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You're gone! Being publicity dropped like David Moyes can be hugely embarrassing, but could it actually lead to a better future

Yes, say Olympic cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel and radio presenters George Jones and Mary Johnston, all of whom rebuilt their lives after suffering a career setback in the limelight

By Audrey Watson

Sacked after just 10 months, Manchester United manager David Moyes has paid the ultimate price for his team's poor performance on the field. In spite of being Sir Alex's 'chosen one', Moyes endured transfer failures and humiliating defeats both at home and abroad, and with many fans baying for blood, it was only a matter of time before the club's top brass showed him the door.

Losing your job is a humiliating experience for anyone. Many cope by telling as few people as possible while quietly setting about rebuilding their working life.

However, for someone in the public eye, that's not an option. Everyone who watched or listened to you, even briefly, will conduct a post-mortem on where it all went wrong.

In Moyes' case, some media outlets have published an illustrated step-by-step, guide to his failure, somehow forgetting that their target is a human being, regarded in the footballing world as a "decent man".

He is also a husband and father of two children, whose family will equally have to endure his fall from grace.

So will, or can Moyes ever bounce back?

We ask local personalities how they reacted after a major career blow and discover that being axed can have a positive effect.


Multiple world champion cyclist, Wendy Houvenaghel (39), was a silver medal winner at the 2008 Olympic Games. Despite being faster than some of her team mates, the Londonderry woman was controversially omitted from the team pursuit event in both the 2012 World Championships in Melbourne and 2012 Olympic Games in London. She says:

At the end of 2011, I was ranked number one in the world at the team pursuit and there was no doubt in my mind that I would represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the 2012 Olympic Games.

To be omitted from the team for the World Championships in March that year undermined my position, regardless of the fact that I was going faster than all three other members.

So, I resolved to work and train harder to become even faster and be sure of inclusion in the team for the Olympics.

However, I was again left out and it was a great disappointment — not just for me, but also for my family and friends and everyone who knew what I was capable of.

It took some getting over, as I had dedicated four years of my life to it. It was a blow to my morale and made me question the sport itself, and I desperately tried to work out how I could move on.

The hurt and disappointment led to my public addressing of the situation. A lot of people supported my speaking out, but there were also critics. However, I'm happy that I did express my feelings. Luckily, I had the support of my family and friends and fans of cycling.

I had to pull myself together and work out a way forward. And I had to accept the decisions that were made — even though I wasn't happy with them.

Sometimes people make decisions that they can't really justify, and they don't realise that those decisions can have such a huge impact on someone's career.

I decided to look beyond sport and luckily, I have a great profession — dentistry — that I could fall back on. I applied for the first job that I saw and I got it. It's a really great practice close to where I now live in Cornwall.

I do think my background in sport and being a two-time Olympian helped, and showed my employer that I had certain positive characteristics.

I haven't stopped cycling, though, and after the Olympics, I resolved to continue with individual competitions, which enabled me to get another national title and another international win. I also went on to represent Great Britain in the World Road Championships and have expressed my intention to compete in this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, again in an individual event.

I have met the selection criteria and am training hard to make sure I compete well in the run-up to the games. I would advise someone who has suffered a career disappointment to go away for a period of time and let it all sink in and allow themselves to go through a grieving process. The most important people at such a time are your close family and friends who will help you through.

Regroup, put the past behind you, focus on the positives and be thankful and proud of what you were able to achieve and look forward to achieving more in the future.

There are lots of blows and disappointments in life and it's important to remember that your health and well-being and the people around you are the most important.

In David Moyes' case, he needs to remain positive in his outlook and accept that it hasn't worked out for him this time, but there is a lot that he can offer in a different scenario.”


JOURNALIST and broadcaster Mary Johnston’s career has spanned almost 50 years. Now in her 60s, she remembers the time in October 1998, when her popular Afternoon Spin programme on BBC Radio Ulster was axed. She says:

I feel sorry for David Moyes. Nobody could have filled Sir Alex Ferguson's shoes.

