I’ve spotted the new Pele, and he’s playing for Colchester

IAN COLE reviews a Daily Mail sportswriter’s autobiography, which charts the past half-century on Fleet Street and sport

One busy football night at the Daily Mail, the phone rang. It was Brian Scovell. There were Champions League matches reaching a conclusion all over Europe, and as deadlines approached, tension on the desk was mounting.

“It’s Brian. I’ve just seen the new Pele. It’s a good story.”

Brian was reporting on an early round League Cup tie at QPR and Lomana LuaLua had just scored what was, admittedly, a rather good goal for Colchester United.

I have always thought that every reporter should regard his or her story as the most important event of the day, and Brian always typified that kind of self-belief. Enthusiasm was never in short supply when “Scovs” was on the case.

That enthusiasm shines through every page of his latest book, an autobiography, Thank You, Hermann Goering (Amberley Publishing, £20), written post-retirement.

If you ever wondered about Brian’s permanent limp, the title is a clue. While he could not claim to be wounded in battle, the injury to his knee came as a result of the schoolboy Scovell’s determination to make life difficult for Second World War German fighter planes attacking his home on the Isle of Wight.

Scovell is an old school sports writer, from the days when football club chairmen invited the press into their boardroom for a tipple and when players were freely accessible on the phone or at the bar – though Scovell remained teetotal throughout his career.

As a former chairman of both the Football Writers’ Association and the Cricket Writers’ Club – surely, that’s unique? – Scovell’s contacts book must have been a sight to behold and this autobiography is crammed with anecdotes gathered during a half-century in the top flight.

Scovs rubbed shoulders with the Cobbold Brothers and Alf Ramsey in Ipswich Town’s halcyon year, 1962, and was as comfortable in the company of Test cricketers as he was international footballers. He also acted as unpaid cricket advisor to Diana, Princess of Wales, as he tells in the book.

If you know, or have known, Brian, you will find a chapter that’s just for you. As a Daily Mail man for the final nine years of my own career, the chapter on life inside Northcliffe House is priceless. Worth the cover price alone.

Much of the book is dedicated to the memory of his wife Audrey, the love of his life, who died from cancer in 2000, but who Brian believes watches over him now.

Sentiment aside, this book could pass for a history of sports journalism in Fleet Street from the Sixties onwards.

Just tell me one thing, Brian: Was I the sub who consistently ruined your copy just for the sake of it? I do hope not.

To order Brian Scovell’s book, post-free, for just £18 from the publishers, click here