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 legend.
I thank this job for the privilege of watching him work, up close and personal, on the rollercoaster 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 from putting a smile on the face of a nation with Ireland's heroics at the 1988 Euros, 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 Tele reporter to cover the early games of his Republic 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.
And in any case he had more problems with his own Dublin media pack. They wouldn't admit it a few years later but the reception they afforded him initially bordered on open hostility.
He wasn't the one they 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 to 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 the Republic doing that 30 years ago.
When Roy Keane was hailed as edgy in his TV analysis a few weeks back when he declared 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 the Republic had departed Italia 90. "What would you have done, Jack? he was asked of the infamous incident when Holland's 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. Rumour had it he always paid 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 RTE 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, Jack could have stood for President and 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 keeper back in his native Poland.
Two days later, poor Packie spilled the shot that led to Schillaci's winner for Italy that sent Ireland home. Packie was crestfallen, but Jack lifted his mood as only he could, telling the dressing room: "The Pope would have saved that."
Jack himself didn't stay annoyed for long. Prior to the USA 94 World Cup, we had been there for 10 days with Northern Ireland, playing Colombia in Boston and then Mexico in Miami. The Mexicans were due to play the Republic in the group stages and wanted to experience an Irish style. Jack wanted to see the Mexicans and travelled down from his Orlando base.
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 Republic game and in the event, he was controversially proved 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."
Enter an unwitting Jackie Fullerton who had just travelled up from Miami with his wing man, the then BBC NI Sports Editor Terry Smyth. "Jack, can I ask you about the water situation," pipes up Jackie whereupon his namesake blew a gasket.
But it was quickly forgotten as the two Jacks repaired to the manager's suite at the Orlando Hilton where an interview was recorded over pints of draught stout from the keg kindly installed by Guinness in his room.
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.
His World Cup hotels were always open house like you'd never see now in these security dominated days. Wives, girlfriends, families, punters... all were welcome, though he drew the line with the receptionist in our Parsippany, New Jersey hotel who kept putting supporters' calls through to his room at all times of the day and night, not realising he was no ordinary guest. I remember our last night in New Jersey when he even had the NYPD pipe band in to entertain us.
And, at least, he always remembered Our Jackie's name. He had trouble with Tony Cascarino who he called 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.
Flags and anthems were never Jack's thing and he was decidedly uncomfortable with events before during and after the infamous Night In November 1993 when the Republic came to Windsor for a World Cup qualifier amid the most febrile atmosphere ever at a football match here in the immediate aftermath of the Shankill and Greysteel atrocities and a daily litany of killing on the streets.
In the heat of the moment when Northern Ireland scored, manager Billy Bingham's No.2 as he still is to the present day, Jimmy Nicholl reacted as he has never done in his football life, before or since, by shouting 'Up yours' (or words to that effect) in the face of Charlton's No.2, Maurice Setters.
On the final whistle and with their qualification still not confirmed, Charlton made a beeline for Bingham.
"I spotted Billy talking among his players and moved in his direction to congratulate him on his retirement and compliment him on a good game," he said in his autobiography. "At least that was my intention. Instead, in a moment I still find difficult to understand, I pointed a finger at him and blurted 'Up yours too, Billy'."
Charlton later said he regretted the words instantly and apologised shortly after. A surreal night ended with Charlton presenting Bingham with an award to mark his retirement.
"Some of the people who'd been abusing me all evening are stood there cheering. I think that said it all about a crazy, noisy night," he recalled.
What is less well known and what made the episode more surprising is that Charlton had travelled with Bingham and his team to an earlier group game in Albania where they roughed it together and got on famously.
The madness of Northern Ireland in the darkest hours that were to precede our 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, Charlton 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, his cameraman Eddie Roberts and sound engineer Maurice Blair.
When they all would have expected to be talking about one of the World Cup's great results, the topic was instead a sombre one for the Sunday evening news bulletin.
We all knew he was a great football manager and a giant of a character but that was when we realised the true extent of his leadership qualities. He struck exactly the right note. And it is why I will remember him with fondness and respect, in equal measure. God rest Big Jack.