Norman Wynne, who probably filed more exclusive football stories – certainly from the North of England – than any journalist of any era, died in hospital on 4 March after a fall at his home in Salford. He was 77.
Norman started as a youngster at the blunt end of the game in London, learning shorthand, learning to put himself about, and learning all about trust, confidences and lasting friendships. It was a grounding that was to put him at the top of his profession as a sports reporter on the Daily Express and, for 25 years, the Sunday People in Manchester.
I worked alongside him for more than 20 years and every day was a lively mix of excitement, disappointment and elation. Excitement when he’d cracked a good story a few days before our Sunday deadline; disappointment when one of the daily papers knocked the edge off it on the Saturday; elation when an exclusive was splashed all over the back page on the Sunday.
Norman Wynne knew just about everyone in football, especially in the North West. And he had their respect.
John Maddock, former sports editor of the Sunday People, said: ‘Norman had the reputation of being the best contact man in the business. During his People days he worked the Merseyside area when Liverpool and Everton were in their pomp. He knew all the big names – managers, players and administrators – over three decades, and they would all spend time with Norman, respecting his views and knowledge.
‘Norman didn’t forget the little men either, the guys who were in charge of or playing with the not-so-fashionable clubs.”
Phil Smith, Sunday People deputy sports editor for 15 years, added: ‘Norman’s countless contacts in the game were legendary. He didn’t have to ring up players and managers – they used to ring him. Can’t see it happening today. Wasn’t the appointment of Ron Atkinson as Manchester United manager finalised at his house?”
Of course, luck plays a part in everything. And Norman always had that sparkle about him. I remember his back-page lead story the day after Liverpool had slammed Newcastle 3-0 in the 1974 FA Cup Final. Liverpool midfielder Phil Boersma had stormed out on Bill Shankly, vowing never to play for Liverpool again after he was not selected as substitute for the match. Guess who Phil bumped into as he trudged down a heaving Wembley Way muttering oaths against the legendary manager? Yes. Norman Wynne. ‘You’re going the wrong way, Phil,’said Norman. How lucky can a reporter get.
It’s 20 years now since the Sunday People office in Manchester closed and the whole operation, like that of other national newspapers, moved on the back of new technology to London. We were a small sports team on the People, but we’ve all kept in touch with each other.
Norman leaves a widow, Jean, two sons, Simon and Darren, and a daughter, Karen.