MIGUEL DELANEY on super Spain…awesome Ajax…and magnificent McIlvaney

Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
Sort of, but not really. I was lucky enough to go straight out of university into a job on the sports desk of the now sadly-defunct Irish paper, the Sunday Tribune. And, although they tried to inflict other sports on me that I never had any real interest in, I was always leaning towards football!

Most memorable match?
A few to mention for different reasons. I’m half-Irish, half-Spanish and, as such, there are results stands out for each for both professional and personal reasons: Ireland’s 1-0 over the Netherlands in September 2001, and then Spain’s 1-0 over the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final. I’ve never been as tense. Luckily, I didn’t have to file on the whistle for either. In terms of sheer performance and the sport being played to its highest possible level, hard to look past Barcelona’s 3-1 over Manchester United in the Champions League final. There was one moment in the first-half where, with just three touches on the edge of the box, Messi had nutmegged Vidic and taken Ferdinand out of the game. Barca were so good that, by the hour, you could see United were absolutely shattered from chasing them. There was no way back. As regards drama, Turkey’s 3-2 win – and comeback – over the Czech Republic in Euro 2008 was a pleasure to be at. Ultimately, the 2010 World Cup final is probably top of the list for the tension, the stage and what it meant – both for the sport and for me personally.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Iniesta’s goal against the Netherlands. From a more detached perspective, one of the most perfect goals I’ve ever seen was Hernan Crespo’s in the 2005 Champions League final: an astounding curling through ball from Kaka – that completely took a stretching Jamie Carragher out of the game – followed by a beautiful clipped finish. It was masterful.

Best stadium?
The Bernabeu. Epic dimensions to it. The sheer height of its stands, which seem steeper than Camp Nou, make it incredible.

…and the worst?
Anywhere where it’s difficult to get wifi. There were a few League of Ireland grounds with this problem.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Once had a 50-minute interview, with what I thought was some great material, recorded on the voice programme of my iPhone. I rarely use the connector to charge the phone on the laptop but, in a hotel room with a ridiculously low number of sockets that were all filled, I decided to. As the phone hadn’t been hooked up to the laptop since I bought it, it immediately synched up, updated and wiped everything that had been on it before. I was close to tears.

Biggest mistake?
See above.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Tim Cahill. I’ve actually been stopped on the street for that one.

Most media friendly manager?
Probably Roberto Martinez or Mick McCarthy, in different ways and for different reasons.

Best ever player?
For fundamental ability, I’d say Diego Maradona. I think his basic skill and manipulation of the ball is still just a touch ahead of Leo Messi’s – who is still obviously absolutely incredible. However, I think Messi will apply his ability much better and ultimately end up with a superior career.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Ajax 1970-73 (with Barca 2008-11 running them close) and Spain 2008-12. As regards the latter, people go on about Brazil 1970 but they only had six games in conditions that weren’t conducive to defending. Spain have maintained it for four years and three tournaments and have had to put up with some of the deepest and most extreme backlines any team has ever faced. As such, I certainly don’t buy the ‘boring’ argument. As Euro 2008 and the final of Euro 2012 showed, if you step out against Spain they can rip you apart in the manner of that Brazil team.

Best pre-match grub?
Chelsea, by a distance.

Best meal had on your travels?
Can’t remember the name of the restaurant but Vienna during Euro 2008 was excellent. And I was a big fan of the strudels

…and the worst?
The so-called burgers they gave us in Minsk airport when a connecting flight from Warsaw to Kiev was delayed by 10 hours.

Favourite football writer?
It may be an obvious one but Hugh McIlvanney for the manner in which he manages to mix almost literary description with excellent detail in the most concise sentences. He had a line about the World Cup which, for me, sums up how good he is. “Earlier rounds offer sudden death but this is the only one that offers immortality.” That’s always stayed with me. It says so much in so few words, and in such an elegant way.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
I’d probably go Martin Tyler or Barry Davies. I do like the way Clive Tyldsley attempts to capture a moment, though.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
For clubs to realise that, in an age when players are perceived as being detached from the public, making them more accessible can help their image. As I’m sure many have said, the distance between players and reporters – and, by extension, fans – has grown too great. What’s more, coverage of football seems to be becoming increasingly Americanised (and I don’t mean that in a negative sense) – with one difference: US sports offer superb access and realise this is necessary both to sell, and tell the story of, the game.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Olympic 100m final.

Last book read?
David Walsh’s Seven Deadly Sins. Tremendous work and a testament to him. The Lance Armstrong story has absolutely fascinated me, and there are so many human dimensions to it. More worryingly, though, I’m not convinced football is clean.

Favourite current TV programme?
The Sopranos has been off the air for six years but, since I can’t stop myself watching the repeats on Sky Atlantic, does that count? [Tony says yes – Ed]. I don’t think it will ever be bettered, not even by The Wire – which I also love. Greatly enjoyed The Thick of It recently, too.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
The stub for the World Cup final. Ultimately, it’s still the biggest sporting event on earth. It’s an honour to attend it.

Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Read as much as you can and write as much you can. Persevere too. It’s a tough industry but a rewarding one.

I was a football writer with Ireland’s Sunday Tribune for six years until it sadly went bust in early 2011 (writes Miguel Delaney). Having roved around the British Isles and Europe for them, I made the full-time move to London last year. Now, I primarily work for the Irish Examiner, ESPN and the Independent.

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