THE GIFT OF THE GAB
Football FanCast columnist Emily Brobyn meets the women that is the beacon of light which budding female football journalists look to follow.
When you are young, you have aspirations of what you would like to be when you are older. What occupation you would like to choose. Boys run around the playground at primary school pretending to be soldiers or pilots, whilst girls improvise being nurses or hairdressers. As you grow you change and mature: the boys turn into lads dreaming of being the next David Beckham, joining the school football team and hoping to be scouted. Girls grow into adolescent teenagers hoping to be the next Paris Hilton or, if they are more realistic, a school teacher or air hostess.
I always wanted to be a conservationist. I once had to do a primary school presentation on tigers and their plight touched me so much I joined the WWF and arranged fund-raising events. However, all that changed the day I went to my first football match. Manchester City played Everton at Goodison Park, we drew 1-1 and I was 13. It was my brother, Simon, who introduced me to football and I haven't looked back since.
I always excelled at English when I was at school, so one day I sat down and thought to myself what I could do that combines writing and football. Of course, sport journalism was the common denominator, and from that day on I wanted to be a sport journalist.
At the time I was 13. I started writing reports based on Match of the Day highlights. I made my own fanzine and sent all my work off to radio stations, television stations and newspapers. I started to write for Manchester City's King of the Kippax fanzine, and I kept doing this until I was 18, then I gave up. I didn't fancy university, so I got myself a job in retail, and hung up my proverbial pen.
Fast forward seven years and I am now reaching the end of my second year at university. I go to the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, studying a degree in sport journalism. Believe it or not, I am classed as a mature student as I am 25, but choosing to go to university later in my life has been the best decision I have ever made.
Being at university certainly opens more doors for you. When I realised that retail was a dead-end career, and my true love and passion for being a sport journalist refused to die, I tried everything to get into the industry. I applied for jobs, I sent out letters, I never gave up despite getting nowhere.
In my first year at university I interviewed then-Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin. This year I have interviewed BBC Manchester's Ian Cheeseman and ex City player-turned radio presenter Gary Owen. But I am always striving for more. For better.
In life we all have role models. People who we can look up to in admiration, who we can only hope that one day we might be able to channel our inspiration for them into our careers or everyday life. Mine is Gabby Logan. She was the original Sky Sports News anchorwoman and paved the way for females in the world of sport journalism. Since her radio debut on Metro FM, she has been a presenter for Sky Sports and for ITV Sport. Since her transfer to the BBC, she became the first woman to present Match of the Day. Gabby has her own television show, Inside Sport, her own radio show on Radio Five and writes a column for the Times. She also found the time to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. All this and she is happily married with children. She is the perfect role model for aspiring sport journalists like me.
So, after writing the article for Football FanCast on women in football, I sent an opportune e-mail to her PA, Bernie, asking if I could interview her. I thought I was imagining things when her answer was yes. Even more so when I was informed that the interview would be taking place at BBC Television Centre, in London.
When I told the girls at university, they were overwhelmed. I invited Frankie (who also does my course) and Caz (who is doing a journalism degree). I set about researching Gabby's life and career; I looked at interviews she had previously done and tried to avoid common questions, although my interview was based around women in football which is bound to bring up questions Gabby had previously been asked. But I wanted her personality to come out during the interview and to obtain a couple of memorable quotes.
Right before the interview, I was unequivocally nervous. We had enjoyed the daytime in London sightseeing, then, as the interview was at 6pm, we headed to Television Centre all suited and booted with our camera equipment. I suppose I was also trying to make a point by having an all-female ‘crew' with me. Who needs the boys when you have women?
On arrival, we signed in at reception and a member of the Inside Sport crew, Nicola, came down to escort us to the interview. I had no idea whereabouts the interview would take place, but it was so surreal walking through the corridors of the landmark building, past various studios and dressing rooms. It was a long walk that seemed to go on forever and one that just added to the nerves.
Nicola took us into the Match of the Day production office and we were introduced to the producer, Paul. He informed us that we would conduct the interview in this room and then asked if we would like a tour of the studio. The Inside Sport studio is the same studio they use for Match of the Day- we all jumped at the chance. Match of the Day for me, as it is for most people, is an institution. I couldn't believe just how lucky we was.
Paul took us into the studio, the gallery and the production room. We met various crew members and I was impressed at the set up- it seemed quite a lot bigger than Sky. As I stood in the studio, I thought back to those days I had spent as a teenager, taping Match of the Day and creating match reports in my room. From the days of City getting painfully relegated from the Premiership in 1995 to this, being stood in the legendary studio. I had to pinch myself. For me, this was living the dream. After our tour, we returned to the office to set up our equipment- and to prepare for the interview.
The office itself was quite big. It had a wall covered in televisions and the room was adorned with framed pictures of sports personalities and pundits like Gary Lineker and Ian Wright. All thoughts of nervousness and apprehension were increased when a famous face appeared from around the door. It was Gabby. She had barely any make up on and was stunning: really slim with golden hair and was quite taller than I expected. We introduced ourselves then got on with the interview.
As the interview was conducted for a university assignment, I am keeping it under wraps. But I will say that Gabby spoke with a refreshing honesty and warmth. She has achieved so much in her career and lived up to her role model billing: yes she is the daughter of a footballer but she has forged a successful career in her own right. She has never let her gender stand in the way of what is a male-dominated industry and always thrives to do her best. It is hard work and perseverance that has got her to where she is now- and she seems happier than she has ever been.
I will, however, reveal a piece of advice for all budding female sports journalists out there that I will never forget. Gabby said: "Never let a man use your gender as an excuse. Always produce the very best you can because nobody can argue with that. Then if their best argument is that you are a woman, then they are the ones that look really stupid."
After the interview we had a casual chat then it was off to make up for Gabby before she filmed the latest episode of Inside Sport. It was over far too quickly. I had interviewed my role model- and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I wanted more. We all have dreams and aspirations for a reason. Many people believe that dreams cannot be achieved. Now, I am a believer. I nearly gave up on my dream because I thought that I would never succeed. Now I am going to try twice as hard to make it. Because you never know, do you? I have experienced a small taster of what life could be like for me- and I am hungry for more.