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Green’Un files: ‘When Saturday Comes’ and the local football bible hit the streets

Portman Road, Ipswich   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Portman Road, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

2020 SARAH LUCY BROWN

MIKE BACON was editor of the popular Green’Un newspaper between 1997 and 2001. In a series of articles, he shares some of his stories

An old Green'Un front page. The paper would be out at 6.15pm on a Saturday night. Photo: ARCHANTAn old Green'Un front page. The paper would be out at 6.15pm on a Saturday night. Photo: ARCHANT

As I was popping the Green’Un newspaper through the letter boxes of houses in east Ipswich on a Saturday night, as a 13-year-old delivery boy working out of Pascalls Newsagents in Felixstowe Road, I could never have imagined I’d be editor of the paper one day.

However, that’s what happened to yours truly as I went full circle from delivery boy to editor!

Before I start my story, I imagine there may be some of you out there wondering what on earth the Green’Un newspaper is/was.

Well, for 85 years the Green’Un, or Football Star as it was originally called, delighted and informed Ipswich, Suffolk and East Anglia’s football folk, from Ipswich Town fans to fans of Sunday League.

Before the Internet came along, the Green’Un was THE place for local football fans lucky enough to get it on a Saturday night – or if not a Sunday morning – to rattle through the football scores and reports – professional and non-league.

It was a small local footballing bible, with features, club notes, quizzes and comment – and along with other Saturday night sports papers the length and breadth of the country, from Manchester to Portsmouth, Newcastle to Norwich, Sheffield to Birmingham, at their peak they were hugely popular.

Here in Suffolk and north Essex we were lucky enough to have our own Football Star/Green’Un.

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Richard Wright, once asked for his own one-off column. Photo: JAMIE NIBLOCKRichard Wright, once asked for his own one-off column. Photo: JAMIE NIBLOCK

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s huge queues would readily form as the Star rolled off the presses on a Saturday night, at the old East Anglian Daily Times offices in Ipswich’s Carr Street.

And for 85 years it never lost its devotion of bringing readers match reports of Ipswich Town, Colchester United, even Norwich City and Cambridge United for a time – while the non-league game was at the heartbeat of its sales.

So, how come I transpired to end up as it’s editor, through what proved to be some very exciting times?

Well, it all started after I had spent a year or two in the sports department of the Evening Star covering, let’s say more minor sports, like indoor cricket, swimming, karting, cycle speedway and occasionally getting a ‘bigger gig’, covering for my colleague Elvin King if he was away and the Ipswich Witches were racing – as a speedway fan, a real treat for me.

Mark Venus was a Green'Un columnist when Mike Bacon was editor. Here he is in action against Norwich player Craig Bellamy 
Picture by Rob HowarthMark Venus was a Green'Un columnist when Mike Bacon was editor. Here he is in action against Norwich player Craig Bellamy Picture by Rob Howarth

But in the summer of 1997 then Green’Un editor Nick Garnham, took over as sports editor of the EADT. It left a vacant position on the Green’Un and although I had nudged my way up to Deputy Editor (production) of the Green’Un, with Neal Manning Deputy Editor (news), I still didn’t think I would be in the frame for the top job.

I was wrong.

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Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover, who I was set to have a few ‘run-ins’ with over the course of the next four years, but who was a huge positive influence on my career, called me into his office and offered me the job.

Town 5 Norwich 0. Alex Mathie hat-trick. And he was the Green'Un columnist at the time Photo: ARCHANTTown 5 Norwich 0. Alex Mathie hat-trick. And he was the Green'Un columnist at the time Photo: ARCHANT

How could I refuse? I loved football. I loved non-league. I loved Ipswich Town.

I’d delivered the Green’Un as a young boy. I’d had my name in some of the ‘junior notes’ sections over the years if I’d scored a goal as a player – not that I played any especially high standard.

It was the start of almost five years of fun, laughter, despair, anger, fury, pride and just every emotion I can think of.

Indeed, in all my years working for the EADT/Ipswich Star/Green’Un, now Archant, I look back at these as the most challenging, yet most enjoyable.

Kieron Dyer - a popular Green'Un columnist, who even carried on writing for the paper after joining Newcastle. Photo: EADTKieron Dyer - a popular Green'Un columnist, who even carried on writing for the paper after joining Newcastle. Photo: EADT

Working with a brilliant and committed team in the sports room and on the production floor, a busy week always led up to an invariably adrenaline-fuelled few hours on a Saturday afternoon as it all came together and that vital 5.40pm deadline was hit.

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But what joy there was.

Watching the paper come off the press, by then now in Lower Brook Street, taking it home, picking up a takeaway, pub, Match of the Day... ‘When Saturday Comes’ couldn’t have been more appropriate in my eyes. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

From ghosting columns with the likes of Alex Mathie, Mark Venus, Kieron Dyer and Marcus Stewart – as well as enjoying many one-on-one interviews with a current Town team that was – firstly set to return into the Premier League in 2000 – and then finish fifth a season later – proved great times.

It was a period when Town beat Norwich City 5-0 at Portman Road, Marcus Stewart and his gloves became one of England’s hottest striker properties, the Blues turned over Man City, Liverpool et al on their travels on their way to a fifth placed finish in the table – and the feel-good factor was all around Portman Road.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll bring you a few inside stories of those halcyon days when the Blues at last got the play-off monkey off their backs, and then took the Premier League by storm.

I’ll tell you of a Sunday morning phone call from a none too impressed George Burley, a Saturday lunchtime phone call from an about to be England-debut making Kieron Dyer. Why Richard Wright wanted his one and only column on the final day of the 1998/99 season – and how the Green’Un covered TWO non-league FA Vase sixth round ties on the same day, from the same Suffolk town.

I’ll recount my first-ever Green’Un week as editor which left me almost in tears.... And let you in on a few stories about the terrific ITFC columnists I worked with.

WHAT are your memories of the Green’Un newspaper? Let us know. We publish your posts. e: mike.bacon@archant.co.uk


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