How Julie Welch broke the mould

BACK in the 1980s, a rather amusing TV series called Hold the Back Page, scripted by Stan Hey, told the story of a Fleet Street sportswriter (played by David Warner) who had moved from a broadsheet to a tabloid in order to make some money out of his profession. The series, which was critically panned – although I must admit, I really enjoyed it – portrayed sports journalists as beer-swilling opportunists living in a blokeish environment that shifted from pub to press box to wine bar. Women? They did the typing and made the coffee in this world.

During this period, the game was a male-dominated environment, but a certain Julie Welch had already made her mark as a football reporter. She is still a very active writer and her latest book, Too Marvellous for Words, an account of her time at boarding school, has just been published.

You may know Julie from her Channel 4 film, Those Glory, Glory Days, a heart-warming production based on her affection for Tottenham Hotspur and, in particular, Danny Blanchflower. From her very young days, Julie fell in love with football. “From age six, I knew I was going to be a writer, and I was also passionate about sport. I had one of those brains which could file away things like racehorse pedigrees and the line-up of FA Cup-winning sides from before the war,” she recalls.

After graduating from university, Julie secured a job as a secretary in the Observer’s sports department and in 1973, she reported on Coventry City v Tottenham Hotspur. “It caused quite a stir, which rather surprised me, but of course it was nice to get all that attention,” she says.

Needless to say, there were hurdles to overcome, such as sneering jobsworths barring the way to the press room with the warning, “girlfriends aren’t allowed in here”. “I was always aware that I had invaded what you might call a ‘male safe space’ so I didn’t throw my weight about…I could also get irritated sometimes if someone said ‘a football reporter! That’s an unusual job for a woman isn’t it?’. But most of the men were brilliant with me, Fleet Street was never really a sexist place. And the managers and players were lovely.”

Julie was a pioneer, not just in bringing diversity to a role that had very well publicised stereotypes, but also in her script for Those Glory, Glory Days. She introduced the autobiographical style that was peddled a decade later by the likes of Nick Hornby and a host of other writers who wanted to tell the story of their devotion to their team. Although she stresses the adventures in the film were “pretty much fictional”, there are aspects of the story based on real life. “When I was 12, I really did go around with three lovely Jewish girls whose families supported Spurs and I went through my teens calling myself Danny.”

The film starts with a female sports writer exiting White Hart Lane after a game and bumping into Tottenham’s legendary skipper Danny Blanchflower, then a sports writer with a Fleet Street paper. One of the endearing moments of the film is the young Julia talking to cardboard cut-outs of the Spurs team as they prepare for their double winning season, and of course, Blanchflower was her idol. “I met Danny for the first time in early September 1974, at Selhurst Park, and he really did give me a lift back to Fleet Street afterwards. It’s always difficult meeting God, but he was always brilliant to me. Incredibly talkative. A fine, fine man. Always my hero, for ever!”.

And talking of heroes, when I mentioned to Sue Webb, former editor of the Mercury and a Tottenham fan and sports writer, that I was interviewing Julie, her comment was: “My work heroine”.

It does beg the question, how many young girls have actually been influenced or inspired by Julie Welch? Certainly there are plenty of women reporting on the game today and sport in general. Amy Lawrence, for example, may be at the opposite end of North London to Tottenham in so far that she supports Arsenal, but Julie highlights her, and Louise Taylor, as reporters to admire.

I’m sure that both of these reporters will share Julie’s passion for a job that must be considered among the best around. “It was a fantastic life, being able to combine what I loved most – writing and football – and being paid to do it.”

 

A special thanks to Julie Welch for her time. 

 

Fleet Street’s first lady…how Julie Welch broke the mould

BACK in the 1980s, a rather amusing TV series called Hold the Back Page, scripted by Stan Hey, told the story of a Fleet Street sportswriter (played by David Warner) who had moved from a broadsheet to a tabloid in order to make some money out of his profession. The series, which was critically panned – although I must admit, I really enjoyed it – portrayed sports journalists as beer-swilling opportunists living in a blokeish environment that shifted from pub to press box to wine bar. Women? They did the typing and made the coffee in this world.

