Fleet Street's finest

Sky Sports mourns the loss of a fine journalist and presenter

Last Updated: 18/09/12 3:13pm

Sky Sports presenter and celebrated sports writer Brian Woolnough died this morning following a long struggle with cancer.

The 63-year-old, who was a hugely popular figure in front of the camera and in the press box, hosted Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement after previously being the presenter of Hold the Back Page.

He was also a distinguished print journalist as chief sports writer for the Daily Star following 27 years with The Sun.

Sky Sports Managing Director Barney Francis said: "Brian has been a friendly face for Sky Sports viewers and colleagues for eighteen seasons.

"He loved Sunday Supplement and his wisdom, experience and well-considered views helped us all see the stories behind the headlines and the enduring power of good sports writing.

"He was charming, decent and always wonderful company. We and our viewers will miss him very much.

"Our thoughts are with his wife, Linda, and their family. And, of course, with his many colleagues in sport and journalism."

Football Writers' Association executive secretary Paul McCarthy, a regular on Sunday Supplement with Brian, said: "He treated everybody as an equal. There was no airs or graces with Wooly.

"If you were an experienced pro you could go up to him and say, 'listen what do you think about this?', and if you were just a young reporter coming through he would give you time and always be willing to lend a hand with a word of advice.

"He was just that kind of guy. He knew what the story was before most of us had got out of bed. At times when he was in full flow you just let him go, you never interrupted, or put in a question of your own, you just let Wooly get on with it because he knew the business inside out.

"He was a great all-round journalist, not just a great print journalist but a great print journalist as well."

Fellow Supplement guest and Daily Mirror chief football writer Martin Lipton said: "He was a fantastic, brave journalist because he was willing to ask the hardest questions and yet even if he had a fight with someone they knew it wasn't personal - it was always professional because he believed in what he was doing, and that's what every journalist would want to do.

"He was a trail-blazer in two ways. He was one of the first of the news-gathering reporters - the people who go on England trips, for example, and don't just report on the match but write stories around it.

"Then in the latter part of his career he made that fantastic transition from being a tabloid reporter to being part of people's breakfast on a Sunday, on the Sunday Supplement. Most football fans would know more Brian more for his work on Sky that for his stuff in The Sun and latterly The Star and he was always so comfortable in that environment.

"The shows that he anchored were always great to be on because you knew that with Brian in the chair you'd be seduced into saying the things that maybe you didn't want to say, but he knew you wanted to say. That's exactly the talent that he had. He was terrific in both his roles."