By Far the Greatest Team meets Scott Minto

Not many people get the chance to play at Wembley or in a Cup Final. Scott Minto has done better than that! Not only did he get to hold aloft the FA Cup in 1997, Scott now gets the chance to venture to Wembley as presenter of the EFL (English Football League) show on Sky Sports.

In a career, which saw Scott play in nearly all four corners of London, Portugal and Yorkshire, Scott now has the privilege of traveling the length and width of the country, covering the three divisions below the Premier League. By Far The Greatest Team managed to prise Scott away from his midweek work, preparing for his next broadcast, and fire off a few questions.

By Far The Greatest Team: Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time out to speak with me today.

Scott Minto: Hello John, not a problem.

BFTGT: How did you get into football?

SM: I was playing for my primary school team around the age of eight, then my District and Kent County by the age of ten. I was actually spotted by Crystal Palace first of all. I went down to Palace training for a bit, but for some reason at about eleven or twelve, I didn’t want to go training anymore, until I reached fourteen, when I was asked by Spurs, QPR and Charlton. My cousin was at Charlton, so I decided go there. You get lots of scouts watching District and County games, and from then on it kind of kicked on. I was in my last year of school when, fortunately enough, we reached the FA Youth Cup Final with Charlton. Our opponents were Coventry City, whose first team were due to play their FA Cup Final against Spurs just three days later. We played in front of a crowd of 17,000.

BFTGT: Amazing, wow!

SM: Yeah, every time we played an FA Youth Cup game it was on a Monday and I had to get permission to leave school that afternoon to play. I mean it’s amazing to think at the age of fifteen, I was playing in an FA Youth Final in front of that amount of people. Within eighteen months of that I was making my debut for the first team at Charlton.

BFTGT: You played for Charlton, Chelsea, Benfica, West Ham and Rotherham, which team would you say you had the best time at?

SM: You know what, each club represented a time in my life and for all different reasons I liked them all. Charlton, my first club was like my first love. I was really gutted to leave them at the time but I was lucky enough to have the choice of either Arsenal or Chelsea, and I chose Chelsea. At Chelsea, I kept getting injured at the beginning of my time there, but during my final year, I was injury free and it was arguably the best season of my career really, went really well, scored some goals and played in the FA Cup Final, which we won in 1997, so Chelsea gave me the best day of my career for sure. Benfica was something completely different, an amazing experience on and off the pitch. We had 5,000 people for our first training session and then over 80,000 people turned up to watch our only home pre-season game against Lazio. They present the team to the fans over there for the coming season. That lifestyle and playing for the biggest team in the country was truly amazing. I would probably look at that as my biggest achievement, with it going so well, I’ve got great memories there. At West Ham, I returned from Benfica and had four years there, in which time I suffered the worst injury of my career. I was out for a season and although we finished fifth and played in the UEFA Cup, it was very stop-start due to the injuries. Rotherham was a great place to finish my career, a really old school set up. You had to wash your own training kit!

BFTGT: Millmoor was their old stadium wasn’t it?

SM: (laughs) Yes Millmoor! Do you know what, it was great for me, at a time when I really wanted to just enjoy my football. They offered me a two-year deal, which I asked if we could make it one, see if I could start to enjoy my football again. I did start to enjoy it again, we managed to stay in the Championship, we had lots of fun, a great bunch of lads with no ego’s, all mucking in together. They offered me a two-year deal after that which made me feel like it was all worth it.

BFTGT: How did your move to Benfica come about, I mean British players are not renowned for playing abroad, especially Portugal?

SM: Basically, I was in the last year of my contract at Chelsea and they offered me a deal which I wasn’t particularly happy with so I decided to let it run down and see what happens. I’m a great believer in what’s meant to be is meant to be, you try your best and see what happens. My last game for Chelsea was the 1997 Fa Cup Final, I knew that Benfica and a couple of other European clubs were there watching me. The game itself went really well for both the team and myself. The next day we celebrated around the Stamford Bridge area before heading off to Hong Kong and Thailand, where my agent phoned me to say Benfica had offered a deal, what do you want to do? I thought, I’ve always liked languages at school and the weather’s always warm. I thought, you know what, you may never get a chance to take this experience again. There had been other British players asked who hadn’t done it. It’s a big leap, I remember walking into the dressing room on the first day and not only did I not know any of the players but I also didn’t know the language. I had a little booklet with some phrases to help me get by like hello, good morning, goodbye and such. I’m a believer in if you think something is right, then take a leap of faith and see what happens. It certainly went alright. Benfica is a massive club.

BFTGT: Yes, it does sound decent experiencing that abroad.

BFTGT: Best player you ever played with, and who was the best you faced?

SM: Well I would say I had a top three, and in reverse order would be Paolo Di Canio, Ruud Gullit and then Gianfranco Zola. To be fair the most gifted technically would be Glenn Hoddle. He was coming towards the end of his career, but even in training, you could see the skills. I mean you just couldn’t tell if he was left footed or right. But Zola for me just about tops it. He was a wonderful, wonderful player.

BFTGT: I had a sneaky feeling you might say Zola, lots of players from around that era all say the same thing.

SM: He was a wonderful person too. A real team player. For example, on any team meetings, like Christmas, he would just turn up to them all, even though he would not be drinking, unlike some people, who shall remain nameless, who wouldn’t even bother coming. It’s that type of thing which made people like him, a real team player on and off the pitch. His first touch was absolutely amazing. We had some good players at Chelsea at the time, it wasn’t quite, give the ball to Franco and let him deal with it, but it wasn’t far either. Best player I’ve played against? I’ve faced Beckham, Cantona, played against Bergkamp and for about fifteen minutes was on the same pitch as Thierry Henry, who for me, was the best Premier League player ever. But the player who actually gave me my toughest time was Everton’s Anders Limpar.

