Editorial

John Dillon – funeral and wake update

UPDATE: Sunday July 14

For those attending the funeral of former Express Chief Sports Writer John Dillon, details are below for the wake.

The family invite you to join them for drinks and a buffet to celebrate the life of their much loved and much missed son and brother at the below:

https://www.jackcarterpavilion.com/find-us

This will take place after the service at Forest Park Crematorium, Forest Road, IG6 3HP at 4pm on July 22.

For those wishing to pay tribute to John, there is attached a link for donations to the Whipps Cross Hospital Premature Baby Unit via the Bart’s Hospital Trust.

This is a cause close to John’s heart.

We kindly suggest you choose this rather than send flowers and hope you understand.

https://john-james-dillon.muchloved.com

We also gently request that those attending wear even the smallest something in claret and/or blue. This is in homage to John’s and everybody’s favourite football team – West Ham.

We appreciate this might be tough for some of you but it doesn’t have to be much!

It will be a sad occasion but there will also be some laughter and a chance to smile too. John would want that.

Thank you all.

Andy Dillon.

Our friend, colleague and former FWA National Executive Committee member John Dillon has passed away. His great friend Paul McCarthy has written this heartfelt tribute

I have never met a journalist who loved the life of a sports reporter more than John Dillon.

Gregarious, hilariously funny and always able to see the ludicrous side of the job, JD – and he was always JD – was never happier than when he was with his friends and colleagues at a match, a great sporting event or just around a dinner table, telling stories, laughing and living his best life.

He came into the job back in the 1980s, emerging alongside an incredible cohort of talent that included Martin Samuel and Rob Shepherd. Sharp-witted with a beautiful turn of phrase, JD was always far more of a writer than a story-getter, if truth be told and he was always most a home in a press box, honing superb match reports that took you away from the run-of-the-mill with his minutely observed descriptions of the moments that truly mattered.

Football was always his passion but when the time came for him to step up into the chief sport’s reporter’s role at the Express, he found his true calling.

He revelled in the freedom it gave him to branch out and indulge his love of boxing, athletics, cricket and, of course, the biggest football matches on the planet. Always a romantic at heart, JD loved the idea of carrying on the bloodline of Jimmy Lawton and the great dukes of British sports journalism.

And, boy, could he write. Exquisitely crafted with a wryness that would so often cut through much of the hyperbole, he loved the written word with a passion and hated anything that was slipshod or lazy. He slaughtered me once for the using the phrase, ‘almost exactly’ demanding to know whether it was almost or exactly because it could never be both. It was a lesson I never forgot.

But truly, he was in his element when we were all job-adjacent, at the bar or in a restaurant. Or walking around an unfamiliar city looking for somewhere new to enjoy. He loved the States, New York and Las Vegas in particular, and felt a kindred spirit for the heritage of American sports writers and those who strove to rise above the mundane.

More than anything, he was astonishing fun to be around. When we were all young pups, still cutting our teeth in the industry, he worked for The People and would rock up in midweek press boxes demanding to know if anybody knew of any ‘My Hell’ stories that were the bread and butter of the Sunday papers. Those words were always uttered with a glint in his eye and a smile that recognised just how ridiculous the job could be.

Nights in Korea when our bus driver took us to the wrong hotel in Busan and JD had us all in uncontrollable fits as he tried to explain to the driver where he’d, literally, gone wrong. Or searching for a taxi in the early hours of a Tokyo morning alongside Shep, the pair of them brilliantly riffing off each other, a relationship born of schoolboy friendship.

I have never laughed as much before or since as when JD held centre stage during a meal in Sofia where he went through the card of gags, impressions and wisecracks, all at the expense of his mates round the table but done with such warmth and affection that nobody could ever even think of taking umbrage.

JD suffered tragedy in his life, losing his wife Michelle at far too early an age and, while he faced her loss with real stoicism, I’m not sure he ever recovered and often we’d be somewhere in the world and he’d say, “Mate, I’d love to tell Michelle about this.”

Even when journalism cast him aside too soon, we’d chat every month or so on the phone, reminisce and re-tell tales of fun, largesse and amazing moments he’d experienced travelling around the word covering sport. Inevitably, he’d always end our chats with one his favourite phrases, “It’s the only job you can do without leaving the school playground, you know.”

JD wasn’t an award winner, he was just a bloody brilliant bloke, a loyal friend and somebody I looked forward to seeing or speaking to whenever our paths crossed.

The last time we spoke, he was concerned about a friend who was going through a torrid time. He asked for a telephone number of somebody I knew who might be able to help and then went the extra mile to make sure his mate was looked after and given the care he so desperately needed.

That was JD. Generous, caring and in love with life. The news has hit so many desperately and he lives a void in journalism and too many lives. We will all miss him.

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