From Ugo Monye to Gary Mabbutt to Beth Tweddle: My interviews @ sport.co.uk

3 12 2010

What do UFC’s John Hathaway, Patrick Barclay of the Times and Spurs legend Gary Mabbutt have in common?

What links England rugby’s Ugo Monye, Steve Borthwick and Lee Mears to Wales rugby’s Ian Bishop, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny??

What secret does Ryder Cup hero Sam Torrance, Great Britain’s champion gymnast Beth Tweddle and Irish and Lions icon Keith Wood share???

He's got a little secret

The answer: they’ve all had a chat with me, Sam Rider!

Click here, on the highlighted names or click the link below to check out my revelatory, eye-opening, exclusive interviews during my internship with sport.co.uk

http://www.sport.co.uk/features.aspx





REVIEW: News Associates journalism training

11 08 2010

Here I hope to offer up some of my personal experiences of journalism that could help those considering disembarking society and becoming a career hack. First I review my training with News Associates.

Enough is enough. I’ve been completely side tracked. I set this blog up in the first place with the interests of journalism at heart. Specifically to give a firsthand account of the travails experienced in pursuing a career as a trainee in the media. Upstart Liverpool and Man City supporters respectively and of late David Beckham’s Achilles have distracted my attention. So back to the subject at hand…

I tumbled out of university back in 2008, a history graduate, with the big, bad world sprawled out ahead of me. My dissertation studying the portrayal of the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson (please refrain from picturing the beach-bum surfing, acoustic guitar strumming Hawaiian) in the black and white newspapers of twentieth century America turned my attention toward the role media has to play, both for sport, society and primarily for my career.Jack Johnson (right) no watered down lyrics in sight

I perhaps did not take full advantage of the array of opportunities provided at a well run student union. (See Stewart Maclean’s route to The Mirror and a nomination for the British Press Awards Young Journalist of the Year.) I dabbled in reporting for the paper, covering boxing and football events. Yet there is so much more scope for experience at this level and one should take every chance to practise a bit of feature writing, interviewing, sub-editing, broadcast and radio journalism as possible. Even try to take a year abroad and dabble in foreign forms of media if you are ultra keen and focused. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the finer things in life along the way. Think Gonzo journalism in Fear and Loathing. Anyway, I didn’t grasp every opportunity. We live and learn.

So in early 2009 I enrolled on the News Associates journalism course. Acceptance on the course is fairly liberal but I did attend a one day taster workshop. Here they ask you to sit a short current affairs test to prove you aren’t brain dead (example: Who is that horrible racist man always in the news? It’s a trick question. They want you to answer Nick Griffin even though we all know the real answer is Prince Philip.) There was also a writing exercise requiring you to show you can cut down on waffle and trim a short article into a shorter article (basically just delete anywhere it says ‘that’ and don’t follow my lead on this blog).Prince Philip dashing and lovingly racist

The course is National Council for the Training of Journalism (NCTJ) accredited and ideal for developing the practical elements essential for a hard-nosed, hungry local newspaper reporter. But herein lies the key word: local. If council meetings and disgruntled neighbourhood watch residents are your thing, and you don’t mind your local celebrity being a ninety year old organ player then this course and above all the public affairs (PA) module will be right up your partially obstructed ginnel (that’s an alleyway in the quaint Yorkshire dialect! Who knew?).

Regardless of this caveat, the skills learnt with News Associates are quintessential for a long and successful career in the industry, at all levels from local to national, so don’t stop reading just yet.

  • News Associates
  • NCTJ accredited pre-entry journalism certificate
  • Wimbledon or Manchester centre
  • News writing | Media law | Public Affairs | Shorthand
  • 20 weeks fast track | 40 weeks part time
  • £3,150 – £3,500

As for PA, tedious is not even the word but it is useful, just painstakingly so. The news writing module gears you up for all the local community-centric predicaments you could get yourself into but the exam is an absolute bitch! On average only half the class passes this first time, something they conveniently chose not to divulge until you’ve handed over the cheque. Always remember to read the small print.

