Hi Greg, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Firstly, can you tell our readers about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been working as a freelance football journalist for around eight years now. After graduating university I spent some time in Italy, living with a local family and tutoring their teenage son in English. I had a lot of spare time while he was at school, so I started to write articles about Serie A and Italian football, mostly just for fun.
From there, I was fortunate enough to get a few commissions until it eventually reached the point where I had enough work to make it a full-time job. I guess my first big break was when Goal.com offered me regular shift work — writing, subbing, live blogging — from which I learned a lot.
These days I do regular work for four or five different publications, including FourFourTwo and WhoScored, as well as some one-off projects or pieces. I mainly cover the Premier League and Champions League, but occasionally do bits on European football too.
When did you know you wanted to work in football?
It had always been something in the back of my mind, but I actually moved away from the idea during university and thought I’d end up doing something else.
It was only towards the end of my course that I decided to give it a go with the hope of being able to move into the industry. I would have had to look at other things had I not made much progress in that first year post-graduation, but luckily everything fell into place.
Can you explain what a ‘typical’ week looks like?
I usually start the week with a few articles reviewing the weekend’s action, plus previewing any midweek games if there are any.
In the middle of the week I often do some work for FourFourTwo, either news-writing shifts or penning evergreen features, and then by Thursday and Friday it’s time to preview the weekend games. You have to be adaptable when freelancing, but it’s also nice to have a bit of structure to your week.
When you decided to go freelance, what were the initial challenges or worries you faced?
My main worry was whether it was going to be financially viable. By nature it’s an insecure way of making a living, and even now, I find it hard to completely relax knowing you could lose a large chunk of work with just one email.
In that first year I turned down a job with a charity because I wanted to give journalism a crack — for a while after that I was wondering if I’d made a big mistake.
How do you generally go about finding new work/clients?
I’m quite lucky now in that I have regular clients and sometimes get approached by publications with offers of work. In the early days I was just really proactive and persistent, no doubt to the annoyance of certain editors!
That’s what I’d advise any aspiring freelancer to do — send pitches out regularly and something might stick. I spent two years as a Premier League correspondent for The National in the UAE, an opportunity which only came about because the editor had my email on the system from a pitch I’d sent months earlier.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far in your career? Any standout projects or memories you wish to share?
Covering games for The National on a weekly basis was something I loved doing. I was in my early 20s and it was such a privilege to go to Stamford Bridge, the Emirates, White Hart Lane etc., often sitting next to titans of the journalism world.
I also enjoyed working as the editor of The Set Pieces, a site which covered some really fascinating topics and filled a gap in the market. And it’s always a thrill to see your byline in FourFourTwo magazine, which like many football obsessives I grew up reading.
Who are your favourite football writers/journalists at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?
Wow that’s tough because there are so many. Richard Jolly is an excellent writer who’s always worth reading. Michael Cox is still my go-to for tactical analysis. I’ve long enjoyed Nick Ames’ thoughtful coverage of global stories that I otherwise might have missed.
I’ve also got to throw in Tim Vickery, to whom I owe at least 90% of my knowledge of anything related to South American football, and Adam Bate, who does some fascinating stuff for Sky.
What general advice would you give to individuals looking to pursue a similar career path as yours?
As I mentioned earlier, be proactive and don’t just wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. It’s also handy to have as many strings to your bow as possible, whether that’s an additional language, video editing skills, subbing experience or anything else that could be useful to potential clients or employers.
Can you share 3 useful tools or resources which you find helpful to fulfil your role?
Working in sport can be hectic, so what do you do to switch off outside of work?
I enjoy travelling and try to get away as often as possible (which is why you won’t hear freelancers complaining about international breaks!). Apart from that I enjoy going on walks and reading mostly non-football books.
And finally, Greg, where can people find you on social media to connect?
I’m on Twitter/X/whatever they’re calling it this week — @GregLeaFootball.
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