FWA Q&A: David Miller

DAVID MILLER on stepping back in time in Albania…a two and a half hour meal with Alf Ramsey…and staying in a war-time barracks in Wolverhampton

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
A sports PR consultant 1990-2013. Also written 12 books on the Olympic Games.

Most memorable match?
The 1966 World Cup final which I reported for the Sunday Telegraph. England had long been perceived as the fathers of the game, but in the World Cup our record was poor. The press at the time were generally against Alf Ramsey and the way England played, the criticism was severe. A few of us, including Brian James, Clive Toye and myself who had covered England regularly, believed, like Alf, that England could win. The best team entertainment-wise in 66 were probably Hungary, but they didn’t have a top-class goalkeeper. England were efficient, made few mistakes and for us to win was historic.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Pele’s first goal in the 1958 World Cup final, Brazil 5 Sweden 2. He chested the ball down, flicked it over Sweden defender Gustavsson with his thigh and volleyed the dropping ball home.

Best stadium?
The Santiago Bernabeu. There is no stadium that is as theatrical. The Nou Camp is special, but it’s more of a bowl. The Bernabeu is an opera house, it rises straight up, tier after tier and everyone is relatively near to the field.

…and the worst?
Tirana, 1976. I was there for a World Cup qualifier between Albania and Northern Ireland. The facilities, the phones…it was like going back decades. Albania at that time was under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and was hardly into the 20th century.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Almost daily.

Biggest mistake?
Believing newspaper proprietors.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
The pub bore (often).

Most media friendly manager?
Malcolm Allison.

Best ever player?
Alfredo di Stefano.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Spurs 1961/62; Hungary 1952-1954.

Best pre-match grub?
Arsenal (today).

Best meal had on your travels?
Sabatini in Rome where I have been many times.

…and the worst?
In Kiev, when it was still part of the old Soviet Union, for an Under-23 match. It was two and a half hours before Alf Ramsey and I completed dinner. Most of the dishes on the menu were off – there was a six-page menu, but only three items were available.

Best hotel stayed in?
The Oriental in Bangkok. I was fortunate to be there for a couple of nights in transit on my way to China. It’s incredibly special.

…and the worst?
The Victoria in Wolverhampton, 1960. It was like a war-time barracks.

Do you have a hobby?
Off-shore sailing.

Favourite football writer?
Arthur Hopcraft.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Geoffrey Green/Alan Hansen (pundit). Geoffrey was the football correspondent of The Times, he appeared on Sports Report regularly and covered early European ties. Geoffrey had such perspective.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Apology for invented quotes.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Cresta Run.

Favourite non-football sportsman/sports woman?
Barry John/Maria Bueno.

Last book read?
Iron Curtain: The Crushing Of Eastern Europe 1944-1953 by Anne Applebaum.

Favourite current TV programme?
University Challenge.

TV show you always switch off?
Kirsty Wark/Russell Brand.

If you could bring one TV series back which would it be?
Fawlty Towers.

Favourite comedian?
Woody Allen/Victoria Wood.

What really, really annoys you?
Almost all politicians.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
Correspondence with Stan Matthews.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Talk to, or listen to rational former players/managers such as George Cohen, Terry Venables, Gareth Southgate and Craig Brown.

A life member of the Football Writers’ Association, David Miller has been a journalist since leaving Cambridge University in 1956. The former chief sports correspondent of The Times, Miller has covered 14 World Cup finals. He is the author of biographies of Matt Busby, Stanley Matthews and Sebastian Coe and wrote the official history of the IOC.

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