Three cup finals, two relegations, two promotions, European football, two-and-a-half years of being banned, 16 managers, approximately seven chairmen, goodness knows how many players, one administration and a whole heap of crazy stories. It certainly hasn’t been a dull 17-and-a-half years with Saints.

This Saturday’s game against Arsenal will be my last covering this amazing football club for the Daily Echo.

It might be that I now get on and write the book of the inside story of the most tumultuous two decades in Saints’ history that many have hassled me about and finally lift the lid on some of the remarkable tales that have never been told, but, for now, I thought I might use this platform to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future.

A shaky start

There’s a fairly short Scotsman shouting at me incomprehensibly by a public field somewhere in the depths of the Swedish wilderness.

I don’t really have a clue what he’s saying but his bright red face and furious arm waving are a pretty obvious clue that this isn’t Gordon Strachan warmly welcoming me into the fold.

There’s not much I remember about the actual exchange except the sign off. ‘I just want to do my job’ he shouted. ‘So do I,’ I replied.

The players were lying about on the pitch behind him giggling like schoolchildren.

In time I came to realise this row did me the power of good. I was suddenly a part of the group. The players just thought it was brilliant it was directed at somebody else.

Strachan was annoyed that the paper hadn’t cleared with him permission to be in a public field. At the time I was mortified. My response once the dust had settled for an hour or so? To write a letter to leave at the hotel for him – there was no internet in the wilderness in 2002 - explaining why it would be better we worked together as I wasn’t going anywhere.

The next day we had a more reasoned discussion on some abandoned plastic garden furniture that was near the side of the training pitch.

Though we had our ups and downs from then on, I always felt a mutual respect. Strachan would still go mad from time to time, but it was always in private and not in public like most other people got. That was about as much as you could ask.

With hindsight it all rather confirms that when I was first given this job in 2002, I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

Whether the editor at the time, Ian Murray, or the sports editor, Dave King, really thought I was up to the job or not I’m still not entirely sure, but given a whole host of legends such as Graham Hiley and John May had recently departed it was basically me or nobody. And, so, it was me.

Strachan was a baptism of fire but dealing with him taught me so much. It was the making of me as a journalist, and I never had a problem with another manager that I didn’t feel confident in dealing with.

16 bosses and no two the same

Dealing with one club there are always going to be a few key contacts. Without doubt the manager is right at the top of that list.

I’ve enjoyed regular contact with some managers, I’ve had managers who wanted to go out for a drink, I’ve had managers who only spoke when they had to. Some want off the record discussions, others to stay at arm’s length.

I’m often asked who my favourite has been. That’s hard to choose as they have all offered something so different and contributed to these amazing experiences.

I really liked George Burley and his understanding of how to deal with regional press at a provincial club. Paul Sturrock was a unique character.

The Dutch duo of Jan Poortvliet and Mark Wotte were very different but extremely engaging at a crazy time for the club. And who could forget Harry Redknapp?

Mauricio Pochettino was a great sparring partner in press conferences.

Ronald Koeman was icy, but I loved dealing with him. So straightforward, so able to turn it on in front of the cameras and so authoritative.

For the record, Ralph Hasenhuttl is not mentioned because he’s in situ and it’s hard to judge anybody while in the thick of it.

There are so many stories about them all. They really are for the book.

Changing times

Not only has the Premier League changed English football beyond all recognition but at the same time the world of news has endured – rather than enjoyed - its biggest transformation since the invention of the printing press, and all on my watch.

When I started you could just turn up at Staplewood to watch training and speak to the players and managers as they walked past afterwards. There was no security, no press office.

It was self-regulating, and it worked. If you double crossed a player they wouldn’t speak to you again. Simple. If a player didn’t agree with something you’d written they would tell you, often fairly bluntly, but then you discussed it and moved on.

It’s not possible in today’s world of global interest in the Premier League but I think smaller clubs like Saints suffer because of it and fans feel more disconnected from their team than they ever have as a result.

From a newspaper perspective there was no pressure back in those days for web hits or to get something out instantly on social media.

I sometimes feel like I’m from another era as I have set my stall on reliability and credibility. If I say something about Saints you know it’s true and I don’t court controversy for my own gain.

It’s not sexy or glamorous, and, sadly, it doesn’t get you very far in today’s world, but it’s my way. When I read some of the absolute rubbish that passes for Saints coverage elsewhere these days it makes me all the prouder.


When you get into sports journalism it’s normally because of a love of sport.

The business side of football has grown in significance over the past couple of decades and nowadays there are people who are specialists in this area, but at a regional club it’s your job to able to read a balance sheet as well as well understand a formation.

And to do the job properly you must cultivate relationships with chairmen and board members as well as players and managers.

Rupert Lowe was a tough man to deal with, but I always had some respect for him. Some people might metaphorically stab you in the back, Rupert would stab you in the front while looking you in the eye, though Nigel Farage might disagree.

