Stan the Man.. by Colin Evans

Peter Kay's comedy hit ‘Car Share’ reminds me occasionally of driving home with Stan Miller after a game at one of Lancashire’s out grounds, Liverpool, Southport or Blackpool. Hilarious..if you enjoy Barry White at 100mph.

Stan was a big fan of Barry. He also loved gunning his two litres Ford Granada at full blast. Early evening, light traffic on the M57, 56 and 62 (I’m talking here of 40 years ago), a speed limit, sure, but no cameras. Perfect for a session of high octane passion music and a chance to test the Granada’s full potential. 

“Put him on Colin.”

“Oh no, not Barry White. And slow down for God’s sake.”

He did – to about 99mph. But he insisted on the music. He had one or two other tapes in the glovebox, Glenn Campbell and the like, but this was the only one I heard on the many occasions I suffered in his passenger seat.

“If you’re determined to be a Grand Prix star, can you put both hands on the wheel? Please.”

But he wouldn’t hear. Elbow on the window ledge, eyes fixed on the outside lane as we hurtled back to Manchester, lips purring the words ‘my first, my last, my everything.’ I never go beyond 70mph nowadays but I am tempted to download one of Barry’s thumping serenades to commemorate a man, who for many years, was my freelance partner in crime at Old Trafford and who died recently at the age of 81.

Stan was, by nature, the most entertaining bloke I’ve ever known, with elements of Peter Kay, Laurel and Hardy, even Charlie Chaplin. We laughed, oh how we laughed. He could be rib wrenchingly funny, without any apparent effort. No stand-up comedy, no silly wheezes. Just by being Stan. His flash of temper could sear a steak but, as he stormed off or banged down a phone, we just collapsed.

A perfect day at Old Trafford started perhaps with a raucous entrance by David Green, an anti-media barrage from head groundsman Peter Marron (we’d be in the bar with him after the close of play) and one of Miller’s explosive phone calls. It was all comically uphill from then on, the roars and laughter threatening to complete the disintegration of the rotting wooden shed they called a press box.

We all complained bitterly about that box. But, deep down, Stan had a fondness for it. It was where he had started his career, running copy for Tommy Longworth’s agency in the mid-1950s when Cyril Washbrook and Brian Statham graced the pitch. He was a fresh-faced, street-wise 15-year-old, anxious to do well in the world of journalism – and he succeeded, becoming a partner in the busy Stewart and Hartley Agency. 

Although he preferred rum and coke to ale, Stan was a Manchester lad through and through, the work hard, play hard type. There was always the potential for fun and games but Stan was the consummate freelance reporter. Old school, yes, but with a rogueish charm which unlocked so many doors.

His bread and butter work was at the City Magistrates Courts, a complex of 12 courtrooms – his personal fiefdom where he commanded the confidence of top detectives, lawyers and court officials. One bobby gave him the secret police photos of two IRA bombers, knowing next morning they would be splashed all over the front pages and that he might be kicked out of the force. And the barrister George Carman QC once rang him at 2am to ask a ‘great favour’. I won’t say what it was, but at that time Carman was famously defending ex-Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, on a charge of conspiracy to murder.

Cricket reporting was his second string and there are many in the CWC ranks who never benefited from his company because, after almost 40 years, he gave it up in the mid-1990s to concentrate on his court reporting. Those of us who stayed in the game continued to enjoy it, but the Old Trafford box was never the same without him.

Stan worked until serious illness stopped him close to the age of 80 after almost 65 years of journalism. For much of that time he bashed out his stuff on a battered old Imperial typewriter with badly chipped characters and a ragged ribbon, and it took a lot of persuasion to convince him that laptops and mobile phones were here to stay. But eventually he conceded and, like the marathon runner he was, he just kept going and going, long after I’d dropped out.

We were colleagues at S and H for 25 years, 20 of those as the firm’s partners. Several journalists, including one or two in the CWC, launched successful careers with us and while they sometimes expressed doubts about a 60-hour week, laughable expenses and the braking capacity of the office car – a canary yellow, dented Triumph Dolomite – I know they have nothing but fond memories of him. Like them, I learned a lot about journalism from Stan Miller. But, mostly, I learned that life was for living. Golden days.