Sore Throat 1, the Voice of Football 0

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The Independent Online
THE VOICE of the football results croaked and fell silent yesterday - for the first time in 35 years.

Len Martin, whose steady tones provide mounting excitement for would-be pools winners as he reads the football scores on BBC Television's Grandstand, found his voice giving way during his regular Saturday slot.

After struggling through three divisions of the Football League, and reaching Walsall 1 Gillingham 0, he finally gave himself the red card. For the GM Vauxhall Conference and Scottish results he was substituted by his colleague Tim Gudgin, who normally reads the rugby union scores.

The cause was a sore throat, caused by a bad cold caught during a visit to his native Australia.

Martin, 74, who is often described as the best-known voice and least-known face in British broadcasting, has read the football results since Grandstand began in 1958.

His inflexions are so well known - a falling tone for a home win, a rising one for an away win and level for a draw - that the pools winner waiting for his eighth and vital result is out of his chair and cheering before the scoreline has been completed. Previously, he had been ruffled only by the result of the Scottish League Cup Final on 23 October 1971: Celtic 1 Partick Thistle 4. Not quite able to believe it, Mr Martin said: 'I'll repeat that one.'

Once, while reading the results, he discovered that he had eight draws on his own pools coupon but continued without so much as a pause.

Yesterday Martin was helping Grandstand celebrate its 35th anniversary - its 2,060 editions make it the longest-running sports programme in television history.

'My voice started to get rougher and rougher so that people couldn't hear what I was saying,' Martin said, hoarsely, last night. He will be back next week.

'It's such an easy job I would like to go on until I'm 190.'