18 September 2012

In memoriam: Brian Woolnough

Brian Woolnough: 1948-2012.

Brian Woolnough, one of Britain's best-known football journalists, has died at the age of 63.

His death following a long battle with bowel cancer has come as a shock, particularly to his employers The Daily Star, who just three months ago lost their chief football writer Danny Fullbrook, also to cancer.

After starting his career with the Esher News and Hemel Hempstead's Evening post, Woolnough spent 27 years at The Sun (where he eventually became their chief football writer) before moving to the Daily Star in 2001.

The Star's sports editor Howard Wheatcroft said, "Brian was the doyen of his generation of sports journalists, and had been the senior figure in football journalism for a long, long time.

"To my mind he also paved the way for journalists being called upon as pundits.

"When the era of rolling sports news began, such was his standing that he was in demand from virtually day one - and up until the end he was still the best of the lot.

"He was a big man in many ways, but he was never arrogant and had an incredible appetite for hard work."

There were a number of notable incidents where he got himself into the news. After a 1994 World Cup qualifier between Holland and England, where two controversial decisions in favour of Ronald Koeman appeared to finish off England's chances of qualifying, Woolnough entered the referee's room and confronted official Karl-Josef Assenmacher, letting him know exactly what he thought.

In 2004, Woolnough enraged Norwich City fans after calling their team "gutless" in the wake of their 4-0 defeat to Chelsea. He added that they would "stink the place out", and hoped that they would go down. Norwich were relegated from the Premier League, but the journalist was, for a while, deeply unpopular at Carrow Road.

Woolnough also had a profile on television. Having first hosted Hold The Back Page on Sky Sports in 1994, he returned to front their Sunday Supplement programme in 2007. For obvious reasons, he was absent from the show in this season's early programmes, with the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton taking over his duties, but he had hopes of returning.

We all have our own opinions about Woolnough as a journalist, but he was always forthright and well-informed.

Rest in peace, Wooly.

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