DEAN JONES of the Sunday People on an illegal approach by Dominos…the scoop he didn’t believe…and Spurs’ best signing since Gareth Bale
Your first ever newspaper?
The Sportsman, a sports news and betting paper that hit the streets in 2006. It sounded like a good idea … until it was launched. I jumped ship before everyone was made redundant, which was about six months after the first edition.
Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
Pizza delivery boy. I started with Tops Pizza … but left after being tapped up by Dominos. The drop money was better, and I took home a Pepperoni Passion at the end of every shift.
What was your finest achievement playing football?
Played for Wimbledon and then Fulham as a teenager, and made a few outings in the Ryman League for the mighty Leatherhead … before hanging up my boots at the grand old age of 20.
Most memorable match covered?
My first one. I was only 16, but Gerry Cox of Hayters gave me the nod to cover an FA Cup match between Basingstoke and Bournemouth. My grandad had to take me to the game and pick me up afterwards. Mark Stein scored the winner after the keeper smashed a clearance against him.
The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Dave Kidd’s left footed strike in 5-a-side last year. ‘Swing and hope’ I think they call it. But the ball flew into the top corner, and Kiddo has not stopped talking about it since.
Craven Cottage. An old-fashioned feel, for all the right reasons.
…and the worst?
Kenilworth Road. An old-fashioned feel, for all the wrong reasons.
Your best ever scoop?
Gerard Houllier to become Aston Villa boss. It seemed so unlikely, even I wasn’t convinced when I pressed send.
Your personal new-tech disaster?
Covered a game at Old Trafford – and realised when I got back to London that my laptop was still on the desk in the Press room. I still owe Steve Bates a pint for collecting it, actually [Steve said that with interest it’s now a barrel – Ed].
Playing rugby. I’m not very well built for the sport, but just presumed I’d be able to run past everyone. It worked for about half hour, but then some huge kid tackled me, I went flying through the air and broke my arm. Never played again.
Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
A few people congratulated me when Dan Jones started writing a column in the Evening Standard.
Most media friendly manager?
Chris Coleman. When I started to report full-time Cookie was in charge of Fulham, and really helped me out at times. He came out with some great lines in interviews too. His presser when he stated Louis Saha would be leaving ‘over my dead body’ was a classic.
Best ever player?
Best ever teams (club and international)?
Club… Manchester United 1999
International… France 2000.
Best pre-match grub?
Tottenham have raised their game this season with new caterers. Best signing since Gareth Bale.
Best meal had on your travels?
California Pizza Kitchen, LA. Not a big food lover so decent pizza always does the job.
…and the worst?
I did manage to find bad pizza once. It was in Bangkok.
Best hotel stayed in?
Vidago Palace in Portugal.
…and the worst?
I can’t remember what it was called but on my first ever foreign trip I was sent to Paris for Hayters to get an interview with Patrick Vieira. I stayed in a smelly, run down place near Gare du Nord, and it can not have cost more than 30 quid for the night. The walls were annoyingly thin, the bed sheets had holes in, and the fire alarm batteries needed changing so it beeped all night.
Favourite football writer?
Don’t have one, but I like story-getters. Neil Ashton, Neil Moxley and John Cross are very good.
Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Would have to be BBC Radio 5 Live’s Mike Ingham.
If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Access is getting worse and worse, so all I would ask is to let us speak to the players more often. How can we report properly on the game otherwise?
One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
Last book read?
A Long Way Down. It’s a novel by Nick Hornby, not a non-fiction title detailing the next four years of QPR’s history.
Favourite current TV programme?
New Girl for comedy. Chicago Fire for drama.
Your most prized football memorabilia?
The Dimitar Berbatov signed shirt that I’m sure Fulham’s press office will be sending me as soon as the season is over…
Advice to any would-be football writer?
Make as many contacts as you can, and then get in touch with me if you get any good stories.
*And the bonus ball today is a wonderful anecdote from Dave Allard about the late, great Ian Willard and a manager who made every football writer’s job so pleasant:
The dear old Duke. The pint, the pipe and stories galore.
Trips to the Midlands with Ipswich were enhanced by his presence.
He once said to Bobby Robson after he was late for a press gathering at Villa Park following a defeat: “Stop behaving like a twat Bob.”
Robbo said: “Ahh Ian, you’re probably right.”