2 From Wigan to the West Indies and Beyond

Daily Star sports desk in Manchester, 1980s. Sports editor Arthur Lamb is second left

A JOURNALIST'S TALE, Part 2

By STEVE BOTT

From Wigan it was on to Manchester and the Daily Star in 1980 as a sub-editor on the sports desk. I had started doing shifts for the first national newspaper to be produced fully in Manchester in 1978 and after accepting sports editor Arthur Lamb's job offer on Christmas Eve in 1988 I embarked on the best nine years of my life in journalism. 

I sub-edited sports stories of every description from all over the world and covered top class football games and Rugby League for the Star. I switched to The People re football match coverage in the mid 80s and stayed with them until 2012, covering the Premier League and Championship mainly with the odd League One and Two game thrown in now and again just to keep my feet on the floor!

I left the Star in January 1989 and joined the sports desk of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph in Blackburn. The main part of the job was covering Burnley Football Club and I had a whale of a time doing it, including a season spent travelling with the team on the same coach used by Manchester United and staying in some very swish hotels.

I couldn't get used to having to go back to local sports coverage, writing about schools netball was just not my bag if you get my drift, so I made a momentous and life-changing move in July 1991 when I went to London to work on the Today sports desk at Rupert Murdoch's News International plant at Wapping on the Thames close to Tower Bridge.

I saw the man himself, Murdoch, one day as he stood chatting with sports editor Mike Crouch at the top of the desk. Alastair Campbell was on the Today staff and we had many a chat about Burnley, Alastair's favourite football team.

Next door was The Sun and many a famous face was to be seen there. Piers Morgan, Kelvin Mackenzie and my old sports editor from the Daily Star, David Balmforth. OK so Dave's not world famous, but he is a legend in some people's eyes. Mad as a box of frogs but a reasonably good operator as he went on to prove by running nearly every red top sports desk in England.

I had spells in Leeds with the Press Association, Newcastle on the Sunday Sun, freelancing from home and in a small agency's office in Stockport, the Bury Times, the Daily Star again at Preston, Glasgow on the Mirror, Record, Star and Express, and Edinburgh before taking my first job outside the UK in April 2005 when I accepted a telephone offer to work on the Cayman Net News in George Town, Grand Cayman in the West  Indies.

Sun, sea, and sand — and the job wasn't bad either, but the 12-hour shifts were killers and I left the Net News to link up with the more established Caymanian Compass as a general news reporter. I did the lot from hard news, sport through to the arts and theatre. Wonderful. I even joined the local drama group and met the island's Governor and his wife one evening at the theatre.

I went from the sublime to the ridiculous in 2008 when I went to  work in Britain's longest cul-de-sac, Barrow-in-Furness. Again, I did general news on the North West Evening Mail.

All this work was fine but I needed a bit of R and R so in 2012 I went off to see my old mate from Cayman, Robbie Addinall and his family out in Springs, 50km east of Johannesburg in South Africa.

I travelled extensively during my month in the Republic taking in Cape Town, Jo'burg including travelling the 800 miles between the two twice by road in coaches and a car.

I was taken by Robbie to his hometown, Knysna, on the east coast Garden Route by the Indian Ocean and then on up the road a few miles to stay at a luxury golf complex called Fancourt in George before returning to Cape Town again by coach and flying back to Manchester. I took the train from the airport station to Coppull, a little village between Wigan and Chorley in Lancashire.

Three years later I went off for a 20-month stay on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean and got to know Europe's southernmost island very well indeed. Much more of that elsewhere.

So where to next? Who knows. All part of life's rich tapestry - which I love adding to.

It was a great team and they really knew their business.

NEXT: Daily Star characters in the 1980s

 

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