18 May 2021

Sports journalism undergraduate Brendan Pitcher is in the running for one of the top awards in student journalism.

Brendan has been shortlisted in the highly prestigious Football Writers Association (FSA) Hugh McIlvanney Student Football Writer of the Year Award.

Named after one of the most illustrious and fondly remembered members of the profession, the award celebrates outstanding original work produced by young writers.

For Brendan to be shortlisted is a notable achievement. The award is highly prized, with over 500 entries from across the country. The winner will be announced shortly.

For his entry, long-time Leyton Orient fan Brendan captured one of the most poignant moments in the story of any football club - the emotional departure of a popular but underperforming manager.

The University of East London (UEL) student then did what any budding sports journalist should do - he re-lived the moment for others to share, writing an intimate report that put fans and observers at the heart of the drama.

His story, on UEL's own Rising East website begins:

Dejected but determined, Ross Embleton heads into the bowels of Brisbane Road looking for answers. Win, lose, or draw, an assortment of the Leyton Orient hierarchy can be found outside of the dressing room to offer post-match congratulations or commiserations. This afternoon however, they are nowhere to be seen. Embleton fears the worst. He eventually finds the club's Director of Football Martin Ling in the boardroom, and simply asks, "is that it for me?" to which Ling meekly replies, "yes that's it." They then both head back down into the dressing room to break the news to the players."

Brendan's richly evocative report did more than seal an emblematic moment for posterity, it caught the eye of the FWA judging panel.

He said, "I don't think I've been up for an award since under 14's football, so this is all a bit strange for me. But it's a massive honour and it was great to be able to share the news with my friends and family."

As Leyton Orient editor on Rising East, Brendan has witnessed the struggles of the East London club. The departure of the head coach following a 3-1 defeat to Tranmere in February was made all the more traumatic because Embleton had followed in the footsteps of Justin Edinburgh, who died, aged 49, while manager of the Os.

The Level 6 student said, "Leyton Orient are the club I support, and I've been lucky enough to report on and even do some work for them over these last couple of years.

"Doing that has allowed me to build contacts with people such as [former head coach] Ross Embleton, who I've been able to interview a few times. Not many football league managers would take time out for a student such as myself, but Ross has always been first class with me and, on a personal level, I was sad to see him leave the club."


Pursuing a career in sport media


The University's location, so close to many sporting venues and events, helped persuade Brendan to pursue his degree in London.

He said, "Working in sports media has always been a dream and this [sports journalism] degree has definitely helped further that dream. The degree has given me a great understanding of what it will take to create a career.

"What I've learnt is that it's a very competitive industry and, in all likelihood, a degree alone won't be enough to get you a job, you've got to put in the work alongside the course. What you do outside of the course, in terms of placements, internships or just general practising of your craft, is just as important as what grades you achieve."

And his advice for any prospective students thinking of pursuing a sports journalism degree?

"I'd say, work out what you what sector of the industry you want to have a career in and just get experience. If you want to work in club media, email as many clubs as you can and try and find a placement. If you want to go into journalism, cover a club in depth for a season. It's all going to be valuable experience and it's all stuff that will look good in your portfolio."

Sports journalism co-course leader Adam Powley, of the School of Arts and Creative Industries, said, "On behalf of co-course leader Dekan Apajee and the teaching team, we're all hugely delighted and proud that Brendan has been recognised in such a significant award category. Brendan's article stands out as an example of what can be achieved when you mix passion and craft.

"Brendan embodies what the Journalism courses at UEL are all about: he is fully committed to his learning and development and has taken that into a professional work setting that ties in with his studies. This has given him the opportunity to produce highly original and engaging content. We're thrilled his journalism has been recognised in this way."

If you are interested in a sports journalism degree, go to our course web pages.

Footnote: Despite their precarious position, Leyton Orient are safely mid-table and have secured themselves League Two football for another season under interim manager and club veteran Jobi McAnuff.

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