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Oliver Holt Q&A

Oliver Holt the Mail on Sunday’s new Chief Sports Writer gives a Q&A on Jose Mourinho, Mario Balotelli and whether Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo.

oliholtReproduced courtesy of @MailOnline

Oliver Holt joins the Mail On Sunday

Oliver Holt Q&A for @MailOnline

Q. What do you think of Jose Mourinho? Mo, north London

I admire him greatly as a manager. I’m not sure what I think of him as a man because I’m not sure he ever shows his true face. He’s an accomplished actor as well as an accomplished manager.

I find it hard to see how you can’t admire him as a manager, though. He is one of the most successful bosses there has ever been. He has won the Champions League with two teams who were underdogs without the financial might of their opponents and he provokes great loyalty among his players. It’s hard not to admire that.
Jose Mourinho gestures to fans after Chelsea’s victory over Aston Villa

Q. Ronaldo or Messi – and don’t sit on the fence, we all know they are both great. Alejandro, Valencia

Until recently, I would have said Messi fairly confidently but I’ve begun to change my mind.

I like Messi’s unassuming style more and he is a wonderful, beguiling player to watch. But Ronaldo is such an amazing all-round player, powerful in the air, lightning quick, great with the dead-ball, a fantastic dribbler.

It is hard to separate them because they are so different but if I had to say now who was more valuable to a team, I’d say Ronaldo.

Q. Who is the best goalscorer you have seen play? Charlie, Bristol

Ronaldo, the Brazilian one. I sometimes feel that we have forgotten too quickly how mesmerizingly brilliant he was. He had that combination of speed, trickery and close control that often made him unplayable. It was always a thrill to watch him play.

Mario Balotelli finally broke his Premier League duck (against Tottenham) – what do you make of him as a player and person? And can he be a hit at Liverpool? Gary, Bebington

When Balotelli signed for Liverpool, I thought Brendan Rodgers had got a bargain for £16m, something I’ve been reminded of every now and again on Twitter as he’s struggled to get anywhere near justifying that fee.

I always like to think of the Balotelli who played so brilliantly for Italy at Euro 2012. That showed what he’s capable of. It showed the extent of his talent. But he has been unable to get close to replicating that kind of form ever since and manager after manager has written him off as more trouble than he is worth.

I hope that the winner against Spurs can rescue his career at Anfield because I don’t think there’s anything malicious about him. He just seems like an immature kid who hasn’t quite grown up yet.

He has the talent to be a hit at Liverpool but he needs to buy into Rodgers’ work ethic to have a real chance of making the move a success and so far there has been scant evidence he is prepared to do that.

Q. What is your view on The Open going to Sky? Should the BBC have fought harder? Joe, Haverfordwest

Instinctively, I want The Open, in particular, to be available to the biggest possible audience but the viewing figures on the BBC weren’t great and no one can deny that Sky do a fantastic job with their coverage of golf.

I would like the BBC to devote more time and money to sport in general because I think they usually do a fine job but I suppose that, like many of us, they are in thrall to the fact that everything comes a distant second to football in this country and they have spent most of their budget on retaining the rights to Premier League highlights.

Q. I read that your mum is in Coronation Street. Do you have any stories of your own from the cobbles by the Rovers Return? Did you ever come close to joining the cast? Clare, Plymouth

I was way too shy and self-conscious ever to consider becoming an actor. I used to go in to the Granada Studios with my mum (who has played Emily Bishop since 1961) now and again when I was a kid but it seemed to involve a lot of waiting around for her to do her scenes.

There was one time where I was desperate for her to get away early so we could go and buy tickets for a Manchester City cup match before the ticket office at Maine Road closed. I moaned and moaned about it for so long that even my mum’s patience snapped in the end.

Q. What are you most looking forward to covering in 2015? Jake, Birmingham

The US Masters and the Rugby World Cup. But sometimes the best things are events that are off the radar, jobs that you do on your own in strange places away from the glare.

Sometimes, they can demand more of you and bring you more satisfaction. I went to watch Michael Jordan playing baseball once in Birmingham, Alabama and managed to snatch a very quick conversation with him. Those kinds of pieces are often the most enjoyable and satisfying to write.

Q. Other than football, what are your three favourite sports? Tommy, Prestwich

Boxing, tennis and cricket.

Q. Are you pleased to see boxing returning to mainstream TV, with the Carl Frampton world title fight? Can we expect to see you in Belfast for the event? Ian, Ballyclare

I am pleased that boxing’s back on mainstream TV. I used to love watching it on Sportsnight in the 1970s and it’s great that the Frampton fight is on.

I don’t think I’ll be at the fight this time but I would love to get over to Belfast for a future bout.

