Remembering ‘Coley’, two-time SJA chairman and Fleet Street stalwart


FUNERAL DETAILS UPDATE:  Ian’s funeral will take place at Southend Crematorium at 12:40 on Thursday 9th of March, followed by refreshments at Westcliff Rugby Club, Cherry Orchard Way, Southend, SS4 1YG.

Ian Cole’s newsroom endeavour was powered by wit, good-humour, tea, frequent West Ham United anecdotes and rock-solid news judgment.

An immensely popular figure, Ian known to most simply as “Coley” possessed the rarest of newsroom skills: He was respected and liked by all… reporters, news editors, layout artists and those ultimate curmudgeons, sub-editors. 

His career began at the Ilford Record a year before his idols lifted football’s ultimate prize, before moving to the Watford Evening Echo in 1970.

A move to Fleet Street was inevitable, joining The London Evening News in 1972, before a successful 15-years career at The Daily Express. Ian left the Express 1997, by then assistant sports news editor, to join David Emery’s all-sports newspaper start-ups Sport First and the Non-League Paper as news editor.

Cricket-loving Ian Cole (centre) and his two mates, Ken Dyer (left) and Jeff Ives in front of the historic Adelaide scoreboard, a trip to watch The Ashes in 2010 the former SJA chairman’s retirement present

But it was in his nine-year stint at Daily Mail, as night sports news editor, where Coley’s formidable news judgment came to the fore. He seemed to particularly enjoy those moments late in the evening, when the boss class had departed for home or the wine bars of Kensington, and he was able to make his mark on the later editions. If he was feeling especially sporting, he’d saunter down to the fabled Mail back-bench for a forthright conversation after receiving the rivals’ first editions.

Ian always had an encouraging word for reporters both cub and well-seasoned. He was especially helpful towards a new phenomenon in the Mail newsroom – the graduate trainee, first spotted in Derry Street circa 2005. A long-servant of Fleet Street, maybe, but he was certainly not too grand to help and guide.

Ian retired to much adulation from his colleagues in 2008. His impact across the sports news industry was keenly felt. A much-respected chairman of the SJA from 1991-1993 and 1998-1999, he served on the general committee for 27 years. 

He was also the co-author with Christopher Hilton of Memories Of George Best.

Ian received a standing ovation upon receiving the SJA’s Doug Gardner Award in 2009. A fitting tribute for a colourful 42 years as a sports journalist.

Ian Cole was truly one of our own. 

Our thoughts and condolences go to Ian’s family and friends. He touched the lives of a very many of us sports journalists. Go well, Coley.