Monday 27 February 2017

Alex Ferguson leads tributes to journalist Malcolm Brodie

David Young and Deric Henderson

ALEX Ferguson has led the tributes to legendary Northern Ireland-based sports journalist Malcolm Brodie, who has died at the age of 86.

The Manchester United boss described his fellow Scot as a "fantastic man" and "great friend."

Few contemporaries could come close to matching the longevity of the award-winning football writer, who covered no fewer than 14 World Cups in his career.

The former sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph was evacuated from Glasgow to Northern Ireland during the Second World War and it was there he settled and embarked upon a life in journalism.

Sir Alex said he knew Brodie for 40 years.

"He's nothing but a great friend and always good value in terms of opinion," he said.

"He cut to the chase, quite simply that's who he was - straight talking."

Among his accolades, Brodie was awarded an MBE and an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster.

Fifa also recognised his contribution to journalism, presenting him with his own miniature version of the World Cup trophy to mark the number of tournaments he had attended.

Fifa vice president Jim Boyce said he would miss him dearly.

"He was the doyen of Northern Ireland football, a very, very trusted journalist and his main aim in life was to promote football," said Belfast man Boyce.

"He was one of the old school and personally and professionally I will miss him dearly, and deepest sympathy goes to his wife Margaret and his family.

"From 1946 to 2009 he never missed a Northern Ireland match home or away."

Brodie had continued to work right up until his death.

The adopted son of Belfast counted some of the greats of the game as friends and his footballing anecdotes have been repeated countless times by peers and admirers alike.

One of his favourite stories related to a telephone conversation with a copy taker in Belfast while he was reporting on Northern Ireland's famous 1-0 victory over host nation Spain in the 1982 World Cup.

The top-line of Brodie's story read "Magnifico, Magnifico, Magnifico" but after dictating those words down the line he was interrupted by the lady on the other end of the phone.

"I heard you the first time Malcolm," she reputedly said.

Sir Alex said anyone looking for a story on football in Northern Ireland would want to know Brodie's opinion first.

"Malcolm still worked to that age (86), that's the amazing thing about him," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"He never lost the energy to do his job and obviously enjoyed doing it and had the enthusiasm about it.

"It's very hard to retain the enthusiasm for a job right up to your eighties." Brodie began his career in Portadown, Co Armagh, before moving to the Telegraph in 1943 where after a time on the news beat he helped set up the paper's first sports desk.

On each of the three occasions Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup - 1958 in Sweden, Spain in 1982 and 1986 in Mexico - he was there to cover it.

But the Belfast-based Scot claimed his best World Cup memory was still England's triumph over West Germany in the 1966 final.

Jim Gracey, the Belfast Telegraph group's sports editor, said: "He was a wonderful man and a wonderful journalist who must have taught generations of sports reporters, myself included.

"He had a contacts book like no other.

"Everybody in soccer - from Pele to Sir Alex Ferguson - knew him.

"The man was beyond a legend."

Northern Ireland's political leaders have also paid tribute, with First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness hailing his legacy.

Stormont's sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin said Brodie's words captured the excitement and suspense of sporting moments.

"His column's brought matches and the endeavours of our sporting heroes to life," she said.

"He had a real passion for sport and was respected in both the worlds of journalism and sport."

She added: "Malcolm was a master of his craft and was also involved in a range of charitable initiatives.

"He has left behind a wonderful legacy - for sporting fans his words will live on."

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