Every member of the Football Writers’ Association would agree – without the drive and input of former chairman Dennis Signy OBE and his wife Pat, for many years executive secretary, the FWA would not be where it is today.
Dennis passed away at 4am this morning aged 85. It is difficult to think of anyone who has contributed as much to football writing and particularly the FWA as Dennis.
Tributes poured in from those who knew Dennis. “He was old school and new school and was widely respected by everyone,” said executive secretary Paul McCarthy, a former chairman. “Dennis was the main reason I wanted to join the FWA. He went on a recruitment drive to bring in some new blood. He explained to me the history of the FWA, what it meant and what an honour it was to serve on the committee.
“When I joined the News of the World as a young reporter he was one of the first to phone me up and offer any assistance. Dennis was brilliant. He was a sounding board for young journalists. He told us never to cut corners and was always willing to help.”
“Dennis and Pat were hugely supportive of the FWA, not least the regional dinners,” said former chairman Steve Bates. “They attended every dinner around the country. Dennis must take a great deal of credit for pushing the FWA to where it is today and ensuring a close relationship with all the footballing bodies, particularly the Football League.”
Mike Collett, Reuters global football editor, first met Dennis as a 16-year-old schoolboy and started to work for him at the Hendon Times two years later:
He said: “Dennis was my first editor when I joined the Hendon Times as an 18-year-old in 1972 giving me a job and keeping me on throughout my indentures despite insisting every other week that I should get my hair cut. He was a brilliant editor, a real inspiration and a guiding light throughout my career. He loved to tell the story of how I conned him on expenses every week claiming 50p mileage to visit Elstree Fire Station for my weekly call — until he eventually found out it had closed five years earlier. He asked for the money back – he never got it. A wonderful man, a true Fleet Street and football legend, He will be sadly missed.”
John Ley of the Daily Telegraph said: “He was an absolute font of knowledge for everything connected with football. The fact that he was honoured tells you all you need to know about him.”
Dennis Signy was a former wartime cub reporter on the Hendon and Finchley Times at £4-a-week and became group editor for 17 years in the late Sixties. He was a national football writer for five decades, spending 17 years with the News of the World and five with the Times. He was also the author of several football books.
Commanding instant respect from everyone involved in the sport, Dennis had brief spells with Brentford and Queens Park Rangers as chief executive and in 1969 returned to the Hendon Times as editor, forging its reputation as a campaigning paper. During his 17-year leadership he was awarded an OBE in 1983 for charity and community work in the Barnet area.
Dennis livened up press boxes when he wrote celebrity reports for the Sunday Express, accompanying such diverse figures as Michael Howard, Cilla Black, Jeremy Paxman and Delia Smith to watch their adopted football teams.
He became a consultant to the Football League who recognised the benefits in employing someone with so many friends in Parliament and Fleet Street.
More recently Dennis was PR consultant to Barnet chairman Tony Kleanthous.
Our thoughts are with his family and wife Pat at these saddest of times