NORMAN GILLER congratulates the Sunday Times Insight team, sends his thanks to SJA member Fred Harris and his Normandy veterans and comrades, and gets stumped by the latest cricket controversy
It will be all eyes on the Sunday Times this weekend as they splash the second instalment of their exposé of the (alleged) corruption surrounding Qatar’s winning 2022 World Cup bid.
I understand from my Wapping mole that there are even more sensational revelations to come, and there has been a lock down on the Insight department to prevent any leaks. “We can get front page leads out of what we have on file for a month,” they said.
It’s a good old-fashioned scoop that was common ground for the Insight team that in recent years has been battling for its life as the economy axe swings through News UK in the wake of the hacking saga.
What a change in fortunes for investigative reporters Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, whose 11-page report last Sunday has set the news agenda for their media rivals for the rest of the week.
It was just a few weeks ago that Calvert and Blake were something of a laughing stock when they got stung by their attempted sting.
They were investigating a babies-for-sale scandal in Bulgaria, and – as you will see from this clip on YouTube – became embroiled in a Carry On Reporting farce.
This did nothing for the reputation of Insight, and rumours gathered strength that the department was going to be wound up. But our intrepid reporters Calvert and Blake’s work has forced a rethink, and their scoop on Sunday proudly carried the Insight logo.
I would love to see Septic Bladder and his Fifa cohorts brought to their knees, but they are craftier than a barrel-load of barristers. Let’s hope the Insight team can incite their downfall.
YOU JUST CANNOT win on Twitter. I echoed these thoughts posted by recently retired England spinner Graeme Swann on the Jos Buttler run-out controversy:
“Mankads, sledging, not walking, claiming ropey catches, match fixing…until all players seriously want to eradicate these ills the notion of a gentleman’s game upholding the spirit of cricket is a pipe dream.”
For those of you who have not heard of Mankad, he was a magnificent Indian all-rounder in the immediate post-war years who twice performed a Senanayake-style coup de grace on Australian Test batsman Bill Brown.
I was voicing my support of the Swannie view when a Kiwi popped this YouTube link on Twitter:
I much prefer to point my grandsons at the sportsmanship of Andy Murray, who graciously conceded a disputed point against Fernando Verdasco in the French Open on Monday. That is the spirit of sport I would like to see become contagious.
But I will not hold my breath.
SJA STALWART FRED HARRIS is back in Normandy this week, 70 years after he first had cause to visit their beaches.
Harris is returning to Normandy to honour his fallen comrades in the D-Day commemorations.
As well as doing his bit for King and Country, Fred served the Hendon and Finchley Times for 40 years as sports editor, as well as a stint with the Sunday People.
A former SJA committee member, Fred says with typical wit that he “helped settle our differences with the Axis Powers” before chasing headlines and deadlines in North London and Middlesex, often in liaison with kings of the business like Dennis Signy and former SJA chairman Paul Trow.
As Fred pays respects to those D-Day heroes who failed to come home, I know he will spend a moment thinking of Fleet Street masters like Reg Gutteridge, who lost a leg in the D-Day Landings, and Daily Express legend Norman Dixon, who was left for dead with his wounds and was nursed back to life in a German PoW hospital.
It is so humbling to think of all those who gave so much so that we could have a better life.
Thank you Fred, and all your old comrades. You will never be taken for granted.
CARL FROCH IS CERTAIN to be in the running for the SJA Sportsman of the Year award at the Connaught Rooms in Covent Garden on December 11, and I personally would like to see him attending the event as our guest but as an ex-boxer.
What a froching punch he threw to take out George Groves at Wembley on Saturday. That victory has no doubt delayed Froch climbing off the mountain. He is determined to fight on.
I fear that Froch has been involved in so many wars that he will do well to know his own name when he reaches middle age. I have seen it time and time again, old boxers who take several fights too many and pay the price down the road in the shape of the dreaded dementia pugilistica – the punch drunk syndrome.
I am currently writing a book called The Ali Files, an in-depth look at every one of The Greatest’s fights. A major feature is a “Whatever happened to …?” on each of his opponents, and a large majority finished up in a state of distress, many of them lost in the fog of dementia.
Froch is a brave and intelligent man, but like so many champions before him let’s his pride blind him to the dangers of his sport. Too brave for his own good.
I will be long gone by the time he reaches that period in his life when he will probably find himself confused and bemused and unable to remember what he has achieved.
Those close to Carl who really love him should convince him to pack it in now before that moment when he takes one punch too many.
- Visit www.normangillerbooks.com for the Bill Nicholson Revisited book and the Danny Blanchflower story. A £5 donation will be made to the Tottenham Tribute Trust for every book sold
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UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Sep 8: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC – non-members very welcome
Thu Dec 11: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery, at the Grand Connaught Rooms