The Curse Of The Commentator

By Chris Wright

“One or two of their players aren’t getting any younger”

It’s no secret. I loathe most football commentators. Not all, but definitely most.

I do not care to recall the amount of times I have been reduced to watching long stretches of televised games in complete silence over the past few years, as a preventative measure taken to quell the acid-reflux caused by those jibber-jabbering morons up in the gantry.

Whether I am faced with the endless fevered psuedo-prose of Peter Drury, the spittle-flecked stats and senility of John Motson or the crazed balls-out monkey-masturbation hero worship of Clive Tyldesley, it always results in the same two things – further erosion of that poor over-used and abused mute button on my remote control and the welling up of angry, confused tears.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution:

With all the interactive options the serious armchair fan has at his or her disposal these days (multiple match choices, player cams etc.) it’s high time broadcasting companies introduced a ‘red-button’ option to mute the commentary but not the crowd noise, allowing viewers to soak in the atmosphere of the stadium without being bombarded by relentless stats (if you’re lucky) and sixth-form level word-wanking (if you’re not).

I’ve been seriously thinking about writing to the BBC (initially just to express my desire to shoot Mark Bright through the gullet with a cross bow) to put forward the idea mentioned previous, but I never got round to it for some reason or another – maybe I just wasn’t angry enough at the time but, reading this article back to myself, I think I might be now.

Lies, lies…

I can’t help but feel that, over the last few years (and by ‘few years’, I mean the last decade or so) commentators have been overstepping their mark by about 950,000 words a game.

There seems to be a precedent in place that says a wad of notes (of about ‘Magna Carta’ thickness) needs to be researched and produced pre-game, full of the kind of endless stream of statistics, numbers, permutations and percentages that would bore poor old John Wisden to death, if he was alive – which he isn’t.

“Call it, you spineless git!”

‘Twas only the other night, during the Champions League final in fact, that Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben produced one of the most blatant dive-followed-by-injury-feigning pieces of gamesmanship I had witnessed for quite some time (a few days at least).

It was clear to see during the super-slow motion replay that the Dutchman had fallen to the floor in compensation for his poor control, in a desperate attempt to get something in return for his awful touch and, for the record, the cheating swine was rewarded with a free-kick.

Robben knew it was a dive, the Inter defender in question (I believe it was Christian Chivu) knew it, I knew it, you knew it, the 100 million+ people watching at home knew it and I suspect the commentator (our old friend Tyldo) knew it – but would he call it? Would he f**k!

I’m not sure whether or not their respective networks prohibit commentators from having decisive opinions on anything controversial that happens during a game, but they sure seem to shirk the big ‘cheat’ calls often enough for it not to be a wide-spread personal conjecture.

They seem happy to foist little vignettes about their day (journey to the stadium/hotel) on us, but I have yet to see them take one of the glorious chances they are constantly presented with to publicly deplore the scheisters who are slowly but surely ruining football from it’s shiny façade inwards (another debate for another day).

* * * * *

I don’t want this rant to turn into a straightforward witch-hunt but I’m afraid it’s going to pretty much have to, not to illustrate any high-minded point, but to prevent me from having to go out on a strangling spree tonight to release all this freshly built-up tension.

I’m not, however, going to start pining for the days of Wolstenholme, Davies, Moore and even Motty back when he didn’t need a bib and a nappy. They were all consumate exponents in their time – but those times have now been and gone, so please allow me to address those who I feel need addressing…

“That balmy night in Barcelona”

And what better place to start than with Mr Clive Tyldesley?

Listening to Tyldesley commentate on a game is like sitting with a wasp in your ear for ninety minutes, especially if his beloved Manchester United are involved.

You can almost hear the saliva pooling in his huge, gormless Cro-Magnon mandible, as it hangs agog afore the mastery of his single-most favouritest club in the whole wide world, although I could’ve sworn that he is supposed to remain neutral… no? I just thought I remembered hearing that somewhere.

Here’s a little snippet of Tyldesley weaving his magic during Man United’s all conquering 1999 Champions League campaign…

“Roy Keane is such a driving force! He’s a powerful man, I’ll tell you, there’s been a few times after questions when I’ve been reduced to stutters by a stare from Roy. He’s a strong man on and off the pitch! Those trophy-lifting fingers of Roy Keane’s are getting itchy. Hard man – hard to satisfy, hard to beat.”

