Here I am with the world’s greatest ever footballer. Of course, I never actually saw Wilf Mannion play myself, but my Nanna told me he was the greatest, so it must be true.
I met him when he was awarded an honorary degree and I was sent to interview him as a trainee reporter at my local paper. It was a bitterly cold November day, so when we stepped outside to have photographs taken, I closed Wilf’s front door to keep the warmth in. When he turned to go back inside afterwards, we realised I’d locked him out. There was no spare key and I had to call the council, who sent a joiner to break the door down. Wilf forgave me.
I was brought up in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, the sixth of seven children of an Irish father, Peter, and an English mother, Pat. All the schools I went to have now been closed down, St Francis Primary in Whinney Banks, St Michael’s Secondary beside the old speedway and St Mary’s Sixth Form College in Saltersgill.
I graduated in Law from the University of Sheffield in 1989 and shortly afterwards began running my own health products business, Green Machines. This is me meeting Prince Charles at a Prince’s Trust event in about 1990. But when I started running the Bread ‘n’ Boro football fanzine, I returned to my first passion, writing. I trained as a journalist and worked at the Evening Gazette, including stints as education, crime, sports and features reporter.
Towards the end of my decade at the Gazette I spent a year travelling the world, visiting India and working as a feature writer on popular women’s magazine New Idea in Sydney and for a weekly paper in Melbourne, the St Kilda Leader. Here I am pictured with Leader staff the day I left.
In 2000 I joined Middlesbrough Football Club as website editor, working with managers including Bryan Robson, Terry Venables and Steve McClaren. In later years my responsibilities included launching and running the club’s successful Facebook and Twitter accounts and working closely with managers Tony Mowbray and Aitor Karanka, looking after their press conferences and helping produce a wide range of club publications.