ADRIAN CURTIS pays tribute to his colleague and long-standing friend, former News of the World football reporter Ray Ryan, who died suddenly this week
When Ray Ryan and I collaborated on a tribute to our former Match magazine editor Paul Stratton, it never entered my head that I would be writing one about Ray just over a year later.
Ray Ryan, my close friend and former colleague, died suddenly on March 9 due to pneumonia. He was just 48. Such a waste.
He died alone in his father’s house, who himself is in hospital, and was found by his brother Wayne.
Ray began his career on the South London Press but joined Match as a precocious youngster in the 1980s – given a chance by then editor Mel Bagnall to replace Dave Smith, who had joined rivals Shoot.
It was the start of a football reporting career that saw him go on to work for Hayters news agency in London and then the News of the World – covering Liverpool at first and then Newcastle.
Through all of this, we remained the greatest of pals and he never forgot his friends or his colleagues – even those on rival newspapers.
Ray was an old-school journalist. He never gave up on a story and under Mike Dunn on “The Screws” he was at his best.
On Match, his tenacious attitude got him exclusive after exclusive. I took him under my wing and he called me his mentor until the very end, a tag I was a little embarrassed about, but he would have none of it.
As a friend he always put others first. I know this because my wife, in her wisdom, bought an art deco walnut sideboard which weighed as much as the titanic. Ray helped me to get it into the lounge by using broom handles as rollers. I gave up on numerous occasions saying it was impossible, but not Ray. He would not give up, like he would never give up on a story. The testament to his determination is the fact that the sideboard still sits in our lounge today.
Much more importantly, he was an excellent football journalist who tried to break real stories – none of the digital re-hashing of today. He had a contacts book second to none.
He was also fiercely proud of his Irish roots and loved Watford FC, but most of all he was a loving father and grandfather.
Those who worked closely with him on the NOTW and those reporters on rival papers, will know just how good an operator Ray was in his prime.
Sadly, after around 13 years on the NOTW, he never managed to come to terms with losing his job there.
He suffered greatly but in the last two years he had bounced back and was working in football reporting again on various websites. I last spoke to him in December when he asked me to join him in a new football venture.
He seemed excited and chipper, just like the Razor of old. Whatever bad things life threw at Ray, he tried to get through them with humour and a philosophical outlook. He was always bouncy and enthusiastic no matter what obstacles had been put in his way. He had a cheeky sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Our phone greeting was always “Geezer boycee”.
It was fun to be in his company when he was on form and I don’t think any of his bosses would have a bad word to say about the exclusives he brought to them. To lose him to a bout of pneumonia is just so awful at such a young age.
Ray had a good heart and was exceptional in football journalism and, like most people taken so early, he didn’t deserve it.
A light has gone out in my life. He called me his mentor, but in reality, he taught me so much too. Football journalism has lost one of the best exponents of the art of getting real stories.
It was a privilege to have worked with him and an honour to have called him my friend. I will miss him greatly. Farewell “geezer boycee”, rest in peace fella.