FWA: Q&A: Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor, chief football writer of the Guardian, on The Hairdryer…scoring for Manchester City…and staying in a brothel  

Your first ever newspaper?
Newark Advertiser. As Jasper Carrott said during his night at the Palace Theatre: ‘The only town in the world that’s an anagram of . . .’

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?

Most memorable match covered?
Getting a visa for Iran v Republic of Ireland was a great trip in 2001. There were 120,000 people in the national stadium in Tehran, a male-only crowd, and it was noisy and sinister. Ireland qualified for the World Cup that night and flying back to Dublin with the team was a long, boozy flight. The pilot actually started tilting the plane at one point to get the players to sit down and stop the party. Put it this way, if it had been a holidaymakers’ flight from Benidorm, there would have been half a dozen police vans waiting on the runway.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
The Hairdryer. Unless you’ve seen it close up, you can’t explain what it’s really like. But no one has ever got Sir Alex Ferguson losing it – properly losing it – on film.

Best stadium?
Barcelona. All the modern new-built stadia tend to look the same these days – big, sweeping, shiny, Ikea-style bowls. Camp Nou’s got soul. Every game there feels like an occasion.

…and the worst?
Maine Road. I liked the stadium, atmosphere etc . . . it was just that midnight walk back to your car, with a laptop bag over your shoulder. A personal count of one carjacking, two smashed passenger windows and several hundred pounds handed over to car ‘minders’ in the years pre-Eastlands.

What was your finest achievement playing football?
I have none. However, in an England-versus-Wales media game at Ninian Park a few years ago I was put through on goal, one on one against a 47-year-old Neville Southall, and for some reason tried to chip him. He plucked it out of the air with a look of utter contempt. I can still remember Gordon Hill, who was on my side, screaming “For f***’s sake, you’ve got to put your foot through that, son.”

Your best ever scoop?
As the man who broke the Bebe to Manchester United story, I’d like to think I have made a lasting contribution to football news. Otherwise, Ronaldo to Real Madrid was a nice one to get, not least because of United’s denials.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
I’ve always somehow managed to get my copy over but Rangers last season, with the wireless dying after five minutes and no phone lines, was as close as it comes. Sitting at my hotel bar at midnight, that was also the night I texted something deeply uncomplimentary about Scottish football, purely because of my wifi gripes, then realised I had tweeted it by accident.

Biggest mistake?
I’d like to think the copytakers were to blame but, freelancing in pre-Guardian days, my match report of a Manchester City game for the Sun began with the words ‘Daniel Taylor scored a last-minute winner . . .’ Clearly, it should have been Gareth Taylor. Though I’d argue that we had a similar first touch.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
There’s a guy on Twitter who sends me messages sometimes reminiscing about our old days together at school. I haven’t got the heart to tell him he’s mixed me up with someone else. If he’s reading this: sorry.

Most media friendly manager?
Martin O’Neill was great with me when I was covering Leicester City in my first football job but, really, when you hear the older journalists talking about what it used to be like in the 60s and 70s, it’s a very different type of ‘media-friendly’ these days. More like ‘media-tolerant.’

Best ever player?

Best ever teams (club and international)?
The current Barcelona side probably edge it from that great Real Madrid team of Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Raul etc. The Brazil side of 1982 was a schoolboy Panini-collector’s dream.

Best pre-match grub?
Manchester City. A Sunday roast, a glass of red wine. Maybe could do with improving the cake selection but can’t complain too much when they also give you a bag of pick ‘n’ mix to take up to the press box. Second place is close between Arsenal and Chelsea.

Worst meal had on your travels?
At least 80 per cent of work meals in this job are delivered in plastic containers from service stations on the hoof. On that basis, I can safely say avoid the prawn sandwiches from Darrington (A1 southbound). Left me with food poisoning for a week after one game at Middlesbrough.

. . . and the best meal?
Slightly different kind of seafood to be had at Lobster, on Santa Monica pier.

Best hotel stayed in?
Forget it’s name, but Baden-Baden for the 2006 World Cup, once you had got used to the nudists in the sauna.

…and the worst?
Gwangju, after South Korea had just knocked Spain out of the 2002 World Cup. The reception had a library of XXX videos. The lighting was ultra-violet throughout. There was a menu on my bed. It was, in short, a brothel.

Favourite football writer?
Tough question. Martin Samuel perhaps? James Lawton is an incredible writer, too, though I could name many others.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
I don’t really have a favourite. In terms of punditry though, Graeme Souness and Gary Neville show how it should be done – i.e. opinion and insight, often using anecdotal evidence, rather than repeating what you see, Shearer-style.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
1) Be truthful. See the above Ronaldo story. Or, to use one of many other examples, Liverpool’s recent attempts to cover up the Tevez-Carroll swap proposal. All journalists have been through it. Clubs say they want the truth out there but they don’t. They think nothing of being deceitful when it suits them.
2) Clubs should realise that putting up players for proper sit-down interviews can generate great copy and be mutually beneficial.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
A Ryder Cup, in the States, with an away win.

Last book read?
‘Torres: El Niño’ by Luca Caioli

Favourite current TV programme?
Curb Your Enthusiasm

Your most prized football memorabilia?
I collect way too much stuff – programmes and ticket stubs mainly – but the most prized is probably a framed 1979 European Cup winner’s shirt, signed by the match-winner Trevor Francis.

What advice would you give any would-be football writer? Be prepared for lots of people who don’t work in the industry and don’t therefore know the intricacies, mechanics, politics, briefings, relationships etc telling you via Twitter where you’re going wrong.

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  1. Pingback: Sports Journalism: All take and no give? « Danger here…

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