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Q. What has been the standout moment that you covered as a journalist?

For people of a certain age, the most memorable goal ever scored was Brazil’s fourth in the 1970 World Cup final. Its significance lay more in the manner of execution and the onset of colour television than that it changed much - it made Italy’s defeat 4-1 rather than 3-1 - but it did seem to encapsulate the beauty of a team featuring Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho, Rivelino and the rest. The scorer was the captain, Carlos Alberto, and on a visit to Brazil I had the privilege of meeting him. I asked if he would mind discussing the goal for what would inevitably be the umpteenth time. “Sit down,” he smiled. “I’ve got as long as you like.” I still pinch myself over that.

Q. Have you got any anecdotes from your career that you can share?

I’m hopeless at remembering those. Mostly they are about my journalistic blunders - I once awarded a Manchester United goal to Andrew Cole when it had in fact been scored by Brian McClair - but I did love being spotted by people who had seen one of my occasional appearances on television. Once, outside Stamford Bridge, a couple of autograph hunters were clearly discussing me under their breath. I waited, hoping to be approached, and eventually one sidled up but, before I could reach for my pen, he called back to his mate: “Nah - it’s definitely not Patrick Stewart.”

Q. Did you play much community football growing up, and if so, what are your memories?

As much as I could. Mainly jumpers for goalposts. We were not allowed to play football at our rugby-only school, but as soon as we got home it was time to dig out the round ball. I wish I could say I developed technique that way, but I was never much of a player, owing my place in the Riverside Wanderers team to the fact that I’d founded the club. My mum stayed up late sewing the badges, which she then fixed to cheap blue T shirts we bought from an army surplus store. I wish I’d kept mine so that I could look at the badge and thank my late mum. At least my old pals are still around and they have never forgotten her making the badges for us.

Q. Having written a biography on Jose Mourinho and followed his career closely – how do you feel about his departure from the English game? Do you have a favourite Mourinho moment?

I’m more worried that he seemed so unhappy at Manchester United. My favourite memory of Jose was how helpful he was when I wrote my second biography, which was of Sir Alex Ferguson. He invited me to Inter’s training ground near Milan and could not have been more obliging. I’d asked him for 20 minutes knowing it would probably stretch to 30 but after an hour and a half he was still talking, fascinatingly, about a man who had clearly been a great influence over his career.

Q. You’ve covered football for a number of years now, what changes have you witnessed in community football over the years?

Massive changes. For the better in many cases. I’m connected with an award-winning community club near my home in SW London - Kew Park Rangers - which, with Foundation help, has developed facilities beyond the dreams of the kids I grew up with. Hundreds of girls and boys receive quality coaching every weekend and it’s great to see.

Q. Who is the most interesting person you have interviewed?

Carlos Alberto I’ve already mentioned. But I also hugely enjoyed a long sit-down with Jamie Carragher when he was a Liverpool player. Even then he had a rich and fertile intelligence about the game. And he was very funny when, emboldened by an impression that we were getting on well, I chided him for having tried to get a Milan player sent off during the 2005 Champions League final. After at first denying that he had done anything wrong, he grinned and admitted: “It was worse than that - I was pointing to the wrong man!”

Q. Who have been your inspirations? (inside / outside writing)

My favourite football writer - and inspiration - was Brian Glanville. Obviously, I later got to know him and loved the way he always had time for people, especially humble ones making their way in the business. I still visit him from time to time and his jokes are as good as ever. In fact, they’re the same as ever! I’ve never told anyone this but I also find Sir Alex Ferguson inspiring. We had a disagreement a few years ago yet I’m delighted at his renewed fitness and still, when facing the sort of minor crisis we all encounter in our daily lives, find myself asking: “What would Ferguson do?”

Watch as Manchester United and England Legend, Rio Ferdinand, talks new facilities, the importance of funding and his early football memories in this exclusive interview with the Football Foundation. 
With a pitch no longer fit-for-purpose and unable to meet local demand, Our Lady & St John Catholic College's new artificial all-weather pitch couldn't have come sooner. Made possible thanks to a £590,890 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund, the investment will not only allow students from the college to use the facility all-year-round but has also become a hub of the community with Lancashire FA and Blackburn Community Trust delivering sessions from the site.
Read more
Numbers and statistics are great for demonstrating the effect investment from the Premier League, The FA and DCMS is having on the national game.  What's even better, however, is hearing from the people in our communities that have been directly impacted by our funding and changed their lives for the better. Take a look at five of our favourite case studies...
1. Wallsend Boys get a home to call their own

They've produced over 65 professional footballers including the likes of Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Michael Carrick and back in 2011 Wallsend Boys Club took control of its first ever football centre thanks to a grant from the Football Foundation. 
Read more
2. Middlesbrough FC Foundation help tackle mental health 

Featured in our 2016 Annual Review, this project run from Herlingshaw Centre's 3G pitch by Middlesborugh FC aims to tackle mental health issues such as bipolar, depression and anxiety through football. We caught up with the Middlesbrough FC Foundation to find out more about the initiative.
Read more
3. Adam finds his feets at Penryn's new facility

Formerly shy and retiring, Penryn College's Adam Newcombe came of age on the Cornish College's new artificial grass pitch as he used the new facilities to help secure a job after his studies. 
Full story
4. Bantams Ladies lead the way 

From complete strangers to national cup runners up.

Thanks to The FA’s Grow The Game scheme, Bradford City’s ladies disability team have enjoyed a quite remarkable rise in the past 12 months.
Learn more
5. Spotted! Pitch gives young starlet chance to shine

Our all-weather pitches allow more people to play more sport more often and enjoy the physical benefits that come with exercise. At this school in the North East, a certain 14-year old student not only honed his skills on his school's new facility but became fitter and healthier too, leading to interest from one of the Premier League's big boys...
Read more
Upshot set ambitions for 2019 after excellent survey results
Initially developed to support the Football Foundation, Upshot is a user-friendly monitoring and evaluation tool used by more than 750 organisations across the world to aid them in evidencing their impact within the local community.
As well as the launch of inaugural industry event, The F Word, 2018 proved to be a successful year for Upshot. Customer service, impact and user-friendliness were all rated highly by users on the year's User Satisfaction Survey and some exciting new goals have been set that are sure to make 2019 an even bigger and better year for the young and growing company.  
Find out more
Looking for a role in football? Check out our selection of the latest football-related vacancies:

Chief Executive —  The FA 
Facilities Development Officer —  Northumberland FA
Commercial Sales Executive — Birmingham City FC
Head of Participation & Development —  Middlesex FA
Designated Safeguarding Officer — Amateur FA

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Top Corner e-newsletter - December 2018
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