WHEN a self-styled king of football met the queen of chat shows there was an instant spark of friendship.

No stranger to mixing with the rich and famous, Darlington Football Club's ebullient chairman George Reynolds scored an instant hit with the legendary American talk show hostess, Oprah Winfrey, who summoned him across the Atlantic to appear by her side.

What had intrigued Oprah was George's generosity two years ago in heaping huge rewards on a team of employees who saved his factory from fire. Hours after clinching a £40m business deal, George rewarded his magnificent seven by paying off their mortgages.

Six months later, he sealed his place as the most generous boss in Britain by buying them each a £30,000 Mercedes car.

George had already practised his patter by telling his story to the UK's daytime presenters Esther, Trisha and Vanessa, and has appeared in several television documentaries.

But he was amazed by Oprah's interest in his rags-to-riches life story.

He said: "She was absolutely gorgeous and we got on really well. She is a very soft-hearted person and much more down to earth than I expected."

Oprah had invited all seven workers from the George Reynolds UK chipboard manufacturing plant, at Shildon, to appear with their boss, but only one, David Powles, could go.

The show will be broadcast in America and then on Sky TV in a few months' time. Channel 5 also has the rights.