FWA Q&A: Gavin Hamilton

GAVIN HAMILTON on sending a cheque back to Gavin Hamilton…dinner with Cristiano Ronaldo…and a honeymoon nightmare in South Korea

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
I worked elsewhere in newspapers and magazines before switching to football. I also worked in a library (Camberwell not Highbury) where the main job was stopping people nicking the books (and that was just the staff).

Most memorable match?
My office complain that I only attend games if sliverware is being handed over. Not strictly true but I’m lucky enough to have been to almost every major final, domestic and European, since the mid-1990s. If I had to pick one game, it would be the 1999 European Cup Final in Barcelona.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Alan Pardew’s header at Villa Park, Palace-Liverpool FA Cup semi-final, April 1990. Hopeless Al became Super Al in an instant.

Best stadium?
I love the walk from Lotto metro station in Milan to the San Siro at night. The stadium emerges from nowhere, lit up like a giant spaceship.

…and the worst?
Every stadium is special to somebody, it’s what makes the game unique. But I don’t miss Plough Lane.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Nothing career-threatening, usually to do with my lack of ability to connect to wi-fi.

Biggest mistake?
Nothing I can admit to in public.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Only the cricketer Gavin Hamilton. I once got a cheque for £500 from The Sun for a column on the Cricket World Cup, which was nice. I was working elsewhere at News International at the time and I actually sent the cheque back, thinking it would help my career. It didn’t, but I hope he got his money eventually.

Most media friendly manager?
One of the first managers I had dealings with was [Crystal Palace’s] Alan Smith, who used to give out his players’ home phone numbers. It’s been downhill since then, though I’ve always found Roy Hodgson very agreeable. In Europe, the Dutch managers – Van Gaal, Rijkaard, Hiddink – have been great value. It’s partly a language thing – Dutch-English makes people sound more interesting than they probably are.

Best ever player?
In my lifetime, Maradona, though Messi is pushing him closer every season. Imagine if Maradona had played in the Champions League every year… I also loved Van Basten, such an elegant striker. Those old enough to have seen him play swear Di Stefano is the greatest.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
The Barcelona side that won the European Cup at Wembley two years ago was sensational. Brilliant individuals but a wonderful team ethic as well. Again it’s hard to compare different eras, but Brazil 1970 would give Spain 2010 a run for their money.

Best pre-match grub?
Arsenal shade it over Chelsea. It’s the Ben and Jerry’s.

Best meal had on your travels?
A seafood extravaganza in Madeira with my colleagues from A Bola when we interviewed Cristiano Ronaldo. We were presenting him with the ESM Golden Shoe and he insisted on receiving the award in Funchal, his home town. Not only was he away from the watchful eye of Man United, so we got a great interview, but we also had a slap-up meal afterwards.

…and the worst?
Fortunately nothing poisonous but there have been plenty of rough burgers, late night at train stations.

Best hotel stayed in?
I have the English vote in UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award, when UEFA put us up in the very lovely Meridien Beach hotel in Monaco. But, generally, at FIFA and UEFA events, I get to spend a lot of time in the lobbies of top hotels, watching how the other half lives.

…and the worst?
On Jeju Island for the 2002 World Cup. The Koreans had the bright idea of hosting matches there to promote the island as a “honeymoon paradise”. But I pity any marriage that spent its first night at this place. There was no mattress, just a wooden bed frame and a plastic sheet, and everything reeked of disinfectant, it was like sleeping in a pub toilet.

Favourite football writer?
Brian Glanville is still an inspiration, for remaining so enthusiastic after all these years and for his ability to swear so eloquently in so many different languages. I’m always amazed at the hours put in by the daily correspondents, Henry Winter and others.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
John Murray is a fantastic commentator, informative and emotional without imposing his own opinions on a match. Martin Tyler and Clive Tyldesley are rightly top of the TV tree. I’ve been impressed with Sam Matterface for talkSPORT.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
If clubs made a different player available for interview after training every day, they would soon see the benefits. Unfortunately, Barclays Premier League clubs smell money even where it doesn’t exist. Launching their own magazines and TV stations has made them think they can control the media when actually the opposite is true.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
I’d like to try the Cricket World Cup, I’ve got an idea for a column.

Last book read?
Capital by John Lanchester, a terrific state-of-the-nation novel. Most of the best football books of recent times seemed to have been written by Jonathan Wilson although Dave Conn’s book on Man City was brilliant.

Favourite current TV programme?
Curb Your Enthusiasm. There’s a bit of Larry David in everybody.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
Nothing much though I’ve kept the teamsheets from the 1998 World Cup Final, with and without Ronaldo in the starting Xl.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Learn a language, it will always give you something extra, and if you can spend some time in another country, it will give you a different perspective. Embrace change, half the jobs we’ll be doing in 10 years’ time don’t exist yet because the technology hasn’t been developed.

Gavin Hamilton is Editor, World Soccer.

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  1. Pingback: Upside: Water, not champagne | US Soccer Players

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