Release Date: 24/06/2012
"There were 13 heroes out there. Everyone was brilliant. And anyone who says thatís a fix, well they can come and see me and Iíll tell them it wasnít a fix because we bloody earned it and anyone who says different is a joke."
Those were the emotional and passionate words of Alan McDonald moments after Northern Ireland secured a 0-0 draw with England at Wembley to qualify for Mexico ’86.
Big Mac was tragically taken from us on Saturday morning at the all too tender age of 48 but his words and character will live on in the hearts of every person who ever dreamt of pulling on the Northern Ireland shirt.
He lived that dream with passion and commitment and rightly became a hero at home and in England.
Having played for Queens Park Rangers for 17 years of his professional career, he remains their most capped player ever and later became the R’s assistant manager.
He was worshipped every bit as much at Loftus Road as he was at Windsor Park.
But it was when wearing the green shirt of his country that Alan was happiest.
Each of his 52 caps were an honour which the humble Belfast man never took for granted.
After hanging up his boots, Big Mac worked as Roy Millar’s number two with Northern Ireland’s under-21s, passing on his wealth of experience to the likes of current skipper Steven Davis and Sammy Clingan amongst others – just as he had done when he proudly wore the captain’s armband.
Having moved his family to Saintfield, it was only a matter of time before Alan became involved in the local game, assisting Paul Millar at Glentoran.
He soon stepped up into the Oval hotseat and led them to their last Premiership title in 2009.
The following season, however, was less successful and after much consideration he walked away from the east Belfast club.
He may have been softly spoken, but when Alan talked, people wanted to listen.
In recent times he had revealed a desire to get back into the game. Off the pitch, he invested in a trophy business, buying it from ex-international team-mate, Billy Hamilton. Big Mac, not surprisingly made a success of his Bangor shop - but he was a football man which was second only to his loving family.
He will never get the chance to mould the stars of tomorrow but his legacy will live on forever.
After that famous night at Wembley in 1985 he said the proudest moment of his life would be to play in front of the Windsor Park crowd.
Well, big man, you made everyone of them proud every time you brought the saying "playing for the shirt" to life during your career.
The thoughts of the entire football family go to Alan’s wife, TonIa; son, Joshua; daughters Bobbie-Lee and Courtney-Reigh and the family circle at this difficult time.
Rest In Peace, Big Mac.
Northern Ireland boss MICHAEL O'NEILL
"I am absolutely devastated by the tragic news of Alan McDonald's sudden passing," said Northern Ireland boss and former international team-mate, Michael O'Neill.
"I always looked up to Alan as a man, a captain and a senior member of the Northern Ireland squad when I played.
"All my thoughts and sympathies go to his family at this very sad time."
IRISH FA President JIM SHAW
"I am shocked and saddened. Alan was an outstanding player and a wonderful ambassador for Northern Ireland.
"His ability and desire on the pitch made him a perfect role-model for young players and he knew what an honour it was to play for his country. And he did it with class.
"My thoughts and best wishes are with his family at this sad time."
Former Northern Ireland manager NIGEL WORTHINGTON, who played alongside Alan McDonald at the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico said: "Big Alan wore his heart on his sleeve. I am absolutely devastated by the news.
"He was a very proud Northern Ireland man, and a true Ulsterman. He took immense pride in representing his country — always leading by example.
"He really was a true leader, an obvious choice as skipper of Northern Ireland, despite the number of big personalities in the squad.
"He just did his job without any fuss at all — the type of player any manager wants in their team, a big strong centre-half who played week in, week out in England’s top leagues for QPR.
"I came up against him on numerous occasions while he was playing for QPR and he was always your honest, no nonsense defender.
"But while he was tough on the pitch, he was fantastic company off it and I enjoyed many a great time with him.
"I’m just in deep shock - this news has really stunned me."
Ex-international team-mate and NI manager SAMMY McILROY
"I am just shell-shocked. Words fail me, I don't know what to say.
"It is so unfair; at 48-years of age he was such a young man. He went out on Saturday to have a good day and then this happens. I just can't believe it.
"Big Mac was larger than life and when he was around, you could always hear him.
"A lot of us were together at Derek McKinley's testimonial dinner a few months back and it was just like old times with everyone laughing and joking.
"I can't believe that will have been the last time I ever see or speak to the big man.
"I was texting Norman Whiteside when I found out and he is devastated too. All my thoughts are now with his family. My heart goes out to them."
"I'm absolutely devastated. Alan was the captain when I first got called up by Northern Ireland," said Magilton.
"He was always very good with the young players in the squad and took it upon himself to take them under his wing.
"He showed me exactly what was going to be expected from me at international level.
"I got to know him on a more personal level when we both got into coaching after our playing careers ended and he was always there for help and advice.
"He was a top, top bloke and will be missed by everyone who loved him."
"Alan was a great lad in every respect. He was the captain when Bryan Hamilton was in charge and I was the number two and we always knew about his leadership qualities – and he certainly showed them during his 52 caps.
"Not once did he ever give a below-par performance. He played his part in many triumphs and can be classed as an outstanding player and man.
"I am stunned at what has happened; I just can’t believe a man of his age has gone."
"Alan was a family man and proud Ulsterman. Coupled with his talents on the pitch, when you put that combination together we had a special person.
"He was the ideal colleague and friend, and in my book he will always walk tall.
"He was totally committed to the shirt and badge of Northern Ireland and not once did he forget what a privilege it was to represent his country."
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