John 'Maddo' Maddock: Journalist who brought national press subbing back to the north of England

John Maddock, former deputy editor of the Sunday People and the man behind Express Newspapers' pioneering production centre at Broughton, near Preston, has died in hospital at the age of 73 after a long and determined fight against cancer.

He started on his local paper in Cheshire and joined the Daily Express in Manchester before becoming deputy Northern sports editor of the People in 1967. He took over as sports editor in 1974 and when national newspaper production came to an end in the city in the late 1980s he went to work in London while continuing to live in Sale. He left newspapers to work as a sport and media consultant and joined Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell media operation.

However, he will be remembered by newspapermen as the man who made a success of the Broughton operation which, over the past 13 years, has provided employment for scores of production journalists and others.

I worked with him for over 20 years and in an article on Broughton for website Gentlemen Ranters four years ago I described him as "a complex character who has a determined, bull-at-a-gate approach to newspapers. He’s loud, he’s brash, he knows what he wants and nothing seems to faze him."

He rubbed along genially enough with Cap’n Bob who scared most people and he was still friendly enough with Desmond although they parted company after some 15 years.

Maddo, as he was known to everyone, was only 18 when he did his first holiday relief shift on the Daily Express sports desk in Manchester, just up the road from his home near Warrington. He was given the simple job of handling a piece by Desmond Hackett, the star writer. Maddock trimmed it down to six inches which was what chief sub Bill Fryer had asked for, before announcing to the desk: "That's all it deserved. It's the biggest load of crap I've ever subbed!" It was quite an entrance.

However, back to Broughton. The concept started off at the usual Express group top editorial meeting early in 2002. Desmond was in the chair and also there were the three editors, editorial director Paul Ashford and Maddock. Desmond said he wanted a Sunday edition of the Daily Star. And he wanted it on the streets by the early autumn.

"No problem," said Maddo who was never one to shirk a challenge.  "We can do it from the North."

"It’s all yours," said Desmond. "Sort it!"

Maddock reckoned there were enough journalists there with national daily experience, backed by local talent, to do the job. Most importantly, costs would be considerably lower than they would have been in London. 

Former Sunday People colleague Mike Woods took the early hot seat, managing the Broughton operation. He said: "I never thought I would be sitting in Lancashire subbing a national newspaper in my own backyard – and still doing it years down the line. The success of the venture is down to the vision of John Maddock who saw that satellite subbing could work brilliantly with the right people and the right technology.’

Maddo told me only recently: "It was a tremendous challenge. I’m proud I was able to establish the North as a centre for subbing and production excellence once again." He ran the show as managing editor for a few years and "enjoyed every minute".

As I wrote in the Gentlemen Ranters piece: "John Maddock isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I don’t think it keeps him awake at night." He might have got up a few noses but a lot of people have a lot to thank him for.

John Robinson, Rugby League writer with us on People sport for 20 years, told me: "I would have amounted to nowt without his help and friendship."

Away from newspapers, Maddock had spells as general manager of Manchester City FC in the early 1990s and was commercial consultant to Liverpool FC where he lined up the first football shirt sponsorship deal in this country, when he teamed them up with Hitachi. He was also deputy director of the Manchester Olympic bid in 1988.

But the most important thing to John was always his family. He leaves a widow, Jennifer, a son and a daughter and grandchildren.

The funeral is at  Altrincham Crematorium, 11.30 on Tuesday, September 15 and afterwards at Eskdale Lodge, Altrincham.

 

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