Often Partisan

The James Nursey Interview

Many of you will know that James Nursey is the Mirror reporter for the Midlands area on all things football, and he has very kindly consented to being interviewed by OP.

What’s your football background? Do you have a particular club that you support and were you a regular fan? Has your view on football changed as you’ve worked within it, so to speak?

Firstly, thanks for the interview and good luck to BCFC for the rest of the season.

I always want to see the local Midlands teams doing well even though I am Norwich City supporter born and bred. I will never forget the play-off final between our clubs –  and you Bluenoses waving inflatable sheep at us from mini-buses on the M4 out of Cardiff! Norwich will always be my first and only true footballing love since attending Carrow Road in 1986 aged eight before going on to have a season ticket for 10 years when I was also a ball boy twice.

But since becoming immersed in football a decade ago with work though, my perspective has definitely changed. You become more dispassionate and the days have gone when my weekend mood would be dictated by the fortunes of my side. It is also inevitable when reporting on so many matches – sometimes up to three or four a week – that your enthusiasm for the game wanes occasionally. I defy anyone to sit through Wigan 0-0 Bolton on a cold, wet, winter’s night and not think of other places they would rather be!But whenever I have a rare weekend off though, it is always good to be back at a match the next Saturday.

I still enjoy playing football in a mate’s 5-a-side team and I used to play as a junior but turning pro was never an option so being a sports reporter was the next best thing which I have not regretted.

As someone who is from outside the midlands reporting on the midlands, do you agree with the assertion that there is an anti-midlands bias in the media?

I don’t agree there is a deliberate bias against midland teams.

What I would say though is the national media prioritise their coverage on the biggest clubs in terms of attendances/public interest and biggest names/personalities and these tend not to be in the midlands at the moment. London, Manchester, Merseyside and the North East patches receive more coverage for the reasons above and I don’t think that will change for the foreseeable future unless a mega-rich oligarch or sheik starts bankrolling a midlands side.

However when an interesting story does crops up locally it is given its due space like BCFC winning the Carling Cup. But I must admit the midland stories that interest the nationals are therefore the unusual angles (often negative stories) such as Martin O’Neill resigning on the eve of the season, episodes from Sullivan and Gold’s controversial reign or Carson Yeung’s arrest and Blues’ financial problems. So please bear this in mind next time I write a negative Blues story – I have no agenda, I promise, I am just doing my job and treat all clubs the same.

What is your opinion of agents influence on the game and of transfer windows? Do you think that the proliferation of transfer rumours and constant speculation obfuscates what actually happens?

I think like in any walk of life, you have agents who are essentially decent people and others who are out purely to make cash using any means necessary. Having dealt with agents for a long period of time, it is easy to spot which are which and I only deal with the trustworthy ones, several of whom I consider friends.

What always annoys supporters are agents who disregard a club’s loyalty or best interests to do what is best or most lucrative for their clients but that is ultimately their job. I think players do need advisors to sort out their transfers and exploit commercial opportunities to the maximum during their short careers.

Regarding the transfer window and the truth, well, what clubs admit publicly and what is going on behind the scenes are sometimes two entirely different things. When tabloid journalists report the later and clubs say the former, it is usually us journos that get it in the neck from supporters!

Specifically on transfers, it is typical that when a club or agent are lining up a transfer there will be two or three different targets which often get reported in the press. Obviously the player can only go to one club but that doesn’t mean the story was wrong linking him with the other one or two.

So the perception there is a lot of nonsense printed about transfer targets in the press is I think unfair. I know from talking to scouts, clubs often have as many as 10 possible names on a list for any one position and there are so many things that can go wrong or change before a target joins. With Blues eyeing a new midfielder at the moment, I revealed they tried to get Craig Gardner back on loan from Sunderland in January. The bid was rejected as I explained in my original article but it still constituted a valid story. I have even had a few stories leaked to me by players directly where they have been forced to deny it publicly to protect themselves!

