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Tributes pour in for Star sports writer Brian Woolnough

Massive loss: Brian Woolnough

Brian Woolnough, the chief sports writer of the Daily Star, has died after a long struggle against bowel cancer. “Woolly”, who had been a long-term member of the Sports Journalists’ Association, was 63.

Woolnough had worked at The Sun for 27 years, as football correspondent and assistant sports editor, before joining the Star, but he was also a familiar face on television for his insightful punditry and his calm chairing of Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement from 2007 after previously being the presenter of Hold the Back Page.

The Association sends its deepest sympathy to Brian’s wife, Linda, and three children. A minute’s silence was observed today ahead of the SJA’s lunch in Fleet Street today with former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher – the sort of event which Woolnough made a point of attending whenever he could.

“It was always a pleasure to encounter Brian, whether it was at an SJA lunch or in the press box at a Premiership football match or other major sports event,” Steven Downes, the SJA Secretary, said. “He was hugely respected and liked  by his colleagues.”

Woolnough’s passing is the second huge blow for the Daily Star‘s sports desk in just a few months, following the death earlier this summer of Danny Fullbrook, the paper’s football correspondent.

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

“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.”

Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom said: “Brian will be missed by everyone at the Daily Star. He was a brilliant sports writer, a huge character and above all a really nice bloke.”

Woolnough began his career on The Esher News in Surrey, moved to the Evening Post in Hemel Hempstead before joining The Sun. He moved to the Daily Star in 2001.

“Not many sports writers are asked for their autographs but Brian was, often,” David Woods, his colleague at the Star, said today. “Fans would also seek him out for a chat at stadiums and he always obliged.

“He spoke to them like they were a friend – and you could often be mistaken for thinking they were. That was typical of Woolly.”

Tributes poured in for Woolnough, including from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. He said: “I liked him. He was a good man, Brian. He was a good journalist and a good personality.

“He asked good questions, sometimes too good! It’s very sad and my thoughts are with his family at this time.”