By contrast, the fundamental learning offered on this course is shorthand, learnt in teeline with a target of 100 words per minute, and media law. Get your head around the Sexual Offences Act, 2003, defamation and contempt of court and you’re halfway to being hired by lawyer-loathing editors up and down the country. Another essential item to walk away with is a shiny, sparkling folder containing all the fruits of your labour, emblazoned with that pride-inspiring four syllable word: PORTFOLIO.Gobbledeegook aka. shorthand

As News Ass’ managing editor James Toney says: “It’s difficult to get a foot in the newsroom without qualifications, it’s impossible without a portfolio.” Another memorable adage to live by is coined by head of journalism Andrew Moorhouse: “The future might be digital but teeline is around to stay.”

I’ll give you a further insight into how I went about accumulating this work of art on my placements in part duo shortly but firstly a couple of further things to remember about this course.

It will cost ya. Roughly £3,500 to be precise, although there seems to be an early payment discount available these days at £3,150. Why didn’t I have that option!?! And there are two locations, two timescales of study and two intakes a year I believe. They like to do things by halves. The centres are in Wimbledon SW19 London of Henman Hill and Murray’s Mound fame or in Manchester centre. I attended the centre up in Manc but there was a catchment area as far reaching as Leeds for me and the Wirral in Liverpool if you can stand the commute.

This commute was just about digestible as I chose to take the course in small bite-sized, part-time chunks. That’s 40 weeks, a full Saturday and Monday night per week with a six-week break in the middle culminating in a set of exams at the end of each term. I started in January 2009 and graduated (woohoo!) in November. The alternative is a 20 week fast track, full-time, full-paced, frenetic dose of journalism straight up with no mixer. A day out of the five is devoted to placements which help no end with the aforementioned portfolio.

Friends who have taken this full-time hit survived, just. You need to have the funds and energy to deal but they also said the intensity helped get their head’s around shorthand and peaking with the 100wpm. Those on my course on the other hand found it difficult to maintain speed and this seems to be the biggest dividing point between the two options. Both courses supposedly offer sub-editing and sports writing modules although I am yet to receive my training…suggesting potential organisational teething problems.

Richard Parsons, News Associates tutor. sterner than he looks Lastly, a further bonus of the Wimbledon office is its proximity to a fully fledged, leading sports news agency: Sportsbeat. Located directly under News Ass to be exact on the first floor. Don’t let the grimaces on their faces fool you, they are always happy to take on students for the one day a week placement; posting you out to far flung theatres of football such as AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow among others.

Ultimately it is the tutors who truly sold this course to me. They are utterly invested in your training and have a great wealth of personal experience to bring to the table; be it when they were flogging up and down the M1 to do through the night subbing shifts in an empty newsroom or when they were going toe-to-toe in an interview with their sporting hero or the latest corrupt politician. They are always available for assistance, whether for the course itself or for personal assistance. They understand the difficulties we are facing post-uni, pre-employment better than anyone.

Now if any aspiring journalists happened to stumble upon this nugget of insider information and find a morsel of use within, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any further questions. Hey, that’s what the comment box is for after all, not just to slate me and hurl obscenities please!





Bitter legacies or best of friends – the top 10 greatest sporting rivalries

20 03 2010

Kauto Star v Denman didn’t live up to the hype – here are 10 great sporting rivalries that did

Here are my top 10, limited to only one in each sport (one managerial and one team clash in football), compiled during a placement with the Mirror.co.uk Somehow I could not find any enduring feuds in rugby and a special mention has to be made for Borg-McEnroe, Benn-Eubank and El Superclasico between Boca Juniors and River Plate. If you want to slate my list or have a few ideas of your own, leave a comment and make me eat my words.

Kauto Star v Denman and the top 10 greatest sporting rivalries – starring Mohammad Ali, Seb Coe, Ian Botham and Alex Higgins

By Sam Rider 17/03/2010

Ahead of this week’s highly anticipated Cheltenham Gold Cup clash between Kauto Star and Denman at the annual National Hunt Festival, we look back at 10 other fierce sporting rivalries.

Kauto Star and stable mate Denman1. Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier (1971-75)

The Greatest versus Smokin’ Joe. With both undefeated the rivalry was hotly anticipated. Dubbed The Fight of the Century they met at Madison Square Garden in 1971 – with Frank Sinatra famously taking photos for Life magazine and actor Burt Lancaster broadcasting the action – and the fight lived up to the hype. Frazier retained the title on a unanimous decision, dealing Ali his first professional defeat. The consequent rematch in 1974 saw Ali winning by unanimous decision in 12 rounds, thus paving the way for the third and final, winner-takes-all Thrilla in Manila. In stirring up media interest Ali uttered the eternal words: “It will be a killa and a chilla and a thrilla when I get the gorilla in Manila.” The fight lasted 14 draining rounds in temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit with the advantage swinging between the two greats over the contest. Both were close to death when Frazier was unable to answer the bell for the 15th and final round, after his trainer Eddie Futch, refused to let his fighter continue. A bitter legacy remains between the former champs with Frazier unable to forgive Ali for his pre-fight personal, antagonistic remarks and resentment for his trainer ending a fight he felt he would win.

