Derek Hodgson, the former cricket correspondent of the Independent and prolific author, died suddenly on Saturday at his home in Cheshire. He was 87.
Just last week Hodgson was ‘conducting proceedings’ with his fellow Ampersands – a small group of legendary retired northern sports reporters who meet every other Wednesday at The Railway in Handforth near Wilmslow.
James Mossop, ex-Sunday Express and Sunday Telegraph chief sports writer, was a close friend.
He said: “I’m shocked and saddened to learn of his sudden death. I was drinking and dining with him and fellow old-timers only last Wednesday. At 87 he enjoyed a good innings.
“Derek was our leading light in the Ampersands. He conducted proceedings and kept us all informed with clever, humorous emails.
“There was a small turnout last weekend, Don Hardisty, Hoddy, Peter Johnson, Peter Shaw, Peter Gardner and me. We meet in the Laurel and Hardy Room, most fitting for those who saw us spend half an hour trying to get Hardisty’s mobility scooter up the pub step.
“The battery died and then we were snookered until an old boy passing by touched one button and the scooter was up and running. With the landlord laying a makeshift ramp (two planks) we got Don into the pub. Hoddy was quietly amused.”
Former Daily Express chief football reporter Norman Giller commented: “Horrible way to start the day. So sad to hear this. What an outstanding operator, comfortable writing about the stars or the minnows and capturing them with beautifully crafted phrases. Rest easy Hoddy, and thanks for being an outstanding colleague and fine representative of our much-maligned profession.”
Hodgson, who was followed into sports journalism by sons Myles and Guy, was northern cricket correspondent for the Daily Express. After a spell as a freelance for national newspapers, he joined the Independent, for whom he worked until he retired.
‘What an outstanding operator, comfortable writing about the stars or the minnows and capturing them with beautifully crafted phrases’
Born in Morley, Hodgson had a great affection for Yorkshire County Cricket Club which he joined as a member in 1948. For many years he covered Yorkshire’s tempestuous fortunes, travelling home and away with the team.
He was a life member of the Cricket Writers’ Club and served as president and secretary for the association but his interests included football.
After nearly a decade working on the Daily Express, he made an unlikely career change, joining Stoke City, then in the old First Division, as assistant manager, responsible for administration and publicity. He was not involved in tactics or team selection, but he did have innovative commercial ideas. Some of these have become the norm, but in the late 1960s they were judged too revolutionary.
“I wanted to open a club shop, but they didn’t understand the concept,” he recalled in an interview with the Yorkshire Post. After a couple of years he resigned. “But I was more or less told to go. As a career move it was a catastrophe,” he added.
Hodgson returned to sports journalism and also became a prolific author. As a friend of Sir Matt Busby and others at Old Trafford, he was invited to write a history of the club, The Manchester United Story. The Liverpool Story, and The Everton Story soon followed, as did volumes on cricket.
Hodgson wrote books with David Gower and the great West Indian bowler Courtney Walsh, and was co-author of an award-winning biography of Bob Appleyard, the Yorkshire and England cricketer In 1989, Hodgson wrote The Carnegie Official History of Yorkshire County Cricket, a book which was updated ten years later.
Cricket Writers’ Club president, David Warner, said: “Derek’s death has come as a great shock to all who knew him and held him in such affectionate regard. It was my privilege to work alongside him when I first started covering county cricket in 1975 and he and his family became close friends.
“He was a man who truly loved the game and he wrote about it in a gentle and informative way which endeared him to his readers. The thoughts of all CWC members are with his widow, Doreen, their sons Guy (left) and Myles (far left), and their daughter, Judith.”
David Llewellyn, who worked with Hodgson at The Independent, said: “The death of Derek Hodgson is an immense loss to the club and to the cricket world in general.He was a fund of great tales of cricket and cricketers and shamefully I would occasionally even wish for rain when he appeared in a box.
CWC former treasurer Wendy Wimbush said: “It was my great privilege to work with Derek for so many years, as we tried to increase the interest in The Cricket Writers’ Club. When we took over in 1986 there were only around 80 Members. I recently had the pleasure of telling ‘Hoddy’ that we had notched up 400.”
The funeral will be at Altrincham crematorium on Monday, June 26 at noon.
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