Celebrating my half-century as a sports writer

-SJA member BOB HARRIS, pictured, began his career in 1964, and he’s ready for more

Fifty years as a sports journalist and I don’t regret a single minute – and I am not ready to quit just yet.

A stroke a year ago slowed me down but the marvellous invention of a thrombalosis machine saved me, if not my life, then certainly my life as a sports hack.

Three blood clots removed in a matter of minutes while I chatted to sports editor Mike Dunn on the telephone telling him that I wouldn’t be able to go to the Valley to cover Charlton against Leeds the next day for The Sun.

Dunny, privately, didn’t think I would be doing another game ever again, but I returned to watch Millwall against Blackburn as a guest in the Directors’ Box 18 days later and four days after that I covered Millwall versus Forest and the next day attended the PFA Dinner in London.

Life goes on. It is no use feeling sorry for yourself. You pick yourself up and you get on with it.

I learned the hard way as my life on the road took me to horrific nightmares such as the 1972 Munich Olympics and the massacre of the Israeli athletes by Black September; The Heysel European Cup final disaster in Brussels and the dreadful deaths of the Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough 25 years ago.

They are memories that never fade, never go away, leaving an indelible mark on your life but, as a journalist it is your job to report what you see without bias to your readers. Get on with it or get out.

They were moments of pain amid an ocean of sheer pleasure and, of course, if I could change history I would wipe out those blots on sport in an instant.

I honestly never thought I would see another Olympic Games after Munich but here I am, still attending these remarkable, expensive festivals of sport having had the pleasure of the sailing two years ago, followed by the fabulous Paralympics.

The Olympics are, I must confess, my favourites for, as much as I love football and cricket (my sport until an injury ended dreams of a different life at Edgbaston), the underlying stories at every multi-sports Games are special, whether they are those ultimate Olympics or the more relaxed, less pressurised Commonwealth Games.

Here's an England football team from the mid-1980s which would never win a World Cup: With Bob Harris in the middle of the back row in the guise of a goalkeeper, his team mates (left to right, back row first): Mike Keen, Adrian Williams, Michael Hart, Bob Harris, Bobby Robson, Don Howe. Front row: Jeff Powell, Martin Tyler, Stuart Jones, Alan Parry, Ken Lawrence
Here’s an England football team from the mid-1980s which would never win a World Cup: With Bob Harris in the middle of the back row in the guise of a goalkeeper, his team mates are: Back row, left to right: Mike Keen, Adrian Williams (ExTel), Michael Hart (Evening Standard), BH, Bobby Robson, Don Howe. Front row: Jeff Powell (Daily Mail), Martin Tyler (ITV), Stuart Jones (The Times), Alan Parry (BBC), Ken Lawrence (Daily Mirror)

I have been lucky. There is no doubt about that. Working for my first newspaper, Woodrow Wyatt’s coloured weekly the Birmingham Planet; the Luton Evening Post; Thomson Regional Newspapers as either chief sportswriter or group editor (neither title changed whatever I did); chief football writer and athletics correspondent for Today; Writing Sports Editor and Executive Sports Editor for the Sunday Mirror; Editorial Director and Editor-in-chief for Sport First and freelance for several Fleet Street papers including the News of the World and , of course, The Sun.

I also write, and have done so for more than 20 years, for Le WeekEnd in Mauritius and for a website called Optimist World.

During my time I have been privileged to cover the top events around the globe from world heavyweight boxing titles to athetlics world championships to those wonderful multi-sports Games where you can cover the lot and meet sports people of the amateur as well as the professional variety.

In fact I am looking forward to being in Glasgow for The Sun at the latest edition of the Commonwealth Games – my third in Scotland if memory serves me right.

I shall also be at Eastbourne tennis for the umpteenth time and at the massively changed, ultra professional Wimbledon where, it seems, there are now more journalists than tennis players.

Horse racing in Mauritius, the Spartakiad in Moscow, the London Marathon… It goes on and on and how lucky I am to have been around to travel, enjoy and work when expenses were generous and, for a brief while, when wages were huge.

The nice thing is that I feel no envy or jealousy watching the youngsters embark on a career in sports journalism or broadcasting in a much changed world, where much of the perceived pleasure has been erased as circulation and the money has shrunk in a modern world.

My football these days has gone from World Cups, European Champions League, England internationals and to Premiership games to alternating between my two local south-east London teams Millwall and Charlton, and I am still enjoying it twice a week.

Coming on 70 (November) it sounds about right although I am always available for any demand.

I have also enjoyed writing my 20-odd books with some of the most famous sportsmen who ever lived (Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Vivian Richards, Kevin Keegan, Dennis Lillee, John Charles et al) and the diversity which took me to my latest book, a story of a Jewish boxer who was swept up in the evils of the Holocaust (The Boxer’s Story – buy it now or at least ask for a review copy).

The next will be with a famous Shakespearean actor and television star, not in anyway a sportsman.

But I will , as long as they will have me, stay with my first love, sports writing and if you want to say hello and buy me a dark rum or a glass of dry white wine I will be around at the tennis and the Glasgow Games once football has finished.
Anything I can do to help.


Thu May 15: SJA members’ Race Day at York