Can a man not just express his love for a fellow man outright and leave it at that? You don’t have to go round the houses Clive; we all know what you want Roy to do with those trophy-lifting fingers.

Next defendant please…

Next up in the rogue’s gallery is one Peter Drury, ITV’s long-serving number two.

The one and only flaw (although it is quite a biggy) Mr Drury has to his name is the fact that the man just never… stops… spouting, presumably in a bid to prove that his intellect is a cut-above that of your average football commentator.

A good example came at the final-whistle of ‘little’ Fulham’s recent Europe League semi-final win over Hamburg, a victory that secured the Cottagers a place in the final. I’ll let the man himself do the honours…

What a monumental prick.

If his arcing ribbons of brain-jism alone weren’t enough, Drury often gets paired with Irish personality vacuum Jim Beglin (pronounced ‘Jum Buglin’), who I believe used to be head-steward at Liverpool in the mid-to-late 1980s or something like that.

Am I being too harsh? I just can’t tell anymore.

The man’s voice sounds like a bouncy castle deflating in the next room and, despite starting every sentence with the prefix “Listen…” as if what’s coming up is going to be a lesson in how to analyse and dissect a football match, he gets everything – and I mean everything, even the smallest, most insignificant details – completely and infallibly wrong.

Which leads me nicely on to my next bile-infused point…


For when those (very) rare occasions arise that the ‘numero uno’ is lost for words, or is busy composing himself for another epic verbose flourish, a co-commentator is employed to fill those ominously vacant airwaves with tedious ‘insight’ to sustain the viewers wavering concentration – after all, how the hell are us peons supposed to watch a game if we DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON?

We’ve already covered Beglin (though sadly not in three tonnes of concrete) so let’s move swiftly on to doddery old David Pleat.

Despite co-anchoring most of Five’s European games, Pleat, much like your grandfather, can’t pronounce any non-Anglo Saxon name correctly – just ask Pascal Chimbomba.

I don’t need to use any quotes or sources because you all know he does it, it’s common knowledge, a point d’humeur if you will – and it’s not bloody well good enough.

The various execs at Five really do need to find a quiet corner to quickly and humanely dispatch ‘old Pleaty’ in – putting him softly to sleep, like you would any other incontinent old loafer-clad Labrador.

* * * * *

I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to think about all the rest of the fly-by-nights that have tried their hands over the previous few years as I may start welling up again. However, a few of the worst offenders are the BBC’s Mark Bright (whose scrotum will seemingly explode if his speech rate drops below 50mph) and Five’s bumbling perma-dullard, ex-England manager Graham Taylor (the man who thought Carlton Palmer was a world class midfielder libero – need I say more?).

The Good (as opposed to The Bad and The Ugly)

There are, of course, many-a-fine exponent of the commentary art out there in television land to counter-balance the dingbats that have been mentioned so far.

Jonathan Pearce – although a bit of a Marmite figure himself – just about gets the right mix of passion and ‘stat-ssion’ (the passion of statistics), Steve Wilson is solid and unspectacular (a good mix, as it happens), Jon Champion is/was perfectly listenable and even Tony Gubba delivered the goods before he went all ‘sequins and leotards’ on us.

But these chosen few (along with a handful of others that I’d probably mention if I was a better journalist) – due to some unexplainable law of the cosmos – seem to command much less screen time than ubiquitous tossers like Tyldesley and Drury.

I guess you must have to pay a little bit more for quality.

Pundits? More like Pun-don’ts

Oh God yeah, I almost forgot the pundits! In fact, don’t get me started on pundits. Not yet.

(P.S. You may have noticed that the above article has a distinctly ‘terrestrial’ bias – this is because at no point in my life have I ever subscribed to Sky television, as just thinking about the repercussions of the resultant flood of bullsh*t has put me on the cusp of acute mental breakdown on numerous occasions.)

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  1. Ollie says:

    Agree with so much of this, Chris. Excellent piece.

  2. Ollie says:

    And I thought I was the only one to detest Drury’s patronising guff.

  3. Chris says:

    Cheers man. It feels like a great weight has been lifted!

  4. Simon says:

    Fantastic article, love it! Had never twigged on the Jum Buglin “listen: ….” thing but now you mention that, he does do it all the time. A grade a prick.

