I fought the Law and the Law one

It is every boy’s dream to live in a world of football.  To be asked to watch football is probably only second in my book to being asked to play it AND get paid for the pleasure.  99.999% of us fail in our ability to make the grade as a professional footballer at an early stage, but how many of us would want to write about it for a living?  Dream job eh?  Well not quite.

Believe it or not newspapers and magazines do not just give jobs out because “you really love football” and “passed my O-level in English”.  Virtually every national media journalist had to start at the lowest rung on the ladder.  And in football, that means being the junior for a local newspaper, working you way up, travelling up and down the country watching the game in cramped, cold press boxes before rushing off to file a 1,000 words on Billingham Synthonia or Pilkington XXX.  Some then get given more regional teams, becoming a bigger fish but to make the jump from the local lake into the big national sea is an honour only given to a few.

We’ve been lucky through the route we have chosen to rub shoulders with some of these individuals (although not at any Premier League/Football League games – that is a story for another day), seeing the pressure they have to work under.  During the Rugby World Cup Final in 2007 at the Stade de France in Paris we spent the whole of the second half relating what was actually going on on the pitch to the surrounding press as they desperately tried to make their print deadlines.  Hardly the glamorous world that many expect (although the pre-match steak and frites was top notch).

One such journalist who has “earnt his spurs” the hard way is Villa-Supporting, Daily Express football writer Matt Law.  We caught up with Matt over Christmas to discover what life is really like in the modern world of football journalism.

The Lamb - home of Tamworth

How did you get your break with a national newspaper
After working for 6 years on local papers, covering Tamworth FC, Burton Albion and Derby County, I joined the League Paper covering all football outside the Premier League. I was then approached by the Daily Express to work as a London football reporter, a job I had always wanted.

You seem to follow Arsenal quite a bit for the Express. What insights have surprised you about the club, or football in general?
At Arsenal, the daily newspapers have a separate press conference with Arsene Wenger, away from television and radio. I first surprised at Wenger’s razor sharp sense of humour and still flinch now whenever he swears!

What story have you been most proud of in your career and why?
I broke the story that Theo Walcott had been omitted from the England squad for the 2010 World Cup. Because of the timings of the squad announcement, I put the story on my twitter page and on the Daily Express website. It proved to be a fascinating day on twitter as the full squad unfolded and in many ways was the start of twitter becoming a big football news source.

Every journalist seems to have a book in them somewhere. What would yours be about, and any plans to publish?
I am actually not very keen on football books, so if I write a book, it would be a fictional novel. Unfortunately, I am yet to think what it would be about!

You are an avid “Tweeter”. How has social media changed your job?
Twitter allows me to interact with readers and football fans in a way that newspapers do not. It also gives me the opportunity to air my opinions, however strong!

What do you think the future is of print media with the rise of blogging? Newspapers and football journalists are certainly having to adapt to the changes that the internet, and immediate news outlets, have brought about. It is still clear however, that newspapers drive the news agenda every day of the week.

Who has been the hardest person to interview after a game and why?
Arsene Wenger whenever Arsenal haven’t won!

You’ve been lucky enough to travel to a few “interesting” places to cover the game. What is the worst place you have been to and is there anywhere else duller than Minsk?
What’s wrong with Minsk?! (ED – See our trip to the dullest place on earth here I’ve certainly had to follow the England squad to some places that I didn’t think I would find myself reporting! Kazakhstan, Trinidad and Belarus. Five weeks this summer staying in Sun City reporting on the England squad certainly had its ups and downs.

Snoods, short sleeve shirts with gloves on, players wearing tights – all three would be in our Football Room 101. What would be in yours? Players kissing the badge.

When was the last time you went to a game in a non professional capacity?
I am a huge Villa fan. I go whenever I can get to a game, or convince my desk to put me on the Villa matches. My wife is a Man City fan, so I’ve also been dragged to Eastlands rather more than I’d like in the last few years.

How difficult is it to write objectively about the situation at Aston Villa when you are such a big fan?
It’s not a problem to write objectively. For some reason, they usually lose when I cover them so it’s easy not to be too biased in their favour. When Villa beat Chelsea at Villa Park a while back, I was in the press box jumping and cheering. Not very professional!

Let’s wind forward 3 years. Who will the “big 4” be?
I’d love to be able to predict that. Sadly, it’s hard enough to say who the Big 4 will be even by the end of the season.

Is there a press football team, and are you in it?
I played for the England press football team against 11 men claiming to be the Kazakhstan press team. After being thrashed, we found out half of them played in the Kazakhstan domestic league. Although we did have Chris Waddle on our team and still lost!

Sum up Matt Law in a 140 character Tweet
“London and England Football journalist, recent expert at thinking of alternative shorter words and removing unnecessary spaces!”

Still would be nice though wouldn’t it to be paid to watch football? Jealous?  Us? Never!

You can follow Matt at Twitter.com/mattlawexpress

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