FWA Q&A: PAUL McCARTHY
Have you ever worked in a profession other than football?
I worked in several bars during a spell living in California, but jacked the last one in when about the 20th customer that night asked me what part of Australia I was from.
Most memorable match?
Hard one to call, but Germany 1 England 5 takes some beating – as do the hours after when basically too many of us ended up drinking through the night and onto the plane home from Munich. (Just noticed those first two answers have bars/pubs in common. Bit worrying, really.)
The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Thierry Henry back-heeling the ball through Mark Fish’s legs for the most audacious and ridiculous goal I can recall. Or Dennis Bergkamp’s hat-trick v Leicester at Filbert Street.
Most of the grounds in Japan in 2002 were astonishing, but I’m not sure you can beat either Anfield or St James’ Park for atmosphere on a night game.
…and the worst?
Vale Park. Not sure if it’s the same now, but in 1989 you had to basically sit in a shed on the roof of one of the stands. On this particular night, they had lost the key so somebody had to smash a window to get in. It then proceeded to blow a gale and lash down rain that came horizontally in through said window. To add insult to frost-bite, it was a League Cup game that went to extra time.
Your personal new-tech disaster?
Once sent an e-mail to a colleague absolutely caning my editor at the time. However, it might have been an idea not to type the editor’s e-mail address into the recipient’s box. This answer may possibly have something in common with answers 1 and 2. Thankfully the editor had a sense of humour.
And also agreeing to ghost a very public Vinnie Jones apology for biting a reporter’s nose in Dublin the night England fans rioted only for Piers Morgan to turn it into a front page ‘We Sack Vinnie’ splash. Should have seen that one coming and got somebody else to do the spiteful and dirty on a mate. Thankfully I have made up with both Vinnie and Piers subsequently.
Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Mark Alford at Mail Online reckons I am never likely to be seen in the same room as Malky Mackay.
Most media friendly manager?
Terry Venables, Sam Allardyce, Harry Redknapp, Gerard Houllier – take your pick.
Best ever player?
I would love to say Pele, but I never saw him play live. Was fortunate enough to be at Hampden when Maradona destroyed Scotland so difficult to look past him although Ronaldo, Messi and Zidane give him a run.
Best ever teams (club and international)?
The Barcelona vintage that beat Manchester United at Wembley was incredible. At international level, Brazil 82 were immense and I still can’t quite believe they lost to Italy.
Best pre-match grub?
I am told Arsenal and Chelsea currently lead the pack in terms of nosebag, but I was always partial to the bacon and sausage baps at Old Trafford for an early kick-off.
Best meal had on your travels?
Myself and Lee Clayton once stumbled into a restaurant in Warsaw’s Old Town. It had rugs instead of doors and didn’t really look much, but it was the greatest meal I have had. It was called ‘Fukier’ which, after about three or four vodkas, sounded even funnier.
The Georgia FA threw a banquet for the English media during Glenn Hoddle’s era and the food was indescribably bad. But the hospitality was incredible. I guess hospitality is a euphemism…
Best hotel stayed in?
The W in Doha was impressive, as was Delano in Miami, but I will still take the Brenner’s Park in Baden Baden for the sheer comedy value of a bar packed with WAGS and the families of England players confronting the media on a nightly basis.
Some great stories – and sights – all played out under the noses of incredulous German dowagers there to take the waters.
…and the worst?
Can’t remember the name of the Albanian hovel we discovered in Tirana. Probably because I have wiped it from the memory banks it was so bad.
Do you have a hobby?
Cooking. Especially filleting seabass – as Steve Howard never tires of reminding me.
Favourite football writer?
Martin Samuel’s columns, Andy Dunn’s match reports and John Cross’ Arsenal ratings
Favourite radio/TV commentator?
On the radio, I think Mike Ingham is superb. Just wish he didn’t have share commentary with the sneering, bumptious oaf who so often sits alongside him.
On TV, I think Alan Parry’s emotion brings games alive.
If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
If neither sides told lies and tried to be tricky, it would be a start.
One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
Been very lucky to have been at many big events, but I think the final day at Augusta with a Brit leading the Masters field would be fairly memorable.
Favourite non-football sportsman/sports woman?
John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Sugar Ray Leonard, Usain Bolt.
Last book read?
Favourite current TV programme?
Veep, True Blood, Homeland – and my wife bought me the box-set of Breaking Bad which I am besotted with at the moment.
TV show you always switch off?
I would love to be able to turn Downton Abbey off in every room in the house, but divorces are expensive these days so I simply retreat to a far flung corner where I am safe from such hideously inane dialogue.
If you could bring one TV series back, which would it be?
The Wire, although I think five series was just about perfect.
Steven Wright or Bob Mortimer. On Twitter, David Schneider is magnificently funny.
What really, really annoys you?
People who are too lazy or stupid to use the English language properly. And about 99 per cent of Twitter. I also annoy myself by not following Martin Samuel’s lead and ducking out of Twitter altogether. I am too insecure that I might be missing something.
Your most prized football memorabilia?
I am going to get Billy Big Time here and say my England Schools Under-19 caps – and the memory of when I could run further than the diameter of the centre circle without breathing out of my backside. Sadly, it is almost too long ago to recall.
Advice to anyone coming into the football media world?
Contacts are the be-all and end-all of a good journalistic career. You can write like a dream, but if you don’t know what’s going on or can’t speak to the people who matter, you are knackered. Without good contacts, you are just a pointless keyboard warrior filling space.
:: Paul McCarthy now heads up media consultancy firm Macca Media following roles as Sports Editor of the News of the World and Chief Football Writer at The Express, having started his career on the South London Press covering Wimbledon. Paul also served as Chairman of the Football Writers’ Association, before recently taking on the post of Executive Secretary.