WHO ARE YA? Neal Underwood, freelance journalist

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1) Who are ya?
Neal Underwood. I now live in Solihull, having previously had stints in Reading, Manchester and London. I’ve never quite forgiven my parents for moving out of London before I was born.
2) Who do you support?
Despite living in the West Midlands I’ve retained my season ticket at Chelsea.
3) What was your first game?
September 1978. Chelsea 1 Tottenham 3. Ray Wilkins and Chopper Harris were in the same team at opposite ends of their careers. My dad took my brother and I and we sat in the old West Stand and watched the Spurs fans tearing down fences to get at the home fans. I was hooked.
4) What do you do for a job?
I’ve had various careers, including being a database developer and working in communications for asset management companies. I’ve now been a freelance financial journalist for coming up for eight years. I originally looked at sports journalism but it is very competitive, the pay wasn’t that great and I was too old to start at the bottom.
5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?
Apart from contributing to the Chelsea matchday programme, no. I was a half decent Sunday League striker in my late teens and early twenties, largely on account of my pace (now sadly departed) and giving the opposition keeper a whack in the first few minutes. I was voted players’ player of the season in 1988 after averaging a goal a game. I still have the trophy somewhere.
6) How did you get into it?
I’ve only written the occasional piece about football over the years, but reading some of the fine blog sites out there made me realise I should do more of it. I found a couple of sites I liked via Twitter, submitted some ideas and contributed some guest pieces.
7) What do you get out of it?
Certainly not money. I love football and writing about it gives me a great deal of enjoyment. It also gives me a chance to be more irreverent than I’m able to be in my day job, writing fairly straight laced articles about finance and investment.
8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?
Find a few football sites you like (there are any number out there). Approach the person who runs it and ask if they run guest articles/blogs. Write about something you’re passionate about. If you enjoy writing it people will almost certainly enjoy reading it.
9) If you could do it all again what would you change?
I’d grow taller at an earlier age. I was never going to get anywhere in the professional game being the smallest in my class until I was about 13. In terms of writing about football, I should have written more years ago, but I’m sure I’ll make up for it.
10) Who’s your footballing hero?
Unquestionably Gianfranco Zola. A legend on and off the pitch and possibly the finest player ever to play for Chelsea. I met him at an LMA dinner and he was the perfect gentleman, talking to everyone and posing for photos. Although just once he did ask someone if he could finish his pudding first.
Many thanks, Neal.
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