The fan - Hunter Davies would not be a football reporter today
I longed to be a football reporter, but today's spoilt stars must make it hell
In October 1958, aged 22, I joined the staff of the Manchester Evening Chronicle as a graduate trainee journalist. It was nine months after the Munich air crash, in which eight football journalists had died, along with the Manchester United victims.
My heroes on the paper were Keith Dewhurst and Ray Wergan, who respectively covered Man Utd and Man City. They wore white raincoats with the collar turned up, got acres in the papers, knew all the players. Oh, how I longed to be a football reporter.
I never actually became one. While on the Sunday Times, in the 1960s, I was in other departments, though I occasionally offered to do a match report if they wanted something silly. In the 1970s, while working on a football book, I covered some games more seriously, to pick up background material.
I often think, if times get hard with books and I'm demoted to publishers from the Third Division (North), I might try football reporting again. Then I think nah, must be hell today, with these spoilt multimillionaires up their own arses, surrounded by agents, lawyers, security guards. I bet they treat national reporters like vermin and don't even realise local hacks exist.
Dan Carrier is 32, went to Sussex University and covers Spurs for the Camden New Journal, where he's also news editor. It's a free paper, a breed journalists normally look down on, but a good one, recently winning the Free Newspaper of the Year award.
So, Dan, you must get treated like shit by a big club like Spurs?
"Not at all. I think I get better treatment than the nationals. The press office return my calls more quickly, because they know I won't be stirring up trouble.
"I started covering Spurs five years ago, so I've watched young players develop. Stephen Kelly, for example, will always talk to me. He's just so excited to have got in the squad. The foreign players are usually good as well. Steffen Freund once gave me tickets for the players' lounge, which he wouldn't do for a tabloid. Today, Edgar Davids is very helpful. The only problem is his voice is so low I can hardly hear him. Mido arrived with a reputation for being moody and difficult, but I think he's on a charm offensive, trying to make a good impression."
Foreign players, of course, don't know which are the big byline tabloid stars and which are the local hacks, and this helps people like Dan. Officially, they all get the same facilities - press box, press lounge, steak pie at half-time, seat at the manager's press conference afterwards, able to ask any questions. But with the players themselves, the system is as it always was - all newspaper hacks have to hang around the car park, outside the players' entrance, hoping for a quick word.
The present-day stars of Spurs, such as Defoe or Keane, won't say much to anyone if they've had a poor game. "I often feel sorry for them," says Dan, "having to put up with us asking the same old questions, then I think, hang on, they're on 60 grand a week."
Being so wealthy has in some ways equalled things out. At one time, players kept in with the tabloids, hoping for a fee or a ghosted column. Now they're mega-rich, they can be nice or not nice to all hacks, regardless.
Dan usually manages at least six seconds of exclusive chat with manager Martin Jol. "He's got a wicked sense of humour. Hoddle was helpful, but he spoke in cliches or babble, which made the going hard for me, as I try to get three pieces about Spurs in each issue."
Dan has mobile numbers for ten of the first-team squad but uses them sparingly, clearing his queries with the press office first. He knows not to abuse his access. But he never would. Like many local-born, local-paper reporters, he's a diehard fan of his local team.
"I've even been known to ask Martin Jol to sign my programme. Yeah, I know, very unprofessional. The press box at Spurs is just behind the bench. I have this fantasy that I'm actually a player. And that one day I'll be called on . . ."
Ah, takes me back. I had that fantasy once, till my poorly knee.
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