Curse of the microphone

Monday 4 November 2002

It's funny, but the thing that seems to give professional footballers more pleasure than anything else in their lives is interrupting another player's interview. The childlike delight that they can derive from something as simple as slamming a door several times while someone is talking has to be seen to be believed.

There's a long corridor at Fulham's Motspur Park training ground that leads from the players' dressing rooms, past the boot room and the showers, and into the medical suite.

Because it's somewhere they can't escape from, it's the ideal place to grab a player for an interview (As a basic rule of thumb don't ever arrange with a player to come back later for an interview - he'll be long gone, probably sat at home with his feet up watching Neighbours while you stand around nervously clutching your notebook.)

But while the corridor may be great for pinning down the player you want to talk to, it also means you're perfectly placed for the joker's ambush. Most journalists will have tales to tell of the ritual humiliation of the interview - it must have been hell trying to get an exclusive out of the old Wimbledon Crazy Gang - but let me tell you, it ain't no fun in the Fulham dressing-room either.

One of the major problems is that there is one member of the back-room staff who likes to think of himself as a comedian. I was once interviewing Steve Marlet in the dreaded corridor when we heard a strange dragging noise in the distance. Louder and louder came the noise until a large kit-box appeared in front of us.

The comedian, who shall remain nameless, then got onto the box, proceeded to pull down his shorts, and mooned six inches from our faces! Collapse of interview, interviewee disintegrates into giggles, the watching players almost burst themselves laughing, and another insightful piece of journalism is consigned to the dustbin of history.

You might think that because Sylvain Legwinski looks more like a philosopher than a footballer he would have a more adult sense of humour than most - not a bit of it.

Discovering that an interview was taking place as he came out of the shower once, his eyes lit up with childlike glee. He managed to noisily flap backwards and forwards in his flip-flops twenty or thirty times, interjecting loudly in French on each occasion.

Apparently, the crux of his message was that if the player being interviewed would only stick the ball in the net a bit more often, we wouldn't have a problem.

I've lost count of the times that I've sat down to write an article, switched on my tape-recorder and discovered that every crucial pearl of wisdom uttered by the star of the moment has been completely obliterated by shouting, slamming, burping and (unprintably) much, much worse.

Considering how few Fulham players speak English as their native language, trying to decipher their thoughts when half a dozen other players are giving their opinions in a louder voice is nigh on impossible. No wonder players complain that they're misquoted so much - it's because all their mates are laughing too loud in the background.