There was an excellent tribute yesterday at lunch time on Test Match Special to John Arlott. Aside from the poetic quality of his commentary and his Hampshire burrh, Arlott also had the gift of saying nothing. I had the privilege of knowing Ken Wolstenholme who, when he gave lectures on commentary, would refer to Henry Longhurst when Doug Sanders missed a four foot putt to lose the Open. Longhurst said nothing, as the picture said it all.
The modern commentator who fills every second with verbiage should take note. The worst culprit is Clive Tydeslsey. I find myself hoping he might just pause for a second as the flow of statistic is ceaseless.
The BBC has gone for stars. Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand have been put in great luxury but, like most footballers, they are not comfortable with words. Every viewer has an analyst, sometimes more than one, they cannot bear and mine is Steve Claridge. He has all the features I dislike: a whiny voice: he’s a bombastic know-all: poor use of language. Robbie Savage runs him a close second. Savage is not here to enlighten us as much as to stimulate interest in phone-ins.
My favourite is Tim Vickery, the BBC South American correspondent. For 20 years he has been entertaining and illuminating us on Doten Adenbayor ‘s Up All Night, on his world football programme, where he has penned the nickname Legendinho. Witty, well informed, perceptive, he is always worth listening to. He also belies the notion that you have to play the game at a high level, like Henry or Ferdinand, to commentate on it; this is palpable nonsense as Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger were all modest players . Of the present creme de la creme managers, only Pep Guardiola had a stellar playing career.
One group I do like are the Radio 5 crew – John Murray Mike Ingham ,Conor MacNaaara are all excellent and John Motson too has made the transition. I am not so keen on the nasal Ulster omniscience of Green but at least he calls it as it is, frequently castigating the quality of the match.
It’s too early to say which broadcaster is performing better, but I much preferred Fabio Cannavaro and Glenn Hoddle on ITV to Ferdinand and Henry, so I would say ITV are shading it.