Steve Stammers RIPWe at the FWA are devastated to learn that our great friend and colleague Steve Stammers has passed away after a short illness, at the age of 71.
Steve was a stickler for doing things the right way, renowned for his generosity, humour, helpfulness to young reporters, and especially as a superb story-getter, covering London football for over 40 years. He started on the Brentwood Argus and went to Fleet Street via Hayters Sports Agency, working for the Daily Star, Evening Standard and Sunday Mirror. In semi-retirement he continued to cover football for the Mail, and was always a cheerful presence in press boxes, with a host of stories and jokes, both good and bad.
Steve was an old-school reporter who commanded the respect of his colleagues by breaking superb exclusives, and won the confidence of some of the biggest names in football by adhering to the old-fashioned values of confidentiality, correctness and discretion.
We will all miss him, as the outpouring of grief on social media by his many friends and colleagues has demonstrated. His son Steve junior has received many messages from some of the biggest names in football. Few knew him better than his great friend and one-time colleague at Hayters and the Evening Standard, Michael Hart, who has written this tribute.
TRIBUTE TO STEVE STAMMERS, by Michael Hart, former FWA Chairman.
My friend Steve Stammers lived and worked in the world of the big ‘exclusive’. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than seeing the ‘exclusive’ tag alongside his name on a story no one else had.
For more than 40 years his mission in life was to provide his newspaper with genuinely exclusive news. He was good at it too. He started his career in journalism as a junior news gatherer on the Brentwood Argus. That is where I met him. It was 1968. He was interviewing my girlfriend at the time. She was the Brentwood carnival queen. From that moment Steve and I enjoyed a friendly rivalry – on and off the field. We played with and against each other for many years in the Sunday leagues around Essex and East London. He was a left winger of pace and, at the time, thought he was George Best. I thought I was Bobby Moore, so we clashed regularly
His love of football was total. I helped him get his first job in Fleet Street with Hayters Agency. He worked for six papers in total including the Daily Star, Evening Standard and Sunday Mirror. He was one of the last of the old school Fleet Street football writers.
A grammar schoolboy from Harold Hill, he was noted for his smart ties, crisp white shirts, polished shoes and an adherence to old fashioned values like good manners and loyalty. He also turned joke telling into an art form.
He compiled an impressive contacts book that contained details of some of the most significant and influential people in the game. He charted the evolution of a sport that emerged from the cloth cap era to become a billion dollar playground. Along the way he befriended a host of stars, many of whom became friends for life.
A generous and engaging personality, he always had time to help young reporters with practical advice and young managers who would ask for his opinion about players they were thinking of buying or selling.
But his real love involved unearthing football stories before his rivals. It was a competitive field but he was able to break many major stories. The one that gave him most satisfaction was his 1996 revelation that an unknown French coach working in Japan was about to succeed Bruce Rioch as manager of Arsenal. The smart money at the time was on Johann Cruyff, but Stammers knew otherwise.
Steve was to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with Arsene Wenger and became a familiar figure at the Arsenal training ground.
As a French speaker he was well placed to befriend many of Arsenal’s French players and he regularly covered the French team at international level. He covered a total of eight World Cup tournaments.
He was even invited by Patrick Vieira to be the English-based director of his Diambars charity that provides football and education programmes for Senegalese children.
In 2008 he wrote ‘Arsenal: The official biography’ and in retirement continued to write about football on a freelance basis.
Steve was married twice and is survived by his two children.