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  1. ITV Report

Tributes paid to 'innovative' and 'irreplaceable' sports producer

Paul Doherty during his time as a presenter and producer at Granada TV Photo:

Written by Jonathan Sides, friend and former colleague

Paul Doherty arrived at Granada TV in the early 1970s to work as consultant, reporter, co-presenter and then producer on Kick Off, the groundbreaking Friday night football show that signalled the start of the weekend across the North West.

Before long he was appointed Head of Sport and over the next two decades, Paul was tireless in his determination to make Granada's coverage the best in the country.

Under Paul's leadership Kick Off had both incisive journalism and wonderfully light-hearted entertainment. Alongside interviews with managers and chairmen under pressure would be unforgettable pieces such as the Kick Off pantomime. This featured England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson dressed as Aladdin, and record-breaking Liverpool striker Ian Rush as Dick Whittington – all introduced by Denis Law.

A great innovator, many of his ideas were subsequently adopted by the ITV network and rival broadcasters. Granada Goals Extra was the first programme to show the afternoon's goals within minutes of the full time whistle, while Sport Action was a forerunner of Sky's successful Soccer Saturday.

And Granada Sport wasn't all just football. Paul brought rugby league, boxing, cricket, darts, bowls, show-jumping, ice hockey, basketball, Speedway, the first televised 147 break in snooker (Steve Davis), the Bolton Marathon and even croquet to the region's TV screens. He also had a remarkable track record in spotting and developing talent. The roll call of Granada Sport graduates includes Oscar-nominated film director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne films, Captain Phillips), many award-winning network producers and directors, TV executives, and commentators Clive Tyldesley, Rob Palmer, Alistair Mann and Sky's Martin Tyler.

Paul had a reputation for honesty, loyalty and integrity, which won him the trust and friendship of many of the region's biggest football personalities. Former City managers Malcolm Allison, John Bond and Peter Reid were all close friends, as were their United counterparts Ron Atkinson and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson never forgot how Paul stood by him in the darkest days of his United reign when there were many calls for his dismissal during the 1989-90 season.

Paul reached out to Sir Alex to advise him on how to handle the media and they struck up a friendship, which endured for the next 25 years, with regular Friday morning breakfast meetings.

This week Paul, aged 77, finally succumbed to cancer after a typically stubborn fight. He will be sorely missed by his wife Jean, his family and many friends.

Martin Tyler's tribute sums up the affection and respect with which he was heldby so many:

“Paul was fearless and at times fearsome but he inspired a generation of young producers, directors and broadcasters.

"I was privileged to be one of them and we all would have done anything for him. We have lost a big man who leaves a big void in the lives of all those who knew him.

"Simply irreplaceable”

– Martin Tyler