What makes a great commentator? Most people would say that it has to be their thoughtful insights, the balance between strong and fair opinion whilst always being ready for the eloquent interjection at the key moment. Of course these are important, but for me, above all else, I think it has to be the connection between you, the viewer/listener, and the person describing the action. I like to feel I’m being talked to as one of their friends as a true equal. Don’t sugar coat it, tell me the truth as if you’re speaking to me in the changing room post-game.
Having said all that; I don’t think you will find too much of the above in any of these clips. What you will find in spades are passion, elation, despair and lunacy.
Before we start, it’s important to dish out an honourable mention to the legendary Barry Davis for his Olympic hockey commentary; the “Where were the Germans?” line being one of the best ever. And a dishonourable mention to Big Ron (I won’t quote him). I should also mention that these are ranked in no particular order.
By James Ellis.
1. Alan Rough and Ewen Cameron. (Chris Iwelumo)
Please don’t get me wrong, this first video isn’t just needless Scotland bashing; it actually happens to be my favourite piece of football commentary. One of the many reasons Scotland haven’t appeared in a major tournament, since they played Morocco in their last group game of the France 98 World Cup, Gary Naysmith puts the ball on a plate for Chris Iwelumo and the resulting miss provides the catalyst to what is an absolute classic run of commentary. I still don’t quite know how he’s missed it and neither do Alan Rough and Ewen Cameron. Their harmonic “Oh No!” seems to perfectly sum up the despair of another Scottish qualifying campaign going awry.
2. Ray Hudson. (Sergio Ramos)
Ray Hudson is a man who could provide a top ten list all on his own. So I have bottled it and chosen two! I make no apologies, in my opinion, the man is a genius. A former professional turned TV pundit, his style is reminiscent of the late, great darts legend, Sid Waddell. Using colourful metaphors and over the top descriptions, his work alongside Phil Schoen has built a cult following; a partnership that has become one of the greats in sports broadcasting. In this clip, I think it’s safe to say Hudson is impressed with Real Madrid’s performance, not to mention Sergio Ramos’ nipples.
3. Jack van Gelder. (Dennis Bergkamp)
It’s a rare beast to have a great goal accompanied by a great piece of commentary. Without a doubt this qualifies for both. Commentators don’t always need to be Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Jonathan Pearce. On this occasion just two words are required. Jack van Gelder, with wonderful results, decides to go with “Dennis” and “Bergkamp”.
4. Juan Manuel Pons. (Theirry Henry)
Dear Points of View… Why oh why do the so-called football commentators in this country never burst into song when describing a goal? I cannot be alone in thinking John Motson is getting just a little bit dreary. I would be grateful if you could address this situation….. In Argentina, Juan Manuel Pons has just witnessed such a breathtaking goal he can do nothing else.
5. Gary Neville. (Fernando Torres)
I can’t be the only one over the years who has heard a commentator or pundit alike making a right hash of things and thought to myself “I can do better than these clowns”. Well Sky’s Fan Zone clearly illustrates it’s not quite that simple. So it’s refreshing to hear a pundit reduced to what sounds like a sexual noise. This leads me to Gary Neville. United’s weaselly former right back has transformed himself into one of the most liked and respected pundits out there. What happened to him here is anyone’s guess.
6. Unknown Arabic commentator. (Santos)
It goes without saying I have no idea who this Arabic commentator is, or what he’s talking about. But then again he is so impressed with Santos’ slick goal; he doesn’t use too many Arabic words either. He seems to have completely forgotten the basics of the job. Namely, describe for the viewer, what you are watching. On the other hand, our domestic commentators have seen pretty much all there is to see. So I do find it refreshing to listen to someone who is genuinely impressed with what he’s witnessing.
7. Tiziano Crudeli (Milan Vs Tottenham)
I’ve never been one who goes in for all this Latino GOL, GOL, GOL business. I think it stems from my British reserve. I find it unnecessary and irritating. However, from time to time I’m willing to overlook it. Tiziano Crudeli is an Italian journalist, pundit, and, I’d hazard a guess – a Milan fan! Crudeli’s reaction to a Peter Crouch goal is stunning. His reaction a couple of moments later to a disallowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic equaliser is just plain ridiculous. Peter Crouch has not caused such disappointment since Abby Clancy informed her parents that she’d “met a footballer”. The look his fellow commentator gives him is just priceless.
8. Peter Martin (Mark Miller)
I’m not aware of Peter Martin’s sporting allegiances but judging by this reaction I don’t think he’s a Rangers fan. Peter, you are a professional. For goodness sake, pull yourself together man!
9. Ray Hudson. Real Madrid
Ray Hudson again. It’s fair to the guy just loves football. By the sounds of things more so than anyone I know, have met or may ever meet. His passion spills out and pours down the microphone. I like to think if Tom Cruise did ever smell a jockstrap, he would “fear dead away”. Not that I have a clue what that actually means.
10. Bjorge Lillelien. (Norway Vs England)
Finally, now I know we’ve all seen this one before but we don’t need an excuse to a take another look at this comedy gold one more time. There is nothing quite like sticking it to the English. We are the international equivalent of Millwall. Here we have, Bjorge Lillelien, a man so delighted Norway have beaten England for the first time, he has clearly lost it. He’s lost all impartiality, professionalism and composure. However, he manages to keep just enough of the last to take a pop at, amongst others, four Prime Ministers, a Princess and a Boxer. I take my hat off to anyone who can name check Lord Beaverbrook at a game of football.
What’s your favourite piece of commentary? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.