In Fleet Street’s dim and blurry past, there was the national sports desks’ Insignificant Seven, where NORMAN GILLER thought he was the Steve McQueen figure. Now, Brian Scovell’s role can be revealed
It is with a sadness bordering on insanity that I have to announce the blackballing of founder member Brian Scovell from the exclusive Insignificant Seven club.
Scovell came out this week as being a very significant sportswriter, unveiling a fascinating autobiography in which he reveals how, over the past 50 years, he has made a considerable contribution to the world of sports journalism.
But first, let me tell you the history of the Insignificant Seven. In the mid-1960s, the hugely talented Daily Mail chief football writer Brian James was overheard saying: “The No2 football reporters on all the nationals are such an insignificant lot …”
We No2s reacted with a creativity that Brian would have considered beyond us by forming the Insignificant Seven. The seven founder members were Harry Miller (Daily Mirror), Bryon Butler (Daily Telegraph), Steve Richards (the original broadsheet Sun), Peter Corrigan (Daily Mail), Peter Blackman (London Evening Standard), me (Daily Express) and Brian Scovell (Daily Sketch, soon to move to the Mail). Brian James sportingly accepted the invitation to become the club President on the strict understanding that he would never risk being contaminated by our mediocrity.
We had a special tie manufactured by the firm bank-rolled by Spurs legend Dave Mackay, and our annual subscription of seven shillings and sixpence was collected by treasurer Corrigan. Peter, of course, developed into a great independent observer of sport, and was long ago kicked out of the club for becoming too significant.
He went off with the 18 shillings and six pence that was sitting in our funds, which with accrued interest, now stands at £670 18s 6d. The legal eagles have been alerted.
Now comes the distressing news that Brian Scovell has gone against all the club rules of maintaining low-profile insignificance by penning a riveting autobiography that puts him very much in the significant bracket.
This by a man who was once so insignificant that his by-line in the Daily Sketch read: “By Brian Scovell, rhymes with shovel”.
We learn from the fast-paced book that Brian has dug out scores of scoops during his 50 years on the Fleet Street beat, both in the worlds of football and cricket. His exclusives included one from left field: the story of how Hermann Goering and Lord Jellicoe met in secret on the Isle of Wight in a bid to stop the looming Second World War.
It was one of Goering’s Luftwaffe bombers that almost ended Brian’s life when he was hardly out of his pram. He was seriously injured in the last bombing raid on one of the radar stations on the Isle of Wight, and he spent two years having dozens of operations before he was finally released from hospital with a permanent limp.
Hence the book’s off-beat title: Thank You Hermann Goering (Amberley Publishing).
A man of enormous character and unbounded optimism, Brian has never accepted that he is disabled and continues to play a mean game of cricket after many seasons as an inventive amateur footballer.
Off the top of my head, I cannot think of an all-round reporter to challenge his remarkable record of reporting hundreds of football and cricket matches in 88 countries. He is also a prolific author, and this – his 25th book – is a crowning, as well as a crowing, achievement.
The most moving and poignant passages of his memoirs are when Brian writes agonisingly and adoringly from the depths of his heart about his late wife, Audrey, a gifted artist who brought sunshine into the lives of all of us who knew her.
I urge aspiring young sportswriters to read the book to discover three things:
1) what a wonderful life sports journos used to have when there was a lively village called Fleet Street;
2) how to overcome adversity and never accept that a gammy leg or any other handicap makes you anything less of a person;
3) if you have an ambition to be a sportswriter, don’t let anybody or anything put you off the trail.
This is a very significant autobiography. So – in the words of Alan Sugar, who also features in the story – “Brian Scovell, you’re fired …!”
I am now the only one of the Insignificant Seven with unstained membership rights. I have become the Insignificant One. Now to get that money off Peter Corrigan …
THOSE among you following my self-publishing adventures will be astonished/ appalled/apathetic (delete as applicable) to learn that I have just finished my third book in 10 weeks – Greavsie’s Greatest, the 50 greatest British goal scorers of the last 50 years selected by the greatest of them all.
I have written it as a limited edition with Jimmy’s manager and best pal, Terry Baker. Greavsie’s signature will be on every book.
I unashamedly plug the book here as a topical note in a week when FIFA has named its 23-man shortlist for the coveted Ballon d’Or for the world footballer of the year.
There is not an Englishman in sight. And of current players, only Michael Owen, Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney scrape into Jimmy’s Top 50 list.
He makes the point in the book that the time is not far off when the England manager will have to watch Premier reserve sides to see potential international goal scorers.
Our footballers are in danger of becoming very insignificant.
Read Norman Giller’s previous columns for the SJA website by clicking here