Frank Nicklin

This was the daredevil who added to the gaiety at a Rupert Murdoch party by shoving the boss into the swimming pool, black tie and all, and following him in. Murdoch came up laughing. Frank Nicklin remained sports editor of The Sun for its first dozen soaraway years.

And what a sports editor. Frank Nicklin was the trail-blazer of modern tabloid sports journalism. And what a man. He was fun. He was fearless. He was a free spirit. His style personified The Sun. How ironic that, when he died last week, he rated a bare half-column in the paper he did so much to get from 650,000 to four million.

On Day One, he zoomed in like the fighter pilot he used to be. His headline: "FOUR ROWS OF TEETH." His manifesto: "This is it, folksÉ We shall hammer those in high places… the fiddlers and the ponces who give sport a dirty name…Sunsport will have four rows of teeth. I promise you."

For fans, the paper was going to live or die on Nicklin’s ability to overcome enormous production problems undermining the credibility of the sports pages.

The presses could not wait for night matches. So he filled with an unprecedented array of big-name columns and dazzling features, high on nostalgia. The folks loved it.

Nor could distribution guarantee which match reports would end up where. So his Monday pages covered every single league game. The folks loved it.

He was a compulsive competitor. When the Mirror trumpeted a weekly "Where Are They Now?" series, he assembled a hundred and ran the lot in five days.

The folks loved it.

A fine writer himself, he built a team to write home about, with such aces as Peter Batt, Colin Hart, Frank Clough, Clive Taylor, Claud Duval. The folks loved it.

This October, Frank Nicklin will be seen in a BBC2 documentary about the impact of The Sun on the nation. His interview was marvellous. The TV crew applauded it.

Even at 80, the old master was still wowing the folks.

 

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