It is an easy and convenient label for managers/players/fans/ the media to dismiss stories, claiming it is just a case of agents fooling gullible reporters into touting their players around. One of the reasons I joined Twitter (@JamesNursey) is to be in total control of what is attributed to me and if anyone was to look at all the transfer steers there over the last two months, I think they’d find them mostly accurate as followers have remarked.

There seems to be a lot of rivalry between local and national media – what’s your take on it?

I have done both jobs having also worked on The Argus in Sussex for 18 months and The Birmingham Post for nearly three years before joining the Mirror in 2005. I totally realise and appreciate the importance of the local media.

They are the first port of call for most fans wanting information on their club and rightly so, as reporters like Colin Tattum at the Birmingham Mail do an excellent job covering BCFC and have their finger on the pulse going to nearly every game and press conference.
But I think the two different types of coverage from local and national publications can complement each other.

No reporter can ever have a monopoly on all the stories coming out of a club, it is just not possible. As well as Colin Tattum, Neil Moxley at the Daily Mail and Stuart James at The Guardian are well-respected hacks who are always going to break stories because they are good at their jobs.

But I believe my contacts (who are not just agents) have given Blues’ fans plenty of useful and accurate information too – like various recent events including the loan bid for Gardner, Jean Beausejour’s sale to Wigan and Liam Ridgewell’s protracted transfer to WBA. The national press also has more legal protection to cover controversial subjects like Carson Yeung’s legal dispute with David Sullivan and the Golds, which was reported in detail in the Mirror.

Regarding specific rivalries between national papers and personalities on different publications, it is probably inevitable but I try not to get involved in any politics and just do my job for my employer and enjoy my spare-time away from work. I certainly don’t get involved in attempts to discredit rival articles or reporters that may have scooped me as it only misleads supporters and readers.

Whilst the mirrorfootball website is one of the larger websites in the media dedicated to football, there does seem to be an editorial line about looking for exclusives and transfer gossip at the expense of in depth analysis of games and football in general. Do you find this constrictive in your reporting? Would you agree with the assertion that we need more columns like “the Midlander” column written by Neil Moxley at the Daily Mail – ie once a week stories from the midlands which are a bit more in-depth, and maybe have a bit more opinion about them?

I know my use of the tag ‘exclusive’ is a source of amusement amongst fans but can I explain from my perspective I am under no pressure to use it but do so when I have got information to myself – over the phone in a private conversation with a contact or from a one-on-one interview. This makes it exclusive and is why I use the tag as I try hard to get original material. Many transfer tips or one-on-one interviews, like this season with Chris Hughton, Chris Burke and Jonathan Spector, are tagged as exclusive. And during the Sullivan v Yeung row, I was the only national covering the feud in detail so we had a lot of exclusives.

But I must admit the term is overused in the tabloid press and often wrongly when a player has spoken to more than one paper/reporter. Regarding instructions from my boss or editorial line, we are usually left to our own devices as long as we provide a steady stream of stories. I was lucky enough to get the ‘reporter of the year’ award from our sports desk in 2011 which gives me encouragement whenever fans accuse me of writing rubbish!

I am definitely guilty of a lack of match analysis because there simply isn’t the scope to do so in small tabloid stories. I try to provide some in a weekly internet column but it HAS to be all on AVFC I am afraid due to orders from above. So yes, the Midlander column is a good tool for Neil Moxley to air his opinion on various topical issues in more depth and that is one reason why it is so popular.

How do national journalists feel about blogs like Often Partisan? Has the rise of the blogosphere helped or hindered Fleet Street?

Firstly well done (without wishing to sound patronising) to Often Partisan for doing a brilliant job providing hungry Bluenoses with information on Carson Yeung and his businesses which I and many other journalists have found hard to obtain. The site has quickly and deservedly become THE respected outlet for all information on Yeung in the Far East. I have nothing but positive things to say about it and it has left all the media trailing on several stories.

Any new online content which legally makes powerful people more accountable and open to scrutiny can only be good.

