He has commentated on some of football’s most stellar occasions, guiding viewers through games from World Cups to European Finals. However, Archie Macpherson’s career highlight lies in more humble memories.

“There is one thing that really affects me now, looking back,” says the broadcaster, for whom the adjective legendary is not an overstatement. “One day I was in my fiancee’s house and I opened the early edition of The Evening Times. In those days there were two editions, the white and the pink. The pink was the sports one, and the white was culturally very good. And there in the white one was my short story.”

It was, he said, akin to the feeling of the birth of a new-born babe. Macpherson was working as a teacher in Lanarkshire when his first inked words landed on the page. It was the birth of a career in broadcasting and print journalism that keeps him active to this day, somewhere in his ninth decade.

“I thought I was a writer. I sent short stories galore, to all sorts of publications. And as [American short storyist] O. Henry said: ‘The rejections came back like ping pong balls’.”

They stopped soon enough. To say Macpherson made his mark in journalism is like saying Andy Robertson might be a first pick at five a sides. His second career stretches back to the 1960s. Not only can Macpherson say he was in Lisbon on May 25, 1967, he can also say he commentated on the greatest success by any Scottish club.

“Kenneth Wolstenholme, who was the god at the BBC, made sure I would only get to comment every now and then,” he says. “The night before the game I gave him all the details about the Celtic team. He hadn’t done his homework. I was an innocent abroad, a young lad in comparison to him. I did all the work for him, which he spouted out during the commentary . . . and yet it was such a marvellous occasion.”

Macpherson’s back-catalogue is, of course, brimful with anecdotes about sporting greats, both in terms of occasion and individual. His latest book Touching The Heights is evidence of that. Jimmy Johnstone, Jim Baxter, Sir Alex Ferguson, Jim McLean, Bill McLaren and Sandra Whittaker are among the totemic figures from Scottish sport he offers proximity to in its pages.
To a certain generation of football fan in Scotland, Archie Macpherson and Jock Brown were like the Sean Connery and Roger Moore of commentary. We each had a favourite, in the days when televised football cost no more than the licence fee, and subscriptions were only for copies of Shoot or Match. Games were taped on the Betamax in our house; commentary lines learned like times tables.

The National:

“Only twice before in the history of Scottish Cup finals, have goals been scored direct from a free kick,” said Archie on the BBC on 18 May 1985, when Davie Provan stood over the ball and eyed Hamish McAlpine’s goal as Celtic faced Dundee United in the Hampden showpiece. 
“Is this a bit of history?” Provan curled the ball into the top right hand corner. “IT IS!”

No more than nine years old, I was as thrilled by the commentary as I was the goal. It remains my favourite piece of live sports broadcasting. When I mention that it currently features in the BBC Sportscene opening credits, Macpherson is surprised to find his words being used to introduce the country’s only terrestrial football programme.

“I was just lucky,” he says, smiling at the memory. “I’d done my homework, so to some extent I could take credit for it happening. But there were faux pas too. I described Celtic as the ‘image of racing certainties’ when they ran out with Partick Thistle in the 1971 league cup final. They were four down in 30 minutes.”

With 10 books to his name, including his peerless biography of Jock Stein – which he singles out as the book he’s most proud of – I ask where he achieves his state of flow.

“There’s nothing finer than being in flow in broadcasting,” he said. “When words are suddenly coming into your mind that you hadn’t even really thought about, and they jump up and surprise you. There’s no such thing as contemplation, it’s instant and it comes from the gut.”

That said, he describes it as “a skoosh” in comparison to writing. He credits his uncle, James Black, poet and scriptwriter for programmes like Harry Secombe’s ITV series Highway, as a key influence in his writing.
He concedes he doesn’t watch as much football as he once did, but the compulsion to write remains undimmed. Writing, though, is isolating and selfish.

“Not only do you write in the room, you write at dinner, at tea time, you write walking down the street with your wife who is talking to you and you’re not listening,” he said. “It’s selfish and comes from something insatiable.”

He invites me into his study of the Bothwell apartment where he and wife Jess live, to show me a piece he’s written about the dramatic play-off between Partick Thistle and Ross County. These days, his passion is his health. “I had cancer, and had to have a kidney taken out 11 years ago,” he said. “In the past, a macho culture in Scottish society existed and too much introspection was seen as weakness. People died because of that. You need to be cognizant of certain things if you like hanging around in this little world of ours. Jess and I are both aware of that. Touch wood. I tell people I’m 11 years old now.”

Archie Macpherson will be at the St Duthac Book Festival, Tain, September 11-18 and Kirkcudbright Fringe  Festival, September 1-3. Touching The Heights, published by Luath press, is out now.