We have interviewed a number of people connected with Millwall since these articles have began, and coincidentally, those having the questions fired at them have all been Millwall fans since a young age. But, how would it be following and reporting on The Lions on a weekly basis, from one of the best seats in the house, week in and week out and NOT being a fan of Millwall Football Club? Not only that, but how would it feel being one of the 'go to' people for all of the insider news and information that we as fans are desperately relying on? For this edition of 'Sit Down With', we chat with South London Press' Sports Editor, and the man who knows more about South London clubs as a whole than most of us could ever possibly wish for, Richard Cawley.
1. Richard, good to speak with you and thank you for talking with us. Our first question is how do you think the season is going for Millwall at the moment?
Pretty good. They are only one point behind sixth-placed QPR and I'd say they probably haven't hit top form yet. We've seen plenty of times before in the Championship that they can quite often be slow starters, so if that is the pattern again then they are very well-placed to make is an excellent season.
Millwall can't match the spending power of some of the teams that are expected to be at the top end of the table. The question again, as it has been pretty much since they got promoted, is whether they have the firepower to make that top-six at the start of May.
2. Although you have been seen in press boxes at The Den and The Valley over the years, you are actually a fan of West London side Fulham. What made you follow the West London side?
My dad. He took me along to watch matches. I can still vividly remembering getting to the ground early, sitting with him to eat a packed lunch and watching Gordon Davies - the first player I idolised - warming up. Once you've got that connection with a club then it is unbreakable. Absolutely love Craven Cottage as a stadium and I've watched us in all four divisions - we very nearly went out of it at one stage. The two most memorable seasons were promotion ones under Micky Adams (to what is now League One) and that swashbuckling Jean Tigana side that absolutely blitzed the First Division (now the Championship).
3. You are seen of something of an oracle when it comes to breaking news and getting exclusives, but tell us how a career in sports journalism first started for you?
When I left school I always wanted to do something involving football. I channelled my studies down that path and then got offered a job on a local paper after doing work experience there. Initially I trained on the news side and qualified as a senior reporter - it involved court reporting, post-mortems and plenty of other weird stuff, I can remember someone coming up with a feature of me going to a zoo in the area and being locked in a cage with lemurs. Was bloody terrifying. After that I became the sports editor at that paper and then from there I've had a number of jobs in the industry. This is my second spell at the South London Press. It's a brilliant patch to cover.
4. What were some the sports you were tasked with following and covering before football?
I've always had to cover football as the priority because the reality is that it is the sport that attracts the most attention. But anybody looking to move into the industry should really try to have at least one other sport they can write confidently on, especially if you're working for a national and you head into the off season. I've always loved boxing and so I've been really lucky to be able to attend some big fights - like David Haye's unification heavyweight clash with Wladimir Klitchsko in Hamburg.
5. Can you tell us what the day-to-day life of a sports reporter is like? I bet there are some long hours especially around the time of transfer deadline days or when there are managerial changes?
Yeah. Certain aspects of it remain the same. I design all the sports pages so there are some elements of that which stay the same - normally the early pages are filled with athletics, rugby, boxing. The football pages I tend to leave until later in the week so that they have the most up-to-date content. I've lost count of the amount of players and managers I must have interviewed over the years.
In terms of transfer windows and deadlines, they are good and bad. Obviously your social media blows up a fair bit but there is also a pressure to try and get info out there balanced with the fact you have to have a good working relationship with clubs. That's sometimes why I can't put info in the public domain. If you say a deal is close, it could then push a rival club to up their offer and potentially hijack the transfer.
The hours can be unsociable, but it isn't quite such a big issue when you enjoy the job.
6. What is like to cover Millwall on a regular basis from a neutral point of view? After all these years, do you have a soft spot for The Lions?
I've got a soft spot for all of the clubs we cover in the paper. It's natural because you get connections with people over time. For example, Jed Wallace is a great interview and I'd say we get along well. That means I'd always want him to play well. Same with managers as well - Gary Rowett is excellent to deal with.
7. Who from a Millwall point of view has been the best manager to interview post-match regardless of winning or losing?
I've only dealt with two since I became sports editor and started covering Millwall - Neil Harris and Gary Rowett. It's hard to really pick one over the other. I was hugely impressed with the job that Chopper did and also the way he packed the dressing room with the right kind of characters. I always think Gary is very fair with his post-match reflections. You quite often find some managers will give quotes and you're thinking 'what match did he watch?', but sometimes that can be an attempt to deflect criticism.
8. What is the funniest thing that has happened at a Millwall game that you've covered that you've been able to share?
I can't really think of anything for Millwall. But I do remember one match where another reporter ended up giving two players a lift home from a game in the Midlands - and one of those was a Premier League loanee who would've been worth a fair few quid - after the then manager decided he didn't want to wait any longer for them to finish their drugs test. Off went the coach and the two players emerged after that to see their lift had gone and they had to sort their own way home.
9. Finally, how do you think Millwall have performed since the arrival of Gary Rowett and do you think there is the capability to get to the next level?
Millwall have been very solid under Gary and there have been some excellent results, particularly away from home. In terms of getting to the next level, that to me is making the play-offs. I touched on it above but I'd say having enough creativity and finding a more clinical touch will be decisive factors.