A selection of leading sports journalists gathered in Manchester at the beginning of September for a week of debate at the annual Football Writing Festival. Max Carlyle, a BA (Hons) Football Business & Media student at UCFB Etihad Campus, attended the Festival and enjoyed a range of talks on the hottest topics – including the World Cup, the managerial merry-go-round and how to break into the industry – with some of the world’s most popular and respected football and sports journalists.

Max was ever present over the six days, and reported back on highlights for each session. Read on to find out more…

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Following a great opening day panel with some fantastic journalistic insights, day two of the Manchester Football Writers Festival took a different tone, with author Michael Calvin exploring the themes and topics of his new book State of Play. Alongside Calvin were former player and coach Michael Appleton, Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt and former player turned human performance coach Drewe Broughton.

Club culture and training ground environments were recurring topics throughout the evening. Asking the questions, Calvin first quizzed Appleton on his relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson during the former Manchester United players’ time at the club. Appleton could not speak highly enough of the legendary manager, saying he had “the best memory in the world and would always ask about your family by name. He always wanted to know beyond the player.”

Broughton, who revealed he had played under 66 different managers in his playing career which saw him pull on the shirt of 22 different clubs, passionately explained how essential it is for managers to “rule with a balance of fear and love”. He said: “Most of the managers I played under seemed to rule with fear. Sir Alex certainly got it right. You can tell by how highly the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo talk about him in interviews.” Broughton also detailed the psychological impacts that a manager can have over a player: “Insecurity is the biggest issue in most humans and for a footballer, it can be influenced a lot by their manager. That individual can make or break them, similar to finding out if you have made the school football team.”

Accrington manager John Coleman has been at the helm for the best part of 18 years and delivered the club’s greatest footballing honour last season winning the League Two title on the smallest budget in the Football League. Speaking at the Festival, Chairman Andy Holt revealed he could not envisage ever sacking Coleman. “I wouldn’t sack him even if we got relegated. It took a while to form a proper relationship, but we always talk now – he’s rang me about ten times today!” Holt jokingly added: “He’s always after something!”

Mental health awareness was a central theme throughout the evening, as Broughton shared several in depth stories that provided insight into some of the psychological battles players come up against. “Young players are let down by coaches who don’t teach them what it takes to make it at the top level beyond the technical side of things”, he said. Appleton agreed, adding: “Young players need to be brave and have mental fortitude in order to succeed.”

Questions from the audience then addressed issues with today’s loan system, including Chelsea’s stockpiling of young players and loaning them out with the aim of selling them on without ever representing the club. “Use them or lose them”, said Holt. “If the big clubs aren’t playing these young lads, they should be released if there is no intention to use them. Let them leave and thrive elsewhere.”

A final question from the floor highlighted the ever-growing global branding of football and the possible formation of a European Super League. Each member of the panel begrudgingly agreed it could be inevitable, and, drawing on his experience of meetings with the Football League, Holt explained that league organisations are “increasingly focused on market shares”. “There is a disconnect between owners, fans and the players and it’s not like that at Accrington. The club belongs to the people of the town,” he added.