Malley delivers a handbook to a sports writer’s life

The autobiography of former Express and PA journalist Frank Malley is a fascinating insight into our business, writes IAN COLE

Mention the name Paul Ince down West Ham way and you will be met with a scowl and, most likely, a volley of verbal abuse.

Malley bookIt is a situation that has existed since 1989 when Ince, a product of the famed academy, was pictured on the back page of the Daily Express wearing a Manchester United shirt. “Judas!” they screamed.

Twenty-five years on and the taunts are no less vitrioloic and, bizarrely, are also directed at Thomas Ince, Paul’s talented England under-21 son.

The fact that just a few weeks after the picture appeared Ince was indeed transferred to Manchester United and went on to play 53 times for England does not dilute this act of treachery in the eyes of some Hammers fans, many of whom were not even born when Ince senior was playing.

But was this really treason? Some of us who were working at the Express at the time were witness to the series of events which led to that picture appearing. But we kept schtum.

So who was responsible? At last I can name that man…or, more correctly, he has named himself: Frank Malley.

Malley, then northern sports editor of the Express, was on duty in the Black Lubyanka in Fleet Street one Friday night in September, 1989, and was desperate for a back page lead. Enter football news gatherer Kevin Moseley to report that Ince’s £1 million move from West Ham to Manchester United, having stalled during the summer,  was back on.

That’ll do nicely, thought Malley, and the headline Take It As Red was put up. Now for a suitable picture.

Back in the days of picture libraries and black-and-white photos stuffed into tatty brown envelopes, Malley chose a shot of Ince scoring for West Ham. Just then he noticed a brand new folder of recent Ince pictures, marked for the Daily Star, who shared facilities in the building.

A quick call to the Star sports desk gained the okay – and so a picture of Ince in a Manchester United shirt appeared next day. Cue outrage in the East End of London.

What nobody on duty that night knew was that Ince, believing the transfer was done and dusted three months earlier, had agreed to pose for the pictures, exclusively for the Star – and then gone on holiday, unaware that the move would be held up.

Malley went on to become chief sports writer at the Press Association for 17 years. Now, as a freelance – he refuses to acknowledge the ‘R’ words ‘redundancy’ and ‘retirement’ – Malley has written a book of his career experiences, Living On The Deadline, a sporting journey which takes him from Wigan Pier to Fleet Street and on into the wider world of sports writing.

The story begins on his local paper, the Evening Post and Chronicle, and comes full circle with Malley’s beloved Wigan Athletic winning the FA Cup at Wembley.

In between, he covers Olympic Games, World Cups, Ryder Cups and Ashes Tests. He sails with Ben Ainslie, faces Greg Rusedski’s 149mph serve, and helps Jonny Wilkinson kick England to Rugby World Cup glory.

The book is essential reading for anyone, like me, who experienced “the David Emery years” at the Express and lived to tell the tale. It is a wealth of enjoyment for anyone with a feel for sport and how it is reported day after day in our newspapers.

For those who have never been privileged to work in our business, it is a fascinating insight into the life of a top sports journalist, the way they operate and the scrapes they get into in order to bring us the news.

If you ever thought being paid to watch sport at the highest level is not a job… on.


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