Q. What advice do you have for any youngster wanting to become a sports journalist? Rachel, Greenwich

First of all, if you love it, you’ll be good at it. Because if you love it, you’ll want to work hard. And you’ll need to work hard to be successful. So work hard and be persistent. Don’t take no for an answer and try to get on with people. People don’t want to talk to people they don’t like.

Q. Which sporting stars best lived up to their star billing when you’ve met them/interviewed them in person (and who didn’t)? Brad, Tennessee

He didn’t like me very much but the only time I ever interviewed Sir Alex Ferguson one-on-on, back when Manchester United trained at The Cliff, he was fascinating to listen to.

The boxer Bernard Hopkins is probably the most articulate sportsman I’ve ever interviewed. And he can talk and talk and talk.

As for disappointments, I loved Zinedine Zidane as a player but the only time I ever interviewed him, he was sullen and almost monosyllabic. I didn’t particularly hold that against him, though. It was towards the end of a day when he had done about 50 interviews and I think by the time I got to him, he was making it plain he just wanted to be somewhere else.

Q. Have you ever had a major row on Sunday Supplement when the cameras were off? Terry Vaughan

Actually, no. We tend to have most of our major rows on screen, which is probably one of the things that makes the programme good. I have been party to – and maybe even involved in – some spectacular rows on various trips to cover sporting events.

I remember one, in particular, at a restaurant in Las Vegas where two journalists I have always admired tremendously, Jim Lawton and Jeff Powell, were engaged in a verbal battle that left me in awe of their conviction.

Q. What was your first published article in a national newspaper? Michael, Oxford

I joined The Times as their Motor Racing Correspondent in 1993 after working at the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post for three years. The first job I did was to attend the launch of the new Lotus F1 car at Claridge’s in London. Johnny Herbert was driving for them then and I wrote a piece about him. I felt a bit out of my depth at the time. Some might say I still am.

As an addendum, the first trip I did for The Times was to cover the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. From there, I went to Australia to see Nigel Mansell racing IndyCars on the Gold Coast and from there I went to Brazil to see the second GP of the season. Until then, my idea of a work trip had been going through the Mersey tunnel to cover a game at Prenton Park. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

Q. Are you allowed to tell us what football team you support? I think I read somewhere that it is Stockport. Brian, Leek

That’s right. I’m a Stockport fan. My dad’s from the Heaton Chapel area of Stockport and he used to take me to Edgeley Park as a kid (we lived a few miles away from the ground). In those days, County played their home games on a Friday night so I would go and watch either City or United at home on Saturday afternoon.

There was a spell when I went home and away with United and I went to plenty of City away games, too. One of the United fanzines called me a Purple once because I’m a mixture of red and blue but Stockport have always been my first team.

Q. If you had a dinner party for six sporting greats – dead or alive – who would be on the guest list and why? Helen, South Shields

Muhammad Ali, because he is one of the greatest sportsman who ever lived, because he had political convictions and because he was not afraid to say what he thought.

Ayrton Senna because there was a mystery about him as well as the fact that he was a sublimely talented driver. I had been lined up to do an interview with him at the Spanish Grand Prix in 1994 but he was killed a few weeks earlier at Imola.

Cathy Freeman, because her gold medal run in Sydney in 2000 is my most vivid Olympic memory and because I admired the way she represented indigenous Australians.

Babe Ruth, because I’ve always been fascinated by his legend.

Bjorn Borg because he was my idol when I was growing up.

Sir Bobby Robson, because I feel like I owe him a lot, I always felt privileged to be in his company and it would be lovely to see him again.

Q. Our first question is from Dave in Nottingham who asks: What do you consider to be the golden ticket in sport, the one event you would choose to attend above all others?

That’s one of the toughest questions to ask a sports writer because there are so many great one-off sporting occasions that are a huge thrill to attend and make you feel incredibly lucky to be doing the job.

I’d put the Indianapolis 500 up there, although it is somewhat reduced now. The Champions League final always feels highly charged and there is always an adrenaline rush about covering a big world title fight. I was lucky enough to be at the Maracana for the World Cup final last year and covering that match in Brazil was as good as it gets for a football fan.

But if I had to plump for one event, I’d say the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final. I’d choose that because I have always loved tennis and when I was a kid I thought it was an impossible dream that I might one day be able to be on Centre Court to watch the men’s final. It felt like something that was totally out of reach, something inaccessible and exotic that I could never even hope to gain entrance to.

So every time I have been to a men’s final, I have felt incredibly fortunate. I still can’t get past the wonder of being at that event. I’ve got a picture on my wall at home of Andy Murray at the moment he won the final in 2013 and I can pick myself out in the crowd in the background. That was right up there with the most memorable sporting events I have ever seen.

:: Reproduced courtesy of @MailOnline

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