When This Morning airs on Monday, it will mark the start of a new era for the programme – one without Phillip Schofield.
After two weeks of drama over the veteran presenter’s deteriorating relationship with co-star Holly Willoughby, she emerged the victor.
Friends say Schofield is heartbroken and feels betrayed by Willoughby, after effectively securing her the job and mentoring her for 14 years.
“He feels like he’s been hung out to dry,” said one.
Others, however, have thrown shade on both their houses.
“People will be dancing on Schofield’s grave but Holly’s no better,” said a former This Morning staffer.
“He wasn’t popular with staff and she’s a diva. ITV has turned a blind eye to Schofield’s behaviour for years and few will be lamenting his demise.”
The gradual deterioration of the duo’s famed on-screen chemistry has been painful to watch.
Rumours abound that there is more involved than her reported surprise that Schofield’s brother Timothy was on trial for sexually abusing a teenage boy.
Whatever the reason, Martin Frizell, This Morning’s veteran editor, was firmly Team Willoughby.
“Martin cares about big names, and right now Schofield’s name is tarnished,” said one source.
Mr Frizell, said insiders, felt the couple had only just weathered the fuss about apparently pushing to the front of the queue at Queen Elizabeth II’s lying in state. He feared an ongoing feud between the two presenters would alienate the show’s audience again.
Willoughby, “who is younger, shinier, and has a much better PR team behind her”, according to an ITV source, represents the younger audience far better than 61-year-old Schofield.
Indeed, one main reason for Schofield’s departure was the absence of any Team Schofield at ITV – or anywhere else.
“Phil has had a messy few years in his personal life with coming out and his brother’s trial, but he could have weathered all of this if so many people didn’t hate him,” said a source.
“He had great 20th century PR skills, but he’s out of his depth on this one.
“The daytime audience is like a radio audience. Holly and Phil were let into viewers’ routines every day.
“No one wants that tension imported every morning. We’ve all got enough of that in our homes already. Something had to give and there was no one to speak up for him.”
Schofield’s lack of support has been fuelled by a list of on and off-air spats and bullying accusations.
His feud with Noel Edmonds was grounded in perfectly reasonable journalism – Edmonds was touting a £2,300 “sound wave” machine on This Morning as a treatment for cancer. Likewise, his tiff with Piers Morgan is an impenetrable back and forth about Schofield lending the TalkTV presenter some career memorabilia.
However, his fallouts with the likes of Fern Britton, Ruth Langford, Amanda Holden and Kerry Katona made him look like a bully.
Is this trail of accusation and innuendo the end of Scofield’s 40-year career on the small screen?
It is deeply ironic that the woman he brought on to the show and supported is the one who ousted him – just as he pushed Fern Britton off air – and that he only got the job because of the John Leslie and Ulrika Jonsson scandal.
He is leaving a poisonous throne, but accusations of bullying are especially toxic in today’s culture.
Mark Borokowski, a PR guru, is not convinced this is the end for Schofield.
He said that “people are talking about him like they’re writing his obituary”, but added: “I think it’s eminently survivable.
“ITV programme boss Kevin Lygo is incredibly loyal to people – he knows Schofield is a talent, trained at the BBC and crucially someone who can do live TV. Not many people can do that. It’s an incredibly tough job.”
Indeed, ITV’s statement on Schofield’s departure kept the broadcaster’s doors wide open:
“Phillip will continue to present peak-time shows for ITV including next month’s The British Soap Awards and a new primetime series,” it said. However, some have questioned whether this unnamed show will materialise.
In the meantime, suggested names for Schofield replacements include Rylan Clark, who announced a break from his Radio 2 Saturday show just hours after Schofield quit, as well as Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond, who co-present This Morning on Friday.
Hammond and O’Leary have taken over hosting Monday, with Willoughby taking early half-term holiday leave and returning on June 5.
“Rylan may have been approached – ITV owes him, they were supposed to offer him Big Brother,” one TV insider explained.
“Dermot has BBC commitments and it’s not clear he has the chemistry with Holly, while Alison and Holly might work but they’re both pretty low-brow.”
All of this doubt may play into Schofield’s hands, said Mr Borokowski.
“He needs to go away for six months or a year because the name is tainted right now – not least because of his brother, which is clearly not Phil’s fault,” he suggested.
“He can wait to see how good the programme will be without him, whether the audience dips, he may find they miss him.
“He is perceived to be pale, male and stale, so he’s an endangered species but, like Jeremy Clarkson who was sacked for punching a producer, the right format is a rebirth.
“The one thing he absolutely has to do is stay out of the headlines and have no more scandals.”
But if he wants to build bridges, Schofield will certainly have his work cut out.
A former colleague contacted by The Telegraph to comment on the presenter’s fate replied with just one word: “Karma.”