John Samuel: He cultivated the finest sports journalism talent ever brought together on a single newspaper

This piece, bylined E I Adio, first appeared the SubScribe Blog.
 
There were more than a hundred gathered together at a Sussex country church in Cuckfield for the final send-off for John Samuel, the former sports editor of The Daily Herald, Observer and, most notably, The Guardian.

Samuel's journalism career began on VE Day and continued, in that wonderfully relaxed and fulfilling freelance, semi-retired sort of way, well into his 80s, writing motoring, skiing, golf and travel features. Indeed, Samuel was writing right up until his death earlier this month.

It was his time at The Guardian, which spanned three decades, for which Samuel is best remembered, where he cultivated, recruited and developed some of the finest sports journalism talent ever assembled on a single newspaper.

When appointed, he inherited John Arlott in his pomp, soon after the Basil D'Oliveira campaign which helped to change sport, and ultimately society in South Africa, forever more. Also on the staff was John Rodda, undoubtedly the finest sports politics and Olympics correspondent of his age – and since – whose reports from Mexico City of the army shooting protesting students prior to the 1968 Games, and then in 1972, when the reporter got into the athletes' village in Munich after the beginnings of the Black September terrorist attack, defied newsdesks' snooty perceptions of sports writers' abilities.

In his near 20 years in charge of the sports desk on Farringdon Road, Samuel worked with and recruited some fine talents, including David Lacey, Frank Keating, Dai Davies, Matthew Engel, Paddy Barclay and Ian Ridley… There are many others, too.

Thing was, Samuel's patrician style of sports editing will probably never be seen again. Much of his best work was done in absentia, when Samuel would leave the page drawing and running of the desk to his able deputies, such as Charlie Burgess or Roger Alton. And whatever became of them?

A marvellously affectionate tribute to Samuel has been posted on the interweb by someone who knew him for less than three months – his masseur.It is well worth a read, and can be found by clicking here.


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