The second part of the question is a topical issue in journalism with the likes of Stan Collymore currently claiming talented bloggers show us hacks up. I use blogs to keep an eye on what fans are really thinking because we can get detached in the press box. I think bloggers can work in tandem with national journalists to complement coverage which is why Mirrorfootball had bloggers like Nicole Carroll when the club were in the top-flight.
They have more scope, time, licence and, dare I say passion, to analyse events at their club in depth while journalists such as myself devote more time to cultivating contacts to get tip-offs and setting up and conducting interviews with stars in various sports, not just football.

How much connection do you think there is about speculation over a player’s future and that player being “unsettled” and maybe under-performing for a club? Do you think the players take notice of what is said about them in the papers and online?

As far as I am concerned and from my own reports, any speculation is quite legitimate because the player normally either wants a new contract or a move. There maybe other examples when a player is perfectly happy and is just being scouted by other clubs (Nathan Redmond) but doesn’t let it affect his form.

Some other players probably try even harder when they know there is a chance of a move. I appreciate it must be immensely annoying for fans to see players’ form dip seemingly just because the papers appear to be stirring for no reason. Usually though there is and should be good reason behind the column inches and I doubt Liam Ridgewell will miss many games in the remainder of the season now he has got his move back to the Premier League with West Brom!

The second point about whether players notice what is written about them, well they certainly do in my opinion. One of the most frequent complaints from players is about their marks in the paper! Robbie Savage was infamous for it but he is now of course a Mirror columnist so he can mark himself!

DoctorD asks Do you go to games as just an interested fan when not reporting? Or would that be too much of a busman’s holiday?

I go to a lot of games with work, and not just in the Midlands, so I do other things in my spare time like seeing my family and girlfriend, playing golf or going out for a few beers or a meal. Several times though, like when Blues won at Wembley last year, I look over at the fans and think: ‘Wow wouldn’t it be great to be sat/stood in there rather than the press box’.

Matt asks Whats your view on Peter Pannu?

I judge people how I find them and Peter Pannu has always been helpful, candid and dependable in my dealings with him. I think Pannu has done a very good job under extremely difficult circumstances at St Andrews. He has got the big decisions right like his tough stance to take on and beat Sullivan/Gold over the state of the BCFC books they inherited.

Getting £1.5million in compensation from Aston Villa for Alex McLeish and bringing in Chris Hughton (when Yeung wanted Zola) is also proving a huge masterstroke. And this season since relegation, Pannu has kept the club running with NO money coming in from the Far East after Yeung’s assets were frozen. That means he is basically running the club with his arms and legs tied.

I still think Blues were very unlucky to be relegated last season as clearly winning the Carling Cup took a lot out of players, many of whom exacerbated injuries. The biggest worry now is Yeung’s money-laundering case scheduled for November. But in the meantime though, Pannu is after new investors and seems to have got Blues over the worst of the storm to date.

Sure no-one is perfect and there may be the odd quote Pannu may regret. Nikola Zigic staying has been expensive but perhaps it is just as well after he tore Leeds to shreds the other night!

Blue asks what effect, if any, has the NOW hacking scandal had on sports desks?

From a specific sports perspective, I am not aware the hacking scandal has involved stories or reporters on the backpages, it seems to revolve around showbiz personalities and other public figures. But I think ALL sections of the written press, whether involved in the scandal or not, are trying to be more responsible than ever now.

The coverage of Gary Speed’s death for example has been handled more sensitively than it might otherwise have been. I haven’t seen any pictures in the papers of his children and I haven’t seen any wild, hurtful conspiracy theories printed either.

and finally – would you rather be a sausage than an egg?

An egg – preferably poached with loads of ketchup!

I’d like to give my thanks once again to James for his time answering these questions.

