FWA Q&A: Laura Williamson

Laura Williamson on travelling with Hawk-Eye…dismal haircuts…Jennifer Aniston…and super Grimsby

Your first ever newspaper?
The Hull Daily Mail, as part of the Daily Mail’s graduate reporter programme. I worked in news: the court reporting I enjoyed, the council meetings less so. And as for the dreaded ‘door knocks’ – the memories still bring a shudder.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
I used to work for Hawk-Eye, the company responsible for the ball-tracking technology used in cricket and tennis. I travelled around the world setting up and running the equipment for use in live television broadcasts or official reviews. India was the most taxing place to work, the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies was the highlight and the Australian Open tennis was just exhausting. And Sir Ian Botham’s colour blindness is a slight problem when you’re trying to get him to talk about red, blue, yellow and white balls on a pitch map.

What was your finest achievement playing football?
As my Dad always says, I am a bit of a ‘headless chicken’ when it comes to playing football. Plenty of enthusiasm, pretty quick and reasonably fit, but no discipline, technical ability or finesse whatsoever. Filling in for my sister’s team (she played to county standard) was about the limit of my achievements as a footballer.

Most memorable match covered?
Fulham 4 Juventus 1.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Kevin Donovan’s goal for Grimsby Town against Northampton Town at Wembley in 1998, which took the Mariners back up to the old Division One. I had a dismal haircut and my face painted in black and white stripes, but they were certainly good times.

Best stadium?
The Bernabeu.

…and the worst?
The San Siro if you’ve got to file anything.

Your best ever scoop?
It’s not really a scoop, but breaking the awful news about Jack Collison’s dad losing his life in a motorbike accident on the way to a West Ham game was my first exclusive when I joined the Mail, so it’s one I remember.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
*Touch wood* I’ve been OK so far. There were some pretty hairy moments at Hawk-Eye, though.

Biggest mistake?
Turning someone over when it wasn’t worth it. It’s a difficult judgement to make sometimes, but I got it wrong.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?

A drunk (and obviously visually impaired) Cheltenham fan said I looked like Jennifer Aniston at the weekend (although why she would be waiting for a bus outside White Hart Lane I don’t know). But it’s usually anyone with a gap in their teeth.

Most media friendly manager?
Harry Redknapp.

Best ever player?
Steven Gerrard.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Grimsby Town 1997-98. Spain at the moment take some beating.

Best pre-match grub?
Arsenal’s always good, but the fry ups at Spurs before early kick-offs do the trick.

Best meal had on your travels?

One in Beverly Hills recently when I went for the MLS Cup final. Amazing food, although I was probably too busy looking at everyone else to fully enjoy it.

…and the worst?
Probably one of the disgusting, dry, mayonnaise-filled, overpriced club sandwiches you’re forced to eat when you get back to a hotel room after a game and you’re starving.

Best hotel stayed in?

Cinnamon Grand, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

…and the worst?
The cell-like room I ended up with in Odense, Denmark – after going on the man from the Sun’s recommendation! Fatal.

Favourite football writer?

Oliver Holt.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
John Murray on BBC Radio 5Live. Martin Tyler on Sky Sports.

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

Re-introduce proper mixed zones. The way you request a number of players and then end up with the third choice goalkeeper, if anyone at all, just breeds mistrust and frustration.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
A big track final at the Olympics. I can’t wait!

Last book read?
Ian Hawkey – Feet of the Chameleon.

Favourite current TV programme?
Can I have Downton Abbey as it’s only just finished?

Your most prized football memorabilia?

It all goes in my Dad’s collection, but I’ve got a signed Maradona picture on the wall at home – just to wind my boyfriend up.

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