Clive Tyldesley at home
Credit: JOHN LAWRENCE
Normally when you see an ex-footballer or a commentator trending on Twitter during a big match, it means only one thing: the internet is being mean and cruel about their work on the mike during a game.
But during the Netherlands vs Ukraine match on Sunday night, we saw that rarest of rare occurrences: loads and loads of people sharing the love that they were feeling for the commentary of Clive Tyldesley and Ally McCoist.
What is it, then, that makes a great tournament commentary pairing?
Familiarity breeds contempt, and there’s no doubt that the regular co-commentators – your Jermaine Jenases, your Steve McManamans – suffer from being on our tellies week in, week out. The volume of games at a tournament means that you get to hear commentary duos who you aren’t already sick of: he last time many of us heard Ally on the TV would have been in the 2018 World Cup with Jon Champion.
These two are the ELITE commentary duo.
Unbiased, know their football and gel brilliantly together, they have good laughs, the feeling of the game as they commentate is pure emotion and a joy.
I’d rather listen to Clive Tyldesley and Ally McCoist for every game. pic.twitter.com/aIYNMPz03U
— Reece🏴🇩🇪🇮🇹🇦🇪 (@UnitedVenom7) June 14, 2021
With all due respect to Dutch and Ukrainian communities living in the UK, the vast majority of viewers for Sunday night’s match were not going to be crying themselves into their Oranjeboom or Horilka* whoever ended up winning or losing the Group C match. Obviously ITV and the BBC are going to put their top teams on the top games and in the case of ITV (in their opinion if nobody else’s), that means that Sam Matterface does the big ones. This in turn means that viewers tuning in to a Clive broadcast are probably in a more relaxed frame of mind. It’s easier not to yell at the TV if you’re not that bothered who wins.
* Ukrainian firewater
Less Tribal Poison
While folk of a green and white persuasion in Scotland might have strong negative feelings about McCoist, for most people in England he is a Scottish bloke who played for, either Rangers or Celtic but probably Rangers wasn’t it, who flirts with Sue Barker on A Question of Sport and is probably good value if you went for a pint with him. It’s just not possible for fans of the big English clubs to get their knickers in a twist in the way that Manchester United fans feel about McManaman, or Spurs fans about Martin Keown and so on.
Supporting football can feel like a grim business these days: fury about super leagues, vicious arguments about taking knees, it all seems a bit like hard work. Clive and Ally, though, give the impression that they are actually having a good time. That watching a couple of decent teams play a game is a fun thing. You strongly suspect they might even go for a fruit juice afterwards. Certain commentators have at times made out that it’s a horrible imposition being made to watch a football match, but never Clive and Ally. They also give the sense that the game is important, but not life-changing, that they’re having a laugh. Which is as it should be.
Clive’s been around for ages, hasn’t he? Even his Night In Barcelona masterpiece was getting on for a quarter century ago now. You can remember people giving him dog’s abuse for his perceived United tendencies in the 1990s and 2000s but for middle-aged ITV watchers he’s literally been doing this for most of our adult lives. A lot of older viewers identified with Clive when it seemed that he’d been shelved for a younger model in the shape of Matterface. One of the more poignant joys of a football tournament is that it makes you think back through your life to other tournaments, what you were doing in that time. It’s hard to feel a sense of warm nostalgia about Alex Scott or Matterface, although who knows, maybe in Euro 2056 everyone will be like "Aww, Michael Owen is so cute." Maybe not.
So, in conclusion: a duo you don’t hear all the time, voices that are familiar but not overused, seeming to enjoy themselves, each other and the match. Shouldn’t be rocket science but how often do they get it wrong? So stick to this, and you’ve got football broadcast gold.
Fans of the duo! Heads up! Here are the next games that Clive and Andy are doing on ITV
Tuesday 15: Group F. France v Germany, ko 8pm
Thursday 17: Group B. Denmark v Belgium, ko 5pm
Monday 21 Group B. North Macedonia v Netherlands ko 5pm
Wednesday 23: Group E. Slovakia v Spain ko 5pm