All you need is Lovett

The Media men

no.6- David Lovett

David Lovett

He needs no introduction - but we’ll give him one anyway. The Voice of the Evening Leader and the man with that inimitable journalistic style. The bloke who in short you can’t ignore. Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr David Lovett

Background: David Lovett has been covering the ups and downs of Wrexham FC for several generations. He’s seen teams, managers and players come and go. He’s Wrexham born and bred and, as the footie man on Wrexham’s only evening paper, he’s fans’ No.1 contact with Racecourse goings-on. His name is all over the Evening Leader sports pages and all over the Racecourse scoreboard. ‘READ DAVID LOVETT IN THE EVENING LEADER’. Don’t worry - we all do. Red Passion rang the Evening Leader and asked Mr Lovett if he’d do an interview with us. He said: ‘I’d be delighted to’. We said: ‘You’re very kind, Mr Lovett’. He said: ‘Any time - but make it an afternoon. Let me get my copy done. Then I’ll be pleased to chat.’ We said: ‘Brilliant’.

Setting: It’s the afternoon after the night before. Wrexham have won another point in a midweek Racecourse encounter and David Lovett is perched on an easy chair. We’re sitting in the spacious and extremely beautiful reception area at the Evening Leader’s Mold headquarters. Mr Lovett is looking cool and relaxed.That day’s edition of the Evening Leader has just hit the streets so he can relax - for the time being at least. So, for a nice change, Mr Lovett sits there and answers, rather than asks, some questions…

RP: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

DL: ‘I was born in Wrexham and first went to the Racecourse when I was six. So I’ve been following Wrexham almost 50 years. But now I’m a supporter and a reporter. My uncle took me to my first game. I remember we went into the Turf at half-time and he had a pint. I’m not sure my mum would have approved!’

RP: Which part of Wrexham do you come from?

DL: ‘Mount Street - near the Nag’s Head. It’s close to the brewery and you get the odd rag-and-bone man down there as well.’

RP: Which players do you remember from that era?

DL: ‘People like Rolando Ugolini, Ronnie Hewitt and Johnny Anderson.’

RP: What are your childhood memories?

DL: ‘As a lad, queuing for FA Cup tickets in ‘57-’58. It was the big game against Man United. I remember the exact crowd at the game - 34,443. I sat in the Plas Coch Stand. All the big names were there: Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Roger Byrne. I recall that there were 19,000 at a Cheshire League game just before. Amazing.’

RP: What did you do before becoming a journalist?

DL: ‘When I left school I got a job as a delivery man. But I attended a careers convention and I got talking to a chap from the Manchester Guardian. I became quite interested in journalism and the prospects of a career in sports journalism. I did a little bit of freelance work in Liverpool and then worked for a weekly paper in Mid-Wales. It was the Montgomeryshire Express, based in Welshpool. I did sport there and I followed Welshpool Town in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area). I really enjoyed it and when the Express merged I joined the Shropshire Star - who had the same owners. This was about 1967-68. Obviously the Shropshire Star was interested in Shropshire sport first and foremost but their tentacles were spreading towards North Wales. They put an editorial team into Wrexham. I was based just behind the Wynstay Hotel and in ’68 I started doing the Wrexham football stuff.’

RP: Wrexham?

DL: ‘For the best part of 20 years I covered Wrexham for the Wrexham Leader - when Reg Herbert was editor. In ’87 I started covering Wrexham for the Evening Leader. So I’ve done 12 years so far with the Evening Leader.’

RP: What do you like about being a journalist?

DL: ‘I suppose it’s the all-round appeal of the job. You never know what you’re going to be doing. I never fancied a humdrum or repetitive job. After that careers convention, I always wanted to make a career in journalism. I enjoy doing what I do and I think a lot of people would like my job! I think also that everyone thinks they could do the job better than I do. And they’re probably right! I’m a Wrexham lad so I obviously like following the football team. I was born in Wrexham and I’ve lived all my life in Wrexham, so it’s really a labour of love.’

RP: Are your local origins a help or a hindrance?

DL: ‘You know what they say: You should never be a preacher in your own land…I think actually that a lot of players get it worse if they’re local. Take Arfon Griffiths, for example. He’d be the first name in my Best-Ever Wrexham Team, but I think it would be fair to say that he took a lot of extra stick because he was a local lad. He’s from Whitegate - near where I was born. So, whatever profession you’re in, I think that if you’re a local lad you get more stick - even though it may be good humoured.’

RP: What have been the highlights of your career as a journalist and as a Wrexham fan?

