FWA Q&A: Colin Malam

COLIN MALAM on earphones and lap-tops…missing the kick-off at Wembley…and a brilliant Killing

Your first ever job in journalism?
I was a graduate trainee on the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo for three years. Then they declined to renew my contract and advised me to look for another occupation. So not the most auspicious of starts, as you might say.

Have you worked in a profession other than journalism?
Sort of. I was PRO for Westward Television in Plymouth for a short time; then, for an even shorter time, GEC in Coventry.

Most memorable match?
It has to be Liverpool’s extraordinary victory over AC Milan in the 2005 final of the Champions League.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
It’s already there, I think. It was when Pele mesmerised an advancing goalkeeper in the finals of the 1970 World Cup by going one side of him and allowing a pass to go the other.

Best stadium?
Tempted to say the Azteca in Mexico City or the River Plate in Buenos Aires, but nothing beats Anfield on a European night.

… and the worst?
Derby’s Baseball Ground used to be pretty bad, but it has to be Wimbledon’s old weatherbeaten home, Plough Lane.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Where to start? I’ll bet the younger members of the profession cannot believe that, when abroad, we used to have to connect our laptops to a telephone receiver with a set of earphones to send copy. Needless to say, it didn’t always work.

Biggest mistake?
Travelling to London from Birmingham with Peter Batt and Bob Driscoll on the day I had finally persuaded the Birmingham Post to let me, then their new football correspondent, cover an England match at Wembley. Unfortunately, Peter and Bob were not working that day for their respective papers, the People and the old Sun. So we all repaired to their London local, the Cross Keys, and proceeded to have a high old time. Well they did, while I fretted about getting to Wembley. To cut a very long story short, I missed the kick-off and ended up running the last mile to the twin towers. Fortunately, Dennis Shaw, my oppo on the Birmingham Evening Mail, brought me up to speed once I collapsed into the press box, which was built into the roof at that time.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
No, can’t say I have. But I do recall failing to persuade a foreign football writer during the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina that my companion, Denis Law, really was the great Denis Law.

Most media-friendly manager?
Terry Venables. Could be because I also collaborated with him on a book, of course. But Alan Ashman (who won the FA Cup with West Brom in 1968), Noel Cantwell, Ron Atkinson, Ron Greenwood and Arsene Wenger deserve an honourable mention.

Best ever player?
Lionel Messi takes some beating. Pele and Maradona were the greatest I saw before little Leo came along to challenge them.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
My favourite club side remains Bill Shankly’s first at Liverpool. It read: Lawrence; Lawler, Yeats, Smith, Byrne; Callaghan, Milne, Stevenson, Thompson; St John, Hunt … and performed miracles in the 60s and beyond. Internationally, it’s no contest. Brazil in 1970.

Best pre-match grub?
Again, no contest. Arsenal at the Emirates.

Best meal had on your travels?
A mountainous steak at a Buenos Aires steak house in 1978.

… and the worst?
A totally disastrous repast in Beijing during England’s short Asian tour before the finals of Euro 96. The restaurant was called the Peking Duck and served nothing edible. Four of us made our excuses and got some fast food across the road.

Best hotel stayed in?
The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, where England stayed for altitude training before the finals of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, was truly breathtaking.

Favourite football writer?
Hugh McIlvanney. His penetrating writing inspired me to become a journalist.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Two talented men from yesteryear. Peter Jones on radio, and Brian Moore on TV.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers, what would it be?
Make players and managers more easily available for interview. There is nothing worse for a Sunday football writer than waiting all week to hear whether his or her request has been granted.

One sporting event outside football you would like to experience?
An England v Australia test match in an Ashes series.

Last book read?
Charles Dickens, A Life by Claire Tomalin

Favourite current TV programme?
The Killing (Scandinavian version), if that counts as current.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
The England shirt signed by Sven-Goran Eriksson that was presented to me by the FA on my retirement in 2003.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Stay away from newspapers. Go into radio or TV: they have a much better future.

Colin Malam covers football for the Sunday Mirror

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