GERALD Mortimer was nine years old when he first went to the Baseball Ground to watch Derby County – a club he would report on for the Derby Evening Telegraph for more than 30 years.
Gerald was at the Rams’ home on January 12, 1946 to see them beat Millwall 8-1, Angus Morrison scoring three, Raich Carter two.
“Only one cast was needed to hook this fish,” recalled Gerald.
By the end of the season the Rams had won the FA Cup and Gerald watched the victory parade from a window on The Spot.
“Through a friend of a friend, I had a vantage point at the upper window of a shop on The Spot as the heroes moved slowly towards Full Street police station,” Gerald added.
Little did Gerald know then how much Derby County would feature in his life.
Reporting for the Derby Evening Telegraph, Gerald was on the inside of it all, recording the club’s high and lows, as well as the fortunes of Derbyshire Cricket Club.
Educated at Repton School and Oxford University, he did his national service in the Sherwood Foresters and was a teacher before being appointed to the sports desk at the Derby Evening Telegraph in July 1970.
He eventually became sports editor and then chief sports correspondent, a position from which he retired in 2002.
The first Derby County game Gerald reported on for the Derby Evening Telegraph was on August 15, 1970, when the Rams faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea won 2-1 that day, John O’Hare scoring for the Rams, but Gerald soon witnessed the most successful period in the club’s history.
In his second season covering the Rams, manager Brian Clough and his assistant Peter Taylor steered the Rams to their first League Championship and in his third they reached the European Cup semi-finals, where they were knocked out by Juventus.
But it was also a volatile time, as Gerald reported on the departure of Clough and Taylor in the 1973-74 season. Indeed, Gerald was asked by Clough and Taylor to type out their resignation letter.
Yet Gerald then reported on the Rams marching to their second League title under Dave Mackay a year later.
“They were certainly eventful years,” said Gerald at his retirement, “and it is fair to say a lot of the good things came in a hurry at the beginning.
“Since then, I saw the team go down to the old Division Three and back up again. I even saw them go as low as being served with a winding-up petition in the 1983-84 season.”
Gerald also covered Derbyshire cricket for the Derby Evening Telegraph until his retirement and described the club’s victory in the 1981 NatWest Trophy final at Lord’s as “my most memorable day in journalism”.
Gerald watched Derbyshire beat Northamptonshire in the final on “the most emotionally draining day I ever spent in a Press box”, as he later recalled.
Like the Rams, Derbyshire’s fortunes were “equally wayward” – as Gerald described it – with him reporting on the club’s highs and lows, including victory in the Sunday League in 1990 and a memorable triumph in the Benson and Hedges Cup in 1993.
One of Gerald’s happiest sidelines was to help in the formation of the Derby County Former Players’ Association, which he continued to be involved in after his retirement, as well as writing a weekly column for the Derby Telegraph.
His books include “Derby County: The Complete Record”, “The Who’s Who of Derby County” and his autobiography “Are the Fixtures Out?”.
Steve Nicholson succeeded Gerald as the Derby Evening Telegraph’s Derby County reporter.
Steve, the Derby Telegraph’s chief football writer, paid tribute to Gerald, saying: “Gerald was a font of Derby County knowledge. What he did not know about the club, its history and its fortunes was not worth knowing.
“He reported on the Rams for the Derby Evening Telegraph for more than 30 years. His match reports painted pictures for the paper’s thousands of readers.
“He was there during the club’s greatest days and nights – the League Championship successes in the Seventies, those wonderful European nights when Benfica, Juventus and Real Madrid visited the Baseball Ground, the return legs in Lisbon, Turin and Madrid, as well as the promotion campaigns in the Eighties and Nineties.
“Gerald was also there during some of the club’s lows, a consistent voice of authority and experience.
“I met Gerald when I arrived at the Derby Telegraph in 1985.
“He was a colleague who became a friend and, over the years, we spent hours and hours discussing football.
“I will miss him.”
Derby Telegraph editor Neil White added: “I would like to pay tribute to his huge contribution to sport in Derby and to the Telegraph over many decades.
“His knowledge and love of sport was without equal.”
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