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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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What an honour for Barrow writer James

SPORTS journalist James Mossop, who began his career covering Barrow AFC for the Evening Mail in the late 1950s and early 1960s, has been made an honorary member of the Football Writers’ Association.

After leaving Barrow, he spent 50 years working in Fleet Street, rising to chief sports writer for the Sunday Express and latterly sports features writer for the Sunday Telegraph.

The FWA honour was revealed at the Footballer of the Year dinner at London’s Lancaster Hotel.

When asked about his finest achievement playing football, James reverted to his roots saying: “I must confess to an absence of glory with Holker Old Boys.

“I signed amateur forms for Barrow AFC – mainly because I was the young travelling reporter with the reserves and they feared trialists might not turn up – but never got a game.”

He says the best player he ever saw “has to be George Best, although I have been lifted high by Pele, Law, Bobby Charlton and Maradona.”

And he says the most memorable match he covered was England v West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final “although Man City clinching the old First Division, winning 4-3 at Newcastle on May 11, 1968, will never be forgotten.”

The one moment in football he would put on DVD would be Peter Osgood riding tackles and racing from halfway at Turf Moor in the 60s to set up a Chelsea away win – “or any one of a thousand George Best clips”.

Asked about media-friendly managers, he said: “Most of my work was done before the blight of press officers.

“Pitching up at training grounds, I was always welcomed by the likes of (Malcolm) Allison, (Joe) Mercer, (Don) Revie, (Bill) Shankly, Jack Charlton, (Ron) Atkinson, (George) Graham, (David) Pleat and so on.

“I also had rows with them, but always met them face-to-face for clear-the-air moments.

“I have a strong relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson, but we once had a major fall out.”

James travelled the world reporting on matches and when asked about his best meal on his travels he said: “The late Bobby Keetch once ordered peacock’s tongues for me in Paris – at least he said that’s what they were!

“As a foodie I have always sought out starred/rosetted restaurants. You get great steaks in Beunos Aires, but the best restaurant in UK is L’Encume in Cartmel, Cumbria.”

For his worst meal, he lists “Bulgogi and kimchi (made with beef, carrot, garlic, green onion, ground black pepper, honey, hot pepper paste, kim, kimchi, lettuce, rice, roasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, ssamjang, sugar, water) in Seoul. I can taste and smell it now.”

He says the best hotel he stayed in “for fun reasons was the Yacht Club, Disney, Florida with Joe Melling – 28 nights during the 1994 World Cup where, they said, every night was New Year’s Eve.”

And the worst? “England played Albania in Tirana in 1989. The hotel would have struggled for a one-star rating.”

James used to surprise his fellow writers by wearing a Barrow AFC shirt when turning up at dinners when they were requested to wear the colours of their favourite team. But he revealed his most prized football memorabilia is an official 1978 World Cup football signed by Pele.

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