Ali's 1500 commentaries are sweet
It was cake at breakfast for Ali Brownlee, after colleagues gatecrashed his morning show with a sweet tribute to mark his double milestone.
The BBC Tees man was surprised live on air after clocking up 1500 commentaries on his beloved Middlesbrough FC over three decades of broadcasting on the station.
The breakfast show took an unexpected turn when its host was told to put his mic down for ten minutes and sit back and enjoy a montage of his finest commentary moments.
'They also got me a lovely cake and had even taken notice of my nut allergy, so I was able to gorge myself - despite it being 8.30 in the morning,' Brownlee tells Ariel.Pitchside tribute
His achievement was recognised by the club, too, which presented 'the voice of The Boro' with a signed shirt and crystal memento on the pitch before his 1500th game.
'Unfortunately, they lost,' Brownlee muses. 'They also lost the first match I commentated on for what was then Radio Cleveland, back in 1982.'
It didn't deter the broadcaster whose childhood visits to Ayresome Park in the sixties first sparked his enthusiasm. 'It was a cheap afternoon out and it got you out of your mum's feet,' he recalls. 'I'd watch the game and my dad and granddad would tell me stories of the great Middlesbrough matches and players of the past.'
Like winning the World Cup
He was there in 1967 when the team earned promotion to the second division. 'There were 40,000 people there. For a young lad, watching them get promoted was like winning the World Cup.'
The glory days followed him into adulthood, after he joined Radio Cleveland as a sports reporter.
'When I first started, Middlesbrough had never been beyond a quarterfinal. But they've since been to a Uefa cup final, won the Carling Cup and were finalists in the long forgotten Zenith Cup. To pick up the mic at Wembley for that match was fantastic.'
A well-known face at the Riverside - where Middlesbrough moved in 1995 - he delivers his commentaries live from the BBC box at the back of the main stand. He makes no attempt to disguise his pronounced allegiances. 'The vast majority of our audience are Middlesbrough fans,' he explains. 'You can't just rant and rave, but they do want you to have an accent on the local club.'Premiership dreams
Brownlee moved into new territory in 2011, when he was asked to host the breakfast show. Despite the early wake-up calls, he calls it a 'wonderful privilege to talk about the place I love'.
But he hasn't forgotten about the footie. He still covers every Middlesbrough game - home and away. If he has to travel vast distances, he asks colleagues to cover his early show and uses his holiday allowance. 'Everyone knows it's my passion,' says the man who slips talk of his beloved Boro into the programme at every opportunity.
'Fingers crossed, we'll be back in the Premiership soon,' he says. (Middlesbrough were relegated to the Championship in 2009). 'I'd certainly mention that on the breakfast show.'