My Mentor: Gordon Thomson On Dave Cottrell

'He managed the almost impossible task of being everybody's boss and their mate'
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The Independent Online

Dave Cottrell gave me my first break in journalism after I moved to London in the mid-Nineties. "Wavey Davey", as he was known, was editor of IPC's football magazine Goal which shone brightly for several years until it was closed rather astoundingly on the eve of the 1998 World Cup. Two good friends of mine, Michael Hodges (now editor-at-large on Time Out) and Dan Davies, were staff on Goal and they managed to get me a short stint helping out on the features desk on Goal's 100 best British-based foreign players. I spent a week phoning local newspaper hacks to get their votes. Zola came top.

Dave made me unofficial Scotland editor and sent me to interview my Scottish football heroes. He was a fantastic editor - extremely modest of his talents - and a hilariously funny man. He had this really calm authority which I admired. He somehow managed the virtually impossible balancing act of simultaneously being everybody's boss and also their mate. He's a Scouser and a lifelong Liverpool fan and deeply passionate about football. But he wasn't an anorak. He recognised the ridiculousness of the game and made sure Goal reflected all the weird stuff from the game.

Dave trusted his writers to get the story, and he'd never kill an idea by giving anyone too tight a brief. It was all about trust. Nobody ever wanted to let him down. He encouraged everyone on the magazine to contribute ideas, something I think is a sign of a good editor - and he never felt vulnerable about giving other people power.

During the research for the 100 foreign players, I discovered this struggling young Nigerian striker who was about to be let go by Leyton Orient. I told Dave about this guy - Sammy Ayorinde - and he told me to go and interview him, and write the piece.

And then he published it, over about four pages. I'd only been in the office two weeks.

Gordon Thomson is the editor of 'Time Out'

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