    Another thing I noticed recently, during the FA Cup final, is that commentators hate to admit they’re wrong. This time it was the ITV first II, Pleat and Clive I believe, and the incident in which the Drogba free kick was expertly tipped by James onto the crossbar, down onto the line and out.

    Both the commentators instantly proclaimed it a goal. Then a replay clearly, clearly showed it wasn’t and instead of saying, “oh look David, we did get that wrong”, Clive instead went for, “well, you can’t really see from that angle”, (even though it’s dead from the side and in slow motion), “it did look like a goal to me”.

    No you prick it wasn’t! And you know it! Admit you’re wrong and get rid of that ego.

    Although, as a United fan, Clive is excused for his, “Solsksjaer…. HE’S WON IT!” comment which may to this point be that best thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

  5. Simon says:

    Even I feel a little bit better after that mini rant Chris can’t imagine how you felt after the entire article!!!

  6. Chris says:

    @Simon: Glad to be of service mate! Another thing you should watch out for is Drury’s new favourite buzzword – ‘twitch’.

    He’s using it all the time at the moment – ‘twitchy’ defensive clearances etc…

    He even proclaimed Zanetti’s hands were ‘twitching toward the trophy’ during the closing stages of the CL final!

  7. Suresh says:

    Haha, just what I needed after a tiring day at work. Pundits next please :).

  8. sirreg says:

    Brilliant article. Give this man a Pulitzer (and a hug).

  9. OhBALLACK! says:

    Haha! AWESOME article Chris! Had me actually laughing out loud (as opposed to ‘lol’ing) Agree with it all, although a little too fair on Mark Bright, I think he got away with too lightly.

    I particularly hate the stupid ways of pronouncing names and generic comments they pass to and from each other, such as ‘squeaky bum time’ and ‘Drogbaaaaaaaaaar’. I honestly think they have a discussion forum to meet and swap ideas to enable further plummets into the depths of wankerdom.

  10. Dave says:

    Wow great rant and i cant disagree with any of it. When listening to Tyldsley spouting his utter bollocks i often lose the will to live.

  11. Fredmeister says:

    Ill be honest. I never thought Tyldsley was that bad (because i feel the same way about United, and becasue he was the soundtrack to the above solskjar moment) until he started doing it about barcelona as well. Horrible.

  12. Chimpo says:

    I have to agree that i hate their guff, from Andy Gray’s “questions… answers” and “take a bow son, take a bow” to the consistently awful itv coverage

    (why no mention pro or anti of said Gray?)

    However, as i dont own a megalotelly, they can be helpful in identifying the players haha! perhaps they should just say the names of the players and nothing else ;-)

    good article though, love a good rant me

  13. Rob says:

    Fantastic Chris. This co commentator thing is getting out of control, they just can’t stop talking, and have to comment on every replay.Like you I could write all day about this.
    Maybe we could get a petition going for the “only crowd noise” option. I watched a game recently on Setanta and we lost the commentators for the entire second half, it was absolutely brilliant, I cranked the sound up to 11. What I found was that with commentators we miss the build up that the crowd noise gives you when a move is starting off. And my blood pressure was halved.

  14. JS. says:

    As much as British commentators irritate me, they are still much better than most Norwegian ones!

    The best commentator I’ve ever heard was on Dutch TV, I don’t know his name, but pretty much all he did was occasionally say the name of the player currently in possession of the ball in a super soft, super relaxed voice. It was listening to kittens dream about pillows.

  15. DJ says:

    All this talk of annoying commentators and not one person has mentioned Alan Green yet!

  16. joshua says:

    I’m from the United States, and I love British commentators on the grounds that they are 100% better than any American commentator for any sport.

  17. phil says:

    Great article; however, on the “decent” commentator list, I would add Guy Mowbray. No bullshit, says what he sees without being biased, basically just gets on with his job.
    Having said that would you rather hear “oh yes, what a beauty” or have to suffer “gol gol gol gol goooooooooooooooooool gol golgolgolgolgolgolgol goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool” every single time?