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31 Responses to “The James Nursey Interview”

  • JohnR says:

    Well done Almajir for getting this interview. Nursey answered the questions honestly and it was good to see things from his point of view. I must admit that in the past I have been somewhat cynical of his reporting but I completely understand that he has to find an angle on the stories he’s reporting on.
    I will probably be a bit more understanding of his reporting in the future. He is right on one thing though and that is his reporting on transfer speculation, more often or not he is correct.

  • Fred McTedd says:

    I like that, an insightful read.

  • Kaje says:

    I’ve never been keen on the guy, but a solid interview nonetheless with some good honest answers. I still maintain he’s wrong about the media bias though, it’s gone on far too long to be accidental. Even this week, The Mirror’s football pull out on Wednesday gave Blues’ 1-4 away win – in which a player scored all four goals – a 2in by 2in box whilst many of the other – and less eventful games – got half page write-ups with pictures!
    Also, it’s remarkable how much he looks like a young Jasper Carrott from the picture above! ;)

  • Bluenosesol says:

    Nursey comes across as genuine, articulate and sensible, and he did make the comment at the start of the season “Blues can Keep Right On under the impressive Hughton who faces an enormous challenge not to let Birmingham’s off-the-field problems affect his side” but I retain the thought that occasionally, in the absence of something genuine to report, he often pulls a piece of fiction from the air!

  • Dirty Bertie says:

    The swine. Too blumin reasonable by half!

  • Sausage Lover says:

    An egg? An egg? Who in their right mind would want to be an egg?

    It reveals more about his psyche than anything else.

  • Denis Thwaites says:

    i think that Nursey’s compliment to you Aljamir for your coverage of what is going on in the Far East shows testament to the effort you have put in to try and unravel what on earth is going on behind the scenes. Coupled with the varied articles you provide on here which have been a joy to read this season and then discuss I for one take my hat off to you. My opinions on Nursey and Pannu have been upgraded a bit from reading this article too!

  • ScudMuffin says:

    He’s seems to have been straight forward and open, and also shown up some of the weakness’ in the profession he’s in with regard to how things can be true yet apear false and vice versa. He also seems to accept that he appears to be clutching at straws at times, with a lot of other journos, when he may not.

    I actually hold some respect for the man now, probably looking at his stuff with less skepticism but still keeping the salt seller within reach.

  • BigDave says:

    Bit of a love in interview this. Nursey is clearly Pannu’s poodle and admits he cosy ups to agents. His twitter is hilarious claiming ‘told you so, I had this story back in November 1986’ he forgets to mention all the ones he hypes up and misses. seems you or him almajir have come to some kind of PR agreement to get him liked. why I don’t know. why not ask him why he was so obsessed to get Ridgewell a move and how many clubs and managers have banned him and actually speak to him? don’t really see the point of this article

    • almajir says:

      Not at all.

      I asked James to do the interview because his name evokes strong opinions in Blues fans, and I thought it would be good to get his perspective on things.

  • parkp says:

    The comment that interested me was the one about Zigic. An expensive player to keep but just as well he has stayed. Zigic will be the catalyst to shoot blues back into the prem, he was different class at Leeds and if the team can keep creating quality into the box Ziggy will now be full of confidence to finish them off. Carson wanted Zola over CH? Thank god Pannu listened to the supporters!!

    • NooBloo says:

      The comment on pannu was 100% spot on. CH had been overlooked by Notts Forrest, West Ham, Ipswich and Cardiff, all of whom have spent money bringing in players. Not only has CH not been able to bring anyone in but he has lost around £10 million in players and still he has the team right up there.

      Pannu stated instantly that CH was the man he wanted and went out and got him and that is to be commended because come June those other 4 clubs will be regretting the managerial appontments they made and Pannu can be as smug as he likes about his appointment because that will be woth £90 million to the club when we get promoted. Not a bad bit of business PP :-)

  • Alex T says:

    I liked the comments about Pannu. Sometimes with all the Hysteria surrounding him and Yeung, we miss the stuff that he has done well.

  • Mr Blue Sky says:

    Great interview, after this my opinion of Nursey has improved, after the interview with Moxley it had not.

