FWA Q&A: TONY HUDDTONY HUDD on a phantom goal...being mistaken for a murder suspect...and being kept awake by the gold medal winner of horizontal jogging...
Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
No. After cutting my journalistic teeth at a sports agency, I was taken on by the Worthing Herald. On completing my indentures, I moved to the sports desk. Among the clubs I covered was Lancing whose player-manager was Mike Smith, a teacher at Brighton Grammar School. He later managed the Wales national team and Hull City. He taught me so much about the game. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
Most memorable match?
Wembley, May 25, 1988. Charlton beat Sunderland 7-6 on penalties in the Division 1 play-off final. If ever a football match squeezed emotions dry on an afternoon of unparalleled drama.
The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Gillingham beating Halifax 2-0 in a winner-takes-all match to stay in the Football League in May, 1993. Halifax were subsequently relegated. Pressure is one of the most abused words in the dictionary. That was pressure like I had never experienced. The match was dripping in tension because had Gillingham lost, Kent would have been without a League club.
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid.
...and the worst?
Kenilworth Road home of Luton Town. No self-respecting journalist can do his, or her, job properly when you cannot see one of the goals. Should Luton return to the Football League, the FWA will be knocking on the League’s door requesting significant improvements.
Your personal new-tech disaster?
After writing 1,500 beautifully crafted words on a certain football manager, I pressed the wrong button and lost the lot. Confess that I lost my rag. A colleague who laughed at my misfortune was promptly spread eagled across a desk while others had to restrain me as I attempted to smash other computers. I was disciplined but thankfully kept my job.
In a match report, I included a goal that had been disallowed. Inexcusable I know, but in mitigation I know of many colleagues who have done the same.
Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Chillingly yes. A murder suspect. In my youth I was camping on a site in Edinburgh where a girl had been found murdered in a tent. All around were an artist’s impression of the suspect who was my double. I went to see the police and after being questioned for several hours, friends provided a solid alibi, so I was released. I had long hair, a beard and a moustache at the time. These were removed within minutes following a trip to a local barber.
Most media friendly manager?
Tony Pulis when he was at Gillingham. Thursday training days were a dream with Tony offering whichever player you wanted to interview while he always available. The guy is different class and it was a privilege working with him. You just knew he was destined for the top.
Best ever player?
Zinedine Zidane. I was fortunate enough to watch him during his formative years with Cannes and Bordeaux. Whenever I’ve watched him I studied him rather than the game because, for me, he was the complete footballer.
Best ever teams (club and international)?
Tony Pulis’s Gillingham class of 1999. Beautifully balanced. Barcelona from Cruyff and Guardiola through to the current era. They always move me to the edge of my seat.
Best pre-match grub?
Best meal had on your travels?
The fish and chip shop immediately outside Grimsby Town’s Blundell Park. Once saw Lennie Lawrence in there. He was Grimsby’s manager at the time. He told me the only reason he took the job was because the local fish and chips were so good. Seriously though, they have to be the best on planet earth.
...and the worst?
I’ve never liked the sandwiches at West Ham. Whoever makes them must have a peculiar sense of taste.
Best hotel stayed in?
The Emperador on Madrid’s Gran Via. Not far from the Bernabeu but far enough. Lovely rooftop swimming pool.
...and the worst?
I was booked into a seedy hotel in the Midlands which was the bolt hole of a certain television hostess who was in the room next door with her boyfriend. The lady’s lungs are phenomenal. She was up all night - and so was I. If “you know what” was ever introduced as an Olympic sport her stamina alone would win her the gold.
Favourite football writer?
The great Patrick Collins.
Favourite radio/TV commentator?
The late Brian Moore. I wrote his column and got to know him and his family. He was another I learned from with is insistence on “preparation, preparation, preparation.” Nowadays I like Peter Drury.
If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
That at the start of each season, representatives of both sides have meaningful dialogue at which the writers could emphasise that we are not a “necessary evil” and resent being treated as such. We are simply trying to do our job which is becoming harder every season.
One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Masters at Augusta.
Last book read?
“Another Way of Winning,”Guillem Balague’s splendid profile of Pep Guardiola.
Favourite current TV programme?
“The Sopranos.”I’m hopelessly addicted, watching repeats of the repeats.
Your most prized football memorabilia?
A picture of me holding the World Cup. It was taken in 1998 during a press junket to France. I travelled in the company of Celtic legend Billy McNeill. We were taken to a press reception in the restaurant halfway up the Eiffel Tower. I was asked if I would like to hold the World Cup ? Would I! I think I’m right in saying these days only winners are permitted to hold the trophy.
Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Barely a week passes without a perfectly good football writer (national and regional) being shown the door for no other reason than cost. If you’re coming into the business be prepared to multi-task and work all hours that God sends. And even that might not be enough.
Tony Hudd spent 36 years working as the Kent Messenger Group’s chief football writer, covering Gillingham and then Charlton plus England internationals. He now co-presents BBC Radio Kent’s Saturday afternoon sports show and is a member of the FWA’s national committee.