DL: ‘1978 and the Third Division Championship title definitely. That was a fantastic side. It was the John Neal era, Later, Bill Shankly came to see Arfon and watch the team and said, famously, that it was the "best Third Division team he’d ever seen". That was a wonderful tribute from someone who really knew about football. There were some fabulous European trips as well: Anderlecht in the mid-‘70s. I went to Brussels - and we just lost the tie overall. Anderlecht had a galaxy of stars in their line-up, so it was an amazing performance. There have been some great FA Cup runs as well - and three quarter-final appearances in the last few decades.’

RP: What are your Chesterfield memories?

DL: ‘Absolute abject disappointment. That day in Chesterfield was like a lance going through my heart. It was the manner of the goal that was so awful. It was a dreadful cock-up between Marriott and Brace. I can still see it now.’

RP: Is it hard being a reporter and a fan - particularly at games like Chesterfield?

DL: ‘Yes, as a reporter you’ve got to be objective. But at the same time I had to convey the disappointment of the Wrexham fans who were there on the day. There were grown men crying at Saltergate and I had to get that across. There were genuine tears of disappointment.’

RP: Who would be in your all-time Wrexham side?

DL: ‘Arfon Griffiths. Dixie McNeil certainly, and I’d probably have Bobby Shinton in it as well. Dai Davies was a good keeper but Johnny Schofield would get my vote. I remember that Dai Davies and Dixie McNeil signed for Arfon in the same week. Two players who definitely never gave up: one a stopper, one a scorer. Some of the current side would get close, but none would actually get in.’

RP: Who are your favourites in the current side?

DL: ‘I wouldn’t say I’ve got any favourites, but I admire Connolly. When he’s on form he’s a very good player - a very exciting bloke to watch. Peter Ward can also be extremely influential when he plays well.’

RP: What’s your view of Flynn?

DL: ‘He’s not the most popular manager we’ve ever had, but I’ve got to say that some of that is self-inflicted. I think that Wrexham fans like managers to be close to them - literally. And I don’t think they like the fact that at home games he sits in the Yale Stand. Maybe it gives him a better perspective on the game, but I know that many fans would like to see him kicking every ball with the team - just like Joey does.’

RP: What about his time at Wrexham?

DL: ‘The Arsenal game turned everything around for the club. It wasn’t especially the money it got from the tie, but more the effect it had. Flynn’s clearly done very well since that game.’

RP: What are your relations like with Mr Flynn?

Good on the whole, although obviously there are ups and downs in the relationship. Some days we don’t see eye to eye. He can get upset by some things he sees in the Evening Leader, but I’ve got a job to do and I’ve got to be objective. When Wrexham play badly I’ve got to say so, and similarly when they play well I’ve got to say so. I’ve got to acknowledge the reality of the situation. I’ve got to be honest with myself and the readers. To be honest I want to see Wrexham win everything - even the Boat Race - but I’ve also got to report what I see.’

RP: What about the players?

DL: ‘I think I’ve got an excellent relationship with them. Obviously Andy Marriott did a column with us before he left. I enjoyed working with him and people like Brian Carey and Ian Rush are also very responsive.’

David Lovett: Top Trivia

Favourite food: Fish and chips

Favourite drink: Wrexham Lager

Least favourite drink: Tomato juice

Favourite music: Elvis

Least favourite music: Any new wave band

Favourite holiday destination: Ireland

Favourite footballer: I’m not a City fan - but Kinkladze

Favourite Wrexham player of all time: Arfon Griffiths

Favourite football pundit: Ron Atkinson - a good manager and he talks a lot of good sense.

Favourite newspaper: Guardian

Favourite film: Deerhunter

Favourite TV: Match of the Day

Least favourite TV: Soaps

Favourite book: The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico - the Dunkirk story

Hobbies: Fishing in Mid-Wales and pubs

Least favourite sport: Cricket

RP: Are the players good talkers?

DL: ‘I wouldn’t say any of them are eloquent as such. They’re all down-to-earth chaps and they all speak their minds. I suppose if I had to put my finger on the academics in the side I’d say Carey, Ward and Russell. I generally go to them first. I’m not being disrespectful, but these guys talk on a different level to people like McGregor and Brammer. It’s the age gap, I suppose. Carey, Ward and Russell have just been around a lot more.’

RP: Do you get many letters?

DL: ‘Not personally - you get occasional ones though. Some are offensive; a fair few come into the Reds Postbag the Leader has. We got quite a few letters about the Marriott affair.’

RP: The Marriott business - can you enlighten us a bit?

DL: ‘Obviously the Marriott saga excited a lot of comment. A letter had been sent to a newspaper which had offended him. In his column he said he was extremely upset; that he’d been rubbished as a person and as a professional. It’s now well documented that Flynn didn’t feel it necessary to give Marriott his backing - and that provoked Marriott to go above Flynn and raise it with the Board. Flynn wasn’t pleased with this and basically Marriott was told he could leave. Flynn’s job is to pick the best side to represent Wrexham FC and he’d basically made his mind up: Cartwright was the new first-choice keeper. In my humble opinion though, when Marriott was still at the club he was the best keeper available.’

