Steve Hossack: Taking the Mickey at Doncaster Rovers, tennis tournament's sad demise and the time I was knocked out at Elland Road!

I have seen many great comedians live over the years but a lot of them would have struggled to top a 30-minute press conference at Doncaster Rovers’ training ground during the time when Mickey Walker was the club’s interim manager following the sacking of Dave Penney.
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Football press conferences aren’t normally known for their jollity and managers are often guarded, but not when Mickey, who also stood in for Penney on occasions, was involved.

It was in the build-up to the game at Port Vale, at a time when Mickey, who had been Penney’s No 2, was still in the running to get the job to replace the former club captain eventually losing out to former Bournemouth boss Sean O’Driscoll.

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I don’t think we learned much about how Rovers were going to approach the game, or what Mickey thought about the Stoke-based side.

Mickey Walker, pictured with Kevin Keegan in 2008.Mickey Walker, pictured with Kevin Keegan in 2008.
Mickey Walker, pictured with Kevin Keegan in 2008.

But what we did learn was that Mickey was king of the one-liners and my sides were sore from laughing, as was the case with most of my media colleagues from radio and the written press.

I also recall several other out of the ordinary press conferences during the time Dean Saunders was in charge.

For some reason Dean took the media into the toilet block for the presser. Thankfully there was no one in the cubicles at the time, but the occasional sound of gushing water from the urinals meant that Radio Sheffield’s amiable Rob Staton, who wasn’t best amused, had to re-record several interviews before calling it a day.

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Dean took us all into the kit room on another occasion and just as it was my turn to ask a couple of questions the kitman left the room and closed the door behind him to reveal a huge poster of a Gemma Atkinson in a bikini which caught my eye.

“Aren’t you going to ask me a question? asked Dean.

He, along with the others, then saw what I had seen and there was a brief moment when we all looked at the poster, possibly all thinking the same thing, before getting back to the business in hand.

*Real Madrid’s recent Champions League victory over Liverpool, in a final where the main talking point has not been the game but the scenes in and around the ground, reminded me of the first time that I ever saw Real Madrid play.

It was back in 1960, in what was then called the European Cup, and they beat German side Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park to win the competition, which had started five years earlier, for the fifth successive year.

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I had never seen football like it. It was so different to the game in England at the time with precision passing and steady build-up coupled with clinical finishing -and it left a lasting impression on me.

I remember going out on to the school field at the bottom of our garden and trying to replicate some of the skills I had seen the likes of Puscas, Di Stefano and Gento produce along with my friends.

There was an aura of invincibility about the Madrid team at that time rarely seen since in Europe’s top competition and their feat of five successive wins looks set to stand the test of time.

Only Ajax and Bayern Munich, both boasting a hat-trick of wins, have come close to challenging the record.

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Surprisingly, Madrid only lifted the famous trophy one more time, in 1965-66, before the name, and structure of the competition changed in 1992, though their 1-0 win over the Reds was their 14th overall in both competitions.

It might be nostalgia on my part, but on several levels I much prefer the original format where only the champions of the various European leagues used to qualify, to the one used today and the even more expanded one due to start in 2024.

But, as they say, money talks and there will be no going back to the old days.

*For many years the Doncaster Lawn Tennis Club Junior Open was played during the Spring Bank holiday which we have just enjoyed.

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The event used to attract entries from all over the country, as well as the best of the local talent, and at its peak many families used to travel up the club’s Saxton Avenue base and either camp out for the duration of the six-day tournament at the venue or stay in caravans.

Others, including brothers Andy and Jamie Murray – stayed with club members who could not have imagined in their wildest dreams that they were hosting two future Wimbledon champions.

Club secretary June Rainey, and a host of volunteers, used to provide breakfast and meals throughout the day and there was a tremendous vibe about the place as well as some great tennis.

It was a sad day for the local tennis community when the event fell by the wayside.

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*I was back at Elland Road recently to watch a young relation play in a junior tournament - for the first time since being knocked out in the press room during the half time interval at the Leeds-Doncaster Rovers League One clash many years ago.

I had been trying to balance a huge pile of sandwiches on a paper plate at the same time as trying to cross a busy room and failed to spot a low concrete beam.

It was if I had been shot and the next thing I knew I was sat up surrounded by fellow journalists with a bump on the side of my head which was getting bigger by the second.

Although I felt groggy there was no one else to cover my duties including dictating another 500 words or so of second half action, which I somehow managed to do despite periods when I felt light-headed and struggling to concentrate, and the post-match interviews.

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The incident certainly gave those reporters from the various radio stations who knew me, and who had witnessed the incident, something to talk about to their listeners during periods of the second half when there was a lull in play.