If you were to use Twitter as a barometer of public opinion (and you never should), Clive Tydesley is not a popular man, in fact every time he helms the microphone for the coverage of an ITV-screened live football match, one only need to search his surname in said social bear-baiting arena to read a deluge of missives that range from exasperation to anger to blind, near-pathological hatred.
On a very base level, it’s not hard to see why: few can withstand the instinctive urge to angrily rake their own faces as he anticipates the most unlikely of potential match-winning moments, leading him to urgently exhale a player’s name, tone rising in the matter of a split-second, transitioning from that of a guttural sex-starved newsreader to a sodomised Dalek (“annnd GerrraRRRRDDD!!!! – just wide”).
There are those who now shake uncontrollably upon the first of many inevitable and frequent reminders of ‘that night in Barcelona’ (unlikely Manchester United victory in Champions League final) or ‘that night in Istanbul’ (unlikely Liverpool FC victory in Champions League Final), however lost the cause or unlikely the possibility of victory.
It’s all too easy to understand the viewers who begin to scream at their television as he fires out dull epithets of no value like a drunken ninja armed with a bag of Monster Munch on a Friday night out: his clod-like desire to sum up The Feeling Of The Nation in the basest, most unintelligent terms.
Some despair that he appears to be stuck somewhere in 1963: where everyone was still rooting for our plucky, brave Englishmen and deeply suspicious of the wily ways of those untrustworthy foreigners with their tricks and will to cheat us out of all that is noble, true and fair.
He is not everyone’s favourite describer of sporting events, it’s fair to say.
My personal rage stems from the helplessness of having Clive preside over a large proportion of the most famous (or infamous) sporting moments of the nation in recent times. And bungling it in spectacular fashion. He’s like the acquaintance at school that upon finding you in the toilets weeping after a particularly distressing incident, manages to compound your misery by offering the most misjudged words of solace available.
Unfortunately, because of the (otherwise well-meaning) government ruling that key sporting events must be broadcast on terrestrial television, 50% of all England football matches, the Champion’s League Final, the FA Cup final and numerous other events rest with ITV, that purveyor of mass misery for the British underclasses. ITV’s caller-in-chief for these events is Clive Tydesley. He is woven into the fabric of the nation’s battered psyche. If I was a well-read, classically educated literate, I’d probably compare him right now with the ever-present villain of a deeply ominous book. But I’m not sadly. I can merely describe him as someone who people don’t like very much because he’s really irritating. Essentially: we didn’t choose Tyldesley, the man with a throat like iron dipped in Marmite: he was foisted upon us. He is the immovable shriek of doom.
Perhaps it is the curse of the commentator: doomed to have their words ringing around the head of a beleaguered nation filled with dismal spite and a sense of being let down for the umpteenth time. No matter how eloquent you may be describing the scene of a tragedy, it is still just that. Perhaps we should give thanks to a man so selfless as to attempt to, regardless of how impossible it is, characterise the thoughts of millions of people collective only in their grief at another sporting failure.
Maybe not, but I am acutely aware that I now pine for the days of BBC’s Barry Davies, a verbally prim man whose school-masterly tones and exaggerated swoops of delight used to leave me apoplectic with rage when he was in his televisual prime. Perhaps I will view Clive in a similarly flattering light in twenty year’s time. Time truly plays tricks on our memories and softens our keen minds.
But then I remember Tydesley’s now-deceased predecessor: the similarly bombastic yet more old worldly pompous Brian Moore; a man who I never forgave for chiding Stuart Pearce for crying after his infamous penalty miss in World Cup 1990 (“Oh and Stuart Pearce is crying – and I thought he was a big man” – followed by the more partisan horror of his “don’t worry Arsenal fans, it’s offside!” [European Cup Winner's Cup Final 1993]). And I suspect that my general anger is due to the good people of ITV and their horrific choices of commentators, pundits and co-commentators for these big events. This channel, more than anything else has contributed to the despair of nation, has lashed extra dollops of misery upon these sporting confrontations that, really, need no additional misery.
And it will never end. As long as World Cups and European Championships are secured to terrestrial TV, we will forever more have the likes of Andy Townsend, Clive Tydesley, Jim Beglin and, horror of horrors – Matt Smith. It is our nation’s curse, our cross to bear and our dirty secret.
And that is why England will never win.