In the latest in a series of light-hearted articles on his career, former radio and television commentator Peter Brackley, Brighton-born and a lifelong Albion fan, relives some of his favourite commentating highlights!
"That was a bit over the top, Brackers, you saying on Channel 4's Football Italia commentary that George Weah's goal for Milan on Sunday was the best you've ever commentated on!" sneered Sky TV commentator and ex-Arsenal and England striker Alan ‘Smudger’ Smith, when I met him at ITV studios a few days after the aforementioned game. "It was only a shot from inside the box."
"Only a shot from inside the box?" I repeated in disbelief. "Well actually, Smudger, Weah started by dispossessing someone just in front of his own goal-line, and then ran the whole length of the field, leaving numerous opponents trailing in his wake, before slotting it in!"
"Ah, sorry," said Smudger. "I must have missed that bit, I didn't see the match and when I tuned in for the closing credits, they must have only played the last part of the goal and the commentary!"
What he missed was, indeed, an amazing individual goal from the former World Footballer of the Year and truly one of my favourite commentating moments.
But what’s my favourite match from the commentary box? Well, that would have to be another World Cup quarter final: Brazil's dramatic showdown with France in 1986, won eventually by Michel Platini's majestic French team on penalties, was a sumptuous master-class of top level football.
It was a privilege to be there, on that sultry afternoon in Guadalajara, as it was a few days later to be looking on from high up in the awesome Azteca Stadium in Mexico City to witness the finest individual performance I've ever seen, as Diego Maradona virtually single-handedly took Belgium apart to clinch Argentina's place in the final.
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As for the lighter moments I've experienced while football commentating, well, there’ve been quite a few. For example, when I was cut off mid-sentence by the shattering of the Radio Brighton commentary box window, as I ducked down to avoid a wayward defensive clearance at the old Goldstone Ground.
I still smile too, at the memory of someone opening the door to the commentary booth to hold an umbrella over my head, in response to my observation: “The rain is absolutely bucketing down today!” I desperately tried to keep a straight face as I continued, “but it does seem to have eased off a little!”
Another treasured moment was a recorded ITV commentary at the Goldstone Ground. Perched on a precarious makeshift gantry on the old east terrace, I pushed the director's talkback key during the game and asked him to get a camera shot of the North Stand, where I used to go as a kid.
"OK," he said, "here is it Brackers,” and he cut to a shot on the screen of a packed terrace behind the goal.
"Yes, viewers," I said through the mic, "that's where I used to stand; in fact, good heavens, I can't believe it, the chap who used to stand next to me is still there in the very same place!"
"Quick!" shouted the excited director to the cameraman. "Get me a shot of him – which one is he, Brackers?"
I chortled on the talkback, “None of them, you idiot! It was nearly 40 years ago, I’m just winding you up!"
Needless to say, that little exchange didn't make the final edit, but many commentating mishaps and amusing moments did over the years, and I'll relive a few more of them for you next time!
Happy New Year!