Interview with FreddiePaxton – sports journalist writing for The Guardian, Times, FourFourTwo, Independent, ESPN, Al Jazeera News and privately a huge Arsenal fan. What is journalistic work for him? Where does he get ideas for his articles? What does he think about the current Arsenal team? You will find answers to these and many other questions below.
Why did you become a sports journalist?
I realised during education that I needed to pursue something which I enjoyed. Obviously I’ve always loved football and academically, my best skill was writing, soit was an obvious choice. I also have a friend – a really talented journalist called Arthur Renard – who gave me a lot of encouragement and advice.
Do you have any education in this field?
No. I didn’t study journalism but when I decided to try to get into the field, I worked hard to get practical experience through making contacts and applying for work experience at national newspapers.
What is this job for you?
Journalism, especially as a freelancer, isn’t something you do to get rich. For me it’s purely enjoyment. I love talking to people and getting their perspectives on the game, and helping to tell their stories through my writing. It’s fascinating to be ‘closer’ to the game I’ve loved since I was a kid.
Where does the passion for football come from?
I come from a family of football lovers. I was always surrounded by people watching football, especially Arsenal. Also, being from London, almost everyone here loves the game so naturally I followed suit.
You have a lot of texts, but also some interviews. Which of them was the most valuable experience for you and why?
The majority of my workis interview based. For me, they’reall valuable experiences in their own right. I’d say travelling to Italy to interview Javier Zanetti at Inter Milan’s training ground was really special. The whole day was great for so many reasons, but most of all, he is a fascinating person and I think I learned a lot from that. Also, interviewing former Arsenal players is always special for me.
Where do you get ideas for your articles?
Usually I think about people who have interesting stories. I like to delve a bit deeper than the generic football questions; I enjoy talking about culture, upbringings, religion, and other personal things that have contributed to their journeys. So, anybody with an interesting story is always top of the list.
In journalistic work, it is very important to get in touch with people related to football (players, agents, coaches, journalists). How is this done in your work?
You have to be prepared to network. It can be hard at first but when you become more confident and aren’t afraid to approach people, it becomes easier. It’s all about building relationships. They are just people at the end of the day, and everybody is ‘contactable’ somehow.
You collaborate with: The Guardian, Times, FourFourTwo, Independent, ESPN and Al Jazeera News. Could you tell our readers how your cooperation with the above-mentioned brands came about?
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting in contact with the relevant people at publications to pitch the man idea. If they like it and it fits, they’ll publish it. Other times, I get approached by companies (for example Al Jazeera) if they’rerunning a segment on something which fits my area of expertise – usually Arsenal and/or the Premier League.
The return of fans to stadiums in England has been suspended due to another wave of COVID-19. Fans were expected to slowly return to the matches from October 1, but this plan was postponed until at least March 1. What do you think of that?
It’s a big shame because like every one else, I’m really missing being able to support my team from the stands. I’m not a health expert, so I don’t want to get into it in too much detail but ultimately, people’s health is most important. Hopefully they can find a way to allow us back safely in the near future.
As a huge Arsenal fan, I have to ask since when and why did you become an Arsenal supporter?
It isn’t a question of ‘why’ – I just am! There are photos of me as a baby wearing Arsenal kits. The majority of my family are Arsenal fans, so I was born into it. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Since when do you go to Arsenal’s home and away games?
My uncle took me to my first games at Highbury when I was young and ever since, I have been going regularly. My brother used to pay for me to go to matches with him and then as I got older and started earning my own money, I would spend all of it on tickets and travel to watch us home and away. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Arsenal play in so many stadiums in the UK – there are only a few Premier League clubs from recent years that I haven’t travelled to for anaway game. I’ve been to some European away ties too, which is something I’m most excited for once the world goes back to normal.
Right now we have a great manager in the form of MikelArteta, who pushed the spirit into his players. What do you think about current Arsenal team?
I think we’re building an exciting team. The squad is already looking a lot more balanced and I think after a couple more transfer windows, we should hopefully be closer to the ‘finished product’. Most importantly, we’replaying much more attractive football again and also look more defensively solid – those are important foundations to build from.
Do you think anyone else will join the team in this transfer window?
Yes. I think Arsenal will get at least one of their midfield targets.
The most talked about now is the transfer of Aouar from Lyon. News came out yesterday that Arsenal has made another bid of around £35M. How close do you think we are to contracting this player?
I think Arsenal have a great relationship with Lyon (both through Aulas and Juninho, who is a personal friend of Edu). I’m sure the player would relish the chance of playing for Arsenal the club can appear to be edging towards their asking price, so I’m predicting an aninteresting end to the transfer window.
What was the best moment of your life as an Arsenal fan?
There are too many sentimental moments alongside the obvious ones like winning trophies. It’s too hard to answer. I’ll say probably the first time I can remember seeing Highbury because it changed my life.
Your best game you’ve been to was… (and why)
Again, I can’t pick one. Seeing us with the FA Cup in the flesh at Wembley a couple of times is obviously incredible. Beating rivals in important games is always memorable. Even random away days which always produce so many good memories. It’s too hard to choose.
Finally, I would like to ask you about a funny situation in your journalistic work that you have ever mentioned to anyone 🙂 .
Probably when I was going to interview Bacary Sagna and on the day, we had a few delays. We were trying to arrange a convenient place to meet, and he offered to come to my house, which isn’t too far from his. The thought of having an Arsenal player I grew up watching coming to sit in my living room was a surreal and funny thought. In the end, though, we met half-way in a hotel to do the interview.