Mac the Life
Lizzy Ammon caught up with journalist, Football Manager addict and Southend United fan Iain Macintosh.
LA: Hi Macca, thanks for taking time away from playing Football Manager to talk to us. This might prove to be one of the most testing interviews you’ve ever done in your life. Here at EFW we give Jeremy Paxman a run for his money. Let’s start with the inevitable and a bit dull question of how you became a football writer.
IM: The same way everyone else became a football writer. I failed my exams and they snapped me up. I did a dog-awful degree in something called Journalism Studies and at the beginning of my 3rd year I started applying for jobs in London. To my surprise, I was offered one much earlier than I expected and I then tried to cram all of my remaining coursework into one week. Unsurprisingly I did not pass. Typically, the business news website that hired me vanished just 18 months later, sparking a brief but spectacularly unsuccessful freelance career and an extended spell on a building site. I eventually shuffled in the back door (so to speak) at the age of 29. I’m very lucky, not many people get to start their sports journalism career at the age of 29.
LA: You've written a book or two - any plans to write anymore?
IM: I know I was joking about a sitcom on Twitter, but I actually was working on a Bobby Manager style novel with a Mario Balotelli main character. Sadly, I’ve had to can it because the man himself kept nicking my plotlines and turning them into actual news stories.
LA: You form one third of the unholy Trinity that is the Red, White and Blue podcast. Listening to it is the highlight of my week (that’s not true). How did that come about?
IM: It was something that Clarkey and Spraggy were already doing and I was a guest on it a couple of times. It just seemed to work better with three of us on it, there’s a better dynamic. It’s great fun. We sit around for an hour a week talking nonsense about football. What’s not to love? Obviously, if someone would like to invest great amounts of cash into it that would be…erm…yeah, really nice.
LA: You write for the Wilson love-child that is the Blizzard – obviously it gives you scope to write a much longer piece than you might normally write.
IM: It’s a huge honour to write for the Blizzard and it’s a magazine I’m very passionate about. It gives me a chance to babble on about Bobby Manager and allows the cream of the industry to go weapons-free on any subject they like. Basically, if you moan about the standard of football journalism and you’re still not buying The Blizzard every quarter, you have no leg to stand on.
LA: I'm always amazed by sports writers who can write equally well on a whole range of sports - if you had to or could diversify away from football what other sports could you write about or would you want to write about? Do you "love" any other sports in the way you love football?
IM: I’ve written books on cricket, rugby and golf and, with a bit of research and effort, I ‘m sure I could write about other sports too. But nothing grabs me as much as football. Let’s be honest, football is insane, especially the stuff that goes on off the pitch. I’m not sure other sports have the ludicrous and all-encompassing soap opera that runs alongside the actual game itself. I know other sports have their crazy moments, but I’m fairly convinced that football is 70% crazy, 30% sport now. So no – I don’t love other sports in the way I love football. Having said that, during Euro 96, Lynn Truss wrote articles from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the sport and they were absolutely brilliant. I think doing something like that, maybe on the NFL, would be fascinating.
LA: Other than the podcast, have you done any broadcasting - tv or radio? Something you fancy?
IM: I’ve done quite a lot of radio but my only television appearance was a bit of a disaster. I was a last minute stand in on Arsenal TV and someone asked me about Emmanuel Eboue, shortly after he’d got himself sent off against Spurs. I think I said something along the lines of, “Emmanuel Eboue is a disgrace to himself, his club and the sport in general.” It went very quiet, the conversation moved on and I was never invited back again.
LA: I hate to do this but to be boringly serious for a second - what are the 3 biggest issues in football - specifically the premier and football leagues?