BFTGT: Cor, yeah he was lightning.

SM: Yeah he was one of those where you could play against him and he wouldn’t do anything, but then there were other times when he was on fire, and you couldn’t even get close to him.

BFTGT: If you could choose any match in your career to play in again, which one would it be and why?

SM: The biggest game of my career was the ’97 Cup Final, although I’m not sure I would like to play in it again for fear of it not going as well. I grew up in an era where the FA Cup was the single most important game in a season, and pretty much the only one which would be played on the television. I wouldn’t of minded playing in another Cup Final that’s for sure.

BFTGT: Moving onto your television work now. Do you get as nervous presenting as you did playing?

SM: To be honest with you, there were times when I was nervous as a player, and I wouldn’t know why. I wasn’t nervous for the FA Cup Final, but there would be times when I was for say a normal Premier League game or even a pre-season friendly. There’s times when I can be nervous and times when I’m not. It’s more when people say, ” do you miss playing? ” and I don’t. The lads now are so fit these days.

I get the butterflies in my stomach before we go on, as it’s live TV. A kind of excitement. I wouldn’t say I get nervous, more that you want to put on a good show, but it’s a similar feeling for sure.

BFTGT: Do you kick every ball?

SM: No I don’t to be honest with you. As a presenter now, and even as a pundit, I’ve become kind of detached from it. I was ready to quit, when I finished playing at 35, so I was ready both mentally and physically. When I’m watching, it’s more analytical than emotional.

BFTGT: Which of the grounds do you look forward to the most, for example if they say you’re off to Elland Road next week, do you think, oh I like going there?

SM: Funny enough, Elland Road, I shall always have a soft spot for. It was the first ground that I did my first match, presenting the EFL show. I will always have a little place in my heart for Leeds and their fans. We had an issue a few weeks ago, during the halftime of a live broadcast, some Leeds fans were banging on the studio window.

BFTGT: I remember, it was the Friday night game against Birmingham.

SM: That’s it. I found it funny but then security steps in (laughs) but yeah I shall always have a soft spot for both the fans and Elland Road. I like Brighton. It’s a nice stadium, decent studio and not too far away from where I live, although I don’t mind the travel to games. Getting on the train, doing my last bit of prepping and actually having a little bit of time to myself to go over what we can talk about on the show. And don’t forget Wembley. I did two shows from there last season and will look to be going there a few more times this season. You can’t not put Wembley in the mix. I like Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds, I mean Leeds are definitely a Premier League club in all but name, and I like Brighton too. They are a real classy club both on and off the pitch. It’s not really about the ground, it’s more the studio. There are some places where the studio will be quite small, other places that will be really nice. To be honest providing that you’re not really really cramped, I like them all. Brighton, Leeds and Wembley are probably my favourites.

BFTGT: Which game is the most memorable that you have covered?

SM: My biggest so far has to be the League Two Play-Off Final, but most memorable, after my first one at Elland Road of course, has to be the Accrington Wimbledon, League Two Play Off Semi Final. I was with Ollie ( Ian Holloway ) and everything happened in that game. The pitch was really small and bumpy, hardly anyone there and then the floodlights going out. And then of course, Ollie, had me at a point that, let alone on air, off air as well, where I just couldn’t stop laughing. He came out with a joke saying that Akinfenwa had eaten his twin, and it just came out of nowhere, I thought it was so funny. I get on so well with Ollie. I miss him of course this year, but I’m really pleased with how it’s going so far with QPR.

BFTGT: I saw the game on Friday night ( Derby v QPR ) I liked the way they had him on the side of the pitch like a pundit, rather than a manager.

SM: Yeah ( laughs ), that was the plan, I mean it was good of him to do it, I mean he didn’t have to. With QPR pretty much safe on 50 points, if he had not been doing so well then he probably wouldn’t have done it, and I would of completely understood, but now he’s safe, having the year he had on tv, seeing how it works with Sky, I think he understands that we are just trying to put on the best show we can, The Semi Final was a great game in a proper old school stadium. You really didn’t know which way it was going to go. The floodlights failed, then came the Akinfewa joke.

BFTGT: Typical Holloway eh?

SM: I prob only laughed for about a minute, but a minutes a long time if you count it. I literally couldn’t speak. (Accrington 2 Wimbledon 2, 2-3 on aggregate after extra time).

BFTGT: Finally, if you could pick one match over the course of history to cover, which one would it be and why?

SM: It would have to be the World Cup Final of 1966. To cover your country, in a World Cup Final at home, would be the biggest thing for anyone to do.

BFTGT: I don’t suppose it gets any better than that really?

SM: No, no it doesn’t really. I don’t think there has ever been a bigger game in English football. There are other great games, like United coming back from one down to win the Champions League in 99, the Premier League game where City scored in the last minute against QPR to win 3-2 and win the title, even Leicester, what they achieved last season, to cover that. I love the work I do with the Championship, I really do, but it would have to be the Final of 66.

BFTGT: Yeah love that answer.

BFTGT: Scott, I really appreciate you taking time out to have a chat, I understand it’s getting to the business end of the season.

SM: No worries, John.

BFTGT: Good luck for the rest of the season.

SM: Thanks. Pleasure.