Sports editor Simon Greenberg was one of those personalities that bring so much energy that it feels particularly cruel when their lives are tragically cut short. He died on August 30, from complications from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, having only discovered in late spring just how incredibly ill he was.
We had had lunch together in a garden just a week before. I didn’t get to see him again. He was his usual ebullient self and was relishing the challenge of taking a new role at The Athletic.
When I joined the Evening Standard at 25-years-old, Simon, just four years older than me, was already the youngest sports editor on Fleet Street and quickly became my friend and mentor. He endlessly helped me as a young journalist: we’d sneak out for the odd lunch when I wanted to pitch something big for the paper to get his feedback and support; he was like a giant bear - you felt assured in his presence. Aged 25, at the Mail on Sunday, he had bagged the scoop that brought down Arsenal manager George Graham. That won him two awards and marked how his career would unfurl.
He was poached to work for Chelsea and José Mourinho as head of their communications and public affairs, often the one left to clear up Mourinho’s naughty and antagonistic statements to the press. He helped run Fifa’s bid to win the World Cup with David Beckham. He went to News International in 2011. We managed to keep in touch because he lived one street away in London (he shared his with Matt Hancock), and we’d endlessly meet up by accident in our local parks, bashing tennis balls at our respective sons.
He adored his wife Fran, that was clear when you saw them together. He didn’t blink an eye at taking on and step-fathering with joy her two daughters from her first marriage, Coco and Sukie, before they had Sam, their son. As a sign of how valued he was on Fleet Street, both Rupert Murdoch and Viscount Rothermere attended his small funeral.
Those of us that knew him feel devastated for his family. We can celebrate, however, that his was a life enjoyed at high energy. We will miss him.
Simon Greenberg, football executive, editor, journalist and Evening Standard Editor of Sport, died on August 30, 2021