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'His big, big smile': Remembering sports broadcaster Nigel Pearson

“Nigel Pearson will be best remembered for many things,” said the Rev Paul Cody.

The funeral of sports broadcaster Nigel Pearson at St Benedict's Church, Wombourne..
The funeral of sports broadcaster Nigel Pearson at St Benedict's Church, Wombourne..

“Possibly, as the photos in the wonderful programme show, with a pint of Guinness in his hand - but not just that.

“His big, big smile.”

The village of Wombourne was brought to an absolute standstill on Thursday afternoon as hundreds of mourners joined the family of the much-loved sports broadcaster to pay tribute following his sudden passing last month at the age of 52.

Spontaneous applause burst out as the funeral cortege first arrived outside Saint Benedict’s Church as part of a lap of the village before the service of celebration, encircling Wombourne Cricket Club where Pearson spent so many happy hours with family and friends.

Local residents and business owners came out to pay their respects while the church was packed to the rafters with many guests standing for a service which captured perfectly the two very different but overlapping features of Pearson’s much-lived life.

A consummate professional who broadcast at the very highest levels of football, speedway and darts, with a keen and mischievous sense of fun along the way.

But more importantly a devoted family man whom, after enjoying a wonderful childhood with parents Dave and Margaret and brother Neil, then greatly enjoyed and cherished moments with his own family in adult life.

While he was dedicated to his profession, and meticulous in his organisation, he couldn’t wait to get home from regular trips away to spend precious time with wife Kerrie, daughter Sarah and sons Liam and Jake.

The sporting theme was never too far away throughout the service of celebration with the famous FA Cup Final hymn Abide With Me ‘kicking things off’ and the ‘Lord is my Shepherd’, terrace anthem of Nigel’s beloved West Bromwich Albion, signalling full time.

Those Baggies persuasions were also to the fore as two of Pearson’s closest friends – Wolves fans Vince Merrick and Ian Jones - delivered heartfelt eulogies, the latter even wearing an Albion home shirt to honour his great pal.

Another Wolves fan and motorsport presenter Suzi Perry recalled after the service how she would always share plenty of Wolves/Albion related ‘discussion’ when working with Pearson or seeing him at Molineux.

There followed an emotional address from former speedway champion Kelvin Tatum, whom after initially being ‘irritated’ by this young and ambitious reporter, grew to forge the most wonderful of friendships along with a legendary commentary partnership.

Tatum recalled several memorable trips abroad where Pearson would fall asleep and snore loudly as soon as he boarded the plane, couldn’t be risked with driving duties as he would occupy the wrong side of the road, but could sniff out the nearest pub and restaurant within ten minutes of reaching their destination.

“We had a partnership in and out of the commentary box and it was a very special time – I feel really lucky that we had such a cool working relationship,” Tatum recalled.

“And Nigel was such a brilliant dad, he was a really cool dad.”

The congregation comprised mourners representing a wide range of media organisations as well as from the three sports in which Pearson worked so successfully including Matt Murray, Chris Marsh and Alvin Martin from football, Mark Webster and Wayne Mardle from darts, and Sam Masters and Simon Stead amongst many from the world of speedway.

Pearson’s coffin was carried into church to the theme tune from Grandstand, a programme in which it was revealed he was interviewed by David Coleman as a sports-mad nine-year-old, and left to the strains of Planet Funk’s ‘Chase the Sun’, which many will recognise as synonymous with darts.

After a private committal the wake was held, fittingly, back at his ‘second home’ of the Cricket Club, where those dulcet and unique commentary tones were heard once again on the big screen along with a montage of photographs with family and friends.

It is often said at a funeral that if you could ask each and every person why they were there, what an overall testimony that would be.

The hundreds who turned out to say goodbye to Nigel Pearson would paint such a very similar picture of a warm, approachable and hugely popular personality who always stayed grounded and always had time for people.

With a pint of Guinness, and a big, big smile.

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