Pride Before the Fall – interview with author Ryan Conway

Pride Before the Fall – interview with author Ryan Conway

‘The book is a retelling of the story over three years. It was never intended to lay bare grievances and is not a scandal for legal reasons!’ laughs Ryan Conway, author of Pride Before the Fall: How Derby County went from Play-Off Final to Near Extinction. Ryan experienced many of the events that surrounded Derby County Football Club first-hand as a full-time journalist for The Athletic from summer 2019 to summer 2021.

‘The lightbulb moment for writing the book came when Derby were relegated at QPR (a 1-0 defeat on 18 April 2022). It was like a line being drawn in the sand, but it stayed an idea until I spoke with my wife. I didn’t have the courage to write anything, I didn’t know if I could deal with the consequence of potential failure if the book didn’t do well. But I also thought I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if someone else wrote the book first. My wife pushed me to back myself and said there is no-one better to do it – you have lived through it, know the players and staff so why not? So, I sent a pitch to Pitch Publishing and everything happened quickly. I opened a Google Doc and wrote ‘Pride Before the Fall’ – the first title I thought of.’

‘The most enjoyable part of the process was the interviews with the three former Derby players (Curtis Davies, Duane Holmes and Max Lowe). They were fascinating. The interviews helped contextualise all the events that happened. For example, Max Lowe talking about being told by his agent that the club had rejected a bid from Brentford. Max went to meet Phillip Cocu (Derby manager at the time) who said there hadn’t been a bid, but then the Sky Sports ticker flashed up on his office TV with the news about the bid.’

‘I also enjoyed getting to know Wayne Rooney, and getting to know him second-hand through the players. Wayne was one of the best players of his generation and probably in the top 5 England players of all time. He is a heck of a motivator. I never got the sense that Wayne was bullshitting me in interviews. He honestly answered questions. But Phillip Cocu was different, his answers didn’t always make sense.’

‘The march to Pride Park chapter is easily my favourite chapter of the book, it really resonated with me. I rewrote the chapter twice but didn’t think that it captured what happened. I chatted with Pitch and decided that the best way to write the chapter was to quote the fans. I wasn’t at the march, so I put a post out on Twitter and there were so many responses, I had to leave a lot out. There were fans at the march who have supported Derby over 3 or 4 generations with emotional stories. I really got the sense how much the club meant to the fans.’

‘Writing the book was really tough, discipline was a huge challenge. Getting interviews then transcribing hours of material was hard while arranging a marriage, moving house, and changing jobs. I tried to remain disciplined and calm but there were times I had to really tell myself that I have to write 500 words just so I am one step closer to the milestone.’

‘Before Derby, Arsenal was the team I was most drawn to because of their brand of football and I just really liked watching them play but I have no affiliation to London or the club. Derby are always the first result I look out for and I am more invested in Derby as you can tell by my Twitter posts whether we win, lose or draw. I still work in Derby and have been to watch them a couple of times recently, the last time was the Oxford game in August.’

Does Ryan have any plans to write another book? ‘Never say never, but after 12 months writing this one, I will need to review it in 2024. I will see how this book sells before deciding as writing another is a big commitment. What I will say is if I did write anything it would be on a happier topic that people would want to talk about’.

And if Derby get promoted? ‘I would have to write it!’

Pride Before the Fall: How Derby County went from Play-Off Final to Near Extinction by Ryan Conway is available to buy now from Pitch Publishing.

Comments are closed.