Green’Un files: A Sunday morning call from an unimpressed Blues boss – and a whopper of a mistake on day one!
MIKE BACON was editor of the popular Green’Un newspaper between 1997 and 2001. In a series of articles, he shares some of his stories.
I didn’t make an especially wonderful start to life as editor of the Green’Un.
I had done plenty of planning during the summer of 1997 on how I wanted the paper to look.
Overall, much of it took care of itself. But I wanted to expand the pagination, bring in more advertising and make the features bigger and bolder with more pictures. It would take time.
The opening game for Ipswich Town at the start of the 97/98 season was away at QPR. It was a goalless draw.
Hardly much to get fans flocking to buy the paper.
But the non-league coverage was as usual very good, with Neal Manning, now my deputy editor, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable journalist with great contacts, assisting me.
Coupled with Elvin King, another with great contacts who knew the non-league scene, I was in a good place on that front.
However, the first Green’Un of the new season contained a whopper of a mistake! – By yours truly.
Well, in saying that, I certainly knew it was a whopper of a mistake. I’m not sure all the readers would have readily noticed.
The front cover was always so important. A good headline, good action picture, or preferably a ‘cele pic’ (what we in the newspaper trade call a goal celebration photo), was always preferential. Impact on the shelves was all, as Ipswich Star editor Nigel Pickover would always tell me.
Obviously on this opening weekend of the new season a 0-0 draw didn’t offer any ‘celes’. But the action pic was sound enough. That wasn’t where the problem lay!
On all front pages of newspapers you will see ‘teasers’. Words and photos ‘teasing’ what is inside the paper.
Sadly, for my opening edition as editor, among my teasers/or lack of, there was a ‘faux pas’!
I had a strip of teasers across the top, but for some unknown reason ‘THE BIG QUIZ, PAGE 7’ block was missing when the paper was printed.
It was just a big white hole at the top right-hand side on the front page. Clearly I’d accidently pressed ‘delete’ when checking it and then sent it to production!
I was gutted.
Back in those days, in Lower Brook Street, you used to be able to watch the paper being printed off the press.
It was only a 30 yard walk from my desk, through the neg and plate department and into the press room.
As the papers roared out, I’d pick one up and check it....It was a real buzz. Except this time it wasn’t.
It took me all of 10 seconds to see the glaring omission on the front page! I didn’t have time to re-do it. It was crucial the Green’Un was out on the streets asap.
So, nothing I could do about it – apart from cry into my beer down the pub later that night!...
... Town didn’t make a great start to their 1997/98 season.
Indeed, just one win in their first seven Division One games, including defeat at Norwich City, and there were a few grumblings over George Burley’s team.
While today many fans have columns and opinions, mainly thanks to the Internet, back in 1997 there were very few fans who had the opportunity to give their views in print on a regular basis – aside from a letter’s page.
Steve Curtis was the Green’Un fan who penned a weekly column, ‘Town Travels with Steve Curtis’, I believe it was called.
Again, because of the lack of fans’ columns, it was quite influential and his thoughts were read with interest by many. I liked Steve alot. He was a true fan, home and away, and balanced.
Well, after the Norwich defeat on a Friday night in September, Steve sent me in his column the next day, so as to be up-to-date as possible and to include his thoughts on the Derby defeat.
I don’t remember exactly what he said, but Steve intimated George Burley hadn’t made a great start to the season and asked the question, ‘was he the man for the job?’ I know, sounds crazy now!
It was Steve’s view and he was entitled to it.
But it led to Town boss George Burley calling me early on the Sunday morning.
“Hello Mike, it’s George... George Burley,” the Town boss said.
“Is your paper wanting to get me out of a job?”
My mind boggled! What could this be about.
“No, George, of course not,” I replied. “Why do you think that?”
“Because of Steve Curtis’ column. He’s asking whether I’m the man for the job. I wanted to know is that the stance your paper is taking?”
I assured George that in no way was that the stance. It was Steve’s column and his opinion. I felt it was fair enough.
I told him the Green’Un had no intentions of starting a ‘Burley out’ campaign.
In fairness George accepted my response but rightly wanted to seek my thoughts – we had a 15 minute chat and finished on a cordial note.
.... During my tenure as Green’Un editor George was the only Town boss I worked with.
And for me he is one of the most underrated Town managers of all time. He deserves far more plaudits.
OK, so not winning the big silverware like Sir Alf and Sir Bobby, George still built a consistent team of young and exciting players, many local, that culminated in that superb day at Wembley in May 2000 and that wonderful year afterwards.
He was also of course Premier League manager of the season in 2000/01. No mean feat, just take a look at the list of winners over the years! Remember, George also played 500 times for the club.
Fortunately that one phone call was the only time we ever had a ‘sort of’ crossed word and we often met up at sports’ functions. We even played in a charity football match together.
Then again we were both busy.
Me trying to get Green’Un sales up, George trying to get Ipswich Town up. Fortunately we both succeeded!
More tales next week.... Including the inside story of that wonderful Saturday afternoon.... Ipswich Town 5 Norwich City 0, February 1998, as our Green’Un columnist Alex Mathie struck gold!
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