Twenty years ago I was told I’d never make it as a sports journalist.
But that very same day my career as a sports journalist started.
The moment in question took place in a cold, dingy hall in Gillingham, England, where I had an appointment with a benefits officer.
I was unemployed at the time, but working for free gaining valuable experience in radio (I had a sports show on hospital radio, produced a sports show on local commercial radio and wrote links and interview scripts for a weekend sports show on national radio).
I was told I had to take up a course of education but, after scanning down the list of available courses, there were only two options that my own qualifications didn’t already supersede: horticulture and hairdressing.
Despite telling them I was working towards being a journalist they told me I had to take one of the two courses.
I told them neither were relevant and to do so would have meant having to stop my radio gigs, which were far more relevant to me achieving my career goal.
So instead they stopped my benefit and, one week later, put me in front of the aforementioned benefits officer, a stony-faced woman whose demeanour would have seen her rejected for a job as a prison guard on death row for being too cold.
Her job was to deal with ‘problem cases’ — people who had no inclination to return to work.
She sat me down and, when I told her about my chosen career and the steps I’d already taken to achieve that aim, she told me I’d never make it as a sports journalist and that I should be more realistic in my aims.
Hearing that would have been a major blow to my confidence, had I not been carrying the most important letter of my life in my back pocket.
I smiled, nodded, and handed her the envelope.
Inside that envelope was a contract to co-write the English Premier League’s inaugural stats yearbook, gained after a two-month, three-stage interview process where I beat off hundreds of applicants.
I told her, as politely as I could muster, that given her attitude maybe she should consider an alternative profession herself.
I picked up my letter, got up and walked out. And never looked back.
That book became a big seller and got me a job at the world’s biggest bookmakers, Ladbrokes, where I worked for five years as part of the team that built and ran the biggest betting site in the world as the dot-com tax-free betting boom hit the UK.
Since then I’ve worked in a number of roles, most notably at The Football Association, The Daily Mirror, BT Sport and The Sun, where I covered the fast-growing and spectacular sport of mixed martial arts.
MMA is a huge passion of mine and I’ve worked hard to establish regular legitimate coverage of the sport, firstly at the Mirror and more recently at The Sun.
I’ve been blessed to have travelled the world covering the sport and was the only journalist from the British written press in attendance in Los Angeles as Michael Bisping was crowned Britain’s first UFC world champion at UFC 199.
Now, in the latest chapter of my career, I’ve started my own business as a freelance sports writer, reporter and website builder, and launched this website – simonheadsport.com – which acts as the hub for all of my work, across all of my clients and outlets.
As part of my new freelance business, I have worked for a number of outlets and organisations across various sports and media channels.
I’m determined to continue building on my 20 years in the industry that I love, writing about sport and covering some of the most exciting, talented athletes in the world.
If my experience and skills can help your business, outlet or sporting organisation, please do not hesitate to reach out. Check out my Contact Me page for the various ways you can get in touch.