FWA Q&A: Dominic Fifield

Guardian football writer Dominic Fifield on ruining people’s holidays in France…Ashley Cole putting the boot in on lap-tops…and curry for breakfast

Your first ever job in journalism?
I had work experience on papers from the Yorkshire Post to the Croydon Advertiser, but the first proper job I was offered was a traineeship at the Guardian. Unless you count working for periods as a press officer at Crystal Palace Football Club, which was far more about dealing with journalists than actually being one.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
I worked for a company called Europ Assistance, offering British motorists abroad roadside assistance when their cars broke down on holiday. Usually in France. It was telephone work mainly spent reassuring people whose head gasket had just blown that their holiday had not, in fact, been ruined. And then talking to the mechanic we’d called out who would invariably confirm that there was no repairing said “joint de culasse” and that their holiday was therefore, indeed, ruined. It did not always end well.

Most memorable match?
Probably the 2005 European Cup final in Istanbul, which still feels vaguely ridiculous even seven years on. One of my senior colleagues chose to write about Harry Kewell’s surprise inclusion against Milan just before kick-off and I was therefore switched to do a piece on Steven Gerrard instead. As it turned out, Kewell hobbled off after 23 minutes and Gerrard inspired Liverpool’s ludicrous comeback and ended up as man of the match. Luckily enough.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
“David Hopkin, looking to curl one.” Wembley stadium, 90th minute, 26 May 1997. [Crystal Palace v Sheffield United play-off final]

Best stadium?
Cowboys stadium in Dallas with Chelsea was one of the more spectacular modern ones, but I like the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund. An arena more interesting than the town.

…and the worst?
The Central Stadium, Almaty for Kazakhstan v England in the summer of 2009. The press box was quickly crammed so the FA put out seats pitch-side next to the dug-outs. We sat there with laptops perched on our knees and Ashley Cole attempting to boot every clearance into touch right at us.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Once lost a 2,000 word transcript of an interview with Salif Diao when my computer froze. Some people might, of course, consider that a blessing.

Biggest mistake?
Probably misjudging deadline timings when covering my first Merseyside derby, a late afternoon kick-off on Easter Monday in April 2001. Liverpool went down to 10 but ended up winning 3-2 with a long-range goal from Gary McAllister in stoppage time. I took it all in, listened to the managers’ post-match press conferences and started writing it up before noticing there were four missed calls on my mobile phone. The last one was the chief sub saying: “Dom, where are you? We need your copy. We’re reaching meltdown here.” I’d just assumed I had an hour after the final whistle. They took in PA for first edition…

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Someone over here in Poland has accused me of looking like Phil Jones. Which, considering he’s virtually half my age, I’m taking as a massive compliment even if it is a reflection more of him than me.

Most media friendly manager?
Carlo Ancelotti.

Best ever player?
Zinedine Zidane. Just edges out Vince Hilaire.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
The best I’ve seen were probably Barcelona and Spain of the modern era. Though I’ve rarely witnessed either actually win in the flesh…

Best pre-match grub?
Chelsea are directly responsible for me putting on at least a stone over the last season.

Best meal had on your travels?

Fresh seafood cooked dockside at dawn in Busan, South Korea after a few of us had stayed out all night following England’s victory over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup. God knows why we ended up at the docks – I’m blaming the bloke from the Daily Mail for that – but the boats were coming in and their catches were being kept in buckets of sea water on the quayside. There were octopuses clambering out of one trough and into another, seeking the sea. We were invited to have a beer and a stir-fry, cooked outside, by some of the locals. Never tasted better.

…and the worst?
Andouillettes in Troyes with Leeds back in 2001. Can still taste intestine now.

Best hotel stayed in?
The Busan Lotte was special, but the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur served curry for breakfast. This is all becoming slightly foodie…

…and the worst?
Can’t remember the name but it was a chain hotel in Eindhoven, and it appeared to have its own micro-climate. I stayed in a freezing February and had my face bitten to pieces overnight by mosquitoes in my room.

Favourite football writer?
Paul Hayward.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
John Murray.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Try and instigate a greater level of trust between the clubs and the journalists covering them.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
An England Test match victory at the SCG or MCG to win the Ashes.

Last book read?
Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver.

Favourite current TV programme?
My obsession has switched from The Wire to Scandinavian cop dramas… so The Killing, The Bridge or Wallander.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
I’m not a big collector, but I have an Everton programme signed by Sylvester Stallone. And a Palace shirt signed by Andrew Johnson. Only one of them is mounted on the office wall.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Contrary to the cliché, it’s not all about opinion. You need to do put in the news scuffling to be able to offer up an insight.

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