Top 3, Bottom 3: Football Commentators
James Alexander Gordon, one of the most recognisable voices in British broadcasting, died on the 18 August, aged 78.
He read classified results on Radio 5 for 40 years. From a personal perspective, I remember rushing out of Burnden Park, Bolton Wanderers’ old ground, with my dad, so that we’d get back to the car in time to hear the other scores (no smart phones to keep us in the loop in those days, and we never quite went as far as taking a radio along to the game). Gordon was a master of intonation, and as a young child I used to love trying to guess the away team’s score based on the way he delivered the results. Harmless fun.
Anyway, the sad news got us at Footballing Life to thinking about those close relatives of the classified reader: the football commentator and pundit. Who are the best, who are the worst? Well, that’s exactly what we explore in the latest Top 3, Bottom 3!
Simply the Best
Number 3: Dave Higson
First up, since I’ve already brought up Bolton, it’s Dave “ding dong do” Higson – a Wanderers legend. I’ve picked him because he is so very different to the polished, prepared, eloquent and well-researched commentators of today.
Now all the adjectives I’ve just used sound positive, don’t they? Surely commentators should do their homework? But, alas, what Dave arguably lacked in professionalism, he made up for in passion. He was forced to stop commentating on Bolton’s games as bigger television companies came into the frame and demanded a higher standard. But just click on these links to listen to some examples of what he brought to the often dour world of football commentating. Andy Townsend, eat your heart out…
There’s a lovely tribute to him online too – check it out.
Number 2: the South Americans
Of course, commentators in the English speaking world don’t have quite the volume and enthusiasm of their south American counterparts. In the UK, the commentator is expected to maintain a degree of neutrality. Co-commentators sometimes let their passion shine through, but the lead commentator has to remain diplomatic. Not so in South America.
Here’s a Brazillian commentator on that Ronaldinho goal against England back in the Japan /South Korea world cup in 2002. And what about Chile’s commentator for the World Cup in Brazil earlier this year? Here he is commentating on his country’s goal against Spain, and again for a strike against Australia. Remarkable stuff! You wouldn’t catch Clive Tyldesley showing such emotion. Maybe that’s a good thing.
But what do you think? Is such passion an asset for a commentator, on an annoying distraction? Get in touch!
Number 1: Kenneth Wolstenholme
Saving the best for last? In many people’s opinion a definite yes. If only for this moment. You don’t even need to click it, do you? It is of course the famous “they think it’s all over” moment – a classic. Impeccable. But Wolstenholme was very lucky that it all played out as he watched on, was he not? It was less skill, more fortune, surely?
Not necessarily so. Hugh Johns was commentating on the game for ITV, and here’s how he described the exact same moment (from 11 minutes 15 seconds in): “Here’s Hurst, he might make it three. He has! He has! So that’s it. That is it!” Not quite as poetic.
Now, although people always go on about Wolstenholme’s “TTIAO” catchphrase, he was no one hit wonder. He commentated on the first ever game on Match of the Day way back in 1964 – the program turns 5o this year of course – and he covered every FA Cup final between 1949 and 1971. Also – and I promise not to keep harping on about Bolton – he was on the pitch uttering his famous words at the last ever Wanderers game at Burnden park. He was a Wanderers fan, and it was a fitting way to bring down that particular curtain.
Simply the Worst
Number 3: Chris Kamara:
First on our list of punditing pumpkins is a man who has a bit of a reputation for not having the faintest idea what’s going on when he is called upon to, well, tell people what’s going on. Here’s a prime example.
Yes, it’s Chris Kamara. There are so many videos online of him abjectly failing to do the job that he’s paid to do that it is frankly ridiculous. Imagine if you did that at work. The boss asks if you’ve been doing your job for the last day or two and you say “well, no, actually”. Not at all in any way, shape or form. And yet he still gets paid! Mind you, perhaps his comedy character persona is the very reason he is still doing the role .We have to admit, he’s pretty likeable, even if he is frequently useless.
Number 2: Robbie Savage
Now, you’ll have to listen to our show to understand why I picked Robbie Savage. In all honesty, I think he can brighten up some of the more dreary football shows on the BBC. He is confrontational, stubborn, and often shows no regard for other people’s point of view, which is why he makes our list, but sometimes that can be quite entertaining. Oh, and here he is reacting to Tim Cahill’s goal at the 2014 World Cup. It’s a great moment.
Number 1: Andy Townsend
We maybe hinted at who was going to be number one, but here’s the confirmation. It’s Andy Townsend – ITV’s long-time pundit of choice. How did he get the gig? I’ve not got any clips to link to, because there’s nothing exciting enough to warrant listening to. Thanks to The Gliff blog though, for compiling some crackers, including: “Thats what you want from your striker…goals.” And: “I think one of these teams could win this.” And: “Hart would have wanted to save that Clive.”
Illuminating stuff. Give us Dave Higson any day!