THE SECRET OF MY SUCCESS: JULIE WELCH

Julie Welch debuted in 1969 as Fleet Street's first female football reporter. Since then she has also written many screenplays and television scripts. Her first novel, Long Distance Information, is published on 22 May.

I got a crappy degree in philosophy at Bristol and sort of staggered down to London. By then I had a baby and got married in that order. I was more or less unemployable.

I did a secretarial course and got a job with the Observer sports department, where I spent two years getting drunk. And I just thought: what a wonderful life! I was such a useless secretary but I've always been a complete football nut, and my big break was being allowed to report Coventry vs Spurs in 1969. I did the most pretentious report but I got my byline. The paper had loads of calls the next day asking is Julie like Leslie or Hilary because they thought I must be a man.

I didn't mind people thinking that I was unconventional. I'm quite bloody minded and I think I am fairly lucky and good at being in the right place at the right time. It was hard work not being put off as there was a lot of hostility towards me because I was a woman. You have to clench your teeth and keep plugging away.

Although I won the Daily Telegraph Magazine Young Writer of the Year Award, I always wanted to be a novelist and write TV plays but it wasn't until the beginning of the Eighties that I got a bunch of things accepted. David Puttnam asked me to write a film about my childhood love of football so I wrote Those Glory Glory Days. That was1983, an amazing year as I got re-married as well.

My biggest break leading to Long Distance Information was getting sacked. I was working on the Sunday Telegraph and the department closed. I was so annoyed that I sat down and wrote the book in about six months.

I was seven when I decided I wanted to be an author so it is only now at 50 that I've got there. Don't think life is over when you hit 30 or 40; you can change at any time, and you can often turn real reversal to your advantage if you are angry enough.

LUCY POLLARD

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