Jim Reynolds, an appreciation

Ian Paul, a long-time friend and colleague, on the life and times of the Herald‘s former chief sports writer, who has died, aged 64

Jim Reynolds, the former chief sports writer of The Herald, was a rarity in the sportswriting business. In a world where modesty is as rare as an Albion Rovers supporter, Jim was both modest and an Albion Rovers supporter.

From his early days as a trainee on the racing desk of the Scottish Daily Express until he took early retirement in February 2004, he was never one to make a noise.

He had already been dabbling in the writing department as a sports sub-editor at the Express when that paper shut its Scottish plant in 1974. He was snapped up by The Glasgow Herald (as was) as a second football writer (until then, one had been considered more than enough).

Within three years he was appointed chief sports writer and pursued that role for 12 years before hanging up his passport and taking a desk job as sports news editor.

One of the few topics that could get him animated was any insult about the wee Rovers, which, naturally, was a subject eagerly seized upon by his colleagues. He enjoyed telling tales about Tom Fagan, the legendary character who was chairman of Rovers for many years.

In his writing persona, Reynolds covered World Cups, European championships, every kind of European club game and countless international matches, which took him around the world until he opted for a more sedentary scenario.

No one was more diligent or industrious. Detail was everything in stories of two paragraphs or 40. In fact, he was something of an anorak, although, if you called him that, you would get a response that was, well, earthy. Statistics fascinated him. He would pore over records books, chortle every so often like a panner finding gold, and tell you of some unknown titbit that usually was, indeed, remarkable.

There is a startling illustration of how much he loved the sporting records books. From 1972 until days before he died, Reynolds kept the details of every team in the top division of the Scottish League, and latterly also of the first division: every game in every competition, every player, including substitutions, every result, every scorer, every booking and sending off, every penalty, scored or missed. It is a remarkable collection that is now in the hands of his son, Thomas.

Jim was a lover of just about every sport, but football and boxing were his favourites. The latter might even have been his No1, albeit in a photo finish.

So, naturally, he was also the paper’s boxing correspondent. He covered every fight worth the name involving Scots and many others that didn’t. His prime time in ring coverage was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when his good friend Jim Watt became and remained world lightweight champion. Memorable it may have been, but in many ways it was an ordeal for Reynolds.

I had the privilege of reporting the Watt fights alongside him and saw at first hand the anxiety attacks he suffered before Watt went into the ring and for much of his fights.

He was terrified that his pal would be hurt badly and it was only when the battle was over that he was able to settle down properly to his work.

Nerves affected him elsewhere, too, particularly when he was due to broadcast (which he did regularly for BBC Radio Scotland for many years). Once he got going, however, he eased into that role as comfortably as he did the press box.

If he was a Rovers man, he also leaned towards Parkhead, but the great irony is that probably his best friend in football was the late JockWallace, manager of Rangers. Wallace enjoyed the company of “the wee man” and the banter between them could be hilarious, if not designed for delicate ears. Wallace was Reynolds’s kind of man: blunt, honest and unpretentious. Reynolds was not a lover of prima donnas and could suss out from a distance those he would see as phoneys in any walk of life.

A prodigious reader, which was a major aid in another favourite pursuit, doing crosswords, he could be quite content in his own company.

He had an impish sense of humour. I recall a party at his house many years ago when Jim and Margaret Watt were among the guests. Watt had been learning to play the guitar and Reynolds told him to bring it along. Well into the evening, he asked Watt to get his guitar out. A bit reluctantly, the boxer did and then began strumming. The rest of us had been primed by mine host and, one by one, with Watt’s head down, concentrating hard, we left the room. It was only when the room was almost empty that the guitarist raised his head and realised his pal had set him up.

Although he was not one to blow his own trumpet, he could, literally blow the trumpet, or, more accurately, the tenor horn. Music ran in the family – his brother, George, was a trumpeter with the London Symphony Orchestra – and Reynolds once won a medal in the British championships, playing for the Croy Parish Silver Band. That would be one of the few times he made a noise.

He leaves behind a fine and much loved family: his wife, Helen, whose own courage in recent weeks has been inspirational, two sons, Thomas and Kevin, and two grandchildren, Paul, 18, and Cara, nine.

Only a few hours after he passed away, Helen said: “Jim died as he lived. Quietly.” The man himself would have settled for that as his epitaph.

This obituary first appeared in The Herald and is reproduced with permission