Jack Charlton's incredible achievements as a player and manager have been well documented these past 48 hours. But the record books don't tell the story of the man behind those feats, from World Cup winner, Leeds United stalwart, club manager and ultimately Republic of Ireland legend.
I thank this job for the privilege of watching him work, up close and personal, on the roller-coaster ride of his Ireland career, and especially the wonderful adventures of Italia '90 and USA '94.
Those two World Cups were stinkers from a football point of view but by putting a smile on the face of a nation with Ireland's heroics at Euro '88, Jack lit up the world with his unorthodox leadership style.
His tell-it-like-it-is, no-nonsense approach meant his press conferences were packed (at times he gave the impression of not caring whether he was there or not, he pandered to no one). On a slow news day, the media were always guaranteed a line.
There were no platitudes with Jack, none of the stock managerial blandness of 'no easy games in international football these days'.
Ask him a straight question and you got a straight answer, delivered in his blunt Geordie style. Ask him a stupid one and you'd be a laughing stock for days.
I was wary of his perceived brusque manner when I was first dispatched as a young reporter to cover the early games of his Ireland reign, but my fears were misplaced.
He was welcoming, cheery and helpful when he got used to you being around, even if he never remembered your name.
However, his initial reception from the press bordered on open hostility after the shambolic nature of the appointment process by the FAI.
He wasn't the one many wanted to replace their favourite son Eoin Hand. They doubted his tactics and methods and when he forsook the genius of Liam Brady for a less subtle and more basic approach - he called it inflicting ourselves on them - all hell broke loose.
I remember coming away from a particularly bruising post-match press conference thinking this man isn't going to last.
But Jack stuck to his guns and his principles. His style wasn't pretty but he got results. His philosophy was simple as he explained one late night, holding court as he did in a hotel bar when his players had been dispatched their beds.
"You play a long ball over the heads of their defenders and make them turn because if they are facing their own goal, they can't play."
His passing reminded me there is nothing new in football. Jurgen Klopp has been rightly lauded for his Liverpool pressing game. Jack had Ireland doing that 30 years ago.
When Roy Keane was hailed as edgy in his TV analysis a few weeks back, declaring he'd be swinging punches at David De Gea and Harry Maguire if he was their manager, I rewound again to 30 years ago and Jack in the TV studio after Ireland had departed Italia '90.
"What would you have done, Jack?" he was asked of the infamous incident when the Netherlands' Frank Rijkaard spat on Germany's Rudi Voeller. While his fellow guests tut-tutted, Jack pulled no punches.
"I'd have chinned him!"
The same temptation must have occurred in those early sparring matches with the Dublin press pack.
Fast-forward to their first major tournament, the 1988 Euros, followed by two World Cups in succession, and they were eating out of his hand, even lighting the cigarettes he cadged from them.
I remember one particular day him leading us down a long hotel corridor to the room where he would host his press conference.
Every time he stopped, we stopped. When he walked, we walked. He was by then the Pied Piper of Ireland.
Practically deified, he was even given his own stretches of water to indulge his fishing passion. And he was canny, always paying for his meals and drinks by cheque, knowing they would be framed and hung behind the bar, uncashed . . . until they started putting up photocopies.
There was but one voice in the wilderness - Eamon Dunphy, still lamenting on RTÉ the industrial, as opposed to technical, style of play being employed at Italia '90.
It all came to a head in the press centre in Sardinia where they clashed live on TV. The entire Irish press pack sided with Jack, while back home Dunphy faced the wrath of the nation. He may have been making a purist's point but they didn't want to know.
By then, if Jack could have stood for President he would have won won by a landslide.
He and his team were even granted an audience with the Pope at the Vatican ahead of their quarter-final meeting with hosts and favourites Italy.
Most of the attention, however, centred on Packie Bonner and the fact the then Pope John Paul II had been a goalkeeper back in his native Poland. Two days later, Bonner spilled the shot that led to Toto Schillaci's winner for Italy that sent Ireland home. Bonner was crestfallen but Jack tried to lift the mood in the camp as only he could.
After putting an arm around Packie's shoulders and sending him to the showers, Jack quipped: "The Pope would have saved that."
Jack himself didn't stay annoyed for long. Prior to the USA '94 World Cup, we had been in the States for 10 days with Northern Ireland, playing Colombia in Boston and then Mexico in Miami. The Mexicans were playing Chartlon's men in the group stages and wanted to experience an Irish style. Jack wanted to see the Mexicans and travelled down from Orlando.
And it was there he noted the problems with players wanting to take on water in the heat and being denied by the referee, something he feared would happen in the group game. In the event, he was controversially proven right.
It was the only story in town and quickly became known as 'Watergate', so much so that after two days of grilling he started his press conference on the third day by warning: "If anyone asks me about water, I'll drown them in it."
Nothing fazed Jack. Not even the weekend a Star Wars convention descended on the hotel. He travelled in the lift and shared the breakfast room with Obi Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, an assortment of Stormtroopers and the rest like he did it every day.
He had trouble with Tony Cascarino's name, he called him the Italian Ice Cream Man; Liam Brady was Ian Brady, the Moors murderer and he called the Taoiseach, the Teashop.
At his first game, as the anthems struck up, he turned to an FAI official on the sideline and said: "Blimey, I hope ours is better than that!"
"Er, Jack that is ours," came the polite reply.
The madness of Northern Ireland in the darkest hours that were to precede the new dawn followed the Republic to the USA the following summer as their famous opening win over Italy was tragically overshadowed by the Loughinisland massacre of villagers gathered in their local bar to watch the game on TV.
The laughter out there in New Jersey died, too, as Charlton and his players treated the news sensitively and respectfully.
Crates of beer had been ordered for the post-match flight back through the night to Orlando, but after an impromptu team meeting at Newark airport, Jack declared it a dry plane, devoid of celebration.
I awoke the next morning to see him being interviewed on the lawn below my room window at the Orlando Hilton, the Tricolour fluttering at half mast behind him as he spoke to Mark Robson, then of UTV.
When they should have been talking about one of the World Cup's great results, the topic was instead a sombre one for the Sunday evening news.
We all knew he was a great football manager and a giant of a character but that was when we realised the full extent of his true leadership qualities.
And it is why I will remember him with fondness and respect, in equal measure.
God rest Big Jack.