Describe your feelings as you come into work...
I do a lot of writing from home, so clambering up a flight of stairs to a quiet-ish room with the computer in doesn't really provide much of an environment change to gear myself up. When I attend a match or press conference, the energy is completely different - deadline pressures and the desire to think sharply kick in much more noticeably.
Why do you do this job?
Easy: I love football and writing. To be able to work with something that combines two passions is enormously fortunate.
As a child I wanted to be...
Something to do with music, my other great love.
What is the worst time to pitch to you?
Like most journalists, by far the worst time to be contacted is during the heat of a deadline. Also outside normal working hours is never a great time.
What is the best time to pitch to you?
A reasonably relaxed time – good luck with that.
What makes a great story for you?
The kind of stories I most enjoy are unexpected, thought provoking, or very in-depth.
What is your view of PR professionals?
On the upside they can be a great help if they can give you something unusual and exciting to work with. The downside is the barrage of impersonal emails that begin: "Hi, hope you are well..."
Do you have a favourite PR person? Why?
Most contact tends to be at football clubs, whose PR departments range in terms of attitude and ease to get along with (no doubt they would say the same about us journalists). Those clubs on my beat in London are the ones I talk to the most and we all make an effort to have as mutually respectful and amicable a rapport as possible.
What one thing gets in the way of you doing your job?
Having written about football for more than 20 years now, the squeezing of access has become the biggest barrier. We deal far more in press conference environments than more insightful one-to-one chats, and some of those press conferences are very truncated and make it impossible for everyone to ask a question – never mind the hope for a handful to get into a subject in more depth. It is frustrating, but that is our modern media world.
Is there any subject that you find so boring or offensive that you just won’t give it oxygen?
I try to avoid getting involved in speculation over transfers and whispers with agents. It is clearly a big part of the hype around football but not my favourite area.
What gives you the biggest job satisfaction?
The feeling of writing at World Cup finals, knowing you are privileged enough to be at the heart of something capturing the imagination globally, and trusted enough to record it, is quite something.
The greatest pressure on me is…
Deadlines, particularly at an evening game where it is sometimes necessary to file copy that makes some semblance of sense on 80 minutes for a 90-minute game. It’s hard to write anything safely when you don’t know the result.
What is your management style: shouter, weeper or supportive friend?
The only people I really have to attempt to manage are my kids. I try not to shout or weep so I suppose supportive friend is the best option.
Which outlet do you most admire for its news coverage and why?
I am extremely proud of The Guardian and The Observer. I might be biased, but their commitment to open and inclusive journalism, and a terrific website without a paywall, is brave and brilliant.
What’s in your lunch box?
Marmite sandwiches, some fruit and a treat for if I am flagging.
What is your greatest career fear?
I don’t have one. I did not so long ago – I genuinely feared for the newspaper industry, which has endured such a challenging period of change in the digital age with advertising revenue and readership dwindling. But I feel much more hopeful now that newspapers will survive and thrive.