All you need is Lovett
no.6- David Lovett
He needs no introduction - but well give him one anyway. The Voice of the Evening Leader and the man with that inimitable journalistic style. The bloke who in short you cant ignore. Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr David Lovett
Background: David Lovett has been covering the ups and downs of Wrexham FC for several generations. Hes seen teams, managers and players come and go. Hes Wrexham born and bred and, as the footie man on Wrexhams only evening paper, hes 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. Dont worry - we all do. Red Passion rang the Evening Leader and asked Mr Lovett if hed do an interview with us. He said: Id be delighted to. We said: Youre very kind, Mr Lovett. He said: Any time - but make it an afternoon. Let me get my copy done. Then Ill be pleased to chat. We said: Brilliant.
Setting: Its 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. Were sitting in the spacious and extremely beautiful reception area at the Evening Leaders Mold headquarters. Mr Lovett is looking cool and relaxed.That days 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 Ive been following Wrexham almost 50 years. But now Im 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. Im not sure my mum would have approved!
RP: Which part of Wrexham do you come from?
DL: Mount Street - near the Nags Head. Its 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.
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 Ive done 12 years so far with the Evening Leader.
RP: What do you like about being a journalist?
DL: I suppose its the all-round appeal of the job. You never know what youre 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 theyre probably right! Im a Wrexham lad so I obviously like following the football team. I was born in Wrexham and Ive lived all my life in Wrexham, so its 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 theyre local. Take Arfon Griffiths, for example. Hed 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. Hes from Whitegate - near where I was born. So, whatever profession youre in, I think that if youre 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 hed 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 youve 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 Id 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 wouldnt say Ive got any favourites, but I admire Connolly. When hes on form hes a very good player - a very exciting bloke to watch. Peter Ward can also be extremely influential when he plays well.
RP: Whats your view of Flynn?
DL: Hes not the most popular manager weve ever had, but Ive 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 dont 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 wasnt especially the money it got from the tie, but more the effect it had. Flynns 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 dont see eye to eye. He can get upset by some things he sees in the Evening Leader, but Ive got a job to do and Ive got to be objective. When Wrexham play badly Ive got to say so, and similarly when they play well Ive got to say so. Ive got to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Ive got to be honest with myself and the readers. To be honest I want to see Wrexham win everything - even the Boat Race - but Ive also got to report what I see.
RP: What about the players?
DL: I think Ive 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: Im 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 wouldnt say any of them are eloquent as such. Theyre 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 Id say Carey, Ward and Russell. I generally go to them first. Im not being disrespectful, but these guys talk on a different level to people like McGregor and Brammer. Its 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 hed been rubbished as a person and as a professional. Its now well documented that Flynn didnt feel it necessary to give Marriott his backing - and that provoked Marriott to go above Flynn and raise it with the Board. Flynn wasnt pleased with this and basically Marriott was told he could leave. Flynns job is to pick the best side to represent Wrexham FC and hed 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.
DL: Neils contract was up. He went to see Flynn and he was offered new terms. He weighed up the offer and basically said that he didnt 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: Whats your best scoop as a journalist?
DL: I suppose I broke Dixies 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 hes regretted his departure from the club every day since it happened.
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, hes a legend in his own lifetime. What I like about him is his unpretentiousness. Hes a lovely guy to talk to - and theres a lot of mickey-taking! Hes 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 didnt 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 wasnt 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. Im not confrontational, but like all reporters I suppose, Ive occasionally crossed swords with Flynn. Ive got to do my job and sometimes that means youve got to step on corns. But I always remember one letter I received from a lady reader. She said she wasnt 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 its 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. Hes 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 its a pity theres no other evening paper in the area - no real opposition. So weve really got a monopoly, which isnt always a good thing. Competition, I feel, is a good thing and it can keep people on their toes. Its human nature - you can become complacent. In general though I think its a well-read paper. Everybody in Wrexham reads it, dont they? Isnt it like the Bible? But theres no resting our laurels. Theres definitely room for improvement, but my verdict is that its 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. Im not sure Id 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 Ive 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. Im lucky - my jobs 99.9 per cent about football. Watching it, writing about it, talking about it - thats 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 wouldnt watch a Test match. But were 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 its also a football town and the club has a lovely homely feel to it. The clubs 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.