Back of the net! Three tips for writing about football
Writing about football has got harder since the internet came along. None of this casually perfecting the copy over a post-match pint, safe in the knowledge that the subs will polish it up before its inclusion in tomorrow's back pages. Today's football writers have to produce a 1000 word match report within minutes of the game being finished. Which will then be scrutinised by the most critical and emotive of readers, the football fan.
Here's three things to think about when it comes to covering the beautiful game.
Down with duplication Football commentators and writers are terrified of saying the same word twice. Like there's an imaginary little ref in their head ready to blow his whistle the second they fall foul of the rule. So everyone does this funny little dance where you start off with Arsenal, move on to the Gunners, Wenger's men, home side, Emirates heroes, North London giants, men in red, title contenders. Then it becomes more of a struggle. I tried 'Wenger boys' the other day, like 90s Europop group the Vengaboys, yeah? No, no one else got it either.
What's the story? Football is just a great big soap opera. All this drama played out at regular times each week, with stern matrons like Ferguson, Benitez, Wenger and Mourinho heading up a diverse cast of talented oafs. Oxymorons, if you will.
The trick is knowing the relationships - who's hopped into bed with whom over the years. Quite literally when it comes to John Terry and Wayne Bridge. So if David Beckham's returning to childhood sweetheart Man Utd with his current squeeze Milan you've got a hook for the whole piece. If you forget to mention the connection you're going to look a right plum.
Crowbar in those puns A pun of beauty is a joy forever. And it is so easy to work in a bit of humour to a footie headline - half the time the material is handed to you on a plate.
The players' names are a good place to start; Cole Fires Chelsea To Final, Rooney Hat-Trick Takes The Mickey, that sort of thing. Sometimes a team is full of foreign players which robs you of the opportunity for wordplay (Emmanuel Adebayor, I'm looking at you). So turn to the team nicknames. Victory Tastes Sweet For Toffees, Gunners Fail To Hit The Target and, if you're really lucky, Eager Canaries Give Plucky Owls A Beating.
One day I'll get to use that. One day.