We managed to grab a quick word with Nick Collin’s, author of ‘Fifty Cup Finals’ for a short interview…
1 – Which sports personalities are you most interested in and why?
No easy answer to this one-sports personalities come in all shapes, sizes and types! There’s the flawed genius , like George Best and Paul Gascoigne: compelling figures and absolute stars, but you always feared they may self-destruct. Then there are the great leaders like Bobby Moore and Bryan Robson-people you would aspire to be like, who set such a great example and commanded your respect. Equally fascinating are the controversial characters like Kevin Pietersen or Eric Cantona-always good for starting an argument in the pub when discussing their merits/faults! There are also the ones you believe you could be, I suppose you would categorise them as the boy/girl-next-door type. I’m thinking here of Jonny Wilkinson or Jessica Ennis. Finally there is the journeyman/great team player and great trier. Who fascinates me most? Can’t help it: the flawed genius!
2 – What is the most difficult part of being a sports writer?
Drawing on my own experiences I would say that one of the hardest things sometimes is to remain objective. Sports by its very nature is emotional and it is subjective-just ask the fans. Staying neutral and professional during moments of high drama is essential, but it can be very testing. For example watching England crash out of yet another major tournament on penalties (and I have witnessed it first hand on six occasions) is truly desperate-no other word describes it. Afterwards, you have to divorce yourself from the emotion and keep a sense of perspective. I have taught myself to do that, but it is not a case of practice makes perfect-because, believe me, it does not get any easier.
3 – If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I would never have described myself as a writer-until now. My bread and butter has nearly always been broadcasting, though I did begin my journalistic career in local newspapers. I continue to broadcast, so I suppose the simple answer is that -if I didn’t write-I would carry on working with a microphone. Having said all that: getting my first book published is such a hugely satisfying feeling and I know that I would like to try and write another one. If I couldn’t write or broadcast I would probably (have to) become an Uber driver!
4 – What are some great books you have read recently?
I really enjoyed “Quiet Genius”, the story of Liverpool’s most successful manager Bob Paisley, written by the Daily Mail’s Ian Herbert. Incidentally, I think the expression “Quiet Genius” describes Herbert pretty well too. I’ve also just got round to reading John Cross’s insightful and compelling biography of Arsene Wenger-“Crossy” is a real craftsman, who brings a huge depth of knowledge to his subject. Away from football I was impressed with former test batsman Jonathan Trott’s autobiography “Unguarded” and away from sport I loved Donna Tartt’s most recent novel “The Goldfinch”.
5 – How do you think that social media outlets have affected sports journalism?
There is no doubt that social media has had a huge affect on sports journalism-the net result is that those of us in the business have had to up our game-massively! For a start it has accelerated the process of breaking sports news stories to an immeasurable extent. Admittedly, some times it can result in “fake news”, but the bottom line is that if you want to find out about something fast you go on social media. I remember when the 2018 world cup hosts were decided (in December 2010) and I could not believe how quickly twitter broke the news-well ahead of any official announcement. With the power and speed of social media there is also a growing need for responsibility-and there have been numerous examples of people ( fans and players alike) letting themselves down on social media with knee-jerk and ill-judged comments. Kerbing that is one of the great challenges, but this is an exciting new era.
EXCERPT FROM FIFTY CUP FINALS
Taken from page 309 it features the penalty shoot-out at the end of the 2008 Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea:
As he ran up to the ball he slipped on the wet pitch at the moment of impact and sent his penalty off the post and wide. Van der Sar had dived the wrong way. Terry sat on the ground with his head in his hands. What must have Drogba been thinking at this stage? Still 4-4.
Anderson beat Cech with the first penalty in sudden-death: United 5-4.
Salomon Kalou coolly sent van der Sar the wrong way: 5-5.
Record-breaker Giggs scored to Cech’s left as the keeper went the other way: 6-5.
Substitute Nicholas Anelka took the 14th penalty, van der Sar dived right and guessed right, beating the ball away: 6-5 and Manchester United had won the trophy for a third time.
Terry was in tears, while many of United’s players were lying down-they were mentally and physically exhausted, but they got up to provide Chelsea with a guard of honour as they went up to collect their runners-up medals. That was a classy touch.
Avram Grant threw his medal into the crowd. As second reporter to Geoff Shreeves it was my job to interview the beaten finalists, which is no easy task , especially when the margin between victory and defeat, joy and despair, was so small. Grant did not want to be interviewed, but he was always a decent guy to me and eventually agreed.
He stood on the pitch with the rain still hosing down, his face being battered by the elements, and spoke with dignity.
About Nick Collins
Nick Collins has been a journalist for almost 40 years, but this is his first book. He has worked for local newspapers, in local and national radio, regional and national TV, and was chief football reporter at Sky Sports and Sky Sports News for a quarter of a century. He has also contributed many articles analysing the fortunes of the England football team to the Sky Sports News digital service and website.
Fifty Cup Finals (available here) is the story of Nick’s life in football, from being on the Tottenham bus as it left Wembley with the FA Cup to visit Paul Gascoigne in hospital, through to the early days of the Premier League and beyond as he witnessed the drama first-hand at 11 major tournaments, nearly 300 England games, 25 FA Cup finals, plus Champions League, World Cup and Euro finals.