How I hit the back of the net to score a job

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Jon Birchall

I was nine years’ old when I realised that I wanted to be a football journalist. My team, Grappenhall Junior Football Club back in Warrington had just been beaten 8-1 by Macclesfield Tigers and I realised that however much I tried to look like Denis Irwin, I was never going to step out at Old Trafford and become a Manchester United legend.

It was at that point that I realised that writing about football is surely the next best thing.

It was for the same reason that, when an email was sent out in October stating that, a site that represents the largest football community in the world, was looking for interns, I applied as soon as it had landed in my inbox.

I explained that I was the Website Editor for JMU Journalism and encouraged them to take a look at some of my work – fortunately enough; I was offered an internship working from home on one day a week.

Having done a month of 7am shifts, I was told that the company was looking for somebody in the Merseyside area to go to Everton and Liverpool games in the press box as a reporter for the site and, needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

I have since spread out to almost every Premier League club in the North West, publishing match reports and player ratings within two minutes of the final whistle and going prematurely grey due to WiFi trouble.

Jon at work in the press box

This weekly routine of travelling to games at the weekend and doing university work in the week continued until the day of our last exam when I received a phone call from my boss at Goal offering me a paid feature-writing role with the site. Unsurprisingly, I accepted immediately.

Any experience you can get, and this includes JMU Journalism, is not only vital but you should know that it can be done alongside university work. Time management is the key and using every opportunity to sharpen your skills, be them interviewing technique or tightening up your writing, should be jumped upon.

The skills you learn at university are incredibly important, of that there can be no doubt, but putting them into practice in a working environment can set you apart from other trainee journalists. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to do so not only with Goal, but with JMU Journalism also, and I can only encourage you to get involved as much as you can.

I’m still terrible at football, but at this stage I couldn’t ask for a better job.

UPDATE: Since writing this blog, Jonathan has moved to London, and is now the Assistant Editor at


About Jonathan Birchall, Class of 2011