  • DoctorD says:

    Great interview, almajir. Well done mate — and thanks for asking my particular question.

    Really interesting about Pannu — probably ought to give the guy a bit more respect.

  • Bluehobba says:

    Good interview. I don’t like his superiors telling him to do his internet write up about the Vile but at least he isn’t to blame. When Blues were in the prem, did he cover both teams ?? Still a very good interview, Peter Pannu next followed by ……………

  • zublue says:

    Good interview, moxley came across as arrogant and prickly but mr nursey seems a genuine type of guy with no axe to grind. He seems a sensible guy but it would be nice if he battled his bosses to get the mighty blues a few more column inches!

  • ben says:

    I too believe Pannu has done a good job,in every aspect ,especially making bcfc self sufficient in extremely difficult circumstances.History will judge Chris and Peter as our two saviours this year.!

  • Mike Bledsoe says:

    Good article Keep up the good work maybe you can talk to Pannu people should not judge a book by its cover he has been trying his best for Blue fans KRO

  • Col says:

    Nice interview Dan.

  • bluenose 08 says:

    Interview with mr pannu next !!!

  • Farmerfizz says:

    Truly interesting article.

    I’ve got to admit to being fascinated by the dynamics that are evolving between news media and the new juggernaut that is social media. A lot is currently being said about Twitter and it’s negative impact within football ( ie. players like Barton using it as a personal ad column to engineer a move out of Newcastle) but blogging in assossiation with Twitter is the real phenomena. The fact that people such as Janine Self, Neil Moxley and James Nursey now feel compelled to acquiesce to requests for interviews from this new upstart genre is seismic. What’s really interesting is the clever way Nursey has learned from the debacle of the Neil Moxley interview and used this opportunity for a charm offensive. Jurno’s know better than anyone how powerfull these mediums are at supporting each other and the special relationship growing between Twitter and blogs. Blogging has been around as long as the internet but it’s the advancement of social media that has made blogs more accessable to your average fan. We no longer have to trawl google in search of articles about our club, we don’t even need the once life saving Newsnow web feed to direct us to Blues related news, because any decent articles are immediatly pinged to our Twitter accounts with direct links for us to peruse instantly. Jurno’s are no longer anonymous hacks hiding behind news print articles. It’s the exact opposite they are now in a popularity contest that can be measured simple by looking at how many followers they have! Nursey and his cronies might laugh at this suggestion but the truth is that they know that because of social media they are now in a beauty contest and ugly birds dont win prizes. They may not care that other Jurno’s have more followers than they do but I bet their editors do!

    Nursey took this interview as an opportunity to schmooze and you Almajir let him! I’m not saying it was intentional but it just felt uncomfortable, like a bit of back slapping was going on! No one who reads OP regularly would question your integrity Almajir and the sterling job you do on this forum but that doesn’t make you impervious to criticism. It’s a fairly wildly held opinion that Neil Moxley mugged himself off when faced with some fairly mild but pertinent questions and generally came across as an arrogant self opinionated tosser. James Nursey seems to have learnt some lessons and was careful not to be confrontational whilst basically saying the same things as Moxley had said. Moxley more or less hung himself and needed little assistance where as Nursery whilst saying the same things got off lightly. Allowing comments like “it HAS to be all AVFC because of orders from above” without any retort was criminal Almajir. That comment is one of two things, either press bias or even worse, lazy journalism. The fact that he is even willing to admit his paper ignores our club, let alone try and justify it with such a lame excuse should have been picked up on. Your blog is a powerful tool and has given you the ability to represent your views but this also comes with the responsibility of having to represent our views. The accuracy of your blogging and insitiveness of your articles are compromised by your limp wristed interviews. I think it was honest of him to admit that he uses your blogs as a reference for what’s coming out of Hong Kong and wonder if subliminally this massaging of your ego won you over? I personally think you gave him an easy ride.

