A few minutes with…..Scott Minto

Mention the name Scott Minto and most football fans will identify him from his time at Chelsea Football Club. However Scott began his career at London rivals Charlton Athletic and he also plied his trade in the east end of London with West Ham United.

He spent his best professional years in Portugal playing for Benfica and finished his playing career at Rotherham. Scott can now be seen regularly presenting Sky Sports’ Spanish football coverage, and it was with great pleasure that I was able to chat to him about his career.

JP: Who was/is your biggest influence either personally or professionally and why?

SM: My mum and dad. They’ve been there from the very start. When I was 12 and various clubs were looking for me to train with them, for some reason I said no. My dad was a massive football fan and that must’ve been very hard for him. To see his son interesting certain clubs, perhaps having a chance to make it, but then for me to say no…..well, he didn’t put any pressure on me at all and I really appreciated that. You see some boys with their fathers and the pressure they are put under by their dads is immense.

Going through all of the ups and downs, at Charlton and Chelsea, Mum and Dad were there through it all and they are the number one influence in my whole life without a shadow of a doubt.

In the Charlton youth team Colin Clarke really believed in me and various team mates influenced me but if I named one, I’d have to name a dozen.

JP: You played for 5 clubs in your professional football career – Charlton, Chelsea, Benfica, West Ham and Rotherham. Tell me something about each club that shaped you in some way to become the person that you are now……….

SM: That’s a really interesting question but I’m not sure the answer will be as interesting!

Charlton. They were my first love. I left school at 15 and as an August birthday I was one of the youngest in the year. I went straight to Charlton as an apprentice. The apprenticeship was two years but I signed pro after one and a half. I forged my way into the first team by the late 80’s and in total I was there (including as an apprentice) for 7 years.

It went perfectly well for me under Lennie Lawrence, Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt. They were all experienced pros who encouraged youth to progress. I was in and out of the first team at 17 years of age but half way through the following season, as an 18 year old, I stayed in the side. We did go down that season to the Second Division (the equivalent of todays Championship), but it was a fantastic place to play football, a real homely club.

In 1992, I played in the ‘Back to the Valley’ game. There were only 7 or 8,000 people there but it was one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played in.

Charlton was a place that I didn’t want to leave, but I realised at the time that I wouldn’t play in the Premier League with them.

I came very close to signing for Arsenal but they wanted to make me wait to play first team football. Chelsea came in for me and gave me a guarantee I’d play immediately, so that swung the balance in their favour and I signed for them.

Chelsea, what a fantastic place. Unfortunately for me I kept getting injured and so my appearances were stop/start until my last season with them.

I was lucky enough to play under two great managers. Ruud Gullit who was very easy going and laid back, and Glenn Hoddle who was completely the other way, a very ‘hands on’ manager.

I genuinely believe Glenn Hoddle should be the next England manager. He lost the job last time for non football reasons and I think he would jump at the chance to do it again. I think it would be a step forwards, not backwards. He’s got a tactical brain and he is used to getting the best out of the cream of the crop. I can’t see it happening though as the FA would be too scared and it would be too bold a move for them.

Chelsea ended superbly well. I was a regular for the season, scored 4 or 5 goals and had the biggest day of my professional career, my last appearance being the FA Cup Final against Middlesbro in ’97.

Benfica was undoubtedly the best time of my career, because I was a foreigner. I was keen to learn a new language/culture and I was playing for the best supported club in the country; the ‘Real Madrid or Barcelona of Portugal’.

I had the best pre season of my career and things just went on from there. In my 2nd season we finished 2nd in our CL group but they didn’t have the round of 16, only the 1/4 finals so just the winners of the group progressed.

For me, it was the ultimate lifestyle change. The weather, the beach, seafood …….it was wonderful.

West Ham was different for me. In my first season we finished 5th and the following season played the Intertoto then UEFA Cup but things didn’t work out as well as I would have liked.

I’m thankful though to have played for such a great club….and I wouldn’t have met my wife if i wasn’t there but that’s another story!!

My last season, when we went down, was tough. And being honest, I stopped enjoying playing.

I really loved it at Rotherham. I had to decide ‘do I really want to play there?’ – where staying up would’ve been an achievement, but there was great banter, just an honest bunch of lads. I was offered a 2 year contract but I signed for 1 to see if I could enjoy my football again.

I really did enjoy my football there as much as at any time in my career, even though it was real ‘back to basics’ football. It wasn’t about status or money, that was way down my list of priorities. We were overachieving at the time and in fact if we went down, I had it in my contract that I would take less money.

