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FWA Q&A: Rob Shepherd

ROB SHEPHERD on working at Harrods…being Quentin Tarantino for an hour…and a flower in his toilet pan

Your first ever newspaper?
After working as a messenger/copy boy for Hayters I joined the Weekly News/Sunday Post in their Fleet Street office; I returned to Hayters as a reporter, then joined my first national -Today – when it launched in 1986.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
Brief stint in a Hackney warehouse; summer job in Way In Living menswear department at Harrods. Started ‘proper’ job as a trainee manager for Nationwide building society…quit after two weeks.

What was your finest achievement playing football?
Playing at South East Counties level for West Ham…and sticking a winning goal past Jan Tomeszewski in a media match in Katowice. Over zealously I celebrated by kissing him on the cheek and saying that’s for 1973 Clown. Big Jan ,by then well into his Fifties, took it very well.

Most memorable match covered?
England v West Germany 1990 World Cup semi -final in Turin.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Paul Gascoigne chipping a ball down the nozzle of a tuba from 20 yards in the warm-up before an England B international in Iceland much to the wrath of the brass band musician; plus the goal Gazza scored a few days earlier In Switzerland when he beat (I swear) seven players en route.

Best stadium?
Nou Camp.

…and the worst?
Has to be Plough Lane but in its way it was fun to work there.

Your best ever scoop?
Breaking the news Terry Venables would quit as England manager whatever outcome of Euro 96 because FA refused to sanction a new contract. Crazy.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
Where do we start! Having somehow wiped the interview from the cassette tape I then lost a feature length Ossie Ardiles piece into the ether THREE times while attempting to send from my brand new but very temperamental Tandy 200 (the machine that replaced the portable typewriter). That tops a long list. I ended up ad libbing to copy.

Biggest mistake?
Not always heeding good advice.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Frequently: Morrisey, Quentin Tarantino (at a poolside bar in Antigua….and I strung the guy along for an hour), James May (once), Jeremy Clarkson (often), Brian Woolnough (far too often!), Bert Millichip (by a limo driver in Las Vegas), Eric Joyce MP (the other day) and Desperate Dan (even by my two sons).

Most media friendly manager?
Graham Taylor.

Best ever player?
Maradona.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Club: Dynamo Tbilisi (of early Eighties) & current Barcelona side : Brazil 1970

Best pre-match grub?
Arsenal.

Best meal had on your travels?
A restaurant in Turin called Urbani (several times).

…and the worst?
Anywhere in Albania…although my local café in West Wickham run be three Albanian chaps is fantastic.

Best hotel stayed in?
Forte Villa Sardinia for Italia 90 : Violinists at breakfast; wine and fruit delivered to the bungalow room in after noon….even a fresh flower everyday in the toilet pan …the complex was so good that the day after the draw with Holland some England players came to join US for a libation.

…and the worst?
Hotel Tirana, Albania (1989) / Britannia Manchester (during early Nineties).

Favourite football writer?
Brian Glanville / Martin Samuel.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Brian Moore / Peter Lorenzo.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Get rid of PR robots and bring back press officers.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
Australia v England Ashes Test tour Down Under.

Last book read?
Currently reading Greavsie (Jimmy Greaves’ autobiography) and Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain).

Favourite current TV programme?
Call the Midwife (just finished); Upstairs Downstairs.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
West Ham silk scarf with names of the 1975 FA Cup-winning team (the last all-English side to do so): Day, McDowell, T.Taylor, Lock, Lampard, Holland, Bonds, Brooking, Paddon, A. Taylor Jennings. Sub: Gould (I didn’t need to look that up either!).

What advice would you give any would-be football writer?
Go into television.

Rob Shepherd reports matches for the Sunday Times

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