Countless times he would be on the phone blustering about something he didn’t like, often utilising some colourful language. And how could I ever forget the ‘U-turn over re-appointing Hoddle’ story.

Rupert summonsed me to a press conference where he was to put the story straight and kill the Echo at the same time. What he proceeded to do was ensure we sold out of copies of the paper by brandishing them live on TV and talking about it so extensively. And I still maintain our story was correct, by the way.

I looked back recently on a pile of private correspondences with the various players in the Lowe, Michael Wilde, Leon Crouch saga that twisted one way then the other and ended in administration. I had almost forgotten how bonkers that was.

Administration was tough to cover. I have always felt that the club was never likely to go out of business as people now paint out, but it was an important time.

It brought some smiles – the way the story of the Micky Fialka backed takeover unravelled in our newsroom in about an hour via a series of phone calls was possibly the most incredible thing I’ve ever witnessed – but also some worries, especially for the livelihoods of those at the club.

There were several reporters at the paper who were each talking to a separate potential takeover bidder.

Due to a mutual acquaintance mine was the Swiss camp ultimately backed by Markus Liebherr. I am pleased to say I helped smooth the way for that deal.

As a regional journalist attached to one club sometimes you have to forget the story and do the right thing, and this was a time when that was very true. I set aside several potentially huge stories to help it happen.

It led to a six-month period with possibly the best relationship the paper has ever had with the club. It made what followed all the more puzzling and frustrating.

Never forget

My darkest time in covering Saints was the two-and-a-half years that the Echo were banned by the club under the leadership of Nicola Cortese.

People often ask me the reason for such a long ban. I can’t tell them as it was never really explained to me.

There are so many things I could write about Cortese and his time in charge of the club, but I don’t wish to do so here because it needs more depth and more context. I would just say that from all I witnessed and heard I do not think he was as good for this football club as some would make out.

On a personal note, when I look back at almost 18 years with Saints there is a bit of a blank where they won two promotions. They should have been among the highlights of doing this job.

That this all seemed so petty still rankles. I cannot think of another person I’ve ever come across with whom I feel I hold a grudge, but I will struggle to ever forgive him for taking that experience away from me for no good reason.

I sincerely hope no other football club ever has ever to have him in their offices of power, and it is with interest I note that he has not returned to football almost six years after he departed.


You may note there hasn’t been anything yet about a standout game. That’s because I have a terrible memory for them and probably all in with league, cup, pre-season, reserves, youth etc I’ve reported on well in excess of 1,000 of them with Saints.

Without question that night at the San Siro stands out just for how surreal it was.

The FA Cup final in 2003 was rubbish for me, but the semi-final win at Villa Park was a magical day in my first season.

The most enjoyable footballing spell was under Koeman when it really felt anything was possible.

There have been some great days. But all this experience has taught me never to get too high or too low. It’s amazing how cyclical football is.

The future

These feel like tough times for the club, but it’s been there before and come through the other side.

My belief is that problems will remain as a long as the ownership question is still the elephant in the room.

Katharina Liebherr had every right to sell the club as a business and make a lot of money. Some people don’t like it, but it was never her thing.

We don’t know whether Gao Jisheng feels like he was sold a dud now, what he ever wanted with it in the first place, or wishes to do with it in the future.

There are so many unanswered questions and a clear sense of purpose and direction is needed to get everybody pulling in the same direction again.

Thank you

It has been an honour and a privilege to do this job for almost two entire decades.

I never lost the sense of how lucky I have been to have the chance to live my dream, and to leave with the records of having been the youngest ever Saints reporter at the Echo and the longest serving is beyond anything I could have hoped for. Once I realised I was an average footballer I never thought I would have a significant part to play in the club’s history.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to make so many amazing friends along the way, both at the paper and the club, while the fans, readers, and, latterly, listeners to Total Saints Podcast, have been brilliant to deal with. Passionate and always engaging.

I am proud to have given Saints the kind of coverage they do not get in the mainstream media and hope that, regardless of differences of opinion, I at least leave with respect that I always did my job with honesty, commitment and integrity.

For me, the time is right to try something new. Those who know me well, know how passionate I am about triathlon and spreading the word about a lifechanging sport, and so my new role as of Head of Communications at the amazing Super League Triathlon is the chance for something different. Please look it up on BBC iPlayer or give it a watch next time it’s on live. If you like sport, I think you’ll love it.

I will not be a stranger to St Mary’s. As long as my friends are there and will tolerate me, I will be popping back from time to time, and there is even a chance you might see my name attached to some pieces in the near future - you don’t get this hooked on a drug and give up that easily.

I will also give strong consideration to writing the book of the inside story of two decades at Saints that so many have asked me for down the years. Writing this has reminded me of so many great tales that should be told. I just need to summon up the strength for it.

But, for now, all that remains is for me to say thank you and goodbye.

Keep Marching In.