FWA Q&A: Mark Ogden

The Daily Telegraph’s MARK OGDEN on broken flower pots…being a Happy Monday…and spending £300 on average wine…

Your first ever newspaper?
I did a week of work experience at the Rochdale Observer, writing about broken flower pots and a few rioting Wrexham fans, then started off at the Weekly News and Sunday Post.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
I did try to re-launch my failed football career with a few games for Rochdale reserves, but they only paid £5 travelling expenses, so it wasn’t really worth it. The one thing it made me realise, though, was how hard footballers train and how there is pretty much zero enjoyment in the sport as a profession. You are flogged every morning for two hours on the training ground and then some halfwit manager rants and raves about the odd stray pass. The next time a player walks past in the mixed zone, just think about the bollocking he might just have had in front of his team-mates for
something or nothing.

What was your finest achievement playing football?
Playing with, and against, Paul Scholes as a kid was about as good as it got. I’m sure his memories of me finishing off his passes still out-rank all he has ever achieved at Manchester United….

Most memorable match covered?
For drama, controversy and the rare sense of actually feeling as though you had just witnessed a deception that would rumble on for days and weeks, I’d go for the World Cup play-off between France and the Republic of Ireland in Paris in Nov 2009, when Thierry Henry’s handball ended Irish hopes of a place in South Africa. Henry’s carefully-manufactured good guy image went out of the window that night, but the reaction of France coach Raymond Domenech and his massively smug press officer after the game almost caused a riot among the Irish journalists. There were 20,000 Irish fans in Paris that night, but there wasn’t a hint of trouble, despite the way their team had lost, which is probably the only reason we were able to flag down a taxi at 2am outside the stadium. The trains, obviously, had stopped running before the end of extra-time.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
The guy who nicked my laptop bag — laptop still in it — outside a bar in Cape Town during the World Cup. Strictly speaking, not football, but he left me without a laptop for the World Cup quarter-final between Germany and Argentina, so thanks for that.

Best stadium?
I love the Allianz Arena, even though the wifi doesn’t work in the press box and the last two visits have ended with Carlos Tevez refusing to warm-up for Man City and Wayne Rooney’s suffering the ankle injury that pretty much ruined his World Cup. Old Trafford and Anfield on big European nights take some beating too.

…and the worst?
The Lokomotivi Stadium in Tbilisi takes some beating, especially in March when it is absolutely freezing. Went there with Republic of Ireland in 2003 and we arrived to see an old guy with broken glasses and a soldering iron, attempting to connect the phone lines. They obviously didn’t work. Kevin Kilbane was hit by a knife thrown from the crowd that day, so it wasn’t exactly uneventful.

Your best ever scoop?
Not really one for me to answer, but I still get people coming up to me about the tale of two scarf-wearing cockerels being arrested and placed in the cells at Ewood Park last season. It was a protest against Venky’s. Not sure if the birds lived to see another day…

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Endured an absolute nightmare at Ibrox when Rangers played United in last season’s Champions League group stage. Wifi didn’t work and 3G was also useless. It was as though some kind of blocking signal had been imposed on the surrounding area because it affected everybody. Had to use copy that night, which never happens. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear as though I’ll be needing to go to Ibrox again in the near future…

Biggest mistake?
Thinking that Twitter was a worthwhile exercise.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Usually Bez from the Happy Mondays, even when I am not carrying my maracas.

Most media friendly manager?
Roberto Martinez at Wigan is a good guy with a sound grasp of media requirements and demands. Lower down the leagues, it is easy to nominate the likes of Brian Horton, Gary Megson or Phil Brown, but the Barclays Premier League is a different environment altogether and Martinez handles it really well.

Best ever player?
Diego Maradona, but I retain a soft spot for Marco van Basten.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
I’m not going to nominate teams I never saw, such as Brazil 1970 for obvious reasons, so I’ll go for the current Spain team. Club wise, I still think the AC Milan team of Gullit, Van Basten and
Rijkaard would have given Barcelona a run for their money, so I’ll go for them.

Best pre-match grub?
Bayern Munich

Best meal had on your travels?
Shared a great meal of ribs and steak with Neil Custis, Chris Wheeler and Jeremy Cross at Ditka’s in Chicago last summer. Had some great meals in South Africa, but this one was just shaded it.

…and the worst?
We were recommended ‘the best Chinese restaurant’ in Macau during the 2007 Man Utd tour of Asia, so went along expecting exactly that. If you like your chicken full of bones and gristle, then this was the place. Also, did an average bottle of wine which one person (no names) ordered three times. Before realising it was a £100 a bottle…

Best hotel stayed in?
Probably the Radisson in Philadelphia. Great location, great bar, great city. The Marriott in Bucharest was surprisingly good

…and the worst?
Although The Maxwell in Seattle had no bar, restaurant or food (try putting up with that for seven nights..) it would be harsh to rank it below those that I have stayed at in Tirana and Bydgoszcz. But just for sheer dreariness, the hotel (forgotten the name) we used in Aalborg on a Champions League trip wins every time.

Favourite football writer?
Don’t really have a favourite, and I’m not going down the road of bigging up everybody at the Telegraph, but if the likes of Paul Joyce, Neil Moxley or Simon Mullock write something, then I don’t need to be told that it will be right.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
I still think Clive Tyldesley gets it right more often than most on the big occasions, while John Murray and Ian Dennis are the best on Five Live, even if they don’t shout about it.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs
and football writers what would it be? Just feed us properly and we will love you for evermore.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquaio, somewhere in Las Vegas.

Last book read?
Apart from reading The Gruffalo every night for the last two years, I’ve been trying to finish off Barry McGuigan’s autobiography. The last book I finished was Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick, about North Korea. I have something of an OCD interest in North Korea after a trip to the de-militarized zone in 2009. Also read This is Paradise by Hyok Kang (which Rory Smith still hasn‘t given back to me). I really need to get out more.

Favourite current TV programme?
Been having withdrawal symptoms since Boardwalk Empire finished, so it’s mainly boxed sets — The West Wing usually.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
Don’t really keep stuff. I tend to give programmes to my boy’s school or dump them in the recycling bin.

Advice to any would-be football writer?
Don’t enter the profession with ideas about writing lovely pieces about football without working at it first. And don’t buy into the snobbery about tabloids not being good enough for you. After almost ten years freelancing, you learn that the guys on desks like the Sun are ultra-sharp and professional and anything but flyer-merchants. It would be good for all aspiring football journalists to work for a tabloid for at least six months in order to realise what the job is really about.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    colin ridgway

    March 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Hi Mark long time since your early days at Clarence athletic. Glad to see you have done so well, hope your mum and dad are well. Keep it up and good luck,keep writing.

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