The holy grail of interviewing someone is when you’re listening to them talk and you immediately know that something they say will make brilliant reading.
There were many moments like that for me during the 30-odd interviews I conducted for my book, but there was one man who delivered more often than not.
I must have had seven or eight lengthy phone calls with Guy Branston during the creation of Impossible Dream and he was a pleasure to deal with every time, speaking freely about his memories.
Full of personality, colourful language and an unwavering conviction of his beliefs, Branston had already got me rubbing my hands with glee at his recollection of punching the referee’s door at Hull City, dragging Kevin Watson around a hotel at Brighton, his thoughts on Ronnie Moore’s trialist policy after a Cameroonian Olympic athlete turned up at training and how he slapped future boxer Leon McKenzie in the tunnel at Millmoor.
But the real juice came when he spoke about the breakdown of his relationship with Ronnie, which eventually led to his exit from the club, and he needed no real prompting before unloading his true feelings.
When asked about how he felt at not playing as often as he liked, he embarked on a lengthy rant bemoaning a number of things that irked him, ranging from Ronnie speaking about him in the press, perceived preferential treatment of Martin McIntosh and John Breckin playing good cop to Ronnie’s bad cop.
And that is not to mention the amount of things I left out from that rant for fear of legal repercussions and damaging my relationship with Ronnie, which was obviously vital for the success of the book.
When he was in full flow, I put the phone on loudspeaker, placed it on the side and punched the air in delight, as I knew straight away that this was pure gold and would make the book a much more compelling read.
As a result, the chapter concerned in the book ‘Fighting For Your Place’ – telling the story of a 4-4 draw with Norwich and Branston’s resulting exit from the club – is my personal favourite, with a little snippet below.
“My last game for Rotherham was backing up Ronnie Moore. Sometimes it is best to go and I am pleased I went because I was sick to death of seeing him and Breck, I really was. I felt like they were just treating me like an idiot. I trained and worked so hard every day and McIntosh wouldn’t train all week and then play on a Saturday and that is annoying because I worked my socks off. I had Breck coming up to me every day and saying, ‘Yeah Brano, keep going, keep going’. I had two years of that and it was starting to annoy me. It was the same stuff that came out of his mouth all of the time and I was like, ‘Oh God, I genuinely need to go now and find a new club’. I’d had a great time but it felt like they were killing me. Everyone was just getting sick of each other.
“The last two years there I was just angry with Ronnie all the time. He’d give you the man of the match and then drop you and wouldn’t even fucking tell you. I’d train all week thinking I was going to play because McIntosh wasn’t there and then he’d ride in on the Saturday on his white horse. Don’t get me wrong, McIntosh was a good player. But I was disappointed to be dropped so early because I’d helped to get back-to-back promotions and done well, but that’s how it goes. I look back now and think I handled it as a young lad rather than a professional footballer. I also look back and think Ronnie was harsh with me because I did well.”
His powerful words were not lost on other people either and Paul Warne, who was also a massive contributor, told me that when the majority of players involved were reading the book, they used to text each other and say ‘Have you seen what Brano has said on page whatever’.
That is a hallmark of a great interviewee and it went some way to showing a different side to the 35-year-old which was the total opposite of the shaven-headed hulk with 17 career red cards which you see and judge on the pitch.
He is articulate, not afraid to say it like it is and has a firm belief in what he is saying is right.
And, Branston, who has just been released by Plymouth, is featured as co-author in another book out now which is aimed at helping young people make it in the professional game, with contributions from a number of high-profile footballers.
The Footballer’s Journey, co-written by Dean Caslake, is available now and if Branston is in the same form as he was the Impossible Dream, then it should be a great read.
Impossible Dream – @ID_TRMY
Guy Branston – @Brano1979
The Footballer’s Journey – @inspireplayers
Dean Caslake – @DCaslake
Impossible Dream: The Ronnie Moore Years celebrates its first birthday on April 17 and what a year it has been, selling over 1,000 copies and avoiding any lawsuits!
It was well received and I would like to thank everyone who has supported it in any way over the past 12 months.
Impossible Dream: The Steve Evans Years has already been copyrighted….