Bob Cass – the prominent football journalist and friend of Sir Alex Ferguson – has passed away at the age of 78 following a long battle with cancer.

Cass, a former chairman and life-long member of the Football Writers’ Association, died on Thursday, surrounded by his family. He had a long career working for titles including The Sun and latterly the Mail on Sunday, whose sports editor, Alison Kervin, paid tribute to ‘a brilliant journalist’.

“Bob Cass was a huge force on the Mail on Sunday – a brilliant journalist with fantastic contacts,” she added. “Professionally and socially he was a whirlwind of vibrant stories and colourful anecdotes.

“He produced back page story after back page story – always knowing what was going on at the heart of football because he had such great contacts who became great friends. He was greatly loved and greatly admired and will be sorely missed.”

A host of big names from the world of football also paid tribute.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Very sad to hear that Bob Cass has passed away. Terrific sport’s journalist, great character and a lovely man. #RIPBob.’

Rob Lee, once of Charlton, Newcastle and England, added: “Sad to hear the news about Bob Cass – one of the good guys!! #RIPbob.’

And Gaby Logan wrote: ‘Very sad to hear that Bob Cass died today. A great writer, passionate about his subject but more importantly a really lovely man.’