Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: I wish I could be there but I'm winding down now, I had my day and loved every minute, says Jackie Fullerton

Veteran broadcaster will be watching Northern Ireland at a major finals as a fan rather than a commentator for first time in 37 years as excitement builds ahead of the Euros

By David Young

Ulster's Mr Football Jackie Fullerton said last night he wished he could be there with the Northern Ireland team at Euro 2016.

The veteran commentator, who covered both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, is recovering from a hip operation he had back in February, having opted for the surgery upon learning that BBC NI would no longer require his services as a commentator on international matches.

His recuperation is going well and, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Jackie said: "The way I feel at the moment, get me a flight to France and I'll cover every game!"

The voice of Northern Ireland football for 37 years, Jackie - now in his 70s - did live commentary on more than 100 international fixtures during his time in television, firstly with UTV and latterly with the BBC.

Recalling Northern Ireland's glory days of the 1980s, he said he had no regret about stepping away from the microphone.

"I'm gradually winding down now. It's a young man's game," he said. "I've had two finals, in 1982 and 1986.

"Those were great times, just like when David Healy was in his pomp and we were beating England and Spain."

Jackie, who married his beloved Linda 47 years ago, was behind the mic when Northern Ireland's amazing 1982 World Cup adventure came to an end when they lost 4-1 to France in the Spanish capital Madrid.

And he was there when record goalscorer Healy scored his sensational hat-trick against Spain at Windsor Park in 2006 and - one of the all-time highs - when the current Linfield boss famously struck the winning goal against England in Belfast a year earlier.

When news broke that Jackie had been replaced by Joel Taggart, shocked fans raged against the BBC decision, demanding the Ballymena father -of-three's return to the commentary box.

"It's lovely that people had started a campaign to 'Bring Our Jackie back' and all that and I thank them for it," said Jackie.

"It's very pleasing that they think that way. It's very humbling - and you know I don't really do humility

"But I'm not sitting here crying into my soup."

Although he won't be in France for the tournament, Jackie will be sharing his views, insights and opinions on each of the Northern Ireland team's games right here in the Belfast Telegraph.

Belfast Telegraph