Henry Winter joins The Herald for the huge clash between Celtic and Rangers

De Britse voetbaljournalist van het jaar, Henry Winter <i>(Image: Getty)</i>” bad-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/iT_SbE6z8dBbS66uKlAThg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/herald_scotland_359/4af1b47e7a29de fae5f991be504e220c” src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/iT_SbE6z8dBbS66uKlAThg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/herald_scotland_359/4af1b47e7a29defae5f9 91be504e220c”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=British Football Journalist of the Year, Henry Winter (Image: Getty)

He may have written for legendary London broadsheets during a nearly 40-year career covering the cream of English football, but mention The Herald for Henry Winter and his face lights up.

The current British Football Writer of the Year spent four years in Edinburgh completing his studies and it was there, during his early days as a student journalist, that his respect for the newspaper began.

It’s the reason the acclaimed sports journalist was keen to come to Scotland to cover this weekend’s Celtic-Rangers match and write three pieces under a masthead he has admired throughout his career.

Indeed, a visit to the old office in Albion Street in the mid-1980s helped ignite the passion that helped build a phenomenal career at The Telegraph and The Times, and led to his has amassed both awards and social media followers at a remarkable pace.

“It’s always good to be associated with The Herald, having spent my student years in Edinburgh. You were the major sponsors and jury members of the student awards then,” he said warmly. “So we walked across respectfully and prayed that we would win something.

“I remember in the 1980s we won the sports side of it. One of the treats, in addition to a night out in Glasgow, was also a tour of the offices and print side. I have always had ink in my veins and that has only increased the desire for a career in football journalism.”

The winter trip to Glasgow will not be a trip into unknown territory. In fact, his first derby in person was more than 30 years ago. While the game was forgettable, everything surrounding it was not.

“My first was in 1993,” he recalls. “It wasn’t a classic game, it was 0-0 at the end, but just to feel that energy and passion, the urgency and the feeling of walking into Parkhead and that feeling that nothing else in the world mattered, that everyone who did that, in the stadium, just assumed that everyone outside the stadium, six or seven billion people, would just be focused on that and that was all that mattered. And that every corner, every little nutmeg, every tackle was more important than life itself.

“It was extraordinary for someone like me, who has spent my entire career covering English matches, and it’s fair to say that the atmosphere in English matches, whether that’s down to single-seater stadiums, gentrification, ticket prices , the 18-24 year olds who are a lost generation in terms of the Premier League. I know this is a social thing, a broader thing, but when I watch those Old Firm games the memory of them just plugs into the electricity of the occasion.

Although the financial gap between the top flights in England and Scotland has grown enormously since Winter’s first dip into the Glasgow cauldron, there is still plenty of pull in the perennial battle between the Scottish giants to attract professionals who have their names down south made.

Both goalkeepers, Joe Hart and Jack Butland, are England internationalists, while Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is no stranger to the correspondent who has taken Liverpool to the brink of a title and FA Cup win with Leicester City.

“These are three individuals that I respect as people and as great professionals,” he said. “I’ll take Brendan first. He is fascinating, not only about the games, but also about the problems in the game. I remember being at Liverpool and speaking to him at a general press conference about the problems in English football at the time. He spoke for about seven minutes about everything that was tactically and technically wrong with the players, problems in the academies and the pathways to the first team.

“There was a lot of attention on Luis Suarez at the time and he also talked about him, so the quotes were not used. Later I wrote a piece about it and included it all in a book I was writing about English football. He was absolutely perfect. These are all issues that have then been addressed in terms of maintaining the hunger and accelerating the tactical and technical ability of the young players coming through – and when you look at the players they have now, it’s phenomenal.

The Herald: Brendan Rodgers, when he was Liverpool manager in 2014

The Herald: Brendan Rodgers, when he was Liverpool manager in 2014

Brendan Rodgers, when he was Liverpool manager in 2014 (Image: Getty)

“He was always at the front of the game. He is a very personable person. Some of the criticism he received in the South is unfair. When he was Liverpool manager he did some work for the League Managers Association during the World Cup in Brazil. I saw him walking along the Copacabana in bright sunshine. He stopped and we stood in the shade and for ten minutes just chewed on the Liverpool players doing well for England and Stevie Gerrard. He could have been on the beach or at the LMA, but he took his time, I thought he was a very civilized person.

“When I look at the two goalkeepers, first of all I am very happy to see them doing well. I thought some of the tributes to Joe when he announced his retirement were very heartfelt. Joe is highly respected as a goalkeeper.

“I remember a briefing in England with Joe, where he sat down, pulled out his phone and answered it. I said to him at the end, “We’re not really used to that, have you been misquoted or something?” He was just a little wary. He was at West Ham and I went over and had coffee with him a few times and he was a far cry from the occasionally guarded person he had been with England. He talked about very in-depth technical and tactical things in the game and gave me so much insight. To get and stay at the top, you have to understand your business and really analyze it, and Joe has done that.

READ MORE: The Rangers icon demands tenacity from Terry Hurlock in the Celtic clash

READ MORE: Graeme Souness dismisses Brendan Rodgers’ Old Firm ‘fun’ factor

“I met Jack at Stoke City. Stoke has problems as a city, like many British cities, and Jack was really good. He was the perfect person to cheer up someone in the community. He was absolutely brilliant at that because he was such a nice guy. It’s great to see him doing so well now.”

The sheer size of these two Scottish clubs and the titanic nature of this particular clash, with just three points separating the rivals with three games to go, is something few outside Glasgow really understand. However, Winter has seen through his own experience how far and wide his influence spreads, even across the Atlantic Ocean.

“I don’t think people in the south quite understand the scale of Rangers and Celtic. I borrowed it a bit from my book with Sir Kenny Dalglish. The publishers will send you a breakdown of sales from around the world and there were 5,000 sales in Canada. I spoke to the sales director and he said, ‘Yes, Celtic.’ It’s extraordinary. Rangers are the same. One of the advantages of being an outsider is that because you can take a step back, you learn to appreciate the magnitude of this derby.”

You can read Henry Winter’s thoughts on the game online and in print this weekend, exclusively at The Herald.

Leave a Comment