Clive Smith has been a loyal and proud employee at MG Rover's Longbridge plant for 20 years.

But long service is nothing unusual in the Smith family - three generations have served 327 years at Longbridge between them.

His father Arthur, aged 78, worked at the factory for 47 years. His grandfather William did 51 years, never missing a day through sickness.

And six of Mr Smith's seven uncles - Joe, Colin, Fred, George, Harold and Bill - served the firm for between 42 and 51 years each.

Mr Smith, aged 44, from Northfield, was at work on the night shift on Thursday when Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt declared the company had gone into receivership.

"It was like someone had paused a video," he said. "Around 20 of us had all been working hard because we'd finally got parts we'd been short of.

"Mobile phones started going mad because wives back home heard the news on the telly and radio. One of the guys said: 'It's all over now.' Everyone fell silent and work stopped.

"Good friends of mine, grown men, burst into tears. They were worried about their kids, their wives. There's no way I can explain how it felt."

Mr Smith went home to his wife Teresa, aged 44, and sons Karl, 19, Steven, 15, and Andrew, 12. Mrs Smith, a cleaner at Longbridge Social Club, had tears in her eyes.

He said: "It's part of all our lives, almost in our blood.

"The social clubs are full of Rover employees, the gym, the nurseries, the shops. If it goes it won't be the death of a company - it's the demolition of a community.

"I wish people would stop banging on about 6,000 workers losing their jobs. It'll be more like 46,000.

"There's the cafes at the end of the road where we buy our sandwiches, travel agents who won't have any holidays to book, builders and architects who have made plans for extensions to people's houses. And all the people who work for companies that supply us.

"The net's cast much wider than Longbridge. It'll be the biggest battering Birmingham has ever taken."

Mr Smith is frustrated by the political arguments surrounding the plant's future.

"This is about people, not politics," he said. "But why doesn't the Government fund us? All car companies lose money. The French government funds Citroen - they can sell their cars so cheaply they almost give them away. But who's there to help dig us out of this muck?

"My dad always told me to work hard and work well and I'll get the benefit from that. I've only missed ten days' work in 20 years."

Before Mr Smith started work at Longbridge, he was unemployed for four years.

He said: "My wife and me had to sit with coats around us because we couldn't pay our gas bill. I don't want to go back there again.

"But I don't have a Plan B. If I don't get work I lose my house - simple as that."

Mr Smith had always wanted one of his sons to work for Rover and his last flicker of hope is yet to be extinguished.

"Since I was a boy I'd always heard whispers that the company was on its last legs, but I've grown up and still the plant's there. This is the closest we've come to the end of the story.

"But I still have a small thread of hope that something will save us, because if we close, Great Britain will lose a bit of the great."