Oh Manchester, so much to answer for
Ever fancied being a football journalist? Then think again. Consider covering the World Cup for a national newspaper to be just about the best job in the world? Then think again - well sort of.
In this candid interview, Daniel Taylor talks about the life of a football journalist, the willy-waving between fans of Manchester United and Liverpool on forums and, his love of all things Nottingham Forest.
Dan has been The Guardian's football man in Manchester for ten years covering both City and United - you may have heard of them? He was also out at the World Cup where his work on the paper coupled with his highly entertaining Twitter feed brought him wide acclaim.
Brilliantly, Dan agreed to become the latest star name to talk to EFW:
It sounded like you had a good time in South Africa. Any high or lowlights other than the actual games? The World Cup was fun but it was tough too. I did 17 flights overall in just under a month and I reckon I slept an average five hours a night. Which is what happens when your hotel is directly opposite the fanzone (yes, boo bloody hoo!). I know how ungrateful that can make me sound and you do feel privileged being out there. The most memorable moment was the night I arrived, looking out the window of my hotel and seeing about 3,000 people – no exaggeration – marching along the beachfront. That was the first time I heard the vuvuzelas. It was the night before the first match and there was just this enormous sense of excitement and anticipation. Lowlights: leaving my bankcard in an ATM in the first week, eating in Nando’s as my ‘farewell’ meal to Durban, being told off for swearing within earshot of schoolchildren before Spain v Switzerland. Particularly humiliating.
Your Summer bromance with George Caulkin of The Times both on Twitter and in his diary caused much mirth and hilarity. Will that continue over the course of this season? I have taken out an injunction. He’s back on the Hull/Middlesbrough circuit and we won’t be hearing from him any more. But I do miss him.
We now have to pay to read his online work whereas yours can be had for free. That can't be right can it? I don’t think so, though I know why they are doing it because the newspaper industry is generally on its knees, people are losing jobs and the papers need to get some money from somewhere. That said, I read it had cost them 90 per cent of their online readers and it doesn’t surprise me. The worry is if it starts a trend and other papers follow. And then how long before football365 or one of the other big sites start to charge?
You cover both Manchester United and City, presumably you've got it in the neck from both sets of fans in the past? I suppose that’s the nature of the job. United fans tend to think the press is against them, whereas City fans think the press are in love with United. City’s supporters are a lot more sensitive than United’s but that’s with good reason when you think about the number of years they have been knocked in the media. You realise over time – and I’m generalising here – that fans mostly just want to read nice things about their clubs rather than news stories that rock the boat.
How much time do you spend reading the comments section underneath the articles you post and do any negative comments reduce you to fits of paranoia? It varies. Sometimes I read them, but more often than not I don’t. In fact, I don’t think many of the journalists do these days. You can get 1,000 comments for a single blog and, while the majority add to the debate, you get people on there who just want to start fights rather than offering anything themselves. It descends into Manchester v Liverpool willy-waving, with the same people every time. And, not wanting to sound too precious, but there are only so many times you are either an ABU or in Alex Ferguson’s back pocket.
If City continue to spend big money for the next few seasons will they eventually trump United and go on to be the bigger club? I think they will win the league, not this season but in the next few years, and that will make them the more successful club of that time. But it will be many years before they are a bigger club than United. Even this summer, in the World Cup, there were people in South Africa referring to United as simply ‘Manchester.’ It’s changing, but United have got several decades’ headstart.
If they don't get immediate success and Mansour and Al Mubarak up sticks, would you then fear for City's future given the enormous wage bill? I don’t think it will happen. I genuinely think they are in it for the long-term.
Shay Given or Joe Hart? That’s tough. Given doesn’t control his penalty area well enough from corners and setpieces but he’s an amazing shot-stopper. Avoiding the question here, aren’t I? OK, Hart. No, Given. Seriously, I can’t decide.
Despite primarily penning articles on the big two in Manchester, you actually support Forest. Do you still get to see them much? When I can. United and City often play on Sunday for television, so the opportunities are still there. I spent my birthday last season watching them lose 1-0 at Coventry City, a freezing Tuesday night in February. So the old urges are still there.
There is a triangle of rivalry in the East Midlands with Forest, Derby and Leicester. Are Leicester just trying to muscle on the other two or is that game just as big as the Derby/Forest derbies. Leicester would love that to be the case but, genuinely, it is hardly even a big match for Forest. They really don’t register highly in our thinking, which I guess is what winds them up so much. Forest’s rivals historically have been 1) Derby and 2) Liverpool. Strangely enough, I have a soft spot for Leicester. I covered them as a freelance during the Martin O’Neill years.
I was at a match in Ilkeston a couple of weeks ago and a Forest fan told me he went to the 1979 European Cup final in Munich sporting a pair of Nottingham Forest trousers. What is the most treasured bit of sporting memorabilia you own? Anorak alert here. I do tend to keep all sorts of things, including the entire NFFC programme collection under Clough, but most treasured is a framed shirt from the 1979 European Cup team, signed by all the players. I could carry on, but I would scare you.
Talking of Ilkeston. It's Non-League Day on September 4. As there are no Premiership or Championship games that day fans of those clubs are being urged to go out and actively support their local Non-League side. Is this something you're aware of and will you be giving it your support? I am aware of it but I can’t lie . . that sounds like a day off for me. If it makes it any better, I have given FC United of Manchester a lot of good coverage.
Do you have a favourite stadium other than the City Ground? Camp Nou. Fergie said something a while back about there being something special about Champions League nights abroad, the different smells and noises, the cigar smoke and the rich ladies in their expensive perfume. If you have been to Barcelona, you will know what he means. (Yep - Ed.)
You were on the World Cup Daily a couple of times with the ever brilliant James Richardson, will you be appearing on Football Weekly podcast this season? They have never invited me (he says trying not to sound at all bitter or resentful). Nor would I expect them to after my rambles from the World Cup. But it’s not a huge ambition.
You've embraced Twitter and have got *has a quick check* 7,519 followers as we speak. That's more than EFW and George Caulkin combined you swine! It's a bit of a time killer though isn't it? More than George? (coughs unconvincingly) I didn’t know that. And to think, he started at least a year or so before me . . to answer your question, I am addicted, yes. Though not as bad as Sid Lowe. He really needs to get out more.
Can you sum up Brian Clough in a tweet of 140 characters or less? Just glad that we had him for 18 years.
And Sir Alex? Maddening, hypocritical and often vile but one of the first men I would like at a fantasy dinner party XI. Not that he would come.
Football journalists are capable of excellent analysis and expression. Do you think any of them could actually do a job as a manger - including yourself? Haha. No, but a few would like to think so. Some of the journalists’ egos are bigger than the footballers.
Do you have any advice for wannabe football journalists? It’s not particularly advice, but the newspaper industry is struggling and I don’t see any job openings, just people being laid off or contracts not renewed. We’re getting people going through journalism courses when there are no jobs out there at the end of it. It’s not great.
You can read his work at The Guardian HERE.
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