Watford Football Club is to name the Media Suite at Vicarage Road Stadium in honour of former Watford Observer Sports Editor Oliver Phillips.
Unfortunately, the legendary 81-year-old journalist has been suffering from a blood disorder for the last five years and has been in hospital for the last few months after becoming more ill.
Therefore this announcement has been made in conjunction with The Watford Observer and Oli’s family – and timed with their full support.
He is now due to return to his home in Saint-Amans-Soult, in southern France, in order to spend his final days and weeks in the comfort of his own home with his family and dogs.
Oli covered Watford for more than 40 years and was regarded locally and nationally as the oracle on the club.
He reported on more than 2,000 matches and, having spent virtually his entire working life in football press boxes, the club is honoured Oli has agreed to the naming of its Media Suite in his honour – befitting of a life-long love for the Hornets.
This comes shortly after Watford Borough Council announced that Oli had been added to their list of 100 people who made the town of Watford as part of its celebrations to mark its centenary last year.
Oli said this week: “It’s all getting a bit hard to take in!
“Suddenly I find a Media Suite named after me just as soon as I am listed as one of 100 people to most influence the town. I am humbled by it all.
“The only thing I can say in my defence is that nothing pays like hard work, and I most certainly worked hard.
“Thank you to all who supported my nomination. I am absolutely stunned by it all.”
The Media Suite at Vicarage Road is housed in the Sir Elton John Stand – named after the world-famous music icon and former Watford Chairman, who Oli played a role in bringing to the club in the 1970s. The pair have stayed friends ever since.
On matchdays, the Media Suite hosts all the regional and national press; including newspapers, websites, radio and TV, as well as providing working space for reporters and photographers.
There is also a large theatre-style room which is where managers and players speak to the press after matches.
The Watford Observer’s current Watford FC reporter, Andrew French, started his career alongside Oli in the late 1980s and uses the Media Suite at every home game.
“It’s a perfect and thoroughly-deserved tribute to a great writer and even better man,” said Andrew.
“I’ve spoken to Oli this week, and despite his illness he retains his sense of humour and love for the club; every time we talk, he asks about how the team are doing and how my job is going.
“He is genuinely touched, and clearly proud, to have been honoured by both the council and the football club. For him and his family to be able to see and know just how highly regarded he continues to be will hopefully bring some cheer at a difficult time.”
During his first spell at Vicarage Road, Watford FC’s Head Of Communications & Media Relations Richard Walker saw Oli’s final years of covering the club.
“For me, he has always been a great man to deal with; full of insight and a love for his writing – not to mention a sharp wit and knowing smile,” said Richard.
“Long before I first joined the club in 1999, Oli really fuelled my love of writing about sport when I was lucky enough to spend two summers helping cover holidays on the sports desk in the early 1990s.
“Typical of his great memory for just about everything, when I then joined the club some years later, he remembered me and my summer stints – and that really helped us form an excellent working relationship.
“On behalf of the club, it’s our privilege to be able to honour a journalist in Oli who’s done far more in one life-time’s reporting on the club and its history than anyone ever has or, I suspect, ever will.”