FWA Q&A: John Cross

John Cross Daily Mirror FWA Q&AIn this week’s FWA Q&A, we talk to The Daily Mirror’s John Cross about the dodgy hotels, Arsenal’s Champions League Final loss to Barcelona and having an unused 1966 World Cup Final ticket…

Your first ever newspaper?
Islington Gazette – a brilliant start. I owe my first editor Tony Allcock so much.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?

Yes – but only briefly. I was an office junior while waiting for an opening in journalism and also digging drives one summer.

What was your finest achievement playing football?

Captaining Manhattan Lights, my old Sunday team, to the Barnet Junior Cup. We won on penalties. But only after Steve McFadden, Phil Mitchell in EastEnders and a right winger, had thrown a bit of a showbiz strop and stormed off after being substituted.

Most memorable match covered?

I’ve seen Arsenal win amazing games as a fan (Anfield, Old Trafford). But to cover them, probably the Champions League final against Barcelona. Bad result but wrote the most amount of words of any game covered. Nearly 5,000 in one night. So much for lazy journalism.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?

Arsenal winning the title at Anfield in 1989.

Best stadium?

For memories. I went to Boca Juniors in Argentina. What a setting, what a city, what a holiday.

…and the worst?

Fratton Park. A Premier League ground with non-league facilities.

Your best ever scoop?

The Hartson and Berkovic video. The joys of being a young freelance at the time meant I didn’t get the full credit…

Your personal new-tech disaster?

Too many Wi-Fi disasters to mention!

Biggest mistake?

I had Matt Jansen going to the 2002 World Cup. It was on our back page. He got measured for the suit, Sven watched him – and then decided not to take him. But when it’s on the back page on the day the squad is announced it’s a hard one to justify.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?

Adrian Chiles – on a regular basis!

Most media friendly manager?

Arsene Wenger. Never dodges a question, has always been respectful. A special mention for Sammy Lee and the late, great George Armstrong. Two gems. George Armstrong would give me a lift home after Arsenal reserve games!

Best ever player?

Thierry Henry gets my vote as player seen/covered live. We also forget how good Cesc Fabregas is.

Best ever teams (club and international)?

Arsenal – Invincibles; Spain – glorious to watch

Best pre-match grub?

Arsenal – fantastic food!

Best meal had on your travels?

El Greco – Italian restaurant in Barcelona. To shamelessly name drop, Thierry Henry recommended and booked it for a group of journalists. It was an amazing meal, fabulous occasion.

…and the worst?

On a Tottenham trip to Moldova, the local council held a reception for the travelling journalists. Despite being told not to drink the local water, a few of us couldn’t resist the ice cream. We all came home with a mild case of dysentery!

Best hotel stayed in?

Schloss Elmau resort. A spa hotel just over the German border while covering Euro 2008. Amazing.

…and the worst?

A hotel in Donetsk 11 years ago. UEFA had the best hotel. The press had the second. It was awful. Arsenal had the third best because it had better kitchens. But I’d hate to have seen their hotel if it was worse than ours. The country has come on a great deal. My most ridiculous happening on a trip was in Athens in 2004. The coach driver taking journos between Olympic venues refused to budge even though myself and Charlie Sale (Daily Mail) were trying to reach the 100m final for which we had tickets. In pure frustration, I leant down, grabbed the driver’s foot and pressed it against the pedal. It showed him how much we wanted to make it – and he kindly obliged while the very respectful Chinese journalists at the back of the coach looked on in horror without saying a word.

Favourite football writer?

Oliver Holt. Proud to be his colleague.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?

Clive Tyldesley – partly influenced by the fact that he’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. I love doing radio and TV work. It’s been such an enjoyable part of my career in the past few years. But all of the professionals have my respect. It’s such a tough part of the industry.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?

Just more open and friendliness. It’s so much harder to criticise those you like.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?

I have covered three Olympic Games. You just can’t beat it.

Last book read?

‘Ghosts of Manila’. I love boxing books. But it was purely coincidental that I was reading it just before Joe Frazier’s death. Kevin Mitchell’s ‘War, Baby’ is such a great read. I tried to tell him once how much I loved that book but was a bit worse for wear at an FWA dinner. It came out something like: ‘Ish really, weally, love you, Kevin…’

Favourite current TV programme?

The Wire.

Your most prized football memorabilia?

My Dad’s UNUSED 1966 World Cup Final ticket – still in the original envelope. My Dad went to every England game but got food poisoning and missed the final. I still can’t believe he didn’t go! But he gave me the ticket as a keepsake.

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