John Moynihan: from Stamford Bridge to the Khyber Pass

John Moynihan, the former Sunday Telegraph (and Sunday Express, Observer, Evening Standard and The Sun) football writer passed away on Saturday. He was 79.

He was hit by a car near his home the day before and never recovered.

Here, Moynihan’s former sports editor, Trevor Bond, pays tribute to an old friend:

Family man: John Moynihan, photographed last summer with Daisy, one of his granddaughters

John Moynihan was one of those sports journalists who never asked why, when or where or argued over how much space he had been given.

In 12 wonderful years of working with him at the Sunday Telegraph, he never argued the toss. He went out, did the business, came back, wrote his copy – and left it to the sub-editors who then proceeded to murder it. Explain to him why, and he would simply say: “You’re the boss.”

Who else would report a football match, even in the 1960s, and say: “Osgood blasted the third goal past the custodian and into the back of the rigging”, and get away with it?

That was , of course, John’s great love – Chelsea, blue and blue throughout, heroes like Osgood, Tambling, Bridges, the great Charlie Cooke. John would bore the Tuesday morning sports conference with the feats of Cooke and drool over the tackles of “Chopper” Harris and the goalkeeping exploits of Peter Bonnetti.

He loved his Sunday morning football with Chelsea Casuals, the team that included the Sunday Times‘s Brian Glanville, for whom he had a very special regard. John once admitted to blasting a great goal of his own, sadly into his own net against his great rivals.

In and out of work, he mixed with some of the great sports journalists of his time, Hugh McIlvanney, David Miller, Frank Keating. But he always claimed that Geoffrey Green was the doyen of them all.

Two lasting memories. One, he persuaded me to send him to cover the world squash championships in Pakistan since the sponsor, a Pakistani Air Marshal, was paying all his costs and the Sunday Telegraph did not pay for travel trips. Cometh the Saturday with a column of space allowed, no word until 2pm.

Then a phone call from John – loud and clear. “Where are you?” I asked. “It sounds like you’re in the King and Keys next door.”

“Trevor, old boy, put me on to copy – I’m in the Khyber Pass.” No answer to that.

Second, the year when Telegraph newspapers went on strike. No sports copy had been produced all week, but then the strike was called off on Friday night. I gathered the troops and said: “What do we fill the pages with?”

Football chief reporter Colin Malam said: “It’s Scotland v England tomorrow at Hampden Park – I’ll be on the first shuttle.” Athletics correspondent Peter Hildreth said: “There’s a Southern Counties track meeting at Crystal Palace – worth 300 words?”

Then came the immortal words from Mr Moynihan: “The world petanque championships are being held at Braintree this weekend.”

I doubt whether that illustrious sport has ever had such glorious, detailed and controversial coverage. John’s report contained a quote from the local vicar and tournament chairman who, when asked who was allowed to play, said: “Oh, dear boy, you must understand this is a game for the elite – not your hoi polloi. We vet everyone.”

Case rests as, I hope, will John, the “Great Bear” as I called him. He loved Leo, his son and helped make him into his own image as a sports journalist. I will miss him very much – and his Christmas card every year which always said the same thing: “Blue, blue, forever the Bridge.”

  • John Moynihan leaves son Leo and two daughters, Candy and Rosie, and four granddaughters.
  • Funeral arrangements will be posted on this website as soon as they are available.
  • Readers are encouraged to post their messages of condolence and memories of John in the comments section below