Malcolm Brodie was such an important part of Northern Ireland’s World Cup heroics in the 1980s that the legendary manager of that time, Billy Bingham, has said that he was “just like one of the team”.
Former Northern Ireland manager Bingham, like everyone who knew Malcolm, was stunned and saddened by the news of his dear friend’s death.
The former Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor passed away late on Tuesday night at the age of 86, leaving behind a host of glorious memories.
He attended and reported on a record breaking 14 World Cup finals — every one from 1954 to 2006 — an achievement that was recognised by football’s world governing body Fifa.
His favourite tournaments were in 1958, 1982 and 1986 simply because Northern Ireland were involved.
Bingham was a player in 1958 and the boss in the 80s when our wee country competed and on occasion beat the best teams on the planet.
Malcolm was there every step of the way, sending reports back to the Belfast Telegraph that would become part of Northern Ireland sporting folklore.
It just would not have been the same without him.
Bingham said: “Malcolm was always very supportive to me when I was a player and when I was a manager. When you are a manager you always need all the support you can get from good people and thankfully Malcolm provided it.
“We went through some rocky times before the good times came with the World Cups in 1982 and 1986 and I’ll always be grateful for the support myself and the team received from Malcolm.
“He was a man that the Northern Ireland public listened to.
“The 1982 and 1986 World Cups were fantastic experiences and it was great to have Malcolm there with us.
“He was just like one of the team. He really was. That’s how I saw it and the players would say the same.
“I remember him being so happy that the Northern Ireland team had qualified for the 1982 finals because it was the first time we did it since 1958 and of course he had covered that tournament too.
“It may have meant a lot more work for him but he had a great work ethic and he loved it.”
Malcolm did not miss a Northern Ireland game for more than 50 years — and his presence was always warmly welcomed.
“Malcolm was always there at our games. I was so, so happy to spend time with him for all those years,” added Billy, who sent his thoughts and prayers to Malcolm’s wife Margaret and his sons.
Goalkeeping great Pat Jennings played in both of those World Cups under Bingham.
In total Pat won 119 caps for his country and Malcolm witnessed every single one.
“There was nobody who could touch him for what he did in soccer in Northern Ireland,” said the former Arsenal and Spurs hero.
“When I was a kid I used to read what Malcolm was writing about in the Belfast Telegraph and Ireland’s Saturday Night.
“He covered all the internationals I played in and was obviously the main man when George Best and myself first broke into the squad.
“As players we always wanted to read what he was writing because we all respected him so much.”
Another iconic Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg called Malcolm “The Godfather”.
Gregg played in the 1958 Northern Ireland World Cup side and was a huge Manchester United hero, whose career was followed religiously by Dr Brodie MBE.
“To me, Malcolm was the Godfather,” said Harry.
“Without being disrespectful to the modern sports journalist, Malcolm was the last one of those great trusted reporters.
“A true professional with a real passion for his craft.
“I’ll always be grateful for knowing Malcolm the human being.
“I’ve seen Matt Busby the manager and Matt Busby in a more relaxed manner being his natural self.
“It was a joy to see that and it was the same with Malcolm.
“He was six years older than me and would have taken a close interest in my career since I was a Coleraine lad breaking through into the Northern Ireland schoolboy side around 1947-48.
“He had an unbelievable memory and friends right across the world. There was no subject Malcolm could not talk about.
“He was great friends with Linfield trainer Gerry Morgan and they had a great laugh together, particularly at the World Cup in 1958.
“I was really glad I got to know Malcolm and spend time with him because he was simply a great human being.”