Hugh McIlvanney was a masterful writer and journalist – leader comment

To the uninitiated, the death of a retired sports journalist may not exactly seem like headline news. But Hugh McIlvanney was a writer so skilled that people who didn’t care anything at all about sport wanted to read his work.

Hugh McIlvanney in 1977 while he was working for the Observer
Hugh McIlvanney in 1977 while he was working for the Observer

For he was able to see beyond the skills and endeavour of the players to the greater human drama of the struggle to achieve something worthwhile, something memorable. Sport was his chosen arena, the themes he picked out were universal and human.

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Hugh McIlvanney, legendary Scottish sports reporter, dies aged 84

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But his head was not in the clouds. When McIlvanney retired in 2016, Sir Alex Ferguson recalled receiving a late night call at home. “McClair, is it a small or a capital c?” McIlvanney had asked. The details mattered.

After his death was made public yesterday, the newspapers he worked for and his numerous fans all began highlighting their favourite articles.

The Scotsman today publishes his wonderful report for this paper of the 1960 European Cup final.

Do yourself a favour, spend some time reading a true master of journalism. Genuinely one of the best of us.