PAUL JIGGINS of The Sun on the greatest gift from his dad…minky whale and reindeer in Reykjavik…and Dyson with death in Baltimore
Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
Yep. Supermarket shelf-stacker, early morning office cleaner and trainee asphalter. I then joined The Sun as a messenger before going on to write, take photos for and eventually edit the company’s staff newspaper and newsmagazine. I later spent a year (six months of that on gardening leave) as officer of communications for the NHS in North London before John Wardle and Ian Whittell saved me from insanity by hiring me to cover football. Did I mention that while taking pics for NI’s staff paper, I moonlighted as a wedding photographer? Most nerve-racking job ever. I gave it up after accidentally standing in a piece of dog turd while taking pics of a happy couple. As they and all their guests laughed, I flicked my foot to get the mess off my shoe and could only watch in horror as it flew through the air, hitting the stunned bride’s mother on the lapel, leaving what can only be described as a blemish on her outfit and a stain on my character.
Most memorable match?
I’m getting to the age where they have all merged into one. It’s certainly not any match in the Champions League, the most overhyped and boring competition in the world, summed up by its blooming annoying operatic theme tune.
I would have to say Millwall 2 Norwich 3, Sunday January 22, 1989 (and I didn’t even have to check date). It was Millwall’s first season in the top flight and first ever game live on TV. Despite being a season ticket holder alongside me, my dad opted to watch the game from the comfort of his favourite armchair because he had never watched his beloved Lions on telly before and wanted to experience what it felt like. Millwall fought back from 2-0 down to make it 2-2 and absolutely battered the Canaries before Robert Fleck’s spectacular late scissor kick won the game for the visitors. Straight after the game I went to watch Big Country in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. When I got home later that night, mum was still up and she disclosed that dad was so proud of the way Millwall had played that she had caught him wiping away tears from his eyes. An image and match made all the poignant by the fact that it was one of the last matches he ever witnessed as a few months later he died leaving me the greatest gift a son could ask for, a love of football.
The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Jamie Moralee’s goal for Millwall at West Ham after just 35 seconds in March 1993 in front of me and 6,499 fellow delirious fans sardined on Upton Park’s South Bank terrace.
The original Den, but as it is now a housing estate, I’ll have to go for the Emirates, which sleeps even more.
…and the worst?
Selhurst Park. It’s at least three hours from everywhere, even Croydon, and they make that turnstile for journalists smaller every season.
Your personal new-tech disaster?
Once sent a text that was rather uncomplimentary about a player I’d just interviewed to…er, the player I’d just interviewed. To my eternal shame and cowardice I even tried to claim at first that he shared the same name as a mate of mine and it was all a mix-up. He wasn’t happy. But he was crap anyway.
Not jumping ship from the security of corporate communications to try my hand at football reporting on a full-time basis sooner. Also turning down a request from a cabbie mate a few years ago to help him out with some Press and PR for the new taxi iPhone app he was co-launching. He said he would pay me in shares, but I did not think I could commit the time. So I had to decline. The bad news is, he has now given up work having recently received £17 million investment to syndicate the app to other major cities around the world. The good news is, though, he has given me all of his old blankos! Shrewd, eh?
Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
In my younger and slimmer years it was Paul Scholes. Three days after he scored for England against Tunisia at France 98 I went to Royal Ascot and was mobbed by punters who was convinced I was him, even though he was locked down in the squad’s hotel. These days it’s Basel boss Heiko Vogel. When his Swiss outfit played Manchester United in the Champions League I started getting loads of texts from mates and colleagues saying I was on the telly. I tuned in and have to admit I was surprised by how handsome he was. I said to my wife: “He’s even got the same coat as me.” To which she replied: “Yeah…but it looks better on him.”
Most media friendly manager?
Steve Evans. Ordered his Crawley players to come in at 7am so we could take a team pic of them in their Sun-sponsored shirts before their FA Cup tie at Manchester United. He even charmed Steven Howard.
Best ever player?
Dave Cusack. My all-time Millwall hero now occasional drinking partner. They say you should never meet your heroes and my liver would vouch for that. Would be a multi-millionaire if he played today. Legend.
Best ever teams (club and international)?
Millwall 1984/85 and England 1990. With a bit more care, thought and luck, both could have conquered the world.
Best pre-match grub?
Arsenal takes some beating but Tottenham are getting there.
Best meal had on your travels?
A six-course tapas extravaganza in Reykjavik while covering the England Under-21’s in 2011, which included, puffin, minky whale, lobster, reindeer and lamb. And all for under £20.
…and the worst?
On the same trip I was not the only one to be left somewhat disappointed by the mixed grill at the only eatery in Drammen, Norway, that was still open at 8pm on a Sunday night. For starters, the grill must have been given the night off as there was not a pork chop or piece of steak in sight. Instead it was a selection of cold meats (more of a mixed chill, you might say) so delicately arranged on a saucer of a plate that not one of the ingredients was touching another and all for the princely sum of £60. The waiter should have worn a stocking over his head.
Best hotel stayed in?
The Hotel Villa Nabila in Reggiolo, Carlo Ancelotti’s home town in Italy. Stayed there when I went to do a backgrounder on him following his appointment at Chelsea. The restaurant had two Michelin stars.
…and the worst?
The Holiday Inn North Baltimore. A few of us were due to stay there for three nights during Tottenham’s tour of States last summer. What they did not tell us, though, was that it was 70 miles north of Baltimore and after an 100-dollar-plus taxi ride from airport, we checked in to find dozens of teenagers in hoodies hanging around in the corridors on each floor.
There were so many kids outside my door that getting into my room was like walking into my local off-licence, except I wasn’t offered a handful of change to buy one of them 10 B&H and a bottle of Thunderbirds. After I spent the first night sleeping with one eye open and a chair behind the door, I checked out the following morning after breakfast was evacuated due to reports that a guest had pulled a gun on a maid as she tried to clean his room. She was Dyson with death indeed.
Favourite football writer?
Whoever pens the on-screen info bar and breaking news ticker on Sky Sports News. Straight to the point with a lovely turn of phrase. I mean, why write “We have seen the story in a newspaper” when “Sky sources say…” reads so much better?
Favourite radio/TV commentator?
There will only ever be one Brian Moore. Every time I hear his commentary on a game I am nine again. As for radio, Sam Matterface reminds me of the Jonathan Pearce I spent most of my teenage years sitting in my bedroom listening to on Capital Gold. But my real radio hero is Danny Baker who, along with Danny Kelly, not only made me want to become a journalist, but made me believe I could become one, despite my accent and football team.
If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
All match reports to include ‘mixed zone reports’ chronicling the behaviour of players afterwards. It might give fans an idea of how rude some of their highly-paid ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ heroes really are. What kind of industry is it when a teenage div in a huge pair of headphones believes he is well within his rights to completely ignore a polite request from a professional journalist 20 years his senior just because he is fortunate enough to be able to run fast or kick a ball hard? Only in this industry is this kind of behaviour tolerated. Could you imagine an apprentice labourer behaving like that on a building site?
One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
The Monaco GP from the deck of a nearby expensive yacht.
Last book read?
Family by Michael Calvin. A beautifully written book about some beautiful people.
Favourite current TV programme?
The Big Bang Theory.
Your most prized football memorabilia?
Two 2004 FA Cup Final programmes. They are in my pants drawer [Too much information – Ed]. I bought two in case I lose one. Programmes that is, not pants [Far too much information – Ed]. Have never read them fully but every so often I take them out to make sure Millwall actually got there and it wasn’t a dream. Shame the players never turned up.
Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Stay away you bastards, we don’t need any more competition, jobs are scarce as it is.