Albion rewind: Remembering Peter Brackley

Peter Brackley passed away in October 2018, aged 67, and a number of tributes were penned by former colleagues and friends.

By Luke Nicoli • 08 April 2020

‘Brackers’ as he was affectionately known, was Brighton born and bred, a keen Albion fan, and an accomplished television commentator whose career spanned six World Cup finals. A gifted impressionist to boot with an acerbic wit, he was a regular turn on the after-dinner circuit, while in later years his humour shone through on stage – one of the productions he worked on being The Goldstone Days: 20 Years On! at the Theatre Royal.

Brackers’ career had come full circle, having started in the 1970s with BBC Radio Brighton, the station where a certain Des Lynam OBE cut his teeth.

“We started at Radio Brighton, albeit ten years apart, before moving to network radio,” recalls Des. “I took the presentation route, he took the commentary route. He had a great sense of humour and was a great hero for Brighton & Hove Albion in many ways, and certainly for the media and sports industry.”

From the commentary box at the Goldstone, Brackley would report on the Albion revolution taking place under Alan Mullery. Skipper Brian Horton recalls a man who was a regular presence behind the scenes as well as behind the mic.

“He helped out at various functions, so I ended up spending lots of time with him,” recalls ‘Nobby’. “He was a massive fan of the club, of the Albion and an absolutely top guy in every way.”

Ray Bloom also recalls the many functions Brackley would help with, most notably at player testimonials. “He cared about the club and the players.

“We used to support testimonial events at Hove Town Hall and Peter would often be the Master of Ceremonies and would have the audience in fits of laughter.

“He would volunteer himself because he wanted to do his best for the players – many of whom he had watched from the terraces and then the commentary box – and for the football club.”


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Peter Brackley Tribute

While Brackers showed plenty of bravado when playing to an audience, Horton’s team-mate, Mark Lawrenson, reveals a more genteel side.

“He was a very public guy but he was also quite a private man,” Lawro recalls. “I don’t think he ever realised how revered he was by everybody. You never met a person with so much talent who was so nervous! But maybe that’s what kept him sharp.”

“He was a lovely guy who I enjoyed spending time with,” added Gordon Smith. “He had a great knowledge of football but was extremely humorous in putting forward his point of view. I can understand why he became so respected as a commentator.”

Brackley’s next step took him to the BBC, covering football – including two FA Cup Finals and the 1982 European Cup Final – and athletics, and working on the flagship Sport on Two and Sports Report programmes.

“I first met Peter at Broadcasting House and he looked after me,” recalls Garry Richardson. “I was young, I was nervous and I was working with my heroes and he sensed that.

“I was also lucky to perform with him on the after-dinner circuit and I firmly believe that he was a comedy genius. If he’s concentrated just on that he could have been appearing regularly at the London Palladium.”

Ian Darke was a close friend, their paths first crossing back in those early BBC days. “We were part of a great sports room with some big names, but Peter quite quickly became a star.

“As a commentator he had a wonderful rich, resonant voice and he could capture the mood and drama of a game. He became a bit of a cult figure covering the Italian football; his pronunciations were meticulous and always his commentary was laced with that sense of amusement.”

The summer of 1982 was a seminal moment in Brackley’s career, having made the switch from radio to television, and from BBC to ITV. He would cover the 1984 European Championship finals, the 1986 European Cup Final, likewise the 1986 World Cup finals. Given his prowess as an impressionist he also provided the voice for a number of puppets on satirical show Spitting Image, and once replaced Jimmy Greaves on the iconic Saturday lunchtime football show, The Saint and Greavsie, albeit not as you might imagine.

“For the Christmas show in 1990, Jimmy was ill so we said we’d use Peter’s voice with Jimmy’s Spitting Image puppet and it was remarkable!” recalls Richard Worth, the show’s producer and fellow Albion fan. “It was live, it was unscripted, it was completely spontaneous, and he was incredible.”

In 1990 Brackley commentated on the World Cup finals, having moved to Eurosport. He was also behind the mic for Sky’s first live games, likewise their weekly coverage of Italian football.

Following Paul Gascoigne’s move to Lazio, Channel 4 bought the rights to cover Serie A games in 1992 and Football Italia was born. With James Richardson presenting and Brackley commentating, it became a cult show for a generation of fans.

“Peter was very funny, very dry, very warm,” recalls Richardson. “You never felt that he was making the commentary about him – he was never searching for a sound bite. He was about as perfect a companion that you could have possibly wish for.”

In 1992 Brackley returned to ITV, covering four World Cups and two European Championships. He then worked for distributor Octagon CSI, where he covered England games and a number of FA Cup Finals over a 16-year period.

“I first came in contact with Peter when we were both freelance commentators for CSI,” remembers Jim Proudfoot. “He was the main man, I was very much the junior but he could not have been more helpful.

“He is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met and nobody in our industry ever had a bad word to say about him. A great broadcaster but an even better man.”

In his later years, Brackers was a regular face at the Amex, having re-established his ties with the club. Memorably, it was the stage show that he co-produced with Garry Richardson and Mike Osman, in conjunction with the club and in aid of AITC, that highlighted his rich comic genius.

“The theatre show was where I saw a genius at work,” says Guy Butters. “To watch him put into practice what he had prepared so thoroughly was magical. The bloke was an absolute wizard in terms of the wit, humour and the storytelling ability that he had.

“I heard him commentate for on a few charity games that I played in, and you sometimes dreaded picking up the ball because he’d come out with a witty one liner at your expense!”

Brackers clearly had a way with words and his columns for the club website, programme and in The Argus were written in his own inimitable style.

“The man emerged through his Thursday musings – the warmth, the wit, the self-deprecation,” said ex-Argus man Andy Naylor. “The copy always arrived punctually, with no need for re-writing.

“He even apologised in advance for making me the subject of one of his clever jokes in the show he wrote and presented so expertly at the Theatre Royal. That has now become a shining legacy to a master of many crafts.”