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FWA Q&A: Malcolm Brodie MBE

Malcolm Brodie MBE of the Belfast Telegraph on the best of Best…the wrong result…and covering 14 World Cup finals…

Your first ever newspaper?
Briefly, Portadown News, County Armagh .and then Belfast Telegraph for almost five decades

Have you ever worked in a profession other than journalism?
No, I was trained and worked in all aspects of journalism before specialising in sport; then appointed sports editor and football correspondent to create and develop a sports department whose reporters and columnists were given a global canvas for coverage of Irish and main international events.

What was your finest achievement playing football?
Deciding as a young schoolboy I wasn’t good enough to become an established player so opted to enter journalism which would, perhaps, retain my fanatical interest in football. A fortunate step which I never regret– if only you could turn back the clock!.

Most memorable match covered?
Difficult to answer as there have been many glory days with Northern Ireland and the Republic. My choice must be England’s 1966 World Cup win over West Germany at Wembley. An unforgettable day – and night at the Royal Garden Hotel. That scene flashes through my memory every time I walk past Bobby Moore’s statue at the national stadium..

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?
George Best’s scintillating performance when Northern Ireland defeated Scotland 1-0 in a 1968 Euro qualifier. Although Dave Clements scored the goal Best’s genius won the day with the finest individual display of artistry ever seen at Windsor Park. He was the ultimate superstar.

Best stadium…and the worst?
Olympic Stadium, Rome and the Kombetar Quemal, Tirana circa 1965.

Your best ever scoop?
Guadalajara World Cup Mexico,1986. I had just completed an interview with Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham before the final Group game against Brazil when he remarked: “By the way I’m going out to manage in Saudi Arabia.” Just like that – a throwaway line. He intended doubling the jobs. A quick look at the watch confirmed it was well past the morning paper’s edition times. The Telegraph, as an evening newspaper, a diminishing breed these days, therefore had a free early run.

Your personal new tech disaster?
Impossible to list them all but I operated on the theory one failure to get a lap top connection meant lifting the telephone and dictating. That kept the blood pressure normal.

Biggest mistake?
Missing a goal answering a phone call and filling the wrong result at the end. It was corrected almost instantly but the damage had been done – my thanks to the speed of the PA wire.

Have you ever been mistaken for anybody else?

No, but I’ve been often called a name by irate punters which questioned the marital status of my parents.

Most media friendly manager?
Peter Doherty (Northern Ireland) 1951-62. His man-management technique and motivational skills could not be surpassed. Couldn’t stand phoneys or cheats.

Best ever player?
Pele.

Best ever teams (club and international)?
Club – Barcelona 2011 edging Real Madrid of the Sixties; international – Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad who took the crown from Ferenc Puskas and his 1956 Hungarians.

Best pre-match grub?

Never sample any.

Best meals on my travels and the worst?
Winston Churchill Restaurant, Mexico City and National Hotel, Albania,1965 circa.

Best hotel stayed in?
International Sheraton, Perth, Western Australia.

…and the worst?

Metropole Moscow, circa 1985.

Favourite football writer?
Henry Winter (Daily Telegraph), logical successor to the late Geoffrey Green (The Times).

Favourite radio/TV commentator?
Radio: Alan Green (BBC); Television – John Motson (BBC) like the Master, David Coleman, a voice of authority.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between football clubs and football writers what would it be?
A request for greater transparency, easier access to players and an assurance that club officials and players will pay media the courtesy of returning calls. That is an El Dorado….I must stop dreaming it just won’t happen!

One sporting event outside football you would like to experience?
An England Ashes win over Australia in either in Melbourne or Sydney. To be at either venue on the decisive day must be something special.

Last book read?
My Trade by Andrew Marr.

Favourite current TV programme?
Nothing specific, any documentary suffices.

Your most prized football memorabilia?
A miniature World Cup Trophy together with scroll from FIFA to mark covering 14 World Cup Finals; the inaugural Doug Gardiner Memorial Award from the British Sports Journalists Association for services to the profession; the MBE from The Queen; honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster; Gold Medal signifying Life Membership of the Irish Football Association.

What advice would you give to any budding football writer?
Learn all technical aspects in the new digital era including radio and television; closely study all the football rules and regulations. Present your own assessments in match reports, discard the quotes scenario unless it benefits your story. Stand by your own judgment, do your homework on every project and learn. With the laws of libel – work on the theory “if in doubt leave out.” Being a crusader can by a costly business if you don’t get the facts correct.

Thanks for inviting me to participate.

Malcolm Brodie MBE is a Life Member of the Football Writers’ Association

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