Journalists Under Covid: John Cross


Football has been different for players, supporters and journalists. In this first edition of Journalists Under Covid Michel Jreissati interviews the Daily Mirror’s Chief Football Writer John Cross as he provides his insight on how his job approach has been affected by the pandemic. 

Cross is the author of ”Arsene Wenger: The Inside Story of Arsenal Under Wenger.” He has been covering English football and more specifically Premier League action in London for the Mirror for over 20 years now and is a well known and respected professional amongst the football community.

On a normal matchday ahead of the football stoppage, he would usually go to the ground two or three hours prior to kick-off, enjoys a meal provided by the Premier League, chats to his fellow writers, reporters and broadcasters, before, during and after the game.

However, following the league resumption, the writer has been through quite a few changes. Cross shared his new routine. He explained that driving to the ground is more recommended than public transport, assuring that most clubs would offer a parking area for the journalists.

A health questionnaire needs to be completed and the possession of a mask and hand sanitiser is required, he said:

‘’You completed the questionnaire, which you hand in, you’ve got your ppe (mask), and generally you’re shown where to park, go to the ground, hand in your form or show it. Then normal security check and then you’re shown straight to your seat.’’

The seating has been an interesting matter as we saw journalists on all areas of the different stadiums, some would be sitting quite close to the bench, one would think they are part of the coaching staff or the team, while others would be spotted as dots all over the stands.

Cross said that it would depend on the stadium and the club, take for instance the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, considering the size of the press box there, journalists have been allowed to stay in while preserving the social distancing of at least two meters, while at a smaller venue such as Villa park, they were present in the stands.

As part of his matchday drill, he would interact with colleagues and fellow professionals in the stadium and the media areas, though with time restrictions, that drill is disrupted, he added:

‘’I haven’t seen anyone in so long, my job is such a sociable one and it’s so nice to see people – they don’t want you in the ground before an hour and a half and that is unusual.

‘’When you’re in the stands it feels like you’re remotely watching the game, it’s a totally different feeling as a journalist, you are so used to sit next to another journalist-you don’t have monitors in a lot of places now’’

He went on to tell a comedic anecdote:

‘‘I was at Chelsea Man City the other night and saw that De Bruyne was out of this world and I look to my right, there was Leroy Sane because they sat me next to the substitutes.

‘’I felt the need to say, because he has been doing it for years, ‘ Kevin De Bruyne, off the scale, brilliant and I love watching this player’ ‘’ he said ‘’that social aspect of my job, it’s a bit like any other fan who loves football, because in the end of the day I absolutely love football and I want someone to talk to about it – how amazing De Bruyne is, ‘what a free kick that was’ or ‘Pulisic is playing fantastic’ or whatever it might be, it’s the little things like that. You’re almost doing it out of habit and you just want to share it with someone – It’s a very sociable thing and I can tell you it feels so different on that level’’

Another uptight change was turning the press conference into digital Zoom calls where physical absence has its effects:

‘’Post matches are so different, that’s a different experience – you can’t get a bit of a laugh or goodwill going with the manager after the game which I think is quite important, that again is very very different.’’

The Mirror journalist made sure to mention a bright side of the different setup, he continued:

‘’The other thing is, at Chelsea, you’re so close to the dugout you could hear what they are saying, which is so interesting, so important so that’s the flip side.’’

Most importantly, concerning the most noticeable modification of all, Cross noted:

‘’I miss the fans like crazy, because they provide the tension, they provide the excitement and the atmosphere is so sterile without them. We forget that the Premier League is the Premier League because of the fans. I genuinely believe that – you get the best atmosphere, the best grounds, the best of everything thanks to the fans

‘’I’ve been fortunate enough to go to a lot of games but, that novelty begins to wear off when you haven’t got that excitement noise, drama and honestly, it’s nowhere near the same,’’

The reporter used the clashes of Chelsea against Manchester City and Manchester United versus Spurs to illustrate his point, saying that both games were quite animated and intriguing but that it could have been even better, he expanded:

‘’I guarantee you if the crowd have been in there, it would have been ten times as good because they just provide everything-it’s not even the same sport without the fans.’’

Finally, when asked on whether it would have been the same working from home appreciating the differences in the game, he concluded:

”No because, you’ve got to be there to sense the mood. How can you get a full picture of the game if you’re watching it on TV? I just don’t think you can-You want to see it with your own eyes, you want to make that judgement with your own eyes, you don’t want to see it through what a commentator thinks.”

Follow us on Twitter @ProstInt


Comments are closed.