GWENT pub landlord John Brackstone is a contestant on the last Countdown with the late Richard Whiteley, on Channel 4 today.

And watching the show he will feel more than a little sadness, even though reaching the final was a personal triumph for Mr Brackstone, who runs the George Hotel, in Pontypool.

The 61-year-old presenter's death last week signalled the end of an era for the popular show, which he fronted for 23 years.

Mr Brackstone, who filmed a total of 11 shows over two months, said: "It was a shock when I heard the news. Although I was aware of his illness, he was apparently on the road to recovery.

"He was really likeable, a very down-to-earth kind of person. During the breaks he would be really jovial and friendly, and really put me at ease.

"He was a very approachable man and didn't seem to have any airs and graces that you might expect from a TV personality.

"It's the end of an era, really, for fans of the show."

And those fans include the Queen and Hollywood star George Clooney - such was the appeal of the show Mr Whiteley described as a "low-tech parlour game".

Its gently bumbling host - famed for his loud ties - clocked up nearly 10,000 appearances on TV and apparently more hours on air than anyone else alive.

Mr Brackstone, a father of one, who has run the George Hotel for 21 years, said he "thoroughly enjoyed" his time on the show. He puts his success down to a fascination with word games and crosswords.

But we can't reveal the result of the final - you'll have to tune in, or set the video, to find out.

"I've been sworn to secrecy - hopefully all my friends and family will be tuning in," said Mr Brackstone.

Last night, a Channel 4 spokeswoman told the Argus those involved with the programme were still "collecting their thoughts".

"A decision will be made shortly regarding the future of the show," she added.

* You can catch Countdown at 3.15pm on Channel 4 today.