I, on the other hand had mine filled so well that my successor (Hugo Duncan) is still in the job.

At the time, I won't lie, it was very difficult, not least because my afternoon show was so successful and so very popular.

The local Press gave my axing a lot of coverage, so everybody knew I'd been ‘let go'.

It was hard to understand why they'd wanted a change, but Hugo's been there almost 16 years now.

Of course, he attracts a very different audience to those who listened to me, and his huge fan base love him.

At the time, people would say to me: “Out of adversity comes strength”, or “One door closes and another opens”.

The BBC assured my audience that I was moving on to other projects, but I'm still waiting!

I've kept the hundreds of letters I received from well-wishers and even to this day, I'm still stopped in supermarkets and in town by people asking me: “Didn't you use to be Mary Johnston from the radio?”

I've worked in the media industry since my teens, and in my youth I got to meet and interview most of the major visiting pop stars, including The Stones, The Who, Small Faces, The Kinks, Lulu and Bob Dylan.

In the Sixties, I travelled to America's West Coast and reported on life in the fast lane — catching up with the likes of the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and Eric Clapton. I have always been freelance, with no job security, so after the radio show finished, I was very hurt, but determined to get on with things.

I started writing again and found I was more in demand than ever. Since then, I have worked as a newspaper columnist, championing consumer rights; a feature writer for regional and national publications; a social diarist; a guest broadcaster on other radio stations and a travel writer.

I've never earned a fortune, but there were perks. I've been flown to France for lunch in a chateau, I've had dinner as a guest of Prince Charles in St James's Palace and afternoon tea with Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, at the Oireachtais.

As a travel writer, I enjoy trips abroad and as a feature writer, I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with some of Northern Ireland's most respected and influential people.


RADIO and television presenter, George Jones (69), presented the afternoon show, Just Jones, on BBC Radio Ulster for 21 years|before being dropped from the line-up in 2006. However, his career proved far from over and he has remained a popular voice on local airwaves ever since. He says:

At the time, it was a real bombshell. I had been with the BBC for 21 years, the listening figures were excellent, and I had also won a Sony Radio Academy Award, so it came as a huge shock when I was told that my contract wasn't being renewed.

I had to stop and take stock, because when you have been somewhere for so long, your whole life — personal and professional — is tied up in it.

I had my extra-curricular work in music and with my band Clubsound (which has been going for 40 years), but Just Jones was my real bread and butter at that time.

When something like that happens so suddenly, it takes a while to sink in.

You lose confidence and admittedly, start to feel angry.

You spend a period in a sort of limbo wondering what will come next — if anything.

You also feel a bit inadequate, as if you haven't done your job properly.

My saving grace was that I was given six months’ notice and when word got out, the listeners and the public really got behind me and lifted me and I felt I could leave with confidence and with my head held high.

I took a few months off and then out of the blue, U105 got in touch.

But, to be honest, I was still feeling a bit scundered with radio and wasn't ready to go back to broadcasting full-time, so I started doing a Sunday morning show.

After a year, I felt ready to return five days a week, and was again on air in the afternoon slot, where I remained for five years, before moving back to Sunday nights and the Sunday Sizzler show until 2012.

I began my radio career with Downtown in the Seventies and while I was at U105, they got in touch and asked me if I would present their daily Drivetime show on weekday evenings.

I agreed to do it for one year and it was so successful, I stayed until March 2014.

However, I'm getting on and have now spent more than 30 years on the radio, so it was nice to walk away on a high, with good figures.

I've just had a knee replacement, but Downtown have asked me to do a weekend show for them come June, when I'm fully recovered.

I imagine it must be a terrible shock for David Moyes. But it will turn out all right for him.

I've been a Manchester United supporter since 1970 and I have been angry with him at times, but I could also see the trials and tribulations that he had.

It sticks in your craw when you are forced to leave a job.

But I went on to prove people wrong and prove that I had something to offer.”

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