France’s leading Sunday newspaper hails four stars of Premier League football writing[/caption]
How can I make this sound like it has the least thing to do with supporting Sunderland? Monsieur Salut asks himself the question and finally manages to come up with an answer …
An intriguing piece in a French newspaper caught my attention during a trip across the Channel to spend New Year in Old Man, sorry in the old part of Le Mans, my city-in-law …
Le Journal du Dimanche – yep, as simple as The Sunday Paper – had one Mickaël Caron writing with undisguised admiration about the British football’s chroniqueurs vedettes – star journalists – who command huge audiences for their reports and analysis.
In these days of mass reluctance to buy newspapers, those audiences are mostly online: Henry Winter, chief football writer at The Times has 1.25m followers at Twitter, Sam Wallace – back at The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph as chief football writer after working for The Independent – has 355,000. I know and like them both.
Caron’s article compares these statistics – and especially Henry Winter’s part in them – favourably with the 249,000 followers of L’Équipe‘s Vincent Duluc, whom he describes as the closest French equivalent. Maybe Caron has some pulling power, too; both Winter and Duluc’s figures have risen since the article mentioning them appeared.
He also gives a snapshot of Winter’s life – 130 games a season, no real office apart from stadium press boxes and motorway service stations and – reflecting both the unavoidably contentious nature of football writing and his classic good looks – “death threats and marriage proposals”.
For Caron, the success of such writers maintains a tradition that began with the brilliant Brian Glanville and is all the more impressive because newspaper writers cannot carry the same supposed authority as the former stars of the game itself – Neville, Ferdinand, Shearer etc (he doesn’t mention Lineker) – who dominate TV studio punditry.
Readers may have their own thoughts on these and other chroniclers of football. Why on earth wasn’t our own Pete Sixsmith mentioned, for example (you should have seen how many friends and past pupils flocked to Facebook when he retired)?
But I promised to add a modest SAFC reference or two.
Before moving to The Times, Henry Winter had a similar role at the Telegraph.
We were there at the same time and shared phone-in duties along with colleagues at the paper’s annual Christmas charity appeal. Lots of readers insisted on making their donations to him, whether or not they added marriage proposals. We also shared a table before that memorable game at Bradford when Niall Quinn both scored the winner and then went in goal after Tommy Sorensen was hurt.
It was Henry’s idea to meet up. He was there legitimately, to cover the game. I had engineered an essential reporting trip to West Yorkshire to coincide with the occasion.
The excellent Indian restaurant near Valley Parade where we ate was full of Sunderland supporters and most of them – including Barry Emmerson at our table and, nearby, two brothers who both played cricket for Northumberland – recognised the chroniqueur vedette, already a familiar face from television slots, and peppered him with questions.
And Sam Wallace started at the Telegraph as a graduate trainee reporter. His heart wasn’t really in it – sport and especially football was his life – but he was bright and focused. He worked enthusiastically and effectively with me on a force-by-force survey I conducted on the inconsistent way police dealt with innocent ticket exchanges (ie passing on spares at face value) outside Premier League grounds.
He may not thank me for recalling one last Sunderland link.
Sam should have been one of us – his dad, or maybe it was his granddad, was before moving south – but grew up in the Home Counties, so was a natural Manchester United supporter. But he did think the world of Kevin Phillips.
Glad to see my part in his mentoring set him up so well for a career now recognised on both sides of La Manche.