Thu, 20 June, 2024

Alan Smith

Posted: March 15th, 2024

ALAN SMITH, former deputy sports editor on The People, and later, Man of the People Columnist, died on February 14, [2024], aged 90. His funeral has taken place. (Pic: Mirrorpix)

Plainjohn Smith writes: “Alan Smith was the Quiet Man of The People. Amid the hubbub and chaos of a Saturday afternoon, with deadlines looming, he remained cool and unflappable.

“Soft spoken, with a wry sense of humour, he was one of the paper’s brilliant backroom boys in the days when the paper was selling in the millions. And with his calm, measured approach, he was the perfect deputy for the somewhat more excitable sports editor, Neville Holtham. Between them they produced one of Fleet Street’s brightest and punchiest sports sections.

“Later Alan became one of my predecessors in producing the straight-talking Man of The People column. His no-nonsense comments on current events and relentless pursuit of villains and conmen, coupled with a sympathetic ear for readers in trouble who wrote to him, did much to reinforce The People’s reputation as a caring, campaigning newspaper.”

From Tom Clarke:  “Alan Smith had been my friend since we first met on the Daily Express sports subs desk in 1963. I moved on from the Express in 1967. Alan was there a year or two longer before joining the Daily Mirror.

“Later, he was deputy sports editor on The People, and moved to the front of the paper to become the Man of the People columnist. From there, he had a spell on The European before retiring in the late 1990s.

“Alan and I had lunch dates every two or three months over the last dozen years, and talked about our life and times in newspapers. His wife (whom he cared for over many years) and family knew he was a highly-regarded sports journalist, and also knew him as a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

People sub Colin Henderson writes: “One of the many memorable episodes on The People in the late sixties was unassuming Alan Smith’s stint writing Front Page Sport. Around noon each Saturday, Alan, sleeves rolled up, placed his trusty typewriter and a pile of copy paper on a desk close to the subs’ table, and awaited editor Bob Edward’s decision on what would be the sport-related topic of the day. The piece would run on the outside column of the front page. With research completed, Alan would attack the typewriter furiously, invariably producing words so good that the column was turned on to page two. By 4pm, he was in the thick of it on the sports back bench.

“At the time, The People’s sports team, including award-winning Mike Langley, Brian Madley, and Olympic bronze-medallist boxer Frankie Taylor, was undoubtedly the best in Fleet Street. Crack subs from other papers fought to land casual Saturday shifts and work for Neville Holtham, the most demanding of sports editors, who was particularly hot on headlines. His team’s great efforts helped keep The People’s circulation at around 5million for longer than might have been.”

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