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I owe him the greatest of debts

Former CNJ and Tribune sports editor Catherine Etoe pays tribute to Eric Gordon

16 April, 2021 — By Catherine Etoe

Eric Gordon, editor and founder of the Camden New Journal, Islington Tribune and Westminster Extra, died last week at the age of 89

IT was typical Eric. Overhearing me dissing Arsenal one day, he quizzed me on my Premier League knowledge while prodding me into admitting to my own “playing” past.

Before I knew it, he had me writing about the price of football for Tottenham fans and trekking to Boreham Wood to beef up our coverage on Arsenal Ladies.

Then Patrick Vieira blew his top, and his phlegm, at Neil “Razor” Ruddock, and the next day Eric wanted an opinion piece on millionaire footballers in their ivory towers.

“Write from the heart,” he said. I did, and a fortnight later, he sent me to White Hart Lane to cover the first of many Spurs matches.

Looking back, it was a left-field move on his part; I don’t think I ever saw more than a handful of women in the press room back then, and two of those served the teas.

Eric broke ground when he appointed me his sports editor in later years and probably when he allowed me to rip into the opposition alongside Richard Osley in The Crow column too.

Was he deliberately rattling gilded cages by having a woman lambast the system, write off-beat reports on 22 men kicking a ball and oversee our sports coverage?

I don’t know, we never discussed it. Which makes me think maybe not, because he’d surely have had me write an opinion piece about it if he was. But then again…

Catherine Etoe

From my side, Eric didn’t care what you were, just whether you could write, add something extra to this very unique paper, and do the job. And what a job.

Scrawling “Cathy – See Me!” across anything remotely football-related that fell onto his jumble of a desk, in those early days he had me cover photography exhibitions, write book reviews, interview sports psychologists, and chart the rise of fan movement Supporters Direct.

It was an education, as was covering the nitty-gritty of grassroots sport he set so much store by.

Whether it was men’s Sunday league or kids’ midweek football, school sports, swimming clubs, tennis, cricket – to Eric they were the beating heart of our coverage.

And when you chatted to coaches and parents, and saw children eagerly plucking our papers out of their blue bins and then turning straight to the sports pages, you knew he was right.

But the thing I will be eternally grateful for is the platform Eric gave women’s football long before it was fashionable to do so and the backing he gave me as it became my main focus.

Doing so, he changed my life and for that I owe him the greatest of debts.


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