The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - April 10, 2014

FOOTBALL MAVERICK Former Pool boss Ian Holloway
FOOTBALL MAVERICK Former Pool boss Ian Holloway
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Once upon a time I used to be the football writer on this paper.

I did it for several years before Mrs Canavan persuaded me it would be much more fulfilling to spend my Saturdays hoovering and taking her to do a big shop at Asda.

It is interesting and often risky being a football reporter.

I was held up against a wall and threatened by one manager (Steve McMahon, a man for whom charm and good manners was an alien concept).

Ian Holloway came close to ripping my head off with his bare hands after I dared suggest Blackpool hadn’t played well during a 3-0 defeat at Barnsley (managers are the most one-eyed, thin-skinned folk you can meet).

And even the usually mild-mannered Simon Grayson banned me from speaking to anyone, hours after I’d landed in Latvia to cover the club’s week-long pre-season tour (the Gazette spent £1,000 on my flights and hotel – I spent the week sat in my room copying stories from the Blackpool FC website ... a job I could have done from England).

But most of it was good fun, especially as Blackpool, by a miracle of epic proportions, actually got promoted and won things and I ended up a Premier League writer, rubbing shoulders with broadcasting luminaries like Alan Green, John Motson, and, er, Stuart Hall.

I got a reminder of my football writing days when I stumbled across a website called Football Press Problems, where reporters are invited to submit complaints peculiar to their profession.

It’s a nice insight to a footie writer’s life – here are a few examples:

‘That feeling when your alarm goes off at 6.51am on a Saturday ahead of a drive to Swindon’.

‘Reading the matchday programme five times because you’ve got to the ground ridiculously early’

‘Thinking of a really clever question to ask a manager only for another journo to ask him before you in the press conference’.

‘Needing a wee midway through the second half’.

‘Paolo Di Canio pressers. One question. 45-minute answer. Three hours transcribing. A lifetime figuring out what he meant’.

It prompted me to add a few of my own:

‘Trying to discreetly watch a Manchester United Champions League game on your laptop after being assigned to cover an Accrington Stanley game on a Tuesday night’.

‘Getting shouted at by an angry player for daring to give him six out of 10 during the previous week’s 5-0 defeat at Cheltenham’.

‘Wondering whether to have beef bourguignon or potted shrimps in Manchester City’s press room; arriving at Blackpool and choosing between crisps or a stale tuna sandwich’.

‘Nipping into Morrisons to buy toilet roll and getting quizzed by a fan about whether the manager should go back to playing 4-4-2’.

When I was the footie writer many of my friends seemed to find it hard to grasp that it was a proper, full-time job.

They also didn’t take into account having to drive around the country, and the hours of work after each game (I recall having computer problems after one away match at Luton, finally filing my report at 5am, then driving home).

Then again, there are worse jobs. Being a football manager for starters, as Blackpool’s current boss would attest.

Serious rethink needed at Pool

Apologies for this being a rather football-heavy page but it is hard not to comment on what’s going on at Blackpool.

The fans are fuming after a shockingly awful run of two wins in 25 games and held a lengthy and vocal protest against chairman Karl Oyston at the end of Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to Derby.

Many fans reckon Oyston doesn’t invest enough, especially since the club earned £45m from a year in the Premier League and big-money parachute payments ever since. That failure to invest, argue the fans, is why things are a mess now.

To a point that’s correct, but I also think a major reason has been the choice of managers since Ian Holloway went. Michael Appleton and Paul Ince were poor appointments (and I said this at the time, so it’s not a case of in hindsight). The jury is still out on Barry Ferguson.

Oyston isn’t too different to the majority of other chairman in that he runs the club exactly the way he wants and won’t take financial risks.

Where he’s gone wrong is by almost actively encouraging his ultra-tight reputation, which is now backfiring when it comes to getting new managers or players to the club.

They’ll say no because they’ve heard what he’s like.

It’s been a disastrous campaign. They need to stay up by hook or crook, then have a serious rethink in the summer about the way to proceed.