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FWA Q&A: BOB “the Cat” BEVAN MBE

BOB “the Cat” BEVAN MBE on a Shorthorn…fun with the Fire Brigade in Mauritius…and Duncan Edwards’ autograph

Have you ever worked in a profession other than after dinner speaking?
Trainee rep in a builder’s merchants in Shoreditch, East London, then sub-editor on Lloyd’s List and Shipping Gazette (world’s oldest daily newspaper) rising to Asst Chief Reporter by age 20, sold Kleen-e-zee Brushes round the doors part-time while at the List as we worked afternoons and evenings, Head of PR for Shorthorn Society and produced six editions of the Dairy Shorthorn Jounal (which I’ll show you if you’re not careful), Deputy Editor, Travel Trade Monthly, Head of PR, European Ferries Plc and Chairman Bevan PR Ltd. Now also do stand-up, interviewing, presenting, script and speech writing including poems.

Most memorable match?
Torn between 1966 World Cup Final, Palace 4 Liverpool 3 FA Cup Semi 1990, and (before I went in goal) Unilever 2 Old Wilsonians 4th XI 8 (Bevan 6 and missed pen).

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Playing in goal at Wembley for Old Burnley v Old Wolves before the Sherpa Van Trophy Final with Bobby Moore and Nobby Stiles. Won 2-0. A rare clean sheet. TVam lost the tape!

Best stadium?
Old Wembley and old Dulwich Hamlet for romance, new Brighton stadium for atmosphere and facilities (that from a Palace supporter).

…and the worst?
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, the first World Cup Final venue which has been preserved in its original form. Penarol play there with nil cover for the fans in a rainy city. Great history and museum though.  Also saw a game at Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires, about three years ago. Stadium, largely uncovered, like stepping back 50 years but fantastic atmosphere

Your personal new-tech disaster?
My mate Brian Robinson (who I write with) and I did a spoof on the Archers in a script for a Whitbread promotion and I tapped it into the word processor as we went. Somehow I managed to wipe it and had to spend the evening trying to remember it and tap it in again. Didn’t tell him ‘til I’d done it but he couldn’t think of anything I had forgotten. Promotion eventually got cancelled but we did get the money.

Biggest mistake?
On my first overseas press trip at the age of 19, being unfamiliar with airports, I didn’t realise you had to go through to a departure lounge and I missed the flight to Gothenburg where we were due to board a new car ferry on its maiden voyage to England. Upside was I was sharp enough to get on another flight via Copenhagen and walked up the ship’s gangway about 10 minutes before it sailed to much stick from fellow shipping journos

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Playing cricket for the Lord’s Taverners with such celebs as David Frost I was the one person who didn’t get asked for autographs much to the amusement of the rest of the team. At a game in Kent I said to Willie Rushton: “I will get a few down here because I’m on local TV.” As we walked round the ground a woman pushed past Willie and thrust a book into my hand. As I was nudging Willie and signing the book the woman said: “I am right? You are the weatherman?” I looked round. Willie was heading for the dressing room.

Most media friendly manager?
Lots of them because I meet them in good circumstances and we normally have a laugh. Probably have to be Sir Bobby Robson but I also had a special lunch event interviewing and teasing Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp and they were great. My mate Lennie Lawrence is also excellent. A natural.

Best ever player?
Jimmy Greaves

Best ever teams (club and international)?
England 1966 World Cup team and Crystal Palace 1991 team under Geoff Thomas who came third in the old Div 1. Wright, Bright, Andy Thorn, Eric Young, Nigel Martyn etc

Best pre-match grub?
Brighton although Palace has improved enormously under the new owners

Best meal had on your travels?
Brighton before the second leg of the Championship play-off Semi this May

…and the worst?
Perhaps in the Kent CCC Committee Tent at Tunbridge Wells 2012. A pork pie and a lump of cheese dumped on one plate. Shouldn’t admit this as I am the 2013 KCCC President. It’s vastly better this year.

Best hotel stayed in?
Le St Geran, Mauritius, and the manager arranged for me to go to an African Club Champions Cup match. I think the home team were called Fire Brigade but sadly I couldn’t get a programme. They lost to a Zambian side.

…and the worst?
The Gate Hotel, Canterbury, this year. Real Fawlty Towers. No telephone in my room and when I tried to book a cab at reception they did not have a telephone that they could ring out on. There were many other faults, the main one being that the manager didn’t care.

Do you have a hobby?
Collecting football programmes, but almost exclusively games I have attended, football and cricket literature and memorabilia and watching football, closely followed by cricket, especially Test Matches

Favourite football writer?
The late Ian Wooldridge even though he had fallen out of love with football and I didn’t always agree with him. Today probably Henry Winter.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Alan Parry.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Football gets so much free publicity it annoys me when clubs ban journos from the ground or refuse to talk to a section of the press. ie Sir Alex and the BBC. It is disrespectful to the fans. Maybe the FWA should set up a Complaints Panel, recognised by clubs and media companies, to rule on disputes? It could include, among others, a member from the FWA, the LMA, the FA, a fan with PR/media experience and a member of the legal profession as chair*.

One sporting event outside football you would love to experience?
Played football at Wembley, cricket at Lord’s and would love to play tennis on the Centre Court at Wimbledon

Favourite non-football sportsman/sportswoman?
Seb Coe.

Last book read?
The Litigators by John Grisham

Favourite current TV programme?
Have I Got News for You

TV show you always switch off?
Anything with Lorraine Kelly

If you could bring one TV series back which would it be?
Morecambe and Wise Show.

Favourite comedian?
Tommy Cooper.

Favourite singer/group?
Rod Stewart (I spoke at his Dad’s 80th birthday party and gave him a copy of my LP! It was one of football gags) I told him “you must have a lot of rubbish LPs in your house, Mr Stewart. Here’s one you’ll enjoy.” Rod took it quite well.

What really, really annoys you in life?
1. Rudeness to waiters.

2. Bad language in songs and chants at football matches. Clubs should try to change the fashion and use players in that campaign.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
Programme of British Army 1 French Army 3 at Dulwich Hamlet 1956 (Brit team inc. Alan Hodgkinson, Jimmy Armfield, Graham Shaw, Eddie Colman, Bill Foulkes, Duncan Edwards, got his autograph). French Army inc. Just Fontaine – 13 goals in 1958 World Cup Finals and 2 pens in this game.

Advice to anyone coming into the after dinner speaking world?
First time I spoke with Frank McLintock he told jokes about as well as I could play at centre-half. When he asked for advice on the train home I said he should dwell on football stories and his experiences as a famous player, which was what the audience wanted to hear, and leave the gags to the comics. He has since become an excellent after dinner speaker. Not sure whether that was due to my advice though! So the advice is remember why you’ve been asked and talk about that. Ray Parlour does great original and funny stuff about Wenger and doesn’t try to tell gags.

*This is something the FWA have spoken to English football’s stakeholders about.

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