  18. Fantastic Post. I too am a States-side premiership viewer, and while English commentators do seem to lend the game a measure of authenticity that ours just can’t replicate (listen to any five minute swatch of an MLS game, and you will know our suffering), I do find myself constantly exasperated by their obvious prejudices.
    One thing I will say about American sports coverage is that we often have the benefit of local affiliate commentators – for example, I live in Los Angeles, and watch many a Lakers game on the local TV station (KCAL9)… the great thing about this system is that the commentators are unabashedly pro-Lakers, which, conversely, gives them the freedom to offer substantive criticism when the team deserves it. I’m not sure how broadcasting works in the UK, but this one of the few positives our system can boast.

  19. mizman says:

    Brilliant article Chris, i have been banging on to anyone who will listen about the terrible state of so called “comentators” on british television for a long time!
    I have to say that Jonathan Pearce and John Champion are my favourites due to their sensible/informative approach combined with excitement/tension building stuff. they also seem like normal blokes when not commentating too,and this is probably what makes them decent at their jobs.

  20. Souksonne says:

    There was no better moment this season than when Robben’s beautiful volley knocked Man U out at Old Trafford and, more importantly, wiped that brown-nosing smirk of Peter Drury’s face.

  21. kaya says:

    Chris, your diatribe cracked me up. I can imagine these guys must drive you nuts listening to them week after week… but to touch on what joshua said… you have no idea how much worse it could be until you’ve listened to the leading lights of US based soccer commentary (trust me, you wouldn’t want me to refer to it as football in this instance.)

  22. Richard S says:

    What a flaming fantastic piece – it’s like you’ve read my thoughts for the past few years(apart from the sentiments about J.Pearce, whom I cant stand as I worry that ‘sargeant bash’ or ‘Mathilda’ will suddenly drive onto the pitch and flame the players). Pundits next please, possibly including presenters as well.

  23. Bucci says:

    Robbie Fucking Slater

  24. Zedie says:

    I know this was only about terrestrial TV commentators,but the guy that really ‘grinds my gears’ is Andy Grey.

    He’s the person that i would mostly like to kick square in the nuts if i had the chance.

    He literally worships Man U, finding any excuse to talk about them (even when they’re not playing) and will literally lie on live television rather than go against them. Anyone remember him commentating on Man U v Chelsea whe n Macheda scored that blatant handball?

    A grade A nobber if i ever had the misfortune to hear one.

  25. Delboy Dublin says:

    Thank God for RTE

  26. michael says:

    BBC do offer a “Stadium Atmosphere” option on the red button, at least they did in 2002, anyway.

  27. C says:

    If you only knew…

    99% of the commentators in Sweden are utterly rubbish! On the few occations a game comes on in Sweden with the “original” English commentary, I almost turn religious. It is such a blessing. (To be fair, I don’t know who that english bloke is, I might have gotten lucky and gotten one of the good ones!)

    Everybody hates commentators. I guess it’s genetics. But I seriously doubt anyone on this earth can be worse than the fucknuggets at canal+ sweden… (Not including the legendary Arne Hegerfors,a true legend)

  28. Squelch says:

    So spot on. You should send a link to all the major networks. I always get a feeling the ITV commentators are looking for that ‘they think it’s all over…’ moment.

    And doesn’t Peter Drury look even more of a prick after waxing-lyrical about Fulham for them to only go and lose in the final.

  29. Ty says:

    At least y’all dont have to listen to John Harkes and JP Delacamera. Absolute shit.

  30. Kais says:

    John Champion may be eloquent, but he has an irritatingly high-pitched, nasal voice which I find especially grating. He never passes up to the opportunity to deride Rafa Benitez – proclaiming him to be a “Lucky General” amongst other epithets – so I loathe him.

  31. Tinez says:

    Motson is the worst offender, his wandering rabble makes my football know-nothing mates look like experts. The most reprehensible thing about him though, is that he is from the north west, born and bred and yet still tries to speak with a non-descript southern accent, which only breaks down when he is speaking quickly or loudly (90% of his broadcasts..). So he gets my award for the worst.

  32. […] article first appeared on Who Ate All The Pies. You can read the original version here. […]

  33. Ippa says:

    The German Sky did have a ‘only crowd noise option’ a while back, but now they changed it. It was great. Now we are stuck with the very bias, Bayern München loving, Ballack adoring German commentators. They mention Ballack at least fifteen times in one half of any Chelsea game, even if he isn’t playing. I prefer the English ones by far.

