Sam McGuire | Freelance Football Writer
Hi Sam, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell our readers about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
Firstly, thanks for getting me involved in this. I have just recently moved into the world of freelance on a full-time basis. Prior to that, I was with a company called Twenty3 for a little over six years. I was initially doing freelance bits for them but was hired as their first full-time writer.
I diversified my skill set while with the company, managing social media accounts for a host of clients and helping on the product side of things before being named as a Marketing Specialist. That role took me away from writing so I started doing freelance bits again and started my own Patreon.
Twenty3 had to restructure a few areas and I was made redundant as a result. Fortunately for me, I had cultivated good relationships with a number of companies and I was able to pretty much jump straight into freelancing on a permanent basis.
When did you know you wanted to work in football?
It was during the 2014/15 campaign. I was reading a lot of articles on how Brendan Rodgers had fixed the Liverpool defence but none of them explained how or why it had happened, they just explained what had happened.
I felt a little cheated in all honesty. That was how I felt reading a lot of pieces during that period of time. It was the era of clickbait when the headline would draw you in and the actual article wouldn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know.
My mindset was if I want to read a certain type of article, others likely would too. I guess that is when I knew I wanted to work in football, so I started to write for fan sites and it went from there.
As a freelance writer for the likes of The Analyst, FotMob, Sporting Life and others, what does a ‘typical’ week look like for you?
I am fortunate enough to have a loose schedule with a lot of the companies I work with. I write a Premier League review for FotMob after every round of fixtures, Optus Sport is a fortnightly column on a topical Liverpool angle and I have a contract with a Premier League club that sees me writing pieces for them at the end of the month. I’ve got a few more projects lined up too that will give my weeks a little more structure.
My weeks are fluid so it is tricky to describe what a typical week looks like. I just know it involves lots of research and even more emails.
What are the most enjoyable and difficult parts of your role?
I get to write about the football that I want to write about and that will forever be enjoyable. At the minute, I am able to focus on angles I am interested in and I have the time to properly explore them without the pressure of having to write three or four pieces on the same day. I know that I am at an advantage so I am trying to make the most of it.
It might not be difficult but it is frustrating when one of your ideas is passed on. It is even worse when you’re ahead of the curve and you then see others talking about it a few weeks later. I also initially struggled with not having a set structure to my week. That can be difficult to adapt to.
Who are your favourite football writers at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?
I always look out for pieces written by David Hughes, Stephen Drennan and James Nalton.
There are a lot of fantastic writers out there but I’m drawn to that trio because they always look to add context to their work. It isn’t just about what happened, they focus on why and how. When I read their stuff, I learn something and as a reader that is what I want.
What general advice would you give to individuals looking to pursue a career in football writing? What are the key skills required?
Don’t expect everyone to agree with everything you write. That is a big one and something I feel is regularly overlooked. Knowing how to handle that is a skill.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, when I started out, stats and data were new and few people knew how to use the metrics properly. It was a process of trial and error and I made a lot of mistakes. But that isn’t the case these days. Just make sure you make the most of the experience available to you.
I would also say that you should have an idea of what sort of writer you want to be. It is a very broad area and it is near impossible to be an expert in every department. There are some exceptional on-the-whistle match reporters who wouldn’t know where to start if you asked them to write an analytical piece. I’m not suggesting that you should become a specialist as you need to be versatile but if you want to use stats in pieces, familiarise yourself with them from the off so that you are well positioned.
I’m sure you’ve sent countless pitches in your time. In your opinion, what makes a good pitch? Any key advice you can share with freelancers at the start of their journey looking to pitch their stories/ideas to editors?
It sounds straightforward but make sure you do your research. I’ve known people send over an idea and when they have come to write it, nothing actually tallies up with what they had originally pitched.
I also feel that the pitch should include why you should be the one to write this particular piece. Alex Stewart mentions it in his Analytics FC pitching guidelines. You don’t have to sell yourself, just make it clear that you are completely across the idea.
What do you do to switch off outside of work?
My wife and I like to take the dog for big walks and we’ve been on a lot of UK breaks over recent years. I enjoy cooking for friends and family, especially during the summer when I can use the BBQ. I will occasionally come out of semi-retirement to play a game of football too.
And finally Sam, where can people find you on social media to connect?
I am on all of the social media platforms but I am the most active on Twitter — @SamMcGuire90.
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