England performances patchy, but back-page prose has been pitch-perfect this World Cup

I have to admit to being someone who has never been that enthralled by the spectacle of 22 men chasing a small plastic ball around a muddy field (with the exception of the World Cup).

But after compiling a list of the top 50 sport journalists for the July edition of Press Gazette magazine I’ve found a new respect for the journalists who spend their working lives covering this and other sports.

England’s performance on the pitch may have been patchy, but the quality of the prose provided by the likes of Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph and Paul Hayward in The Observer has been consistently great throughout this World Cup.

Take this from The Independent’s James Lawton who also features prominently in the top 50, writing on the eve of England’s make or break clash with Slovenia:

It is a high, exhilarating wind off the Indian Ocean today, racing through the dunes, tearing at the palm trees. You can only imagine how much Fabio Capello would like to line up his men in the face of it and see their fears and their surliness blow away.

You don’t have to be a boxing fan to enjoy Norman Mailer’s classic account of Mohammed Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle from 1975, The Fight. And you don’t have to be a sport obsessive to luxuriate in the writing talent which is on display in the back-pages.

The top 50 list will only be available to magazine subscribers who receive their copies next week, but we will be revealing some of the results online next week – as well as some fascinating consumer research on how the press and public view sport journalism.

If you are one of the one-in-four members of the public who couldn’t give a vuvuzela about sport (according to our survey), take a closer look at the sport section the next time you pick up your favourite newspaper for a real treat.

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