After the fight Ali called Joe’s son Marvis to his dressing room. He told him how sorry he was for humiliating his father and his family with his jibes before the bout. When Marvis told his father, Smokin’ Joe simply responded: “Why didn’t Ali apologise to me?”

The Thrilla in Manila2. Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna (1984-94)
The F1 greats held a captivating rivalry on the track which peaked in 1989 at Suzuka, Japan, when the McLaren pair forced each other off the track. With the Brazilian Senna requiring a finish ahead of Frenchman Prost who was leading the championship, he tried to drive past the Frenchman at a tight chicane only for the McLarens to lock wheels and grind to a halt off the track. Prost went on to win the season but Senna had his revenge the next year, at the same circuit, where Senna ploughed into the rear wheel of the escaping Prost at 170 mph taking both cars out of the race and handing the Brazilian the 1990 Championship. “I didn’t care if we crashed; I went for it,” Senna said later. “I think what happened in 1989 was unforgivable, and I will never forget it. I still struggle to cope with it even now.” Prost responded on the record slamming Senna’s actions as disgusting and seriously considered retiring after that incident.

3. England v Argentina (1986, 1998, 2002)
This politically charged clash first spilled onto the football field at the Mexico World Cup in 1986. There the infamous Hand of God and a mesmerising Maradona dribble knocked England out of the tournament at the quarter finals. Set against a backdrop of the Falklands War four years earlier and a residing animosity, an intense football rivalry developed. Fast forward to the 1998 World Cup where Michael Owen, as a teenage prodigy, grabbed centre stage with a slaloming run through the heart of the Argy midfield and defence. A tempestuous David Beckham was sent off and the Three Lions fell victim to the scourge of penalties. The opportunity for revenge came at the following World Cup in South Korea and Japan as Beckham vanquished his and his nation’s demons with an emphatic penalty drilled down the middle of the enemies goal. Think Thatcher v Galtieri, Shilton v Maradona and Beckham v Simeone. Becks modestly described his World Cup highlight as “extremely special”. Not half.

4. Chris Evert v Martina Navratilova (1975-88)

For all the fervour surrounding the Borg-McEnroe contests, the women’s game holds the greatest on court rivalry. There was the contrast in styles, but this time between two players who dominated for more than a decade – between them the pair won 18 out of the 19 slams between 1982 and 1986. Overall, Americas sweetheart and the Czech challenger played each other an enthralling 80 times. The 1985 French Open final, with Chris winning 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 arguably stands out as the greatest. Despite the on court competition, the two remained close friends throughout. Navratilova introduced Evert to former Olympic skier Andy Mill, who married Evert in 1988 and the two greats played as doubles partners at the same time as their fierce singles rivalry. “If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it. Most of the time, one of us was number one in the world, the other one was number two,” said Navratilova in 1998.

"If you tried to make the perfect rivalry, we were it"5. Sebastian Coe v Steve Ovett (1978-86)
The British pair dominated middle distance running for a decade, exchanging records and captivating the world at the Moscow Olympics. Ovett beat Coe to take gold at in 1980 for the 800m, Coe was victorious in the 1500m and defended the title at the Los Angeles Olympics four years later. In a 10-day period in 1981 they traded the world record for the mile between them three times. Their clash of personalities is underlined in a dispute over a BBC film, documenting their rivalry, based on Pat Butcher’s The Perfect Distance, currently in production. Ovett, now 54, suspects the film will focus on stereotypical differences between the two, portraying a clean-cut Coe, who attended Loughborough University, and making him the villain of the piece as an art school rebel. "I heard about that and gave it the thumbs down from the start for obvious reasons," Ovett told national press agency Sportsbeat. "After Chariots of Fire I can picture the intellectual, clean cut, perfect smile Seb up against the ‘working class boy’. It kinda sucks. I prefer to leave the past exactly where it is," said Ovett.

