Although born in Scotland, he became synonymous with sport in Northern Ireland, having been evacuated from Glasgow to Portadown during the Second World War. Starting his career in journalism with the Portadown News, he subsequently joined the Belfast Telegraph and became the paper’s Sports Editor.
But it was as the ‘Telly’s’ chief football writer that Brodie achieved international renown, eventually earning an MBE and also seeing Fifa officially recognise his achievement in covering no less than 14 World Cups, including the finals of 1958, ’82 and ’86 in which his adopted home country took part.
Jim Gracey, the Belfast Telegraph Group’s sports editor, said: “He had a contacts book like no other. Everybody in soccer – from Pele to Alex Ferguson – knew him. The man was beyond a legend.”
The Manchester United manager was one of the first prominent figures to pay tribute to Brodie yesterday.
“He was a great friend and always good value in terms of his opinion,” said Ferguson. “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.”
Also paying tribute, William Campbell, the head of Operations at the Irish Football Association said: “As a young man starting to work with the Irish FA, I was in awe of Malcolm – he was the man who had been to every match, knew every player and rubbed shoulders with the greats, but as I got to know him I appreciated his wisdom and advice and his encouragement, and loved to hear him talk of the old days and of heroes such as Cush, Gregg, Blanchflower, Dougan and Best. Windsor Park – ‘the Shrine’ as Malcolm jokingly called it, will never be the same on international nights without Malcolm’s presence.”
But Malcolm Brodie also relished the World Cups in which those other boys in green took part, noting in a recent interview that it was difficult for him to nominate a favourite game he’d covered because, as he put it, “there have been many glory days with Northern Ireland and the Republic”. For the record, in the end he opted for England’s 1966 World Cup win over West Germany at Wembley.
“An unforgettable day and night at the Royal Garden Hotel,” he remarked. “That scene flashes through my memory every time I walk past Bobby Moore’s statue at the national stadium.”
BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter Jackie Fullerton said he was shocked to hear the news.
“I travelled the world with him and he was a great man and a great mentor to me and many others,” he said.
Armstrong, who famously scored the winning goal against Spain in the 1982 World Cup Finals, also paid tribute.
“After that victory against Spain,” he recalled, “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. His work ethic was unbelievable, he was a fantastic character and he will be sorely missed.”
Many wonderful yarns – some of them probably even true — attached themselves to the Malcolm Brodie legend, perhaps the most celebrated concerning that famous night in Valencia when Northern Ireland shocked their Spanish hosts to win 1-0.
Determined to find an opening line to do justice to what he had just witnessed, Malcolm kept a copytaker in Belfast hanging on the line for a bit before inspiration finally came.
Then, clearing his throat, he stoutly proclaimed: “Magnifico. Magnifico. Magnifico”.
To which the woman in the Telegraph is said to have replied: “You’re all right there, Malcolm, I heard ye the first time.”