Sun sports veteran retires

Ellis: nearly quit Sun over Hillsborough

A football reporter who has witnessed some of the greatest moments and terrible tragedies in British sporting history has retired after almost 50 years in journalism.

Mike Ellis has been The Sun’s man on Merseyside since Rupert Murdoch launched the tabloid newspaper in its current guise in 1969 and he has witnessed Liverpool and Everton win a total of 43 trophies.

But Ellis was also summoned to Downing Street by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for, he said, a “grilling” when disaster struck at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels before the 1985 European Cup Final. He also witnessed the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Ellis cut his journalistic teeth on the weekly Rhyl Leader in 1955 and, after national service, he worked for the North Wales Press Agency before heading to the Hartlepool Mail, where he followed the fortunes of the local football team for three seasons.

After joining the Manchester-based Daily Herald as a sports sub in 1963, his big break arrived when its Merseyside football writer fell ill and he was asked to deputise.

“I was very lucky to have been given the chance and it came at the right time because it was The Beatles’ city so the place was jumping and the football teams were on the up,” Ellis said.

After the Herald he joined The Sun in 1965, but it folded, only to be revived by Murdoch.

“There have been an awful lot of highlights but, they say, the first time is the best and that would have to mean it would be the first European Cup win in 1977,” added the 65-yearold, who also had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela during a Liverpool tour.

Ellis was on the brink of leaving The Sun in the wake of its coverage of the Hillsborough disaster that created uproar on Merseyside, but was persuaded to stay on by Liverpool FC’s then chief executive, Peter Robinson.

“I was so upset over the way it was handled that I wanted to quit, but Liverpool talked me out of it,” Ellis added. “They said, ‘It’s not your fault, why make yourself a martyr’. “Despite the coverage, the club never withdrew their full co-operation although if they had it would have been understandable. I’m just glad I didn’t quit.”

Ellis will not be entirely severing links with The Sun because he has signed a contract to pen a column and will help out his replacement, Phil Thomas, on European football nights.

“After being involved for so long it would be impossible to switch off completely and change habits of 40 years,” Ellis added. “Anyway, what would I do with myself?”

By Rob Stewart

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