This week TheChels is having a natter with journalist, author, genealogist, Pitch Owners’ Director and Chelsea FC’s official historian, Rick Glanvill.
TC: These days you’re probably best known as Chelsea’s club historian, but your background is journalism. How did you start your career?
RG: I always wanted to be a writer and my degree is in communications but I was earning a decent living as a nightclub DJ. I had loads of time during the day, so I wrote some reviews and sent them to Melody Maker and NME. Luckily they both liked them but MM offered me more work – quite soon I did the first review of Sade’s big debut tour in 1984 which got my name around. I worked hard at improving my style and began working for City Limits, then The Guardian, Q, Select, Vox and loads more. Great days. I was at The Guardian when I wrote to Neil Barnett in 1993 and he brought me onto the club publications.
TC: You wrote for London listings mag City Limits in the late 1980s, which was a major rival to Time Out. Was the rivalry between the two magazines particularly fierce?
RG: Yes, I was music editor and even editor for a while. I think Time Out simply patronised us until we went through a great period and started selling 30,000 copies a week. We liked to try and upstage them… When it was their 1000th edition we knew they’d ‘go large’ on it so we splashed: ‘1001 Things To Do In London This Week’ on our cover. But we knew and liked lots of their writers too.
TC: What’s your favourite anecdote from that period of your career?
RG: Oh it was crazy, anarchic and an incredible place to work. We were so right-on we once voted against being awarded a Christmas bonus! Some very talented people started there – I hired Deborah Orr, now of The Guardian and several other fine journalists – and there were many who’d be unemployable elsewhere. It was a collective and no one could be fired. On deadline day one key staff member was often arseholed by late afternoon, asleep on the sofa in reception as vital packages arrived. I also remember our Comedy editor was challenged to do stand up himself, at the Comedy Store. We all went along to heckle him and shouted ‘Give up your day job!’
TC: You’re an aficionado of the ‘Carry On!’ films – how did you end up writing the sleeve notes for the audio cassette releases?
RG: Ha ha! I guessed you’d bring that up. Actually I rescripted a lot of the films for audiobook release, not just the liner notes. We had some of the original cast members voicing it too, which was quite something. I had already written some comedy and co-wrote a lighthearted column in The Guardian for seven years called ‘Urban Myths’, plus the company knew I was a huge fan who could tell my Khyber from my Dick. (Maatron!) It was nice to find a few double entendres the writers had overlooked.
TC: You’ve written more than a dozen of books about Chelsea. Do you have a favourite?
RG: The one I look at the most is probably ‘The Official History In Pictures’ but I had so much fun writing the ‘Chelsea FC Miscellany’ because I always intended it to empower our fans against rivals with their ‘small club no history’ nonsense. The one I would love to update is ‘Rhapsody In Blue’.
TC: And was the fact you’d written so many books the entrée to your becoming club historian?
RG: Kind of. I had been writing for Chelsea publications for over 12 years before I was made the club’s first official historian and was heavily involved in the first Chelsea museum, so it seemed a natural step. It was a great honour of course. I receive loads of emails every week with intriguing questions and family history connections.
TC: How does it feel to be the inheritor of the mantle of Ron Hockings and Scott Cheshire?
RG: They were great shoulders to clamber up on: I loved their books, as well as John Moynihan’s; Harry Harris’s… not so much. Their approach was different though. Whereas they were archivists and collectors I am a researcher and writer and I like to tell stories based on the real facts about Chelsea. So I rechecked virtually everything we thought we knew and went deep into the heart and soul of the club. The book I’m most proud of is the ‘Official Biography‘ from 2005. I think – well, I hope – it changed the way a lot of people viewed Chelsea’s history.
TC: You are also a genealogist. Any interesting Chelsea-related family history discoveries?
RG: I’ve plotted all the family trees of the Chelsea founders on Ancestry and made a few discoveries, not least that one of our board members may have been the love child of another. My dad always said he had a trial with Chelsea in the late ’40s – but all fathers say that, don’t they? Clearing his papers after he died I found the final rejection letter from the club, quietly kept for almost 60 years.
TC: As a Director of Chelsea Pitch Owners, what do you think the future holds for CPO now?
RG: Pitch Owners remains unique, which is good for us but disappointing for wider football – the CPO is as relevant as ever. I think the new directors are a great addition. It’s been a difficult few years but we’re very positive about modernising the way we work and making the shareholding as broadly based as possible: if you’re reading this thinking, hmm, I always meant to buy a share, do it now!
TC: And our usual closing question – where were you when you heard Jose was coming back?
RG: Ha ha. What people don’t realise is that in the unused footage of his cocked-up ITV interview with Gabriel Clarke after Real’s Champions League semi-final defeat, José says: ‘So I will see you at Stamford Bridge in a few weeks… commercial break suckers.’ I sensed his return would happen for a while so I wasn’t surprised when it did. It is fantastic to have him back. He’s the best there is.
Many thanks to Rick for taking the time to talk to TheChels. If you’re on Twitter, and don’t already follow him, then you should, and he can be found @RickGlanvill.
Moving on to other news, the Board of the Chelsea Supporters trust has now been elected and their first Board meeting took place on 5th September, at which it was unanimously voted that Tim Rolls should continue as Chairman, having successfully carried out the duties for the duration of the Working Group. Other Trust Board portfolios were also allocated, and you can read about the continuing evolutation of the Trust on the CST website, where you can also join for just a fiver a year.
A couple of sad pieces to finish with. The After Hours Football Club (AHFC) is closing after nine years. Ironically this is mainly due to the drop in traffic caused by the rise of social media sources, enabling supporters to interact more speedily with each other.
Finally, we were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Michael ‘Badges’ Cockling, who was taken ill on his way back from Prague. Michael was a familiar figure around SW6 and away games due to his huge collection of badges worn on his coat. He will be greatly missed by his friends.
As usual, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.