Not dropping the mic: after 51 years, Brentford FC's MC to keep going at new ground

The Championship side Brentford FC are bucking the trend of ageism that is shunting older, experienced professionals into forced retirement across the worlds of business, politics and the media.

The West London club, who are moving out of their historic Griffin Park home after more than a century to a new “Premiership-ready” stadium, are taking their veteran, record-breaking, match day compere with them.

Peter Gilham is the longest surviving pitchside MC in British football and he will be travelling the mile-long journey to Brentford’s newly built ground next season.

Gilham has introduced both teams coming through the Griffin Park tunnel for 51 years at the club he has supported since he was 10 years old.

As Brentford prepare for a promotion play-off battle in the Championship in the second half of this season, the club’s owners stressed that it would have been “unthinkable” to relocate in their new 17,000-plus capacity without Gilham and his microphone.

On the same day that former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves tearfully accused the production company filming this year’s Crufts dog show for dropping him over ageism, Gilham and his club are in no mood to retire the man the fans call “Mr Brentford”.

When the club asked Gilham to join them in the move to the new ground, he said: “I had absolutely no hesitation at all. I have been watching this club almost all my life and introducing every home [game] for over a half century. I want to be part of the new stadium, I am excited by the move because they’ve been talking about a newer, bigger ground all the way back from the mid-70s.

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“Now our dream is coming real and this club has been part of my life. I am 72 years old and I am lucky enough to be still working with my heroes in the place I love. And it is going to be emotional when we leave this old place.”

In terms of longevity Gilham’s nearest rival is Liverpool’s “Voice of Anfield”, George Sephton, who has been calling out the team sheet to the Mersey Red faithful for 49 years. Gilham has said he intends to hold on to his record and continue to introduce Brentford and their opponents for as long as possible.

“I am going to keep going and I will probably be buried with my microphone so Brentford will have to get a new one whenever I go.”

Gilham has said he never uses a prepared script, nor does he ever practise his routine in front of the bathroom mirror on matchday mornings.

“The last few years they tried to give a script and I kept telling them I don’t want one. I am far happier doing off the cuff, saying what I want to say and I don’t even see the team sheet earlier to mentally prepare myself. I just get it as I walk on to the pitch and do the business.”

Jon Varney, Brentford FC’s wise-cracking chief executive and a lifelong fan who says he’s a nephew of the late On the Buses star Reg Varney (his joke), was adamant Gilham would be part of the club’s historic move.

“It would have been unthinkable for us to leave Griffin Park and Peter Gilham behind. It will be one of the strangest days of all of our lives when we leave this old place but we are only a mile up the road. We are not tearing up our roots and those roots include Peter Gilham – he is Mr Brentford. It’s just not the Brentford way to contemplate leaving people like Peter behind.”

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After a hard fought 2-1 victory over promotion rivals Cardiff City, in one of Brentford’s last games at home under the Griffin Park floodlights, Gilham entered the hospitality lounge to a barrage of comic banter from a host who had an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump.

Amid the laughter, Gilham pondered his last day as MC at Griffin Park.

“When I walk over that line on to the pitch with my microphone, every time it is special for me. I think I am the luckiest guy alive because I work for the club I love. As for what I will say at our last ever game I don’t rehearse, of course, but I can tell you that whatever the words they will come from the heart,” he added.


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