Steve Curry could have been a Shakespearian actor.
He often recited soliloquies and speeches from Henry V to Macbeth – via Coronation Street – word perfect and with a pitch that would have satisfied Richard Burton, from erudite lips poised above a Kirk Douglas chin.
There was a bit of Falstaff about Steve although his joie de vivre and self effacing humour sometimes resembled a lovable pantomime dame.
Growing up in Clitheroe, Lancashire the son of a school master, the world revolved around the working man’s theatre – football.
Steve was good at it. He made it to Bolton reserves but a broken leg brought that career path to an end. As it turned out, the initial pain, opened a colourful highway to the printed heights of what was then known as The People’s Game.
The pen rather than muddy boots became Steve’s sword.
Treading the boards he rose through the old school ranks of local papers, made it to the sports desk of the Daily Express’s then thriving Manchester office, then on to Fleet Street where the shackles of being a sub-editor were fully taken off and Steve was able display his considerable all round skills as a chief football writer and reporter, most notably for the Express, over three decades, in the days when it was the ‘go-to’ paper for sport.
Steve was also proud of his ‘elder statesman’ stints with the Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Times and Daily Mail.
He was also became a highly opinionated and recognisable pundit on Sky and Talksport. No wonder. Steve was one of the best in the business.
His long time pal and colleague James Mossop painted the whole picture of Steve’s career and persona in suitable style on the FWA website.
It was football writers like Jim, Steve, Jeff Powell and Alex Montgomery who inspired me to have a shot at being a soccer scribe. Over the years Steve and I became particularly close despite the twenty-year age gap. He was like a favourite, sometimes fussy, uncle to me.
There are so many stories about Steve on and off the pitch. It’s fair to say Steve was what is now termed ‘old school’. Worked hard , played hard.
After copy had been filed Steve was a wonderfully convivial social animal. A favoured phrase of Steve’s at to waiters at dinner tables around the world, after the job had been done, was: “Pour till you get tired.”
Steve had a nose for the game as well as the vino. Aside from his considerable football writing skills, knowledge and thespian attributes Steve could also sing well, especially on the back of a bus transporting the troops from stadium to airport in the early hours after England and club games in far flung places.
He could do a decent Elvis or Sinatra but his real forte was Dean Martin’s “Little Old Wine Drinker Me.”
He was a fine wordsmith, top notch reporter but as a consequence of his gregarious character he was a great contacts man when contacts rather than computers were regarded as a prime tools of the trade for pressman. A mighty Colossus.
Steve knew the great, the good and even the bad and the ugly. If they weren’t around a dinner table or a bar, where Steve was a terrific story tell and raconteur – a Bard of Banter if you like – they were only a telephone call away.
If one vignette sums Steve up then it was during the 1990 World Cup. The day after England had drawn 0-0 with Holland – a game that changed not only the direction of Italia 90 for England but the future of English football – Bobby Robson, a firm friend of Steve’s, had the given the players a day off.
Some had joined Doug Ellis and Tranmere owner Peter Johnson for a party on a yacht which was anchored just off the Forte Village in Sardinia, where most of the English press corps were camped.
Those were the days when the press had better accommodation than the players. Another section of the squad decided to enjoy the facilities of the Forte Village.
I was walking from my bungalow on the way to the beach having filed several follow-ups when I stumbled upon a small group huddled in one of the snug bars.
Sitting there knocking back a few beers were the injured Bryan Robson, Terry Butcher, Chris Waddle and Steve Curry, alongside his main running mate at the time, Colin Gibson of the The Telegraph.
Steve summoned me to join them. Talk about being in the company of giants. But of course it was Steve who was holding court despite the fact the Gang of Three were explaining, with the use of beer mats and pepper pots, how they had persuaded Bobby Robson to change tactics and adopt a sweeper system in order the get the best out of Paul Gascoigne, who eventually joined us, dripping wet having swum to shore from the boat party.
It was all off the record of course, especially after Gazza seconded a bike then went missing for a few hours (now that’s another story). But the players were happy for that story to be run as long as they were not quoted and it was portrayed more as a revolution rather than a revolt. And we kept quiet about Gazza.
It made a back page exclusive splash the next day for those of us in the circle. It’s how it worked back then and Steve, along with certain other doyens of that era, had long been a master of that form of journalism.
Shortly after Steve’s beloved son Mike, who became a TV producer for Sky Sports, rang me on Tuesday to tell me of Steve’s sudden death I rang Robbo, once the tears had subsided.
Now while Steve was weaned on The Busby Babes and often cited Duncan Edwards as his hero, along with Tom Finney – he adored Bryan Robson aka Captain Marvel.
Bryan was genuinely shocked and saddened. “Steve was one of the great troupers. Aye, there were ups and downs between us players and the press boys back in those days but with Steve, along with some others, we knew he was passionate, genuine and honest. There was respect. So sorry to hear. I’ll ring and tell gaffer,” said Robbo.
The gaffer, of course, being Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Fergie told me,” was one of Steve’s many memorable phrases, up there with “Now let me tell you,” or “By the Way.”
Steve had a great working relationship with Sir Alex, as he did with so many players and managers down the years – Moore, Best, Law, Ramsey, Robson (both Bryan and Bobby) all the way through to Lineker and Beckham.
Peter Reid was another. After speaking to Robbo I rang Reidy. “Gutted to hear that, pal. I’ve known Steve since I was a baby. Aye, he never tired of telling me of his Bolton days as a player. He was one of the good guys. Great lad,” said Peter.
Sam Allardyce and Harry Redknapp expressed similar sentiments.
Last Sunday (August 11) Steve watched his beloved Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day of this new season at his local cricket club in Weybridge.
There was, of course, Chardonnay on hand and an audience eager to hear Steve’s opinions and anecdotes.
A few hours later Steve suffered a massive neurological trauma and after being rushed to hospital soon passed away peacefully. In a sense this lovely, generous man, who was so proud of his roots, not ashamed to admit he went to school in clogs, died with his boots on.
For so many in and around the football and media world he will be sorely missed but never forgotten.
It was Ken Bates who perhaps summed it up best when I broke the news to him while he was having dinner in Monaco with his wife Susannah – both great friends of Steves and his wife Carol. Ken said: “ So sad, upset, but I’ll tell you this; the world was a better place for Steve moving through it.”
See you at The Far Post pal.