The experience was just what I needed to finish my career.

JP: Who was the best player that you ever lined up alongside, and who was your toughest opponent? Please explain the reasons for both choices.

SM: Best player? I’d have to say Franco Zola with honourable mentions to Ruud Gullit and Paolo di Canio.

When Gullit arrived at Chelsea his knees had supposedly gone but no one could get near him in either training or matches, he was a real powerhouse. Given he was then 33, and with the dodgy knees, it was frightening to think how good he must’ve been in his prime.

Paolo di Canio was similar to Zola. He might not have been blessed with the pace of an Owen or an Henry but you can bet he’d put the last defender on his backside, then the keeper on his backside and 10 seconds later you’d see the ball in the back of the net. Zola could do that, but was more of a team player.

Franco was very humble, always wanting to help others. He was a great example of how a professional footballer should be. It’s a real cliché but he really was the last off of the training pitch every day always practising his free kicks etc.

Like Lampard and Ronaldo nowadays, Zola practiced for hours and hours. These guys have the talent but boy do they work to hone that talent. Zola had everything and was one of the little players that everyone admired.

Toughest opponent was Anders Limpar. He would sometimes blow hot and cold but some days he was just untouchable. I remember a game I played for Chelsea and I just couldn’t get near him all afternoon. He gave me the runaround and I couldn’t wait to get off of the pitch !!

I met him a few years later in Barbados were we playing in a 5 a side. We had a beer afterwards and were chatting, and I told him about that game. We had a laugh and it was a great moment.

JP: I’ve read that during your time at Rotherham that you worked as a voluntary unpaid driver one day a week taking people to/from the hospice there. How important a part of a footballer’s life is the community aspect? Do players/clubs prefer this side of the job to go unnoticed as it would seem to be good PR for a club on the face of it, yet you rarely hear of this in todays game…..

SM: There is a lot more stuff that players do. It’s a tough one really. Some people think ‘oh look what so and so is up to’ in quite a negative way, but players genuinely want to go and visit these people and bring them happiness. They’re not doing it for the publicity.

As a player, you can be in a bubble and don’t always appreciate how lucky you are. Visits to hospitals/hospices can put everything into perspective. It’s great to put smiles on people’s faces who are going through a tough time.

It’s the clubs or indeed the hospitals who decide whether there should be something in the media about it and it’s the way of the world now if people see something negative in those visits.

I wanted to give something back so I decided to do it (the driving). Local journalists wanted to make a thing of it but I wasn’t doing it for that and left it for the hospice to decide if they wanted the PR or not.

It’s not about what players want, and there are a lot (of these types of visits) that go on that aren’t reported.

JP: As an ex professional, I would argue that you understand the inner workings and intricacies of a football club better than ‘Joe Public’ who pays his hard earned to watch his team each weekend. Give me your opinion on the club closest to your heart, Chelsea FC. Is Abramovich the right man to rule the roost at the Bridge?

SM: Chelsea are going through a bit of a transitional period at the moment, and really they have been for a couple of years now.

I disagree with changing the old guard. They are a good bunch of honest pros and, for example, Frank Lampard is very influential on and off the pitch. If he had been playing at Manchester United, Sir Alex would’ve offered him a 1 or 2 year contract by now.

Since Abramovich came in, there’s been a big change as we all know. He wanted Chelsea to become the best in Europe, some will say its worked, albeit it has been a short termism philosophy.

He’s put between ½ – 1 billion pounds into the club to be successful, but he’s put his hand in his pocket, so he’s entitled to do what he likes, even if I don’t agree with it.

I would prefer that they identify the right person, stick with them and most importantly give them time. I think we all know Rafa is leaving at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if Jose Mourinho returns.

JP: Since the end of your football career, you have been involved in the media aspect of the sport, spending time on various TV/radio shows. You are perhaps now best known as the face of Sky Sports’ Revista de la Liga show and I understand you also have a degree in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting from Staffordshire University. So, what does the future hold for Scott Minto? 

SM: The future? The future for me is trying to balance my work and home life. I have three wonderful children, all under 3 years of age, twins and a little girl. It’s been a tough couple of years learning the presenting on the job and practically no sleep at home!!

I’m very happy doing what I’m doing at this moment. Presenting programmes on the league with arguably 2 best teams in the world. Without doubt the two best players in the world, and maybe the top 5. And a match that’s the most glamorous in the world…El Clasico!

I’m really happy to continue doing that, but also to spend as much time with my family as possible, to be a good husband and a good father.

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