A Real Trend Setter in the Vanguard of Specialist Coverage of Professional Football

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), June 14, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Real Trend Setter in the Vanguard of Specialist Coverage of Professional Football


THE Sports Gazette: one of the first and one of that last.

This final edition today is one of the last surviving examples of a genre that dominated the cultural landscape of football towns across the country for the best part of a century.

It was also one of the first, and one of the most innovative, a real trend-setter right in the vanguard of specialist coverage of the 'new' fad of professional football.

The Pink Uns, Green Uns and Natural Hessian Uns were the best read and most loved wonders in the provincial press, comprehensive, passionate and bang-up-to-date with a fiercely loyal readership.

They shared intimately the partisan perspective of the reader and gave the punters exactly what they wanted: obsessive, exhaustive coverage of every aspect of the minutae of their football team.

They covered every kick and foul of the game in a report that combined analysis with the colourful prose and poetry that sprung from a fascination with the game and deep responsibility to relay every moment accurately in the knowledge that this would be the only historical record of what was a momentous occasion.

And every match IS a momentous occasion worthy of page after page of coverage. For supporters there is nothing more important, more permanently engrained in our culture than a classic match.

And for generations the only record of those matches was the Sports Gazette. In the past the national press offered the odd paragraph while radio and television would skim over the result as part of a round-up.

But the Sports would give page after page of match reports and photographs as well as endless interviews with players, managers, the groundsman as well as the thoughts of former favourites and letters from fans.

It charted the ups and down of the team's fortunes, relayed the spin from within and gave an insight into the shifting sands of public opinion.

All that plus all the results and scorers from all the leagues across the country, all available within half-an-hour of the final whistle being blown.

It would be harder to find a more accurate snapshot of the moment, or looking back a more evocative reminder. Which is why ceilings sag with precious back copies stored in lofts. We do treasure our history, we football fans. And the Gazette Sports has a longer history than most.

When it was launched in 1904 the Sports was a pioneering publication, fresh and feisty and tapping into a booming interest in the newly professional and ambitious Boro.

Boro were riding high. With five years of professional football behind them they were recently promoted to the top flight and had moved to a new home at Ayresome Park where crowds were nudging up towards the 20,000 mark.

They had recently signed England centre-forward Steve Bloomer and were soon to splash out a world record pounds 1,000 transfer fee for Alf Common. Boro were buzzing and the Gazette were at the heart of it all.

The 'journal of all manly sports and pastimes' first hit the streets on September 3rd, 1904 with reports and illustrations of Boro's 3-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

Pioneering Gazette sports editor WJ Gill wanted to make it bigger, better and more influential than the publications already available in Newcastle and Manchester, which were simply updated editions of that day's newspaper with a match report hastily inserted onto the back page. …

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