Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary pay tribute to Phillip Schofield after This Morning departure

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Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary on Monday paid tribute to Phillip Schofield after he dramatically stepped down from hosting This Morning after weeks of speculation about his relationship with co-host Holly Willoughby.

Hammond and O’Leary wished Schofield a “huge thank you”, on behalf of the This Morning team and ITV, for his contribution to the show “for the past 21 years.”

“We all know he’s one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had.”

“We wish him all the best for the future,” Hammond said.

O’Leary said of Schofield: “Everyone on and off screen at ITV and This Morning want to say a huge thank you to Phil for what he’s done to make the show such a success over the last 21 years.”

On Saturday, Schofield announced he was stepping down from presenting the ITV talk show with “immediate effect.

Reports suggest he received six months’ pay to sweeten the departure - but despite this, he feels “let down” by ITV and the way the saga has played out.

A source told The Mail: “Phil feels he has been shown zero respect and he is devastated by how this has played out.

“He thinks the way he was forced to step down was so unjust and he feels completely broken by how this situation has been handled.”

His departure comes after he has faced months of controversy including reports of a rift with his long-time co-host Willoughby, his brother’s sex abuse trial and furore over his visit to the late Queen’s lying in state.

Schofield, who also shared the news in a post to his Instagram story, said in a statement: “I have always been proud to cover fascinating stories on This Morning. But recently, This Morning itself has become the story.

“Throughout my career in TV – including the very difficult last few days – I have always done my best to be honourable and kind.

“I understand that ITV has decided the current situation can’t go on, and I want to do what I can to protect the show that I love.

“So I have agreed to step down from This Morning with immediate effect, in the hope that the show can move forward to a bright future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me – especially This Morning’s amazing viewers – and I’ll see you all for the Soap Awards next month.”

He will continue to present “peak time shows” for ITV including next month’s The British Soap Awards and a new prime time series, the broadcaster has said.

On Schofield’s departure, Willoughby said: “It’s been over 13 great years presenting This Morning with Phil and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his knowledge, his experience and his humour. The sofa won’t feel the same without him.”

The pair have been open about their close friendship over the years, which has included sharing pictures on social media of them while on joint holidays with their families.

However, after reports of the pair’s relationship coming under strain, Schofield tried to put on a united front describing Willoughby as his “rock” in a statement to The Sun.

The presenter also took pre-planned leave from the show around his brother’s sex abuse trial at Exeter Crown Court last month.

On Friday, former civilian police worker Timothy Schofield, 54, was convicted of 11 sexual offences involving a child between October 2016 and October 2019, including two of sexual activity with a child.

Willoughby also took time off from the ITV morning programme in April due to having the painful rash shingles, which is caused by the same virus as chickenpox.

Last year, the duo faced a backlash over claims they skipped the queue for the late Queen’s lying in state in September.

Meanwhile, former This Morning host Eamonn Holmes on Monday hit out at Schofield on his GB News show for suggesting he left of his own accord, declaring: “He was sacked.”

Hammond and O’Leary are both hot contenders to take over Schofield’s role given their experience on the show.

Hammond, 48, is currently bookmaker Ladbrokes favourite – giving her 2/1 odds.

O’Leary, 49, who has appeared on the show as a presenter throughout the years, currently has been given 4/1 odds by Ladbrokes.