And the winner is… not me

Poor old NORMAN GILLER, struggling for sight due to an eye infection, he really got one in the eye this week when the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards shortlists were announced

For weeks now I have been practising my acceptance speech for the SJA’s Blog of the Year Award, and was excited to find my name on the shortlist released this week.

There it was in black and white, my first ever nomination after more than four decades scratching a living as a sportswriter: Nicholas Godfrey

Uh, hold on. Let me read that again. The initials are right … but what’s this ‘icholas odfrey’ bit. Shurley shum mishtake?

Another perusal through my one good eye of the shortlist for the award …

Regular Blog/Column
Lawrence Booth
Nicholas Godfrey
Edward Gorman
Scott Murray

With a bit of anagram juggling of all the letters, I was able to put together “Norman Giller”, but finally I had to accept that my name was missing for the 50th consecutive year. It must be some sort of record that deserves an award? “Least Appreciated Sportswriter for the Last Half Century”.

If I squint out of my good eye, I can even imagine that’s me as the thorn between the two roses of Carole Ann Bromley and Dame Kelly Holmes, and not Patrick Collins, last year’s Sportswriter of the Year.

I was at Bournemouth eye hospital at about the time the shortlist arrived on my Blackberry, where a beautiful nurse was telling me I had acute conjunctivitis. In best Carry On traditions, I told her she had a cute … (this bit censored in the interests of good taste, Ed.).

In a fit of pique I fired off an email to SJA website commander Steven Downes that I was quitting my regular blog/column on the grounds of 1) old age; 2) that I couldn’t see to write any more; 3) that I had become boring and overbearing for SJA readers. There was unanimous agreement only on part three.

Instead of falling on his knees begging me to stay, Steven (along with esteemed SJA Chairman Barry Newcombe) thanked me for past services and wished me better. No mention of a consolation award. Just goodbye and thanks.

So sod them, I have decided to stay around and irritate SJA website readers with a continuing column in the hope that I can get shortlisted for next year’s awards.

Book your tickets for sports journalism’s Big Night Out – the British Sports Journalism Awards on Monday March 8 – click here for details and booking form

This was how my acceptance speech was going to start: “Thank you for this reward for longevity. A week or so before he passed on to the great Press Box in the sky, I told my dear old friend Reg Gutteridge that I was starting a Blog on the SJA website. The former SJA Chairman replied: ‘What the fuck’s a blog? Sounds like a blocked up bog …’ That, I guess, sums it up for most of we bloggers …”

See what you will be missing at the SJA Awards show on March 8? A touch of class.

This all brings me nicely to a true awards story (incidentally I am only joking about being upset at not being shortlisted … and if you believe that, then I have a London Bridge I would like to sell you).

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the British Press Awards were sponsored by IPC, and on a matter of principle Express Newspapers refused to allow their journalists to enter a competition staged by their publishing rivals.

In 1973, a directive went out from the management that Express journalists could enter for the first time. Our Sports Editor John Morgan, who had recently started writing a weekly column, was informed.

Somehow, John forgot to mention it to any other writers on the staff, including the legendary Man in the Brown Bowler, Desmond Hackett.

But John did remember to tell his secretary, the lovely Doris Bishop, to send in a collection of his columns to the judging panel.

Lo and behold, the only award won by Express Newspapers in that first year of participation was Sports Columnist of the Year: one John Morgan.

We staff writers were, of course, delighted for John (trying hard not to bite through the tongue in my cheek).

Within a couple of months John was the paper’s chief sports columnist, Ken Lawrence (of Siberia) had moved in as the new sports editor, and Des Hackett ” a fixture for more than 30 years ” was out on his derrier.

Canny old Frank Nicklin, breathing fire into the Soaraway Sun, wasted no time in signing up Des for twice the salary he had been receiving at the Black Lubianka, and for two years he was used as a circulation builder as the Express started to crash down from it’s high of 4.2 million sales.

Des was not the most accurate of reporters, but there have been few to match him for plucking colourful phrases out of the air while other less gifted writers were locked into grey word descriptions. It was Des who first uttered the immortal sentence: “Don’t let facts spoil a good story.”

Not the sort of thing you want overheard by detractors of our noble profession, but there is no question that Des deserved recognition (and an award or two) as the Great Entertainer.

A word about my acute conjunctivitis before I close this comeback column (Note to Norman: It’s like you’ve never been away, Ed.). My regular reader will recall that last week I revealed that I had scattered my late wife’s ashes on Bournemouth clifftops.

That was on the Tuesday. On the following morning I woke up unable to see out of my right eye, and the assessment is that the lovely Eileen had got me back for my behaviour since she departed this mortal coil. Ashes to ashes …

I am not sure what the moral of the story is, but it is surely worth some sort of award?

Next year, Rodney. Next year…

Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.

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