Tag Archives: sports journalism

Q&A – football writer Tashan Deniran-Alleyne

With their graduation fast approaching this summer, hundreds of final-year sports journalism students throughout the UK will be hoping to break into the media industry.

Tashan Deniran-Alleyne, a young football writer for The Morning Star, The Voice and Squawka, talks to Elephant Sport about how to secure that all-important first job or begin getting freelance work in what is an increasingly competitive field.

Besides a degree or internships, what else is required to break into the sports media industry?

Degrees and internships are good, but it’s making sure you get as much out of them as possible. You don’t want to be someone with a degree,  who had plenty of internships but struggle to meet deadlines for articles.

Versatility, standing out from the pack, being able to do multiple things in the industry. Making yourself an important part in any company.

For example, you don’t just want to be limited to one specific role. Expand your skills so that if something else comes available, your employees turn to you instead of looking elsewhere.

How beneficial is it to start off small, for example working whether paid or unpaid at your local radio station or newspaper?

It is extremely beneficial. I see it as the making of a sports journalist. You have to remember that it’s possible to stay in this industry for a very long time, so starting off small isn’t the worst idea.

Some of the best experiences I had was working for the non-league site. Paid or unpaid didn’t make a difference as I was learning about the industry, improving my writing skills, overcoming my nervousness of interviewing managers, players etc.

Starting off small allows you to focus on your long-term goals and there’s room for mistakes, which you can learn from and improve on. Also, I feel that’s where you really find out if it’s the career path you want to embark on.

Would you say aspiring sports journalists need a good working knowledge of lots of sports?

I think it definitely helps. It’s difficult to become a specialist in all given that there’s so many to cover. But if you have at least three different sports that you know very well and enjoy then that’s an advantage.

That also helps to build relationships with other people in the industry as you immediately have something else in common and makes you essentially unforgettable.

Can new journalists survive on the income paid to them, or is it best to have a job on the side even if it isn’t related to your future?

Starting out, it is a good idea to have a job on the side to help out financially, but you don’t want it to interfere with you becoming a journalist.

I always made sure I had enough money for travelling to and from games. It is difficult to say whether new journalists can survive on the income as every job differs, and it also depends on a person’s lifestyle to some degree.

As a rookie journalist, what is the importance of having a mentor?

A mentor can help guide you, answer any questions you have, and they are always there to keep you on the right track. They’ve probably gone through the same experiences as an aspiring journalist, so who better to go to for advice?

How tough is it being a young black sports journalist trying to get a job?

For me personally it hasn’t been too bad overall. It could be  because I didn’t pursue certain jobs until I knew I was completely ready and suitable for it.

But for the first part of 2016 I was unemployed, searching and applying for jobs that I felt I was suitable for, only to get a lack of responses and that can be difficult to take as someone trying to get his foot in the door.

Also, when you see that most (not all) newsrooms are predominately white, you can begin to question yourself as to whether this is the correct career path. But it’s an extremely difficult industry to get into regardless of race.

What advice would you give to upcoming sports journalist from a black and ethnic minority background trying to break into the industry?

I think it’s important to not let a lack of diversity in the industry distract you from your goals. Believe in yourself that you can reach the top of your profession and don’t let anything stand in your way.

It may sound cliche but hard work is the key to success. Try to better yourself everyday. In terms of advice, I would say you must fully understand the industry you’re getting into. You may have to do a lot of unpaid work, sacrifice weekends, work late nights but all will be worth it if you’re willing to put the effort in.

Networking is key. You just never know who can help you in the future. I’m lucky enough to have met some very helpful people over the years, for example the UK’s first black sports editor of a national daily newspaper, Kadeem Simmonds at the Morning Star.

Why did you choose this field?

I would say I chose this field because attending live football games and having my work seen by thousands online and in print is pretty cool.

I always wanted to do something football related. Whilst at college one of my teacher’s mentioned the possibility of becoming a football journalist because of my writing skills.

What was your first job as a sports journalist, and how did you land it?

My first job was as a match reporter for a non-league website called Football Exclusives. There was a talk from one of the third year students at my University he spoke about opportunities of attending live football matches.

I made sure to get his contact details, emailed him with examples of my work, we had a brief conversation and I was able to land the role as the site’s reporter for Sutton United.

Millar contemplates life after the final whistle

Chris Millar was the golden boy once but, as he enters the latter stages of his professional career, he is becoming more like the olden boy.

At the age of 33, the St Johnstone midfielder is no longer a man in a hurry, content to play a waiting game and win back his place in the Saints’ first team.

The man nicknamed ‘Midge’, is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and passionate figures in Scottish football.

In a career spanning 13 years, which began training alongside the likes of Henrik Larsson at Celtic and is now approaching its end, Millar has never been too far away from the headlines.

Whether it was winning St Johnstone their first-ever Scottish Cup in 2014, experiencing European football in the Europa League or contemplating a move to Australia, his career has been eventful.

However off the pitch, the Glasgow-born player is forging as impressive career for himself as a sports journalist.

“Ultimately, my hope is to host something, a bit like Gary Lineker. Whether that happens or not time will tell, but like anything it’s about opportunity and working hard to create that”

After working for broadcasters including BT Sport, Millar is optimistic about the future and once he decides to hang up his boots.

