Paul Greengrass on the debt he owes Paul Doherty, the head of sport at Granada

But Paul Doherty, I owe a special debt. Because I was a young student, I’d gone to a good university, I had the advantages and the naiveties that that bestows upon you, and probably the arrogances too. And I was, I think, in many ways, unprepared for the world of work, what work was really about. And Paul gave me a crash course of all of that in a matter of weeks. He was always in the office at 7:30, always. And he would not leave before late. And then you’d go to a game, more than likely. So it was straight into, I think the most important lesson that everybody has to learn in this business, which is that it is a full immersion, leave your life and run away to the circus type of a life. It’s not a life if you want nine to five or a structured life; you give yourself to it wholly. And that’s the only way it can work, and everything else, your life comes second to it. And he demanded that, and he was a larger than life… so in many ways, he was a sort of ‘proto Alex Ferguson’ type figure. He had a tremendous temper, which he would deploy at all times. And he had this dream that he was going to build a sports department at Granada, and the sports comprised of me, as I discovered on the Monday, another young researcher called Charles Lauder, who was very talented chap. An old Granada studio director, who’d been sort of put out to grass and wasn’t really wanted anywhere else, a guy called Mike Becker, who was actually a very sweet man. And he sort of did the live OBs, you know, not very well. So, Paul Doherty. And that was the sports department. And Margaret Foy who was the secretary, who actually ran Paul’s life brilliantly.

And he ran it like he was running a football team. And he rode me incredibly hard, because I remember him saying on the first day, “I’m not interested in World in Action, by the way. You’ve come here, I want somebody to do sport and that’s what you’re going to do. Do you understand?” I went, “Yes. Oh yes boss.” “Because I’m fucking not having effing and blinding no one, fucking not having anybody fucking doing it, that fucking World in Action shit. We’re here to do football and sport, and this company doesn’t take it seriously. And the north west is the heartbeat of sports in this country.” All of which I agreed with by the way. So he was preaching to the converted, and he had this tremendous sense of sport being, you know… all the namby-pamby intellectuals in the corridor look down on it, but actually it was what people out there really wanted to watch. Again, he was totally right about that. And he went to bat, and I was an absolute disciple. But life with Doc was fantastic, because you’d work like a demon, and then you’d go out in the evening to Blinkers nightclub, and suddenly there’d be all these footballers in there. And you’d be going, “Fucking hell, that’s George Best,” or, “Fucking hell, there’s…” you know? It was just unbelievable. It was like, I couldn’t believe the life I was leading.

Were you a Crystal Palace fan? Is that right?

Yes. Which of course only exacerbated Doc’s contempt for them.


I stayed in touch with Doc. He always took an interest in what I did. Towards the end, not long before he went into a hospice, we went up and we had lunch at a restaurant in Manchester together. It was a lovely, we had an absolutely wonderful day. We reminisced. He brought this scrapbook that he had from his Granada days. He was very sick then. He knew he didn’t have long to go. Funnily enough, I just saw, he gave me the page or a copy of the page, and there was a picture of me and him and in his handwriting what he’d written underneath, because all of my records are going to the BFI. I’ve got a young person out there preparing it all for them. She found this stuff and showed it to me just literally an hour ago. Just the sweetest note in his handwriting about me, and how proud he was and so on and so forth. That was really, it brought a tear to my eye. He was a wonderful man and loyal, competitive, chippy, brilliant, a great leader, brilliant sense of humour…

Was he a person you had to stand up to? Because every time I would wander into the sports department for whatever reason, you’d feel Doc was there growling at you, and you’d timidly scamper out.

Yes. That’s why I think he liked me. Because I somewhat exasperated him, because I would give it back to him, being quite a rebellious person. But I loved him and I was very loyal to him. He was my guy. He was the boss. He was the gaffer. I would have run through a brick wall for him. I genuinely would have done. When it was time for me to go, which was really after about a year, he knew it. He knew that I was always going to want to go and do World in Action and follow my dreams. He knew that. He knew I’d had a good year for him. I’d done some pretty good pieces of work for him. I wasn’t going to be part of what he was building, but he helped me and he encouraged me. In many ways, he was an archetypal Granada figure. He was a perfect expression of what Granada was about in those days. That’s the Doc.

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