IM: There’s so many and I’m afraid I’ve probably bored everyone on Twitter to tears banging on about them all. The cost is appalling. Tickets are far too expensive and we’re pricing out a generation of fans. The average age of a match-going Premier League fan is going up all the time and the sport is becoming something you watch in a pub, rather than something you actually go to. Greed is destroying football from the inside out, the big teams are driving themselves harder and harder, pursuing growth for growth’s sake, pushing themselves to oblivion and the smaller clubs are either left behind or forced ot recklessly gamble their existence on reaching the Premier League. One more? There’s too much football. Have you seen the Europa League? Christ, does it ever end? We’re spreading ourselves too thin.
LA: If you were Sepp Blatter for the day, ok not ACTUALLY Sepp because then you’d have to be a **** but head of FIFA, what 3 things would you sort out or implement?
IM: I’d immediately launch an enquiry into the award of the 2020 World Cup to Qatar. I’m interested as to what makes a ludicrously wealthy desert state so appealing to FIFA. I’d also centralise all transfers, forcing the buying and selling clubs to declare all cuts, add-ons and fees and move the money through a central bank account, limiting the possibility of corruption and allowing fans to see exactly where their ticket money is going. Plus, we can use the interest to fund grassroots initiatives in developing countries. Finally, I’d move all international football into mini summer tournaments, shortening the season, allowing players to rest and ending the interminable club vs country debate.
LA: You are a self confessed FM addict. Reckon you'd be any good at actually managing a football team? Which current manager do you think you'd most be like?
IM: No, I’d be absolutely hopeless. The players would mercilessly rip the piss out of me for reading books, I’d have no respect in the dressing room and I’d be sacked within a few weeks. On that basis I guess I’d be Tony Adams.
LA: This is the European Football Weekends website so I probably should mention Europe and Football and Weekends or Danny will sack me. Have you ever been on a particularly good EFW and what would be your perfect EFW?
IM: Oh yes, I’ve been on some splendid EFWs. I’d love to tell you a story about being unwillingly dragged into a brothel by a Spanish football agent, but that might have to wait for another day. My perfect EFW would be in Vienna. I was there for Euro08 and it was such a fantastic city.You can spend all day drinking coffee, reading papers and smoking tabs in the sunshine, wander off to the Ernst Happel stadium, take in the local derby and then find a cosy bar to get merrily clattered in. Perfect.
LA: So what’s the plan for Macca? Do you have any medium or long term ambitions for your career or have you got your perfect career and want it to stay like this for ever and ever amen.?
IM: My career ambitions are simply to continue to have a career. Watching football for a living is clearly a ridiculous way to earn your money, and it’s far more fun than actually having a proper job. If I’m still being paid to write about football when I’m 70, I’ll be a very lucky and very happy man.
LA: And now I’ve eased you in, time for the hard hitting stuff. What’s your favourite Ginsters Pasty? I’m asking this for a friend who’s serving in Afghanistan who tweets this question to cricketers all the time and none of them ever answer so it will make his day that someone has.
IM: I think it would be peppered steak. It’s high risk because of the peppered steak breath afterwards but sometimes that’s a risk worth taking. Now sometimes, you just want a cheese and ham – something safe just to fill a hole without repercussions, but very little beats a peppered steak pasty.
LA: EFW readers are a classy discerning lot. Can you recommend to them a book, a wine and a piece of music or album to download.
IM: I’ve thought long and hard about this too. The Game of Thrones series by George R R Martin. They’re a bit like Lord of the Rings only miles better with more blood and boobs. In terms of wine, you’ve got to give Faustino I, a Rioja that costs about £15, a go. It’s the sort of wine that marches into your mouth as if it owns the place and I respect that in a drink. An album? Give John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’ a go. It’s sort of folky, bluesy and jazzy thing and it’s brilliant.
LA: Marvellous. Thanks for your time Macca – now you’d better get back to managing Arsenal or there’ll be a dressing room mutiny. Thanks again.
Iain Macintosh is the UK football correspondent of the New Paper in Singapore and can be heard every week on the Red White and Blue Podcast - http://www.redwhiteandblue.tv/
You can follow him on Twitter @iainmacintosh and read his Bobby Manager series by subscribing to receive the Blizzard http://www.theblizzard.co.uk/