The former Greenock Morton player is setting his sights high in a career in broadcasting.

“I think there is definitely a realisation that life after football has to be planned for,” admits Millar.

“Not every player earns the money that will keep them ticking for the rest of their days, especially in Scotland.

“Many players are aware of it and are making plans once their career is over, and the PFA are doing a great job in highlighting this issue.”

Chris Millar on duty as a journalist

Despite the criticism that former players get once they land a role in the media, Millar insists that he wants to try and change the views of professional footballers.

“I think at times some players think there is an agenda within the media to sell units,” he says.

“As a former player, I do not have an agenda to push. I just want to report the events as honestly as I can and try to open up the game more to the public.

“My main aim is to show the public about what goes on at football clubs with players, managers, etc.

“I enjoy most aspects of journalism like writing, broadcasting both radio and TV. I have done work in all three and I have held down a slot as a pundit on radio and I work for a national paper.

“Ultimately, my hope is to host something, a bit like Gary Lineker. Whether that happens or not time will tell, but like anything it’s about opportunity and working hard to create that.”

University life

For many players, their first port after retirement is to become a coach or manager. After initially contemplating this, Millar chose to broaden his horizons – and he says completing a degree at Staffordshire University was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“I have always wanted to stay involved in the game,” he says. “It’s all I have known since I was a 17-year-old at Celtic so it is important for me to stay involved.

“As a pro, I think you can relate more to players as you’ve been through many of the things they go through so it gives you an insight that not many journalists have”

“When I saw that I could do a sports broadcasting degree whilst still playing, it got me thinking, so it really came from there.

“Many players want to go into coaching so there is only going to be so many jobs going around. I enjoy using my brain and learning new skills so for me it is interesting to use a different skills-set.

“As a pro, I think you can relate more to players as you’ve been through many of the things they go through so it gives you an insight that not many journalists have.”

Most individuals would struggle to manage their professional and academic lives, but Millar has balanced both and he says even though it was difficult, it was worth it in the end.

“It was tough, don’t get me wrong,” admits the Scot.

“Juggling footy, two kids and a degree takes time and effort. However, in the end it paid off as I gained a first class degree. By using my brain again, I enjoyed learning a whole new skill set.

“The funny thing is that I played some of my best football whilst studying. It gave my mind something else to focus on – it’s good to have a release from that.”

The return of the Old Firm 

With the return of Rangers to Scotland’s top division, the competition in the league has gained an intensity that it had been missing in recent years.

Despite the likes of Celtic, Aberdeen and Rangers being touted as the ‘big boys’, Millar’s St Johnstone have continued to progress under manager Tommy Wright, a journey Millar says will continue.

“We’ve been up there the last few seasons and as a club we now see ourselves as a top four side, so we will continue to improve and progress as a team.”

“The return of Rangers has been huge for Scottish football,” he says.

“They bring a bigger spotlight to the league and obviously you have the Old Firm derby back which is a huge game. As a player, you want to play in front of big crowds and I have honestly missed playing at Ibrox.

“We [St Johnstone] have started well but ultimately I do not think we can win the league. However, I do not see any reason to why we cannot challenge for the other top four spots.

“We’ve been up there the last few seasons and we now see ourselves as a top four side, so we will continue to improve and progress.”

Scotland’s World Cup adventure 

Scotland and RB Leipzig’s Oliver Burke

Looking at the national team, Scotland’s qualification campaign for the Russia 2018 World Cup has not been going well, and in November manager Gordon Strachan faces a huge test – against England, at Wembley.

“Results have not been good enough ultimately,” says Millar.”I compare ourselves to teams of the other home nations and when I look at them, man for man we have as much if not more talent than them yet they have just been to the Euros and we have not. That is not good enough,” he says.

“The last two results in the qualifiers were poor and it means we must now go onto beat England. If we lose that then for me, Strachan must go.”

As Millar points out, Scotland have a number of star players and one of the most highly-regarded is former Nottingham Forest and current RB Leipzig player Oliver Burke.

His goal for Leipzig against FC Koln made the 19-year-old Scotland international the first Scot to score in the Bundesliga since Brian O’Neil for VFL Wolfsburg in November 1999.

“He has all the physical attributes needed in modern football,” insists Millar. “He is athletic, quick and he can score.

“He is still very young and he has a long way to go but I think going to Germany will enhance his learning. More players should try to play abroad as I think it can only enhance your development as a player.”

Not calling it quits yet

Despite his age and planning for the longer term, Millar insists he is not yet done with playing football.

“I have been at the club for nine years and had some amazing memories and success with St Johnstone”

“I have an ambition to play as long as I can as I love the game and feel I still have plenty to offer,” says the midfielder.

“I had issues with injuries last season but that is behind me. There is still life in my legs yet and I do not feel that I am off the pace. When I do feel that, then that is the time to stop.

“I am fit now and have been for most of the season so far, so I am ready to play when called upon. I know when I get back in the team, I will play well and then get my chance again.

“I have been at the club for nine years and had some amazing memories and success with St Johnstone. I have achieved things that I wanted in my career like playing in Europe, winning trophies and playing at the highest level in Scotland.

“It is a fantastic community-based club with loyal fans who have made me feel like one of them. It will always have a place in my heart.”

Chris Millar is on Twitter @MidgeyMiller