RARELY considered the voice of reason at his cantankerous best, John McEnroe might just have stumbled upon the truth during one of his infamous 1980s rants.

McEnroe once sarcastically told York’s former Wimbledon umpire Malcolm Huntington: “For a guy who can’t add two plus two, you're doing a wonderful job.”

It was an outburst that later saw Huntington, known equally well in his home city as a long-standing reporter on its football club, make the News At Ten headlines.

Now, three decades on, having just announced his retirement as a journalist, Huntington has admitted McEnroe, who was complaining after being correctly foot-faulted, did have a point.

“He was right actually,” the Heslington-based 79-year-old revealed. “Maths was my worst subject at school.”

Having been a mainstay in York City’s press box for 45 years, prior to taking up the club’s offer of a year-long honorary vice-presidency at last weekend’s 2013/14 curtain-raiser against Northampton, it could also be said Huntington has done a ‘wonderful job’ chronicling the Minstermen’s highs and lows during that period.

Twice named Yorkshire Sports Writer of the Year and awarded an MBE for his services to local journalism, the first City game Huntington covered was in May 1967 – a 5-1 defeat at Luton.

Incredibly, that was the only match Wilf Meek, his predecessor as the then Yorkshire Evening Press’ City writer, missed during his stint on the newspaper from 1922 to 1968 when Huntington was given the responsibility – a position he then filled until 1995.

He worked for The Press in all its guises during those 27 years and, more recently, has worked on a freelance basis for the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Sunday Sun and several national newspapers.

Huntington first switched his attention to sports journalism when it became clear his progress as a promising young goalkeeper would be halted by deteriorating eyesight.

Future City favourite and Tottenham striker Dave Dunmore skippered the under-15 York City boys’ team that Huntington kept goal for at the age of 12.

The talented shot-stopper also represented Yorkshire and was nominated for England selection without ever making the squad.

“In those days, there were no contact lenses and you couldn’t wear glasses in goal,” recalled Huntington on the curtailment of his days between the sticks. His passion for the game and sport did not diminish, though.

He first watched City with his father – a former Bishop Auckland player – during the Second World War years when goalkeeping legend Sam Bartram, playing for the club as a guest, became his childhood hero.

It was at Manor High Grade School for Boys, however, that Huntington was set on a career path he would tread for more than 60 years.

“My headmaster said I seemed to be good at essays and sport and asked if I had ever thought about becoming a sports journalist,” he remembered. “He introduced me to Wilf Meek, who then introduced me to The Press’ editor at the time Mr Cobham.

“Afterwards, I had two ambitions in life – to report on York City, which back then I felt would be the best job in the world, and to become sports editor.

“I was lucky because I achieved both and later became chief sports writer too.”

Huntington was initially employed at the Yorkshire Evening Press in August 1949 as a copy boy ‘running messages and making tea’.

He went on to land a job on the sports desk with York’s Table Tennis Championship, held at the old Drill Hall in Colliergate, representing the first assignment for a man who would go on to record famous football triumphs at Wembley after succeeding Meek.

Combining his day job with a second vocation as an international tennis umpire, Huntington also oversaw six Wimbledon finals and officiated at two Olympic Games.

It is his primary occupation that has changed the most over the years, however, with the former four-time York singles tennis champion adding: “The biggest difference from when I started out is the manner in which football is reported.

“The newspaper only used to want to know what I thought about the match and, if the manager said the odd word about it, that was it. Nowadays, there is such a big emphasis on quotes, whereas we did not even interview players back in those days.”

Huntington also admitted he has mixed feelings about the day his long-time workplace will be bulldozed and the club relocate to Monks Cross.

“That’s inevitable but I will find it a bit sad,” he said. “We have all got memories of what has gone on at Bootham Crescent and, in my years, I have seen some tremendous highs and lows there.”

The on-pitch deaths of referee Roy Harper and striker David Longhurst represented the bleakest moments for Huntington but he packs away his notepad with many happier recollections too. Remembering those occasions, he said: “Beating Arsenal with Keith Houchen’s penalty and winning at Manchester United both stand out but the biggest highlight was a game I watched as a guest of the club – the 2012 play-off final win at Wembley to get back into the Football League. That was a very emotional day.”

He was almost as touched by the club’s vice-presidency gesture, adding: “I was pleasantly surprised. I reported on just over 2,000 matches and I just tried to do the job as best as I could.”

Even Mr McEnroe would struggle to argue with that.

Favourite managers

“Tom Johnston was the one who did the best job. He took the club from the old Fourth Division to the second on a shoestring budget by signing people like Chris Jones and Jimmy Seal.

“The best to deal with as a reporter, though, was John Ward, right. It was his first job in management and he was very open and gave me lots of good information.”

Favourite players

“Norman Wilkinson was one of the best. He scored a lot of goals, was always in position to take a pass and covered an enormous amount of ground.

“I also thought Roger Jones was a great goalkeeper. He had played for Blackburn in the old first division and, even though he was at the end of his career and playing with a bad leg, he was everything you wanted from a goalkeeper and commanded the penalty area brilliantly.

“That whole team in 1983/84 had some great players, though, like John McPhail, Ricky Sbragia, Keith Walwyn and John Byrne.”

Favourite quote

“The best I ever got was from Wayne Hall when I asked him what on earth he was doing volunteering to take the crucial fifth penalty at Wembley in the 1993 play-off final.

“I did it because I’m a bloody thick Yorkshireman,” he told me.”