The death of Hugh McIlvanney this week saw the passing of a colusus, one of, if not, the greatest sports writers of all time. His knowledge, attention to detail, use of words and amazing descriptive ability could have made paint drying seem like an interesting spectator sport.
Perhaps his greatest work was writing about boxing but for me it was about the greats of football, the matches, the culture and the World Cup. For me the football articles inspired me to read more of the depth of the beautiful game.
I also remember his series ‘The Football Men’s on BBC about the great managers that came out of the heavy industrial areas around Glasgow, Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein and Bill Shankly. The dark moody scenes set the background of the industrial landscape with his warm voice and Scottish accent vividly describing these giants background and achievements. If he had remade the film a few years later he would have included his friend Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex said ” Getting to know Hugh over the years was one of life’s great pleasures” in an interview with Johnathan Northcroft for The Sunday Times.
The Arena productions can still be seen on YouTube.
Hugh, thank you for the inspiration.