Writing was my first love and it will be my last.
Sportswriting to be specific.
It was painfully apparent at a young age that I was not as fast or skillful as the other boys in the playground. Therefore I would not be emulating Kevin Keegan or Frank Stapleton and carving out a career in professional football.
But I loved the game and, as I considered myself relatively articulate, sportswriting was the next best option.
At 10, I asked my parents for a typewriter as a birthday present. For years after that I would sit alongside my Dad at games and then bash out my own match report when I got home.
Denis Signy of Daily Express was an early favorite, then Patrick Collins of the Mail. As I later found out, both were very much ‘gentlemen’ of the press.
At University, my dissertations were on football or cricket. I even hitched a ride on the fanzine bandwagon during the late 80s for a little extra experience.
After completing an MA in Sociology of Sport at the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research, I dallied with the ideal of academia. But sportswriting continued to call.
So 50 CVs and writing samples were sent out to local newspapers. Around 25 did not reply, around 25 replied that they would ‘keep me on file’. Two months later, one called me for interview and, 30 minutes after walking into Penmark House, I was a sports reporter on the Aldershot News.
The formula for getting in has always been the same - bit of luck, bit of ability, lot of work.
That was a different England and different time for the journalism industry. Remember I even caught the dying embers of hot metal in the provinces.
After a few years, I moved to a paper in north London in a more senior role which included covering the mighty Arsenal. Soon I began to freelance for a number of broadsheet national newspapers too. It was the ‘done thing’ for the big leap to the big time. I was a Championship reporter for the Daily Telegraph for a season and wrote some Premier League reports for the Sunday version.
I was just about the take that eyes-closed, chest-out leap of becoming a full-time freelancer when Arsenal advertised for their first ever website editor.
Now in another life I’d have been a geek. But even at Web 0.05 I knew the digital world was a significantly threat to the old order of newspapers. In addition, club media seemed an interesting new trend.
So I jumped to Highbury not Fleet Street.
It was the right choice.
It was a privilege to cover this unique football club up and down England, into Europe and then all over the world.
At the start, there was a need to be truly multi-media – writing, commentating, filming and editing all on the go. All the kit in one backpack, all the pain straight on the shoulders as I trudged to and from stadia. I ruined a few cars on the motorways too.
Gradually as the digital team grew I could appoint specialists in the video arts. I ran the editorial team while retaining a healthy portion of writing, interviewing and commentating. As social media exploded, I tried to ride the blast on behalf of the club.
The highlights reel was endless: two Doubles, the Invincibles, the Final Salute to Highbury, the first ever Champions League final, Emirates Stadium, Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, being on the top of the double decker for a couple of parades, tours to China, Indonesia, Vietnam…
Great stories, great times.
But the US had always been a passion as well; soccer especially. Back in the day I had even written a project about the old NASL on that old typewriter. Therefore MLS was an attractive proposition and, so after 13 years at Arsenal, there was another leap – this time across the Atlantic.
I am privileged to be in charge of Communications and Digital Media for the Colorado Rapids. In this role I am part of the team, mixing with them daily, travelling with them, eating with them; just being part of the locker room.
These days my responsibilities are far beyond journalism. But I retain a certain role in that areas – mostly reports and previews.
I started to write about sport as a child for fun – and I have never stopped. I am lucky enough to have been paid for that ability. It has taken me around the world and given me experiences many would envy.
Bit of luck, bit of ability, lot of work.
But it all rests on the passion for storytelling and the thrill of sport.