm, who I met at an NUJ (National Union of Journalists) meeting. One of the bigger chances I had to make my way up the rungs to success was becoming a cameraman for Mansfield Town Football Club, being handed the role of shooting footage for their Youtube channel. Their media officer was a chap called Mark Stevenson, and a few exchanged emails later I was on a bus heading straight for Field Mill for a quick chat about the position. This was one of the first instances where I had to encounter Nottinghamshire public transport, which lead to an awkward situation between me and the driver as I wasn’t quite familiar with the procedure of getting on a bus. It slightly differed from the process of boarding a London bus since I actually had to have interaction with the man behind the wheel. I was interviewed in this cosy looking room overlooking the stadium as I blagged the role by pretending I had in-depth knowledge of HD Video Cameras. Alas, Mark S. was an incredibly strenuous man to communicate with and I never got round to filming anything for Mansfield as my dates were constantly being rearranged, so in the end I just gave up on the ordeal in bone-idle fashion. Not for the want of trying though.
It was a few months after the Mansfield fiasco that I heard about a position being offered by the FA as a futsal reporter. I originally had no idea what futsal was and got it confused with fussball, the popular table football game probably found at your local arcade. It turned out that futsal, in simplified terms, was a 5-a-side, indoor variation of football with a smaller goals and a heavier ball. After a bit of extensive research and a few draft match reports I was given the job, coincidentally the first job I have ever been given – I wasn’t really into the whole part-time retail working life until recently. The brief involved travelling to far and wide regions of England, writing match reports for Futsal Super League games and interviewing the managers at the end, which was right up my alley.
My first match I got to report on was in Swindon, a two-hour coach ride away from London, for a game between Oxford City Lions and Middlesbrough. Swindon was quite a deserted town and the Swindon Futsal Arena was in the middle of nowhere, about a half an hour walk from the coach station. There’s nothing quite like walking down the grassy, muddy side of a motorway in semi-formal attire, not being totally certain that you’re heading in the right direction, that makes you think that you’re actually putting effort in for something you love doing. The match finished 9-2 to Oxford, a pretty thrilling match, although it was rather difficult to write all the important information down while simultaneously concentrating on such a fast-tempo spectacle. Since working for the FA, I have also travelled to a dodgy area in Birmingham (where I thought I might get violently assaulted, it had that sort of atmosphere), a quite pleasant area in Sheffield and also the brilliant St George’s Park for the Futsal Super League Grand Finals at the end of May. It was also thanks to my futsal reporting career that I managed to get my first sport’s article published in print, which was a preview of the aforementioned Grand Finals. If you happen to have a programme from the event, you’ll be able to find my name on the back cover… fame at last! To view some of the pictures I took at the event, click here.
At the present moment I am still working with the FA and The Football Pink, as well as writing the occasional article for other various websites. I’m also part of the Futsal Focus team, a website that will soon be up and running after obtaining quite a vast following on Twitter and Facebook. The last year or so I think I have developed well as a football writer, all that’s needed now is a few hundred more followers, a wider vocabulary range and more money. Onwards and upwards!