  34. […] This article first appeared on Who Ate All The Pies. You can read the original version here. […]

  35. Simon says:

    Just to add this. I’m pretty sure Andy Townsend just used the expression “cross-come-shot”. Come and shot should NEVER NEVER EVER be used in sequence during anything other than a porn movie.

  36. […] Football Commentators: You Can’t Live With Them… » Who Ate all the Pies first posted by sheps on 15:04, 30 May 2010, viewed 2 times 1 1275228278 […]

  37. temjin says:

    Great article. It’s good to know that we southern europeans are not alone in our suffering. Our TV commentators suck ass just as much as yours, and frankly I noticed that they share most of their faults too. Just replace Man Utd with SL Benfica and the name of the commentators and it’s just about the same crap.
    Usually we solve the problem by muting the TV and turning on the radio.
    Although that’s also taking a turn for the worse, radio is still very much the home for the classic insane latin commentator. They make the most sedated match ever sound like a grindcore concert and even a mid-table clash in the Portuguese 3rd division south becomes as vital as D day.
    I dread for the day when they will stop being an option.

  38. […] This article first appeared on Who Ate All The Pies. You can read the original version here. […]

  39. Chris says:

    Can’t believe you think Steve Wilson is one of the better ones.

    He’s nothing more than a screechy idiot who prefers style over substance and his own opinions over actual knowledge.

    He and Jonathan Pearce are garbage – much prefer the ITV guys you condemn.

  40. Dave says:

    Gotta agree with ya 100%

    I just watched the Spain game and Drury is close to having an orgasm over Villa, i wasnt sure how he controlled himself but if you listened to him tonight there is no point in any other team showing up as its spains for sure.

    Complete and utter tosser

    If i got my maths right i pretty sure if chile win or draw and the swiss beat honduras they are out

    Wanna know how i came across this page

    Googled “itv world cup commentators arseholes”

  41. Alan King says:

    Long time gone, I know, but I only just now came accross this blog.
    Gotta say Fulham 2 Hamburg 1, Drury commentary still brings tears of joy every time I replay it (and I’m far from alone in this).
    But then I’m a supporter. I was there. What he said and how he said it resonates.
    TV football is fine but it’s sterile – you guys ought to get out there.

  42. Mr. Angry says:

    tyldsley is the best!

    “tossed in towards john terry! dudek comes for it! its gudjonsen oh he’s missed!”

    “the time has come for liverpool to play in yet another european cup final, rafa benitez and his team have rolled back the years its just like the old days”

  43. Alles zu Goethes Iphigenie auf Tauris wie Analyse,Inhaltsangabe und vieles mehr….

    […]The Curse Of The Commentator » Who Ate all the Pies[…]…

  44. Anonymous says:

    mark bright simply doesn’t know when NOT to speak. He seems to always HAVE to say something even if the picture is more than enough. He also Stammers and trips over every word and generally doesn’t ever say anything that remotely resembles insight or opinion. Keown seems to be a good number 2, he weights what he says very well and doesn’t over do it. Bright sometimes sounds like someone who’s just discovered football and had 9 coffees. Ruins the atmosphere.

    Motson is great – I think he is unique and brilliant and his stats have never bothered me. The other month I turned on the radio to listen to Henry’s return to Arsenal in the FA cup against Leeds – and his commentary was just so enthralling i couldn’t turn it off.

    Peter Drury is the worst of the lot. Pleat, Pearce, Lawro aren’t perfect but they have plenty of character and endearing qualities to more than compensate. Drury has no positive. Contrived, pretentious, un-funny, memorable in a bad way. He makes me cringe. They need to tell him to change.

    9 out of 10 people watched the world cup final on BBC. 1 in 10 chose ITV. I think it would be at least 8-w or 7-3 to BBC if they got rid of Drury (and Clive Tylsley who is also bad but bearable compared to Drury)

    Drury and Bright make me turn off the sound or even the TV completely.

    Lastly – I’m now getting really fed up of Guy Mowbray. His shouting now just sounds like shouting for the sake of it rather than genuine exitement. And his tone often has a resignation to it when some energy would be better. His voice texture often says to me – this is just another game in a series of thousands – which is rather drab when you want to get into it.

    Barry Davis was great. Gubba too. Jon Champion. Where are they now!

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