RP: Wainwright?

DL: ‘Neil’s contract was up. He went to see Flynn and he was offered new terms. He weighed up the offer and basically said that he didn’t want to stay for that money. He knew other clubs were interested and before he knew it he was at the Stadium of Light - another planet I guess after the Racecourse.’

RP: What’s your best scoop as a journalist?

DL: ‘I suppose I broke Dixie’s exit from the club before anyone else. He was a terrific player for Wrexham and a Racecourse icon. There were people who worshipped McNeil and when he left the club it was a massive story. I remember being in the same office as Dixie and Pryce Griffiths when the final moment came. I think that at the time Dixie was getting a bit disillusioned with football - he had a couple of other businesses - but I also know that he’s regretted his departure from the club every day since it happened.’

RP: Rush?

DL: ‘I think the Leader got to the Rush story before anyone else. Ian had done a column for the Evening Leader while he was at Liverpool so I already knew him and, as everyone knows, he’s a legend in his own lifetime. What I like about him is his unpretentiousness. He’s a lovely guy to talk to - and there’s a lot of mickey-taking! He’s a credit to his profession and I really enjoy dealing with him. Last summer I was in the Isle of Man and I got chatting to him at the airport when he came out to play in the tournament. He didn’t say anything too explicitly, but I think you could say that I got a couple of nice indications to the effect that he would come to Wrexham. I think you could say the Leader got a bit of a lead-in to the story. It wasn’t my skill though - just what Rush was telling me. It was because of him; he and I have a good relationship and I suppose he was just tossing me a few crumbs; it was then my job to knead it into a full loaf!’

RP: How would you describe your journalistic style?

DL: ‘Someone described me once as a no-nonsense, hard-hitting reporter. I’m not confrontational, but like all reporters I suppose, I’ve occasionally crossed swords with Flynn. I’ve got to do my job and sometimes that means you’ve got to step on corns. But I always remember one letter I received from a lady reader. She said she wasn’t interested in football at all - but she read my reports because they were, in her words, informative and amusing. I think you should never lose your sense of humour as a reporter - this has got to come across in your reports. I think in fact it’s the essence of writing. News is different, but with sport you can interpret things in your own way and make your copy interesting.’

RP: Who are your favourite sportswriters?

DL: ‘James Mossop of the Sunday Express. He’s an excellent writer and I like his style. I also like Hugh Mcllvenny - he gets his message in a very nice style.’

RP: What are your opinions about your own newspaper?

DL: ‘In a way it’s a pity there’s no other evening paper in the area - no real opposition. So we’ve really got a monopoly, which isn’t always a good thing. Competition, I feel, is a good thing and it can keep people on their toes. It’s human nature - you can become complacent. In general though I think it’s a well-read paper. Everybody in Wrexham reads it, don’t they? Isn’t it like the Bible? But there’s no resting our laurels. There’s definitely room for improvement, but my verdict is that it’s just a good local evening newspaper. I recall reading the Mark Currie interview in Red Passion. He seemed to be saying that the Daily Post was a regional paper and the Evening Leader a community paper - a kind of parish newsletter. I’m not sure I’d totally agree with this though.’

RP: What are your editors like?

DL: ‘They give me a free role. It means I can put my own interpretation on stories. Obviously I discuss things with the sports editor and most of the time he accepts my judgement. So I’ve really got a free rein.’

RP: Which parts of your job do you most enjoy?

DL: ‘I suppose I like doing match reports the most. I’m lucky - my job’s 99.9 per cent about football. Watching it, writing about it, talking about it - that’s my job! But the caviar is definitely watching games.’

RP: What about other sports?

DL: ‘I have to do other sports in the summer - tennis, hockey and cricket. Cricket though is the worst game ever invented. I go down to Acton Park - but I wouldn’t watch a Test match. But we’re a true team on the Leader sports desk and I always do my bit with the other sports.’

RP: Would you like to report on the Premiership?

DL: ‘Yes, obviously. To have a chance to do that would be great. Hopefully, one day, it will be Wrexham. I always enjoy big games - like the recent Man United-Wrexham ties - so, obviously that would be the dream. On the whole though my ambition is just to be happy in my work.’

RP: Do you ever get sick of watching Wrexham?

DL: ‘No - never. The club is an integral part of the community and the heritage of the town. In medieval times Wrexham was quite noted for its brewing, tanning and leather industries. But it’s also a football town and the club has a lovely homely feel to it. The club’s PR is improving and Flynn, most certainly, has helped raise the profile of the club. The Gresford complex, for example, is an incredible achievement - really professional and the club should be congratulated for that. And in general terms I feel that Wrexham as a club are unique.’

Thanks a lot Mr Lovett - much appreciated.