Charlie Whebell, devoted West Ham fan and former Daily Telegraph stalwart, has died at the age of 64 after a short illness.
His passing comes just months after he had retired as a journalist on The National in Abu Dhabi, bringing the curtain down on a long and distinguished career that started at the Romford Observer in the 1970s.
When he was diagnosed with cancer, he started writing a blog which was full of humour and typical of the man.
In one of his posts, he wrote: “My childhood hero was Bobby Moore, who, in the words of Pele himself, was the world’s greatest defender. To me he had everything. He was the captain of West Ham when they won the FA Cup in 1964, the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1965 and when West Ham, sorry, England, won the World Cup in 1966.
“And as well as all that he had good looks along with a model-looking wife. I yearned to be like him. Maybe one day I could have his grace and timing as he tackled attackers. Or his vision when making defence-splitting passes. His fame and fortune. Perhaps even a model-looking wife. Well, more than 50 years later, I finally have something Bobby Moore had – colon cancer.”
Snooker and West Ham were his big passions. While at the Observer he befriended accountant Barry Hearn, who had just bought the offices next to the newspaper in South Street, Romford and Hearn introduced him to his new snooker prospect Steve Davis. The three became good friends as Davis took the sport to new heights.
He was an inaugural member of the now famous Matchroom Club, regularly facing the likes of Davis and Tony Meo across the table.
Whebell left the Observer in 1981 to become one of the Mail on Sunday‘s first sport production journalists before joining the London Daily News and then the Daily Telegraph sports desk, where he remained an immensely popular figure for many years until his final journalistic stint in Abu Dhabi. He covered snooker for the Telegraph and West Ham had no better supporter than him.
John Ley, a former Telegraph football writer and colleague, says Whebell even had psychic qualities. “Charlie told me while he was working in Romford that he visited Frank Lampard senior after the birth of his son (Frank junior), held the baby and declared that some day he’d play for England. Years later Frank senior recalled the story and said he’d wished he’d had money on that happening.”
Whebell’s other big love was playing for the Telegraph football side, who once reached the semi-finals of the Fleet St Cup against the all-conquering Sun team, who were renowned for using ringers. For that match, Whebell rested a few regulars and drafted in four players from Queens Park Rangers Academy side. The Telegraph lost in extra time but Whebell left satisfied that they had given the Sun an almighty fright.
Robert Philip, the former Telegraph chief sports features writer, probably best sums up Whebell.
“If St Peter asked Charlie was there anything you didn’t do that you’d have liked to try down there, he’d no doubt reply: ‘Not one thing, mate…’ .One of life’s sparkling diamonds.”
For all who would like to give Whebell a fitting send-off, his funeral service will be at Bentley Crematorium in Brentwood at Thursday, September 7 (4.0pm), and afterwards at Ye Olde Green Dragon in Shenfield.
The family advise that dressing colourfully is the order of the day and flowers for the service should be directed to Bennetts Funeral directors in Brentwood.
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