This Laura Woods interview first appeared in the January 2021 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe today and get 13 issues a year delivered straight to your door (opens in new tab).
What was the first match that you ever saw live?
I remember being really excited about the match and hoping to see loads of goals, but it was 0-0. I have affection for Newcastle because of my dad, and we always watch our games together.
Who was your childhood hero and did you ever meet them?
Ray Parlour. I have a few, but if I’m honest with myself it was always Ray. I worked at Sky for about six years before I met him, and passed him on the stairs once but didn’t say anything. I met him properly when I worked on the Sir Bobby Robson golf tournament in Portugal, which Ray was playing in. Afterwards, we all congregated in a bar on the beach, so I asked for a picture. He had his top off and I was wearing shorts, so when I posted it online I got texts from mates asking why we were on holiday together! Now I get to work with him at talkSPORT.
What was your finest moment as a player?
When I was at school, I played as many sports as possible. We never had a girls’ football team, but in PE we used to rotate sports and I remember being better at football than everybody else, as I played with my brothers and ran them ragged. That was a lot of fun.
What do you miss most about going to a match?
As a fan, I like all the smells of going to football – I love walking into a pub and the stale beer smell, then the murmur of the crowd as you edge closer to the ground, when you can see the stadium in the distance. Once inside, everything becomes so much louder and activates your senses. Those moments are ones I really enjoy.
How has watching football changed for you since you were a kid?
I don’t have tribal ties any more. When you’re a kid, your team is your team – the rest are the devil, and any criticism of your team is not true. But due to my job, I now watch many different teams, footballers and managers. I like people and finding out what makes them tick, so I try to get to know them as people and inevitably end up admiring certain clubs because of a player or coach. It’s impossible to work in football and not respect every team. I’m still an Arsenal fan, but I’m not as tribal.
What’s your favourite goal you’ve ever seen?
It wasn’t the most beautiful goal, but I covered Euro 2016 and England vs Wales in Lens. Gareth Bale put Wales 1-0 up, then Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge both came off the bench and scored. It was the Sturridge winner in injury time that everyone went ballistic at, though – it was an intimate venue and you felt very close to the action in this incredible moment.
Where’s the best place that you’ve ever watched a game?
At Euro 2016, I saw Belgium vs Ireland in a fan park. The Irish and Belgian fans were probably the best that summer – the atmosphere was brilliant and it felt like being at a festival. I was grabbed by a group of Belgium supporters, who took me into a mosh pit. I was on one of their shoulders and didn’t have a lot of say in the matter, but it was good fun.
Who from your team’s past would you bring back to play for the current Arsenal side?
Ray Parlour for his character and form in cup finals. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp would be amazing, however – I’d love to see Thierry live again and playing in his prime, carving sides up. Tony Adams would also be great, as he’s just what Arsenal need: a leader.
Who has or had the hardest shot you’ve ever seen?
I didn’t watch Roberto Carlos’ free-kick against France [in 1997] live, but I later worked at the Star Sixes and we asked him to recreate it on a much smaller scale. He hit the ball pretty hard then...
Which player would you choose as your room-mate?
I’d go for a player from the past. The players nowadays are too professional and no one would sit and get plastered with me, so I’ll go for Ray Parlour. He has so many stories and I could listen to them all night. If it were a manager, I’d go for Arsene Wenger – I’ve never interviewed Arsene but would love to.
What’s the best food you have ever had at a game?
The Welsh cakes at Rodney Parade! I was there to cover a cup tie between Newport and Manchester City, and Newport put Welsh cakes in the press area. I’d never eaten one before and it was delicious.
What’s the funniest or strangest thing you’ve ever seen or heard at a game?
I was once at the Emirates Stadium for a Champions League game, and there was someone just sat looking at Tinder. They weren’t watching the match and instead were swiping at a really quick rate. Every now and again they’d put their head up, then go back to swiping. It was very odd.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever heard or read from either a player or manager?
From watching Wenger, the one thing I’d take is that if there’s something you don’t want to talk about, then just say you didn’t see it.
What’s the most important piece of memorabilia that you have or wish you still had?
I had a yellow David Seaman JVC shirt when I was young. I lived in it, absolutely adored it, and have no idea where it went. Heartbreaking
Who’s your current favourite player?
I love watching Adama Traoré play for Wolves. Nuno Espirito Santo is one of my favourite bosses, and the way he’s handled Traoré has been superb. He’s so powerful and fast, can cut through lines and do it with the most amazing amount of speed – but the end product wasn’t there before. Nuno has worked closely with him, and he’s developed into a great player.
If you could drop yourself into your all-time five-a-side team, who would you be playing alongside?
I’d have to go in goal, alongside Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
Who would be your dream co-host on the talkSPORT breakfast show?
Jurgen Klopp: he’d be entertaining and insightful in equal measure. He comes across as someone really interested in football, but also social situations – so there’d be loads of things to talk about. That would be good fun, right?
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