I am a husband and dad who spends far too much of my life travelling around the country supporting Sheffield United through thick and thin. Mostly thin during my 50 years as a season ticket holder but I love the Blades and always will.
Now a freelance journalist and struggling to write my first book, I have worked on the staff of 12 newspapers, including weekly, provincial daily (the former Morning Telegraph in Sheffield being one) and five national titles in Manchester and London.
I am privileged to have worked with many talented people. The characters I have met and the stories to be told could fill several books. Much of the content, however, would only be believed by fellow journalists. It is a unique profession which attracts some rather unusual and eccentric exponents, a large number of whom seem to cross my path on a regular basis! That is all you really need to know – return to posts –but if you are still interested read on.
I began my career on a weekly paper in Cheshire during the days when you could still learn the ropes on the shop floor. A three-year apprenticeship knowns as an indenture. At school I became fascinated by newspapers from the age of 14 and that remains so. The industry has changed beyond recognition since I began but the principals of good journalism are still the same. My first typewriter, yes typewriter, was identical to the one in the banner above. I'm not, however, quite as old as the image might suggest. My office was equipped with collectors' items from the 1930s.
During the first two years of my fledgling career on a weekly paper in Cheshire I answered to the name Johnny Silk. I never realised that it may be required to change your name in order to become a newspaper reporter. Johnny had been reporting the fortunes of Macclesfield Town for about 80 years. I got my first scoop in Prestbury, footballers' terrority in the late 70s just as it now. I saw a familiar figure walking into an estate agent's office so, as you do, I followed. Scotland and Leeds striker Joe Jordan announced he wanted a house in the village as he was soon to sign for Manchester United. I became sports editor of two titles in the series, the Macclesfield Advertiser and Wilmslow Advertiser, before becoming group sports editor at the Stockport Advertiser where Stockport County of the old Division Four became my charges.
Lancaster and Crowther, the Manchester-based sports news agency, was my next stop, supplying stories to the national Press, before a trip across the Pennines to the fine city of Sheffield where I joined the sports desk at the Morning Telegraph, a daily paper. Chances to report on my beloved Blades were few and far between. Sports editor, Benny Hill (I kid you not and a great deal funnier), a hard taskmaster at the time but a terrific old school journalist who became a long-time friend, taught me more than anyone before or since. He was reluctant to let me follow United for the paper because of what he considered to be 'professional issues of bias'. So it was mostly Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, Chesterfield and the dreaded Owls for me! He was wrong on that one, though. I first reported on United from the old Press box in the John Street Stand and later in the current location above the South Stand. Admittedly it was strange watching the Blades from a detached point of view but on those occasions it was always job first.
I left Sheffield – had my leaving do at Bramall Lane – for the Daily Post in Liverpool and 12 months later found myself in the midst of the Heysel Stadium disaster in Belgium. I was there to provide the quotes story after the match. As soon as it became apparent what was happening on that dreadful evening when 39 Italian fans died prior to the European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus, my senior colleague instructed 'You do the news story, I'll do the football'!
From Merseyside it was back over the Pennines, this time to Leeds and the Yorkshire Post, where I was deputy sports editor. It wasn't long, however, before I was offered a job on the Daily Mirror's Manchester sports desk. My salary doubled. Two years and a rather large mortgage later the Mirror closed its northern operation. I signed for the Daily Star. Like the Mirror it too was to close its Manchester office and there followed a brief spell on a fragile new national, The Post, in Warrington. One Rebecca Wade/Brooks, much later to become editor of the News of the world and The Sun, was a secretary there. Four rocky months after launch the inevitable redundancy notice was delivered by motorbike dispatch rider on Christmas Eve.
With the disappearance of a northern-based newspaper centre, London beckoned and Today, on Vauxhall Bridge Road, Britain's first full colour daily. I managed to jump ship before its demise and spent the next 14 years – luxury – on sport in various roles at the Daily Express. I finished my days there as night sports editor before opting to be my own boss.
I have worked as a freelance for, among many others, the Daily Mail, Independent, The Times, Sunday People and Sunday Mirror. I was also launch editor of a daily title aimed at commuters travelling between London and Brighton.
My interests are politics and sport. Despite a career in sports journalism, politics has always been top of my agenda. I can watch hours of monotonous political debate but fast forward through Match Of The Day. Indeed, political journalism was my initial ambition. I got sort of sidetracked.