Former Independent sportswriter Steve Pinder has died

SJA member ROB STEEN pays tribute to mentor and colleague, former Independent and City Limits sports writer Steve Pinder, who died yesterday

Steve Pinder, who died of cancer on January 18, was my first journalistic mentor and editor. One of the country’s leading ice hockey and minority sports writers during the early years of The Independent, and later sports press officer at Channel 4, he was also a spotter of talent second to none.

One of the co-founders of City Limits, a left-wing listings magazine formed by disenchanted Time Out staffers at the outset of the 1980s, Steve’s erudite, enterprising and endlessly sweet-tempered reign as sports editor – under the nom de plume “Stan Accrington” – saw him promote the fledgling talents of, among others, Huw Richards (FT, International Herald Tribune, The Observer), Rick Shearman (Observer), Andrew Davidson (Sunday Times), Phil Craigie (Sunday Times) and Tim Cooper (Evening Standard).

Our paths first crossed in early 1983 when I was working, briefly, at the King’s Head pub in Islington, barely 100 yards from the CL offices. Having just seen Liverpool thrash Ipswich at Anfield, I wrote a letter to the magazine congratulating Steve/Stan on his general sports coverage but taking him to task for, as I saw it, failing to appreciate
the majesty of Dalglish and Co.

Back came a handwritten note, thanking me for my compliments, accepting the criticism in good heart and
finishing with the irresistible challenge, “If you think you can do any better, get in touch.”

The upshot was a lunchtime drink and a roving brief to cover pretty much anything I fancied at a princely six quid a
piece (under bylines such as Teddy Waring, Barry Kennington, Jean-Pierre Rivets and Osgood Peters). Thus were sowed the first seeds of my career.

The launch of The Independent in 1986 saw Steve entrusted with the brief of covering minority sports: that trademark wit and insight, coupled with an undying affection for the underdog and underprivileged, enabled him to enlighten and entertain in equal measure.

In 1988, Steve and I co-wrote Sportswatching for Puffin, and two years later enjoyed a dizzy couple of months as co-editors of FullTime, the last attempt to publish a London Saturday sports classified. It was a thankless task – the distribution problems were insurmountable – but exhilarating for all that.

By this time Steve had begun a lengthy residence as part-time lecturer on City University’s acclaimed journalism course, where the recipients of his genial wisdom included Jon Brodkin (now Guardian Sport night editor) and Julian Guyer (AFP cricket correspondent).

Moving from the C4 press office to a similar role at Film Four, Steve continued his twin support for Scunthorpe and Spurs, and remained a great friend until the end, proof if ever there was that nice guys can make damned good hacks. I shall miss him terribly.