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Tributes To A Teesside Broadcasting Legend, Alistair Brownlee

Posted: Tue 16 Feb 2016
Author: MFC

Messages pour in for Ali...

Tributes have been flowing in for the late Alistair Brownlee, who sadly passed away on Sunday evening following a battle with cancer.

Here are a selection from some of those who have worked closely with Ali over the years...

AITOR KARANKA (Boro Head Coach)

When I was at the hotel and I heard what had happened I felt really, really sad because, I had known Ali for just two years, but I can understand why everyone loves him so much.

He was a proper Boro fan, a person who was always trying to support the club, to support me since I arrived here, so it's a really bad day for everybody and I want to send a very big hug to his family because he was a great man.

Everything that we can do for Ali is not enough, he deserves everything that everyone is doing for him so the main thing we have to do is to play as soon as possible in the Premier League because I know he is going to be in the sky helping us.


Ali was one of the most kind-hearted, enthusiastic men I have met throughout my football career. His passion and love for the Boro and Teesside was highly infectious and that rubbed off on every single player in our dressing room. 

It was a pleasure sitting down with Ali; he was personable and had an incredible talent for making you laugh as soon as he entered the building.

Ali incorporated everything that Teesside is about – he was and is irreplaceable. You will never be forgotten and we will all miss you dearly, my friend. 

GEORGE FRIEND (Boro vice-captain)

Ali had an incredible enthusiasm and talent for broadcasting. His endless love for Teesside was infectious and undeniable. His voice is synonymous with Boro; his charisma and charm on air brought joy to all listeners. 

Above all, he was a genuine, good man. The loss of Ali is truly saddening. He had the respect of all players past and present and will remain a Boro legend forever. 

Ali, I will really miss you and the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with your family at this time. 


Everything Ali did he did from the heart. He loved Boro and he was the biggest fan of all. In those big moments and big games he had the power to sum up what we were all feeling. 

I grew up listening to his commentaries and I still listened even when I played for other clubs. I’ll never forget listening to his commentary of that unforgettable night when we came back from the dead against Steaua Bucharest to book a place in the UEFA Cup final. It was the imagery – the Infant Hercules, the Eston Hills . . . all the things we celebrate and are proud of as Teessiders. 

Ali was fantastic at his job and he was a great man. Whenever he came to the training ground you heard his voice before you saw him – he was just so enthusiastic about covering the club he loved.

My father died from a similar illness and at least Alastair will suffer no more. I know what his family are going through, but they can be deeply proud of him and I hope they find some comfort from the love and affection the rest of us on Teesside felt for him. 

GARY GILL (Head of UK Recruitment for Middlesbrough FC and formerly expert match analyser for BBC Tees)

It was an absolute pleasure to work with Alastair. He was a wonderful man both in football and also away from the game. He was friendly, humorous, intelligent, witty and warm.

TONY MOWBRAY (Boro legend and former manager)

Ali was such a genuinely good human being. I was devastated when I heard a few months ago that he was ill. To get the news on Monday morning really shows how fragile life is, when someone with so much energy and passion can be taken away. It’s a tragic loss for his family first and foremost, but also for the town.

My first memories of Ali are when I was a young footballer with dyed blond hair and Ali and Gordon Cox ran the Junior Reds. As the captain of Middlesbrough Football Club, I’d go along to meetings, realising the kids were the future of the club, as I know Ali did as well. 

The two of them did great things and worked extremely hard to make the nights great fun. My thoughts go out to Gordon. Over the years they were always there together at every game, like a double act.

It’s so sad to talk about. As someone who cares about the football club myself, I lived alongside Ali for all those years and it feels like a loss to the family. I know that because of the emotions he put into his commentaries, whether it was in victory or in defeat, the people of Teesside will feel that loss as well.

They got to know his personality through the radio. He was Boro through and through and in the good days and the dark days, he’s always been there. 

Knowing him personally as well as professionally, he was so full of life and positivity. When I turned up as the Boro manager on a matchday, I’d often be coming in at the same time as Ali. His optimism made me laugh every time. He could never see anything other than a Boro victory – “7-0 today!” 

Hopefully, it shows people in such a close-knit community as Teesside, Boro fans who felt he was in their cars and homes with them wherever we went, how vulnerable we all are.  

We have to try to get on with our lives and live them in a positive manner, which is what I try to do every day, and Ali Brownlee will remain a part of that.

CRAIG HIGNETT (Hartlepool manager, Boro legend and former BBC Tees expert match analyser)

Everyone knows what Ali was. Everyone loved him. He was passionate about his job and he was passionate about the area he lived in., He was unbelievably proud of Teesside, but most of all he was proud of his football club – and he will always be remembered for that. 

He was the voice of the Boro. He was the first person you would think about as a Boro commentator. He was also one of the nicest, most genuine people I have ever met and I was proud to call him one of my best friends. 

Ali used to call me ‘Hero’, never Craig or ‘Higgy’. That’s what he was for me. In truth he was my hero and always will be. 

GARY PALLISTER (Boro legend)

I just remember Ali as a really nice guy. He was the first reporter I remember from my earliest days in the Eighties when I was breaking into the Boro side at Ayresome Park and you could see how much the club meant to him.

He’d ring me up and joke I was the best centre-half Boro had . . . after Stuart Boam!  He made you laugh – and I just remember the passion of the man. 

Ali was genuine, kind and a great professional. As a player, there’d be a lot of reporters you’d want to avoid – but you could never say no to Ali. We never ever had cross words. 

ALAN PEACOCK (Boro legend and Middlesbrough Former Players Association)

We will never forget Alastair because he was such a wonderful man. We used to meet twice a week for coffee at a local supermarket and he was wonderful company. 

He had a wonderful sense of humour and used to call me Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served? We talked about getting out into the Dales when his treatment allowed and kept closely in touch. 

He worked closely with us at the Former Players Association and he was the ideal man for our dinners and presentations. Nothing was too much trouble for Alastair – he would always say yes. 

He thought a lot of me and I thought a lot of him. We were really close. 

JOHN HENDRIE (Boro legend)

You couldn’t meet a more infectiously enthusiastic person than Ali. He was always positive about everything. Even when the team was struggling, he was a shining beacon of optimism. 

The greatest tribute you can pay is that you never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was brilliant at his job and very conscientious. It can be difficult at times when you are working for one club and they are not doing well. You can say things on-air that might upset people, but Ali always had the knack of saying something constructive. 

He’d phone me up and greet me with ‘John Hendrie – the greatest Scotsman since Robert the Bruce’ – and immediately he had me smiling. I have very fond memories of Alastair and I will truly miss him. 

DAVE ROBERTS (former Boro commentator)

The ultimate Boro fan who rejoiced in viewing life through red and white spectacles. When charged with the task of designing Century Radio's Boro commentary in the 90s there was only one person I could bring in to pull off the completely biased coverage we wanted - Ali.

A man with a huge heart, THE biggest Boro fan I've ever met - Ali was a true pleasure to know and an absolute delight to work with and someone who'll be hugely missed. Thoughts and prayers with the family - RIP Ali.

CHRIS JOSEPH (former chairman of the Middlesbrough Official Supporters Club)

Ali will now be commentating for the angels.