During this period, the game was a male-dominated environment, but a certain Julie Welch had already made her mark as a football reporter. She is still a very active writer and her latest book, Too Marvellous for Words, an account of her time at boarding school, has just been published.

You may know Julie from her Channel 4 film, Those Glory, Glory Days, a heart-warming production based on her affection for Tottenham Hotspur and, in particular, Danny Blanchflower. From her very young days, Julie fell in love with football. “From age six, I knew I was going to be a writer, and I was also passionate about sport. I had one of those brains which could file away things like racehorse pedigrees and the line-up of FA Cup-winning sides from before the war,” she recalls.

After graduating from university, Julie secured a job as a secretary in the Observer’s sports department and in 1973, she reported on Coventry City v Tottenham Hotspur. “It caused quite a stir, which rather surprised me, but of course it was nice to get all that attention,” she says.

Needless to say, there were hurdles to overcome, such as sneering jobsworths barring the way to the press room with the warning, “girlfriends aren’t allowed in here”. “I was always aware that I had invaded what you might call a ‘male safe space’ so I didn’t throw my weight about…I could also get irritated sometimes if someone said ‘a football reporter! That’s an unusual job for a woman isn’t it?’. But most of the men were brilliant with me, Fleet Street was never really a sexist place. And the managers and players were lovely.”

Julie was a pioneer, not just in bringing diversity to a role that had very well publicised stereotypes, but also in her script for Those Glory, Glory Days. She introduced the autobiographical style that was peddled a decade later by the likes of Nick Hornby and a host of other writers who wanted to tell the story of their devotion to their team. Although she stresses the adventures in the film were “pretty much fictional”, there are aspects of the story based on real life. “When I was 12, I really did go around with three lovely Jewish girls whose families supported Spurs and I went through my teens calling myself Danny.”

The film starts with a female sports writer exiting White Hart Lane after a game and bumping into Tottenham’s legendary skipper Danny Blanchflower, then a sports writer with a Fleet Street paper. One of the endearing moments of the film is the young Julia talking to cardboard cut-outs of the Spurs team as they prepare for their double winning season, and of course, Blanchflower was her idol. “I met Danny for the first time in early September 1974, at Selhurst Park, and he really did give me a lift back to Fleet Street afterwards. It’s always difficult meeting God, but he was always brilliant to me. Incredibly talkative. A fine, fine man. Always my hero, for ever!”.

And talking of heroes, when I mentioned to Sue Webb, former editor of the Mercury and a Tottenham fan and sports writer, that I was interviewing Julie, her comment was: “My work heroine”. It does beg the question, how many young girls have actually been influenced or inspired by Julie Welch? Certainly there are plenty of women reporting on the game today and sport in general. Amy Lawrence, for example, may be at the opposite end of North London to Tottenham in so far that she supports Arsenal, but Julie highlights her, and Louise Taylor, as reporters to admire.

I’m sure that both of these reporters will share Julie’s passion for a job that must be considered among the best around. “It was a fantastic life, being able to combine what I loved most – writing and football – and being paid to do it.”

 

A special thanks to Julie Welch for her time. 

 

Lyon top the list in women’s football

Japan’s Saki Kumagai of Olympique Lyon celebrates with the Champions League trophy Photo: PA

LYON were crowned European women’s champions after beating domestic rivals Paris St. Germain in the Champions League final in Cardiff this week. The club’s fourth title cemented its position at the top of the women’s game.

Here’s a run-down of 12 of the best women’s teams across the continent at the moment:

Olympique Lyonnais (France)

Champions of Division 1 Féminine for the past 11 years, Lyon secured the 2016-17 title with 21 wins from 22 games, scoring 103 goals and conceding just six. They had the two top scorers in the competition, Eugénie Le Sommer and BBC Women’s player of 2017, Ada Hegerberg, who netted 37 goals between them. Lyon were eight points clear of second-placed Montpellier. They’ve also got USA star player Alex Morgan in their ranks.The club was originally formed in 1970, adopting the OL name in 2004. They’ve won the UEFA Champions League four times and have been French champions 15 times.

