Interview With Patrick Barclay: The Art Of Football Writing

MJ: A lot of our readers are from the United States. Do you get chance to watch much MLS? Can you ever foresee a time when the MLS might become a global league comparable to that of the Premier League?

PB: Well, I go back a long way with football in the United States. I actually visited for the first time in 1978 and went to watch the Tampa Bay Rowdies to see the likes of Rodney Marsh play.

For the foreseeable future, probably not. At the moment, the Premier League, Spanish League, German League and most of all the Champions League are so far ahead.

It seems to me that MLS clubs are building 20k-30k seater stadiums, but they are full. When I went to watch Chicago Sting back in the seventies, they had a 4k seater stadium.

Short-term, I think MLS could grow to become a medium-range league. But I think it was Sir Alex Ferguson who said recently that it is no Mickey Mouse competition and that the athleticism and physicality is particularly impressive. Obviously with it being in America too, the atmosphere is always excellent.

I would like to watch more, but there are not enough hours in the day!

MJ: Your newest book “The Life And Times Of Herbert Chapman: The Story Of One Of Football’s Most Influential Figures” is out on 9th January 2014. What was it about Chapman that made you so keen to tell his story?

PB: Basically, I was asked to do it. I probably wouldn’t have come up with the idea myself. Basically the publisher is an Arsenal fan and he joked that the club wasn’t doing so well and the fans might need cheering up!

I knew a little bit about Herbert Chapman and knew he was the first great manager. But I didn’t realize that he’s maybe still the greatest, which is of course a hot topic following the recent retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson who many feel is.

Maybe I’m biased, but not for me. Herbert Chapman not only for his brilliance as a football manager – and I would have loved to have seen his teams play – but also for the innovation and the manner in which he built the world’s first great club. The world’s first aristocrat club with the modern stamp.

There are so many things he pioneered: The way he changed the name of the subway station. The way he wanted European football 25 years before it actually happened. I ended up thinking of this man as not only a giant, but a genial giant. I wouldn’t have dared cross him, but he was a polite man.

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