The real-life tales of a football writer
‘Glory Glory!’, my 90s United book came out this week, a project which started last July and took me around Europe interviewing former players.
It consists of 11 candid interviews and 104,000 words with people like Andrew Cole, Nicky Butt, Eric Cantona and Martin Edwards.
It was the Edwards interview which the media seized on last week and made it headlines.
When things like that happen, you feel like you are riding a bucking bronco because you have no control, nor any idea what is coming next.
Here’s what happened.
The Manchester Evening News ran extracts from the book over two nights. I trust the journalist there and he took 1,000 words from the Andrew Cole chapter and the same from Martin Edwards.
The paper got two big extracts and the book received a lot of publicity. To pay for the equivalent in advertising would be beyond the finances of the publishers.
Despite taking just 10 percent of the chapters, both extracts were fairly balanced. They took more quotes than colour, but that’s natural for a newspaper.
The national newspapers then got hold of the Edwards’ quotes and put a different spin on them, with some making out that he’d just launched an outburst against the Glazer family.
The Sun and The Daily Mail didn’t even credit that the source of the quotes was my book, but then that wouldn’t have suited their ‘exclusive.’
I’m used to it – many tabloid ‘exclusives’ originate from the pages of United We Stand.
The other papers credited the book, but Martin Edwards didn’t launch an outburst against the Glazer family.
After I requested an interview for the book, he invited me to his home last December and gave a very balanced interview over three hours.
I let him have his say. He was not popular with many Manchester United fans, nor readers of United We Stand.
Some will question the decision to interview at all, but I used the opportunity to put a list of concerns and points to him.
He answered all of them. In some cases he held his hands up, with others he disagreed.
I requested an interview with him because he was the chairman of Manchester United for two decades, a relevant subject who hasn’t done many interviews.
He was entitled to present his side of the story in his chapter – just as the 10 players have put forward their side of the story.
I presented his interview fairly and the readers can form their opinions. He was never anything but polite and gave his fee to charity.
But he did not launch an outburst, as the chapter shows.
The Mail’s story started: “Manchester United could be thrown into financial turmoil if the Glazer family leave the club, former chairman Martin Edwards has warned.”
The words ‘could’ and ‘if’ are crucial here. You ‘could’ sleep with Beyonce tomorrow ‘if’ she fancied you and made it clear that she wanted to bed you.
Martin Edwards woke up last Thursday and immediately started receiving phone calls about his remarks.
Then he looked at The Mail and was understandably shocked.
Then he called me.
I was expecting it and I’ve kept recordings of everyone I’ve interviewed for the book, should there be any doubts.
Or, in the worse case, should evidence need to be presented in court.
I also protected several of the subjects from comments which could be damaging.
They’ve been good enough to be frank and give me their time and don’t deserve to be stitched up.
I see Dwight Yorke sitting on the News of the World sofa confessing intimately and cringe.
Dwight probably wonders what he’s got himself into, but his publishers want all the publicity possible – seemingly regardless of the cost to Dwight.
“Before we go on, have you had the book yet?” I asked Martin Edwards.
“I’ve just received it this morning, but I’ve not read it yet,” he replied.
“So please read your chapter and then get back to me. I’ve presented your interview fairly.”
He did read it and call me back to say that I had done that and that he stands by everything he said.
But to the wider world, Edwards spent the previous night berating the Glazers to any journalist who would listen.
That would have been nice, but the fact was that he didn’t.
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When I saw the comments in the papers I thought, hang on, where's this coming from. Then something clicked and I remembered that you had interviewed him for the book (of which I have a copy and is next on my reading list). As you said, its not the first time the incredibly lazy hacks in Fleet St have pilfered someone else's work and claimed it as their own. Its pathetic. Same with UWS (and Red News and Red Issue), these so called journos are constantly scouring United fan sites for genuine stories that they then usually rip off and claim as their own exclusive. Some do quote the source but they are in the minority.
Hopefully the coverage will help the book if nothing else. Though I did smile to myself thinking of the Glazers thoughts on his comments re: the finances!
Have you ever tried to interview one of the Glazers, or is that a silly question?
I'm not sure what you'd ask them but it would make for interesting reading. Is there an extract of the Edwards piece somewhere in United We Stand? I know for a fact I was reading it on the khazi the other day. Is in the Groundside on the UWS forum? If so I must have dragged the computer into the cackhouse and read it while I did my business without even realising I'd done it (dragged the computer, that is, not done my business; I always know when I'm doing that).
This is gonna drive me mad now...thanks...I hope you're proud of yourself.
I've just gone on the United We Stand forum and checked and it IS on there.
confused. I'm sure I was on the toilet when reading that. It was fascinating, by the way, and I conclude that Edwards is a good man, certainly a sight better than some people I could mention. Like whoever looks after the clock in St. Ann's Church in central Manchester, for instance.
Just finished reading your book Andy - great work as usual. A very good read. Cheers.
finished your book yesterday, and its an excellent read, funny in parts (David May!!)and getting the players insight was very refreshing as was reading Martin Edwards chapter, its the one i found most interesting as it was the view from 'upstairs' which one rarely gets to hear about. The one player I really didnt take too was Jordi Cruyff...was glad when that chapter ended, all he did was complain, complain and complain.
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