A selection of leading sports journalists gathered in Manchester at the beginning of September for a week of debate at the annual Football Writing Festival. Max Carlyle, a BA (Hons) Football Business & Media student at UCFB Etihad Campus, attended the Festival and enjoyed a range of talks on the hottest topics – including the World Cup, the managerial merry-go-round and how to break into the industry – with some of the world’s most popular and respected football and sports journalists.

 Max was ever present over the six days, and reported back on highlights for each session. Read on to find out more…

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The penultimate event of this year’s Football Writing Festival saw crowds fill two tiers of seating for the Guardian Football Weekly Live at the Royal Northern College of Music. Hosted by renowned TV and radio presenter Max Rushden, the popular football podcast had its familiar cast and contributors, including Lars Siversten, Sid Lowe and Barry Glendenning.

To set the tone for the rest of the evening, Rushden presented the panel and audience with a speculative tweet from former Wales international Robert Earnshaw: “Since we sent robots to Mars before sending humans, isn’t it possible that the first extra-terrestrials that we encounter on earth could not be the aliens themselves, but might be their technology instead?” The suggestion was put forward from the humorous panellists that Robert Earnshaw himself may be the alien technology – an indication of how bizarre and funny the evening would be.

The first footballing question put forward by the former Soccer AM presenter would also trigger a fit of laughter from the Manchester crowd: “Is Jose Mourinho a psychopath or sociopath?” Restoring some sanity and order to the madness, Spanish football correspondent Lowe judged that Mourinho had certainly changed since his time at Real Madrid from 2010-13: “I do think he’s a man that’s definitely changed since his time at Madrid. He’s always been that bit more concerned than other managers about his players and his own conduct in the media. He’s always been seen to be able to control the dressing room and the media but he just couldn’t at Madrid; the politics were different, Barcelona were ‘that’ Barcelona and I don’t think Spain winning the World Cup helped him either.”

Glendenning had his say on the Mourinho debate: “Football has passed him by; he has had his 10-12 year peak that managers do. His paranoia just seems to be off the scale now.” Lowe added a quick analysis of Mourinho’s managerial style, stating: “When your mission statement is ‘I win’, it goes against the narrative when you don’t.”

The other Manchester powerhouse, along with their manager, were lauded. “Manchester City were otherworldly last season. They’re the best Premier League side I’ve seen in my lifetime. They’re extraordinary on the pitch,” stated Siversten. Playing devil’s advocate, Glendenning echoed a point of Gary Neville’s: “Because they have the ball so much, we don’t see their capabilities on the counter-attack like the Bayern Munich side that won the Champions League in 2013.” Lowe however, jumped to Guardiola’s defence: “It’s counter-cultural from a Spanish point of view. He’s proved he can come to England and win in the style that so many doubted.”

After many laughs and jokes, the focus then shifted to Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus and the Brazilian Ronaldo’s new involvement with Real Valladolid. Rushden asked Lowe if there was a rule that there can only be one Ronaldo at a time? Lowe went on to assess both topics: “Brazilian Ronaldo has said he wants to make the club serious, but not necessarily why Valladolid. He’s a lot sharper for business opportunities than people give him credit for.” Lowe added that the main focus on Cristiano’s move to Italy was now Gareth Bale’s prospects in Madrid more than anything else: “It’s massive for Bale, he’ll get a sense of responsibility as long as he stays fit and can be a huge player.”

Silversten went on to dissect the current issue in Denmark over third and fourth tier players, as well as seven futsal players, representing the national team. Topics that were also covered were the likes of Messi not being nominated for “The Best” award, the World Cup, who would win the “S***house d’Or”, and a few tales about former Everton player Peter Beagrie, which included a motorbike through the glass doors of a Spanish hotel.

Rounding off the night, Glendenning performed what can only be described as a unique rendition of The Black Eyed Peas song, ‘My Humps’.

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