Mansfield Town announcer Alan Wilson marked 30 years in the job this week – and admitted he has loved almost every minute of it.
A chance conversation back in 1988 saw Alan, 59, take over the Field Mill microphone and he has never looked back.
Stags Supporters’ Association made a presentation to him on the way to the Cambridge United game on the anniversary date last weekend and this Saturday’s visit of Northampton Town will then see his 30 years at home complete.
Last weekend’s presentation came as a big surprise to the popular figure, who is now very much part of the furniture at the club.
“I was on the SSA coach, of which I am an Amber member, and we all got on the coach to Cambridge,” he said.
“Then I was asked get off the coach for a moment as there was some discrepancy with my paperwork.
“I got off to find the committee stood round in a semi-circle where they presented me with an engraved memento.
“I got back on the coach and they all clapped and then they said on the microphone congratulations on 30 years. I was filling up. I felt a bit humble to be honest.”
His early days are now a little hazy in the memory.
“I wasn’t sure what my first game was but Martin Shaw kindly looked back for me and it seems to be have been Gillingham in 1988,” he said.
“I wasn’t nervous. I had my hand in discos and things like that.
“The gentleman doing it at the time - Brian Baker – was a friend of my dad.
“I used to stand at the West Stand wall as it was then and he came down and he said his wife was about to have their second child and he did like to get to Old Trafford when he could.
“He said I didn’t want to be tied to the job and did I know anybody who could do it? I said talk about being in the right place at the right time, I’d love to do it.
“Commercial manager John Slater took me up to the box. I did two second half announcements and John said the job is yours if you want it – and I have been doing it ever since.”
Since then Alan, whose dry one-liners often raise a smile for fans, has rarely missed a game.
“It’s unbelievable,” he smiled “With holidays and illness I have probably missed only about 10 home games in that time.
“Even when I had my full knee replacement I didn’t miss any. I came in the wheelchair.
“I don’t like to miss games if I can help it and work holidays around it. The wife understands – bless her!”
The job has given him many great moments.
“The one that stick in my mind is when we played Northampton in the play-off semi-final in 2004,” he said.
“I had virtually lost my voice. But I can remember saying ‘pack your bags we are going to Cardiff’.
“Another one was winning the Conference. I had always wanted to play ‘We Are The Champions’ and obviously got my wish then.
“It was also nice to be on the pitch shouting the players’ names while they got their medals.
“I have also done three proposals on the pitch and have a 100 per cent success rate.
“I can remember the first one. The gentleman got down on one knee and said ‘will you marry me?’
“I handed the mic to the young lady and she said ‘yes’.
“As they walked back into the old West Stand, all the Stags fans started singing ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’! That was funny.
“I’ve also done a ‘can Mr Smith leave immediately as your wife has gone into labour’ announcement.”
Of the worst moments in the job, he said: “When we got relegated was one of the worst and also whenever I see them lose. But the highs definitely outweigh the lows.”
Announcers can often be the victim of practical jokers getting them to read something out that turns out to be rude. But Alan believes so far he has not been fooled.
He said: “I had one announcement – I can’t remember what it said, but I think I just managed to click onto it in time.
“I read it and thought – eyup, we’ve got one here!
“I might have done one somewhere down the line - but not knowingly.”
The increasing number of foreign names creeping into the lower divisions cause issues for announcers and radio commentators alike. But Alan believes he usually gets it right.
He said: “I can remember when we had an England v Italy youth international and a lady came down to help me and I went through the team and she said I didn’t need her as I’d got them all spot on. I think it was more luck than judgement though.
“If I am not sure of one I will usually go and ask someone from the opposition.”
He continued: “It’s been thoroughly enjoyable.
“It’s a job I love doing – and I get to see my favourite team. So it’s a win, win for me.
“I don’t get paid for doing it – it’s voluntary – but I just don’t have to buy a season ticket any more. The last one I bought cost me £66.”