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FWA Q&A: Dennis Signy

DENNIS SIGNY, a former FWA chairman and Life Member, on reporting a match he hardly saw, how he almost signed Ian Wright for Aston Villa and something fishy at Wycombe.

Your first ever newspaper?
Joined the Hendon and Finchley Times in 1942 as a fire engine-chasing cub reporter at £4 a week. Later returned as editor for 17 years – with Saturdays off for football.

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
I was general manager of Brentford in the mid-1960s; then chief executive and a director of QPR in the Eighties. Was PR consultant to the Football League for a decade.

Most memorable match covered?
An amateur international between Holland and England at Zwolle when I moved to Fleet Street to join Hayters. England won 5-2 but I didn’t see any of the goals because I was on the phone to the London Evening News from the secretary’s office behind a goal for all but the first 10 minutes of the game. I had to cover the match for FIVE Sunday papers and TWO Mondays after completing my Evening News runner. Had to go into the crowd behind the goal to get names of England scorers from solicitor Mike Pinner, the Manchester United and QPR goalkeeper. It’s a great after-dinner speech story.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
Brentford fans singing “There’s only one Dennis Signy” after we beat Fulham at Craven Cottage in the London Senior Cup Final.

Best stadium?
Anfield, with Liverpool at their peak.

…and the worst?
The Shay, Halifax – but many contenders.

Your best ever scoop?
I got news that Ron Greenwood was to be appointed West Ham United manager at a board meeting in two days time. News came from an insurance man who had met the Hammers’ chairman on the stairs. Daily Mail paid £75 for the exclusive; Reg Hayter refused to let me have a £75 bonus.

Your personal new-tech disaster?
NIL RETURN

Biggest mistake?
Going to work for the late Jim Gregory at QPR after being his Press man (unpaid) for 23 years.

Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
Yes, Doug Ellis, the former Aston Villa chairman. I was at Highbury one day sitting with George Graham when the man from PA, who had been sitting with Ian Wright, came over and said Ian was wondering what Doug Ellis was doing there. George Graham called him over and said that Mr Ellis wanted to sign him for Villa. We made it last some time – Ian always called me ‘Doug’ after that.

Most media friendly manager?
Got to be Barry Fry. If I had a pound for every name Barry gave me for soccer chat I’d have retired years ago.

Best ever player?
Tom Finney.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
The present Barcelona, Arthur Rowe’s push and run side of the Fifties (possibly better than Bill Nicholson’s Double winning team) and the Hungary side that humbled England 6-3 at Wembley. Puskas – great – di Stefano – magical – Hidegkuti – supreme.

Best pre-match grub?
Fish pie in Wycombe Wanderers’ board room; Cumberland sausages at Luton Town.

Best meal had on your travels?
Can’t remember what we ate but Martin Samuel paying for dinner at Peterborough was memorable.

Favourite football writer?
David Lacey – I went head-to-head with him on my first match for the Times.Glenn Hoddle’s debut for Monaco. Reg Hayter had a hard job convincing me my copy was not rubbish by comparison.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Brian Moore was the TV master.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
Get rid of agents.

Favourite current TV programme?
Have I Got News For You.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
A Lifetime Achievement award from BBC London for my work in football over the decades.

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