FWA Q&A

FWA Q&A: ALAN SMITH

Daily Telegraph columnist ALAN SMITH on the Crazy Gang…Sam Wallace pressing all the right buttons…and Leicester’s lovely pork pies.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
Only for half a day. When I was 18 I got picked from a long queue outside British Leyland in Birmingham to clean the oil pits during the factory holidays. Good money too – £100 a week. But couldn’t stick it.

Most memorable match?
Has to be Anfield 89 when Arsenal had to beat Liverpool by two goals. We knew afterwards that nothing could ever beat that. What a night, what a journey home and what a weekend.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
England winning the World Cup in Brazil.

Best stadium?
Loved Highbury. It could be a nightmare when you weren’t playing well – the fans were so close to the pitch you could hear all the stick – but what a historic place, from the huge dressing rooms with underfloor heating to the marble halls. No ground like it.

…and the worst?
Didn’t like Plough Lane too much. Not just because it was a bit of a dump with tiny dressing rooms and a dodgy pitch but because the old Crazy Gang at Wimbledon gave you a right going over if you didn’t go into the game with the right attitude.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Like most journos, I’m sure, I have lost my entire piece from my laptop just as I was about to file once. Started panicking like a good ‘un. Luckily, Sam Wallace was on hand to tell me which buttons to press to retrieve it. Cheers Sam.

Biggest mistake?
Stretching for a ball at Millwall in January 1995. Tore my cartilage and never played again.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Not really. But my Alvechurch team-mates called me Seb after Seb Coe.

Most media friendly manager?
Roy Hodgson was always helpful as a club manager and remains so with England (before he caught the tube anyway). Sam Allardyce too. Usually manage to have a good chat with Big Sam before his games. Not always about football either. For someone from Dudley he’s an interesting bloke.

Best ever player?
Thought I’d never see anyone better than Maradona but Lionel Messi tops him. Unbelievably consistent with a fantastic temperament. And never gets injured.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
I’ve got to say Barcelona who were probably at their best when they beat Manchester United in the 2011 Champions League final. Unstoppable, whatever you tried. On the international front, the present Spain team aren’t bad. But I did love Brazil in 1970.

Best pre-match grub?
At the home of football of course – the Emirates. What a spread. That said, Leicester did a lovely pork pie back in the 80’s.

Best meal had on your travels?
Arsenal stopped at the Palace of Versailles hotel before facing PSG one year. The creme brûlée was out of this world. And before we played at Torino, the lasagne was spectacular.

…and the worst?
The ones when we lost afterwards. If in doubt, blame the pre-match meal.

Best hotel stayed in?
Perhaps that one in Versailles. Properly elegant set in beautiful gardens
…and the worst? The one in Tirana when England played Albania in late 80’s. The bed sunk down in the middle and the water was brown.

Favourite football writer?
If I’m forced to stray off piste and nominate someone outside the Daily Telegraph, I’ve got to say Martin Samuel. But special mentions reserved for Henry Winter and Paul Hayward.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Love everyone at Sky Sports obviously. But I also like John Murray and Mike Ingham on 5 live.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Make sure the Wi Fi works.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Masters. Always working when it’s on but one day I’ll get there.

Last book read?
Catching the Sun by Tony Parsons. A great holiday read. Miss that sunbed already.

Favourite current TV programme?
Boardwalk Empire.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
My memories really. Never been one for putting too much store in medals.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Never take this job for granted. It’s a fantastic way to earn a living.

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