'Known for his integrity and his honesty' - Emotional tributes to former Sunderland Echo chief sports writer Geoff Storey
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Geoff was at the Echo for 40 years, having joined from school in the mid-1950s and he worked at both the Bridge Street and Pennywell offices before taking early retirement in 1997.
Ryhope-born, he was a keen sportsman as a youngster, playing football and cricket to competitive standard, and although he began his career at the Echo in the accounts department, Geoff volunteered to cover sports events and gradually became more and more involved in the sports department.
Eventually, he moved full-time into sport and was the Sunderland AFC Reserve team reporter when the then chief sports writer, Billy Butterfield, retired in 1979 and Geoff stepped into the main role, which he went on to hold for 19 years.
Billy had written under the famous Wearside byline ‘Argus’, as had his predecessor Captain Jack Anderson, who was reporting on the football club’s fortunes from the 1920s onwards.
Geoff was the third full-time Sunderland AFC writer in the newspaper’s history but the first to write under his own name as the growing trend in sports journalism was to have photo-bylined sports journalists.
He covered the club during a constantly challenging time, often of failure on the pitch and division off it, and his one regret in the job was that he never covered any period of sustained success, although he was the Echo man in the Press Box for the Milk Cup final against Norwich City in 1985 and the FA Cup final against Liverpool in 1992.
Managers he dealt with on a daily basis were Ken Knighton, Alan Durban, Len Ashurst, Lawrie McMenemy, Denis Smith, Malcolm Crosby, Terry Butcher, Mick Buxton, and finally, Peter Reid.
Although he never particularly enjoyed being in the public spotlight, Geoff accepted that putting his head above the parapet and giving his opinions was an essential part of the job - even if, at times, that meant that on one side the players and manager might feel he was being too harsh, and on the other, the fans not harsh enough!
Geoff’s successor as chief sports writer, Graeme Anderson, said: “In a world before the internet and social media gave everyone a voice, the local paper held great sway with football clubs and football fans.
“The papers were where fans got their information and news and the local writer’s opinions were influential in the town’s paper of record.
“When I first joined the sports desk, Geoff explained the responsibility to me by saying: ‘If I get something wrong, it becomes a fact!’
“Geoff always took that responsibility seriously.
“He was diligent and professional and even though his job meant that often when he expressed a view, one group of fans would agree with him and another group disagree with him, he always tried to tell it as he saw it.
“He was known for his integrity and his honesty and respected by his fellow sports writers.
“Even those within the club who might have disagreed with him over the years would have acknowledged that he acted with what he saw as the best interests of Sunderland AFC at heart.
“Throughout his time covering the club, he always tried to give supporters the news and the expert reporting he thought they deserved and because of that, he was a credit to the Sunderland Echo and the Football Echo’s tradition of providing unrivaled coverage.”
After leaving the Echo, Geoff continued working in an occasional freelance role, covering Sunderland games for national newspapers before finally hanging up his pen for good in 2002.
He enjoyed a long retirement spent perfecting his golf at Wearside Golf Club, where he was a member for more than four decades, gardening and spending time with his family, especially, in later years, his grandchildren, who he doted on.
He was married for 54 years to Teresa, who died in 2019 and he leaves three children, Peter, Moya and Kieron and six grandchildren.
A funeral service is to be held next Tuesday, November 15th at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Penshaw at 9.45 am. A wake will be held at the Biddick Inn, Washington from 11 am.