DAVID INSTONE (pictured above with Molineux legend Steve Bull) spent 32 years covering the fortunes and misfortunes of Wolverhampton Wanderers before going on to become a successful author and publisher.
Here he reveals his fascination with the story behind the story-getters and how lapping up sports journalists’ tales from the press box has inspired him to do the same.
It used to be all about Ferguson, Redknapp, Dalglish, Atherton, Navratilova and Faldo. Now my office shelves creak under the weight of books written by an altogether different sector; individuals who never scored a goal, hit a winning shot or had a crowd singing their name. Their career stories are captivating nevertheless.
On BBCFiveLive’s 606, Robbie Savage, another whose autobiography has a place in my collection, would call it a ‘shout-out’ – an overdue piece in praise of our oft-criticised profession.
In short, this is an underlining of the fact that not only do we media folk recognise a good story, but we know how to properly tell one.
And don’t think that comment is aimed only at the paragraphs we have routinely knocked out for a back page or for a more deeply researched feature in a magazine or online. I’m talking about the much longer version.
Journalists have often had their names on books…..as Janine Self did on the Savage tome and two of my former Express & Star colleagues, David Harrison and Martin Swain, did on publications on which they collaborated with Alan Shearer and John Gregory respectively.
Now there is an appetite to read OUR stories as well as those we have helped others to craft and, just as importantly, a determination to commit them to print.
In the last few years, I have bought, borrowed and/or promoted any number of publications written by reporters with whom I shared press boxes for decades.
Not only Fleet Street veterans like Christopher Davies and the highly prolific Norman Giller but accomplished men from the regional sector such as Gerald Mortimer and George Edwards (Derby), Eric Paylor (Middlesbrough) and, from the lower divisions, Francis Ponder (Colchester), all of whom have opened a window on lives spent covering a particular club.
The list goes on….former Northern Sports Writer of the Year Ken Rogers has shared his memories from almost half a century of covering Everton and Liverpool and Neal Manning and Dave Allard have combined to entertainingly tell of their time following Ipswich in an up-close-and-personal sort of way which emphasises that what goes on on tour stays on tour only for as long as it takes for certain sensitivities to diminish.
Unlike the rest of us, Paul Hince did have crowds briefly chanting his name, although the retired Manchester Evening News columnist and former Manchester City and Charlton forward certainly can’t be accused of taking himself over-seriously in a paperback titled: ‘Memories of a failed footballer and a crap journalist’.
I’ve lapped them all up, able as we are to relate to the bust-ups, the buzz of the deadlines and the clamour to be first to the story.
But, clearly, you don’t have to be purely a writer to write a very readable tale. Alan Biggs, John Anderson and Peter Slater from the radio world came up with very worthy additions to the wider profession’s literary efforts and I went out of my way to purchase a signed copy of octogenarian Notts County broadcaster Colin Slater’s memoir and read proud Brummie Tom Ross’s autobiography, too.
For my favourite of the biographies I have read in the last year or so, though, I return to the tabloid press and doff my cap to the late Bob Cass – a man so well connected in football as to have reeled off wonderfully entertaining anecdotes about Bill Shankly, Brian Clough, Paul Gascoigne, David Beckham and others and to have had Sir Alex Ferguson at his funeral in 2016.
Bob absolutely nailed the essence of our manic, unique and fulfilling profession with your riveting recollections in ‘By The Way’ and I hope it will inspire others as much as it did me to busy themselves in penning their own career stories – a true labour of love that should be enjoyed by many more than just the grandkids.
- David Instone is the author of ‘Between the Golden Lines’, a newly-published 256-page hard-back produced by Thomas Publications detailing his 32 years in the Wolverhampton Wanderers press box. To order a copy email firstname.lastname@example.org