An interview with successful 'Sports Journalist', Max Rushden. Rushden, speaks about life at Hills and how he managed to make a simple interest in football into his dream job.
Max Rushden with current Hills Road students
Max Rushden Interview – Alex Jones and Tawana Chamanza
We were lucky enough to be able to meet radio and television presenter Max Rushden during his return visit to Hills Road Sixth Form College. Max has had success presenting Sky Sports show ‘Soccer AM’ and has a weekly show on TalkSport.
How was your Hills Road experience?
Going to Hills Road was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I did Double Math’s, History, German, and General Studies. Apparently, Mr. Thomas is still here teaching Math’s. I didn’t do well in maths, I got a D, and so it never made it onto my CV”. I loved playing football at the Sports Ground on Luard Road, now every time I see a train goes past I get a bit nostalgic. There was this place called ‘The Basement’, I don’t know if it still exists, but it had a jukebox where we played REM songs and it was really musty. I remember Friday lunchtimes at the ‘Earl and Darby’ and then going back to fourth period history.
What made you want to pursue sports journalism as a career?
When I was about 8 years old I wanted to be Des Linen, who was a genius and a broadcaster. I didn’t really think about it at all till I was around 22. I was the sports editor of the newspaper at university, but only because it was fun and not because I had some burning ambition to get there. I just thought talking for a living would be really fun, so that’s what I had done. My parents were utterly devastated, however they slowly but surely came around to the fact that it appears for now that I could make a living out of doing it. And I love football and I just really wanted the morning breakfast show. I started with football, I realized most of the jobs go to ex pros and I thought I was never going to make it as a pro footballer, Michael Owen was the footballer who made me realize this. He was younger than me and better than me. So, I tried to get away from football and then ‘Soccer AM’ came and I was doing much more general presenting, like music shows or news shows, and it was like an amazing bit of fortune.”
What do you enjoy about broadcast journalism?
I’m not very good at writing, that’s the main thing. It’s hard. There are some brilliant writers like Marina Hyde and Barnie Ronay and when I read them, it inspires me to never lift up a pen because I can’t compete. The beauty of live is that it’s either good or bad, but it’s gone. I had a cameo in a film, oh my god, I wasn’t a very good actor and I must’ve done that fifty times. Broadcast journalism is a different type of skill. I like being live and the buzz spurs from the fact that you’re on, and if it goes badly… well it’s your fault, and if it goes well, that’s great. I find that the most exhilarating part of it.
How do you become a successful journalist in such a competitive industry?
After Hills Road I went to Oxford, I did a post-grad journalism degree. Helen Chamberlain - who I worked with for ‘Soccer AM’- worked at ‘Chessington World of Adventures’ and fed some seals, and yet we were both ended up doing exactly the same job. There’s no direct route, there’s no guarantee that if you get a good education it’s going to help, there’s no guarantee that if you don’t that you can’t achieve anything, especially when you can do stuff yourself now with YouTube and starting your own podcast. However, I’d say going to university is really fun, so… do it. Anything that puts off real life for as long as you possibly can is great because it’s fun. Work is one part of your life, you want to be happy and I’ve made some brilliant friends here and at university. I did a postgrad journalism degree which I didn’t think was great, but it was a piece of paper that was probably worth getting if you’re in a position where you can afford it or you can get sponsorship. I don’t think it would’ve made or broken me to be completely honest.
What are your thoughts on Cambridge United’s season so far, with the U’s currently sitting in the relegation zone?
I am very much like… a plastic fan these days. I remember when we played Manchester United in the cup and I wrote a piece for The Guardian and I got abuse, being accused of being a glory hunter. So I haven’t been to see a game this season. So I’ve not seen enough of them to make an educated comment on it – it’s clearly not been great. I’m not close enough to know what’s going wrong on the pitch, or off the pitch actually but… League 2 is a weird league, right? It’s based so much on momentum and I suspect our squad is not abundantly better or worse than most of the other ones, and I think chopping and changing managers is not necessarily the right thing to do. I don’t know Joe Dunne at all, he seems like a really nice guy, he seems really grounded, and he did pretty well with them last year. We’re not going to go down, give him some time and we might do well. If we sack him and get someone else, we’ll be stagnating again. If the worst case is mid-table in League 2… we’ve done that for years and we’re all still alive. For me, the most important thing is the nostalgia, its great memories of away days you went to, the friendships you cultivated whilst you were going, rather than if we won or if we didn’t. I’m happy if we win, and I’m not surprised if we lose. That’s a sensible way to exist as a Cambridge fan.
Alumna Holly Phipps shares her experiences from her gap year since leaving Hills Road last summer.
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