Review: Fifty Cup Finals - My Life in Football by Nick Collins
Nick Collins is a football sage. He’s often round the corner with his moustache and microphone. Now, he’s put pen to paper, musing on his lengthy career in sports journalism. He has many stories to tell.
Title: Fifty Cup Finals
Author: Nick Collins
Publisher: Pitch Publishing
Price: £11.18 from Amazon
Most famous for his distinguished career with Sky Sports, Collins documented the England national team for many many years. 'Fifty Cup Finals' reveals his favourite moments, starting with his local days in Hampshire and continuing until his Sky contract was terminated in 2016.
Given his popularity and longevity as a matchday touchline reporter, his was a sad ending. He’s covered the biggest games in the last 20 years to the fans' benefit. A true servant to the game despite not kicking the ball himself.
Prior to Collins' tale, Steven Gerrard weighs in with a foreword. He praises the broadcaster, touting him as a positive and passionate figure in the English football scene, stating Collins always worked with clarity and fairness. He applauds his enthusiasm and professionalism when it came to covering the England national team.
Collins was prompted to tell his story following his contract termination. In November 2016, he was told he'd have another 30 days work with the broadcast giant. In addition to media outcry, Collins claims his co-workers were shocked when the veteran reporter was shown the door. Sky had just shelled out in excess of a billion pounds for Premier League rights. His sack was the highest-profile among many cost-cutting moves.
The story starts with his love of Gillingham but reveals he followed the Bristol clubs more during his time at university. These tales from his younger days detail all manner of unusual circumstances. While working at a small Aldershot-based newspaper he was writing a story about a corrupt landlord. When the man approached him with an offer of hush money, he turned the encounter into an exposé.
On the lighter side, he recalls his interview with Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman on his venture into non-league club ownership. The musician charmed him with a private concert.
Predominantly known for his television work, Nick wasn’t always in love with the camera. His first television gig took him on a daily 145-mile commute, Farnborough to Maidstone to be precise. Four hours travel back and forth to work can kill your passion for the job. Still, he was able to cover the local clubs, including Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton, Reading, Bournemouth, Aldershot, Southend and his beloved Gillingham. Opportunities to cover his team were limited, even when they were winning 7-0, and 10-0. When he did convince his bosses to pop a camera down at Priestfield, of course, it was a 0-0 affair.
He’d later travel further than the south of England. China, Brazil, Macedonia, Lesotho, Ukraine, San Marino and Qatar beckoned. Eventually, cultural diversity delivered him to Blackburn. He lays out Rovers title quest in resplendent grandeur.
Personal touches throughout the book reveal the humanity professionalism demands remain hidden from the camera. Nick pens the difficulties he endured as a journalist, having to leave his young family to cover football. It was the trade-off for having such a desirable job, although knowing as much never made it easier.
Collins is a professional. In a contemporary world where colleagues searched for mindless click bait or money-making headlines, he took the grounded approach. He doesn’t tattle on what happened behind closed doors, preferring to share the nicer points. He'll tell you David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard are three of the nicest, most amiable men with whom he's worked, although he does indulge his salacious side by ranking them. In addition, he notes that Louis Van Gaal singled him out as the lone journalist to congratulate him on his FA Cup win while the rest were bent and determined to discuss his employment status.
The book follows his long career in journalism, splicing his love for the game in with accurate reporting that makes you feel you were there. This is his first book and, over 400 pages of football nostalgia, it’s a cracking read. You may feel a bit old when he’s reporting in archaic fashion on games you remember watching but it's your tradeoff for a chance to learn more about this iconic journalist.