Patrick Barclay is one of Britain’s best known and respected football journalists. With a career of over 30 years working for a variety of publications and numerous appearances on television talking about the game, Patrick is always worthy of attention.Currently writing for the Times, Patrick has a wide knowledge of the beautiful game and many insights to the nuances of football
I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak with him on behalf of EPLTalk and discuss a variety football issues with him. It was a thoroughly interesting conversation covering a wide range of topics, so much so we ended up chatting for a lot longer than either of us probably imagined. Throughout the conversation he was polite, friendly and it was a really warm discussion. I hope you enjoy it.
EPLTalk: Firstly Patrick, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today, we really appreciate it.
Patrick Barclay: My pleasure, I’d much rather have a conversation than e-mail back and forth.
Patrick Barclay: Yes, I think it was 13 years but I was very used to the Sunday newspaper rhythm, so I was kind of nervous moving away from that. It does suit me better though, having the opportunity to write daily. There’s such a quality of writers at the paper, I feel that I have to fight for a shirt so I understand how Carlos Tevez felt last season at Manchester United. I had had enough of the Telegraph, there was few things going on that I didn’t agree with, so it was nice to have the opportunity to go to the Times.
EPLTalk: Well I first became aware of your writing when you worked at the Observer.
Patrick Barclay: Yes, Oh gosh! That was a great break, that was the first time I’d worked on a Sunday newspaper and the Observer at that time had a great writing tradition. Many great writers were there, especially sports writers led by Hugh McIlvanney. If you can’t learn anything working alongside McIlvanney, then you haven’t got much chance. So that was a great experience, I loved it and we had a great sports editor there, Simon Kelner and it was great fun.
EPLTalk: The other work I know you best from is doing the Sunday Supplement show on Sky Sports on Sunday mornings. So do you get fed as well as given all the coffee and croissants?
Patrick Barclay: I love it, when you get the chance to talk football, for an hour and a half with people you enjoy talking with, it’s great. You get a fee and you also get the chance to eat as much as you want! The only complaint I’ve got is when I’m eating my oranges, whenever I finish one, someone comes over and takes the peel away! (laughs) Someone is always tidying up! It’s a great show though, I really enjoy doing it.
EPLTalk: So I’ve been reading that you’re a fan of Dundee, but I first saw it on Wikipedia, so I thought I’d better find a proper source!
Patrick Barclay: (laughs) Yes, I am very much a fan of Dundee Football Club. I started supporting the club in the 1950’s. My grandfather took me about 1955, when I was about 8 against Hibernian. I started going when I was old enough, about 11 or 12, to go on my own with friends. Within about 3 years we won the League, I went to the game that clinched it away at St. Johnstone in front of about 25-30,000 fans. I thought wow this is fantastic!! I doubt I’ll ever see them win the league again but I count myself very, very lucky to have seen that.
EPLTalk: Well I’m not holding my breath to see Tottenham win the league,the last time we managed it was 11 years before I was born!
Patrick Barclay: (laughs) Not another Yorkshire Spurs fan! Why do so many Yorkshire people support Spurs??
EPLTalk: I don’t know, my first game I really watched was the 81 Cup final and I was lucky enough to go to the F.A. Cup final the year after and it’s dogged me ever since.
Patrick Barclay: Spurs are a great club, there was a Dundee player who also played for Spurs who was a legend, but a little bit before your time, Alan Gilzean. Another one was John Duncan, the striker who went on to play for Derby.
EPLTalk: Ah, is that the John Duncan who managed Chesterfield?
Patrick Barclay: Yes, when they almost reached the cup final in 97, when they were denied by a strange refereeing decision.
EPLTalk: Ah yes, with the disallowed goal for a foul that no-one could work out what it was for.
Patrick Barclay: Exactly!I saw John the other day and he now works for the League Managers Association. He’s a lovely man. I still keep an eye out for Dundee’s results and I’m a member of a supporters club called the Dee’s Down South. In fact I’ve just renewed my membership but unfortunately I don’t get to see them much, the last time was probably about 3 years ago.
EPLtalk: I see you’ve a big game at the weekend against Annan Athletic in the cup?
Patrick Barclay: Yes, yes but they won on Saturday, 2-0 against Ross County with two goals from Leigh Griffiths and he scored the goal that also knocked Aberdeen out of the Co-op cup last week. So things are going well at the moment, though we’ve got Rangers in the next round. We’ve got a bit of money and the crowds are up to around 5,000 so it’s going well.
EPLtalk: Excellent, so I’ll be honest Patrick, I’ve only got one of your books, so please don’t think less of me! I’ve got the Mourinho one.
Patrick Barclay: Oh lovely, I’m glad you have. I’m currently writing one about Sir Alex Ferguson and that should be out this time next year. That’s what’s keeping me so busy at the moment.
EPLTalk: That’s great, I’ll look out for that one then. In the Mourinho book I just got a feeling of real admiration for him from yourself throughout it. Whenever I’ve read your articles or seen you on television when the conversation turns to Jose, you do seem to have a lot of time for him.
Patrick Barclay: Yes I do, but I hardly know him. I met him for only the second time recently the day before the Inter/Barcelona Champions league game. I rang him up because I wanted to talk to him about Ferguson for the book and he invited me over to spend a little time with him. That’s really kind of him, but when I was researching the book, I just kept getting anecdotes from people saying what a nice guy he was. I’d made a calculated decision to write the book, I was in a little bit of a hurry, I only had 5 months or so and I made a decision that I wouldn’t try and be clever about it and just write it based on other people’s experiences of the man and what I knew.
For example, I was Lisbon for a Sporting v Newcastle match a few years ago. I was checking out of the hotel and the guy at the counter must have seen something and said are you from England? So I answered yes, and he said Ah, the country of Mourinho. So we laughed and the man said I’m from Setubal, which is Mourinho’s home town. So I asked if he knew him and he said no, but that young lad does, pointing at chap working in the lobby.
So quick as a flash, I ran over to him and said “Do you know Mourinho” and he said yes, I was in his class when he was a teacher. He talked about him with such admiration and the way that he took such an interest in the boys lifestyles, encouraging them to concentrate on football and their studies and not spend all night partying. One particular boy had tremendous talent and Mourinho went out of his way to encourage the lad and kept on at him, but unfortunately, whilst he played for Portugal schoolboys, he didn’t quite make it.
Yet he continually put so much of his own time in to trying to help and develop everyone in his class, they all adored him. Then he said, Funnily enough I saw him last summer when I went home. The lad was in a chicken shop and you know how the Portuguese love their fried chicken. Imagine his surprise when Mourinho walked in. The lad walked over to him and said hello Mr Mourinho. Mourinho studied him and went I know you, you’re Andre and then spent the next 20 minutes asking about him, his family and how he was doing, wished him good luck shook hands at the end and off he went to get the chicken home for the family.
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