David Meek at The Cliff training ground during his days as a Manchester Evening News football reporter

How David Meek was my United mentor

As a Mancunian who had the local newspaper delivered to our house in Fallowfield every night of the week, I grew up reading David Meek’s name on the back page as he reported on all things United.

It was an honour and a privilege to eventually follow in his footsteps in 1995 when David retired from the Manchester Evening News, and it was very humbling to later discover it was 'Meeky' himself who had recommended me to the then sports editor Mike Unger as a candidate for his job.

Believe me, David’s shoes were big ones to fill. He was everything a local reporter should be. He was the best.

His nickname amongst colleagues at the MEN and other press peers was ‘The doyen of Deansgate’, after the Manchester street where our offices were based, and such was the respect he commanded, he certainly deserved that title. Meanwhile, to myself and some of the younger local journalists, he was ‘The Great Mentor’.

To fulfil the role of a reporter covering the local football team was a delicate job. You had to maintain a good relationship with the club but at the same time deliver honest journalism to the MEN readers.

To do both things with a giant like Manchester United made that balance even finer than it would have been with other top sides. It was like walking a tightrope - but David rarely fell off. He was trusted, discreet, a gentleman and a superb writer.

I couldn’t think of anyone having better attributes as a person and as a journalist to cope with the job he inherited in 1958 following the Munich tragedy. The MEN lost their United reporter Tom Jackson and obviously it was a terribly difficult time for everyone connected with Old Trafford.

David’s manner helped him through such an awful baptism covering a football club. That is testimony to the person and journalist he was.
 
Stuart Mathieson and David Meek
Reunited: Stuart Mathieson and David Meek at a Manchester Evening News 'old boys' event
When I took over from David in 1995 he went out of his way to ensure that he wasn’t going to tell me how to do my job. Instead he stayed in the background and said simply to me,
“If you ever need any advice, you know where I am. But you’ll be fine.


I did speak to him on a number of occasions, however, for a bit of direction on how to handle a certain story… or a certain Sir Alex Ferguson! How would Meeky do it? He was always spot on with his guidance.

Generally it would simply be a warning of
“Don’t upset Sir Alex! But remember, you are a journalist and if you are sure of your source and are happy to write something, then write it. If you are being honest, then there is no comeback from anyone.”


That would be the theme of any reply when I sought David’s help on an issue.

David remained on the media scene at United in various capacities, including some work for UEFA on Champions League away trips so it was great to still enjoy his company. 

‘Meeky Tours’ were legendary when we were in some foreign city on the day of a match.
“See you at 11 o’clock in the morning in the hotel reception,”
were always his parting words after the previous night out. A coffee and a cathedral visit with David Meek cured many a journalist's hangover!

Goodbye David. I’ll miss you.

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