How they won the Champions League

Round of 32: Avaldsnes (Norway) 5-2 (a) 5-0 (h) Round of 16: Zurich (Switzerland) 8-0 (h), 9-0 (a) Quarter-Final: Wolfsburg (Germany) 2-0 (a), 0-1 (h) Semi-Final: Manchester City (England) 3-1 (a), 0-1 (h) Final: Paris St. Germain (France) 0-0 – won on penalties.

Goals: 6 – Le Sommer; 5 – Abily ; 4 – Hegerberg; 3 – Kumagai, Marozsan, Lavogez; 2 – Renard, Tarrieu; 1 – Cascarino, Bathy, Seger, Petit

Wolfsburg (Germany)

This season’s Frauen Bundesliga champions, for the third time in five years, and cup winners. The “she wolves” were not allowed to celebrate their success this year because the parent club had a rough time in 2016-17!  Their party has been delayed until next season. The club dates back to 1973 but joined the Wolfsburg family in 2003. They’ve won the UEFA Champions League twice, in 2013 and 2014. Their key players include striker Alexandra Popp, who was named footballer of the year in Germany in 2014 and 2016. Popp has been capped 80 times by Germany and has scored 35 goals. Pernille Harder, a Danish forward, is another star name, described as “world class”. Wolfsburg also have the joint leading scorer in this season’s Champions League, the Hungarian international Zsanett Jakabfi.

Paris St. Germain (France)

Runners-up in this season’s Champions League final, PSG Féminines finished third in the French league. They have Brazilian forward Cristiane in their side, a prolific scorer for her country with 83 goals in 117 games. She’s also the record scorer in the UEFA Champions League. Other star names include Spanish central defender Irene Paredes and experienced Costa Rican midfielder Shirley Cruz.

FC Rosengard (Sweden)

Malmo-based Rosengard were runners-up in the Damallsvenskan in 2016 but won the cup, beating champions Linkopings. Until this season, they had Brazilian striker Marta in their line-up, arguably the most famous footballing woman in the world.

1.FFC Frankfurt (Germany)

Seven times champions of the Bundesliga and nine times cup winners, Frankfurt attract 1,400 people to their home games at the Brentanobad stadium. They have the most prolific scorer in German women’s football in Mandy Islacker, who has topped the Bundesliga charts for the past two seasons.

Brøndby IF (Denmark)

Brøndby IF have won the Danish Elitedivisionen 10 times, the last in 2015. Their star-studded squad includes Danish international defenders Simone Boye Sørensen and Stine Larsen, winger Katrine Veje and midfielder Nanna Christiansen.

Fortuna Hjørring (Denmark)

Reigning Danish champions who recently signed high profile Brazilian striker Chu Santos to bolster their squad. Fortuna are known for being an entertaining team full of skilful players.

Barcelona (Spain)

Futbol Club Barcelona Femení was founded in 1988 and  have been champions of the Primera Division four times. They reached the semi-finals of the Champions League this season.

1.FFC Turbine Potsdam (Germany)

Founded in 1971, Potsdam have won the Bundesliga six times, the last being in 2012. They’ve also won the Champions League twice (2005 and 2010).

FC Zurich Frauen (Switzerland)

20 times Swiss champions, Zurich date back to 1970.

Manchester City (England)

Women’s Super League champions in 2016 and Cup winners in 2017, City are packed with internationals and the top club in England at present. Champions League semi-finalists in 2017.

Bayern Munich (Germany)

German champions in 2015 and 2016. Formed in 1970.

The UEFA Champions League for Women – some facts and figures

Most title wins: Frankfurt and Lyon – 4 apiece
Wins by country: Germany 9, France 4, Sweden 2, England 1
Most goals scored in the competition: Anja Mittag (Potsdam, Rosengard, PSG) 49
Average crowd 2016-17: 1,986
Final crowd 2016-17: 22,433