Old rascal notes his 50-year journey through football

When a former sports editor of the Daily Mail writes a book, it is a must read, says IAN COLE, especially when they have the tales to tell that Bryan Cooney provides

I once suggested to Bryan Cooney, only half jokingly, that he appeared to have upset most of the people he had encountered on his journey through life. He did not contradict me. Now he has written a book, Fingerprints of a Football Rascal, which does nothing to alter my opinion.

Bryan Cooney: tales of the unexpected

Rascal? Yes, that describes Cooney well enough. He belongs to the old school of Fleet Street journalism, in which football reporters asked pertinent, probing questions regardless of the consequences and without the intervention of some press officer or “director of communications”.

Cooney’s book transports the reader on a 50-year journey from humble beginnings in his beloved Scotland, through the engine room of Fleet Street’s sports pages, until he arrives in the corridors of power in one of the most prestigious jobs in the land.

On the way Cooney meets, and interviews – sometimes interrogates – the biggest football names of that period. Sir Alf Ramsey, Jock Stein, Kenny Dalglish, Bob Paisley, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness, Glenn Hoddle, Graham Taylor, Harry Redknapp…they all encountered Cooney’s pen, and sometimes his tongue, for good measure.

Some of them, it has to be said, did not entirely appreciate the attention. The stories, and how Cooney got them, make compelling reading for anyone with a feel for football over half a century.

Like many journalists of the time, Cooney was fuelled by alcohol and the scrapes were many. But then, for medical reasons, our rascal defected overnight to a life of almost total abstinence.

Which meant that when he arrived in what he describes as the best job in British newspapers – Head of Sport at the Daily Mail – drink was not an ingredient he admired in his staff. Cue more scrapes.

Wakey-wakey was Cooney’s call to the Mail’s sports department as he set about revitalising what were already among the country’s most widely-read pages. His abrasive approach often antagonised the work force. In addition, he was answerable daily to the most powerful Editor in the land, Paul Dacre.

Cooney writes in an entertaining, often self-deprecatory style, and his book will appeal to football lovers of a certain age. More than that, though, it should be required reading for anyone who has worked in the Daily Mail’s Kensington fortress and lived to tell the tale.

  • Fingerprints of a Football Rascal is now available on Kindle.

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