We managed to have a quick Q&A with Mike Donovan, author of Glory, Glory Lane to find out a little bit more about what it’s like to be a Sports Writer.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Occasionally. Noticed five-star reviews for Glory, Glory Lane on Amazon so thought I’d ‘risk’ a gander. No one likes to read a negative critique. Creative efforts are 90 per cent perspiration and a sprinkle of talent, love and affection spread over the remaining percentage, to gently twist Einstein’s quote on genius to make a point. If the review is well argued and informed the opinion expressed is more acceptable. One that educates. Besides, it is part and parcel of the process. But many still have to slip on their thick skins before reading it. It could be argued that casting your eyes over a positive review is merely massaging the ego, but everyone needs a confidence boost.
What is the most difficult part of being a sports writer?
I try, like Eric Idle’s character in Monty Python’s Life of Brian while being ‘crucified’, to look on the bright side of life, but the question demands a negative answer. So here goes. The main difficulty is earning enough of a crust to put food on the table in a climate of freelance sports writers feeding off scraps due to cutbacks and general changes in the industry. Another is a feeling that organisations are over-controlling, either protecting their image or promoting their own agenda. The perceived aims lead to shackles being placed on the journalist. There’s a tendency for organisations to decide the interview subject amongst their workforce (with a sympathy for the understanding employee caught in the middle of such invidious situations). A lack of opportunity for a journalist to form personal, trusting relationships with prospective interviewees. Occasional question-vetting by organisation monitors which can turn press conferences – often the only means of communication between journalist and a subject -anodyne. A lack of respect and trust in individual journalists even when they have proved to be trustworthy to develop.
Which sports personalities are you most fascinated with and why?
I have played football with the same group of people for over 50 years and have only ever pretended to be one player: Jimmy Greaves. My one sporting hero. Who made his name in yesteryear and is suffering bad health. He lit up my life watching him perform for my club, Tottenham Hotspur, at White Hart Lane, providing never-to-be-forgotten memories. Someone who hand-wrote me a letter during the depths of his alcoholism to offer thanks for one I had sent him explaining what he meant to me. Someone who emerged from the abyss to rebuild his life, regain the love and trust of his partner Irene and become a media personality before being struck down by a stroke a couple of years ago. And he even gave me the greatest moment of my career by allowing me to interview him. There are those who are more modern day sporting heroes to many. From Messi to Murray. From Hoy to Redgrave. From Adams to Grey-Thompson. But no one to touch James Peter Greaves in my book.
How do you think social media outlets have affected sports journalism?
Hugely. For good and bad. The worldwide web has realised a dream in putting everybody in touch with each other. Giving individuals a voice. Offering information and opinion at the touch of a button. Social media is a reflection. Expanding the profile of its subject matter. It has been beneficial for sports journalism by supplying information and reaction swiftly. But the exploitative and uninformed have muddied the waters. Facts are sacrosanct in journalism, but, as anyone can have a voice, the authenticity of them on distrusted outlets can be justifiably challenged.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
It energises, especially when the subject is dear to your heart, like Glory, Glory Lane. Felt the same when writing my previous books. My tomes about Spurs, namely Spurs’ Unsung Hero, the story of Double hero Terry Dyson, Spurs’ Greatest Games and Takenote!, the autobiography of Darren Anderton. My hardbacks on Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United and Chelsea. Even my unpublished book concerning an individual sportsman’s fight with cancer. If you wake up the right side of the bed, the ideas flow and the fingers are forced to pick up pace to match. Tight deadlines also makes the adrenalin flow. You feel tense, excited…alive.
EXCERPT FROM GLORY, GLORY LANE
IT is coming up to eight o’clock on the evening of Sunday, 14th May 2017. The rain soft, the sun weak, light fading. A spring freshness in the nostrils, excited chatter in the ears and the sight of the babbling Spurs believers pouring out of their cathedral one last time. We had all gathered at White Hart Lane Stadium, the ‘world-famous home of the Spurs’ for 118 years, to say goodbye to it.
Not long before, a host of legends had stood in the centre of the field of so many dreams. Double winner Terry Dyson pointed a finger and Glenn Hoddle his umbrella at the skyline. Both to draw attention to what they had seen. A fully-arced a rainbow across the back of the iconic East Stand.
The celebratory wake for the Lane had just finished in a flurry of ticker-tape and around 30,000 white and navy blue flags being waved side to side. One choregraphed with love. To reflect what the club had stood for down the Lane, down the years: Entertainment, class, glory…
It followed Harry Kane preaching to the converted by scoring the last winning goal for the club at its traditional home…
…But Mother Nature stole the show as Dyson, Hoddle, all of us, witnessed the rainbow emerge out of dark clouds. It seemed to point the way to Spurs’ future.
; the 2,533rd and final competitive match to be hosted by Spurs at a Lane bathed in sunshine. Fittingly, the 2-1 victory over Manchester United ensured a sense of closure for the old ground. United were the opposition when Spurs played their first top-flight game at the ground on 11th September in 1909.
The win also bettered Spurs’ First Division newcomers of yore who drew 2-2 in front of Archibald Leitch’s newly-built West Stand after winning promotion in their debut season in the Football League; Bobby Steel converting two penalties for the Lilywhites.
But Mother Nature stole the show as Dyson, Hoddle, all of us, witnessed the rainbow emerge out of dark clouds. It seemed to point the way to Spurs’ future
About Mike Donovan
Mike Donovan is an award-winning sports journalist who has authored Tottenham Hotspur-related books including Spurs’ Greatest Games, Spurs’ Unsung Hero (Terry Dyson) and Takenote! (Darren Anderton). A Spurs supporter since 1961, Mike’s family have a White Hart Lane history going back eight decades. A writer for over 40 years, he’s been a boxing and tennis correspondent and a sports editor. Contributes to newspapers, magazines and websites.
Glory, Glory Lane (available here) is the life-affirming history – including a momentous last season – of a world-famous football stadium, home to Tottenham Hotspur for 118 years. A Victorian structure turned wraparound 21st-century all-seater, it became a theatre of dreams for supporters all attracted by teams which played the ‘Spurs way’ to achieve glory.
The Lane gave a stage to a conveyor belt of legends from Cameron to Alli via Nicholson, Blanchflower, Greaves, Hoddle and Klinsmann. It provided unforgettable memories in unforgettable atmospheres – heart-lifting, heart-breaking, nerve-racking. Its story veers from founders obsessed by Harry Hotspur to Harry Kane via Harry Redknapp; through matches, personalities, ground developments and threatened closure, all with first-hand accounts. It’s hard to imagine how a new GBP750m stadium can ever replace the edifice which shut its gates for the last time after Spurs played Manchester United in May 2017, having created a daunting legacy.