6. Garry Kasparov v Anatoly Karpov (1984-2009)
The cerebral chess cliff-hanger ending was left teetering for 25 years since the days of the Berlin Wall and their five-month contest in Moscow. That grueling battle in 1984 was called off without a winner over fears for the protagonists waning physical and mental health. With the duel ended at 5-3 to the 33 year old Karpov (it was a first to six wins match) against his junior Kasparov, then 21, the contest was resumed in September 2009 as a 12-game rematch that Kasparov eventually won out 9-3. Kasparov was seen as the southerner, half-Jewish, half-Armenian, young up-start taking on the golden boy of the Soviet Union, Karpov. At a time when the Soviet Union was going through a period of great turmoil this classic encounter encapsulated the tide of change sweeping over the creaking, introspective Eastern Bloc.

7. Sir Alex Ferguson v Arsene Wenger (1996-2010)

Fergie’s Manchester United and Wenger’s Arsenal have dominated the Premier League record books. Since Wenger’s arrival in the 1996-97 season United have plundered 8 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups and 2 Champions Leagues, being runners-up last year. The Gunners have claimed 3 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups and made the final of the Champions League once. Their most infamous bust up to date came in October 2004, when both teams and managers clashed in the tunnel after United had ended Arsenals 49-game unbeaten run in a match dubbed The Battle of the Buffet. The rivalry will forever be remembered for a mysterious slice of pizza being thrown at the face of the incensed Scot, immortalising the word: Pizzagate.

Le Prof and the Knight. Mutual respect or utter contempt?8. Arnold Palmer v Jack Nicklaus (since 1958)
Nicklaus won 18 majors, Palmer won 7. Jack had 73 PGA wins, Arnie 62; yet Jack desperately desired the adoration of the public that Palmer enjoyed yet was considered the superior golfer. At the 1962 US Open at Oakmont, Palmer said: “Everybody says I’m the favourite, but you’d better watch the fat boy.” Nicklaus went on to win that year, at the age of 22, and made the cover of Time magazine confirming his rivalry with Palmer. In a commentary the famous words depicted the contrast between the two greats: “When God created Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, he turned to Nicklaus and said: You will be the greatest the game has ever seen. Then He turned to Palmer, adding: But they will love you more.”

9. Ian Botham v Ian Chappell (1977)
Beefy proved it only takes a minute to make a lasting impression. Although they never played against each other for their countries their toxic feud remains as strong today as it did 33 years ago in 1977. An uncapped 21 year old Botham, in Melbourne on a scholarship, came head to head with Chappell, 34, in the MCG bar. The pugnacious Aussie was enjoying some vocal Pommie bashing which Botham took offence to. An ensuing melee took place in which the Englishman floored the Australian with a punch and Chappell scampered out of the bar (Botham’s version) or Botham threatened to cut him from ear to ear and then pushed him off his chair, after which the Australian coolly left the bar with the irate, snarling Botham being restrained (Chappell’s version). Subsequent confrontations out in the middle involved homing-missile beamers and bouncers; sticks and stones fly in their respective autobiographies and media appearances are yet to produce an apology. After Botham bowled a particularly vicious bouncer, Chappell spat back the warning that if he did it again he had better hit me because “if it doesn’t I’m going to come down there and whack you with the bat”. Asked whether they would have a drink after filming of a current affairs programme they appeared on together in the 1990s, Chappell said: “No. I can find plenty of decent people to have a drink with. I wont be drinking with him.”

10. Alex Higgins v Everyone
The Hurricane took on all-comers during his fractious snooker career, punching referees, scrapping with fellow players and being banned from more hotels than we care to mention. Higgins was a genius on the baize, winning the World Snooker Championships in 1972 and 1982, but upset everyone involved in the sport during his years as a pro. He was banned by snooker’s governing body 15 times, had an on-going feud with Dennis Taylor and was even banned from televised snooker show Pot Black.

FIVE RIVALRIES FOR THE FUTURE

Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather Jnr
Lewis Hamilton vs Sebastian Vettel
Manchester United vs Manchester City
Andy Murray vs Juan Martin Del Potro
Tyson Gay vs Asafa Powell to play second fiddle to Usain Bolt

And here’s another valuable piece of reporting I undertook at the Mirror’s headquarters in the Canary Wharf: “The ugliest dog Oscar’s – see all the nominees”.