Leading figures in the world of sport led the tributes to a man described as the doyen of Northern Ireland football writers.
Malcolm Brodie, the former sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph, died on Tuesday night. He was 86.
Dr Brodie, who was born in Scotland, was instrumental in establishing a sports department at the newspaper and served it for more than five decades.
His achievements in sports journalism, including reporting at 14 World Cups, were recognised by football’s world governing body, FIFA and the president, Sepp Blatter, was among those to pay tribute yesterday.
In a letter to Jim Shaw and Jim Boyce, the President and Honorary Life President of the Irish Football Association respectively, Blatter wrote: “I would like to express my deepest condolences for the loss of one of the true greats of sports journalism and a personal friend of mine, Dr Malcolm Brodie.
“Quality sports reporting is essential to sports organisations such as FIFA, thanks to its ability to transmit all the colour and emotions of major competitions such as the FIFA World Cup to the fans back home.
“There was none better at this than Malcolm, who covered an incredible 14 FIFA World Cups and whose contribution to the sport was deservedly recognised with the bestowal of the FIFA Jules Rimet Award on him in FIFA’s centennial year of 2004.
“May his legend continue to inspire today’s sports reporters to promote our game and its spirit with the same passion and commitment that he did.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme yesterday that he had known Dr Brodie for about 40 years, describing him as a “fantastic man” and a “respected” sports writer.
The Red Devils supermo said the journalist was “a great friend and always good value in terms of his opinion”.
Sir Alex added: “He cut to the chase, quite simply that’s how he was, you know? He was straight talking and one thing I always admired about him, he never changed his accent, which is very difficult living in a place like Belfast.
“He never lost the energy to do his job and he obviously enjoyed doing it and had enthusiasm about it.
“It’s very hard to retain enthusiasm for your job right up to your 80s.”
Manchester United legend and former Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Harry Gregg said: “It’s nice to have been friends with the man who was basically the top man in his profession.
“I’m sad that journalism has lost one of the true greats.
“For Alex Ferguson and people like that to trust anybody is a wonderful compliment, and they all trusted Malcolm.”
Those thoughts were echoed by another former Northern Ireland internatinal goalkeeper, Pat Jennings.
“As players we all valued his opinion.
“We would have picked up the Telegraph on the day after the game to see what Malocolm thought of the match and how we played.
“We valued what he said. He was the man.”
Jennings added: “It is a sad morning, I have been listening to lots of stories today about Malcolm. It is unbelieveable news, you think he is going to be there forever.
“Certainly throughout my career he has seeen every one of my games in the international team from 1964 through to 1986.
“It was just his knowledge in football which made him different. Nobody had done more for the game of soccer throughout Ireland but also worldwide than Malcolm.
He went on: “I cannot remember what I did yesterday in footall, but what stood out about Malcolm was the fact you could pick up the phone and he would have the answers to the questions on the tip of his tongue, who played in the team, who scored. He knew it all no matter what match it was or where it was.
“What he does not know about football is not worth knowing.”
Former Northern Ireland international footballer Gerry Armstrong, who scored the winning goal that defeated Spain in the 1982 World Cup Finals, also paid tribute.
“After the World Cup victory against Spain in 1982 we partied until the small hours and I remember going to my bedroom and Malcolm was on the balcony at half past four in the morning typing away his piece for the Telegraph and the numerous other papers he worked for,” he said.
“His work ethic was unbelievable, he was a fantastic character and he will be sorely missed.”
Jim Gracey, the Belfast Telegraph group’s sports editor, described Dr Brodie as a “wonderful man and a wonderful journalist.
“He taught a generation, maybe two or three generations everything we know about journalism.
“When you walked through the press centres at the World Cups everyone knew him, people like Pele and Bobby Charlton - he was on first name terms with them,” he said.
“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.”
BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter Jackie Fullerton said: “I travelled the world with him and he was a great man and a great mentor to me and many others.”
The Irish Football Association said it was saddened at the news of Dr Brodie’s death.