    With regard to press bias generally I have to agree with Nursey! He was very diplomatic and coy with perhaps one eye on his follower count because he skirted the truth. What he should of said was that Midland football fans don’t deserve extensive coverage because there isn’t as much interest in football in Birmingham than in other parts of the country. Having lived in London for nearly 30 years and having been a season ticket holder for many of those years I do feel that we (the Blues fans) and the Villa do ourselves no favours. We simply don’t support our clubs enough. We can use as many excuses as we like, and there are many, but it still boils down to the fact that not enough Blues fans can be bothered to get off their arses and go to St Andrews. I’m not pointing the finger just stating a fact and include myself in this criticism. This is probably the most enjoyable season we’ve ever had, winning the Carling Cup was unbelievable but was soured with relegation and negative football. This season has been beyond our dreams, exciting attacking football and a European tour, and still we don’t get over twenty thousand for our league games. Sunday’s crowd will be interesting and for the record, no I won’t be there, but if I lived in Brum I would! (but your right I would say that and yes it’s just another excuse and yes I did go to Madira and Brugge!) Don’t moan about press ignoring us when we do a good impression of ignoring Blues ourselves. If we filled our ground week in week out then we might have an argument but we dont. On a tangent, I’d also like to say that the criticism of ITV last week was difficult to understand. Agreed our game was shoved to the back of the programme and consisted of 25 seconds of action but we’d been on live on prime time the week before. What exactly do we expect?

    I appreciate I’ve waffled on but I’d just like to quickly add a caveat to this reply regarding Peter Pannu.
    I don’t know him personally and have absolutly no idea what ulterior motives he may or may not have. What I do know is that he has managed one of the most difficult situations imaginable incredibly well. Once we got relegated and McJudas crawled through the sewer to Villa Park (what was Randy Learner thinking?) he had a thankless and some would say near impossible task of saving our club. I don’t think he’s the Messiah or that some of his actions ( the money waving episode in Madiera etc) have helped, or that we are out of the woods yet. What I do know is that we’re 4th in the table with a game in hand and playing exciting football. We’re scoring goals for fun and have a host of academy players knocking at the managers door. Chris Houghton has done miracles and deserves all the plaudits but lets not forget the man who appointed him. Peter Pannu may not be the most popular person down the Blues but I’m glad he’s there and I think he deserves some credit for what he has achieved.

    I very rarely comment on these forums (you’ll be glad to hear) hence my ramblings but come on Blues let’s stop whinging and start enjoying what’s going on down at St Andrews!

    Keep up the good work Almajir and don’t take my critique personally!

    Ps. Follow me on Twitter @Farmerfizz you’ll pleased to know I don’t always use the 140 characters :)

    • almajir says:

      Just to pick you up on something, not sure if you were aware.

      I emailed James Nursey a set of questions, he replied. I posted his replies in full. There is no riposte to be made from me because that’s not the way I work – I’d much rather people read what he had to say and make their own conclusions based on it.

      I don’t blame James for trying to go on the charm offensive, he knows that he has his critics and it’s going to be only natural for him to try and say the right things in the right manner. I don’t see my job as a blogger to go all Jeremy Paxman on someone because people may not like them. If James has come across reasonable in this interview – and I think he has, it might well be because he’s a reasonable guy. That doesn’t mean he’s impervious to constructive valid criticism of his work in the same way that I’m not.

  • Nigel1875 says:

    I find this a very weak interview that has given Nursey a licence to mount a charm offensive. He has no feeling for Blues and is saying what suits him and bluffing as if he is in the know. Wasn’t Redmond going to Man City for £ 6 million? lol he is apparently banned or has been banned from every club in the Midlands. That tells you something.

  • Wingman Blue says:

    Have to agree with both the above. Charming replies don’t cover up the fact that “…we are left to our own devices as long as we provide a steady stream of stories…” produces too much speculation masquerading as “exclusives”. Both the Guardian and the Mail cover BCFC well without resorting to baseless sensationalism.
    But then again, if Mr Nursey was better, he wouldn’t be working for the Mirror, would he…?


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