Ian Willars, for many years among the best-known sports journalists on the Midlands football and cricket circuits, has died after a brief illness. He was 75.
Willars died on Tuesday, May 7, in Sutton Good Hope Hospital. He leaves a wife, Sandra, three sons, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Willars had worked in Fleet Street, at the pre-Sun Daily Herald, and covered football at all levels right up to the World Cup. He worked as the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail football and cricket correspondent, after freelancing and handling PR for Coventry City.
The tribute to Willars in his old paper this week said, “While he earned massive respect for the work he did, the investigations he carried out and the passionate desire to know what was happening on and off the football pitches of Villa, Birmingham, Albion, Wolves, Coventry and Walsall, he probably got more personal satisfaction putting pen to paper on cricketing activities of Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
“He loved going to New Road, where he revelled in describing the exploits of the likes of Ian Botham, Norman Gifford, Graeme Hick, Basil D’Oliviera and Tom Graveney.”
The SJA’s deputy chairman and fellow Midlands-based football writer Janine Self, said, “When I moved to the Midlands, Ian was still very much a doyen of the press box. He came armed at all times with pipe, smile, twinkling eyes and a sense of humour only matched by his sense of mischief. And he liked a beer.
“Before he retired early through ill-health, he was also treasurer of the Midlands branch of the Football Writers’ Association.
“I remember someone who was always ready to help a young ‘un, always ready to ask the hard question, and someone for whom the description ‘he’s a character’ was invented.
“On behalf of the SJA and myself, we send our condolences to his wife Sandra and the family.”