Sundays won't be the same without Wooly, but the Supplement is in safe hands
13:13 GMT, 24 September 2012
Information and knowledge are two of the most important tools in the journalist’s bag of tricks that helps them form the opinions that they share with us.
Thankfully, though, those opinions aren’t put together like flat pack furniture – all coming out exactly the same. Luckily, the writer also packs a brain in that tool bag and uses it to express what they think the facts are; what the actual truth is from their own perspective.
Which leaves us with the entertaining, yet probably totally illogical result of a variety of differing opinions, ALL of which are right!
Sunday morning: (left-right) Neil Ashton hosted with Henry Winter, Andy Dunn and Shaun Custis contributing
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The place where this is best presented to us, in all of its bun-fight glory is around a breakfast table somewhere in west London, where the cream of the football journalism crop gather on a Sunday morning for Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement.
Starting life as Hold The Back Page under Fleet Street stalwart Brian Woolnough’s stewardship, it eventually became Jimmy Hill’s Sunday Supplement, with that venerable old Fulham player at the nominal helm and Brian effectively as sidekick.
It was a very different programme from the one we see today. Jimmy had most certainly arrived at the curmudgeon phase of his life and I can still feel myself wincing at the prospect of the subject of referees coming up; a cue for Jimmy to launch into his tried and relentlessly tested tirade on matters ‘men in black’.
He was also not backwards in coming forwards in reminding the various journos around the table on any given Sunday that HE had played the game, and therefore any thoughts to the contrary of his may not carry as much weight. The fact that his ideas often arrived in flickering black and white didn’t stop Jimmy in continuing to deliver them in full, unedited detail!
During the show’s Jimmy years, it was ‘Wooly’ who was tasked with the job of trying to help Mr Hill down from his high horse and to curl a few ideas around Jimmy’s belligerent wall like a David Beckham free kick.
Eventually, of course, Woolnough took
control of the show for its genuinely golden years but sadly he didn’t
get to start this new season from his traditional position at the head
of the breakfast table.
Tragically, he passed away in the week and on
Sunday morning, The Daily Mail’s Neil Ashton once again took on
Woolnough’s role in his absence, and he led the tributes to him,
describing his predecessor as ‘a great statesman’.
Missed: Brian Woolnough was a Sunday Supplement star
With him was a classic Sunday
Supplement line up; with Shaun Custis to his right, Henry Winter to his
left and Andy Dunn in the hole and they all remembered Wooly with
affection and respect.
described their former colleague as ‘inspirational’, Winter called him a
‘natural broadcaster’, while Dunn recalled a moment at Steve McClaren’s
first press conference as England manager when the new boss implored
‘Go easy on me, Wooly’, to which the staunch defender of English
football replied ‘Not gonna happen, Steve!’.
Ashton has seamlessly slipped into his role as the show’s anchor and is already doing what Woolnough also managed with such aplomb, which is to let the three guests do most of the debating. It is a unique TV concept, to allow print journalists to police themselves on the show, but it is important for it work as a piece of telly that someone takes on the job of steering it.
Not that Neil doesn’t clearly have an
opinion, of course, but he is quickly learning the art of putting that
across in his questions. A good trick, that!
I referred earlier to Sunday’s show providing a ‘classic’ table – matched only when it is Martin Samuel opining across the croissants in the general direction of Patrick Barclay – because if there was ever a perfect example of two footie journos both being right, but with COMPLETELY different ideas, it’s when Messrs Custis and Winter cross swords.
This is made particularly entertaining by the fact that they are also patently very different chaps from each other, but also clearly united by a passionate love of the game and a genuine camaraderie.
Chat: Woolnough (centre) with Danny Fulbrook (left) and Steve McLaren (right)
However, just as with mates down the pub, it doesn’t prevent them getting into some right verbal tussles over various matters football.
It was the Spurs goalkeeping conundrum that set them off this particular morning with Shaun launching unswervingly into his thoughts on the matter and causing Henry to set his feet and straighten his back in the chair opposite.
Veteran Sunday Supplement watchers will know that this means the two gunslingers are about to go High Noon on us, and so it was as the Geordie journo exclaimed ‘Would Cristiano Ronaldo even have to ask if he was going to start a game’, to which his suave protagonist responded, almost with a gently disdainful flick of the hand, ‘Well, Ronaldo can play in different positions’.
Shaun simply sighed heavily, regrouped and said, ‘Well, anyway…’.
Good knockabout stuff, all delivered with a sense of fun and a real passion for the subject. It was the kind of fayre Sunday Supplement has been serving up for seasons, and regularly bringing serious football addicts like me to the table on a Sunday morning in the process.
It’s just a terrible shame that Brian Woolnough won’t be able to join us there again. RIP Wooly.