My days of trekking round the country in the wet and the cold are long gone, overtaken by my age and the cost, even the availability, of tickets. A casualty perhaps of all-seater stadiums, I have become reliant on the television, taking what is on offer so now I have no escape from the commentator who has become, by default, my surrogate companion. The commentator is inescapable, my friend or my nightmare.
I grew up hearing Kenneth Wolstenholme and David Coleman, both with a style still redolent of those announcers in evening dress. Then there was Star Soccer on the then ATV Midlands network on a Sunday afternoon, perfect after a traditionally large lunch, with Hugh Johns, of patrician style, and Barry Davies, who was going through his "corner ball" phase.
Davies, as far as I am concerned, is welcome anytime, as indeed is Brian Moore. Both, though, have started to get a little bit predictable and nationalistic: a bit like real life, really. Whatever else, though, keep John Motson away from me, the anorak from hell with an irritating voice to match, a man with many facts but little wit.
Commentary on the major channels has been in the same hands for 20 years or more which only leaves Channels 4 and 5 with the opportunity to provide some new blood, and up-to-date wit. Football Italia has provided it, and it is with James Richardson, Gary Bloom and Peter Brackley that I place my sofa-bound future hopes for a good companion.
Wit and wisdom can come in lightning flashes, like the time that one commentator on Serie A told summariser Luther Blissett that he had called his dog Blissett, not after him but the erstwhile Brentford striker, Gary. Such moments make priceless televised football.
Unfortunately, Channel 5 has turned up something nasty; something that calls itself Jonathon Pearce. There is something to be said for leaving at least one stone unturned. If Motson irritates me, then Pearce annoys me to the point of television destruction. He is the proverbial "neighbour from hell" because he transgresses the rule I hold dearest: let the action speak for itself unless there is something to contribute. I sometimes dream about Motson and Pearce locked in a sealed room together: I do not mind what they talk about, only that the door is sealed and stays so.
We all have our opinions, those of us relegated to watching less than the real thing. I admit to being a television groupie, by necessity or choice, but there again, even Jenny Fabian, author of the original Groupie, has started writing about football. But even the commentators I hate, I love to hate.Reuse content