Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary hailed Phillip Schofield as “one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had”, as they presented the first episode of This Morning since Schofield’s exit.
On Saturday, Schofield announced he was stepping down from presenting the ITV talk show with “immediate effect” after more than 20 years on the programme.
Holly Willoughby, who has hosted alongside Schofield since 2009, will remain on the show but she is taking early half-term holiday leave, with Hammond and O’Leary filling in on Monday.
Opening the broadcast, Hammond said: “We can’t start today’s show without paying tribute to the man who spent the last two decades sitting on the This Morning sofa. Phillip Schofield.”
Hammond continued: “Quite simply, we all know he’s one of the best live television broadcasters this country has ever had, and we and all the team wish him all the best for the future.”
O’Leary confirmed Willoughby will be back in the studio from Monday June 5.
It is not yet known who will present the show for the rest of the week.
ITV has said Willoughby will “co-present with members of the This Morning family” when she returns.
Last Thursday marked Schofield’s last day on the show as the broadcaster said he will not be returning for a final episode.
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.
“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.”
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.”
However, former This Morning present Eamonn Holmes said Willoughby “knows the truth” about why Schofield has left the show.
Speaking on his GB News breakfast show, Holmes said: “Holly knows the truth, the story is with her.”
“Let’s just stop this. He was sacked, right? All this nonsense about…’I have decided to step down’. I am sure you did, here’s your P45, now step down.
“And she says, ‘The couch won’t feel the same without him being there’, so what is she moaning about the couch not feeling the same for? I mean, they deserve each other I suppose.”
He continued: “Just tell the blooming truth. Do you think the two of them have actually spoken to each other?
“I think this one headline today is the front of The Sun, where he says, ‘I’m completely broken’, he’s completely broken because TV is the only thing in his life.
“But he speaks he’s been knifed, knifed by who? ITV bosses? Holly?
“If ITV has knifed him, why are they continuing to give him two more programmes?”
Schofield 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.