The green and white army of Northern Ireland football was never a big priority for RTÉ, who always followed the fortunes of the green shirts of the Republic of Ireland. Occasionally there were stories of success, especially the World Cup victory over hosts Spain in 1982 and qualification for the second round. I also remember covering the appointment as NI manager of Lawrie Sanchez, a past hero of mine when he was with Wimbledon FC and who I was glad to see getting the job. There was however always one constant factor when speaking about soccer here in the North: Malcolm Brodie, who has now passed to his eternal reward.
The former sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph was a fount of knowledge about the international side and reported on fourteen World Cup finals. He was always willing to share that wisdom with other media colleagues, including news reporters who did not specialise in sport. He also looked after junior colleagues. I was interested to hear on Talkback (BBC Radio Ulster around 20:30) yesterday a tribute from Alan Green of the BBC.
Alan is the same age as myself and our paths crossed briefly in London in the 1970s. After graduating from Queen’s, he started as a BBC News Trainee in April 1975, a year after I had. My traineeeship brought me to local radio Birmingham, where I got my chance to combine sports reporting with news, thanks to Jim Rosenthal and his successor Nick Owen. Alan got an attachment back to BH in Belfast and later moved to Manchester, to begin a lengthy career as a commentator with BBC Radio Sport.
Alan mentioned to Wendy Austin how Malcolm had taken him under his wing when he was still a student at Methodist College, interested in sports reporting. He took him on as a “copy boy” at weekends over forty years ago. When Alan landed the sports job in Manchester, Malcolm asked the sports “mafia” there, who held him in high regard, to help the fledgling commentator.
Speaking on the same programme, the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the journalist was a great friend:-
“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.”
Malcolm was from Scotland and had been evacuated to County Armagh during the second world war. He began his career with a local newspaper in Portadown. He then moved in 1943 to the Belfast Telegraph, where he set up the first sports desk. His achievements as a journalist were recognised with the award of an MBE and the conferring of an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster. He received the FIFA Jules Rimet award in 2004. The FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was a personal friend, described him as “one of the true greats of sports journalism”. More tributes can be found here at the Irish Football Association. He was 86 and was a member of the Belfast and District Branch of the National Union of Journalists. However there are some former staff at the Belfast Telegraph who will tell you a very different story about his attitude to the union during a strike. His funeral service will take place on Monday (February 4th) at 12 noon in Cregagh Presbyterian Church, Belfast, then to Roselawn Crematorium for Committal at 2.30 p.m. Family flowers only. Donations in lieu of flowers have been requested to Chest/Heart/Stroke or Guide Dogs for the Blind.